I had originally thought to do a day of smaller, shorter games for our first multiplayer day after the lockdown, but Patch had to cancel, leaving us with three people for the day, and we went for one of our better games for that player count: Space Empires 4X. I actually got Close Encounters at the end of 2019, so I punched and clipped all the counters that expand the pool of available ships from the main set, and the fleet markers.

We (Mark, Dave, and I) also tried out both the Empire Advantage cards and Alien Technology cards (with no non-player aliens, so needing to pay to keep the card) with our otherwise usual setup (merchant pipelines, heavy terrain, and carriers—though nobody bothered with the last). I drew Hive Mind, which was tempting with the slowly stacking list of combat improvements, though I find most combats don’t go much past two rounds, which made it limiting, and Merchants, which I kept for the extra pipeline income. Mark took Nano-technology, which I twigged to mid-game as I knew some of his ships hadn’t been back home, but had upgraded…. And Dave took Expert Tacticians (which would have done better if we would remember the fleet size bonuses more often, though early on it was used to deny me one).

My start was both fast and slow. I had one of the three-player ‘corner’ empires, and I sent one of the initial scouts into the deep-space corner behind me, and promptly lost it, slowing down exploration. This was also something of a recurring theme, and getting some of my home area explored took quite a while, and nothing good ever turned up there (final reveals were a doomsday machine, which we aren’t using, so it’s a null draw, and asteroids; Mark didn’t explore his corner until extremely late in the day). On the other hand, two planets were adjacent to my homeworld, which allowed quick colonization and pipeline setup.

Heavy terrain combined with the extreme amount of deep space on a three-player map leads to a lot of dead scouts, especially as we were all slow getting to cruisers, and no one ever took exploration (by that point, shooting wars had largely stopped exploration). Conflict started a bit early when Mark hit a lost in space marker, and Dave sent him deeper into the void to another lost in space marker, which sent him into my home region (this was a bit short of the third econ turn I think). Mark’s scout continued on to shoot at my colony (reducing from 3 to 1) before I showed up and got it on a lucky shot with my scout. This planet was about two hexes away from the deep space zone… which was as far out as any of my planets were in that direction.

I built a pair of DDs, sent them out there, cleared a couple unexplored hexes in the region with SCs and went into Mark’s home area, shooting up a just-colonized planet. The plan was to head along the fringe of his space and into where he was making contact with Dave. Then a pair of Warp Point 2s showed up, one near where the DDs were headed, and one near where Dave and I were coming into contact. So then the plan was to move through that. Then Dave found a space wreck out in the deep corner away from Mark on his side of the board, and the DDs headed there just in time to shoot up a miner that had claimed it (that was allowed by a muffed turn reshuffle…). Dave had also found three barren planets out there, and had just colonized them. I attempted to shoot them up, but missed every single roll, only blockading one for two econ turns until Dave’s navy finally took care of the problem.

Meanwhile, I had found the last of my regular planets on the edge of my area towards Dave, and “my” barren planet was in the hex closest to Dave. I researched terraforming and headed out there when a deep-space barren was found adjacent to it. I put a SC or two out to garrison it, and colonized it. I forget what the other card was, but I drew Efficient Factories, and paid for it on econ turn 6. That was another healthy boost to income (full colonies produce 6 instead of 5). We forgot at first, but Dave drew cards for all three barrens in the back corner he colonized, picked cards… and then refused to pay for any of them; they were all large ship bonuses, and we were a ways away from those.

So, I ended up poking both anthills, and I was kept busy trying to keep both fronts active, or really, semi-secure, which stretched my budget which was notably bigger than it looked. Dave’s navy came visiting the colony with a small force, and lucky dice rolls pushed him back. Moving to his colony (two hexes away) revealed that he had indeed built a base there, which was a lot more than I was prepared to handle. He came at me with a fairly serious force, but I had a base of my own, and had just gotten +2 attack tech, which meant it hit on 9s against his unprotected DDs (that was a shock for people). I had a decent DD force as well, but lost maybe half of it before Dave left with a much smaller fleet, but he knocked out my two shipyards there.

The reason why I had +2 attack, is that there was a barren discovered between me and Mark, and while I had the initiative, I got in and colonized it. Mark promptly shot up what little force I had in there with CAs (+1/+0), and then killed the colony. But I got to draw, and kept, Interlinked Targeting Computers (DDs can take any amount of attack technology, instead of being limited by hull size 1). I had been about to make the jump to CAs myself, but instead worked on getting my attack up to +3, and was building 7-1 DDs (sadly fragile, but an insane amount of punch, especially if they got to fire first—we did have a fight in a nebula and I took Tactics right before all this; worse, everyone’s defense tech was lagging).

I got to try out the 6-1 DDs [+2/+1] against Mark first, and I lost them in two engagements, but they restabilized the border again, and then the 7-1s [+3/+1] were coming on line, followed by my first CAs.

We had a fairly quick start, but slowed down later as things got more complex. Combined with a fairly hard 5 PM stop time for Mark, we only got to econ turn 12; which is fairly typical of us, but we have done better, and it’s been well over a year since the last time. Dave had the largest obvious economy, having a number of deep space colonies, and an income of 84 for econ 12 (eleven fully-developed colonies, and eight of them on the pipeline). Mark had trouble recovering after my early shoot up of two colonies, and ended with an income of 63 (eight fully-developed colonies and three on the pipeline). Mine was a stunning 100 for ten colonies (with that last home-space world out towards Dave just having gotten to full growth) all of which were on the pipeline, which would normally be 80 CP, but the two economic advantages were boosting it by 10 each.

End of day. It is hard to take photos with the camera pointing down while at eye level. Green = me; Red = Mark; Blue = Dave.


The empire advantages have some really neat ideas in them; leveraging some of them might take some work. I’m very happy with them, and I believe Mark is as well; Dave less so. His inclinations are a bit more ‘eurogamer’ than the rest of the group; he has no problem with chance per se, but he much prefers low-chaos effects, and the powers do potentially add a lot of chaos. I’m thinking the auction method might work better with him, though I’m not sure I care as much for it. (Certainly, I’m unlikely to be permitted to take Traders again if anyone else can help it. Though I always build out my merchant pipelines as fast as I can; I was really surprised how slowly Mark and Dave built them out this time.)

I’ve tried DD-heavy strategies before, and gave them up as a bad job, as they’re just too fragile to do much but die once CAs come along to take twice as many hits, after firing first for a modest increase in cost (and BCs are generally an even better buy, if expensive to get to). There’s a few other really nice DD bonuses in the alien powers too (like one to make them fire at rank B), but that looks to be true for almost any class (well… I don’t think SCs get any bonuses not also shared with DDs).

I also started transitioning to a military economy earlier than normal with all the DDs I built. That did slow down the final round colonies and the last couple pipelines some, but the extra income helped soften the blow. I also did relatively little exploration of deep space. Certainly a lot less than Dave managed.

We used the original costs and charts since we didn’t add anything new to build (we still need to try raiders and mines, and that’ll probably stretch the patience of the group, I’ll bet troops and boarding actions are right out). But… going to the 30CP homeworld and the revised costs would probably also jumpstart things and bring the action quicker, which we need. It’s already getting time to look into the various ‘quick start’ options.