Patch made it over again for one final FtF game day of 2018 on the 29th. I had just gotten my own copy of Space Empires 4X, and we arranged to play that, which meant a lot of hurried counter clipping. I knew he had played it before, but a look at my logs showed that it had just been once in an early game. This was a surprise, and meant there was a lot more teaching to be done than I had supposed.

I had some surprises as well, as I’ve never really looked through the 2-player scenarios before. I went with the ‘normal’ 2-player map (I was thinking in terms of the ‘extra large’ map and didn’t realize those smaller arrangements existed; a separate ‘normal’ 2-player map could be an interesting addition to another expansion). And naturally, we stuck to the basic rules. …And we still had more than enough rules goofs along the way. A fair number were powered by my brief description of the rules and how things worked (Patch didn’t realize there was a difference between ship hull size, and hull size tech, for instance… different terms would have been nice). He bought Move 2 early in the expectation that it would speed up his mining ships… which it didn’t (and of course, the question didn’t come up until the third movement turn after he bought it…). It still affected the game, as I had to be careful that he didn’t slip around me and hit a vulnerable target on turn 3….

Colonization got off to a slow start for both of us, as it took a while to find even three inhabitable planets (our respective barren planets both showed up early). Patch got unlucky and lost a SC to his black hole, and I got lucky and survived when I found mine a couple turns later. I then started losing SCs to the deep-space markers, including the black hole I found first. But overall, luck went my way with three planets in the first line of deep space on my border, which I immediately colonized. Patch, ironically found both a Space Warp ‘1’ and ‘2’ on the same turn (okay, that was an optional rule we used; they’re so simple I don’t even think of it as such).

Situation when we broke for lunch; I’m blue, Patch is green.

Eventually, a second Space Warp 2 was found, which had a large effect on the game, as it led from near the middle on my right, to on Patch’s border on my left. I had been more economically successful (though a combination of knowing what I was doing and accidents of astrography), and the initial fighting happened out in the middle on my right. There was a number of things in the area, including several of my colonies, and a new one for Patch. My handful of CAs prevailed over his DDs (partly through luck, though luck for both of us was uniformly bad in early combats leading to a number of ships retreating away from revealed fleets). And I managed to get in and destroy a couple colonies (with more effort than it should have needed, thanks to more lousy die rolls).

And then… I had a string of disastrous combats, and most of my fleets were lost without doing anything, including a 3xDD group (high-tech, and of my bigger ship concentrations). Patch mostly stayed defensive, even as I panicked about what all those unseen flipped over ship counters could do. (Quite likely less than it looked, but it still intimidated me.) I managed to get a few ships put out there, with the aid of the forward shipyard I’d built up, and started building BCs because I was out of CA counters (all singletons, and most of them different).

That ended up breaking Patch. The counter offensive petered out, much as my initial offensive had. He was still generally using DDs, and they couldn’t keep up with the BCs. I burned him out of a couple more colonies, and Patch surrendered. It was getting late, and the difference in our economies was something he wasn’t going to overcome. He had gotten up to BCs, and had held a Tactics edge over me for most of the game (1 vs 0), but I’d just gotten up to Move 3 and BBs, and put one out on the last econ turn. Next time, I was going to finally get shipyard tech 2, so my size-4 forward yard could build two BBs a turn. I had a slight combat advantage (+2/+2 vs +2/+1), and would try to get to +3/+3 for the BBs when I could spare the money.

End game; we turned over four unexplored hexes near the camera to see what they were.

The real victory of course, is that Patch had a great time. The combination of grand sweep with fairly simple rules definitely appealed to him, and this game will go into the Vassal rotation.