My one big regret with PrezCon was not getting in a game of Space Empires:4x. It’s not like there weren’t people there that would play it. I have the expansion for this thing, but I haven’t finished getting the hang of the core set, yet. There’s plenty of other things I could be doing with a free evening, but I refuse to let this game gather dust. It’s an order of magnitude better than its predecessors and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a space game.
The first thing about the Alien Empire scenario… it was my breaking point for figuring out how to sort all of my counters. With the other ones, I only ever needed to pick out units for just my one faction. I could usually get away with having my guests do their own sorting while I was explaining the rules, but Alien Empires requires all four factions to be in play at once even though it’s a solitaire game.
The thing I was most looking forward in this was seeing each three contrasting approaches to tech spending and fleet composition. I was keen on reaping new tactical insights after watching starships collide in titanic battles, but this didn’t play out quite like I hoped. The aliens hung back and only sent out a couple of uber-wimpy single ship “fleets.” They were sitting ducks waiting for me to come mop them up. Yeah, I think I’ll be bumping up the difficulty factor next time….
It took me about three hours to play through the game. I had several things going in my favor. One, none of the alien empires rolled the “extra econ roll” result. (That could have had a significant impact on the game.) I had a warp point connecting each side of the board, giving me a huge savings in transit time. I also forgot that bases have three hit points. I neglected to check that my fleet could indeed reduce an alien home world in a single turn. I even forgot that defenders go first when there are ties in ship class and tactics levels. (Oops.) In spite of all of these advantages, I still blame the resource multipliers being set at x5 as being way too trivial for a good contest.
Nevertheless, I have to say that the game was still pretty exciting. Before I’d completely realized that it was shaping up to be a cakewalk, I was really engaged as I began to close in on my first kill. I can’t recall a solitaire game being this intense. I was consumed with bloodlust!
Building up my home empire had several non-trivial decisions. I could not, for instance, build all of the colony ships and I wanted along with all of the MS Pipelines I could use on a single round. Also, I made a blunder when I sent my fleet to take out the second alien empire. I lost several cruisers to their mines. If I had thought it through, I wouldn’t have bothered to build them without minesweeper support. Even then… if I wasn’t going to send minesweepers, I would have been far better off sending in more destroyers and scouts! (The mines of course just eliminated my brand new cruisers while ignoring my battered destroyers….) I guess I could have sent in a few scouts to eat the mines for me and done about as well….
Another thing I failed to do was to go ahead and get a second miner. I don’t think you need them in the Doomsday Machine game and I tend to not bother with it in multi-player scenarios. The deep space hexes are wide open for the looting here. I was surprised to see that the Alien Empire rules specifically exclude the “alien” garrisons that are normally guarding the barren worlds out there. I see that the expansion has rules for getting new tech and special abilities from them– that will be a welcome addition when I finally break out the next box.
I sort the ships by class… and figured out it’s easier to manage things if all the colors are together.
The game will certainly change when the output of the aliens is increased. I might be so hard pressed that I don’t have time to build up the perfect economy. Still, swamping them with scouts and destroyers doesn’t seem particularly sporting– and I know that with human opponents that tends not to work out. I think that next time I might try taking out each empire with a different kind of fleet. Maybe… kill one with carriers, another with raiders, and another with big ships. It will take extra time to get the tech for all of that, but the alien AI’s will spend time countering them as well– maybe it’ll net out.
This is a much better solitaire scenario than the more simplistic Doomsday Machine game. I heard someone describe Space Empires: 4X as being a big toy box… and the Alien Empires game is the perfect excuse to drag everything out of it. After getting smashed in my first Doomsday Machine session, I was surprised at how easy this one turned out to be. (Maybe there’s something else I’m doing wrong…?) At any rate, the main thing I want to get out of this is to keep the game “warm” until I can face off against human players again. I do not want to ruin a 3 to 4 hour game session by not knowing the game inside out when the time comes…!