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Games => AI War Classic => AI War Classic - After Action Reports => Topic started by: Peter Ebbesen on May 22, 2014, 02:12:10 PM

Title: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on May 22, 2014, 02:12:10 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- a newbie Fallen Spire AAR -




Rather than being a simple rendition of what happened when, which is primarily of value to connoisseurs, who know the game well and are interested in seeing how things diverge from the expeced, I intend this to be more of a chronicle for newer players laying out the strategic thinking behind my choices in this game, be they in the end proven right or wrong.


The Story so far:

I recently picked up AI war, and as I'm the kind of player who tends to play individual games intermittently but intensively when they have my focus, rather than for the long haul, Keith was kind enough to suggest something that would be a bit of a challenge for me after my third attempt at the game on 7/7 with moderate Golems, champions, and the Zenith Trader resulted in a win at >600 AIP within a week of picking up the game.

The challenge: A more war focused game conquering planets all over the place and truly driving up the AIP without access to the superweapons that had made life just a bit too easy for me on 7/7.

Very gratifyingly, his suggested setup crushed me a number of times through my 4th to 7th games over the following week as I learned of new ships and game mechanics that had been little relevant in the 7/7 win, before I finally survived long enough that I felt it made sense to chronicle my efforts, based on hard-won experience and picking what has got to be one of the cheesiest ship picks ever, the Sentinel Frigate, rather than my earlier picks of Infiltrators, Spire Corvettes, and Lightning Torpedo Frigates. (The latter after an attempt where the AI hybrids got their hands on them. Hybrids with LTF are really, really, silly. Sadly, getting a handful of LTF myself turned out to be rather less impressive than fighting hybrids fielding hundreds of them.)

If there's anything cheesier than caps of high damage armour type agnostic armour piercing planetary range sniper units, I'm not sure I want to know what it is.

In my last attempt, game #7, I conquered one entire cluster and was at a bit more than 400 AIP when I finally dared to construct a Spire Hub. When a game like AI war tells me that I should expect to need to fortify heavily, I tend to take its word, though perhaps I overdid it a bit.

Nevertheless, hardly was construction underway than I was promptly crushed by a wave that included two Armoured Golems, an Artillery Golem, and diverse others that punched through my really heavy duty defenses consisting of all forts, all mines, all heavy beam turrets, a heck of a lot of other turrets, and my fleet. The AI hadn't gotten the memo that this was supposed to be a Spire-only superweapon game, and I had not had anywhere near the time to get the Spire hub, which I located on a planet that the AI had to move through when spawning waves, built up to participate meaningfully in the game. The Golems & Co. punched right past that planet, into the homeworld, and punched it out, behaving just like the Shadow Frigate exo waves I'd fought in my 7/7 win, where the Golems were on my side, in going for the goal rather than getting distracted in other systems. Golems are nasty. :P

That's how I learned that Lightning Warheads, that until then had seemed the cure-all for really tough situations, only tickle Golems. Now I know that Golems – or anything else the game may throw at me equally tough – needs to be either a) met with Armoured Warheads, b) far from home, or c) preferably both.

I still like Lightning Warheads, though. They are good at clearing out the rifraff.

Win or lose, this is how the result of Keith's challenge plays out, for after this I'll have to turn my mind to other things for a time.



The setup:

I am not sure how appropriate this challenge is for new players in general, as I am a veteran strategy games player and Keith knows it, which undoubtedly informed his setup. Going from a single victory in 7/7 to 9/9 with double AI types in my second week of playing the game can best be described as rough.

But it is fun, prevents me from accessing the truly powerful champions, Golems, or Zenith Trader goodies to trivialize defense, and to me, at least, it is a challenge at my current level of game knowledge. What more could one reasonably desire? Try this setup at your own risk.

All expansions enabled.
Conquest.
Full fog of war.
100 planets with simple clusters.

9/9 Special Forces Captain/Bouncer and Mad Bomber/Reservist.
4/10 Fallen Spire: Sole source of extra superweapons.
6/10 Hybrids for the SFC/B: A bit more aggression from the AI.
0 automatic AIP increase: The hybrids assure me that I should relax and take my time.
Complex shiptypes: No opting out of any shiptypes.
Schizo waves.
Low caps.

My choice: Sentinel Frigate.

Starting game version: 7.028
Seed: 125439421


The Map:

(http://imageshack.com/a/img834/2354/emdpy.jpg)



Initial Analysis:

This map gives me five clusters and plenty of natural chokepoints. It has, it goes without saying, been chosen exactly for those properties. I enumerate the clusters 1 through 5 starting in the lower-left and going clockwise.

I have chosen my homeworld to be the single chokepoint in cluster 1, which means that for the duration of the early game I'll be tanking the AI directly on my homeworld with all waves incoming from the planet labeled Hub Alpha, which is where I intend in the fullness of time to construct my Spire hub.

I did get to see what I could construct in the hub from the ship design menu in game #7 even if I didn't get to actually build a Shard Reactor before death, so it is clear that Hub Alpha will in the fullness of time be a very strong position. Ideally, everything will be stopped there or, if not stopped, then take serious damage passing through the system on the way to the Homeworld.

I assume I'll be building more hubs or even greater defenses later on, as Keith told me this was essentially a war campaign. I have thus tentatively labeled the other exit point from cluster 2 Hub Beta. Hub Beta leads directly to both Cluster 3 and Cluster 4. By the time the war really gets going, I'll want enemies to have to fight through both Hub Beta and Hub Alpha to reach my homeworld.

I have chosen the Sentinel Frigate because they seemed almost unbelievably cheesy in general and can laugh at the armour of Armoured Golems, and Golems were my bane in game #7. This means that assuming no spectacular fabricator unlocks that radically changes the equation, most planet defenses will be dealt with by simple pummeling from range by the Sentinel Frigates while keeping the rest of the fleet in a single fleetball to kill anybody approaching the Sentinels.


The projected phases are as follows based on knowledge gained through games #4 to #7. After these phases, I will have to improvise, which is where it gets really fun and dangerous.


PHASE 1:




PHASE 2:



PHASE 3:




So, how did this plan actually work out?

As noted in the beginning, I have progressed far enough in the game that a considerable amount of these opening phases have been accomplished (if not exactly according to my initial planning) and valuable lessons have been learned, and I'll be writing those installments as I find time over the next few days as well as playing on.

I'll start by noting that my initial unlocks were Military Stations Mk. II and III, Sentinel Frigates Mk. II, Neinzul Enclave Starship Mk. II, and the Heavy Beam Cannon.

Newbie advice: The HBC marks are truly amazing defensive weapons. They are so cheap to construct that you can profitably destroy them whereever they are located in favour of constructing them on the fly in locations that come under attack so long as you have a bunch of engineers present. I generally use most of them at chokepoints – all of them in times of danger – but demolish some or all of them whenever I need to defend somewhere else. This also makes for a good bait. If there's an enemy amassing beyond a chokepoint that will soon be strong enough to attack, why NOT demolish all your HBC's at the chokepoint, thus lessening the threat the AI senses, tempting it to attack earlier... only to quickly rebuild all of them when the AI starts pouring in? Backed up by a few score engineers, you can build all HBCs of all marks in a few second so long as you have the resources, and they provide a considerable boost to your defenses when set up between your command station and your tractor/lightning/flak trap, such that they cover everybody on that final stretch of the assault route or stuck dealing with your TLF trap?

Also, one note before the smart guys chime in: As I have progressed further, I later realized that I could just have sent scouts in transports on death trips rather than painstakingly killing off sentries and neutering to push out my sensor net in the early game, but as I hadn't thought of that at the time, well, that's just how it goes. You live and learn.



ONE REQUEST:

Please do not, kind reader, tell me overmuch about what the campaign will bring. Comment my actions, certainly, but leave me scope for exploration and failure. :)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on May 22, 2014, 02:34:07 PM
I am not sure how appropriate this challenge is for new players in general, as I am a veteran strategy games player and Keith knows it, which undoubtedly informed his setup.
Definitely.  I had to think for a bit on how to set the difficulty to "Serene (http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?39726-It-Came-From-the-Mountains)" :)

*grabs popcorn*
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on May 23, 2014, 06:08:00 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- Phase 1, part 1 -



Scouting the North

Initial unlocks were Military Stations Mk. II and III, Sentinel Frigates Mk. II, Neinzul Enclave Starship Mk. II, and the Heavy Beam Cannon.

As planned, I began scouting cluster 2, which as the reader will recall is the cluster immediately north of my starting cluster, cluster 1, with waves of 10 scouts, pushing them as far as they could reach before they died. Once all that could be reached had been scouted and I had constructed full caps of all my fleet ships and starships, I began neutering planets, leaving only jump gate and command centre alive, in order to allow me to send scouts further.

I found two Data Centres, a Factory IV, an Advanced Research Centre, a Design Backup for Bombards, a Sniper Turret V controller, a Zenith Power Generator, and two Dire Guardian Lairs.

Now, if there's one thing I fear, and perhaps irrationally so, it is Dire Guardian Lairs. Keith gave me the lowdown on them recently, and they are not quite as fearsome as I dreaded, but they are dangerous enough.

The ultra-safe thing is to avoid them and their neighbours like the plague until you are strong enough to deal with them, and to avoid moving anything but scouts to a planet unless you have already scouted all its neighbour planets, to ensure that none of them are Dire Guardian Lairs. This does down slow scouting, but better safe than sorry.

Since I wanted to take out the two Data Centres as they weren't adjacent to Dire Guardians and since opposition was fairly weak, I neutered all the planets on the way to the Data Centres including the ARS and Factory IV planets. I didn't want those two now, giving me planets on alert in cluster 2 as well as AIP before I'd started to secure my backyard in cluster 1, but neutering them now when I was going for the Data Centres anyhow might save me future pain.

All together, this took some two hours or so, much of it at +5 to +6 speed setting, a time that can obviously be improved on with less neutering and more bypassing defenses using transports, but I was in no real hurry.

Nevertheless, it was with a certain amount of relif that I turned my eye to the southern cluster, cluster 1, and began scouting it with a view to the main goal of this particular game, conquest!



Scouring the South

Here the scouting would not be so monotonous! The wave of scouts was followed closely by my fleet, neutering the unworthy and destroying their jump gates in the process, and conquering the worthy!

Initial scouting reports showed some major goodies in the western parts of the cluster, so that was the vector of my initial attack. A Zenith Power Generator, Zenith Siege Engine V, Spider Turret V, and Advanced Starship Factory, all close together and very heavily defended.

There were none of Raid Engines or Dire Guardian Lairs I feared, but multiple radar dampened Sniper Guard posts doing upwards of a million damage per shot at arbitrary range do incur a certain amount of respect, especially when located under force fields. Let's just say that my Starship heavy fleet backed up by Sentinel Frigates had no problems defeating any of the defenses, but it sure got bloody at times and for the mark 4 worlds I had to peel them one layer of defenses at a time, withdrawing the fleet to repair and receive major reinforcements on a regular basis. Apart from a few heavily defended mk. 4 worlds, most defenses in my 7/7 game had been a joke when my fleet showed up, the fleet being able to destroy all planet defenses in one go; With difficulty 9/9, that was no longer the case.

Fortunately, the planets guarded by the Special Forces captain mostly had Special Forces Guard posts all over the place, which were rather easier to deal with.

By the time two or three CPAs had come and gone, the western part of cluster 1 was secured and it was time to move in on the eastern part, which had fewer goodies, but one of them was very good indeed: the Superterminal!


The map below shows the situation at 6h and a bit. The key is as follows:

P9: Dire Guardian Lair or Raid Engine – avoid!
P8: Planet that I want to avoid (e.g. next to a DG or Raid Engine)
P7: AI defenses intact, warp gate destroyed if adjacent to one of my planets.
P6: Neutered planet, that I for some reason or another want to remember something about, so that I don't take action here without remembering it or reading an attached note.
P5: Neutered planet with something worth conquering or hacking.
P1: Planet that is important to defend.
P0: Planet that is essential to defend due to an irreplaceable building.

All planets that aren't controlled by me but are scouted and don't have a priority mark are planets under AI control that have been neutered, and in case of those adjacent to any of my planets, have had their warp gate destroyed as well.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/707/emrhf.jpg)


I had a quandary on my hands:  Should I take down the Superterminal now or wait until later on for a greater AIP reduction when I had a larger fleet and Fallen Spire ships some time during phase 2 or 3?

I decided to stay with the spirit of the challenge and play this like a game of conquest rather than minimum AIP: I would complete phase 1, and then, when I had conquered the Flak Turret V controller, the Bomber V fabricator, and gotten the Refugee outpost built and was ready for phase 2, I'd take down the terminal as my last act before turning my attention north to the real war.


As of 6:18:46, tech unlocks are:

Offensive:
Neinzul Enclave Starship Mk. II and III
Sentinel Frigates Mk. II and III

Defensive:
Engineer Mk. II
Force Field Mk. II
Fortress Mk. I
Heavy Beam Cannon Mk. I and II
Military Stations Mk. II and III
Spider Turret


-----

Incidentally, why aren't the columns in the STATS pages sortable by clicking their title? E.g. Click the time column in techs and it sorts the column by time, click the techname column and it sorts by techname, and so on for all the columns in all the stats pages? This is done for the resource flows panel, but rest assured that the ability to sort would be just as appreciated for all the other panels (military, economy, technology, ships by player, types by player)

You go to all this trouble to present players with useful information at their fingertips, something I deeply appreciate as I am very much a lover of numbers, and then you don't enable rudimentary sorting of the data. It is a low hanging fruit where improving the interface is concerned.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on May 25, 2014, 03:58:33 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- Phase 1, part 2 -



Preparing for the Superterminal

Thus I went about conquering the Flak Turret V controller and the Bomber V fabricator and began the Spire campaign story. AI waves were manageable, but between rebuilding, a hybrid invasion, a CPA, and some of the neutered planets in the south stacking enough ships to launch invasions of their conquered neighbours, it was to be three hours before I had the refugee colony established, four spire frigates launched, and was ready to take on the Superterminal.

For that purpose, my navy was heavily augmented with the addition of 36 shield bearers, that my leech starships had nicked from the enemy, and I brought an engineering team along. As soon as the military station III had finished on the planet, Spider V and Flak 5 turrets were installed, as well as every single HBC I had available at the time, that is, all of marks I through III. I also had, near the Superterminal that spawns from it would be within the AOE but far enough away that the warheads wouldn't be taken out by accidental AOE from battle near the terminal, four Lightning III warheads under Cloaker starship protection, and further warheads stationed at critical P0 planets along the route from the terminal to the homeworld.

The reason for not stationing all the warheads at the Superterminal was simple – if I grossly miscalculated what was needed to ensure that the fixed defenses and fleet killed off the remnants of the superpulsing at the end, rebuilding all turrets for the defense of the next planet and rushing in reinforcements for the ships dead in the Superterminal world, and perhaps doing this for several non-critical worlds in a row before burning AIP to defeat the remnants once an important world was reached, seemed to me to have the least chance of going completely wrong in case of miscalculation.



Hacking the Superterminal

In the event, I happily slaughtered the Superhacking response until the strength increase per tick reached around 6k or so. Based on Lightning Warhead experiences in game #7, I knew that in most cases I could count on a Lightning III taking out roughly 20-40k strength, and probably more like 30-35k if one counted stacking multiple warheads, but I had seen as low as 20-25k, which meant that as strength increase approached 7-8k per tick, and assuming the total level was such that I'd want to use warheads in the first place, further reducing AIP would be an unacceptable risk, as I'd risk paying as much, or more, AIP on warheads than the reduction given, and would at the same time increase the risk to myself if anything went wrong.

Thus, at 195,768 terminal strength response and with 334 enemy ships already engaging me, I ordered my Sentinel Frigates to fry the Superterminal, watched the AI spawn thousands of ships, and detonated the four warheads.

In a word, it was glorious!


(http://imageshack.com/a/img835/9927/nhr9.jpg)



Also, I must admit, a bit of a letdown. The warheads destroyed 150k threat, which was in the very high range of what I expected, which meant that it is possible I might have been able to make do with three rather than four. I ended up with a surprisingly large proportion of my fleet surviving the battle, on the order of 60-70%.

On the other hand, it is better to be safe than sorry, and it was merely luck – not skill – that made the AI populate its terminal spawn with low-hitpoint ships rather than high-hitpoint ships.

In the end I gained a 196 AIP reduction (and hence 98 increase), for a total reduction after counting in the warhead costs of 86, and for a practically risk-free operation (once due precautions had been taken), I'm happy with the outcome.

If I'd had a better grasp of the post-hacking Superterminal response in 7.028 I might have hacked for longer, but as I wanted to be damn sure to progress further than I did in game #7, I played it safe in this and other decisions.

It was time to take the battle to the hybrids.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img835/3568/19wyt.jpg)

The Hybrids with a hundred Shield Bearers. Oh, well, it could have been worse.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on May 25, 2014, 07:58:32 PM
And the greedy heroes did somehow in their infinite wisdom decide to disturb the chamber in which the great monster was sealed 1,000 years ago.  A remarkably good seal, which required extreme jumping-up-and-down on to so disturb.  And then the nearly-200,000-strength doom of the galaxy was unleashed...

At which point the heroes vaporized the entire solar system and laughed all the way to the bank.

They had played JRPGs, and watched horror films, you see.



A well-executed hack :)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on May 29, 2014, 07:21:46 AM
Right, weekend coming up and perhaps a new patch with the turret changes discussed.

I guess I'll have to demolish all the Spider V and Flak V turrets to build ordinary turrets instead on the worlds adjacent to still unconquered in cluster 1 (i.e. everywhere, now that I think of it), while building up everything in the homeworld and... well, let's see how it goes from here. :)

EDIT: Patch is here and... Looks like the 2k I spent on unlocking Spider Turrets should now be considered a sunk cost. Spider Mk. I is free if one starts a new game, Spider Mk. II costs 2250 mk. III & IV 3250. Oh, well. These things happen.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 01, 2014, 06:03:19 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- Phase 2, part 1 -

being the last part where things go even approximately after the plan,
I kid thee not.



The Hybrid Menace

This is what a bunch of happy hybrids look like as they swoop in for the kill as I attempted to break their siege of my homeworld to give me access to the wider galaxy of clusters 2 through 5.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/9981/v0o81.jpg)


I like mark 3 lightning warheads and I like cloaker starships.  +3 AIP.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img838/4745/3lza.jpg)


My victorious fleet returned for some much needed repairs.



Musings on Special Forces

Until this point in the game, the Mad Bomber/Reservist had been of considerably greater concern than the Special Forces/Bouncer due to its considerably larger waves, but since no Special Forces tried to move through my homeworld gateway between cluster 1 and 2 during the first 10 hours of the game, I was sure that it must have built up a substantial amount of forces during that time.

The big question was this: What is a substantial number of forces at this difficulty level for a SF Captain/Bouncer given the AIP progression I've had over that time?

Unfortunately, I had no idea, so I proceeded with caution. Well, if you can call flying for the Advanced Factory  IV world to see what would attract them, only to flee when attacked by four or five thousand ships (but who's counting?) and having to burn another mark 3 lightning warhead to prevent fleet annihilation, that is.

Could that truly be all of them? For my next foray, I decided to be rather more cautious; The special forces had reacted to my presence on an AF, perhaps they'd react to my presence on an ARS as well? I had an ARS only two hops from my hopeworld, in Ubas.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/7853/h4lqd.jpg)


Things looked rather well, I must say. A thousand ships hanging out next to Ubas, probably more hanging out somewhere else, so I sent my fleet through the cluster 2 chokepoint Nefogin to Ubas and hugged the wormhole, allowing me a swift retreat if necessary.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/601/z5du.jpg)


The trap worked perfectly. As soon as I arrived in Ubas, the Savsuo forces began to pour in, and my Sentinel Frigates began laying down the law: Humanity was back with a vengeance!


(http://imageshack.com/a/img842/718/ucoe4.jpg)


So, it turned out, was the AI. When after losing hundreds of ships the number of enemy ships present in Ubas reached two thousand, twice the number of ships I had originally espied nearby, I decided that I'd better check the galaxy map to see just how many ships were pouring in from Savsuo. Not that I was all that worried, but better safe than sorry and all that.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/9041/i1p53.jpg)

(http://imageshack.com/a/img834/8656/ky3a.jpg)


Another thirteen thousand ships, that's how many. And given that kind of numbers, who knows how many following?

A strategic retreat seemed appropriate at this point, and the AI chose to not press its advantage (it really is very sporting that way) and began leaving the system via the Armaska wormhole.



