Stellaris

The AI just totally outplayed me.

stellaris 4 - The AI just totally outplayed me.
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I just started a new game as a Babaric Despoiler. My early game plan was clear – finding a nearby empire, going to war and stealing their pops to boost my economy and get the nice Despoilation war goal bonus on top of it.

So I rushed to 20 corvettes and luckily found someone so close we were sitting nearly on top of each other. They had finished claiming their cluster but more interesting than the pure systems were their planets – the main planet and two fresh colonies, one of them right on my border in a system that would make for a good choke point especially since their main planet was right next to said system.
Since trying to raid a colony with 2 pops is pretty futile I instead claimed this nice choke system, went to war and swept in to conquer my claim before the AI could even react. After repairing my fleet I attacked their main system expecting their fleet to wait for me. Grand Admiral bonuses are harsh but if their fleet was halfway to my freshly conquered system I might be able to encounter them without aggroing the star base which usually ends up in a win for me.

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But… their fleet wasn't there.
So I just sacked their main system and started raiding their main planet.
And then their fleet appeared – in my newly conquered system. They entered from one of the other AI systems. I couldn't see them there since I still had the first tier sensors.
To defend my claim I sent my 20 corvettes back. The enemy fleet didn't manage to break the recovering star base in time, my fleet encountered them – and they just warped out.
Ok then… back to raiding their main planet.
The bombardement barely started when the enemy fleet was back in the claimed system. This time however they ignored the star base and flew right into my territory (I also had no FTL inhibitors yet).
I only had unupgraded star bases because all my alloys were used for my ships and since I couldn't let them wreck havoc in my space I once again pulled my fleet back to engage them. They barely managed to defeat my star base before I arrived but I managed to catch up to them – and they warped out again.
Annoying but ok. Back to raiding. In the mean time I build some anchorages and started working on a second fleet.
I didn't even get to start a bombardement when an enemy fleet appeared once again; and in their main system to boot! However, it was just a single ship, seemingly trying to cross the system into the rest of the enemy territory.
Sensing some prey I sent my fleet to catch them and as soon as it did the bigger enemy fleet once again appeared in the claimed system. And it made a break for my space yet again. My first fleet was still engaged with the single ship (which surely was a decoy all along! This crafty AI.), my second fleet wasn't ready yet – and the enemy fleet ignored their own conquered star base, ignored my first star base and flew deeper and deeper into my territory.
After getting rid of the decoy ship my fleet went for a mad dash to kick the enemy fleet out of my territory. It finally managed to catch up shortly after a jump (so the retreat warp was hopefully still offline for a few days), initiated combat – and the AI surrendered.

Read:  Managing your Empire size effectively

Yes, I got the planet I claimed. But that was pretty much a given since my fleet was bigger (even if not that much bigger). But by constantly warping out their fleet the AI lost nearly no ships (aside from the decoy ship) and thus nearly no alloys. And by keeping my fleet constantly busy they also lost no pops.
Since early game war exhaustion grows insanely fast and despoilation is only a -25 war goal the AI just made me run around in circles until it could give up with minimal losses.
The war might have ended in a victory for me but I still feel very much defeated…

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