A little bit ago, I got onto the Space Empires Discord server. The main person behind it (d_demon) is definitely a fan, and I have no idea just how many games he’s been involved in over Discord. Shortly after my arrival I was in a game with him that was strongly against type: He’d proposed the “Knife Fight” scenario.

I had to look that up; it’s a new scenario in the Close Encounters rulebook. Basically, take the standard 4×5 home area from a four-player game, and then the second player gets the same area directly adjacent to it. There is no deep space, and the area is insanely tiny. I prefer to develop out my economic engine before switching to a military, but it was obvious there’d be no time for that. In fact the scenario also says each player gets four SC and colony ships (instead of three each), and start with ship size 3 (CAs!) and Move 2 technologies. (Because of it saying ‘size 2 and 3’ split across a line, I didn’t realize we had access to CAs until shortly before seeing one….) We stuck with the base set rules through raiders and cloaking (those being new to me though I knew it was unlikely to get used).

The very start was the normal affair of finding out where everything is. I sent out civilians with the SCs on my first move, but then hung back, which was a good thing, as it turned out my home area black hole was two hexes from my homeworld, and I lost a SC to it on the second move. Demon sent his SCs out alone, but his black hole was adjacent to his homeworld and he lost a SC to it (and with only three hexes for four SCs, it was the hex he sent two SCs to, but the other survived). Fun fact, our homeworlds were on the same hexrow… and so were the black holes. By the time of the first economic turn, Demon had found three planets and colonized all three, while I had only found two, and gotten a colony ship to only one. Not a good start for a tiny game….

I built a new SC and colony ship (the planets were certainly out there… somewhere) and a pair of pipelines to connect the first colony. By the second economic turn, most of space was explored, though Demon had been a bit less efficient on his end (and he hadn’t built a new SC). This time I built another colony ship, a DD and two more pipelines, and had settled three more worlds. Demon had settled two more (putting us even in number of colonies), and built a pair of CAs.

Since exploration of my half was winding up, I actually started exploring the last bits of Demon’s half of the board while pressing my SCs towards his colonies and encouraging him to think reactively. In turn three, I used the beginning move 2 tech to get two of my SCs onto one of his groups next to his brand new colony. That of course was one of his SCs, and all three shots missed in the first round, so Demon retreated out of the 2:1 battle. …And immediately came back with a new group that turned out to be 2xCAs. Amazingly, bad rolls continued, so that at the end of round 2, I still had one SC to retreat out.

First contact. That’s the full board. I’m yellow, Demon is green.

Demon, as it turns out, took the opportunity to build infrastructure, building pipelines and shipyards. I built a pair of CAs of my own, and a forward shipyard (that I hoped looked more like a base for the moment…).

So far the action had been along the bottom of the map, and I had my main force (2xSC, 1xDD…) at the top, and Demon fell back in front of my three groups to his 2xCA. Worse, he had another group up there to menace my most recent colony. I headed down to protect the forward shipyard, his CAs went up… and on turn 3, the double-move let my main force attack the collection of groups that his CAs left behind. We had four groups each (my ships from before, plus a third SC), while he had a known SC, plus what turned out to be two more SCs and a decoy (I’d had suspicions, since he’d put out more groups than seemed possible to afford). Poor rolls continued for us both, so that there was only one hit (killing one of his SC) in the first round, and that was his only loss when he retreated on the second round.

The SCs moved back to his latest colony, the group along the north moved back (likely decoy…), and the CAs hit my colony up there, but missed on the bombardment. During the fourth econ he produced a base at his forward colony, 2xDD, and some more pipelines (and some tech?). I produced another pair of CAs, a base at my remaining top-side colony, and a pipeline to finish connecting all my lower-side colonies. Demon also bid on turn order so he could go first. His new ships moved forward… and his bombardment of my colony failed again. I went into his nearby colony, and found that he had indeed built a base there (it seemed likely, but I needed to know). The base killed my DD, and one of my SCs killed one of his, and everything else missed (including the base’s second round shot), so I retreated out.

In the third turn, Demon finally finished off my colony (holding him up for an entire economic cycle was a big win for me), and pursued my retreating fleet. Both of us had new groups present, and mine was my first pair of CAs, while his turned out to be two DDs. (He had obviously hoped for something lesser….) Bad rolls meant one hit per side in the first round, killing one of his DDs and one of my SCs. The second round finally saw good rolls, with the CAs getting the remaining DD, and my SCs getting his SC before it could retreat. The third round double-move got me to the next colony in line, and I traded a SC for a SY, miner, and pipeline, and wiped out the colony with three out of three hits.

With my navy victorious at the bottom, and my second pair of CAs and a base waiting for his CAs ans suspected decoy at the top, I figured he couldn’t get at anything important in a turn, and merely built a second base (at the forward shipyard), two decoys and a pipeline, while purchasing Attack 1. Demon seems to have produced three CAs… and three decoys.

My fleet pressed forward and was intercepted by the new CAs in E2, while the older ones got my two group force that was a decoy and my second pair of CAs in C8. In former battle, I lost my last SC, and retreated to D3 (technically closer to my homeworld…). The other battle went three rounds with all misses for the first two, and then I got lucky to kill a CA with a pair of hits, and Demon (wisely) retreated out.

I chased after the remaining CA, and my other force hit the colony I’d retreated next to, which thankfully had a pair of shipyards instead of a base. I took one hit before knocking out the shipyards and reducing the colony to a 3. My second set of CAs got lucky again (two 1s!) to knock out his CA before it could retreat.

Demon chased down my first CAs, we did a hit each… and then he realized I could retreat out and hit a colony ship that had just moved to settle Kronos/E4. He conceded at that point.


For me, the critical point was when Demon pursued my fleet into the 2xCAs coming up behind, hoping the new group wasn’t anything too tough. Not a wise thought simply because I didn’t have much else out there, and nothing more than a single DD had shown up yet. The money had to be going somewhere…

I also knew at the start I was in trouble, as I think more in terms of long games, and I was most of a turn behind on getting the initial colonies set up. The initial battles were bad for both of us with almost all rolls being 8+. I had done some decent maneuvering to pick off ships, and it failed because of the bad dice. However, his two CAs being held up for several turns trying to bombard my colony and failing more than made up for it, as it gave me time. Then, hot dice allowed my two CAs to kill his two without taking damage. The rest fell apart from there; I was expecting it to go longer, and was looking forward to seeing how the +1/0 CAs would do. (With the dice in this game… maybe not so well.)