After my second game of Space Empires 4X with Demon over Discord, I got involved in a four-player game, which stalled out for a while (it’s still unfinished), and I got talked into a second four-player game as a replacement for someone who decided he couldn’t swing the time. As such, it went for more of the Replicators rules than I was comfortable with, since I’m still trying to grasp the implications of most of Close Encounters. It got going early in November, and wrapped up towards the end of January (which is actually pretty speedy for this).

But the main set up was the ‘blood brothers’ option for a 2 vs 2 game, and to combat worries over weaker cards, each side drew four Empire Advantage cards and picked two. Random pairing gave me BravoCo as my ally in the upper right, with me in the lower left, PLM directly opposite me, and Demon in the far corner. We drew Gifted Scientists, Powerful Psychics, Warrior Race, and Celestial Knights, and I took the first one, while Bravo took the second option. I was hoping to use the discount in tech to get into a few different specialized branches, and force our opponents to spend CPs reacting to them while Bravo concentrated on the main line and exploring for the both of us.

The first three econ turns or so went as usual, with everyone exploring their home space and preparing for a wider-ranging future. The zone between Demon and Bravo was the first to get truly explored, turning up a pair of adjacent black holes. Bravo manged to get a pipeline into one of them, and set up a force on top of it next to two of Demon’s colonies. My attempt to shortcut the black hole in my space with a pipeline did not end well, and set me back a bit for setting up on the frontier.

The first fight was on my frontier with PLM in the lead up to econ 7. He revealed a Fold in Space chit that he’d explored earlier, and hit two colonies at the edge of the board, getting a hit on each of them. The really bad news for me is that he revealed three CAs (of varying tech, the best being +0/+1 with move 3) doing this, and I was still on DDs, though I had built two raiders (both +1/+0).

Battle at Antaries (bottom middle). I’m red, Bravo is blue, Demon and PLM are green and yellow respectively.

I moved against the bigger fleet with everything available, and knocked out a CA with a R and Victory, and he knocked out one of four DDs. I was only able to get a single hit against his remaining CA before it retreated out.

Econ turn 7 followed immediately after that, and I spent 3 CP on the turn order bid while setting up a forward base, a new R, and two decoys (while getting Def +1, Move 4, and Military Academies). Sadly, Bravo could only manage 1 CP, and bids were tied, 4 CP to 4 CP for each side, letting PLM and Demon continue to go first, when I could have really used a second turn. PLM moved Argo onto the rest of his fleet, and took out my colony at Cerberus. That gave him 3xCA and Argo, while I could hit him with Victory, 3xCA, 2xR, and 1xSC. I very nearly went in after him (and would have if I’d gone first), but eventually decided I didn’t like the odds.

And the odds on my front permanently tilted in PLM’s favor. Partially because he was always a step or so ahead of me, and partially because I painted myself into a corner. The plan was to fortify and then build a navy, but it just left me without a navy. I took mine technology in hopes of mass-producing them, but the extra CP cost on everything for my advantage meant that was probably a bad decision. They certainly slowed him down, but also contributed to me not being able to stand up in a fight.

Demon revealed a fold in A6, and used it to get at a second fleet of Bravo’s, bringing 6xBC against 4xCA (Demon’s BCs were move 2 with no other upgrades while bulk of the CAs were move 4 +1/+0). Demon killed 2xCA for no return damage, and Bravo retreated to his forward colony. Demon then pulled back to protect his space, leaving behind a one-group blocking force… which turned out to be a transport with no troops….

I had tried to slip my new R through the lines, but PLM leapt on it with everything he had, and had scanners available to engage and kill it (one bad bit with the timing of the first combat is he got to see an R right before production…). After that, he went back to my fleet sitting over Antares (Athos in J9 could have crippled me, with only a base, the forward 2xSY and 1xSC, but the two decoys I sent in did their work). This time, he had a BC, 3xCA, 1xDD, 1xSC versus the same fleet I’d had before, and lost everything but my flagship, only taking out his DD (and scanner…) in return. Amazingly, bombardment did nothing to my colony, with the 1 defense from having infantry stationed there blocking everything.

