Stellaris

Wow, spawning next to a devouring swarm is _hard_

stellaris 4 - Wow, spawning next to a devouring swarm is _hard_
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I've been making custom empires for a pseudo-Mass Effect playthrough, or at least I've made them and gotten a few to spawn in, and I made a Rachni devouring swarm and ended up next to them. I usually play on admiral or commodore, no scaling, put all the difficulty up front because the AI needs all the help it can get, and I'm almost always egalitarian and then some mix of xenophile/pacifist/materialist, and never struggle too much (the 3.0 update seems to have made things a bit harder). Being next to that devouring swarm in the very beginning was easily the hardest 10 years I've had in a game, ever, period. Also one of the most fun.

As soon as I'd decoded their language around year 10, they declared war maybe 4/5 months later, but, per my usual opener, I had invested nothing in my military in the first 10 years, I don't usually get around to that until year 20 or 30. I had like 10 science vessels, 3 planets, and the starting fleet and no tech. I know the only ethic that can't actively declare war is the pacifist, but I just don't like seizing territory with war as futuristic humans who know better unless I'm militarist, so I usually expand recklessly to large, natural borders and then rely on the fact most AIs would have to claim and then attack me to take it (rather than me take it), and I just find allies to deter them from attacking, at least long enough that when the aggressive empires change their mind and decide "no we really should've crushed those humans", I've gone just long enough that my economy and tech runs away and my tiny fleet hits above its weight class.

Well, this time the empire cluster I spawned near were just not having diplomacy, my other neighbor besides a devouring swarm were xenophobic militarists who refused deplomacy much less to help me, which, by the end of this war, for the first time I thought "those aren't just roleplay ethics, this Star Trek stuff I've been doing seems good on paper until you encounter bugs that just don't give a shit about exchanging pieces of paper or science conferences".

I think the game did a good job telegraphing m the bugs would attack, and right at the border I had a starbase I'd built thinking I'd colonize the planet below it, so I desperately put a missile turret there, which I never invest in static defense but I needed something that might stop them, but it wasn't enough, they attacked and the starting fleet I had was at least 2/3 years away from reinforcing it. 25 insectoid ships appeared, more than my fleet capacity, more alloys than I had invested in expanding or colonies, and I could see another fleet of 12 behind that, and soon the frontier was being gradually overrun. It became a steady stream of xeno fleets slowly creeping into my grossly overextended and undefended frontier.

I threw everything against the wall to make a fleet, I switched my economy from mixed to wartime for the first time I think ever, I switched trade policy to buy more alloys, I stopped expanding outposts because ship production was consuming alloys faster than I could produce them, everything was poured into getting enough alloys to keep a constant queue of ships being produced. For the first time ever I had a war where I looked at my fleet capacity and said "don't care, not enough" and didn't treat the fleet capacity cap as a hard limit – however inefficient it was, it didn't matter if my civilization didn't survive, most of my resources were channeled into buying alloys and, when I expected pops who could staff it, infrastructure to expand my war productivity.

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Over the next 5 years they pushed through 70% of my empire, right up to Alpha Centauri, and just beyond that was Earth. But as they invaded I watched them – their fleet was almost entirely missile boats, and as I watched them overrun my systems and eat the crews in those stations, I realized they had no point defense for the missiles from my stations. Right as they were about to attack alpha centauri, one of their wounded fleets turned around for repairs, I assume confident in their impending victory, but I had also just hit my command cap and was building a second fleet on Earth, so I counterattacked their briefly split forces. With a mix of missiles and point defense, I crushed their split fleet, and then another, and another, and started rolling them back, aggressively fighting through my own territory, through stations they had built behind them to secure what they believed was now their territory.

I made it all the way back to the border where the war started. The battle to take back the outpost I’d built had both of our main fleets see action and it was an amazing victory, but caused us both to hit 100% war exhaustion. The murderous bugs begged for peace, but I felt otherwise.. I pushed on, through their territory until I reached their homeworld. I didn't have the resources to invade, I would've needed like a dozen armies to guarantee success when my minerals were rarely above +10 during the war except when I bought them at insane prices on the market to build more infrastructure. I bombarded their homeworld from orbit, switching my policy to indiscriminate to do as much damage possible. When that started they asked for peace, again, from the war they started to genocide me. I know it's a game, but I wanted them gone, I just wanted that planet to be ground into a dust so fine it would be like sifting through water. And it nearly was before I was forced to withdraw by the 2 year forced conclusion after hitting war exhaustion., but not before adding tons of devastation and killing a lot of pops.

It seems like in stellaris, if there isn’t aggressive diplomacy to cut off war between rivals, it resumes in ~15 year intervals, basically almost as soon as the truces are gone. In 10 years, when the truce is over, it’ll be a different war, a war I'll be ready for, and one where I’ll make sure there isn’t a 3rd.

It was a really fun experience and made me totally re-evaluate both the kind of civ I play and the opening strats I've been using the last year.

TL:DR ended up next to a devouring swarm, went from Star Trek "what about the Prime Directive, Jim?" to the Emperor protects, purge the xenos.

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