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War of the Dark Spire - AI War 2 AAR

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Kesseleth:
WAR OF THE DARK SPIRE

PART 0: PREPARATIONS

Welcome, one and all, to what is perhaps one of the more foolish ideas to have struck me as of late. My name is Kesseleth. You may know me from the Discord server, if you frequent there. I am here today, to bring you a tale of humanity versus a terrible AI - one which, in order to beat, they must summon another, even more devastating threat. The Dark Spire.

Indeed, this game is designed around the idea of a Dark Spire hacking victory. The Dark Spire is a faction which spawns ships whenever other ships die near a planet they occupy. They are very, very, very dangerous. As far as I know, nobody has ever completed a Dark Spire hacking victory in AI War 2 as of this writing. I shall attempt to be the first.

First, though, certain specifications must be gotten out of the way. There's a multitude of different options available when starting a game. Here are my choices and my reasoning behind them.

Map: Cluster, 200 planets, medium size, seed 577904855

I choose cluster for my map because it allows me to choose a highly defensible starting location. I'm going to start in the corner and use that as a secure defense against waves. This is important, as I will discuss later.




AI Settings:

I left most of the settings normal. However, I did choose to enable the Hunter waves, just to keep things interesting. However, there will be no reconquest waves, no shark, and no other fancy tools that the AI can abuse.


AI Type: Turtle

I'll be dealing with plenty from the Dark Spire, frankly, and I don't care to worry about too many dangerous waves incoming. This setting will mean taking planets will be more challenging, however. Science will be a commodity here - and one I will need a large amount of. This combination will make things challenging. The Warden and Hunter fleets are both set to normal, by the way - as such, attacks from the Hunter fleet will keep at least some ships headed my way on occasion.

AI Difficulty: 9/9/9

This will, hmm... keep things interesting. That is all I have to say on that matter.

Factions: Dark Spire

The Dark Spire is the only faction I have enabled. They are at intensity 10.

Why, yes, I do enjoy pain. How could you tell?  ;)

Colors:

The valiant Human Remnant (that's me!) shall be purple, the color of royalty and victory. The AI will be a variant on red - the Sentinels orange, the wardens are a darker, burnt orange, and the hunters a deep American Rose. The Dark Spire will be a chilling black, with silver trim. They will be attention-grabbing, that is for sure.

Arc: Thanatos

Thanatos may seem an unusual choice, but I want a powerful fleet - and Thanatos will be the most helpful Ark in getting there. His zombification ability may prove invaluable.

Bonus Ship: Parasite

Ditto for these interesting fellows. You may think this is a strange set of ship choices - and you'd be right. Well, let me introduce you to...

The Plan

The plan is simple. I will start by clearing out the entirety of the AI in my small starting cluster, provided that there is no Dark Spire nearby (which I certainly hope to be the case!). From Grove, I will explore each of these 200 planets, hunting for valuable schematics. My main goal is to get lots of turret schematics - I will be using science on turrets, and comparatively little on my fleet. AI Progress will be a relatively low concern. Naturally, I can't let the AI become too powerful, but in general, getting a stronger fighting force is more important than making sure the AI remains docile.

I will grab all the schematics I can find, and then quickly increase my Sentinel Starships to Mark III. This will allow them to scout the rest of the galaxy without an enormous amount of trouble, and then this phase will continue. Meanwhile, I will clear planets using turrets and defend my own planets with even more turrets! Given my initial cluster has only one entrance or exit, I can set up an extremely potent whipping boy (that is, heavily defended planet) which can handle anything the AI throws at me. Other planets that I capture for schematics are ultimately decoys - it would of course be problematic if the AI took down a command station, but if that means it's not trying to take my true home cluster, ultimately it's an acceptable setback.

This is where the Parasites and Thanatos come in. I can't afford to cut corners on my force, not with a 9/9/9 AI and a Dark Spire of max intensity. However, I also don't want to put large amounts of science into fleet ships when that may harm my turrets, but I want both. As such, I chose ships that will let me get even more ships! I will only need to put science into one main ship type - that being parasites, and then hopefully be able to use the enemy's ships against them. In theory, this should let me have a powerful turret force that zombifies a sizeable portion of the enemy, letting me use it to augment my fleet until some sort of equilibrium is hit, where I'm gaining and losing roughly equal stolen ships of decently high Mark level. The Thanatos has the ability to do this as well, so science there should help... maybe. We'll see how much science Thanatos actually will get.