A Cure for the SF Blues

When the cure arrived, a most delightful spectacle was observed. A few hundred riot starships flying in a triangle with a bunch of carriers hugging for comfort in Armaska.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img845/5228/eana.jpg)

(http://imageshack.com/a/img845/5930/1qx9p.jpg)


9 AIP later the problem had been reduced to one that had a known solution – hit and run attacks on Ubas. This, sad though it may seem, became my generic cure-all for the special forces and was repeated on a regular basis. Once they'd built up a fair amount, I'd hit Ubas and within a few minutes the special forces would arrive from wherever they'd been to evict me and get slaughtered in droves.

My science vessels informed me that the ARS contained Zenith Reprocessors, Attractor Drones, and Spire Corvettes, but it is doubtful that any of the ships would have provided a greater benefit to me than having a reliable place to bleed the special forces so close to my chokepoint and staging area, where I had a safe escape route and could return to deal with severe waves in a manner of seconds.

Following the defeat of the special forces, I set about clearing cluster 2 of threats to my general mobility, also known as, "those two darn Dire Guardian Lairs". This revealed a Data Center on one of the two planets of cluster 2 I hadn't scouted, that immediately to the east of the lairs, and following the destruction of the lairs, its destruction was swift to follow. I also destroyed a few tachyon sentinels in nearby systems to get much better scouting and of Cluster 2 with a view to getting advance warning of incoming special forces, and decided to unlock tier 2 of the scout drones when next the opportunity presented itself, to significantly increase the scope of my up-to-date sensor net.



Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men...

The following is painful to relate, but as more is learned from defeat than victory, I'll relate it nevertheless.

According to the plan, I should now hack appropriate targets in cluster 2, perhaps snapping up a few systems in cluster 1 for knowledge if necessary, and then build a spire hub in Spire Hub Alpha aka. Nefogin.

It goes without saying that I attempted to do that. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens when plans are laid based on incomplete knowledge, they fail, and sometimes spectacularly so.

This is what happened. To test the waters, first I started hacking the Advanced Factory using just my fleet and a hacker, because getting Sentinel Frigates up to mark 4 would be swell, and it was the single most important hack available to me. I had 131 HAP and the AI response level was high (253) due to the Superterminal Hack, but I didn't really have a feel for how vicious the AI's response would be.

The answer was: Very vicious!

Given the sizable response forces the AI threw at me, I swiftly aborted that hack by scuttling the hacking machine in favour of a rethink. It was obvious that for the hack to succeed, I would need more than the fleet: I'd need fixed defenses in support as well. Which meant conquering a neighbouring planet, to ensure supply, and defending both that planet and the hacking-planet for the 15 minute duration, all while not losing the homeworld.

Well, I had a plan that would work with that. While I'd definitely have preferred getting Sentinel Frigate IV before building the Spire Hub, it wasn't strictly necessary. So if I unlocked more forts, which would of course increase AIP, and constructed that first Spire Hub in Spire Hub Alha (nee Nefogin), then beat off the exowave, which should be no problem with armoured warheads, then, boosted by the fleet from the Spire Hub, I should be able to construct forts up in cluster 2 to do the job!

Well, it was worth a try, at any rate.

So I cleaned out some more systems in cluster 1 to unlock mark 2 and 3 forts, and then built a military 3 station and the Spire Hub in Hub Alpha, and cunningly placed it almost directly on the wormhole, such that anything penetrating to do my homeworld would have to go through the shields of its component buildings first.

I was not planning on stopping everything cold at Hub Alpha, oh no. If I tried that and failed just a single time, then whatever slipped through would have my homeworld at its mercy.

It would be better to have rather tough defenses in Hub Alpha and then weaker but still impressive defense at the homeworld, just in case. As I did not have a good grasp of how strong the Spire Hub defenses were, however, for the first exowave, which I knew would come when I started building the Spire Hub, the majority of the defenses would remain on the homeworld and afterwards I'd start moving defenses to the Spire Hub when it seemed safe.

The Hub would start out with two mark 3 forts as well as my navy, a full set of core spider and flak turrets, and all the beam cannon turrets (which could be quickly rebuilt at the homeworld if necessary), so it wasn't exactly defenseless.

Boy, did I feel smart.

This feeling lasted for several minutes.
...
...

(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/7015/xl4q.jpg)

(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/7515/mxb5l.jpg)


Right until the exowave taught me that the amount of force necessary to smash the forcefields such that something could pass through to my homeworld was pretty close to the amount of force necessary to destroy the entire Spire Reactor, that is.

With the expenditure of 5 AIP on warheads I stopped the incoming exowave, complete with three Golems, and I stopped it hard, but I was now in the position of rebuilding expensive spire buildings on an unimpressive budget and with a depleted fleet only little aided by the 12% salvage in Hub Alpha. All the salvage my homeworld generated was from a few ships that penetrated once the Spire shields went down.

Okay, that was bad, and what was worse, I'd looked as if I'd have to look forwards to rebuilding Spire Hub reactors and their weapons systems whenever anything was strong enough to punch through, which greatly diminished the attraction of letting the enemy suffer from layered defenses.

Still, the situation might be salvaged. The weapon stats on the Spire Hub facilitities were good (I had railcannon and heavy beams), though obviously not enough to stop a serious assault on their own, but they scaled by number of modules, and the message I got during the battle said something about building a larger city than the reactor/shipyard/habitation I had built.

It thus came to pass that I was greatly unamused to learn the one slight detail that, to the connoisseur of AI War, must have appeared a gaping hole in my original plan: that a Spire Hub can only grow larger than the original three modules when the AI doesn't control any adjacent planets, making it impossible to grow to full size while tanking normal enemy waves.

In other words, I now had a steady stream of ever larger exowaves, though thankfully not as large as the initial exowave (though give it time...?), and normal waves from the 334 AIP as well to tank on an only moderately defended Spire Hub and I only gained 12% salvage. I'd only be able to build the Spire Hub to full if I found some other planet in Cluster 2 to tank normal waves on, which would require me to divert defenses there, which were needed at Hub Alpha/Homeworld when the exowaves arrived. Oh, yes, and the Spire Hub was scanning for another shard to build another city to increase the pressure on me. Fat chance.

And what did I have to show for this great weakening of my strategic situation? 600 metal income, 4 additional Spire Frigates, and one Spire Destroyer.

Desperation forced my hand. In order for this to work at all, I'd need to get those darn hacks done. The additional firepower should open up new possibilities. Perhaps. A long shot, but there you have it. In  the meantime, I'd better move up some defenses to Spire Hub Alpha. And reconstitute the fleet. Oh, and weed out in the Special Forces.

Long story short? 14 minutes later...


(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/3323/q823h.jpg)



I could have blasted them to kingdom come with warheads, of course, but by then the writing was on the wall. Too many mistakes made, too little chance of a recovery.



The End?

Now, according to my original schedule, this is where I should call it a day and return to AI War a few months down the line.

But.

But it happened to be the case that what I am writing now happened last weekend, and that it was known then that a new patch was on the way that would radically change how turrets worked, by swapping the per-planet and per-galaxy restrictions of core turrets and knowledge-turrets, as part of a process of moving (slowly) from the game's chokepoint defense focus (as of time of playing) to a focus on allowing distributed defenses and defense in depth, so long as the energy economy could afford it.

And I have always loved defense in depth. I use chokepoint defense when that's what a game rewards, but defense in depth is the defensive style I adore above all others.

I thus decided to await the coming of the turret patch Thursday, May 29th, and, once that arrived, rewind time by loading a save I made immediately following the defeat of the special forces, a bit after the 11 hour mark.

Then let the AI beware! For I have a cunning plan!


And I did play on. To be continued.



-----

Incidentally, I wish that the planet view listing "x enemy ships at this planet" tallied ships in carries correcly, just like the galaxy-map does. Likewise, it would be useful if the STATS page reporting number of player and ships actually reported the number of ships rather than something vaguely related.

While it would probably be even more useful if it indicated strength, as in "x enemy ships (y strength) at this planet", the one cardinal sin for an interface is to provide the user with unreliable information that causes the user to recheck other sources of information to find the right values (e.g. tallying the ships in visible carriers, tabbing out to view galaxy-map planetary ship count)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 02, 2014, 10:43:56 AM
This is what a bunch of happy hybrids look like as they swoop in for the kill as I attempted to break their siege of my homeworld to give me access to the wider galaxy of clusters 2 through 5.
Ah yes, a Hybrid's main aspiration in life: "To Die In Nuclear Flame"


Quote
The big question was this: What is a substantial number of forces at this difficulty level for a SF Captain/Bouncer given the AIP progression I've had over that time?
The answer was big too.

With a SF captain around the idea is kind of "hit them where they aren't", as pretty much no offensives go according to plan when the A-Team theme starts playing and 10,000+ ships transit in.  Clever feints to draw them out of position.  Forked offensives.  Fast transports full of humanity's avengers.

Or you could, y'know, just nuke them all.  Repeatedly.


Quote
This is what happened. To test the waters, first I started hacking the Advanced Factory using just my fleet and a hacker, because getting Sentinel Frigates up to mark 4 would be swell, and it was the single most important hack available to me. I had 131 HAP and the AI response level was high (253) due to the Superterminal Hack, but I didn't really have a feel for how vicious the AI's response would be.

The answer was: Very vicious!
Haha, yea, wow.  I've heard some feedback on the overall state of hacking responses since the recent changes, but not a ton of it.  Some think it's ok, some think it needs to not scale completely by spent_HaP (but instead be partly like the old way, which was pretty gentle as long as your balance was positive).  Sounds like it might need some degree of toning down, so that you don't reach a point where even a positive HaP balance (from a reasonable AIP level) can't be spent because the response will just be too nasty.


Quote
With the expenditure of 5 AIP on warheads I stopped the incoming exowave, complete with three Golems, and I stopped it hard, but I was now in the position of rebuilding expensive spire buildings on an unimpressive budget and with a depleted fleet only little aided by the 12% salvage in Hub Alpha. All the salvage my homeworld generated was from a few ships that penetrated once the Spire shields went down.
Hmm, perhaps spire city hubs should increase the salvage rate at the planet.

So you had the hub basically on top of the incoming wormhole?  That does help bring the city's full power to bear, but I've often found it can perform a defensive role better by camping the outgoing wormhole, so that all the AI ships don't start in range of the city's shields.  Of course, that assumes that there's only one wormhole you want to prevent entry to, which isn't always the case.

There's also the matter of a likely buff to spire city stats, as they've needed it in general for some time.  But I can leave it as-is until you take another shot, if it sounds too convenient ;)


Quote
It thus came to pass that I was greatly unamused to learn the one slight detail that, to the connoisseur of AI War, must have appeared a gaping hole in my original plan: that a Spire Hub can only grow larger than the original three modules when the AI doesn't control any adjacent planets, making it impossible to grow to full size while tanking normal enemy waves.
Ah.

You'd been counting on that?

Well then.

Sorry I didn't notice the contradiction earlier :)

Yea, in FS you sometimes glass whole groups of planets just to clear the lawn or because you want more K or whatever.


Quote
Then let the AI beware! For I have a cunning plan!
What could possibly go wrong?


Quote
Incidentally, I wish that the planet view listing "x enemy ships at this planet" tallied ships in carries correcly, just like the galaxy-map does. Likewise, it would be useful if the STATS page reporting number of player and ships actually reported the number of ships rather than something vaguely related.

While it would probably be even more useful if it indicated strength, as in "x enemy ships (y strength) at this planet", the one cardinal sin for an interface is to provide the user with unreliable information that causes the user to recheck other sources of information to find the right values (e.g. tallying the ships in visible carriers, tabbing out to view galaxy-map planetary ship count)
All good points.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 02, 2014, 12:17:27 PM
Haha, yea, wow.  I've heard some feedback on the overall state of hacking responses since the recent changes, but not a ton of it.  Some think it's ok, some think it needs to not scale completely by spent_HaP (but instead be partly like the old way, which was pretty gentle as long as your balance was positive).  Sounds like it might need some degree of toning down, so that you don't reach a point where even a positive HaP balance (from a reasonable AIP level) can't be spent because the response will just be too nasty.
Without spoiling the next update too much, because as I noted, the playing from this update is actually a week old, I have played on using my alternative strategy based on these experiences using the "peaceful interlude" patch and done considerably better.

Based on those experiences, which I hope to have up within a day or two, I definitely agree with those who want it to be toned down. It is thoroughly ridiculous to be told something like "the post-hack response strength is now 1200" (or whatever the formulation was), while hundreds of ships are spawning every few seconds.

It feels thoroughly ridiculous to have hundreds of HaP, lots of tempting targets, and knowing that attempting to hack any of them will result in a failed hack or swift doom unless I set up something with fixed defenses that's even stronger defensively than my current primary chokepoint planet and have my fleet there to help defending as well, because I've hacked for 373. Let's just say that with the current functionality, hacking the Superterminal in a Fallen Spire game is a huge mistake.

I'll see if I can scrounge up an earlier save or construct a situation to illustrate the problem for you, should you be interested, for it feels thoroughly ridiculous. I've performed exactly 3 hacks (superterminal 253, factory 100, design corruption 20), and it looks like I won't be hacking any more in this game (or at least not without slamming full turrets + fleet + full fort 3s + immediately after defeating waves + anything else I can think of to help out). The exowaves aren't anything near as scary as hacking is.


Quote
Quote
With the expenditure of 5 AIP on warheads I stopped the incoming exowave, complete with three Golems, and I stopped it hard, but I was now in the position of rebuilding expensive spire buildings on an unimpressive budget and with a depleted fleet only little aided by the 12% salvage in Hub Alpha. All the salvage my homeworld generated was from a few ships that penetrated once the Spire shields went down.
Hmm, perhaps spire city hubs should increase the salvage rate at the planet.
That would be awesome.

Quote
So you had the hub basically on top of the incoming wormhole?  That does help bring the city's full power to bear, but I've often found it can perform a defensive role better by camping the outgoing wormhole, so that all the AI ships don't start in range of the city's shields.  Of course, that assumes that there's only one wormhole you want to prevent entry to, which isn't always the case.
No, I had them camping the outgoing wormhole that led to my homeworld. My plan was that the Spire Hub was my first line of defense that with its fixed defenses and fleet support for exos should attrition and kill anything weak, while anybody tough enough to batter down the shields would then proceed to my homeworld, and get slaughtered as it faced another layer of fixed defenses (and possibly quickly built HBCs moving that defense layer from the Hub and inwards in a matter of seconds).

Good enough so far as it goes, if it weren't that I'd counted on the shields going down first and then the reactor and other modules pretty much surviving while the enemy progressed to the homeworld, and this wasn't what happened in practice. By camping the wormhole I ensured that when the shields were down and the enemy continued on, the spire modules were pretty much all destroyed, requiring expensive rebuilding.

From that experience I learned that I should only camp the outgoing wormhole if I intended the planet with the spire hub as the final destination for the AI in a defensive setup. :)

Quote
There's also the matter of a likely buff to spire city stats, as they've needed it in general for some time.  But I can leave it as-is until you take another shot, if it sounds too convenient ;)
My second attempt, reloading from the special forces defeat, is now at 27.31.50 with two cities and growing.

You gave me distributed defenses and the possibility of playing a strong game of defense in depth. What more could one reasonably desire?

Let's just say I don't need spire city buffs for them to work, though they do seem rather puny compared to my other defenses. It is one thing for the spire frigates/destroyers/cruisers to be glass cannons compared to starships - that feels quite appropriate to not completely trivialize things - but those cities really don't impress or help much in fending off even normal waves.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 02, 2014, 02:28:45 PM
Okay, I constructed a hacking example for you, Keith, going from the latest "clear special forces/take screenshots" save and moving a few defenses to a hackable location.

In this save you can start an ARS hack at Ubas under cover of three mark 3 forcefields and guarded by mark 3 of all galaxy-wide turrets, except for spiders, that only have mark 1. There's also the HBCIV and the entire fleet to help defend the hack. Let me make it clear that this is not a serious attempt - if I'm going to make another hacking attempt in this game under the current rules, I'm definitely going to have forts in support before trying.

Hacking response level = HaP_spent =  373.61 (very high), and HaP_balance = 354.61.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to load up the save, start an ARS redirection hack under the three mark 3 forcefields guarded by scout I and II starships, defend the hack against all the cheesy threats (eye bots etc.) and less cheesy threats (sheer numbers) and see what happens. :)  It is only 10 minutes.

It is at this point quite some time since I last attempted a hack, and I've unlocked more turrets since them as well as gaining more AIP, so I have no idea whether it is enough. It might be.

I do know that if I wanted to try this in the ongoing game, I'd definitely add forts to the defensive mix before trying, because that third hack of mine (ST, Factory at 253, Design Corruption at 353) really, truly, scared me. (Not only because the forces generated during the five minutes of the hack managed to kill my entire fleet despite its lavish turret support, but also because of the followup reprisal wave that put a dent in my warhead stockpile.)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 02, 2014, 02:50:28 PM
see what happens. :)
I strongly suspect "death".

Whose death depends on how many warheads are available.


Anyway, I agree that a positive HaP balance should permit continued hacking, even with 300+ already spent, even on Diff 9.  And I agree based on your description of the situation that it's not really "permitting" any such thing.  And this is because it's scaling with previously spent HaP.

On the other hand, I also want each hack's pain to be greater than the previous.  This was not the case when the response ignored previous spent HaP.  It honestly got pretty boring.

Some potential solutions come to mind:

1) Make it scale by HaP/5.
Pros:
- it won't be so vicious at 300+.
Cons:
- it will be so vicious at 1500+, despite whatever positive balance one might have, though possibly this is a sufficiently edge case as to not be a problem.
- it may make the lower-HaP hacks too easy.  Bearing in mind that some games may not see 300 spent ever.

2) Make it scale sub-linearly with HaP, so something like log(HaP)*x or whatever.  Or possibly stepwise such that it's HaP for the first 100, HaP/2 for 101-200, HaP/3 for 201-300 (such that 300 would be like the old 100 + 50 + 33 = 188)
Pros:
- it won't be so vicious at 300+.
- and can still increase fairly quickly at the lower amounts
Cons:
- more complex and thus somewhat harder for players to understand
- may make later hacks in a very long string not really seem more threatening than the past

3) Make HaP earned itself actually scale sub-linearly with AIP, so that you gain it at a 1:1 ratio for the first 100 AIP, a 2:1 ratio for the second 100 AIP, etc.  So that you wouldn't really be in a situation where you'd already spent 350 HaP and had another 350 to spend unless you'd reached an improbable AIP number.  Possibly combining this with some degree of sub-linearizing the response's scaling with spent HaP.
Pros:
- can avoid the high-spent + high-balance problem altogether
- helps balance hacking on setups that allow for extreme AIP
Cons:
- may harm overall fun by feeling like too much of a nerf, though some/all hacking costs could also be reduced to account for the lowered midgame/lategame supply

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 02, 2014, 04:19:05 PM
How about something like this, a variation of the exponential idea.

Choose level X under which everything is supposed to be easily attainable, probably in the easy to moderate current range.


Set AI_response =

  HaP_spent for 0 <= HaP_spent <= X
  max(X, 2*X - HaP_total + ((HaP_spent-X)^a)), for X < HaP_spent

Select a suitable a>1. (In other words, keep it much closer to 1 than to 2, or things will quickly get out of hand). The result is flat the first X, then ever increasing but always possible (theoretically) to reduce back to X so long as you conquer enough, up to the point when you run out of galaxy to conquer, that is.


Case study, X=100, a=1.1

HaP_spent = 100, HaP_total = whatever>=100, AI_response = 100

HaP_spent = 150: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 124, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 24
HaP_spent = 200: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 159, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 59
HaP_spent = 250: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 198, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 98
HaP_spent = 300: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 240, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 140

HaP_spent = 400: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 331, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 231
HaP_spent = 500: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 428, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 328
HaP_spent = 600: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 531, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 431

So, how about later on in Fallen Spire?

