Boy have I got a story to tell.
I just finished taking a couple month long hiatus while I waited for 2.2 to improve and for mods to catch up. I booted up a pretty standard game with a pretty standard human empire. The only exception is that this is the first Ironman game I've ever done, despite hundreds of hours in Stellaris.
Things go well, I claim lots of valuable system, I colonize lots of valuable worlds, I established nice choke point defenses, etc. It's the usual stuff. While I'm experiencing a century long golden age of peace and economic prosperity, I'm also working my way through the L Gate events. Interestingly, despite my hundreds of hours, this was the first time I actually engaged with the L gate stuff, so I wasn't too sure what to expect.
Fast forward a couple decades and I've gotten all the L gate insights and I have the special project to open the gate available. However I decide to wait on it as pretty much the same day I get attacked by a fairly powerful rival empire and his also fairly powerful ally. Fortunately the century of peace didn't make my admirals lazy and complacent, and I was able to get the upper hand thanks to an Ecumenopolis (from the precursor events) which was supplying me with bonkers amounts of Alloys. The war is still bloody, and I can only do one of attack or defend, so I'm unable to make too many gains. I snag a few systems, I snag a planet (which was infested with bug people conquered by the rival empire a decade ago), and that's about it.
So the war is over and I do my usual rounds of "assemble science ships to research the debris." Well you see, there was a battle that had taken place in the L gate system. I, unknowingly, just clicked "research all projects in system" and completely accidentally unleashed a genocidal horde of nanites on the galaxy.
Absolutely nobody was prepared. If I stretched my resources and assembled all my fleets then I could field maybe 60K fleet power. The Grey Tempest was rollingg with 95k fleets, and they had a whole bunch of them. Not to mention I was coming off a fairly strenuous war, so I was short on Alloys, my fleets were injured, and I had new territories to integrate.
Fortunately my L gate didn't spawn a fleet, since it was the one that unlocked it. For about a decade I watched, fairly smug, as my rival and his federation got absolutely torn up by the Grey Tempest. Keep in mind that the two of them are cutting edge, sprawling empires, with vast fleets and vast tax bases. They got absolutely shredded as system after system fell to the grey plague.
I wasn't a complete idiot so I spent my brief stay of execution on completely militarizing my empire. I spammed alloy refineries, assembled anchorage after anchorage, and built several fortress worlds to provide me with naval cap.
When the Grey Tempest finally did come, and yeah they definitely came, I was fielding about 90K of torpedo corvettes and PD destroyers (thanks a helpful tip I may or may not have lifted off the forums). The first battle was super tense as I saw entire squads of corvettes just vanish within seconds. For a little while I was worried that my fleet, built by every last alloy in my now empty treasury, was going to fail. But fortunately they pulled through and the galaxy found a slight ray of hope now that I had proven that the tempest could be beaten. I hope they ignore the fact that this genocide of hundreds of pops was completely my fault.
So this goes on for a decade or two and I fall into a comfortable rhythm. My economy is every expanding, my technology is constantly improving, and my fleets are growing mightier and mightier by the year. Beating off a Grey Tempest fleet becomes a matter of routine as I swing my ~120K combined fleets into their relatively weak 95K. Of course I still take losses worth ~10K alloys every battle, but the battles are sparse enough, and my alloy production is large enough, that it doesn't slow me down.
I'm flooded with refugees from all across the galaxy, and I experience a brief economic crisis when I'm forced to deal with an unexpected surge of population. Fortunately the Alloy Foundries can never get enough employees and they're happily shipped off to produce the weapons to destroy the monsters that drove them from their homes.
The only real threat is when, seemingly out of nowhere, I get invaded by 3 fleets of the Grey Tempest simultaneously. It's a struggle and I lose a couple systems, but I'm strong enough to pick off one, recover, and then pick off another.
So I'm sitting pretty right? My alloy income in getting into 700 a month, my mineral income is still massive, my energy income is sizeable, my food income is massive, everything is basically great. I'm really gearing my empire up to assemble a fleet large enough to take the fight to the Grey Tempest, so I can escape this interminable state of emergency and get back to good old geopoliticking.
Unfortunately the robots take this moment to secede from my empire. I've gotta admit, I was pretty peeved when it happened. If it hadn't been for Ironman I probably would have console commanded it away, or reverted to an earlier save. So my empire has a population of about 1000, maybe 50 of those are robots. Even that number might be an exaggeration. Furthermore, it isn't like the robots take a couple of rural colonies worth nothing to me, no they take some of the most important systems and planets in my entire empire. The most important planet is the Ecumenopolis, maybe the most populated planet in the entire galaxy at 150 pops. It single handedly produces 600 alloys a month for my empire. 600 Basically 80% of my alloy production. So they get that planet and all of a sudden I lose the lifeblood of my empire; alloys. Not only that, but they get my 2 largest shipyards that singlehandedly can produce entire fleets in mere months. Not only THAT, but they get half the planets in my core sector, surrounding my capital, and they spawn an 80K fleet besides my capital.
Militarily I certainly outmatch the AI rebellion if you're simply comparing numbers. I was fielding probably 120k (had just fought a Grey Tempest fleet and was in the middle of reinforcing), while the AI had about 100K. However they controlled the single most important planet and system in my entire empire, the one that kept my fleets running despite decades of constant war. Without that planet I was barely breaking even in alloy production, forget about coming up with the tens of thousands needed to rebuild a fleet.
