Or that the Mercenary fleets that the Marauders could offer you would get stronger and more advanced as the game goes on.
I'm currently playing a tall sort of Megacorporation. I've applied various rules to the galaxy as well as to my own expansion to try to shoot for a different sort of playstyle and to experiment with the game's performance in the later game.
In a 1000-stars sized galaxy, I've allowed 0 guaranteed nearby habitable worlds (I didn't realize at first that this affected all empires in the galaxy, and not just your own) and set habitable worlds to 0.25x. I believe I started the game off with 15 AI empires and max Fallen Empires and Marauders.
I only wanted to expand as far as my home sector would allow — So only four hops away from my homeworld (allow exceptions for very impressive rare resource systems or others). I specifically wanted to invest heavily in megastructures and habitats (and I figured it would be a necessity in a world with such scarce resources). But I ended up getting good rolls on nearby worlds — Had the Omnicodex relic world and Fen Habbanis (very boring precursor now) spawn within my home sector.
The Rubricator event unfortunately fired off a little later and spawned the world like 11 hops away. But it's only a size 15 or 16 on this occasion, so that's fine.
Anyway getting off course…
Because I found myself in a favorable location as far as AI spawns (Xenophile pacifists to the left of me and an Inward Perfection empire to the south of me), I was able to completely ignore military strength for a very large chunk of the early game. I did build a few corvettes and destroyers to clean up some hostile critters in my way.
The game ended up spawning a Devouring Swarm in my galaxy, but they were all the way on the southwest quadrant of the galaxy, about as far from me as they could get.
So I didn't pay them any mind.
One of the primitives just to the northwest of my space achieved FTL tech and emerged as an empire. I quickly made them into a subsidiary and allowed them to eat up all the space that existed outside of my home sector.
Then the Devouring Swarm declared war on me.
"Good luck getting to me!" I thought. But then I noticed that my subsidiary was starting to get eaten.
Apparently they had a wormhole two hops from their capital world that led straight into the heart of my subsidiary. And they were pouring through with a frightening fleet of ~9-10K. Kinda frightening to me anyhow — being around 2270 in Grand Admiral.
All I had was my own modest fleet of about 5K which consisted of my previously mentioned corvettes and destroyers and a small group of ships that were mistakenly sent to me by the Ancient Caretakers. And the Zik-Mok were overwhelming to me (as was every other empire, but they were all friends).
I wasn't sure what to do at first, it wasn't long before my young Subsidiary was completely destroyed by the Zik-Mok and I could see that their fleets were coming my way.
Then, I remembered to do something that I probably have never done before ever because it's almost always completely useless — I hired on all the mercenary fleets from the two Marauder clans that I had communications with.
I opened up the galactic contacts page and where previously everyone had been marked as 'overwhelming' to me, there was a healthy spread of 'Equivalents' and 'Inferiors'.
It really doesn't take much to swing that scale when you're keeping ahead on economy and technology.
I had enough fleet power now to push back the Swarm and retake every system that they'd stolen from my subsidiary, and then push through the wormhole and into their space.
Retaking old systems took longer than I thought, and their homeworld was defended by 800+ power. I started bombarding their homeworld (the Zik-Mok owns about 7 worlds at this point) while training up some armies.
They sent a few fleets at me in the meanwhile, but I was able to clean them up. Then suddenly, my contract with the mercenaries all expired.
I decided to just Status Quo the war and work on hardening the starbase that I now owned on the Zik Mok's side of the wormhole and send the mercenaries on their way.
It was a really satisfying way to win the war. I had neglected my own naval power in the early game, but because I was wealthy enough I was still able to withstand an attack from arguably the strongest empire in my galaxy.
I also split off all that excess space that I'd taken back from the swarm and formed a new subsidiary to replace the one I'd lost.
This subsidiary was arguably a bit worse… Though they now were on par with my technology. Because they were now a megacorporation, I am not allowed a branch office on their homeworld. Boo.
10 years later, the Zik Moks declared war on me again, but this time I had a Citadel slowing them down.
Again I still hadn't bothered to build up my fleets. But I was a bit more powerful than before. I had unearthed the Head of Zarqlan and had a small contribution of ships from the Spiritualist Fallen Empire. This got me up to about ~10K with my own navy.
I hired on some more mercenary fleets and took the fight to the horde again — This time neither I nor my subsidiary did not lose any systems. Again, I was preparing to push the fight into Zik Mok territory… But another interruption — One of the Marauders decided to go all Great Khan on the galaxy.
So I status quo'd the war so I could focus on that.
I really like the ability to hire on mercenary fleets with all my excess capital to make up for my own lack of naval might. But I know that as the game goes on, these mercenaries will start to drop off in usefulness and I'll have to instead form my own navy. If the Zik Mok decided to attack me again in 10 years, that might be the last time that it's even worth it to hire mercenary fleets to defend my borders with. Even then, the mercs will likely start getting completely outclassed and I might lose the fleets entirely.
It'd be really cool to see more diplomatic interactions with AI empires — Maybe even the ability to hire mercenary fleets from AI empires of specific ethics/civics combinations? These hired fleets from other empires would match the technology level of the empire you hired them from — Maybe make me have to pay the upkeep cost of their ships in order to balance having more powerful fleets that I didn't have to build myself.
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