HaP_spent = 1000: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 977, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 877
HaP_spent = 1500: AI_response_if_total_equals_spent = 1589, HaP_balance_needed_for_100 = 1489

Is it at all realistic to end up at 1500+ HaP_spent except with the mother of all Superterminal hacks and attempting to download every design? :D

This method has the advantage that while the AI reponse does not scale linearly with HaP_spent and he may not really have any idea of how it scales after X, the player knows (sees, is told in tooltip) that reducing the response does scale linearly in his hap_total; every extra point of balance reduces the level by one compared to what it currently is, down to the minimum of X, so if he doesn't dare that 300 response hack but would be okay with a 200 hack, he knows that all he has to do is conquer another five planets.... and tempting players to overreach is surely all for the good.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 02, 2014, 08:31:10 PM
Yea, I think something like that could work pretty well.  We'd need to make sure it didn't result in any boring hacks (outside the first one or so), but allowing balance to mitigate spent in some way does seem helpful to the overall feel.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 04, 2014, 09:56:16 AM
Yea, I think something like that could work pretty well.  We'd need to make sure it didn't result in any boring hacks (outside the first one or so), but allowing balance to mitigate spent in some way does seem helpful to the overall feel.
Yeah, rather than always being able to reduce it all the way down to X (which would result in boring hacks if X was in the 100 range and one performed many hacks in a Fallen Spire game as I suggested in the case study), how about factoring in the number as well as quality of hacks. I'm thinking of still being able to reduce it linearly in HaP balance, but only down to X+c*nOfSuccesfulHacks, for a given constant c, in other words,

ai_response =

  HaP_spent for 0 <= HaP_spent <= X
  max(X+c*nOfSuccesfulHacks, 2*X - HaP_total + ((HaP_spent-X)^a)), for X < HaP_spent

Case study: X=100, a = 1.1, c = 20: after 10 successful hacks, you can only reduce it down to 300.

--- Oh, well, just a stray thought. I'm not at all wedded to this model, and it runs the risk of making hacks too boring in a normal high-difficulty minimum-AIP game, it is just the one that immediately came to my mind when you outlined the parameters of the problem.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 04, 2014, 10:01:11 AM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- revisited-




A New Plan

I reloaded the game from the special forces defeat, updated to 7.032, and hashed out my new and improved plan. I regret to say that it was somewhat against the original spirit of the challenge, which would have me conquering all over the place as soon as possible, and more in line with a normal AI war game in keeping careful control of AIP for the longest time.


PHASE 2, revisited:



Given how wimpy the Spire Hub was in defenses in the last attempt and how my planned "shift to tank directly on the first Spire Hub" was an abject failure, with me getting a poor defensive position with negligible metal income and a tiny beginner Spire Fleet, I am not going to repeat those mistakes.

I'll make brand new mistakes instead.

It seemed as if some of the exos arriving in the last attempt were going for the homeworld and some for the spire hub, and that means exploitable opportunities for anybody who likes defense in depth.

PHASE 3, revisited:




The Hack

As expected, clearing out the Dire Guardian Lairs and extra Data Centre took a considerably shorter time the second time around, and by 13:56 I had set up the circumstances for the first hack, that of the Advanced Factory.

I had a hard time choosing whether to attempt the factory first or the design backup as I didn't have a good feel for how hard the hacking would be at ai response 253. If it was fairly easy, then the correct thing to do would be to perform the design backup hack first and then start the factory hack at 273, which could be expected to be only marginally harder, whereas hacking the factory first and then the backup at 353 would be substantially harder. On the other hand, if it was difficult to hack at 253, then hacking at 273 might potentially be too difficult, and getting the factory hack was a much higher priority than the backup hack.

Finally, I had two really good options for design backup hacks – the Mad Bomber's Bombard and the Special Forces Captain's Stealth Battleship. I really, truly, disliked both, but on balance, the 33k range sniping-immune Bombards under the command of an insane AI that threw double-strength waves at me was the most dangerous. As further support for attempting the Bombard, it would have required substantially more AIP to set up a supply-planet next to both the factory and the battleship backup.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/3834/9edi.jpg)



The factory hack went well. The supply planet, bristling with turrets and with all three incoming warp gates destroyed, did not come under attack, and in the factory system, the turrets supported by the navy was sufficient to defeat the flood of incoming ships without major casualties, so between the hack, building a full set of shiny new mark 4 sentinel frigates, and defeating a CPA and a wave or two, I was ready to attempt the design backup hack (353 ai response) at around 14:38. This would be a short 5 minute hack. What could possibly go wrong?



(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/8330/mwce.jpg)


Nothing.

Sure, the number of incoming waves to the hacked planet and the chokepoint homeworld were completely ridiculous compared with the wimpy estimated post-hack strength, but this was child's play. The incoming AI ships were slaughtered by the turrets and sentinel frigates, and anything that survived that was ruthless destroyed by the main blob of ships, which included a substantial number of mercenary missile and zenith beam frigates in addition to its baseline strength.

At 2m 18s into the hack, that is.

Two minutes later, with 46s remaining on the clock, serenity was the last thing on my mind.

The hacking response waves were coming hard and fast and my navy had suffered serious casualties. Careless placement of the neinzul starships had cost me four of them (fortunately the lowest marks, but still) and my riot starships were all gone, but all categories were under fire. This was going to be a close call.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img834/703/d52hb.jpg)



It succeeded, barely. Down to a handful of starships and a scattering of fleetships, with the turret defenses under attack, the design hack succeeded and the threat of zenith bombardment ships was gone, at least from the Mad Bomber.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img836/6576/w7g3.jpg)



So was my fleet.

None escaped the conflagration as the massed AI ships killed off the remaining defenders and defenses, before joining the roving bands of AI threat and beelining for my homeworld in support of the many hacking response waves and the 4.7k reprisal waves caused by the loss of my fleet.

The wave that I had no fleet to stop, at a chokepoint that was already heavily under assault by the many, many, smaller hacking reponse waves that had already hit it, rolling up the minefields and starting on the forcefields protecting the flak and lightning turrets.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img836/6576/w7g3.jpg)




Fortunately, I had a solution for that. A mark 1 and mark 3 lightning warhead evened the odds to the degree that the fixed defenses and the rapidly rebuilding fleet stopped them quite handily.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img839/1084/lzqs.jpg)


It clearly indicated two things to me:


In other words, unless things change in an upcoming beta, no more hacking for me.

But enough misery! I had all four marks of sentinel frigates, the Mad Bomber was left with only the bombards it had already produced, and it was time to scout the rest of the galaxy to find the Data Centres and Co-Processors!

I had found one Co-Processor in cluster 1 and three Data Centres in cluster 2, so there was a lot left to be found in the other three clusters, surely!
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 04, 2014, 07:33:28 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- phase 2, part 2-




Initial Scouting

As the reader will recall, the plan was to now scout the rest of the galaxy in order to find the remaining AIP reducers and do away with them in a blaze of fiery death, and for this I had the mark 1 and 2 scouts and scout starships.

I had the advantage that the exit warp lanes from cluster 2 led not only to cluster 3, but to cluster 4 as well, so only cluster 5 was distant.

Thus it should come as little surprise that I had my first hits fairly quickly, finding another Co-Processor and a Data Centre in cluster 3, but after that my luck seemed to fail me. It took several hours, including neutering a signficant path through clusters 2 and 3 to allow scouts access without AI Tachyon coverage before I found my next hit, a Data Centre deep in the heart of cluster 5.

A Data Centre that also featured a Spire Archive.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/7544/ab82c.jpg)


As can be seen on the map, I was getting rather far from my homeworld when neutering planets to allow further advance. In fact, the AI considered me to have been deepstriking for 5 provinces at my furthest neutralisation expedition, 9 warps from the homeworld.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind deep striking all that much, as it arguably just adds to the load of ships I have to bleed off anyway to keep the special forces under control, but on the other hand, it is rather more work to bleed the AI forces and increases the risk of fatal miscalculations, allowing the AI to build up forces too much when my navy is at the far end of the string of neutered planets, far from home.

Even using the shortest possible route, which would have included blasting through cluster 4 and taking out a raid engine, the Data Centre was 13 warp jumps from homeworld, and would have required deepstriking throughout the passage through nine of those, unless I started unlocking more cloaking and began examining the options of trying to smuggle ships all the way while destroying Tachyon Sentinels. Even if I did that, and even if it worked out, I was left with the unpalatable fact that given that I had completed the scouting of cluster 2 and much of clusters 4 and 5, that Data Centre was the closest of the remaining Data Centres and the two missing Co-Processors.

Something had to be done.

(Incidentally, the observant reader will notice a mark IV world in the centre of cluster 2, that is heavily guarded. It really would simplify my travel arrangements to neuter that one, but alas, that turned out to be a rather risky proposition, as it had a Plasma Eye, four highlevel Counterattack posts and four Ion Cannons, all under a mark 4 forcefield together with a Spire Shield post, as well as three Implosion guardposts and three other guardposts at other locations. Under the circumstances, with it not being essential to remove but only a convenience, I left it well enough alone.)



A Deepstrike Revelation

I decided that I'd set up a planet closer to the target from which to launch my deepstrikes, knowing that the AI would blow its to smithereens when my back was turned, but that by having a cloaker starship there with reconstructors and a few engineers I'd be able to rebuild it quickly whenever I needed it. The knowledge gained from the planet would be held in reserve for a while, just in case it turned out that I needed to try the cloaked approach anyhow.

An obvious candidate was the entry planet cluster 3 coming from cluster 2, as it had an ARS and would ensure that the entire route from my homeworld to this planet was outside deepstrike range.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img836/7592/w6m4.jpg)


Now, under other circumstances I would have wanted to hack that ARS! Its default choice was Spire Maws, which I had not tried before, but, being short ranged ships, did not fit well with my overall fleet concept. The ARS also offered Grenade Launchers and Viral Shredder, and the Grenade Launchers seemed ideal.

Unfortunately, due to the difficulties at hacking discovered earlier, I had decided to perform no further hacking except as a last resort, so I decided to look on the bright side: If I weren't going to be hacking anyway, unlocking an extra ship type and getting 500 bonus knowledge would definitely be a boon regardless of the ship type.

Plus, of course, I'd get to learn how Spire Maws functioned – and learning something new is always a worthy bonus.

Be that as it may, this all proceeded according to plan, and when in due time the foothold was destroyed, I had a revelation: Deepstrikes did not work the way I thought they did.

Let me explain my mistake: Based on previous observations, I had concluded that the AI counted any hostile activity on an AI controlled planet that was more than four jumps away from a player controlled planet as a deepstrike. I was predisposed to reaching this conclusion, because that fit well with my preconceptions of a deep strike in war being, strategically, a strike deep behind the borders between combatants. When I thus lost control of the foothold planet, I expected deep strikes to once again be counted from my homeworld, where the border was.

But that's not how it works in AI War. In this game, a deep strike is any hostile activity in any AI controlled system that is more than four jumps away from any planet that the AI does not control, not from any planet under player control.

That's a very important distinction that I estimate could have saved me 40-50 minutes of work in the previous neutralization campaigns. Knock out any command station, and all planets within four warps of it count as not being deepstrike territory.

We live and learn.

Knowing this, however, made the next step much easier. I'd knock out the command centre on the planet next to the Data Centre in cluster 5, and between the two footholds, that I'd now not actually have to hold, only a few very remote planets would be considered deepstrike territory by the AI.



If it weren't for overconfidence, life would be more boring.

My fleet had reached the location of the second foothold and was busy reducing the opposition when the AI kindly notified me that it was time for another Cross Planet Attack.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img923/1971/IcOMKY.jpg)


Now, the safe thing to do would be to retreat all the way back to the homeworld, wait for the CPA, clear out the CPA and the special forces, and then return, but I was getting a little bit bored with playing it entirely safe and deemed that a minor risk could be taken. I'd spend the knowledge from the footholds on even more defenses and just continue operating in cluster 5 until I was done. I was so close to having it all scouted, after all, and the fleet was in position to take out the remaining Data Centres and then getting started on the Co-Processors.

So I scouted a bit more and I was on my merry way to destroy yet another Data Centre, when the CPA arrived and suddenly, or so it seemed to me, I noticed that the threat meter said 4536.

Okay, not good, but they'd probably just wait in Spire Hub Alpha (nee Nefogin) rather than attack. And then again, perhaps not. The AI had announced a 2.8k reprisal wave to hit within two minutes.

There was no way in hell for the fleet to return in time to take part in the battle to come. I'd just have to proceed with the mission and leave the defense of the homeworld to the very substantial fixed defenses and my arsenal of warheads.

Which I did, for a very modest +2 AIP.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/4412/z1v45.jpg)



Co-Processor Killing and a Slight Mistake

I decided that, having destroyed six Data Centres, located two more, and discovered all four Co-Processors, the odds of finding more Data Centres in the few unscouted provinces in Cluster 4 were probably minimal, and as they were all provinces behind a Dire Guardian Lair, I didn't really feel like making the effort to take them out. Also, the CPA had reminded me in the best possible way that I was operating on the end of a very long supply line. It was time to call an end to operations.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/9908/3os3.jpg)



The first step was blasting the two remaining Data Centres, which took a matter of minutes. The next was the Co-Processors, and that required a bit more thought.

One of the Co-Processors in cluster 5 was adjacent to the AI1 (Special Forces Captain/Bouncer) homeworld, and that homeworld hosted a Hunter/Killer factory.

As I had never fought a Hunter/Killer before, I didn't really know what I was in for, but based on the name, it seemed likely that it was nasty.

Still, how bad could it be? I had a very strong fleet. Built up over many hours, it had nearly full caps of the mercenary beam and missile frigates in addition to perhaps 80% of my normal caps and all starships were operational. If I started out destroying the second CP in cluster 5, then the CP right next to the homeworld, and then fled at full group move speed back to the cluster 3 CP, hitting that one at the same time as I took out the CP in my home cluster, cluster 1, then the AI reduction would be done in no time and my navy could sail leisurely back to the homeworld and we'd all have tea and biscuits awaiting the Hunter/Killer, which would be destroyed upon arrival!

A perfect plan!

And then again, perhaps not. Perhaps a better plan would have been to destroy the easy-to-kill cluster 5 Co-Processor and leave a tiny cloaked strikeforce ready to kill the hard-to-kill, send the navy back to the cluster 3 Co-Processor, and then take out the cluster 1, 3, and 5 Co-Processors in one fell swoop, with the fleet already halfway home. But I didn't make that plan, because I just wanted to get it over with.

You see, in the midst of gloating I'd sort of forgotten the special forces and how it was, by now, quite some time since I had last pruned them. I'd been operating the navy far from home for a very considerable amount of time and they had not come swooping in, so I assumed they were still too few in number to seriously endanger my fleet.

As it turned out, this was not entirely the case.

I blasted the Co-Processor, and began the stately group-move back to cluster 3, pursued by vengeful forces from the core planet, but nothing I couldn't handle. No Hunter/Killer showed up, so I concluded that it too moved at a stately pace. Unfortunately, with my fleet engaged and somewhat weakened by the many battles it had been in on this major operation, the special forces, hybrids, and god knows what else began moving in from all directions. The stately flight back to cluster three became a running fight through every system, with ever more of the navy destroyed or crippled so it couldn't keep up.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/2705/08mh.jpg)



It was only five, a mere five, warp jumps to the cluster 3 Co-Processor from the Cluster 5 hard-to-kill where the pursuit started, but by the time the ragged remnants of my fleet arrived, the vast majority of its fleetships, most of its mercenary ships (the mind shudders to think of the metal cost involved in losing nearly full caps of mercenary beam and missile frigates!), and a substantial amount of the starships had been destroyed, and what hadn't been destroyed was sorely damaged.

Still, it was enough. The cluster 3 and cluster 1 Co-Processors died and my AIP went way down, all the way to 164.

Unsurprising, the vast casualties I had suffered had increased the AI reprisal levels, so at this point, knowing that the AI forces in pursuit would be arriving any second, I gave up on fleet cohesion and ordered the remaining ships to make top individual speed for my homeworld, 9 warp jumps away.

None of them made it.



Homeworld Defense

(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/4839/ankyj.jpg)

Fortunately, my engineers had been busy as bees, rebuilding the fleet at the homeworld as the far signals fell silent, one by one. While the new fleet was short on starships, it had managed to churn out all the sentinel frigates before the enemy arrived and was gamefully working on the other fleetships.

(Because I had a dock dedicated solely to churning out sentinel frigates, that's why)


With a total of 10,956 fleetships, 115 starships, and the Hunter/Killer incoming, it was obvious what I had to do.

Once again, it was time to unleash the lightning.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img839/1380/ce9c.jpg)



When the dreaded Hunter/Killer finally arrived, it was a terrible anti-climax as the three waves that preceded it had all been shredded. It died in a hail of fire in seconds.

My little star empire had survived and that marked the end of phase 2's objectives.

I had also located both Spire Archives close to the Special Forces Captain's homeworld, but with the special forces wandering all over the place, I really didn't feel like risking taking over the Spire Archives so far from home with Warp Jammer stations and then a) surviving for the duration of draining the archive, and b) leaving the Warp Jammers alone afterwards – what if they were accidentally encountered by wandering special forces, destroyed, and then put the core worlds on permanent alert? Under the circumstances, and with the recent chase fresh in memory, I decided to leave well enough alone.

There'd be more than enough knowledge gained through outright conquest in this Fallen Spire game!
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 05, 2014, 06:24:21 PM
I regret to say that it was somewhat against the original spirit of the challenge, which would have me conquering all over the place as soon as possible, and more in line with a normal AI war game in keeping careful control of AIP for the longest time.
Alas.  Perhaps the appropriate degree of broad-stroke map-painting will become possible later in the FS progression.


Quote
Given how wimpy the Spire Hub was in defenses in the last attempt and how my planned "shift to tank directly on the first Spire Hub" was an abject failure, with me getting a poor defensive position with negligible metal income and a tiny beginner Spire Fleet, I am not going to repeat those mistakes.
The hubs, at least, will become more fearsome as soon as I get one of those rare round tuits.  Been behind the eight-ball on multiple projects this week, but it's starting to pan out.  Hoping to get 7.034 out Saturday noonish eastern-time.


Quote
I'll make brand new mistakes instead.
That's the spirit!


Quote
In other words, unless things change in an upcoming beta, no more hacking for me.
I do plan on going with something like we discussed; we'll see if it in any way lines up with the temporally-altered world of Ride The Lightning.

(but seeing players get explosively massacred by hack responses is so much fun!)


Quote
Plus, of course, I'd get to learn how Spire Maws functioned – and learning something new is always a worthy bonus.
They're excellent for eating waves/etc up to a certain size, though you may already be dealing in magnitudes that would cause them indigestion.


Quote
Be that as it may, this all proceeded according to plan, and when in due time the foothold was destroyed, I had a revelation: Deepstrikes did not work the way I thought they did.
Ah, yea.  Neutral planets counting is a very helpful thing to know :)  The AI's disinformation campaign does its best on that one.


Quote
A perfect plan!
The AI sent a thank-you card but it got lost in the reprisal wave.  "The fleet was delicious, though perhaps try a bit less salt next time."


Quote
When the dreaded Hunter/Killer finally arrived, it was a terrible anti-climax as the three waves that preceded it had all been shredded. It died in a hail of fire in seconds.
Nothing survives high-magnitude focus fire.  But H/Ks are definitely some of the nastiest customers in the game.  One with enough screen to range on you is an immediate threat of game-over, as even the single one can shred an FF net in an alarmingly small amount of time.

But like all problems it does respond very well to the universal solvent: overwhelming firepower.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 06, 2014, 05:03:55 PM
Ok, I implemented an approximation of your suggested:

Quote
  HaP_spent for 0 <= HaP_spent <= X
max(X, 2*X - HaP_total + ((HaP_spent-X)^a)), for X < HaP_spent

With X = 100 and a = 1.1

Then loaded your HACK_TEST.sav and started an ARS hack on Ubas.


In terms of gameplay results:

1) Your setup now holds through the entire hack with zero player intervention.  Though the combined hack response and SF flood do frequently reach your fleet ball before dying back.

2) During this about 9000 ships (between two normal waves) hit Nefogin, which also repulsed the attack without player intervention but did lose the command station (and one spire building) there at the end due to massed fire from an unhealthy number of AI spire starships and bomber starships.

3) After the ARS hack completed I started a knowledge hackon Ubas without repairing or whatever anything, and it got about 900 knowledge before something managed to kill the extractor (though your overall setup still held strong).  Then the FS exo launched and I figured further hacking would be contraindicated.


