TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

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ZedF
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TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:52 am

Tower map, 200% randoms
Human player: SolForce with 3 planet default start, monkey in the middle
Opponents: Tarka/Zuul Hard AIs, teamed, with 9 planets each, above/below respectively
Notes: Played with beta patch. In this build, max tax rate before morale loss is 5, not the usual 6.
Thus starting income and economic growth curve is significantly reduced.
Save file is here in 7zip format.

Although I am going to start this out with a roleplay-oriented description of the scenario, I don't plan to continue roleplaying through the course of the game. However, I will be offering descriptions and some images of events as they transpired.



Zoe Skye, the newly appointed Legate for Aquitania sector, sighed, leaned back from her report-strewn desk, and looked around her office. Her very large, very well-appointed office. Perks of the position, she supposed, rubbing the bridge of her nose to try to forestall an incipient headache. But despite the large office and the confidence the Director had shown in her my elevating her to her new rank, she didn't think her position was really all that enviable. In fact, after reviewing how matters stood in her new home, her promotion to Legate of Aquitania sector felt like a rather back-handed compliment.

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Part of it was that Aquitania sector was, as the expression went, a bump in the road to the ass-end of nowhere. It was not very large as sectors went; technically it included 36 major stars, but over a quarter of those lacked significant planetary bodies, so in fact the sector didn't have a large amount of viable real-estate to start with. Moreover, it was so far from SolForce's core sectors that it was somewhat amazing that anyone had even bothered to charter colonies out in this direction in the first place. What planets there were had already been largely occupied by Zuul and Tarka settlements before SolForce even managed to get a foothold in the sector.

Even that foothold was a somewhat tenuous prospect. The jewel of Aquitania province was the only satellite of a red dwarf star by the unpromising name of Orcus. Orcus 1 had been a real find, with nearly as much inhabitable surface area as Terra itself, and much effort had gone into getting it fully developed quickly. But the other two inhabited planets in Aquitania were decidedly on the small side. Psius 1 was home to a mere 300 million imperial citizens, but at least had a substantial amount of heavy industry to recommend it. Zoon 1 didn't even have that to its credit, and at only 400 million imperial citizens, its contribution to the provincial coffers was not much larger.

Finances were definitely a problem area she would need to deal with. The previous provincial administrator -- not a legate, and probably never would be -- had focused a great deal on military infrastructure, and had spent lavishly in order to secure a more capable naval HQ than she would have expected for such a small province. Too much so, in fact, and to the detriment of other worthwhile projects that might have been undertaken. Aquitania province's tax base afforded her a budget of just over 350 k-creds a quarter, but over two thirds of it was already being consumed just supporting existing assets. So, Zoe had an opulent office in an extravagantly well-equipped naval base orbiting Orcus 1, while other inhabitable planets in the province lay uncolonized, and while the local tech base was still firmly grounded in early fusion-based technologies and increasingly falling behind the standards SolForce's core worlds enjoyed.

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But finances weren't the biggest concern Zoe had on her plate just now. Instead it was the report she'd just read from her chief of intelligence. Her signals intelligence division had been able to uncover and exploit a flaw in the Tarkasian encryption scheme in use this quarter, and had thereby discovered a shocking development, which he'd subsequently been able to confirm through other means. The evidence was as incontrovertible as it was worrying: somehow the Zuul had managed to discover a plant, indigenous to one of their colonies in the sector, which was both addictive to Tarka and rendered them extremely vulnerable to psionic coercion. They had used this drug over the last decade and more to quietly subvert every Tarkasian colony in the sector. With the exception of Aquitania province itself, the entire sector was now firmly under the control of the Zuul Horde.

It was entirely possible, even likely, that the Tarkasian Supreme was unaware of developments in this remote sector. While Aquitania sector was certainly closer to the Tarkasian home systems than it was to Sol, it was still a long way from the power centers of any race other than the Zuul. Even so, the prospect of this drug spreading further into the Tarkasian empire was a daunting one. Fortunately, the drug plant could only be grown on its homeworld, and did not have a long shelf life nor travel well; the Horde had had some difficulty distributing it in sufficient quantities throughout the cluster, never mind into neighboring ones. Still, if they could ever solve those difficulties, the drug could become a problem of catastrophic proportions, both to the Tarka and to their allies, SolForce included.

Zoe had already sent a dispatch to Marsdome, apprising them of the situation and including both all available evidence and her recommendation that her report be forwarded immediately to the office of the Supreme, but she was certain she would not be afforded the luxury of time to wait for a response. With their control of the Tarkasian portion of the cluster now complete, it seemed only a matter of time before the Horde began a campaign to control the remainder, as well. Lacking a similar drug that would be effective against humans, it would have to be a military campaign, Zoe reasoned. But counting both Zuul and nominally Tarkasian holdings, the Horde had control of at least 18 systems in this sector that she knew of, including nearby colonies at Unicron, Serenity, and Aichi. Set against her lone, poor province, it was a massive advantage.

