Long post ahead, so maybe grab a beer.
Im Sealside, im a passive member of the community for some years now. I raked up a pretty decent amount of play time over the last years, certainly around 1000 hours, but i mostly played with AIs only. Ive beaten Grand Admiral AIs with Glavius mod before, but thats quite some time ago, as i just started playing Stellaris again after over a year of break (i quit shortly before the release of Megacorp).
I managed to talk a close friend of mine into playing Stellaris and he liked it, so i picked it back up so we could play together. I got used to playing a tall devouring swarm that heavily focusses on tech before actually going to war with an overwhelming tech advantage, and accidently one of my testing sessions turned into a game that i absolutely wanted to broadcast.
I had plans for making that kind of story thread a couple of times but id always eventually drop it after preparing pages and pages and pages of description and dozends of pictures, so this time im literally just diving into it with the first part, and will follow up with additional parts later.
Just two closing disclaimers before i start getting into the game:
Large Map, Ecliptic setting
Max fallen empires, 1 Marauder (?)
AI Difficulty: Grand Admiral *with scaling*
Crisis Strength: x5
Mods: only glavius AI mod
I played GA without scaling before, but decided to take a slightly more casual approach by making the early game easier while still having an AI capable of competing later in the game. For those who dont know, Scaling AI means it starts with no bonus ressouces and will scale up to the "normal" grand admiral bonuses later in the game.
As for my ambitions going into the game, i really just wanted to test an agressive early game and how it would translate into a tech-focussed followup. But the game had other plans…
Part 1 – The swarm awakens
Spawning in the top left corner of the map, nothing special happens in the early game. I send my science ship to scout and build some more, and i only take two systems with a 17 and an 18 tile planet and colonize that. I stop from expanding further because i plan to save up alloys for the initial corvette spam in order to quickly overwhelm the closest AI i can find.
The idea behind it is that devouring swarms have ridiculous pop growth – they start at 4.5 and go up to 5.1 quickly, over 6/6.5 later on in the game – so i want to take out my close competition while grabbing additional planets that help me grow pops, then use the fact that i disabled all my close neighbors for turtling up and starting to tech up for the midgame.
i find a lot of systems with planets in close environment, what i dont find is… enemies.
This is what my vision looks like around 2210.
Yes, my empire is named "In summer it`s warm". Because its a swarm, and i like puns and… okay, ill show myself out.
Again, for those who might not know, this is a very standard time for making an agressive push. You can do it a bit later, you can also do it quite a bit earlier, but around 10 years into the game is a typical time for the first hostile takeovers (no megacorp pun intended) to happen. And i have not even found an empire yet.
Well i found 2. A fallen empire in the northeast, and a fallen empire to the southwest. Pro tip of the day: Fallen empires do not make prime candidates for early hostile takeovers. The way further to the north is blocked by some 1k AI fleet.
To the east it takes me 12 jumps to even find an AI scienceship; to the south, it is 18. To do a small spoiler, there is a small path that leads around the southern fallen empire that i'd scout a bit later, but it would also be around 15 jumps to find an AI.
And quite frankly, i found that hilarious. I went into the game with a clear plan, that being a quick rush and then sit back and tech – and the game just said "nope". It would just not let me do it. The empires i encountered were discovered far too late, and they were far too far away for being a good conquest target; because in the end, even if i flew over there and conquered them, id still need to defend it a bit later on, and with that much space between two "empire islands" that is a really hard thing to do if everybody hates your guts.
Due to the sole reason of my experiment being completely borked at this point, i was inclined to quit and start a new game. But i did not. Something kept me in, i saw the roleplay potential and a possibly interesting story to share with the community.
The swarm awoke. It discovered, it conquered, it devoured. There were other species, but eventually they were only food.
With the planet becoming one mind, the eyes turned to the sky; and soon after, our ships did too.
The Void was wast and empty. But in it, lurking, were… the ancient ones. The swarm found they were surrounded by entities so powerful that it was beyond comprehension, and they had been that powerful since long before the swarm was even born. Thats when the swarm became… concerned. The ancient ones were dismissive and did not perceive the swarm as a thread, but also the swarm was just not capable of posing one. With the feeling that every other entity was incredibly superior to the swarm, the initial feat that struck the hiveminds collective conciousness quickly turned into rage and iron will. They would feast on the ancients. Eventually. And the focus turned to expansion and technology.
Part 2 – Idle Stellaris?
So, strategy-wise, i had to do a 180 and completely switch things up. Luckily i had only build two alloy factories and no ships yet, so no real damage had happened to my economy yet, as now i could just use the alloys i pumped out to build more outposts and colony ships.
I have a pretty nice amount of systems that i can lock behind a 3-Choke-defense later on and a lot of planets i can colonize. Not all of them are ideal concidering habitability, but all of them are pretty large, so they are worth the effort despite the extra amenity and upkeep cost. I initially opened with the surpremacy tradition for the early war benefits, but now that i know there will be none, i switch to expansion halfway through. Its a bit awkward for sure, but its okay – i plan to take imperial prerogative as first Ascension perk, and i dont need to rush that out for any reason. Yes, i know, there are better perks than imperial prerogative, but my gameplan revolves around staying below admin cap for as long as possible in order to maximize my tech advantage.
Anyway, all that my swarm can devour for the next 20 to 30 years is systems and planets to colonize, and so I do. While maintaining a healthy surplus of enery and minerals, I manage to build up a solid 10 planets and over 100 pops really quickly.
In the meantime, i discover two more empires.