In more objective (but narrower) terms, the math of the hacking response change:

From the very beginning of the ARS hack:
Code: [Select]
BaseHackingAntagonism = GetTotalHackingProgressSpent() = 373.61
since hacking spent > 100, applying alternate formula to part above that
alternateResult = linearityThreshold * 2 = 200
HackingProgressEarned = AIProgressionLevelTotal = 728
alternateResult -= Total_hacking_earned = -528
partOverLinearityThreshold = hackingSpent - linearityThreshold = 273.61
now approximating partOverLinearityThreshold ^ 1.1 without using floating point (since that's non-deterministic between platforms and thus forbidden due to MP sync)
the approximation for 200 is 340 and the approximation for 300 is 531
so exponentialFactor = the linear interpolation = 480
alternateResult += exponentialFactor = -48
minimumResult = linearityThreshold + ( ( hackingSpent - linearityThreshold ) / 10 ) = 127.36
BaseHackingAntagonism = Max(alternateResult,minimumResult) = 127.36

From just after the ARS hack completed:
Code: [Select]
BaseHackingAntagonism = GetTotalHackingProgressSpent() = 408.61
since hacking spent > 100, applying alternate formula to part above that
alternateResult = linearityThreshold * 2 = 200
HackingProgressEarned = AIProgressionLevelTotal = 728
alternateResult -= Total_hacking_earned = -528
partOverLinearityThreshold = hackingSpent - linearityThreshold = 308.61
now approximating partOverLinearityThreshold ^ 1.1 without using floating point (since that's non-deterministic between platforms and thus forbidden due to MP sync)
the approximation for 300 is 531 and the approximation for 400 is 728
so exponentialFactor = the linear interpolation = 547
alternateResult += exponentialFactor = 19
minimumResult = linearityThreshold + ( ( hackingSpent - linearityThreshold ) / 10 ) = 130.86
BaseHackingAntagonism = Max(alternateResult,minimumResult) = 130.86

After 900 K of knowledge hacking, post ARS hack
Code: [Select]
BaseHackingAntagonism = GetTotalHackingProgressSpent() = 417.4
since hacking spent > 100, applying alternate formula to part above that
alternateResult = linearityThreshold * 2 = 200
HackingProgressEarned = AIProgressionLevelTotal = 728
alternateResult -= Total_hacking_earned = -528
partOverLinearityThreshold = hackingSpent - linearityThreshold = 317.4
now approximating partOverLinearityThreshold ^ 1.1 without using floating point (since that's non-deterministic between platforms and thus forbidden due to MP sync)
the approximation for 300 is 531 and the approximation for 400 is 728
so exponentialFactor = the linear interpolation = 565
alternateResult += exponentialFactor = 37
minimumResult = linearityThreshold + ( ( hackingSpent - linearityThreshold ) / 10 ) = 131.74
BaseHackingAntagonism = Max(alternateResult,minimumResult) = 131.74

So basically with that high a total-HaP-earned it was riding the "floor" of 100 + (the rest / 10) that I put in to make sure the minimum response always increased _somewhat_ with spent HaP.


Anyway, this looking reasonable for further testing?
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 06, 2014, 06:40:09 PM
1) Your setup now holds through the entire hack with zero player intervention.  Though the combined hack response and SF flood do frequently reach your fleet ball before dying back.
Sounds reasonable, under the assumption that it should be at all possible to hack at that level.

Quote
2) During this about 9000 ships (between two normal waves) hit Nefogin, which also repulsed the attack without player intervention but did lose the command station (and one spire building) there at the end due to massed fire from an unhealthy number of AI spire starships and bomber starships.
mmm... That must have been with those spire city buffs you were talking about? I'm deeply surprised if my HACK setup was capable of rebuffing 9000 ships on its own without suffering existential failure... unless, wait, you are talking in several waves between the normal waves, which makes a difference... And yes, the Mad Bomber brings an unhealthy amount of spire, bomber, and plasma starships to my systems on a regular basis, which the fixed defenses are not at all guaranteed to handle without fleet support.

Quote
3) After the ARS hack completed I started a knowledge hackon Ubas without repairing or whatever anything, and it got about 900 knowledge before something managed to kill the extractor (though your overall setup still held strong).  Then the FS exo launched and I figured further hacking would be contraindicated.
Heh.  :D


Quote
From the very beginning of the ARS hack:
Code: [Select]
BaseHackingAntagonism = GetTotalHackingProgressSpent() = 373.61
since hacking spent > 100, applying alternate formula to part above that
alternateResult = linearityThreshold * 2 = 200
HackingProgressEarned = AIProgressionLevelTotal = 728
alternateResult -= Total_hacking_earned = -528
partOverLinearityThreshold = hackingSpent - linearityThreshold = 273.61
now approximating partOverLinearityThreshold ^ 1.1 without using floating point (since that's non-deterministic between platforms and thus forbidden due to MP sync)
the approximation for 200 is 340 and the approximation for 300 is 531
so exponentialFactor = the linear interpolation = 480
alternateResult += exponentialFactor = -48
minimumResult = linearityThreshold + ( ( hackingSpent - linearityThreshold ) / 10 ) = 127.36
BaseHackingAntagonism = Max(alternateResult,minimumResult) = 127.36
Slightly confusing different debug nomenclature:
BaseHackingAntagonism = GetTotalHackingProgressSpent() => hackingSpent = GetTotalHackingProgressSpent()
alternateResult -= Total_hacking_earned => alternateResult -= HackingProgressEarned

Perfectly understandable what you mean, of course, but I love clean debug for easier log sorting. :)


Quote
So basically with that high a total-HaP-earned it was riding the "floor" of 100 + (the rest / 10) that I put in to make sure the minimum response always increased _somewhat_ with spent HaP.


Anyway, this looking reasonable for further testing?
Gut feeling: Yes.

That is rather a lot of hacking balance to have, so perhaps hugging the floor at that point is acceptable, and just a few hacks would rapidly erode the hacking balance based on the increasing cost of similar types of hacks.

In a Fallen Spire game, with lots of hacking balance and targets to go around - but also with much less individual impact from most hacks when compared to the overall situation than in normal low AIP games - just about any amount of hacking balance can be used and it will definitely be tempting not to keep such a high balance (and hence hugging the floor) and instead use it on acquiring stuff like fabricators, controllers, design corruption (oh, this, so very, very, much), or the occasional infrastructure hack.

I can tell you for sure that with that setup, just about the first thing I'd do would be to start hacking more until the ai response was in the 200+ range, the real question is how greedy I'd get before I decided to wait until I'd reduced it again. 250 perhaps? Perhaps even... 300? (Nooooo)

An obvious consideration is that it potentially allows for spending significantly more on superterminal hacks in a large-scale conquest game, FS or not. OTOH, the tick cost increases every 20 ticks, so that's to a large degree self-correcting, and if you continue up to the limit, you'll have to go on a significant conquest spree afterwards not to sink yourself with further hacks - but you do have that option. So that's probably not going to be a balance problem - the major result being that you don't automatically sink yourself if you hack the ST early for lots of points.

The bigger question is how it plays out in 7.0 or 10.0 in "normal" games, I guess.

It is probably generous for 7.0 - compare e.g. my 7.0 victory from week 2 of playing, where I ended up with 1080 AIProgressionTotal (which I understand is not normal, but is a data point to remember), but on the other hand, being generous at 7.0 is not necessarily a vice, and not punishing players who want a "normal" gaming experience overmuch for spending their HaP rather than husbanding it and only picking the ideal hacks to minimize expenditure is arguably a good thing.

For one of your 10.0 minimum AIP super players, just how generous is this? What sort of AIProgressionTotal are we even talking about at the end of the game? 400? 500? And with the superterminal hacked, one assumes, which eats up a lot of points all by itself.

No, without a couple of data sets from successful 10.0 games and an idea of how much is traditionally hacked there, there's really no way to know whether this is generous or the reverse not - I suggest you put it in the wild and have a few of them utterly abuse the system, then see just how bad it gets.

....after all, it is trivial to difficulty-scale the exponent to make the pain unbearable for any desired goal, should they need an extra challenge.   >D
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 06, 2014, 06:50:58 PM
mmm... That must have been with those spire city buffs you were talking about?
Yep.  A fully loaded carrier approaching all 6 photon lances is no longer serene.  Carrier captains are now issued brown pants as standard equipment.


Quote
I'm deeply surprised if my HACK setup was capable of rebuffing 9000 ships on its own without suffering existential failure... unless, wait, you are talking in several waves between the normal waves, which makes a difference...
What I meant is that 2 normal waves were launched against Nefogin (not the hacking planet), and totalled 9000 ships.  They didn't hit simultaneously, but only about 40 seconds apart, so it was basically a single attack.  Other than a few targeting-the-hack-world small waves (triggered by the hacking) there weren't any other waves during the hack period.

If the AI'd had another thousand or two ships in there I think they'd have broken through; as it was they went into retreat mode shortly after bringing the station down due to being down to 3-digit numbers.


Anyway, yea, I think this is worth seeing how it goes, and tweak from there.  Exploitation is a given, as are retaliatory patches ;)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 06, 2014, 11:21:19 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- phase 3 -




Recovering

I had survived.

Now all that was needed was to:

So I began doing just that, conquering the planets in the interior, unlocking economic stations 2 and 3, and building up things according to plan.

It is interesting how CPA's become less and less relevant as I increase in AIP gain.

Take the last CPA before I built Spire Hub Gamma. Yes, it was roughly 5k ships or so, but given that just the two ordinary incoming waves were ~2.7k, and that the number of special forces roaming the galaxy and having to be culled on a regular basis dwarfed that, it really was hard to take the CPAs seriously. This trend was to become much, much, worse.

The screenshot shows the gallant fleet culling special forces.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img843/9850/a8s12.jpg)



Spire Hub Gamma

At last the time was right. Metal was near full, waves recently defeated, and everything was in preparation. I began construction in Spire Hub Gamma, safely in the interior, and the AI dutifully reacted by sending an exowave consisting of one each of armoured, cursed, and artilly golems with a few friends to keep them company.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img834/2065/i2blg.jpg)




The Next Shard

As Spire Hub Gamma was in friendly territory from the very beginning and I had lots of metal to build it up, it soon began searching for the next shard. Twenty minutes after the huge first exowave triggered by Gamma, I was ready to start the next shard chase, which to my great fortune began in Rinyae, an interior system in cluster 1.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img855/3092/f6y1.jpg)


With the fleet rebuilt and now boasting 12 spire frigates, 2 spire destroyers, and one spire cruiser, and with every incoming chaser having to pass directly through my homeworld, I saw no reason to wait.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img855/4962/zxvb.jpg)


The fixed defenses would once again protect the home command system, while the mobile fleet covered the route between the homeworld's incoming wormhole and the wormhole to Tolzar, that both led by shortest path to Spire Hub Gamma and shortest path to the recovered shard.

It was butchery of the first degree, the chase forces plunging into the deathtrap.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img819/8246/gy8s.jpg)


That being said, it wasn't one-sided butchery. The following screenshot shows what happens to a threatball that's perfectly placed for interception, when the AI is determined to go straight through it no matter the cost.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img840/3238/2ky3.jpg)



Spire Hub Alpha

Be that as it may, with the shard recovered it was time – finally – to build Spire Hub Alpha. I conquered the last two AI planets in cluster 1 to clean house and unlock fort 2s, built turrets and forts in Nefogin, the Spire Hub Alpha location, and once that was done, sent out the fleet and the colony ship to take over the planet, build a military 3 station, and build the hub with three reactors to maximize defensive power, while building shipyards at Spire Hub Gamma. The Spire Fleet thus grew to 20 frigates, 4 destroyers, and 2 cruisers.

THIS time I built the Spire Hub guarding my homeworld such that its shields only partially overlapped the warp gate to my homeworld – anything determined enough to batter down the shields would be able to get through after only battering them down to half strength or so, thus leaving itself at the mercy of the homeworld's fixed defenses, without having wiped out all of Alpha's defenses requiring an expensive rebuilding program. In the utmost extremity this would allow me to play defense in depth by first having my fleet make a stand at Spire Hub Alpha, then retreat to fight at the homeworld while Spire Hub Alpha's fixed defenses were still online and attritioning any incoming forces.

I'd prefer to stop enemies hard at alpha, of course, but it was no longer a case of "stop them at alpha or have to rebuild the spire modules almost from scratch".

The AI decided to synchronize the next CPA (I guess I was overdue one anyhow) with the next exowave, but what's a few thousand extra ships between friends? With my fleet defending Spire Hub Alpha, they stood no chance, though once again I was struck by the wimpiness of the spire when compared with the regular defenses and the fleet's damageoutput.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img834/5755/lrv9h.jpg)



I now had a fairly secure situation, tanking everything directly on Spire Hub Alpha incoming from a single wormhole, Rexgen, and though 12% salvage was a significant reduction from the 50% I had gotten used to, having the interior of cluster 1 full of economic stations of marks 2 and 3 had given me a very solid baseline income to work from.

I was getting stronger, but I was reminded again that I was far from alone in the galaxy. With my increasing AIP, the special forces were rebuilding faster than ever: 20,000, give or take a few, hanging out three jumps from Spire Hub Alpha.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img818/5328/vc54.jpg)



Very "Special" Forces

Now, I had been using hit and run attacks on Ubas, that had an ARS, to bleed the AI's special forces before, but with Spire Hub Alpha up and running just one warp jump away, I decided to do it one better by building a full set of turret defenses in Ubas and only then moving in the fleet to annoy the AI.

As expected, the AI retaliated by sending in the special forces.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img924/8688/HjUc6C.jpg)



This worked even better than expected, they just swarmed in and got shot up.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img823/7764/c6cy.jpg)


Then again, too much of a good thing is bad for you, so even with the fixed defenses in support, I was reduced to hit and run tactics – retreating when my fleet was about to be overrun, then returning again when replenished. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img819/575/8anu.jpg)



To this very day, I still don't know how many special forces, hybrids, and whatever they may be or wherever they may come from ships the AI threw at me, as they kept piling on way beyond the original 20k I had spotted as the battle dragged on. Perhaps they were merely the replacement ships generated normally during that time?

These are existential questions, but really... Who knows? Who cares? Kill them with fire!

I do know that twenty minutes later, when I was still weeding out ships at Ubas, the enemy was down to 15 carriers.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img853/1337/0gr0.jpg)


I don't rightly recall when I finally managed to kill them off at Ubas (only to start piling up somewhere else, of course), but I eventually did, and I began cleaning out planets for knowledge in order to prepare for the next step – setting up the intended Spire Hub Beta planet to tank waves, then building up Spire Hub Alpha to level 2, and getting started on Spire Hub beta.



Comedy Gold

Playing AI War is a bit like playing whack-a-mole, only with armed moles, an ever increasing number of mole-holes to keep track of, a rubber mallet, and moles that smile knowingly at you all the time, even as the mallet descends.

So there I was, merrily advancing my day of glory, with an 8.7k CPA hanging over my head and triggering a mark 3 counterattack post that got in the way, while returning my fleet to base, sending 2k Mad Bomber ships to my homeworld shortly before the CPA, when the AI decided to trigger normal waves from both AIs to hit simultaneously, that would arrive 1m 6s after the counterattack.

Tight timing.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img837/4831/nf64.jpg)



Now, a word of caution here. When I say "normal" waves, I mean quite powerful waves, considering that I don't have any trader toys, champions, or Golems to back me up, only the base defenses.

I'd hit 447 AIP, and AI1, the Special Forces Captain, thought nothing of sending in a couple of hundred Spire Stealth Battleships as part of its 2k forces, whereas AI2, the Mad Bomber, habitually sent a thousand Zenith Electric Bombers, a thousand Zenith Siege Engines, and a hundred starships (most bomber and plasma) as part of its 6k waves. At least I'd managed to design corrupt the Mad Bomber's Zenith Bombardment Ships. It might have resulted in a desperate struggle at the time, but without that, the Mad Bomber would probably have flattened me by now. In the current situation, my fixed defenses required fleet support to take on the Mad Bomber waves without most of the Spire Hub being flattened in the process.

How can this be? I logged the waves after 400 AIP, and it turns out that to the base strength from AIP was only contributing 40% of the total strength that hit me in each wave – fully 60% of the strength hitting me in each wave came from reinforcements redirected to wavestrength and it was a rapidly increasing percentage with every AIP gain.

Now, this is on difficulty 9, which is supposed to be hard, so the best I can say is that yes, by God, it is hard. Some of the many defensive toys introduced with the expansions would have significantly reduced the danger, had I had them enabled, so I am not sure it is too dangerous, being dependent on game setup. (As an example, awakening a Golem for 15 or 20 AIP always significantly increases defensive strength, whereas plundering a planet for 20 AIP and 3000 knowledge does not once the basic defenses have already been unlocked... If only I could unlock more mod-forts with knowledge). But very dangerous? Definitely. I shudder to think of what it'll be like in another few hundred AIP, and I can't help but wonder whether I'll end up having to burn lightning warheads on every incoming wave.

It does have the curious side effect that with two spire hubs and 447 AIP, the regular waves are much more dangerous than exowaves or CPAs, which feels slightly backwards in what was supposed to play out more like a wargame of mass conquest. :D

But I digress.


Because, thinking about it, how bad could it be? With only 71% progress on the next exowave, I'd have plenty of time to kill off the counterattack at the homeworld using the fleet, rush the fleet to Spire Hub Alpha, which would by then be heavily under attack by the 8.5k incoming waves, and I seriously doubted that the CPA would add in due to the huge threat value of my defenses + fleet. I might need to use a small mark 1 or 2 Lightning Warhead if there were particularly many SBS or Electric Bombers, but surely nothing more than that.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img850/3764/re8d.jpg)


That's when the CPA count hit zero, and rather than spawn the CPA, the AI decided to synchronize everything. 17 seconds to the counterattack on my homeworld, 1m 23s to double waves, exo wave, and CPA.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img819/3162/exf2.jpg)


At the homeworld, the counterattack was defeated with some casualties and then ordered to set full speed for Spire Hub Alpha, where the slaughter was well underway as my fleet came charging out of the wormhole, I realized it was time to take stern measures before engaging, so I unleashed the lightning, once again.

When the first mark 3 Lightning Warhead left 135,851 strength alive in Spire Hub Alpha and with even more ship strength as threat just one system out and more pouring in every second, I knew I was in for a serious fight.

Fortunately, I had more warheads where they came from.



-----

And I now eagerly await the next patch, which sounds like it will address several of the issues uncovered.

The current knowledge unlocks after blasting those waves and using the recently acquired knowledge is:

Scout Drone II
Sentinel Frigate III
Flagship III

Zenith Starship I
Spire Starship III
Leach Starship III
Plasma Starship II
Neinzul Enclave Starship III
Scout Starship II

Engineer Drone III
Economic Orbital Station III
Military Orbital Station III

Area Minefield
Force Field III
Hardened Force Field I
Fortress III
Modular Fortress

Needler Turret III
Laser Turret III
MLRS Turret III
Missile Turret III
Flak Turret III
Lightning Turret III
HBC IV
Sniper Turret III
Spider Turret
Gravitational Turret III

Rather heavy on defenses, but then, given the Mad Bomber, that's been a necessity.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 07, 2014, 12:09:13 PM
I had survived.
Bug report acknowledged.


Quote
It is interesting how CPA's become less and less relevant as I increase in AIP gain.
Yea, the waves growing so fast with AIP (due to the reinforcements redirect thing) tends to outpace it.  I'd planned to have it redirect a certain % of the reinforcement redirect to CPAs instead, I forget if I actually pulled that off or if I deferred it until CPAs could be made strength-based rather than count-based.

Anyway, yea, CPAs are the main threat in a totally non-superweapon game, particularly a low-AIP one.  But as AIP gets higher and/or superweapons get involved the CPAs become more of a "coordinating" threat than one that can just knock you out by itself.  That coordination is still relevant, though, as you discovered.



Quote
To this very day, I still don't know how many special forces, hybrids, and whatever they may be or wherever they may come from ships the AI threw at me, as they kept piling on way beyond the original 20k I had spotted as the battle dragged on. Perhaps they were merely the replacement ships generated normally during that time?
SF production for a special forces captain with that much AIP, etc... it's vigorous.  Something like

Code: [Select]
int specialForcesCount = MOAR;

Quote
These are existential questions, but really... Who knows? Who cares? Kill them with fire!

1) Major Premise: Ships do not survive being in the middle of a sun.
2) Minor Premise: There are lots of enemy ships, not flying into a sun.
3) Conclusion: Create new (short-lived) sun on top of the enemy ships.


Quote
Playing AI War is a bit like playing whack-a-mole, only with armed moles, an ever increasing number of mole-holes to keep track of, a rubber mallet, and moles that smile knowingly at you all the time, even as the mallet descends.
Quite possibly the best one-sentence description of the game to date.  Shall have to forward that to our PR executor.


Quote
And I now eagerly await the next patch, which sounds like it will address several of the issues uncovered.
Likely so.  Between the reinforcements-redirect change and the spire city buffs the effect of normal waves will be very substantially easier at that AIP.  Which leaves only one course of action: gain MOAR AIP.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: tadrinth on June 07, 2014, 12:57:20 PM
I'm guessing the difficulty-based reductions of the reinforcements -> waves mechanic in the latest patch will probably help, but if those aren't sufficient a couple of potential tweaks have occurred to me.