Eventually, I will get the following science spent:

Parasites up to MK IV+
Raiders up to MK III
Turrets up to Mark III+ (may be lower depending on turret desirability)
Thanatos up to Mark ??? (This will require some thought. I've not found Arks overly useful, if I am to be honest, but of those on offer Thanatos has the most potential. I still may leave him at Mark II or so, depending)
Military Command Station up to Mark II(? Unsure)

At this point, it will be time for my ultimate plan. I will figure out the location of the AI homeworld and send my Raiders to destroy the Dark Spire Ward. I may increase their Mark level as needed. It's worth noting that RocketAssistedPuffin says the Ward actually doesn't work, which is a known glitched that hasn't been fixed because nobody has been crazy enough to do something that would involve the Ward in any way. Until now, that is - but I refuse to cheat and I will destroy the ward as intended, necessary or not.

Then... I will hack the Dark Spire. I will return my force to my home cluster, build every turret I can handle on the key planet, get a forcefield down, put up a military command station, and do my best to weather the storm.

What happens here? The Dark Spire will rampage throughout the galaxy, ultimately destroying the AI and winning the war. That much is given. What is not given, is whether humanity will survive. Even if I manage to make it through to the victory message, the Dark Spire will still be rampaging - and that is why I have set up my planets as I did. With only one entrance to my home cluster, I can be rest assured the Dark Spire will approach from that one angle. And my quest, foolish as it may be, is to use my turrets, parasites, Thanatos... everything I have, to take them over and use their fleet against them, against ship after ship after ship, and hold them off.

ALL OF THEM.

I will consider it a victory if I can survive through to the AI's death. However, I will do my damnedest to go one step further, and make it through the aftermath as well. It's worth noting that, if I am careful, I can actually send science labs to any planet the Dark Spire takes down, and get the science for myself, whether I build a command station there or not. Such a strategy may prove invaluable for some last-minute strengthening mid-invasion.

And that, dear readers, is the plan.

Chances of Success: Minimal

This setup will push me to my absolute limits, and then a good bit further. I will make liberal use of saves and loads, but even then I would not call it a guarantee I will even make it to the hack, let alone through it. However, one thing is for sure - it will be damned fun.

Update Speed: Glacial

As a disclaimer, expect updates to be very, very slow. I'm in college, my next semester is not an insignificant workload, and I consider getting an A in Chemistry more important than saving the galaxy from certain doom against two nightmarish forces. I'm sure you understand.

Play along!

I will be posting saves along with updates of my progress. If you want to try your own hand at this nightmare, feel free to join in. Chances are, you'll be able to beat me to the punch of a Dark Spire hacking victory, considering my previous point. I am, for now, not uploading my starting campaign save, though I do have it. This is to make sure that those of you chomping at the bit don't get too much of a lead on me, when I'm away and unable to play on Winter Break.  ;)

Expect the first true episode to be out in a few weeks. Stay tuned, dear reader!

BadgerBadger:
So there's a new feature to the Dark Spire in AIW2 and I'm not sure how well known it is. Every 30 minutes or so, the Dark Spire checks if there are any planets adjacent to a Vengeance Generator that have no non-Dark-Spire units on it. If there are no such units, the Dark Spire will spawn a Locus; if the Locus isn't destroyed in a few minutes, it transforms into a new Vengeance Generator.

So if you're not careful, you'll find the map littered with Vengeance Generators. This might only improve your plans though ;-)

If you don't observe new Vengeance Generators spawning at any point, even if there are planets adjacent to a VG without any defenses, please open a bug report.

Kesseleth:
That's, hmm... potentially problematic. I may want some additional vengeance generators, but too many and my final stand may prove impossible, not to mention they'll spread like wildfire after the hack since defenses will be vanquished across the galaxy. Having said that, I think the AI will do a fine job making sure they don't spread too far in the early and mid game, since a Turtle AI will have strong defenses and even after neutering a planet there will still be turrets and fleets to help defend.

Personally, I wouldn't mind a (challenging and risky) way to remove Vengeance Generators. If I want to systematically eliminate the Dark Spire and truly win the war, that'd make this a true achievement! Of course, I understand why that may not be possible without crippling the Dark Spire's capabilities.

MaxAstro:
Would be interesting if Vengeance Generators had a sort of "density shield", wherein they are vulnerable only as long as there are more generators on the map than there were at the start of the game.  So if you want to get rid of a generator, you need to let the Dark Spire build a new one somewhere else.

BadgerBadger:
You will have a window where you can destroy newly spawning VGs

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