Author Topic: [9/9] No Turrets No Cloaking (NTNC) Victory - Thoughts and Random Notes  (Read 161 times)

Offline thethingamabob

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Edited: Improved the layout and flow a bit, removed some superfluous stuff.

This is an idea I've had floating around for a while, but didn't get the time for it until recently.

The Theory:
I've played a lot of 9/9 games, some with AI handicap at +100%, and have been able to win most of those. The others went unfinished due to boredom or AI/RNG shenanigans.

Here's the problem: Turrets are powerful, and they do everything. The last half dozen of those games were won with the same strategy: Get a single 'raiding' fleetship to mk 21, get MSDs, then sink every other point of knowledge into defenses. Nearly every capturable beyond the turret controllers becomes useless, and due to hacking quirks you can hack as many of those as you need.

Using MSDs + fleetships, I would poke a line through the AI's tachyon sentinels to each of the spire archive planets, cloaky starship colony ships to them to capture them, beachhead onto the adjacent AI Core world, then beachhead the AI Homeworlds themselves. My only ships that would enter the AI homeworlds were Mobile Builders, Mk3 engineers, and turrets - usually just the HBC4 and Needler5's at that2.

This process is powerful, reliable, foolproof, and exceedingly boring. Grinding tachyon sentinels took ~50% of the game time, and it's the same process for every single planet. Turning CSG's on means you need to capture half a dozen planets you wouldn't otherwise, and your reward is unlocks you never use (they just waste more metal than building turrets) and slightly larger waves attacking you. Without them, its a grind straight to the core worlds.

No Turrets, No Cloaking

Without turrets, more ship types become viable as you need them to fill those roles - tractor beams, engine damage, gravity sources, raw DPS, etc. The list of valuable assets is much longer and consequently more interesting to choose between. Things that were useless become vital3.

Removing cloaking eliminates the single most tedious part of the game - tachyon sentinels. Aside from that, I never liked cloaking that much. It felt like one of those abilities that is powerful but tedious and unreliable4.

You keep a few cloaked ships - namely Scout Starships, Mobile Space Docks, and Assault Transports. As long as the AI doesn't have Microfighters or Sentinel Frigates, you can send your cloaked ships around with impunity. That cuts about 90% of the tedium out of the game now - no more popping hundreds of sentinels, no more babysitting them as they go.

Without turrets, you're definitely taking a hit to power. No cloaking is a bit more even - scouting and moving around is easier, but you lose the ability for extreme deep strikes. In return, the you don't need to worry about cloaked ships attacking you - this makes military command stations slightly less vital. In any case, you can turn the difficulty down.

The setup
  • Simple map, 60 planets.
  • 9/9 Random Harder / Moderate/Easier AI's (Ended up being Overreactive/The Tank and Alarmist/Neinzul Viral Nester, which is a fairly mild combination)
  • Cloaking, Turrets, CSG's Disabled (Mines also get disabled due to cloaking)
  • Factions: Marauders, Resistance, Rebellions, Dyson on High; Traders and Devourer on; Golems Hard 2, Botnet Moderate; NRC, NRE, DC on Low, Showdown and Exodian Blade on.
  • AI has a -100% handicap (half as many ships). Plots are schizophrenic, Hunter 4 (AI one), Preemption 8 (AI two)

The Game

See the attachment for reference.

Starting Out
I started in the middle with YNG Vultures. They're my favorite among the YNG ships - very tough, and surprisingly high omni-damage. Maybe the best YNG ships all around.

First steps are to send out scout starships - with No Cloaking, they can scout the whole galaxy. Follow them with 5 mk2 science labs - one to see what each ARS has. I unlock mk2 military stations, mk2 engineers, mk2 Vultures, and assault transports.

Superhacking
With the galaxy scouted, I can see what targets are available. I get lucky - 2 ARS's with more YNG ships and a couple of golems nearby. Cursed golems are my favorite, so that's my first target at planet 3. I push south, freeing the dyson sphere at 2 and capturing the ARS there for YNG Weasels. The cursed golem is repaired without incident.
With a golem on my HW I'm in a strong position. I take a look at objectives - there aren't any easily defendable clusters (those are rare on simple/realistic maps anyway), and I want to avoid spread out irreplaceable structures. This is where SuperhackingTM comes in. I send a hacker to each planet with something that looks valuable, timing the hackers so they all finish at the same time. Done this way, you can go pretty far into negative HAP with minimal response from the AI and since you haven't done any hacking yet it will not use tachyon pulses against you. There are some more quirks to it as well5.