Rather than having a hard cap of 200 AIP for reinforcements, it seems like the AI should gradually redirect further reinforcements to waves as AIP goes up.  IE, as you go from 200 to 300 reinforcements keep going up but slower and slower, and then past 300 any further increases go to waves.  That might be needlessly complicated, but the mechanic would kick in a bit slower and there'd be a bit more breathing room.  Maybe in practice it already feels like a smooth transition, I haven't hit this mechanic yet. Using those example numbers, this would effectively cap reinforcements at 250 AIP.  The old reinforcement cap for diff 7 was 245, IIRC (7*7*5). 

The other tweak, and it might already be doing this, is to use the extra reinforcements to make the waves charge faster.  Particularly for cases with only one possible wave target, the AI waits a pretty long time to accumulate the desired strength.  If it has extra firepower available, it seems reasonable for it to use it to throw waves more often, in hopes of hitting upon an effective combination.  That's probably too generous by itself, so I would have it put half the excess strength toward making the wave charge faster and half toward making it bigger. Or whatever percent feels right.  The result is that as the AI shifts from a defensive stance to a really aggressive stance, it starts upping the tempo, not just the size of attacks.  Maybe that would be too annoying, I dunno, but I think at really high AIP things should start to get kind of crazy.  =) 

Also, what happens if you just beachhead the heck out of the SuperTerminal planet?  The AI will deploy Strategic Reserve down to 90% to defend it, right?  If you have a large enough beachhead to soak that much SR, then the excess reinforcements will go to the SR and immediately zerg your beachhead, reducing the SR back down to 90%.  I'm not sure how often the SR will deploy, or how fast it refills due to reinforcements, but it seems like this would absorb a fair amount of the excess reinforcements before they can be added to waves.  Granted, you're basically running a second whipping boy at this point, one that has to eat MkV SR 'waves' to boot, but with per-planet mkI-III turrets, that might be doable.  Depends strongly on the minimum amount of SR the AI is willing to deploy at once. 

Keith, I remember seeing a patch note about 10% of the reinforcement->wave redirect going to CPAs instead.  v7.026. The percent might need a buff. 
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: tadrinth on June 07, 2014, 04:02:46 PM
Quote
Lightning Torpedo Frigates. (The latter after an attempt where the AI hybrids got their hands on them. Hybrids with LTF are really, really, silly. Sadly, getting a handful of LTF myself turned out to be rather less impressive than fighting hybrids fielding hundreds of them.)

What the heck? I could have sworn LTFs were player-only, specifically because they're so OP for the AI in large numbers.

From all the way back in 6.041:
Quote
The Lightning Torpedo Frigate is now player-only (the AI can't get it anymore)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 07, 2014, 05:24:09 PM
Hybrids like to pat rules on the head and say "aw, isn't that cute".
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 12, 2014, 09:32:30 AM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- When Cities Multiply -




When Cities Attack

Patch 7.034 had arrived and I was eagerly looking forwards to the hacking changes, which implied that I'd be able to spend several hundred more HaP before it went critical. Moreover, the amount of extra reinforcements directed to waves had been reduced, which would come in handy, but of potentially greater overall importance to this particular game, spire cities were no longer supposed to be weaklings.

Increased salvage and base metal production (yay!), doubled range and quadrupled firepower and shields certainly sounded impressive, but before going gaga over it, it behooved me to take a look at the numbers for a fully defensive city, that is, one with a habitation centre and five shard reactors, using a Shield II, 2 x Heavy Beam II, 2 x Laser III, 2 x Rail Cannon II setup – my basic setup of mixed weaponry.

For my entertainment, and for the enlightenment of any player reading this, who is not mathematically inclined, I've decided to put down my line of reasoning rather than jumping to the conclusion. Don't think for a moment that I sat down and spent a long time figuring this out. Copious handwaving and rough estimates were used, with the result that it took considerably longer to write down in a comprehensible matter for the AAR than it took to reach the conclusions in the first place.


Defensive:

The mark 2 shields were 6*2,400,000 = 144,000,000 points, which corresponded to 24 L3 forcefields of 600,000 points to destroy them all, with the difference that while overlapping they did not all cover the same space, so effective protection or anything – even something right next to the hub and covered by most forcefields – would be substantially lower.

It followed that the best position to locate something in need of serious protection, such as a Mil3 stations to take the example which suggests itself, would be next to the defensive building farthest from expected primary enemy entry wormhole on the side that was between the hub and the building itself, if there was any chance of an enemy coming at it from the sides or behind, and on the side that was away from the hub if not.

A rough estimate based on looking at the sizes of the shields at maximum extent suggested that one would have to be lucky to get much more than around of a third of the total shield strength supporting anything that the AI specifically liked to target, even if optimally located. In other words, a command station, regardless of its position under the shields, was likely to go down while a considerable amount of shield power remained – but it would still require enough firepower to take down something on the order of eight level three forcefields before it died.

This would be subject to considerable variation based on the range of the incoming damagedealers' weapons, but as a rough estimate it would have to make do.

The shields would also provide excellent protection for turrets due to not reducing their damageoutput, though this had to be weighed against the value of a having a clump of turrets at a greater distance to slow down the enemy while being pounded by both turrets and city, and doing all the damage to the turrets, suggesting different strategies depending on the topology of individual planetary systems and the overall defensive plan.

Hitpoints: 6*2,000,000 = 12,000,000, which was considerable, corresponding to 500 Needler III turrets, but compared to my standard first obstacle for incoming waves at the tanking chokepoint of all mark 1-3 Lightning and Flak plus all Gravity 1 turrets (using Gravity II and III to slow the way to reach that point, and the 1s basically as damage absorbers to increase the longevity of the damagedealing turrets), plus all tractor 2 and 3 turrets, it was only ~110% of that.... Now, the shard buildings had type polycrystal rather than type turret, which would make some difference, but still, it was obvious that anything capable of defeating my regular unsupported defenses at the tanking chokepoint should be able to defeat this without effort, though it would take time.


Offensive:

Ignoring armour types for the moment:

Main beams: 6 x 120,000/8s for 90,000dps total, range 19,000.
Heavy beams: 6 x 2 x 6 x 20,000/6s for 240,000dps total, range 27,000.
Lasers: 6 x 2 x 4 x 12,000/8s for 72,000dps total, range 23,000.
Rail Cannons: 6 x 2 x 24,000/6s for 48,000dps total, range planet-wide.

That looked sort of impressive.  Even when compared to the firepower of a full caps of all mark 1-3  turrets, it looked pretty darn impressive and covered several damage types while having most of its firepower in close range and still being able to pick off distant targets.

There was just one slight detail to keep in mind: When the individual firepower of the attacks was sufficient to kill many fleetships outright and frequently presented serious overkill, it made sense to consider the total number of targets, and in that respect:

Main beam, maximum individual targets 45/minute.
Heavy beams, maximum individual targets 720/minute.
Lasers, maximum individual targets 360/minute.
Rail Cannons, maximum individual targets 180/minute

It was still impressive
1305/minute in [0;19,000]
1260/minute in ]19,000;23,000]
900/minute in ]23,000;27,000]
180/minute in ]27,000:+infty]

....but not that impressive. It was clear that an unsupported fully defensive spire city would die swiftly to any of the Mad Bomber waves I was facing, as it wouldn't even be able to kill off significant amount of the fleetships (bombers, zenith electric bombers, missile frigates) that the AI threw at me in their thousands before the scores of starships (primarily bombers and plasma supported by flagships) primarily) put an end to it.

The higher the AIP and hence average level of AI waves, the less impressive it would become as enemy ships become tougher.

Not that a fully defensive spire city would ever tank waves unless a warp jump guardian got close to it, but it might end up tanking CPAs and comparing with wave mechanics gave me a good baseline feel for the strength of the city.

As a conclusion, what we had got here was something really tough, and something that would easily be able to chew up starships that got close if not too many arrived in firing range at the same time, thus allowing the city to concentrate fire. When facing many thousands of incoming enemies, even throwing in the additional hitpoints and damageout of turret support it was unlikely to be enough to survive on its own.

In other words, a spire city would be a substantial addition to the defense of whichever planet it was on, especially strong for providing substantial protection to the station on the planet without tying up forcefields, but it would not be capable of substituting for a true defensive setup with gravity turrets to slow incoming movement, mines, and forts.


Now, on with the show!



Recovery

After a slight recovery period from the prior CPA, it was time to make new plans. I had Spire City Alpha with three shard reactors tanking in the entrance of cluster 2 and Spire City Gamma with a habitation centre, a shard reactor, and four shipyards in the interior, for a spire fleet of 2 cruisers, 4 destroyers, and 20 frigates.

Which given what I'd just faced in synchronized exowave, ordinary waves, and CPA, just didn't seem all that impressive.

I took this opportunity to streamline my ship production, moving all docks, mercenary docks, starship constructors, and all mark 1 and 2 engineers to the Spire City Gamma, while retaining all the mark 3 engineers in one control group for quick deployment whereever needed. All production facilities were ordered to send directly to Spire City Alpha.

(The only exception being missile production, which was outsourced.)



Hacking!

Still, before I could do anything about that, I'd take ruthless advantage of the hacking changes!

The first thing to go was the Special Forces Captain's supply of Spire Stealth Battleships. Corrupted and GONE forever. Boy, did that feel good. Given my emphasis on killing at range and letting the AOE lightning warheads deal with larger problems, the battleships with their radar dampening and absurd high hitpoints were a major problem.

Overall, the strategic situation pointed to setting up the next chokepoint on the planet the original plan denoted Spire Hub Beta, thus allowing me to remove the AI presence from around Spire Hub Alpha and grow it to a level 2 city.

Of special note,  the waves were smaller than in the previous patch, the Mad Bomber's down to between four and five thousand, and the Special Forces Captain's down to roughly two thousand, which meant that my fixed defenses were entirely capable of dealing with them on their own; this would probably not last as AIP increased, but it was nice to be able to once again operate my fleet with impunity without having to be ready to hare back to the chokepoint just in case something went wrong on a regular wave.

As I was happily wiping out enemy planets to set up the situation in Spire Hub Beta, the Special Forces Captain AI unlocked yet another set of toys, one of which I had heard nasty stories of on the forum: Eye Bots.

The first wave I saw them in action left me underwhelmed. Slaughtered by the fixed defenses in next to no time, they accomplished nothing whatsoever. The second time the fixed defenses chose to target differently, and the Eye Bots swept in to take out the station in a surprise coup. That made me a believer, and my next hacking target thus nominated itself. With a bit of preparation I set up a corruption hack for the Eye Bots: Good riddance to bad rubbish.

During the course of these adventures, I also finally knocked off the ARS planet next to Spire Hub Alpha – with the Spire Hub Beta chokepoint set up, the AI was no longer tricked into sending its special forces to their death at this location. Since the default choice for the ARS was Zenith Reprocessors (the other two were Attractor Drones and Spire Corvettes), I happily accepted them without hacking – they might only have an average baseline cap dps, but they had good range and an amazing multiplier of eight against many of the nastier things the AIs threw at me (Zenith Electric Bombers, Bomber Starships etc.)

Eventually everything was in readiness for my new chokepoint. The following screenshot shows it early under development. When completed, it featured full caps of the mark 2 and 3 forts, with the mark 1 forts left behind in Spire Hub Alpha to guard the entrance to the homeworld.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img855/2389/s6bq.jpg)



Spire City Delta and More Hacking!

With the exit from cluster 2 plugged and the neighbouring planets of Spire Hub Alpha purged of the AI, I built it up to level 2 with a habitation centre and five reactors, changed Spire Hub Gamma to a habitation centre and five shipyards, and awaited the next Fallen Spire exo, which showed up in due time only to be destroyed in a matter of minutes.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img823/4372/uk0e.jpg)



With the next shard located deep in cluster 1 once again, it was an easy choice to to build Spire Hub Delta as yet another reactor/shipyard spire hub in cluster 1, situated such as to maximize the number of eventual shipyards in the cluster, there being room for a total of four. I thus had:

Alpha: Habitation and 5 reactors.
Gamma: Habitation and 5 shipyards.
Delta: 2xHabitation, 2 reactors, 2 shipyards.

Spire fleet: 7 destroyers, 3 cruisers, 32 frigates.

The reason for the extra habitation centre being the fat 1,000 metal/s bonus. Since I couldn't build another shipyard without another reactor, I'd have to wait until the next city completed to increase the number of shipyards, so better get full use of the free slot until then.

The next signal was tracked to Ullik, the Advanced Factory planet that I had hacked in cluster 2 – but now cut off from the AI by my chokepoint in Spire Hub Beta.

Given that the situation felt very stable, I decided to take this opportunity for a fabricator hack in AI territory near the centre of cluster 3, since I could always fall back three warp jumps to Spire Hub Beta if necessary.

There were two high-value targets: One planet had the Flagship V and Youngling Vultures, the first of which I greatly desired, the second not, the other planet had Experimental Engineers and Plasma Starship V, for which the same could be said.

I chose to go for the former rather than the latter on the unassailable grounds that the Engineer planet apart from two fabricators I'd dearly love to hack also hosted an ARS, which meant that staying there for any significant amount of time was contraindicated by the Special Forces Captain, who might show up to ruin my day. While I might want to take it on at some later time, I'd have to be strong enough to survive for a while against the special force response, and while the Experimental Engineers would really help construction rates, they were not essential. (This planet was also home to a Tachyon command station and four mark 4 counterattack posts. The AI hates me. :p)

The special forces by this time numbered 72,000 ships, having grown well beyond anything I could possibly think of to contain them since I had ended my regimen of regular culling. They seemed stuck at a cap depending only on AIP, and given how swiftly they'd rebuilt from their last defeat, I was coming to the reluctant conclusion that I would just have to change my plans to ensuring that their path did not cross mine or I might get bogged down in guerilla warfare with the special forces. By contrast, though the spire fleet did add a substantial bonus to my fleet the spire fleet just didn't seem all that impressive.

The hack succeeded without hitch and my fleet was graced by the best flagships avaiable.



Hacking and Human Error

So, based on the great hacking success I'd had, I grew bold. I was still at low enough HaP spent and with large enough a balance that the hacks were minimum difficulty, and though the last hack had used a beachhead of turrets, I probably would have succeded without it.

There was a planet, a distant planet, that held the secret of Sentinel Frigate V's, which would provide a valuable addition to my navy, as I'm sure you'll agree. Well, when I say distant, it was only 7 small hops from Spire Hub Beta. That's not all that far, surely?

Time for the big hack map!



(http://imageshack.com/a/img842/4854/pwtgn.jpg)



For the greater glory of man, said the admiralty.

For Spire Hub Beta two waves, said the AI.

I am two thirds of the way to the target and won't be able to return in time and two near simultaneous waves will crush my defenses, and I realize that I've forgotten one slight detail: building up a sufficient stock of lightning warheads in Spire Hub Beta, and since all the mark 2s and 3s are produced and waiting back in Alpha, I can't produce any in Beta right now (unless I want to detonate those in Alpha), and anyhow, with the cooldown on missile production, I would only have time to produce one. Ah, woe is me, said the player.

Well, he didn't actually say it, as soliloquys are not his style when lacking an audience, but he sure thought it.

So the player, not being a dummy and recalling that Napoleon's famous "ask me for anything you like, except time", did not necessarily apply in full to AI War, did something else instead: He ordered his fleet to return as a group move, and he ordered the construction of a single missile.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img924/850/wRlROl.jpg)



Yes, I know. Detonating an EMP warhead may not seem in the spirit of the AAR's theme, but it is effective when you need to buy that most precious commodity: time!

Between the fortresses ignoring the EMP effects and the fleet returning home a few seconds after the stun wore off, the invaders were defeated with entirely acceptable casualties.



Sentinel Hacking and Timing

The fleet was quickly rebuilt, and I set off to get that Sentinel Frigate V hack done once and for all, since I knew I'd have a considerable grace period before the next waves would show up. The exo wave would be incoming fairly soon, but I had considerable faith in my defenses where they that was concerned. Having destroyed all jump gates in cluster 2 the different groups would spawn in clusters 3, 4, or 5, make their way through the Spire Hub Beta chokepoint suffering considerable attritional damage on their way to the wormhole leading on a shortest path to Spire Hub Alpha and my homeworld, and eventually in broken groups reach Spire Hub Alpha which had a full spire city, full turret caps, 6 mark 1 fortresses, and 19 mixed lightning and armoured warheads on standby in cloak.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/5480/vhlv.jpg)



The hack was successful, the exowave died on schedule, and my returning fleet was greeted by the first full cap of Sentinel Frigate V's, making a grand total of 95 Sentinel Frigates for a guaranteed 29254 dps, which while only a small component of my fleets total potential dps had the significant virtue of being guaranteed at all times and able to be redirected to targets of my choosing on the same planet regardless of location. Time-on-target being, as always, an extremely important consideration.


Spire City Beta

I strongly considered going for a hack on the Medic Frigates and the Needler Turrets (see earlier map) since hacking response was still a moderate 149, but since they were located on a Raid Engine planet and was on the direct route I had seen the special forces traverse in its patrols between clusters 3 and 5, I decided to leave well enough for now and return to the important business of building up the spire fleet.

Time to rack up some AIP! I conquered the planets the shard would have to traverse from Ullik to reach the homeworld and extended that path to Spire Hub Beta, building logistical stations to speed my progress and moderate defenses all the way. Not satisfied with that, I conquered the entire route that the AI was using when flying from Spire Hub Beta to Spire Hub Alpha, built logistical stations to retard enemy movement, and lots of sniper turrets to inflict attritional damage to any exowaves passing through. For all these stations I located them at maximum range from the wormholes, such as to minimize any chance of enemy forces merely passing through damaging the defenses.

This is the urban development just prior to the construction of the spire hub in Beta:



(http://imageshack.com/a/img837/5524/s9ti.jpg)



As can be seen, given the warp lane directly from Beta to cluster 4, there's no pratical way of compartmentatlizing cluster 3 the same way clusters 1 and 2 have been. To cut off the AI from 3 would require three spire cities in cluster 4, one of them on a core world adjacent to the Mad Bomber homeworld, and let's just say that if the game ever gets that deranged, the game will have inadvertently morphed into doing the "What AIP memo?", something I just do not see happening given that I don't have access to trader toys or champion modforts to help fortify my tanking locations.

..Perhaps if I was playing on a lower difficulty setting, because by God, it is tempting... but no. AI War is not about world conquest, it is about pest eradication.

(The AI probably agrees. It is just that we disagree on exactly who's the pest and who's the exterminator).

Be that as it may, the AI was not amused and pulled a fast one – just after I had constructed the hub itself and was about to being the modules, the AI launched not only the new city exowave, as expected, but a regular wave from both AIs. It felt like it was seconds after the exowave launch, but it was probably more like a minute or three. Whatever the case, since exowaves travel slowly, they arrived with too near simultaneity for comfort.

Moreover when they arrived, the sheer mass of attackers in Beta caused the threatfleet to begin piling in, sensing an opportunity.

My engineers worked overtime trying to activate some spire city defenses while the fixed defenses and the fleet held off the firstcomers.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img849/5254/e9bt.jpg)



It was a great pleasure to know that the ships of the exowave that bypassed my defenses, and under the circumstances there were many, had to fly through several systems stuffed with sniper turrets that would chew up the smaller ships before finally emerging in Spire City Alpha, where the defenses would destroy whatever remained without fail

Even so, there were just too many to conveniently handle. Twelve thousand ships attacking or passing through Beta with another seven thousand incoming.

Once again, it was time to unleash the lightning. The following is a screenshot after the first warhead, which convinced me that half-arsed measures of limited escalation were just not going to cut it. At these six verging on seven hundred AIP, waves consisted of predominantly mark III ships, and warheads just didn't destroy anywhere near as many ships as they used to do.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img849/5254/e9bt.jpg)



This time a mere four lightning mark 3 warheads turned out to do the trick, culling the AI fleet enough that I could hold beta. What's 12 AIP amongst friends when you are having a good time?