Zoe's only card to play was that, thanks to the warning her intelligence service had provided, she could see the coming hammerblow before the Horde were ready to throw it. Their effective conquest of the Tarka in this sector was only a newly-established fact, and some time would be required in order to realign the Horde's full might against a new target. But not a long time; certainly not long enough for the Supreme to send a substantial task force out this far to relaim his colonies from the Horde's grasp.

The only way Zoe could see to perhaps deflect the Horde's strike, and save the people of her province from slavery and death, was if she struck first. But all she had to strike with were a pair of survey fleets, a small colonization fleet, and an even smaller construction fleet; hardly enough with which to fight a war for survival.

Sitting back up in her chair, she carefully moved the intelligence report regarding the Tarkasian subversion to one side, then swept all the other reports and paperwork off her desk and into the trash chute, so she could start fresh. Clearly, some changes were going to have to be made...
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:03 pm

T010

War declared on the subverted Tarka faction. The same turn, an assault shuttle fleet on patrol in Aichi destroys the Tarkasian colony there. Our colony fleet, having been beefed up to max size and having established now-profitable colonies on Zoon 4 and Zoon 3C, moves in to claim the Tarka colony, even though it's relatively high hazard at 385. Since they will have access to pre-existing Tarkasian industrial infrastructure, it's thought the colonists should be able to terraform it in short order regardless of the poor initial conditions. The colony fleet will follow this up by establishing a second colony in the Aichi system at a much more habitable world, albeit one without the advantage of established infrastructure already being present.

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Our research continues to stagnate; we simply can't afford to research anything at the moment. Despite scrapping the white elephant of our initial naval base and replacing it with much more modest ones at all three of our systems, funds remain tight as our five current fleets are consuming approximately 50% of our total budget in maintenance costs. Expectations are that matters will improve as more colonies are established and begin to mature, but this is a process which will take some time.

In the meantime, once our assault shuttle fleet returns for repair and resupply, we will immediately initiate hostilities against the Zuul as well.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:04 pm

T018

Having eliminated the Zuul colonies at Serenity and Unicron, and finding that they are too high hazard to really be economical to settle at this time, even with full infrastructure to assist with the terraforming process, our attention has turned to the top portion of the sector where the remaining subverted Tarkasian colonies are to be found. Our assault shuttle fleet has cleared out the Tarka colony of Shamballa, the first in a long spiral that will lead to the centers of Tarkasian influence in this sector. We will endeavor to eradicate as many of these subverted colonies as we can, and to plant our own flag upon them, before the Tarka or their Zuul masters can muster an effective response.

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In retaliation, the Tarka sent a survey fleet to explore Psius, but one of our own survey fleets was on hand to repel them. A fierce brawl ensued, with our forces outnumbering the Tarkasians by 50%. This was enough to ensure victory and destroy 4 of the intruding Tarkasian cruisers.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:05 pm

T025

With the recent colonization of Shamballa, our fleets are now poised to continue the offensive up-chain toward the Tarkasian sector capital. One of our survey fleets remains behind to protect our core worlds against a potential Zuul retaliation, but the bulk of our remaining fleets are all either at or bound for Shamballa. So far all our planetary assaults have been against undefended targets -- which was the point of striking immediately, after all -- so progress has been good. Certainly more significant resistance must be expected at some point, however.

Over the last few turns we have finally begun to research new technologies once again, to the tune of about half our budget after fleet and station maintenance costs (which are themselves just under half our total budget.) It will take a long while to make much progress, but we need to get started sometime and, with a surplus of 1 million credits in our reserves, our economy is in good enough shape to begin now.

Image
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:06 pm

T029

Ixion was glassed and resettled with no losses and, once again, with no defense force present, but the next system upchain, Okara, is the Tarkasian sector capital, and is guarded by a full combat fleet. Our survey fleet still has too many non-combat ships for a comfortable assault, so our offensive pauses to gather reinforcements. This is a good thing, as the Tarka must have had an invasion fleet prepped and waiting in their reserves at the capital.

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The Tarka counterattack arrives at Ixion only a couple of turns after we settle it. Our survey fleet is outclassed, but manages to kill the command ship and 2 supply ships before being forced to scatter due to combat damage. In exchange we lose 1 combat ship and 1 supply ship, with the remainder of the combat damage being made good by the following year. Substantial reinforcements are due in a couple turns, which should hopefully enable us to maintain our hold on Ixion and perhaps inflict some damage on the Tarkasian sector capital.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:07 pm

T034

The assault on Okara was meant to be a softening blow. In this respect, it was a considerable if not unqualified success. Our first survey fleet, having been upgraded with six Plasma-9.01 class armoured cruisers in lieu of the supply ships, took the lead and began maneuvers within the Okara system in order to lure the garrison out and into a conflict away from the planetary missile batteries. In this they were successful, destroying 4 of 6 enemy combatants for no losses.

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Subsequently our shuttle fleet attempted to take a straight shot at the enemy capital, but one of the remaining Tarkasian armour ships was able to intercept. It was quickly destroyed by the shuttle fleet's missile batteries, but this was a costly delay. Nevertheless, the shuttle fleet did make it to launch range of Okara 1 and was able to do a significant amount of damage to the enemy colony, before being forced to withdraw for resupply.