Final haul:
  • Advanced Factory Blueprints
  • Research Redirection - for Vorticular Cutlasses
  • Corruption - Medic Frigates (Beefiest thing the AI had at this point, surprisingly annoying. Not sure how much this helped, though - the AI kept getting them after the hack.)
  • Download - Munitions Boosters
  • Fabricator - Protector Starships
  • Fabricator - Experimental Translocators
  • Fabricator - Leech Starships
  • Fabricator - Tackle Drone Launcher
That put me at -267 HAP, with less than 500 threat in response.

More Targets
I captured a few more nearby targets - two ARS's (YNG Commandos, LTP-F's) and the first spire archive at 7. I upgraded the LTP-F's to mk3/4, got them, the Tackle Drone Launchers, and the Protector Starships built while I waited for the spire archive. While I waited I captured the first of the two armored golems and got it running, using it for homeworld defense. In hindsight I should've captured the golem at planet 11 instead of 8 - it would allow the dyson gatlings to bunch up on my planets and render 3 and 11 nearly immune to waves. If they don't have a friendly planet to go to they just fly at AI planets and get themselves killed.

Pushing Out, Home Defense
My core fleet assembled, I send them north to establish a beachhead at planet 9. None of the AI's planets can stand up to them - perhaps due to the -100% handicap, perhaps due to luck (no black hole machines or annoying planets like "rude gesture"), perhaps due to protector starships. The fleet gets about halfway before I realize I forgot to send colony ships with them - without cloaker starships, there's no other way to get the colony ships out there. The 14 jumps is a bit too far for assault transports, and I don't want to waste the AIP on any planets inbetween. After a slight...setback...the fleet arrives and captures it without incident, securing the second spire archive at 9.

The rest of my fleet (primarily the armored golem) is sitting at my homeworld for defense. I could have divided my fleet better - the mk5 leeches and mk2 riots ended up doing next to nothing in my core fleet, both of their ranges being beaten by the cursed golem anyway.

So how did I defend the rest of my planets? If I felt like it, I would build several space docks and spam YNG ships on FRD at them - 3 full caps of mk 1 and 2 YNG ships only cost 100,000 metal. They're cheap enough to just scuttle and rebuild when you need to move them. Otherwise it's part of the strategy - don't capture planets you don't need to defend. Most of the planets don't provide anything but energy (which I have plenty of) and a pittance of metal. In hindsight I might have gotten more metal by abandoning the systems and funneling those waves into my homeworld for scrap.

I have better ideas for defense in the future - capturing planets in tighter clusters; investing in fortresses to deflect/delay smaller waves; having 'fast reaction' teams ready to move around in assault transports to defend between multiple planets. (Although ordering transports to move then forgetting about them as I do something else is one, uh, issue I have...)

As for planets that are far off, like 7? Don't waste your time or attention on them.

Regenerator Shenanigans
There was a Regenerator Golem at 9. It did not see much use - they pair terrible with youngling/swarmer-type ships. I believe it's health drained faster than the AI could damage it while replacing lost younglings. I left it to sit as it repaired itself. Did you know their attacks have vampirism? Too bad they deal pitiful damage. I found out they can out-heal the damage from a mk3 zenith starship, though. That was an amusing fight.

First Homeworld Assault
I assaulted the first homeworld with a little difficulty - mainly forgetting what tricks the AI would throw at you. Moving onto the core world to the south-east of 9 triggered a Core CPA Post. 2000 threat was a little concerning, but I could deal with that later. For now the DGL on that core would was about to spawn a guardian. I figured I would go ahead and pop it now, since my main fleet was there. Turns out half of that threat was sitting on the AI Homeworld, and they took 3 Dire Guardians showing up as an invitation to join the party too. It went badly. On my second try I moved my fleet to the far edge of the gravity well, what with the cursed golem's infinite range and all.

I got some warheads built, moved them in...and they popped. It had been so long since I used a warhead on an AI Home/Core world I completely forgot about the interceptors. A burst from the golem later and now we were ready to attack.

That took long enough the CPA Post fired again.

Assaulting the HW was simple enough: MSD's puming out YNG swarms, which were sent through the wormhole. They are used to simultaneously attack a Wrath Lance post near the WH and lure the Strategic Reserve close to the WH. Once enough of the reserve is close, a mk3 lightning warhead is sent in and vaporizes 95% of them. The Wrath Lance soon falls, and the rest of the fleet follows behind. The core fleet goes counter-clockwise and the Younglings go clockwise taking out Core Guard Posts before meeting back in the middle. The one wrinkle was that CPA decided to counter-attack me, coming out of the WH right next to my golem. A dozen each mk5 infiltrators and heavy beam guardians took out half of the golem's health before I could react, but I was able to use one of the spare lightning warheads tagging along with the fleet to defeat them. The rest of the CPA fleetships got killed by thousands of Lightning Torpedoes.