-----

Tech Unlocks:

Fleetships:
II Scout Drone
III Missile Frigate, Sentinel Frigate, Zenith Reprocessor

Starships:
I Scout, Zenith
II Plasma,
III Flagship, Leech, Neinzul Enclave, RIOT, Spire

Economic:
III Engineer Drone, Economic Orbital Station, Military Orbital Station

Support:
Area Minefield
Modular Fortress
III Force Field, Hardened Force Field, Fortress

Turrets:
Tachyon Beam Emitter (hacking beachhead help)
I Spider
III Flak, Laser, Lightning, Gravitational, Missile, MLSR, Needler, Sniper
IV Heavy Beam Cannon
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 12, 2014, 10:50:44 AM
On the spire city stuff:

- Bear in mind you can still cover stuff with normal forcefields.  It will get the damage reduction, but you don't have to blanket the whole formation; the MkI forcefields are probably small enough to only cover one city structure, under which you can put the stuff you'd really rather not have die.  It's a tradeoff, of course.

- On the "maximum individual targets" stuff, bear in mind that both the photon lances (main beams) and heavy beam cannons "punch through" when they kill something, and if there's a valid target further down the line it gets hit with what's left, and so on.  In many cases that means the extra strength is just wasted, but in heavy defensive situations there's very often more ships just behind the target, so they eat it, and you can approach optimal utilization of the beams' dps.
-- Also, when _any_ shot hits a carrier, it's allowed to kill more than one occupant if it has the damage for it.

All that said, even if all the damage was allocated optimally, the sheer total hit points of one of your Mad Bomber waves is presumably an uncomfortably hgh multiple of the city's total dps (even assuming best-hull-type matches.

So yea, they don't stand alone against serious attack, they just make great defensive centerpieces and are handy for "you shall not pass!" wormhole-entrance-guarding.


Quote
Still, before I could do anything about that, I'd take ruthless advantage of the hacking changes!
The most important attribute a player needs to win AIW on high difficulties is "a complete lack of shame".


Quote
As I was happily wiping out enemy planets to set up the situation in Spire Hub Beta, the Special Forces Captain AI unlocked yet another set of toys, one of which I had heard nasty stories of on the forum: Eye Bots.

The first wave I saw them in action left me underwhelmed. Slaughtered by the fixed defenses in next to no time, they accomplished nothing whatsoever. The second time the fixed defenses chose to target differently, and the Eye Bots swept in to take out the station in a surprise coup.
Yep, they're basically soft-boiled eggs: if they actually hit serious defenses head-on, splat.

But if they can slip through the cracks, ow.


Quote
For the greater glory of man, said the admiralty.
Nothing ever goes wrong after someone says that.


Quote
..Perhaps if I was playing on a lower difficulty setting, because by God, it is tempting... but no. AI War is not about world conquest, it is about pest eradication.
I think you can paint this map if you really want to.  That's why I suggested 9 rather than something higher.  But it's easier for me to say than for you to do :)

Anyway, once you have 5 cities and all that allows you to get/build I think you should be able to just start glassing clusters between attacks.  Naturally, I could be wrong.  Those arachnid guard posts are bad news for capital ships, and would require pre-treatment.  Then there's the special forces, which can be handled but would keep it from being an unopposed romp.


Quote
This time a mere four lightning mark 3 warheads turned out to do the trick, culling the AI fleet enough that I could hold beta. What's 12 AIP amongst friends when you are having a good time?
Evidently, not much ;)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 12, 2014, 11:03:27 AM
Anyway, once you have 5 cities and all that allows you to get/build I think you should be able to just start glassing clusters between attacks.  Naturally, I could be wrong.  Those arachnid guard posts are bad news for capital ships, and would require pre-treatment.  Then there's the special forces, which can be handled but would keep it from being an unopposed romp.
I was falling behind on posting AAR updates, having this almost "done" for several days, so the next update showing just what happens at five cities - and beyond - should be coming up soon. Let's just say that special forces and wave sizes, even with the recent reductions to reinforcement spillover, are not so easily handled as all that as the AIP skyrockets. :D
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 12, 2014, 11:07:57 AM
The Special Forces say they have no bread?

Let them eat warheads!  >:(
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 14, 2014, 09:53:57 AM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- The Galactic Capitol and the Special Forces -




Tank You Very Much

With Spire City Beta built, it was time to build the next tanking location, the planet of Losuobi in cluster 2, only two jumps from Beta, which had a most wonderful property apart from its closeness: the extreme closeness of the AI entry wormhole to one edge of the map, allowing the placing of the military station immediately opposite and resulting in the longest firing range yet, taking up fully 832 of 882 possible mines to lay a three-broad track of death from the wormhole to the cluster of flak and lightning turrets.

With gravity 2 and 3 turrets in support all down the road, sniper and spider turrets, and all the mark two and three forts in support (they did have the range to cover the entire distance, if only barely), it was as beautiful a road of death as you can imagine:



(http://imageshack.com/a/img822/2585/86af.jpg)



Or at least as beautiful as it gets without trader toys or champion modforts. The thought of adding a Radar Jammer II to that setup, which, all by itself would ensuring that anything flying down the central avenue would not have the range to shoot the gravity turrets, thus winning extra time from the AI diverting ships to fly out to kill them, of Orbital Mass Drivers killing off incoming starships, and so on and so forth. But that's wishful thinking. Given the tools available, it was just about as beautiful as I could make it.

The Vorticular Cutlass Fabricator was not long for the world, but then, I didn't really have a need for such a close range weapon in the first place, which is why I didn't hack it.

Once this was set up it was time to sterilize Samuus in cluster 4, the planet adjacent to Beta, and the origin of the beta waves, and following that beta was completed to specifications, making Alpha and Beta full habitation/reactor cities, and Gamma and Delta full habitation/shipyard cities.

The next shard turned up on Rinyae in the depths of cluster 1, a planet that had also been the site of an earlier shard, and it was easily recovered.

Exowaves were becoming fairly large, as an example the one at 36:06:04 had 69 massive ships with 40,318S (whatever that means), but fairly easily handled so long as the fleet was in support of the fixed defenses at Beta.



Not What You Think

So, having recovered the fifth shard, did I immediately go ahead and build Spire City Epsilon? No, I did not. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake and I should just have gone right ahead, or, perhaps better, have glassed a handful of planets to be able to perform the first major unlock, but under the circumstances of my knowledge at the time, it made excellent sense.

The journal entries and my own experiences had made clear the ever increasing AI response to Spire Cities, and the journal entry I got after Beta, the fourth city, told me that the fifth would unlock larger hulls and advanced technology if I had the knowledge to make use of it, and that I'd have reached a level where the AI would be really, truly, pissed off. Also, I knew from the spire hub construction menu, that five cities would give me access to a Galactic Capitol, which would piss the AI off even more.

What was not clear, and understandably so as this was a warning, not a roadmap to victory, was how soon I'd need the benefits granted from that tech: How much would the AI aggressiveness increase? Would it do something really special to compensate for the human gaining this potential access? Not knowing, I decided to play it safe by accumulating knowledge beforehand, but how much?

I set myself a goal of 30,000 knowledge, which I expected to be more than enough, and began my eradication campaign.

I did not want to eradicate any planet with a design backup I might potentially want to eliminate, and as I was close to yet another AI ship unlock AIP threshold, I kept a close eye on the design backup map as I soon crossed that threshold.

The Special Forces Captain got Autocannons, which being short ranged sounded great to me, and the Mad Bomber got Protector starships.

Since the Mad Bomber almost always sent bomber waves, I did not consider this a dangerous unlock for the AI or the hybrids, but I did consider it a good unlock for me. I had negligible experience with it in actual play, but starting a quick test game with Protectors as the ship of choice and immediately investing knowledge to unlock up to mark 3 revealed that it was a fun toy.

I wanted it!

I downloaded it!

I immediately invested knowledge in unlocking to mark 3, this adding another two planets to the total that needed to be wiped out before building my fifth spire city, and adding marks 1-4 of protector starships to my navy, configured to countering the Mad Bomber's damage types in order, on the rational grounds that the Mad Bomber was way more dangerous than the Special Forces Captain on the offensive.

The first ordinary wave greater than 10,000 ships came at 36:57:27, when the Special Forces Captain sent in a wave of mark 3 ships (766 AIP) that rather worried me until I realized that it primarily consisted of Autocannons. Considering the firing lane facing them, they didn't stand a chance.

The next event of any greater interest was my destruction of Harbi, a planet that I had failed to duly acknowledge the importance to the AI of. It contained a Planetary Armor booster, and I was merrily slaughtering its guardposts when the special forces began warping in in ever increasing numbers. I got out of there in a hurry.

Based on this experience, it seems that the special forces cap for 822 AIP on difficulty 9 is at least 112,000 ships.

To cut a long story short, I continued my extermination campaign, defeating ever larger AI waves that now reached sizes that mandated the return of my fleet to the tanking planet whenever two waves synchronized, the defenses being unable to cope alone with the 12-14k ships of marks 3-4 they faced in those situations, though fortunately still able to deal with single individual waves.

And then there was a CPA synchronizing with FS exo, but by then, it was old hat. Been there, done that, fried the T-shirt.



The Last Steps on the Road to Spire Hub Epsilon

By 37:47:30, as my fleet was out of position due to glassing a planet, and I was being assailed by enemies on all sides due to a CPA, and had to defend Beta and Losuobi at the same time, and as the special forces were becoming every more annoying to dodge due to the decreasing area they had to protect, I decided that I'd had just about enough, even if I was still 1,250 knowledge short of the 30,000.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img829/5838/0v28.jpg)



It was time to break out the lightning on two planets at once to get the situation under control.

And then I said to myself, that wasn't so bad, was it now? Not knowing just what the hell would happen once I got started on the fifth city, perhaps I should go hack that Medic Frigate V now, that I'd been considering on and off for the longest time? It was only 149 ai response, so it should be doable without any sort of beachheading so long as I parked a spire destroyer or two on top of the hacker to shield it. It would take ten minutes tops to pull off and return.

So I went and did that, and my fleet sported Medic Frigates V soon enough, assisting the Protector and Riot Starships in keeping the rest of the fleet shipshape.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/3172/kl29.jpg)



Which is how I was reminded that there was also a Needler Turret V on the planet, so my one hacked count as two, and the total HaP I had spent on fabricator hacking skyrocketed, but at least I could now add Needler V turrets to my tanking hotspot. Having now spent a grand total of 894,24 HaP out of 1343, all the hacks under 7.034-35 being moderate until now (and my increase in firepower between each hack more than making up for the increase in difficulty from the hack floor rising), the curve had finally caught up with me.

If I performed another hack at this point, I'd face a 405 ai response. NOT BLOODY LIKELY. On the positive side, given that ai response now decreased linearly in HaP gained, I was not cut off from hacking for the rest of the game: All I had to do to bring this down to tolerable levels for one more hack would be to destroy another 5-10 planets. Sure, a stiff price to pay, but those are the breaks. Nobody said it had to be easy – only possible – and I'd been hacking quite a lot.

Of particular interest is that it was at this time, at 977 AIP, that I finally accepted that my fixed defenses were no longer sufficient to defeat solo Mad Bomber waves. It was no longer the exception but the rule that I had to bring my fleet back help deal with those 10,000 ship waves of mark 3-4 ships, even when not synchronized with a Special Forces Captain wave. I had nearly every defensive tool available in the base game on that planet set up in a fairly strong defensive position, something that was utterly impossible to replicate on any other planet due to galactic caps, and even that wasn't enough. I could move the six mark 1 forts and the human modfort that I used in support of Beta to the planet, but at best that would give me a grace period that would all too soon be eroded by increasing AIP.

BE THAT AS IT MAY, by 39:08:49, after the defeat of the next synchronized CPA and exo, and with the regular waves recently defeated, I did at long last build Spire Hub Epsilon back in cluster 1, and was told to build a Galactic Capitol, the building I'd been waiting for every since I first saw it listed in the spire hub construction list.



The Galactic Capitol

I built the Galactic Capitol in Spire City Beta and got a very durable seat of government with one monster of a gun attached – or perhaps it is a monster of a gun with a durable seat of government wrapped around – opinions differ.

There was so many interesting options to unlock, considerably more than I expected. I immediately unlocked:

And had 1750 left over, missing the unlocks for Colony ships, Rail Cannon IV, and Plasma Siege Cannon III (for which I also lacked the prerequisite tech). Thus the 30,000 knowledge I had expected to be ample and of which I'd collected 28,750 before calling it a day turned out not to be enough in the end, 36,000 being required to unlock everything.

Though why on earth anybody would unlock the Plasma Siege Cannon is beyond me. There's no way anybody would be firing at the armour types it has multipliers for often enough that it is worth using over the HBC IV. Theoretically I guess you could use it for taking down force fields with the x10 multiplier, if you were okay with using a main weapon slot for something only rarely useful, but given its short range, by the time you'd be in range with a Spire fleet to use that weapon to take down the force field with its awesome 120,000 damage/8s, your host of Spire Frigates would be in range to range it down with their main beam weapon doing 40,000 damage/8s per frigate. Sure, it could spread 6.25% damage to each of up to 25 targets under the forcefield, but compared to the damage the HBC IV would deal in all situations? Choosing the PSC would be madness.

So either I'm missing something obvious or the Plasma Siege Cannon module is utterly worthless in all of its variants, and having an unlockable mark III only adds spite to injury.

Be that as it may, my first task was to upgrade the lasers and shields on all frontline shard reactors and habitation centres, the second to reorganize the fleet, and the third to knock over an extra planet to get the knowledge to unlock Colony Ships.

With the sheer numbers of spire ships in the fleet, the old designs for destroyers and cruisers that mixed beams, lasers, and rail cannon was passé.

Since fighting in close was so terribly dangerous given the numbers of quality enemy ships I was facing, and since I'd been doing quite a bit of kiting/strafing with my fleet to deal with the larger assaults, and since furthermore the enemy had started fielding both snipers and sniper frigates in the hundreds, I'd build the fleet to focus on that by a massive expansion of my own sniping capabilities, while still maintaining enough close range firepower to deal with emergencies, and with an overall focus on strafing alongside an enemy wave headed for a command station, just beyond missile frigate range (due to the Mad Bomber typically sending one to two thousand missile frigates with each wave).

The new model fleet would be a specialized one:



What Next?

I now had two different ways to win, according to the final journal entries:

Naturally, I decided that I'd try doing things my own way first rather than calling in help. I had lots of room in cluster 2 to build more cities and having a larger spire fleet would be fun!

I estimated that by the time it reached 2-3 times the current size, it would probably make sense to strip all Battleships and Dreadnoughts of all HBCs of mark 1-3 and replacing them with the highest mark Rail Cannons available, leaving only the HBCIV toting Dreadnoughts beam-capable.

I projected that by that time the main beams from the spire fleet would be so many and so frequent that they would by far dominate the total close range damage output of the entire fleet (spire ships, fleetships, and starships taken together), and that moreover, with increased fleet-ball size spire ships on the far side of the fleet ball from the enemy would have a harder time keeping the enemy in range of beams unless I let my fleet fly dangerously close to the enemy, which taken together would make getting additional long range Rail Cannon capabilities a substantial improvement over marginal close range improvements. The sole exception being the HBCIV because of its huge qualitative dps improvement and ability to pick off many weakened ships with minimum or no overkill.

I know that not everybody would reason like that, and an argument can surely be made for maximizing the kiting/strafing and close range power by maximizing beams in the fleet, but I have always been a great believer in diversifying my strategic capabilities rather than focusing on single powerful approaches, and it has overall stood me well in most strategy games.



First Major Dreadnought Test

Building the major ships took some time, but they were definitely worth it, as I learned how to perfectly strafe the incoming waves by moving back and forth along a line parallel to the road of death outside the range of most AI ship and how to kite pursuing ships slowly enough that they faced the brunt of rearwards firing spire beams.

At this point, 977 AIP, the Mad Bomber's waves typically consisted of 8-9k ships, roughly evenly divided by marks 3 and 4, so the added firepower was greatly appreciated. The Special Forces Captain was more modest, only throwing 4k waves at me, but it typically included 200-300 Snipers and Sentinel Frigates amongst its fun toys. In lieu of perfect anti-sniper coverage, I approached this issue by having all my own Sentinel Frigates, Spire Destroyers and Cruisers, and all seven forts on the tanking planet open fire on the enemy long range units the moment they spawned, this resulting in a rapid decrease in their appalling numbers.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img829/682/5pgq.jpg)



Great fun was had for several waves until it became routine. This screenshot is from the last routine wave, where some 9,200 ships had been whittled significantly down before ever reaching the flak/lightning defenses – and the last screenshot I have from before the game turned decidedly weird.



Special Forces WTF????

This section contains AI behaviour that I do just not understand.

I thought I had understood the rules governing the Special Forces – moving back and forth between various AI planets by shortest-path routes that tried to avoid heavily defended human planets as default behaviour, and moving in to support critical AI planets whenever human forces were present.

The problem is that what happened next fit none of those two patterns.

As I was completing the defeat of the major wave shown in the last screenshot, I noticed on the galaxy map that the special forces were entering cluster 3, all 146,000 of them (or so). Well, they'd done that before, but most of the time they stayed in clusters 4 and 5 (perhaps not surprising, as that's where the majority of AI planets were by the time).



(http://imageshack.com/a/img922/5466/BQKJ4J.jpg)





Anyhow, I continued killing the remaining four thousand ships or so in Losuobi, and three minutes later when checking the galaxy map, I noticed that the special forces were now in Mictinhas, just one warp away, a planet with no special buildings whatsoever, and zooming in to take a closer look to see what it was doing there, I could see that it was moving towards Losuobi.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img834/5414/amqzt.jpg)



And they did invade, and once they arrived, they proceeded directly towards the command station, just like all the regular waves had done, the primary differences being:


I fought them for two minutes, strafing the formation just as I'd done all other waves, but it was clear that nothing I had could stop them or even seriously inconvenience them. This much threat (1,7 million after I'd killed the first four thousand ships) would roll over all of my defenses and my fleet as well if I tried to stop it.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/4310/lfw9.jpg)



All I could do was harrass the special forces, but would that even matter?

If the special forces could, for whatever reason, choose to just go attack a planet of mine for the fun of it, then all my defenses were pretty much meaningless. Lightning or armoured warheads were capable of killing off a few thousand ships, and my fleet backed by fixed defenses would never be able to kill anything but a fraction, should that many enemy ships push an assault.

All was not lost as I had one final weapon my arsenal:

Nuclear warheads.

At a cost of 50 AIP and rendering a planet unusable per pop, they'd be able to kill all but the mark 5 ships.

Thus, if the special forces continued pushing the assault after their soon-to-be-completed utter destruction of all my fixed defenses in Losuobi rather than return to their old habits, I did retain a chance for victory, if a slim one, so long as I was willing to move swiftly for that shard/transceiver and build up a stock of nuclear warheads

With this in mind I decided that since all was not necessarily lost, though admittedly the situation looked dire, I'd begin building up nuclear warhead stocks immediately while proceeding on the assumption that the game was still winnable. I had an incoming CPA 8 minutes away and the Fallen Spire exo charged to 54%. Of more immediate concern, having just defeated a Mad Bomber wave, I was undoubtedly due a Special Forces Captain wave (err, one of his REGULAR waves :P), and the one warp-border I had with the AI was minutes from being overrun, with no realistic chance of being rebuilt so long as any AI ships remained.

A new location for tanking was urgently needed, and under the circumstances, I couldn't think of a better time to test a theory of mine – that while there was a global cap of only one spire colony frigate at a time, that probably meant that unlike the first five cities, I didn't have to build a hub to level 2 before building the next hub.

I immediately set out for the closest planet I could reach in cluster 3 with an adjacent enemy warp gate, which was three jumps away Beta, the planet of Gorgar. Not that there were any enemy planets closer than that available in cluster t3, mind you; Only in cluster 4 were there any enemy planets closer than 3 from beta still in AI hands due to the peculiar geography of Beta's warp lanes and my extensive eradication efforts when accumulating knowledge.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img853/3048/6tmg.jpg)



Gorgar was the planet where I'd in what now felt like the distant past downloaded the Flagship and Youngling Vulture plans, and four minutes after deciding to break off my futile defense in Losuobi, with another four minutes to go for the CPA, I was beginning building basic defenses with my fleet in support, greatly aided in my swift movement to the planet by the protected logistic stations set up earlier during the eradication campaigns in the bottom half of the cluster.

The one AI planet bordering Gorgar had an Advanced Factory, so was one of the planets the special forces really cared about, but under the circumstances, why care? The only important thing was getting a planet for the AI to set waves to.

Now, I had had a lot of resources to start out with, but with the destruction of the Losuobi military station, the flow of salvage had dried up, and I had an urgent need of resources. Building full caps of turrets and marks 2 and 3 of forts doesn't come cheap! At CPA +3.22, I was down to 6 million metal with only one mark 3 fort near completion and the remaining forts merely started, so I popped the distribution node in Gorgar.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img823/6168/kfey.jpg)



Which is why, for the first time in the game, I found a real need for distribution nodes! I hastily popped the other seven distribution nodes in areas under my control, gaining enough metal for another one and a half mark three for for the paltry price of 8 AIP.

