Back on March 24th, we finally got a group day together. Better yet, it’s looking like this is the start of a much more regular schedule of FtF gaming for me; something that has been seriously lacking for the last two years. Mark, Jason, Dave and I got together for a game Space Empires 4X with my new set. I got Dave up on the carrier rules (that me, Jason, and Mark had tried out in our last multi-player day) to add to our usual mix of Pipelines, Heavy Terrain, and Warp Points. I also had us try out a 2-vs-2 game, though I should have looked at the actual rules options for that, so we were halfway between uneasy alliance and blood brothers. We basically ended up in various seats around the table, took a color based on what was handy to us, and then I drew two markers from a cup to define the teams: Red and Green (Jason & me) vs Yellow and Blue (Dave & Mark).

Dave and Jason got off to the best starts, with readily available planets to colonize. My start was slightly slower, but I quickly got going and built out my main space in pretty good order. Mark’s planets were all on the outer fringes of his space, which delayed finding them, colonizing them, and getting pipelines out to them, and he had the weakest economy for the entire game. Dave made up for it by getting the strongest economy, and being very effective all day.

Despite various efforts into deep space, it took a while for any of the areas between players to open up, and the initial contacts ended up in the center of the board. Dave discovered a Wreck there, and eventually brought it home for the technology bonus, but only after a few turns of angst after I showed up with a couple fleets to contest the area. Thanks to the betwixt-and-between multiplayer we were doing, Mark and Dave couldn’t properly join up to tackle me while my third fleet moved up. There might have been less hair-pulling if they’d known I just had a pair of SC there, but of course, they didn’t know, and they didn’t necessarily have anything better. I forget what exactly drove me out, but even the third force wasn’t worth a lot, so it turned into a delaying action on my part.

Mid-day; guarding the space wreck.

Mark and Jason also came into contact along the board edge, and Jason readily got the upper hand through a combination of his better economy, and better die rolling. The fighting there continued back and forth all day without any permanent advantage being gained. Towards the end of the day, it was petering out on that front.

My initial sparing with Dave went well, as I’d gone for CVs again, but of course, I ran out of fighters and was having some trouble recycling carrier groups. Dave then used his economic might to put together strong fleets of BCs backed by numerous SCs with PD1. Not only was it effective, but he was outbuilding me fairly effectively as I got back onto the main tech route. And exploration had finally revealed other problems.

Early on, we found a Warp Point 2 between me and Jason. Then we found a second one in an adjacent hex (the definition of redundancy). As the space between me and Dave got explored, we were dealing with a chain of what would turn out to be five black holes. This helped keep us from directly accessing each other. Given time and opportunity, I might have established a pipeline route through the barrier (though I was running out of Pipeline counters, so that had problems), though my preferred strategy at the end of day was to colonize a planet found at the edge of the board as a new jumping off point.

The real problem was when a third Warp Point 2 was found on Dave’s side of the black hole line. This gave him ready access to a completely different area of space, and our end had plenty of targets to defend (which couldn’t even be done by standing on the warp point, thanks to the adjacent pair). Along with taking a couple of drubbings from Dave’s forces, this ended up diverting much of Jason’s efforts, and forcing him off of smashing Mark.

End of day, with many things revealed.

At the time we had to call it a day, things were less certain than usual for one of these. Dave had the best economy, with 73 colony + 12 pipeline coming in on the next (14th) econ phase. He had raided my space once, and was about to do it again, and much would depend on how far that got. He was up to BCs @+1/+1, Move 2, Tactics 1, PD1.

However, Jason was earning 61 + 9 and had gotten up to BBs @ +2/+2, Tactics 1, and had some examples on hand to help defend against the next raid. The BBs would outclass the BCs, and the SCs wouldn’t help much there (though we’re finally remembering the fleet size bonus). And Dave was going to need to continue using SCs as part of his fleets as I was keeping carriers active. I was earning 76 + 10, and had Fighters 2, BCs @ +2/+2, Move 2. It was just going to take time to get an actual BC force built; I had actually continued building CAs as I could afford pairs of them, and wanted multiple ship fleets. If I’d ever remembered some of my other thoughts while actually doing production, I’d probably be at CAs and Move 3 instead. My best immediate option was probably threatening Dave with more mobility. Meanwhile, Mark was earning 55 + 3 and was at BCs @ +0/+0, but he had gotten to Shipyard 3 (everyone else was 2) to crank out the less advanced ships.

It’s a pity we had to break up at that point, as it was very much undecided. Dave smashing my navy, and geography put him in a dominant position, but I had the economy to recover given a chance, and Jason had a fleet to give me that chance. The problem would have been finding a strategy for me to stalemate Dave, which geography was making hard; then Jason could concentrate on Mark again, and given his weak economy, that should end poorly for Mark in short order. But that needed things to go well….