I have not had time this past while to set up another session of Space Empires 4X, so as soon as I had a chance, I went ahead and played a solitaire scenario. This game is so awesome, I refuse to let it gather dust. The solitaire rating on the back of the box is the one thing that made me feel good about picking this up in the first place, so I might as well give this aspect of the game a go….
Setting up took me about half an hour. I was interrupted, so it wouldn’t normally take that long. Also, I have not got a storage system in place beyond the Ziploc baggies that came with the game. So it’s going to take me a little longer than the craft store tackle box guys already.
I was through with the first three turns in another half hour. I bought an extra scout and an extra miner. I also went ahead and got terraforming technology because there was a barren world right next to my home world. I sent all my scouts into deep space and the universe ate them all one way or another. I did find a couple of barren worlds out there and two mineral-10’s as well.
On turn four I bought my last three colony ships and sent them out the lay down roots on the last few worlds. I bought Ship Size-2 and Attack-1 technology. On turn five, I bought Defense-1. Ship Size-3, and three destroyers as my income inched past fifty. On turn six, I bought Attack-2 and three more destroyers.
On turn seven, I brought the Doomsday Machine out at the beginning of the turn. (The rules state: “Doomsday Machines enter in the Economic Phase….”) So I effectively brought it out a turn early. I broke another rule when I built two shipyards in each of two systems. (You’re only supposed to build one at a time… as I’ve pointed out in all of my tips on teaching the game and so forth. Doh!) No matter. I was feeling pretty bold. I sent two battlecruisers and six destroyers out the meet the thing after it at my first colony. And then… the Doomsday Machine completely obliterated my fleet… and blithely continued on and wiped out my home world.
I was staggered.
Things to do for next time:
- Build more shipyards sooner.
- Build a base for crying out loud!
- Watch those “highways of death” carefully. (Every turn counts in the end game.)
- Be willing to sacrifice a few colonies while I build up a good fleet.
- Nine destroyers and four battlecruisers would be a little more effective. Going out the meet the first doomsday machine is foolish with anything less. Better to stay behind, continue to build up, and take advantage of my base and shipyard firepower.
- I’m tempted to ignore deep space and hold on to those scouts. They won’t contribute much in battle, but they could sacrifice themselves to find out what the weaknesses of the Doomsday Machine are. I’m not sure if their maintenance cost is worth that, though.
- An MS Pipeline to a hex neighboring my home world could just barely pay for itself in the course of this scenario. They’re probably not worth bothering with unless the movement bonus is really worth it. It all depends on where I place my second base… and how the Doomsday Machines will tend to move….
Altogether, I spent two hours playing the game. The opening goes fast because there’s not much on the board. The middle goes fast because you pretty well stop exploring and colonizing. A big battle with a Doomsday Machine takes as long as some turns, but that is the whole point of the game at that point, so it’s cool.
I want a rematch!
Okay, I nailed this thing on the second try. With my base, my shipyards, and a healthy number of Attack-2, Defense-2 battlecruisers… I could nuke these Normal-level Doomsday Machines without breaking a sweat. This second game was done in less than an hour-and-a-half. I did not bother with deep space or barren planets, but stayed focused on building up and maintaining a fleet. The first Doomsday Machine came to my home world after crunching through a couple of colonies. The second… I could tell which way it was going to come down, so I built a base and shipyard two hexes from my home world and fought it there. I was in for a shock after that: the scenario ends with the third one coming immediately after the previous one. There were two Doomsday Machines on the board at once! So I killed the #2 and then immediately pulled back to my home world for the final battle with #3. (Even though two of the Doomsday Machines had the weakness to large fleets, I kept forgetting to apply my bonus for that. Doh!)
This was a lot of action for a very small investment of time. Next time I play, I will probably up the difficulty level another notch and maybe try the large solitaire map variant. The key to this being more interesting is– I’m hypothesizing here– making it worth your time to muck about with the deep space hexes. I wonder if burning through the scouts and maybe getting exploration cruisers is worth the effort, though…. I am curious about the Alien Empires solitaire game in the core set. And the amoeba game in the expansion seems to get a lot of positive comments. There’s just so much here to play…!
Adding these solitaire games easily doubles the value of this game. I haven’t seen anything like this in space gaming since the monster scenarios for Star Fleet Battles. Good stuff!