Stellaris

The rise and fall of the Pheronoth Swarm

stellaris 4 - The rise and fall of the Pheronoth Swarm
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Or how my devouring swarm became the Early Game Crisis to the rest of the multi player lobby.

To set the stage: I joined a MP lobby, and found out we had no real rules in place. Naturally, I decided to try the dirties strategy I could think of short of actual bug abuse, and loaded up my cute adaptive devouring swarm butterflies. I had a plan, you see, one I had developed after my more conservative colonize-then-out-scale-and-invade strategy had failed a few games ago to an early rush. As it turns out, quite a few power spikes coincide around the 15 year mark if you rush the right things, resulting in a swarm that is nigh unstoppable for a couple of decades at least. And so, the game began.

I spawned just west of the galactic core. As usual, I sent my science ships to explore the surroundings. I built some districts, scaled up my alloy production, and built an early unity building as well. The usual early game stuff, except for one minor omission: I never expanded outside my home system, instead opting to save up all my alloys for more practical things.

Ten years and one first contact later in I put my plan into action. I poured every piece of alloy my three alloy foundries could churn out into building the largest armada the galaxy had ever seen, or the young races at any rate. I waited with bated breath for the last few traditions I needed to trickle in: a fully completed supremacy tree for the massive No Retreat war doctrine bonus. Whatever minerals I had went into constructing one more energy district required to keep my economy from completely collapsing as I turned off all unity buildings to funnel all drones into financing the war effort, as well as building up my ground troops. And so, on the year 2215, I declared war on my hapless neighbors with an overwhelming 2.3k fleet of almost 40 corvettes.

Needless to say, they were powerless to stop me. I quickly steamrolled their feeble defenses, rushing from system to system while my armies stopped for a quick snack at every planet. I built up energy districts, plopped down hunter killer drones, and turned off all other jobs while quickly moving on.

In a matter of months my first war was over. Rather than stopping there, I declared war on my next victim, who happened to share borders with my previous one. I promptly ate them too, sold a bunch of food to keep my economy afloat, and looked for a third victim. And fourth. And fifth. Before I knew it, the entire north western third of the galaxy was dominated by my outrageously border gory empire.

Of course, my prey had not been idle – after all I was up against actual players, not AI. At first there was panic, then they started organizing. Their started funneling supplies to my future victims in hopes of stopping me. Had they reacted faster and more aggressively, I may have been stopped outright, but lucky for me, my southern neighbors were reluctant to attack while my fleets were busy, and blocked off anyone else from opening up a second front. I relied on a single large fleet to pick them off one by one, so multiple fleets going after my planets would have seen my advance stall a lot quicker than it did.

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Eventually, however, I ran into an empire that refused to just roll over and die. They had seen me coming, taken the donations, and built a massive bastion supported by a respectable fleet. My fleets were shattered, and the northern frontier stalled. Sol I had just taken was reclaimed, then lost again in my counter-counter attack. Another empire declared war on me. Then a third. And so, around 50 years in the northern front finally halted my advance.

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Now, with as large a portion of a galaxy as I held, one might imagine I had the economy to match. Unfortunately, I'd been funneling all my alloys into maintaining the fleets needed to hold back the combined might of half the galaxy up north, and with the game stuck on fastest I barely had enough time to occasionally plop down a handful buildings on some of my planets. Crime was rampant, my planets underdeveloped, and I couldn't spare the alloys to claim the dozens of systems between my former meals, never mind actually colonize them. I was steadily at -100 energy, give or take, just about replacing my losses by selling off massive quantities of food and minerals. The less said about research and traditions, the better. Thank the Shroud for debris..

Still, I was slowly developing my planets, and building up my fleets step by step. One fleet became two, 40 became 50, then 80. I never did break that original bastion, but I managed to crush the second empire to join that particular war. Before I could finish them off, however, I desynced. I quit the game, reconnected, and the shroud ate 35 of my assault armies. And so, instead of actually killing off one of the threats I faced, two planets survived, and the southern empires finally researched gateways, forcing me to go back and defend my home world.

And so a 100-something years passed, consisting mostly of constant warfare up north, with an occasional southern campaign. Whenever I had a moment of reprieve, I desperately tried to sort out my economy – I did, after all, have easily enough territory to more than match a divided galaxy, had I just been able to properly utilize it. The wars seemed to be slowly going in my favor, though once more empires teched up enough to get to me via wormholes and the like I imagine that would have changed. Still, I was holding my own, even with the galaxy more or less united against me, when a disaster struck.

The marauders, as it turns out, had been hiding in the very north-eastern corner of the galaxy. I'm not sure if I ever actually met them, or if I'd just been too busy with everything else to take notice, but around year.. 2330-ish a khan woke up on my defenseless back lines, during one of those short periods of peace we had between claiming and reclaiming the contested territory between my unstoppable war machine and their immovable bastions. I had no answer to marauder's 19k fleets compared to my so far unrivaled 16k, and in a matter of months the entire northeastern quarter fell to the khan. My fleets were promptly crushed, and that one empire I'd reduced to two planet took the opportunity to reclaim his lost planets. I lost planet after planet to the marauders, and just as they began to threaten my homeworld, I once again desynced. Seeing as it was well past 1 am and my only hope was the marauders giving up before taking my last few planets, I decided to call it a day and dropped the GG in the chat before leaving the rest to an AI. By far the most interesting game of stellaris I had played so far finally came to an end.

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From humble beginnings, to a galactic threat, to my eventual ruin. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, even if my initial cheese left me feeling somewhat dirty. I do wonder what happened after I left though – I'll need to ask around the discord chat for details later on.

TL;DR: Devouring Swarm cheeses half a dozen empires 15 years in. Becomes the Swiss cheese crisis, resulting in a hundred year long struggle for the fate of the galaxy, because the north remembered to build bastions. But no-one expects the marauder inquisition, so my too-fast-speed-economy syndrome empire promptly collapsed when one popped up in my backyard.

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