Also another important thing was the strategic situation. The rebellion was in a prime spot to capture my capital, but I wasn't too far away. I could rush my main fleets over to my capital and take on their 80K. I'd take some heavy losses which I wouldn't be able to reinforce, but I could secure my capital and the rebel systems surrounding it. The other option was to beeline straight for the Ecumenopolis, which was over a year's travel away. A whole year of lacking its alloy production would be bad enough, but waiting to take it AFTER retaking the capital would have been suicidal.
I bum rushed straight for the Ecumenopolis and left my capital to fend for itself. The situation was dire, but I didn't perceive it as an existential threat. As far as I was concerned; the rebel systems would be brought to heel, the rebel fleets would be ground to dust, and every robot within the border of my empire would be converted into legos.
Unfortunately this is where the Grey Tempest come in. Seemingly out of nowhere they explode out of the L gate and from surrounding territories with 4 full fleets of 95K. I'm playing on 0.75X hyperlanes, so my empire is one chokepoint after another. The 4 doomstacks essentially split my empire up into 2, and later 3, pieces which makes navigation and combining forces a nightmare. I would have been hard pressed to deal with 4 doomstacks in a state of absolute peace and prosperity, but I was simultaneously dealing with a major rebellion and had the crucial Alloy supply cut off.
I had to watch helplessly as the four fleets rampaged through my empire, laying waste to every station, ship, and planet they came across. There was no way I could confront them, so I spent all my effort on trying to defeat the rebellion and regain my former resources.
Remember how I built several fortress worlds to beef up my naval capacity? Well the unintended side effect was that the rebellion now controlled fortress worlds with garrisons ranging from 600-2k army power. One of these fortress worlds was right in the way of my precious ecumenopolis. I had to build up an emergency army, call every veteran out of retirement, and arm them with whatever I could find. I built a scrappy little force that was supplemented by the sheer weight of 120K fleet power indiscriminately bombarding a planet's defenders into dust.
It took several years, but eventually I managed to defeat the rebellion and regain my "empire."
I say "empire," because I really only had half the empire. The other half was lost to the Grey Tempest, with little pockets of life split off from the main body. It was an absolute shell of a former great power.
A really annoying thing is that the hundreds of ORGANIC pops I liberated, who had been happily living under my reign for half a century, were super pissed that I conquered them from their robot masters for all of 5 years.
So not only do I have to deal with putting back the pieces of a shattered empire, but I have unproductive, uncooperative, rebellious worlds. Also I think my admirals and generals were a bit overzealous in their reconquest, and they left some of the greatest worlds of my empire, the crown jewels, as smoking ruins.
My former capital still has over 100 pops, but it lost 90% of its districts and buildings. So you can imagine just how nightmarish unemployment and housing is. Same situation with several other worlds, including my primary science world. So not only do I lack resources, but my scientific progress has ground to a halt.
The cherry on top of all this is my failed attempt at securing myself against future threats. All game I've neighbored and been friendly with these 2 pretty quiet empires. They had formed a federation decades ago. I was invited a couple of times, but I rejected because I didn't want to surrender the slightest bit of national power, also I (arrogantly) assumed I would never need them.
Well fast forward to now. Those two empires were fortunate enough to have no L gates, and a looooong hyperlane travel to the nearest L gate. Meaning the Grey Tempest has essentially left them alone. In fact I'm THEIR buffer state, because I had been holding the Tempest off for so many years.
Well they had done nicely for themselves while the rest of the galaxy burned. Their populations swelled, their science grew absurdly fast, and they quickly became the #1 and #2 powers in the galaxy (aside from the two FE's).
So I figured, why not join their federation now? It would ensure that no opportunistic neighbor would kick me while I'm trying to rebuild, and it was safe to assume they had a MASSIVE federation fleet that I could use to beat back the Grey Tempest.
The only obstacle was that one of the members didn't approve of my allowing unrestricted warfare. It was easy enough to fix, as I wasn't going to be declaring war on anyone anytime soon (mainly because my primary rival was now space dust reduced to a handful of worlds and systems). So I change my policy, I send the federation guy a massive bribe to get him to like me more, and I… can't join?!?!??!
So it turns out, the other member of the federation actually APPROVED of my policy of unrestricted warfare. He had an issue with me now DISALLOWING unrestricted warfare. So I'm essentially boned, because there's no way to please them both.
Honestly this has been a very draining, yet satisfying campaign. I'm really happy I chose ironman, because there's no way I would have avoided console commands or savescumming when I saw how BS that AI rebellion was (and it was BS, I didn't do shit to them). I'm playing a fairly unremarkable species and empire, far from one of my favorites over the years, and yet this run is turning out to be one of the most memorable. The sheer desperation of trying to scrounge together every last corvette and alloy to fight my enemies is kind of exhilarating. IDK how to proceed from here tbh. My position won't be too bad if I can just get the unhappy pops under control. Unfortunately the Tempest killed the curator station which had been giving me +15% happiness so yeah…
I still retain the bulk of my population, and the half of the empire that I lost to the grey plague was mostly frontier territory with undeveloped, fledgling colonies. But I also have 4 unpredictable death stacks seemingly content to invade and leave as they please. I kind of get how the Romans felt now. For so long I found it so easy to deal with the "barbarian" horde one by one, but when they spill out the gates in unholy quantities, it's just impossible.
Whatever I do, it's been an amazing run and I can't wait to play again ASAP.
This probably isn't formatted too well and I definitely could have told the story better. However this is the first time I've ever been inspired enough to post about my current campaign, so I'm just trying to get words on paper tbh.
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