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Repair ships await both battle fleets at Ixion. In a few turns, both fleets will be repaired and the naval outpost at Ixion will have been upgraded to a forward base, allowing the repair fleet to provide on-site support for the next assault.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:09 pm

T038

Progress on the Tarka front has come to a standstill, for the moment, as the subverted lizards, goaded by their Zuul masters, have launched several attacks on our staging colonies at Ixion and Shamballa. Our forces have never really had time to fully repair since the abortive Ixion attack as they are being pulled back into the fray again and again to defend our colonies.

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We could really use at least one more fleet up here, preferably two, but production at the moment has been focused on upgrading our second survey fleet with Plasma-9.01 class ships in order to better ward off Zuul survey fleets assaulting our new colony at Unicron, which was founded to act as a magnet for Zuul aggression and to provide a buffer for our mature world at Psius. It will be several more turns yet before another combat fleet can be procured for the Tarka front, but additional repair ships have been ordered to better keep our existing fleets there in top form.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:11 pm

T050

A second Plasma-based fleet has finally been constructed for the defense of our staging area at Ixion and Shamballa, which means the offensive against the Tarka sector capital has been renewed. Once again our combat fleet took the lead, and maneuvered at some distance from the homeworld until such time as the Tarka defense forces moved to engage. This battle proved to be lopsided in our favour, and opened the door for a follow-up strike against the planet and it's surrounding facilities. We were able to completely destroy the defending fleet, glass the planet, and do significant damage to the Tarka's primary naval base, at the cost of one cruiser lost in combat due to a reactor overload.

Image

While our assault forces disengaged and returned to base for repairs, our second fleet took the opportunity to finish the job against the Okara orbital facilities and survey the system. It will shortly be colonized and we will once again begin staging assault forces up-chain to the remaining Tarkasian systems.

In other news, Rapid Fire Laser technology is near completion, which will be incorporated into new designs immediately and should allow us to further increase the tempo of our assault against the Tarka. Once new designs have been prototyped and put into service, we should be able to begin opening a second offensive front against the Zuul.

Image
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:12 pm

T067

The recent destruction of 4 Tarkasian colony worlds in the Dosadi system and resettlement thereof has signified the end of any effective resistance the Zuul's subverted Tarkasian pawns might have offered. Tarkasian counter-attacks have tapered off to nearly none, and complete control of their former territory is only a matter of time now.

Recently we have researched Empathy, and have been able to increase our tax rate, so can now for the first time afford to build as many fleets as we might actually want to have, such that our ability to take and hold territory is more limited by logistical considerations regarding naval base construction than by the ability to build the fleets needed for conquest. Once the complete elimination of the subverted Tarka colonies is effected, this will not only allow us to futher expand economically in their region of the sector, but will also free up those fleets which had been occupied to that purpose, allowing us to concentrate entirely on the Horde Zuul themselves.

The latter have shown very little interest in taking the fight to us, and have contented themselves largely with allowing their subverted allies to be systematically destroyed. For the last 30 turns we have seen very few Zuul fleets, and once our second assault task force re-opened the ball with the Zuul by glassing their colony at Merak, they met with no opposition whatever.

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It seems unlikely that the Zuul will be unable to offer any more resistance now than the Tarka could 30 turns ago, and very probably less since we have now incorporated point defense into our arsenal and are in the process of researching Combat Algorithms for a global improvement in fleet control ability... not to mention we are far more able to field the requisite combat forces needed to ensure success in battle.

As such, from this point forward, victory seems assured. I don't especially feel the need to play the game out to the bitter end, though.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Between a rock and a hard place

Post by ZedF » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:04 pm

Some closing thoughts, in no particular order:

  • On this sort of map you have really got a limited amount of space at the start unless you are very aggressive like I was here and can quickly take space from your rivals. Behind my starting position was nothing but stars devoid of planets, so if I wanted any colonies outside my starting system I pretty much had to attack immediately, with starting techs and fleets only. Still, they were more than up to doing the job; it is quite possible to attack and take territory from rivals with no techs at all.
  • My initial attacks were really predicated on my rivals not being able to build and stage fleets where they needed to be in order to defend against my aggression. For much of the early game I was attacking and defending my expansion with far fewer fleets than would have been advisable in a multiplayer game -- but I simply couldn't afford more. Then again, multiplayer opponents wouldn't be getting such a large head start or the hard AI's bonuses, and probably wouldn't be teamed up against me either.
  • I was gratified to see the Tarka AI being able to put up some resistance and counter-attack in the T30-T45 timeframe or thereabouts. For a while it was clear I had stretched my offensive as far as it could go until I could afford to build more fleets; if the AI had coordinated it's attacks better so that I had to defend more than one colony at a time and had fewer opportunities to repair combat damage, it could have handed me a serious setback.
  • On the other hand, the Zuul AI never really did much this game. I did observe it sending a few colony fleets out without the benefit of node paths having been bored first, and there were a couple survey attempts and half-hearted attempts to retake Unicron after I initially glassed it, but one I settled a colony there it seemed to give up. Not really sure what was up with that.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

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