Gorgar was now strong enough to deter or at least slow down  any incidental push from the threat fleet and any wave spawning in the immediate future would have it as a target, so it was time to return my fleet to Beta to find out just what the special forces had in mind.

If the special forces did not continue pushing their assault and returned to something like business as usual, the rest of the forts would just have to be built as resources allowed, and in this situation, I'd also build my sixth spire hub directly in Gorgar on top of the command station, to provide additional firepower.

If they did push the attack, it would be time to nuke them till they glowed, then shoot them in the dark, and then pursue a campaign of desperation to finish the game as swiftly as possible, nuking any obstacle that couldn't be immediately rolled over and truly burning the bridges in case of temporary setbacks.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img819/1903/sg8p.jpg)


They didn't push.

After completing the utter destruction of all defenses in Losuobi, they returned to Mictinhas, the planet they came from, and began patrolling back and forth in AI territory as usual, going first for Zinglaos in cluster 4 (a frequent choice).

I have not yet found found out what the hell made them decide to go attack a planet that had been mine for over two hours.

I have considered whether the AI had first been drawn at random to go to Mictinhas, then having reached that location, had decided that a shortest path to somewhere in cluster 4 would go through Beta, and then, having found itself in Losuobi, decided to take out all opposition before moving on to its target, but if that had been the case, why did it turn around after destroying Losuobi and return the way it had come?

Also, a weakness of this theory is that while cluster 4 is only four warp jumps away from Mictinhas via Beta, it is also possible to reach the same planet in cluster 4 via four warp jumps in cluster 3, all of which were under AI control at the time. Deliberately trying a shortest path going directly through two extremely heavily defended planetary systems? It is obviously strong enough to do it, but it is something I hadn't seen before. If it did that, why did it not react to my earlier moves in cluster 2 at the ARS planet after bottling up the cluster 2 entrance with Beta? Though considerably smaller at that time, the 50-60k special forces were surely as much stronger than the defenses and fleet as constituted at that time than the 147k special forces were stronger than my current defenses and fleet, so looking at proportional strength estimates, why act in one case and not the other?

So it remains a mystery, and one I would dearly love to know the answer to.



Extreme City Building

Be that as it may, I had survived. Not knowing why the AI acted the way it did or whether it would do it again, it was unclear whether I'd be better off pursuing one victory type or the other, but it having been graphically illustrated that the only threats that really mattered in this game were the special forces and the frequent regular waves, the CPAs being more of an added annoyance on top of the infrequent exowaves, which by themselves, while nominally dangerous, were easily dealt with by having my entire fleet present when they showed up.

The one thing that was clear was that regardless of where I'd be going from here, I'd need more cities, and I'd need them quickly. I'd need resources first, as the construction of Gorgar had utterly drained reserves, but I'd use every resource from now on building building cities, one after the other, until I had enough force that... Well, that the special forces would still be able to roll over the fleet, if I am honest, but at least it would be able to give a better account of iself, should it come to that, or perhaps even be enough for a strike on the AIs home systems backed up by nuclear arms to deal with the special forces.

Gorgar, the tanking planet, became Spire City Zeta at 40:37, some 36 minutes after the invasion of Losuobi by the special forces started. Having an AI neighbour, it only became level 1, but as I had expected that did not prevent me from building another spire colony ship to start the next city.  Zeta got three shard reactors, all in a long range configuration of shield and Rail Cannons in all other slots, and placed such that all three shields would overlap the military station on the planet. (Which amusingly enough was a military 2 station for the first hour or so of its life, as I'd been somewhat pressed during the initial construction and didn't spend time on reassigning one of my existing mil2's to mil3 – this only happened once things cooled down). 22 force shields – all mark 3, and all normal mark 2, and four out of six hardened mark 2 – defended the clump of gravity 1, lightning, and flak turrets that made up the penultimate defense.

Neama, the last open city spot in the home cluster, cluster 1, became Spire City Eta at 40:50, 13 minutes later, with an exo charge of 75%.

...both of course required significant resources to build up, but when they completed, my spire cities were:

Alpha, Beta: L2: habitation centre, 5 reactors (mixed armaments)
Gamma, Delta: L2: habitation centre, 5 shipyards (mixed armaments)
Epsilon: L2: habitation centre, 1 reactor, 4 shipyards (mixed armaments)
Eta: L2: 2 habitation centres, 2 reactors, 2 shipyards (mixed armaments)
Zeta: L1: 3 reactors (long range armaments)

for a total of 16 reactors and shipyards with one habitation centre slot free to be replaced with a shipyard once extra reactors became available, and a spire fleet of:

68 frigates, 16 destroyers, 8 cruisers, 4 battleships, and 2 Dreadnoughts.


Here is a smashing image of Gorgar at 40:56, just before it is hit by 18k ships in dual regular waves, both of which are destroyed at an entirely acceptable casualty rate by repeatedly flying back and forth on their flank alongside their line of advance.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img820/1138/5twm.jpg)



The second Dreadnought completed construction back at the shipyards in Gamma during the battle and, sped on by the highway of logistics stations, arrived in time for the kill.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: relmz32 on June 15, 2014, 12:10:51 PM
...
Anyhow, I continued killing the remaining four thousand ships or so in Losuobi, and three minutes later when checking the galaxy map, I noticed that the special forces were now in Mictinhas, just one warp away, a planet with no special buildings whatsoever, and zooming in to take a closer look to see what it was doing there, I could see that it was moving towards Losuobi.
...

Did they happen to have Special Forces Rally Guardians in the initial attack? These Guardians act as rally points for the Special Forces, and are one of the few ways for the Spec Forces to go on the offensive.
Otherwise, that seems like a bug.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 15, 2014, 02:23:00 PM
Good question, relmz32. I didn't even know something like that existed, but now that you mention it I have looked it up on the wiki. Sounds nasty.

Looking at the save I made when the swarm engaged, there was no SF Rally Guardian present, but if there had been, I guess it could already have been killed by the fixed defenses in the time between special forces arrival and my save. On the other hand, it took several minutes for the special forces to arrive from where they'd been down in cluster 5 - I don't really see how any unit, be it guardian or other, could have stayed alive for that long without getting killed in the ongoing slaughter.

Unless Guardians go into carriers and it was in the last carrier to be popped, but in that case, would it have attracted them?

Based on the available evidence I can't rule out your theory. Unfortunately I don't have any save from when I screenshotted them on the way, only from when they had already arrived, so there's not way for me to test. :(

That said, I like your guess because if that happens to the case, it can be avoided by being alert, and since I did not know to look for such Guardians in the first place, it increases the odds of my having overlooked one, if one happened to be present.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 17, 2014, 01:42:24 PM
(http://imageshack.com/a/img844/8421/0o9p.jpg)

- Endgame -




Concept: Theta Sacrifice

There I was, 7 spire cities to my name, and waves of a size that mandated the presence of my full fleet to kill at the tanking spire city Zeta. Additionally, as had been graphically demonstrated several times, due to spire city Beta leading directly not only to cluster 3 but also 4, whenever the AI amassed significant threat – such as happened every time after a CPA – it was able to flood directly into Beta. Moreover, the regular charging exowaves were getting somewhat larger and having all of their components hit Beta first, except for the rare case of a component of the wave going for Zeta, meant that Beta had a tendency to get swamped, requiring extensive rebuilding. Finally, with exowaves and CPAs synchronizing, this was getting really dangerous, and could only be expected to become more so if I built my next cities inside cluster 2 safely behind Beta as I had originally planned.

Something would have to be done.

Considering the available options, my choice fell on building my eighth spire city somewhere in cluster 3, where it would be a tempting target for AI, and at considerable distance (as shortest paths are calculated) from Beta, such that threat would not be deterred from attacking it when my fleet was in Beta. It would thus be my willing sacrifice when exowaves arrived or CPAs were declared. Yet, to ensure my ability to come to its aid swiftly when I so desired, I'd also want a connected route to it of highly defended logistics stations.

The location chosen was the gateway between clusters 3 and 5, one of the locations considered earlier during planning due to my thinking at that time that it would work as a blocker as I sought to isolate the AI from cluster 3.

Now, I had no such glorious  goals: Its purpose was to be a living sacrifice, to die that others might live.

A considerable amount of work went into setting up all that, what with having to return to Zeta to kill waves every now and then, but the special forces stayed in their own territory rather than going on more rampages, so I began relaxing again.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img856/3307/hndw.jpg)



By 42.15.34 I was finally ready to build spire city Theta, after having smashed the latest 21k double-wave (9k AI1, 12k AI2) hitting Zeta a minute apart and rebuilding to full caps.

Zeta had a Lightning V turret controller, but there was no point in trying to protect it giving that the entire planet and spire city were sacrifices, so I did not even try. I built the spire city to level 2 with a habitation centre and five shard reactors, all in my default mixed defences configuration, and left it alone.



Shipyard City Iota

Next up was the construction of spire city Iota at 42.27.54 back in cluster 2, a combined reactor/shipyard city.



Proof of Concept: Theta Sacrifice

The next CPA came at 42:44, synchronizing with the exowave, and to my great pleasure it worked as I had planned: Theta was killed off by part of the exowave and the CPA while the other components of the exowave got killed at Beta by my fleet aided by the fixed defences.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img842/3102/p2mac.jpg)



The survivors of the exowave that hit Theta then flew through the corridor of four logistics stations backed up by full caps of all Spider turrets and Sniper III turrets in each system (the stations themselves located as far from the route of travel as possible, to ensure they'd be out of range of anything without planet-wide range), and one or two ragged survivors finally arrived in Beta. Meanwhile, the CPA survivors (which were most of them) continued on the same route in order to reduce the planetary defences one by one, which made it trivial, once the exowave was dealt with and ship losses replaced, to send in the fleet to eradicate the CPS remnants – by then down to 11,000 or so.

It did take some time to recover after that, sending in rebuilders to the three logistics stations that had gotten overrun and, of course, the spire city in Theta had to be completely rebuilt, but if felt much safer than the previous CPA.

The experience was proof that the concept worked, and worked well.



Sacrifice City Kappa

With the concept vindicated and needing a lot more reactors to afford enough shipyards to gain the third Dreadnought, I chose Mictinhas, the planet that led the AI waves to Losuobi when that was my tanking planet, and a planet that was exactly three jumps away from both Beta and Zeta, to be the second sacrifice. Construction started at 43.24.06.

Unfortunately, Kappa could only be built to level 1 (for now) as it was adjacent to Dinkin, which as the alert reader will recall held an ARS as well as Experimental Engineers and Plasma starship fabricators... and four counterattack IV posts.

Kappa thus became my tenth city, and I was allowed to build a second Galactic Capitol, the bureaucrats manning the Big Gun having outgrown the original building, or something like that. Whatever the reason, the answer was obvious: put the second capitol in Beta as well.

Shipyard City Lambda

Shipyard Lambda got the remaining spot in cluster 2 at 43.37.02, and once it finished construction I was finally able to get my third Dreadnought!



Planning

It struck me that it might be a good time to rethink my plans. The exowaves were becoming worryingly large with my eleven spire cities and two galactic capitols, and I occasionally had to resort to a warhead to keep things under control. Did I really want to build another three cities to gain the fourth Dreadnought, when in order to do so two of the cities would have to be built in clusters 4 or 5?

The less space remaining to the special forces, the harder it would be to bypass them or lead them astray, and tough as the three Dreadnoughts, six Battleships, 24 Cruisers, and 100 Frigates of the spire fleet were, they wouldn't stand a chance in an open fight against the special forces, now numbering in excess of a hundred and sixty thousand ships, and given that the special forces featured copious numbers of Spire Gravity Drainers, any fight with them would by necessity end up as an open fight – kiting them in huge circles while killing them would not be an option.

With a heavy heart I shelved my plans for conquest. Eleven cities would just have to do. I really did want to approach this as a conquest game, I really, truly, did, but the risk management was getting out of hand.

On the positive side, having to kill every regular wave by hand was getting excruciatingly and mind-numbingly boring, so stopping conquest and moving into the endgame would provide me with an end to the game before too long, one way or the other.

Since I was not going the full conquest route, building a larger spire fleet, I decided that I would pursue the spire shard option to gain direct spire support.

First I would have to knock out the remaining core-A shield network, two of which were located with ARS's in cluster 2 and one with an ARS in cluster 4.



Timing is Everything

The first step hinged on timing. Last time I had ventured into Dinkin, one of the ARS' planets in cluster 3, it took the special forces several minutes to arrive. Now, I didn't want to fight the special forces, and wiping out the four counterattack posts and then the command station before they arrived was a possibility, but I dearly wanted to get the Experimental Engineers for quicker repairs and construction. I was using my marks 1 and 2 of engineers to construct ships back at Gamma and mark 3 as the roving engineers, to be applied wherever the current need was. Having the Experimental Engineers as another roving patrol defaulting to helping with ship construction would significantly aid me in rebuilding my fleets and cities after waves.

My increase in AIP since the last hack meant that hacking was a realistic option. 1093 AIP (total 1459 earned)  and 565 balance resulted in a hacking response of 293.

Well, I had unlocked Scout Starships I-IV and could arrange for complete vision of most of the paths used by the special forces, so the way forward was obvious: I did a dry-run, moving my fleet to Dinkin and measuring the time it took for the special forces to show up. At four minutes and 25-30 seconds it was not quite long enough to hack without interference, but so long as I was willing to accept casualties, sacrificing ships for time, it should be enough.

I retreated my ships out of the wormhole and waited for the special forces to return to their far haunts, after which I sent in the fleet and a hacker again, beginning a fabricator hack immediately,



(http://imageshack.com/a/img849/7369/dn6q.jpg)



As expected, the special forces were not in time, though they did come rather too close for comfort. Immediately upon hack completion, the valorous Dreadnought fleet tucked tail and fled, losing a significant percentage of the fleet to the harrying attackers, but I had gained the Experimental Engineers and the Plasma V starship, which frankly was pretty much irrelevant by then considering the spire fleet. I had also gained a lot of hacking progress, my balance going from 565 to -5.

Hacking response for a future hack would be 2286 (only 1093 if not negative), meaning that I'd have to earn another 800 or so AIP for a hack to be done at a reasonable level, so this pretty much spelled the end of hacking – but then again, I had also accomplished pretty much everything I wanted.

It would be nice to hack the remaining ARS' to choose their ship type, but except for one of them, the extra ships would not do a lot for me under the circumstances.

The one ARS that would have been nice to hack was the one on Dinkin, as its second choice was Munitions Boosters, but it was a choice between hacking the ARS and hacking the Engineers, and the Engineers were, by far, the most valuable for me at this point.

A marginal increase in combat power (given that I already had all Flagships marks I-V) versus 39 more teleporting engineers, each individually better at working than the mark 3's? It wasn't even a contest: I always focus strongly on logistics in strategy games.



Tedious Cleaning House


There'd been quite a few hacking reponse waves hitting Gorgar, spire city Zeta, and they leveled the place and spread out.

So they had to be stamped out.

Then I had to deal with two out of the three core-A shields, and I chose the one in Dinkin for its Bulletproof fighters, even though that meant destroying four counterattack posts. I did this only because they were the Special Forces Captain's posts. If the Mad Bomber had owned them, I'd have said to hell with it and gone for the third of the shields, skipping that ARS. There's no way I'd inflict the pain of dealing with four mark 4 Mad Bomber counterattack posts on myself if I could help it.

So the counterattacks had to be stamped out.

One thing with the other, cleaning up took me another hour or so, but by 45.08.05 when the next CPA announced 17,428 ships synchronized with 110 AI ships (145,841 S), the A network was down, I had all four marks of Bulletproof fighters, I could finally build sacrifice city Kappa up to level 2 (allowing me to shift a few reactors to shipyards in cluster 2), and the situation was under control.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img823/1140/og7cj.jpg)



Onwards!

Next, I blazed a path to the shard next to the Special Force's homeworld, burning the AI's command stations on the way to ensure a safe recovery.

When I say “next”, let it be understood that what I really mean is something along the lines of “after yet another rebuilding, regular wave-crushing, etc etc period, I finally got to blaze that bloody path”. I also neutered a few more AI planets on general principles and as to allow me to get perfect vision of the special forces movement.

The shard would have to fly through neutral space for four warp jumps accompanied by the fleet in order to reach Theta, after which it should be home free, following my trail of logistics I stations the 11 jumps from Theta to the homeworld.

I made sure that the special forces were far away when I started, as they tend to be attracted to defend the AI's core worlds, and then began the survey.

It worked like a charm, and by 46:50:13 I was ready to build the Transceiver.

Now, the Transceiver flavour text said the AI would hit me with everything it had, and that even starting building it would make the AI go mad, so this strongly suggested that I would need my defences ready for a final fight the moment I began building. Since everything AI aggression connected so far to the FS story had meant that the AI would send exowaves, I chose to believe that to be the case here as well.

Primarily on the grounds that the AI hitting me with everything that it had would mean hitting me with the special forces, which was rather too scary to contemplate.

It was not clear to me from the information presented whether it would be a short and intense fight or a long fight of attrition, but since it was presented as an alternative to conquest and going to smash the home stations, it it was a war of attrition, it probably wouldn't be a question of hours, but of quarters of hours.

I had Fallen Spire exo on 73%, and the last CPA was at 45.08.05, which meant that I was due another CPA in the not so distant future. This argued in favour of waiting for both to occur.

On the other hand, I had just defeated two regular waves at spire city Zeta, had full metal (~18.2 million) and lots of salvage from Zeta, which counted in favour of getting on with the show now.

If I waited for the next CPA, I'd probably just find myself waiting for the next regular waves, and then waiting for the exo and then... No, It was time to end this.



The Final Battle

I stripped spire city Zeta of all the uniques – all 22 forcefields, all mark IV and V turrets, all forts, and built them all over again in spire city Beta.

Amusingly enough, I forgot to lay out the minefields at first.

With 13 forts and 1 modfort supporting the HBCs, a full set of I-III turrets, all my mark IV and V turrets, all forcefields except mark 1 and 2 of mark 2, and a considerable arsenal of warheads, it was time to get on with the show: I would stop most attackers dead in Beta while not worrying too much if a few dozen ships got past, as my defence in depth of sniper and spider turrets would eat up most of them, and spire city Alpha would kill anything that managed to survive that.

(I left the Gravity Turret IIIs in tanking city Zeta – in case of a long fight there'd be regular waves hitting Zeta, and Zeta would fall – but with the turrets there it would take much longer, and probably, with the near synchronization of waves, the first wave from each AI would hit Zeta before it fell to either of them, meaning that it would take two waves from one AI before an AI got to hit somewhere else with a wave – a random planet if it didn't move forth a warp gate guardian, Beta if it did).



(http://imageshack.com/a/img823/6103/9vf5.jpg)



6 Lighting III, 6 Lightning II, 5 Lightning I, 3 Armored III, 1 Armored II, 3 Armored I and 2 Nukes (just in case). A missile silo on the planet. Mark 3 and Experimental Engineers ready to repair and build new nukes, should it prove a drawn out fight. Call it one Lightning III produced per four minutes once the going got tough, to give some slack for Engineers to shift targets. (Armored III would take much more work).

It would have to do.

Having Alpha as a fallback position should Beta fall, I'd not be forced to sacrifice my fleet to hold it in a desperate last defence, but, if pressed by overwhelming odds with failure imminent, I could evacuate my fleet and nuke whatever remained in Beta while building forts in Alpha, assuming I had not drawn down my metal stocks during the fight. (Unlikely due to salvage, but not impossible depending on when the Beta command station died in that scenario).

46.58.50 the construction of the Transceiver completed and I got a 30 minute countdown. So it wasn't a fixed number of large waves, but a countdown, during which I'd undoubtedly be hit by exowaves.

So be it.

46.59.32, a mere 42 seconds later, the FS charge went from 73% to 100% and I got the message that 222 ships of 175,156 S would be arriving shortly.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img850/1421/wk99.jpg)



Some numbers are more important than others. Right at that point, the important number was 27%.

I won't say that it scared me shitless, but 27% charge in less than a minute? I hoped it was a one-time occurrence having to do with the construction of the Transceiver, because if that much strength spawned every three to four minutes for thirty minutes, I'd be in deep shit.

