What if, as a new crisis, there was a ‘quiet’ invasion of the galaxy? The crisis would revolve around the arrival of a mysterious species of aliens who have the ability to either overtake the mind of other species, or make a perfect copies of them, like in ‘The Thing’ or ‘the Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. The new necrophage mechanic could play nicely into this.
The crisis wouldn’t be explicitly announced anywhere. There might be an unexplained drop in production, perhaps some ships and pops would go missing and some technology would be stolen. Your pops would act normally, but many – perhaps a majority on some worlds – would secretly be agents of an enemy you can’t see coming.
Somewhere, in several hidden (such as precursor home worlds) clusters of systems, the quiet ones are building their empires. These clusters would effectively function as normal empires once revealed. However, they do not engage in diplomacy except for with each other. In addition, they would not build their own ships, preferring to steal from others.
Once the invaders have amassed enough resources, and have replaced enough pops, they will reveal themselves. Most planets would openly be invaded by their armies at this point. The armies would be incredibly weak in terms of stats, except for their morale damage, which would be very high. The planets that succumb will be assimilated and added to the empire in the nearest cluster. Those who resist the invasion will lose a few pops. Ground invasions will happen every few years, essentially nullifying pop growth for all but the most rapid breeders. Production would also drop off as most planets are under heavy quarantine measures.
If a capital planet succumbs, the empire’s ruling class will be assimilated. They will pretend to seek peace with the invaders, which ultimately gets the entire empire assimilated. The empire won’t directly join the other invaders at first – instead they will discreetly supply them with new ships and resources. You won’t know which of your allies can really be trusted – which is a problem, because the remaining empires will need to work together to defeat the invasion. Entering any kind of treaty with a compromised empires will make the invasions on your planets more difficult. Some treaties will supply them with classified military info. If your federation member is assimilated, you will be very, very vulnerable. Once the invaders begin losing ground, assimilated empires will directly join them. A player can do this deliberately, but it will result in a loss if the invaders win, and they will be crippled forever if the invaders lose.
Gestalt empires are also affected – drones will become deviant for unknown reasons.
It quickly becomes a war of heavy attrition – the invaders can only get stronger or recover their losses by beating you, but losses will be hard to replace for both of you.
If you manage to siege down an invader home cluster, you get a technology to help identify invaders, which will permanently weaken them. Once all home clusters have been sieged, they can’t recover anything they’ve lost or assimilate more pops, and their empires will stagnate.
In terms of flavor, the invaders are mysterious beyond anything else. Their goals are unknown. Their true forms are unknown. They refuse to engage in good faith diplomacy – only veiled attempts to assimilate others. They don’t interact with the shroud, either. The little we do know about them only inspires paranoia.
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