I found out MSDs are a terrible pair for damaged golems - they apparently ignore the 'do not assist expensive projects' and will repair your golem, making your metal disappear, and you can't power them down because that makes them useless...

I did have a pair of interesting discoveries: One, lightning Torpedos benefit from attack boosts. Two, if you give a direct attack order to LTP-F's, all the torpedoes they launch will copy those orders. Watching an AI Home Station under three Core Forcefields get killed by a thousand torpedo impacts is...amusing, to say the least.

Return, Preparations
With one homeworld down, I pull my fleet back to my homeworld, work on capturing the second Armored Golem at 11, and generally prepare for the second assault. Somewhere in here a random alarm post dies on a planet I've never been to. Turns out it was a Hatred class Dark Spire cruiser rampaging through the weakened AI systems. I think this is literally the only time I've seen them destroy something important...

Second Homeworld Assault, Victory
With lessons learned from the first HW assault, the second goes much more smoothly - 7 is re-captured as a staging ground, the Core World is Neutered, the Strategic Reserve is Warhead-ed, and my core fleet grinds through the Guard Posts one by one. Soon enough the second Home Command goes down under a hail of Lightning Torpedoes and Waves of Plasma. Game Over.

Closing Thoughts
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I'd be interested to try this again - with other players and on harder settings. The only time I felt really threatened was when a random H/K (from a Special Forces Alarm that got triggered) attacked my HW alongside a CPA of 1500 ships - but a mk1 Warhead and an armored golem took care of that. For next time, I'll try to be more strategic on defenses and fleet composition - not waste as much metal on planets I shouldn't worry about holding anyway.

I have also considered a No Cloaking/No mobile builders type game. Maybe also ban Core Turret Controllers (too powerful, overrule any other strategic targets). In theory, turrets become defense only, so you still need to invest in offensive capability. But the further you get from 'pure settings' changes, the harder it becomes to enforce. More likely, I'll switch to AIW2 as soon as it's in good shape, if not sooner.

As far as fun goes? AI War still has plenty of interface 'quirks', randomness, and other frustrations...but this game mode removed at least 80% of the tedium from how I used to play.

Footnotes:
  • Raider Ships: Nomally something with FF immunity or cloaking. Vorticular Cutlasses are a personal favorite of mine, and all of the YNG ships are pretty good.
  • Turrets don't count as military units for most purposes. As a side effect of this, because you're not moving any "military" ships into the AI's
    Homeworld, the strategic reserve never even shows up. This might be a bug.
  • Useful ships: For instance, riot control starships actually become pretty useful - they're mobile tractor beams and wide spread engine damage all in one! Logistics Stations are competitive with Military Stations too - they're one of your few sources of AI speed reduction, and higher mobility is pretty useful on defense, especially across multiple planets.
  • Cloaking: Now that I think about it, most of the issues I had with cloaking are with cloaker starships. They're really powerful but also buggy and unreliable: Ships randomly uncloak when going through wormholes, random uncloaks during loading, and a tendency to get separated from the ships they're escorting, even when set to travel at the same speed. The end result of that is I'd feel compelled to use them, but have to watch them make every single jump to make sure they don't get separated from that colony ship they're escorting. Tedious.
  • Superhacking: As far as I can tell, you want to do minor (down to -300 - -500 HAP) or TOTAL FULL OUT ALL IN Superhacking (Get below -9000 HAP. Yes, that number appears in the code). It seems if you go into extremely low negative HAP, a failsafe of some sort activates, limiting how many ships the AI can spawn in response. To do this you should hack as many targets as you possibly can, preferably multiples of the same type (i.e. every fabricator). This may be a fluke however, as I haven't tested it too much. What I can say is, if it goes wrong, the AI will spawn more mk5 ships than can fit inside a single planet, then murder you with them.

    There is a another quirk associated with this. It may be considered a bug. If you have many hacks running simultaneously, only the first couple seem to spawn the 'vigorous response' threat after. The rest don't trigger at all: No HAP reduction, no hacking unlocks, no vigorous response...until you look at them. As in, go to the same planet they're located at. When you do, they will update, reducing your HAP and unlocking whatever it was hacking, but no AI ships will spawn. I am uncertain what causes this. 
« Last Edit: May 31, 2018, 02:37:43 AM by thethingamabob »