Things were a little quiet after that other than the slow bombardment of my colony. After the 8th econ turn, he pressed on into my space, leaving a small force above Antares to continue the bombardment and blockade. Two new groups moved up adjacent, and I worried they might be ground troops, so I came out to check, finding a BC and DDX(!) with Victory and a SC. I got lucky, killing the DDX while taking no hits, and the BC retreated out on the second round. While some ships pressed on to my inner colony Fionn, others turned back to join newer ships at taking the battle to Victory, losing my SC, but costing him another DDX before Victory retreated.

Bravo moved in to pick off the transport, showing 11xCA in three groups to do it. Demon moved in Thunderchild (improved to move 2…) 5xBC, a BV with three fighters and a SC. All of Demon’s ships (other than the SC, which he screened) fired first, and killed three CAs on the first round with good rolls. Return fire killed the fighters, and damaged one BC, while the second round took out another two CAs, and Bravo’s fire merely did two hits to the BV. The fight went another round with a wounded BC picked off, and another CA lost before Bravo retreated. (It should be noted that Demon’s ships were generally no better than move 2, while the CAs were largely +1/+1, and so had better stats than the BCs, but the dice were against Bravo.)

However, after that Bravo put his “black hole squadron” (now consisting of Enterprise, 1xCA, 2xSC, and my first R, which I’d sent over before my first encounter with PLM) into one of Demon’s colonies, which merely had a base, 2xSY and a DD (with scanning, sadly). He had to retreat out, but took no losses, and killed the DD and shipyards. Demon managed to get a SC into the black hole to kill the pipeline there, and of course pulled ships back to cover that area. Bravo moved in on the remains of Demon’s fleet on his border (1xBV, 1xBC, and Thunderchild) with 5xCA and 3xBC. Both sides lost a BC, and then Demon retreated (with two hits on his BV). The group from the black hole could retreat sideways (towards my colonies), and then pressed further into Demon’s space, where he caught up to it with a BV (w/2 fighters) and DDX. This time the dice were kind to Bravo, and the BV retreated after the first round, everything else having been killed for no more than a single hit on my R.

Meanwhile, PLM finished off the colony at Fionn, and moved to Essen, wiping it out in bombardment. Much worse, he got a colony ship to Cerberus, and a transport to Antares with 6xmarines to capture it. I’m not sure what techs he took from me, but I would guess attack-1 would be one of them. He also had the opportunity to move two groups into Demon’s area, one of which accompanied the next combat with Bravo’s fleet in Demon’s space. There were 3xBC (one of which was PLM’s) and another DDX, and they took out the deep-raiding force for no losses (couldn’t get a hit on that DDX).

Bravo forked Demon’s defenses, and picked the one he didn’t expect, and sent 6xBC and 3xCA to Eccles, which had a base, Thunderchild, 3xBC, 1xBV (w/1xfighter), and 3xSY. Demon still didn’t have any combat techs, while Bravo was at +1/+1 and tactics 1 for most of the fleet. He retreated out after a round, having lost 2xBC, but having killed the shipyards and fighter. After the next econ phase, he came back and hit Sirius, which Demon had thought was Bravo’s initial target, and now had no defenders, and wiped it out.

With Antares out of the way, PLM went after Athos, while his fleet deep in my space was slowly pushed towards the center of the board by mines and Bravo showing up with 4xCA.

Sadly, I only had one mine there, and PLM showed up with a minesweeper, so that did nothing. He had two DDXs, and I got both on the first round before they could fire, but he got my three shipyards. I also managed to kill one of three BCs, and kept getting single hits against the others, so PLM retreated rather than accept the loss of any of them. However, he landed six marines from a transport before retreating out, taking the planet and killing my base, leaving me blockading it with Victory and a surviving CA. After the ensuing 12th econ turn, PLM came back to force my ships off the planet, killing my CA for no losses. Worse, he finally revealed his empire advantage at this point: Cloaking Geniuses, which promptly overturned most of my defensive plans (with cloaking 2, everything up to a CA can be cloaked, so the bulk of his navy could just ignore the mines I was trying to use to control his movement).

