After way too long, some of the local group finally got together for some FtF gaming last week. Patch was unavailable, and Dave was ill (and I was worried I’d have to cancel on account of illness), but me Mark and Jason got together for a game of Space Empires 4X.

We had a number of delays getting going, so despite hoping only three players would speed things along just a little, we only got to the 11th Econ phase. I had the setup area on the long side (as opposed to the two ‘corner’ ones, and was the only one who put his homeworld out in the middle of things. All our placements paid early dividends, with nearby planets (three of the six surrounding hexes of my home space had planets). I don’t think anyone’s planets formed an easy pattern for pipelines from there, though certainly we all built out some chains.

Mark ended up discovering two Space Wrecks just outside ‘home’ territory near the center. I tried to intercept him on the second one, but a black hole in the last space before it destroyed my (+1/0) scout, and that gave him enough time to recover both, one of which gave him a size upgrade, and the other gave him speed. I continued pressing in the area anyway, soon discovering that Mark had CAs already, and then I went the other way, discovering the same with Jason, who also started using exploration CAs shortly thereafter. This was more than troubling, since I didn’t even have DDs yet.

What had I been doing? Well, we had decided to go ahead and finally introduce the next advanced rule at the start of the session, which was carriers and fighters. I initially thought maybe I’d just get the initial point defense tech to stick on all the extra scouts I’d doubtless need to explore, but that was too expensive for a deeply speculative investment. So, I went for the initial fighter tech, and then concentrated on them, getting to fighter-3 before finally getting DDs.

It didn’t take long to see them in some combat, where they didn’t do too badly. The first fight against Mark went reasonably well, as all of my ships and fighters were +1/+1, and Mark didn’t have any bonuses. Things went less well against Jason’s more advanced fleet, but I was able to retreat the carrier itself, and eventually get it back home for more fighters.

Overall, Jason probably had the best position, partly fueled by exploring the big expanse of empty space in the corner between me and him, we me having no real way to get at it. I had managed to slowly trickle in a few 10-mineral markers as well as my 5-minerals, which helped fund everything. Mark sidled in, and shot up a colony, while I only reduced a 5 to a 3 in a return trip. If I wasn’t more-or-less the focus of attention, I think I could have done something with my position, and as it was, I should have been colonizing a deep-space barren in the center of the board shortly. A lot would probably depend on how well I could keep it.

Mark and Jason had a fight between their major fleets right as we ended for the day, where Jason’s advanced (+2/+1) BCs completely trounced Mark’s primitive CAs. We did an exhibition match between what was left of that fleet (Mark did kill a couple CAs) against my main fleet of 3xCV + 8xFtr. I lost all but one fighter, but took out his fleet, and if things had gone slightly different, I’d have still been able to pull out the CVs.

The carrier path is interesting as the CVs are just SCs that cost twice as much. But the fighters can be on an even footing to anything up to a BC. Jason would have had BBs soon, and that would be a problem, though probably not an insurmountable one. Being able to pull out the expensive CVs after losing most of your firepower is a nice bonus, but you’ll lose lots of fighters, and resupply efforts will probably stall a lot of offensives. At the same time, the tech is expensive, so getting good fighters will keep you from getting better ships. On the other hand, point defense is about as expensive, so empires looking for a solution to fighter swarms will get strangled there too. Finally, the fighters will chew up a lot of yard capacity, which had me take to shipyard-2 at the end, after buying a number of extra shipyards (I actually usually take it early-ish, but was too cash-starved by paying for fighter tech and CVs). I’m really happy with having gone with CVs, but I miss the bigger ships….