I decided to use warheads early, such that I'd get maximum time to produce new warheads, and to use them often rather than trying to see how little I could get away with. If waves were really every three to four minutes, there'd be precious little time to rebuild spire city beta between waves, which meant not allowing any of the spire city structures to be destroyed in the first place.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img819/9046/etyd.jpg)



47.02.11, 12 AIP (1168 total), 2 minutes and 39 seconds later, most of the first wave had been destroyed. The rest swiftly followed. At most two-score vessels managed to fight their way to the next systems up the line, and they got killed by the fixed defences in depth through the next few systems they transited. To my considerable relief the next wave did NOT spawn within the next two minutes, giving me enough time to repair and rebuild the fleet.

47.08.19 the second FS exo declared, 216 ships (191,542 S). So while it was definitely not 27% per minute, it was still rather faster than before Transceiver construction, and it was larger than the first one. Destroying the major components of this wave took around three minutes and 11 AIP (1079 total), and there was a major breakout of about 170 vessels along the road road to Alpha, the most heavily defended route I had – five planets in a row fully defended by sniper and spider turrets of all marks. A single Hunter-Killer survived to reach Alpha, where it was unceremoniously shot dead upon arrival by the spire city's defences.

47.11.56 I got the message that the Mad Bomber would be sending a wave of 10,369 ships and 110 starships to tanking city Zeta.

47.17.10 the third FS exo declared, 208 ships (176,918 S), considerably less than the second exo, but I was not complaining. The Mad Bomber wave had arrived in Zeta and was two-thirds of the way to the station, slowly advancing while wiping out the Gravity turrets. It still had that last distance to go, and the turrets – including all the tractor turrets – to destroy before destroying the spire city and the station.

Four seconds later the next Special Forces Captain wave was announced for Zeta, and I breathed a sigh of relief – with only 11 minutes and 32 second to go on the countdown, these waves were the last ones I'd see before the countdown's end, and the tanking city had stayed alive long enough that both got directed to it rather than having one dumped somewhere at random in an interior cluster.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img829/2069/uazg.jpg)



Despite its lesser strength, this wave hit my defences in Beta harder than the two previous ones. The loss of sacrifice city Theta and most of the logistic defenceposts leading to it during the first two waves resulted in more of the exo going directly for Beta, and it was soon felt. Sacrifice city Kappa still stood, having been left alone so far.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img829/7414/rfdl.jpg)



The third wave took slightly less than three minutes to deal with due to its intensity and cost 13 AIP (1192 total), as I subjected the fewer ships to more warheads. Only a handful of AI ships managed to make their ways to the next planets, where the fixed defences dispatched them readily.

The situation was under control and I could rebuild and recover from losses, but I sure was happy that I had stocked up on warheads before building the Transceiver. Without the ability to use them liberally, this tale would have been much bloodier.

With Zeta fallen, it made sense to build the mark 2 and 3 Gravity turrets that used to defend it, and which had so splendidly slowed down the first wave so the second also went there before the station fell, in Beta. I now set them up in grid covering all the AI's attack paths through Beta. They wouldn't help much, but every bit helped and they were available. The same went for the Zeta's tractor turrets and its minefields.

With some four minutes to go or so and the fourth exo nearly charged, the AI called a CPA. Given that it would activate far on the other side of the countdown, I couldn't care less. If that end of countdown was anywhere near as apocalyptic as had been hinted, another seventeen thousand ships for the AI's threatfleet would make little difference, and if it was not? Well, then I was in my most heavily defended taking spot so far with a stockpile of warheads.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img842/2767/2dqie.jpg)



47.26.12 the fourth exo declared its arrival, 257 ships (185,540 S). The last exo wiped out my two remaining planets in cluster 3, including sacrifice city Kappa, and proceeded into Beta, but it was too late, too late.


(http://imageshack.com/a/img837/3872/5wjh.jpg)



The countdown completed and a spire fleet of considerable size spawned on my homeworld. 2 Superdreadnoughts, 18 Dreadnoughts, 63 Battleships, 304 Cruisers, 336 Destroyers, and 672 Frigates. Not only were the Superdreadnoughts much more powerful than the Dreadnoughts, every ship class did 16 times as much damage and had twice the hitpoints of the corresponding ships I had built, which felt rather like cheating to me, but was probably done for balance reasons to ensure their ability to deal with anything the AI could throw at them without having to provide them in their thousands.

I set down to watch the show, defending Beta from any incursions, while the spire split its fleet and went on the offensive. I was a bit concerned about that splitting, since formidable as it was, smaller detachments could conceivably be overwhelmed by the special forces, and where would I be then?

That said, it was a splendid feeling when the largest fraction of the fleet passed through Beta on the way to the AI territory!


(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/4047/2xfc.jpg)



And an even better feeling when I looked at my homeworld to check if any ships lingered there to defeat it and saw that a second spire fleet had spawned. And some time later, a third.

I was no longer concerned about the AI managing to defeat the spire – since I had been able to hold it back on my own, there was no way a steady supply of spire reinforcements of that magnitude would fail to push back the AI, and should it ever devolve into a stalemate, which seemed extremely unlikely given the strength of the spire forces, I'd be able to intervene decisively with my fleet and warheads where it would tip the scales.

The only thing to worry about now was the possibility of the spire killing some of the remaining counterattack posts and sending waves to my homeworld or undefended planets nearby, but in that case I'd have several minutes warning to move major defences and my fleet there to help protect it, so I considered this only a small threat given the patrolling spire fleets.

Interestingly enough the Fallen Spire exo charge continued as wildly as it had done before, so the fifth wave spawn soon enough, but most of it got eaten up by roving spire fleets and only about a third of it reached Beta.

A few minutes later the first AI homeworld came under spire attack, and within two minutes the second was attacked by another fraction of the fleet, each led by a Superdreadnoughts. This triggered countdowns for undoubtedly nasty exo retaliation, but given that the AI only took some four minutes to kill each AI homeworld, this was of little import. My mark IV scouts provided a glorious view of the carnage.

47.38.35 victory was declared, just short of forty minutes since the Transceiver finished construction, and this tale, and this brutal long campaign, was finally at an end.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img841/3149/sgxpd.jpg)


Those nine counterattacks, many with unknown desination? Yes, the AI got triggerhappy.



(http://imageshack.com/a/img823/5535/axvl.jpg)




-----



Epilogue (rambling all over the place)

You have been warned. These are my thoughts upon concluding the game, they are rambling, and I write them more to give my thoughts shape and to aid my own recollections in the future of how I felt at this time as I do to inform anybody else, save perhaps Keith, who deserves a final status on his challenge.

If you read on, don't say you haven't been warned.

I learned a lot during this Fallen Spire game and am now confident of my mastering the basics of AI War, having played it as my primary game in the month and a half since I bought it. There is a lot left to learn, particularly with regards to efficiently playing the game rather than solving most problems by brute force and patience, but those are the refinements that come automatically with time in any game once one has grasped the base mechanics.

There's no way a second FS game set up the same way would take nearly as long to win, but if I did set it up the same way using the same map or one as favourable for defences, and if I did go for a Transceiver victory, I feel confident of winning.

Not that I'd want to play a game with the same setup. There are a ton of options left untried, which gives the game great replayability: I have by no means mastered it all, only the corner labelled basic gameplay.

AI War – Fleet Command does not stand unrivalled, but I am pleased to say that it belongs amongst a very select group of strategy games that I did not feel certain within a week or two of purchasing of mastering in short order.

It took me nearly a week to get my first win on 7/7, learning the basics, and this 9/9 spire game took three, mastering those same basics and using spire fleets, and it would certainly have been lost several times without the experience gained in the handful of aborted spire attempts before chronicling this game, where I got to learn about hybrids and “funny” things like tackle drone launchers and lightning torpedo frigates. And even with all that knowledge, I did lose once back in chapter 3 – a truly wonderous experience, though one that hit hard at the time.

As such, it is time to back off from AI War for a time to play other strategy games I have in my backlog. I seldom play the same game for a long time since most games are, when all is said and done, fairly simple once you grasp their basic mechanics, and most mechanics are fairly simple to learn or at least to grasp enough that they can be manipulated by superior strategy. The great pleasure to me in playing strategy games against computer opponents is not so much in beating them as in learning how the game works.

I will undoubtedly return for the next expansion and, as I predicted a month ago, on a regular basis every few months after that whenever the fancy strikes me for some AI War. Almost certainly with less extreme setups that will lead to victory or loss in less time. 46 hours is something that is hard to justify ripping out of the calendar, even during spring and summer with lots of mandated vacation.


Finally, I'd like to give a big thank-you to Keith for proposing this challenge, when I asked for game set-ups fit for my playing style.  Despite my misgivings about going directly from 7/7 to 9/9 with dual-purpose AIs, you were entirely right: This was right up my alley after the initial modifications doing away with the 10/10 Hybrids and cross planet waves.

In the end it didn't become the conquest game I was expecting it to be, as at the largest extent before calling in the spire reinforcements I only controlled 49 and the AI 38 out of 100 planets, with the remaining 13 razed and outside the control of either functioning as a buffer of sorts, but it was great fun to drive the AIP up to tech four territory, to see how utterly incapable the defences from the basic game were for dealing with the regular waves at that AIP level at difficulty 9, and then crush them anyway.



On Specific Gameplay Elements (rambling part 2)

Amusingly, I never unlocked Assault Transports, something I based on my first game had considered essential. As it turned out, when you are conquering almost all the real estate in your neighbourhood, there really is little point.

I loved the ability to defend in depth with turrets that came with the turret patch – it brought a lot of options of both strategic and logistic nature to the game.

The use of forts felt fairly ridiculous – those galaxy-wide caps seem well and truly designed for a more normal game. I fairly early reached a point where any further defensive knowledge unlocks would only aid single chokepoints and I had to put all forts in one or two locations to have them contribute meaningfully at all. Unlike forcefields, which work as cheap force multipliers by extending the life of other defences they defend, forts add linearly to defence.

Given that furthermore forts have a much higher ratio in both construction costs and energy per damageoutput that turrets have, while having a lower ratio of hitpoints/damageoutput, which is entirely unlike the HBCs that have the speciality of high damage and hitpoints at low cost, it is my strong belief the game would be better off (at least for all NON-minimum AIP games) with forts treated like turrets rather than forcefields or HBCs, getting per-planet caps rather than per-galaxy caps.

On energy costs – the current balance seems to work, at least for Fallen Spire games. A basic set of defensive turrets for a planet on the interior logistics roads in cluster 2 taken by the AI's exos was full caps of mark 3 needler turrets and marks 1-3 of spider and sniper turrets, for an energy expenditure of 240,000, meaning that each such lightly defended system was 90,000 in energy debt, while the sets of turrets for the defended logistics systems in cluster 3 had marks 1-3 of spider, sniper, and missile turrets, and marks 3 of needler, laser, MLRS, flak, and lightning, for an energy expenditure of 403,200 and an energy debt of 253,200.

Defending 7 such planets in cluster 3 and 8 in cluster 2 in addition to my chokepoint, tanking location, and fleets was a heavy strain on my energy finances, at the point of greatest extent requiring 101 active matter converters to support the 49 energy collectors 7 econ III stations, 7 econ II stations, and 6 econ I stations. It was really great that I had the option to build those defences, could in principle build them wherever I wanted, and still felt constrained in my actions having to carefully balance expenditures, if I wanted to ensure that I wasn't draining my resources so quickly that I might suddenly be out of luck with respects to repair or reconstruction, should the AI manage to take out the station on the system it was attacking and I was collecting salvage from.

While the cost of running the matter converters was greater than my regular income from harvesters and stations, I attempted at all times to maintain a 20% of full metal-pool reserve and keeping my regular metal-income deficit below that needed to use half that reserve (so 10% of full pool) during a 2 minute station rebuilding salvage blackout. As always, mathematics was my friend, and this allowed me to keep on repairing and building through some of the most troubled times.

Regarding the Spire city buffs, I loved them too. The cities were now strong enough that they were respectable defenders without being dominant. Forts and turrets remained the primary source of defence, even in spire cities, but the spire cities contributed meaningfully to their own defence, something I did not at all feel in the attempt before the buff was introduced.

The special forces were, in a word, thoroughly ridiculous. If at any time up to and including during the Transceiver countdown they had decided to kill me, they could easily have done so. But then again, that's part and parcel with the what AI War is all about in the first place – the AI being preoccupied doing something else – so it is definitely not something to complain about. And they sure did scare me, the one time they unexpectedly went on the offensive and wiped out my tanking planet.

The final Transceiver countdown.... It felt like a bit of a letdown, to be honest. Those waves, being only marginally more powerful than the waves before I built the transceiver, never stood a chance against the forces I assembled to meet them in spire city Beta. Sure, I was at 11 spire cities then, and somebody building it after only 5 cities would have had a much smaller spire fleet to defend with, but then again, somebody at 5 cities would receive much smaller exos and the 13 forts, the full caps of turrets, and the spire city would have contributed exactly as much damageout to the system at 5 as at 11 cities (excepting only the single extra Galactic Capitol).

Unless experiences from people trying it out with only five cities are very dissimilar, I strongly suggest buffing the Transceiver waves, buffing their frequency or their power. (Or having building the Transceiver make the AI use the special forces as an attack fleet going straight for the homeworld, or perhaps just freeing it to act as normal threat. Why exactly is it using it to defensively patrol its territory at a time when the player is told that the AI is throwing everything at him? Send in the special forces for more fun! Worst case, people will just have to use nukes. Talk about making a killing.)

The spire fleet spawned at the end felt suitably majestic, though I would have liked it to not cause counterattack posts to spawn counterattacks against the player when destroyed by the spire. The fact that I was able to conceive of losing the game to the AI, even after the spire fleet arrived, if the spire were to destroy a couple of counterattack posts in a row with the counterattacks spawning near the homeworld, was sickening. In the event, as you can see from the victory screen, the spire did cause 92,300 ships worth of counterattack post waves on its way to kill the AI, it just happened not to matter because it killed off the AI before the waves could spawn. If it had taken longer about killing the AI, that would not have been the case, and the winner would have been determined by the randomly chosen wave targets and the location of spire fleets at the time of wave spawning. I'd have been able to nuke two of them, so there was some leeway, but still. NOT COMFORTING. Then again, this is arguably less of an issue now, since a patch after I started the game had the great change that made counterattack posts optional.

Hacking... I ended up doing a lot of hacking, and would have been able to do a lot more if I had spread it over more different topics rather than engage primarily in fabricator hacking. On the positive side, after the hacking patch, hacking felt relevant almost to the end, it only really ended being a relevant option when I sank myself by the double Engineer/Plasma hack, that wiped out my remaining 565 HaP and put me at greater than 1300 AI response, at which point I'd have to wipe out more AI planets than were left in the game to reduce it enough to make hacking viable again - but it was worth it!

So overall for this game, I liked how it worked out. I didn't get everything I wanted, I had to prioritize, but I conquered a lot, which allowed me to hack a lot.



Conclusion

In conclusion, I had a blast, and I thank Christopher and Keith for a great game, Pablo for excellent music, and the graphics artists for delivering clear and functional graphics. You've known it for years, but now I too know that you've made a real gem of a strategy game.

If I have any niggles, it is that I'd have liked an even greater focus on logistics, as logistics is what's hard, but then, I almost always feel that way about strategy games and it is not always appropriate given the overall game-flow. Sometimes simplicity is preferable.




Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: relmz32 on June 17, 2014, 03:00:10 PM
...
47.38.35 victory was declared, just short of forty minutes since the Transceiver finished construction, and this tale, and this brutal long campaign, was finally at an end.
...

Congratulations!  Thanks for recording your efforts here in this AAR, it has been fun.

Out of curiosity, what game(s) are you going to move to next?
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on June 17, 2014, 03:21:37 PM
Bravo!  Congratulations on the win :)

My apologies for the terrible rudeness of that SF fleet.  They're really not supposed to ever go on the offensive (though CPAs can convert SF ships to Threat ships if it really runs out; but you weren't facing 100k+ CPAs).  Maybe it decided that the situation warranted blatant disregard for its coding.

Glad to see that most of the rest of it worked out reasonably well, though I'll bear in mind the buffing of the transceiver waves.  It may be that it just hit the hard limit of size, and I hadn't adjusted that high enough.  Safe to say that you were in the upper brackets of "total pain being thrown per second" among single-homeworld games.

A pity the conquest per se didn't work out (though bear in mind the final spire fleet will actually clean out every AI planet given time to do so), but I'd say that your territorial acquisitions were rather more than the mechanics would normally permit.

Most of all, I'm glad you've enjoyed the experience.  It's our great pleasure to maim destroy annihilate serve players with challenges of a kind they can't really find anywhere else.


Anyway, I hope you enjoy the games you're moving on to.  The next expansion will be announced soon (I've been working on it for a while) and the current plan is for it to release alongside the 8.0 official release in early August.  After that there probably won't be many changes for maybe a month other than porting the game to our current version of the Unity engine (to make a linux version possible, among other things), and then the 8.1 official release once the consequences of that have settled down.  So potentially September would be a good time to give it another spin, we'll see.


Best,
Keith
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: PokerChen on June 17, 2014, 03:33:46 PM
 As far as I remember, the Spire fleet offensive can stall at 10/10 - this is according to another old player. It was also before the strategic reserves and a new other niceties were added, so there will be edge cases in which you can't just sit back and watch the show. I hand=waved their buffed stats to be original specification, built using elements not in abundance in this galaxy. ;)

 Now, tip for next time - you don't actually have to take down the core shield network before going for the transceiver. The network gets overloaded when the initial SDNs arrive. Secret helping hand to save Keith from having to code for "do A then do B then..".
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on June 19, 2014, 07:21:05 PM
relmz32 -

First some light fare to relax with: I've got a campaign in Age of Wonders III to finish, then it might be time to play Longbow's Hegemony Rome game - their first Hegemony game excellently implemented the importance of logistics in what was otherwise a fairly simple game, and I am interested in seeing what they've learned from the experience. I've also got the first expansion for Dishonoured lying around waiting for a rainy day; If it never arrives, that's fine - I acquired it as a contingency against my occasional first-person-sneaker nostalgia, which I've suffered since Thief: The Dark Project.

After that, I've been away from Europa Universalis IV for a half year due to EU overload, so I might return to that briefly to catch up - or I might return to another old friend, Crusader Kings II, which I haven't played for over a year and haven't picked up the Old God's expansion for. And, of course, all this time I'll continue playing an ongoing Dominions 4 multiplayer game - still as far as I am concerned the best MP strategy game on the market in terms of strategic depth. (Having an encyclopaedic memory is a definite plus, though it is not required to play.)

Steam's summer sale will undoubtedly sell another 5-10 games to me from the strategy, CRPG, or "interesting experiment too weird to be true" categories, that I expect to play for anything from a few days to a week or two each, sometimes shelving them forever, sometimes picking them up when I have time. (I might pick up a few more Arcen games that way, I might not. As my Whimsy takes me.)  The wonderful thing about games these days, unlike when I was a child in the 70's and 80's, is that they are so darn cheap compared to just about any other entertainment that even if I only get a few hours of entertainment out of a game, I feel it is money well spent on the experiment and can move on with no regrets.

And then of course a few of the games I've been backing on kickstarter will be due over summer, Wasteland 2 being the biggest. Busy, busy, busy.

--------

Keith -

I just saw your announcement for the expansion on the wiki. It looks fairly interesting, probably more of the sort of thing to appeal to your core playing demographic, but the only way to find out is to pick it up in accordance with my existing plan. :) The thing the game really lacks as far as I am concerned is a thorough overhaul of its UI, as there are too many aspects of it that, while functional, feel as if they've been cobbled together from disparate parts and are now held together by duct tape and positive thinking, and mainly the latter, but that's hardly something that sells an expansion and will probably have to wait for you to tack a "2" on the title or do a thorough overhaul when you finally move to Unity4, but given the time shedule for the latter it seems unlikely. ;)

--------

zharmad -

Hah. I did wonder what would happen if I just moved on rather than taking down the core shield network, but decided not to risk it. Good to know that I could save myself that trouble.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Peter Ebbesen on October 17, 2016, 09:11:34 PM
It appears some of the imageshack links died sometime in the past two years; I have reuploaded the images in question.
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: keith.lamothe on October 17, 2016, 09:12:22 PM
It appears some of the imageshack links died sometime in the past two years; I have reuploaded the images in question.
Thanks, and again many thanks for the AAR :)
Title: Re: Ride the Lightning - a newbie Fallen Spire AAR
Post by: Captain Jack on October 17, 2016, 10:22:14 PM
It appears some of the imageshack links died sometime in the past two years; I have reuploaded the images in question.
As someone who joined the forums right after this ended, I appreciate it!