One of them is to the east and is a bit closer to me than i thought, and one is to the south snaking around the fallen empire and closing the gap to me rapidly; but there is still time. I begin increasing my alloy production and building starbases with anchorages and shipyards where they are needed.
I suspected the empire in the east to be the first one to close the borders, so i build my shipyards on my north shipyard; but i made the wrong call. Apparently our snaky southern neighbor can only expand in one direction, and he closes the gap far before anyone else does.
In 2236 it finally happens.
Notice how in the 6 years that lie between the screenshots, i went from 110 pops to 160, just by the natural pop growth of 10 planets. Yep, thats the swarm for you.
A, right, the storytelling.
Only much later, the swarm learned there were other species as well. But they were hardly worth a concideration- neither for the swarm, nor for the ancient ones. The swarm had their mind set on that one goal, and everything else would be treated as a mere nuissance. Unaware of the consequences, the lesser species expanded towards the swarm, and when time came, the strike was unexpected, swift and decicive.
The Mesh Ben clique dived into swarm territory boldly and headfirst, only to find they were severely underprepared and stretched far to thin. The civilian population suffered the consequences quickly after. But not for long…
Part 3 – Social Warfare
The second the borders close, i declare war, and find the AI empire with its pants down. i just follow the system trail downward towards his planets, and i had taken about 10 systems already before their fleet bothered showing up. The fact that swarm ships heal themselves when out of battle makes it severely easier to dive deep into enemy territory and stay there even when you dont manage to capture a shipyard. The point difference between their fleet and mine when they finally meet is not too big, my 2.4k against his 2k, but with the bonus hull that swarmships get, i utterly massacre his corvettes with minimal losses. Afterwards, its not 40 to 35 corvettes but remaining 35 to 15. The war was already won.
Due to the total war casus belli and the fact that early game AI is not exactly good at deploying defensive armies, the war is over with almost complete annexation barely 7 years later.
I go right for the throat and take the well populated planets.
I leave the AI with 2 planets and 15 pops. This way i know i have a neighbor that will forever be pathetic to me, and it will serve as a buffer to empires farther in the south that might otherwise soon border me and try to steal some of my territory. Of course from there on i could already snowball the war way, but the swarm has different plans: secure the neighborhood, and then tech, tech, tech.
I withdraw and dismantle most of the systems on my way back. I concidered keeping the planets, but they are not very big and dont have good habitability, so i just use the populations for food and let the planets die. I have to give up most of the systems so i dont sprawl out of control already; i only keep the most valuable ones, like one that has like 15 energy and 12 minerals in it. In the meantime, i already started ramping up my research production. 300 at year 50 into the game is not exactly a lot, but we are going into the right direction.
Unfortunatelly on the right side the AI empires already engulfed themselves in defensive pacts and for now i dont see any benefit challenging them. My fleet is strong enough to be save from any war declaration, so i sit back and focus on building up the research lab counts.
Small timelapse to 8 years later: My research now reached a reasonable amount, sitting at 850 at year 2255, when a window of opportunity opens.
This is the political situation in my east.
The Vivisandia, #1 of the normal empires according to the ranking, built a federation with Liberation, and got declared war on by the Thar Biq and the Jhabbanid (right side of them, barely out of screen in this picture). Since the Thar biq are my eastern neighbor, that offered me a surpreme chance to backstab them and take them out in similar fashion like i did to the clique. I build some additional corvettes and equip them with my newly researched gear and make a quick push – by now, the Thar Biq are inferior to me in both Fleet power and tech, so i expect a quick pushover. The Thar Biq have a defense pact with the Jhabbanid as well and all their fleets taken together, they'd probably beat me, but their defense partner is far away and, as already mentioned, also engaged in the war with the federation.
And indeed it is a pushover. Due to the hilarious blitzkrieg potential of total war civics and my opponent being severely out of position, i manage to tear appart two of their partial fleets. in merely 3 years. i cut through his empire and take his 3 main planets, again leaving some outposts and two barely populated planets.
Also i conquer a surpreme defensive outpost, enabling me to defend against the eastern hemisphere with only one chokepoint later on (as it can be seen in the screenshot). I also decide to keep the 3 planets for my swarm this time, as they have good size and 70% habitability to further fuel my research production.
The Mesh'ben clique and the concordate vanished, only mere carcasses of their former selves. The Mesh'ben fell apart right in front of the ancients eyes, but they did not even blink, and it infuriated the swarm. They would pay for their arrogance.
The Connishtian Alignment was soon to follow, and afterwards, the swarm would withdraw, observe, prepare. The time to face the ancients would come; the swarm could feel it. But it was not quite yet that time.
And that closes the first part of my first storytime post.
We now sit at a comfortable 250 pops and 1k research a month at year 2260. Thats certainly not perfect from a min/max perspective (once, at that time i already had battleship tech done with an Assimilator build), but im pretty confident
Next part, since we are approaching the midgame, the production bonusses for the AI will start to kick in, and i am curious to see if one or two AI challengers manage to rise later in the game. There is a lot of things that can still happen to me, especially i do have a wormhole right in my backyard, and that might very well lead straight to a marauder empire that might or might not start to rip me apart later in the game; and also dont forget that crisis is set to x5, and that is never a thing to be joked about.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as i enjoyed writing it, feel free to give me feedback about what you liked and what you didnt like, and what you would want to see in the following parts!
Thank you for reading!
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© Post "[Story Time] *The swarm that got concerned*, or: How sometimes Stellaris will force your hands into certain directions, and how that can be a beautiful thing." for game Stellaris.
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