I struck back at Antares with 5xCA, one of which was killed by PLM‘s mine. Past that, he had 2xCA, 1xSC, and a shipyard, and I took out the latter two, leaving him to retreat from a 2:1 fight. He came back on his turn, adding Argo and 2xBC to the previous fleet. What I hadn’t anticipated was that he would move into the hex I came from, leaving me with only a black hole as the path out. I lost three CA, and then the fourth did not survive the retreat. In the meantime, I killed 2xCA.

Bravo returned to Eccles with a large fleet (12xBC, 2xCA, and two transports with 6xinfantry and 6xmarines). All the defenders were at Pollux next door, so he knocked out the base, bombarded the planet to a “1”, and then took it with ground troops, losing three infantry. Demon, as it turned out, had Traders which had given him a strong economy, though Bravo’s actions had largely disrupted the pipeline network. PLM’s old forward fleet tried to take on a fleet of Bravo’s but found 4xCA, and eventually retreated back out, with no one losing any ships.

PLM had moved a couple of cloaked groups deeper into my area, and on top of one of my blocking forces. However, he left a gap between them and the rest of his navy, so a slipped a single R into there to force the heavier units to stop. He obligingly sent in 2xBC, 2xCA, and a SW, which I revealed, and then retreated the R out before combat. The forward force turned out to be 2xSC, which probed further in, found mines, and retreated out. I repeated the trick on the next turn, with everything else huddled on various valuable hard-points.

We finally won a turn order bid on econ 14 to get a double turn, and Bravo sent the main fleet to Castor (two hexes from Demon’s homeworld… on the other side of asteroids), and wiped it out. He advanced to adjacent, and Demon and PLM went into Bravo’s space and hit Orion, destroying the colony. And on move 3 before the 14th econ turn, Bravo’s fleet got to Demon’s homeworld with 12xBC and 3xCA. Demon’s defenses were a base, 6xfighters, and 8xship yards. All of those went down in three rounds of combat for the cost of one BC (Demon’s shipyards got lucky with two 1s  in the first round to kill a BC by themselves). Then the bombardment knocked out the homeworld to give our team the win.


I spend a lot of time regretting the initial encounter with PLM. I figured if I’d killed one more CA I could have contained the situation long enough to get a proper navy built, and then narrowly missing the turn bid ruined the next chance, but I got caught on the wrong side of the DD/CA divide. Which isn’t entirely true, as the raiders are really a specialty cruiser, though I kept wanting to think of them a one-hull ships instead of two-hull. On the other hand, in a full fleet battle the Rs aren’t as good as the CAs because they lack the native defense, and after the first round have a worse firing rank. But in a smaller battle, they’re good since that first round is more important, and either way, the +1 attack is handy…. once there’s no scanners.

Overall, I’m not sure just how PLM managed all he did. On the other hand, thinking it over, I wasted my main chances with my empire advantage. Going for mass-produced mines as a hold-over defense is a poor play when everything costs one more than normal. In fact, I’m thinking going straight for big expensive hulls might be a good idea for them, since the per-unit penalty goes down the more expensive the ship is.

On the other hand, BravoCo did an excellent job mass-producing CAs and BCs. Things were a little touch-and-go on his front for a while, but he picked on Demon’s infrastructure, taking out forward shipyards, and then disrupting the pipelines to leverage a better position on the front over time.

The end of the game was a bit of a race, as I still didn’t have much of a navy (every time I started getting one put together, I’d lose most of it in the next battle), and PLM was three hexes away from my homeworld with a force I couldn’t really stop, though it’d quickly exhaust itself against the more defended locations. The real problem was that I’d never get a chance to recover economically with that running around.