No posts for a whole month, but furlough life moves along, well, just fine really. June was dominated by my getting out into the Peak District for walks at least twice a week in preparation for a "Virtual 3 Peaks" event with the local fitness group. Since their real 3 Peaks Challenge was scheduled for July 4th and cancelled due to COVID, instead the challenge became "just walk the distance on the day." Walking 23 miles in one day even on the flat isn't something to sniff at, but I decided to make it a "3 Peaks in the Peaks" thing, doing three separate walks of similar length to the Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon trio if not the same ascent, the walks being Kinder Low, Win Hill and finally Middleton Top. A fun day out certainly, about 9 hours total walking, 49,000 steps and over 6,000 calories burned.
Anyway, back to gaming, which might open up a little bit now that my parents and I have broken our bubble and are socialising a bit more freely whilst still taking all appropriate measures when out and about. The recent Kickstarter for the Terraforming Mars: Big Box had me, for whatever reason, hankering to play a game of TM with all expansions, something I haven't done since getting Turmoil last year. With cards re-shuffled and retrieving the colony tiles from the miscellaneous bits box it was off to the parents on Sunday afternoon, mainly because their dining table is big enough to hold everything.
My starting corporation choices were between United Nation Mars Initiative and Utopia Investment, as much as I like UNMI the draw of playing a new-to-me corp was too much. My starting cards gave me a strategy for the first two generations at least, with Self-Sufficient Settlement and Ice Moon Colony offering early access to Mars and Callisto for some energy income. Rachel opted for Arcadian Communities, expanding out across the board from the word go, whilst Dad went with new-to-him Stormcraft Inc. and also deployed cities to the board early.
After that initial plan however my strategy became a bit listless. Energy and heat production came to me quickly but whilst I was the main driver behind the temperature increases, Dad and Rachel were doing far better with their plant production and thus forestry placements. Some good Venus cards came my way though, I was the only player to do anything to that planet, and it helped me maintain a TR lead throughout the game despite Turmoil's "-1 TR every gen" rule.
Venus was my sole playground and the colonies saw some gentle competition, but the Martian Parliament was the very opposite, almost every generation seeing extra lobbyists deployed to swing the dominant party. For the most part it swung between Mars First and the Greens, the latter proving especially beneficial to Rachel when she built her forests, combining the 4MC Green rebate, 3MC Arcadian Community rebate and cash for building next to oceans, she often turned 8 plants into a TR and 9 or 11MC to spend on the next project.
A reasonably full and busy final Mars, though my own yellow assets were sorely lacking. My lead in terraform rating was wiped out entirely by Rachel and Dad's greenery and city scores, despite buying on my final turn a host of 2VP cards. Dad was the winner with 77 points, Rachel in second with 72 and me not too far behind with 68, so a close game all round and one enjoyed by all. Dad was obviously well chuffed with his win, but he played carefully and consistently on the board, making sure to prevent hostile city placements and maintain his plant income.
To finish with something non-game related, exploring some new music has been a consistent furlough experience mainly focused on rock (both classic and new) and chillwave/synthwave/outrun style stuff. Occasionally Spotify's algorithm throws out an absolute banger that both ends up on a repeat and initiates a new avenue of recommendations and "If you like this..." so courtesy of that, Sheffield indie rockers SHEAFS were June's stand-out favourites.
Trials, tribulations, outdoor adventures and occasional board game commentary. Join me as I try to squeeze some gaming time into my life as a travelling IT consultant.
- [+] Dice rolls
A good while ago, my better half and I ventured out along Derbyshire's Cromford Canal. One of the landmarks on that route was High Peak Junction, where I mentioned in passing the Cromford & High Peak Railway and how it crossed the Peak District to bring lead and limestone over the hills and down to the canal.
Well, some recent cursory reading and map checking on the subject, combined with the currently excellent weather the UK is experiencing, piqued my interest enough to give the High Peak Trail a go. The railway itself is long gone, but the track bed has been converted into a solid path for walkers and cyclists.
Something somewhat unusual about the Cromford & High Peak Railway (henceforth the C&HPR) was that it was originally envisioned as a canal. The Peaks, the southern end of the Pennies, was an obstacle for transport and the existing canal network meant goods from Manchester had to go south on the Macclesfield Canal and eastwards on the Trent & Mersey Canal to get the East Midlands. This was a long detour, so when the Peak Forest Canal (which reaches out from Manchester to the edge of the Peak District at Whaley Bridge) was completed in 1800 engineers scoped out a short-cut canal, rising up and across the limestone hills to not only bring cotton into the East Midlands but also tap into the quarries and mines of Derbyshire. The problem was both financial and geological. An estimated cost of £500,000 but yearly returns of only £6,000 was understandably frowned upon, plus water supply would be a constant source of trouble as back then, before the spate of reservoir building, the limestone uplands were rather dry.
So a tramway was proposed instead by Josiah Jessop, son of the great canal and civil engineer William Jessop, and the corresponding Act of Parliament was passed in 1825. Five years later the first stretch from Cromford to Hurdlow was complete, and honestly the design of the thing sounds bonkers. Five inclines, powered by stationary steam engines, lifted the railway over 1,000 feet in 5 miles. Four more took it down from the summit to Whaley Bridge. On the flat sections, wagons were pulled by horses, the track being supported on stones in a "fishbelly" design.
The engine house at Middleton Top remains, at the top of a 700 yard 1-in-8½ incline. The starting point of my walk, we'll be heading away from the High Peak Trail for the first half and going a bit more cross-country.
The path climbs uphill quickly and through typical Derbyshire fields, criss-crossed by dry stone walls and grazed by sheep. Soon enough you're walking along the top of Intake Quarry, limestone from here was shipped out on the C&HPR. As a counter-point, this spot also offers views of a modern working quarry, off to the right from this shot is Hopton Works, the dust and racket of diggers and engines offers a stark contrast.
Down one hill, up another, alongside the working quarry for a bit and then out onto this track, the Portway or the Chariot Way. This is an ancient route that runs from Nottingham all the way through the Peak District to Mam Tor. There's some evidence it was used during the Iron Age, maybe earlier, and it became a major road during Roman times and remained in use during the Saxon and Medieval periods.
Off the Portway now and back into the fields, I turn left onto the Limestone Way. Up hill and over dale for a mile or so.
Through a spot of woodland and out onto the High Peak Trail, which follows 17 miles of the old C&HPR main line from High Peak Junction in Cromford to Dowlow near Buxton. About 3 miles of fairly easy going back to Middleton Top now, but I'll take a slight detour up to the top of Harboro' Rocks.
Plenty energy left in my legs yet, enough to power up to the top of this limestone crag for a brief rest and to enjoy the view from the 1243ft (379m) summit. And yes, I know I need a haircut.
Back now to one of those inclines, I'm at Hopton Top looking down the 457 yard 1-in-14 gradient. In the 1877 the stationary steam engine which chain-hauled wagons up the incline was at the end of it's operational lifespan and the decision was made to allow the running of conventional locomotives, ascending under their own power and descending using their brakes. The peculiar nature of the railway, especially some tight turns such as the Gotham Curve (80 degree curve with a radius of 55 yards), limited the trains that could be used and only 4-wheeled stock was used.
Given the incline, it's not surprising that trains often had to be broken down and a few wagons lifted at a time, and in wet or cold conditions two wagons at a time was standard. Information boards up and down the Trail offer a glimpse into the working past, above is a Kitson 0-4-0 Saddle Tank descending whilst a water tank, acting as a counterbalance, ascends on the other track.
Despite the nature of the railway accidents were very rare. In 1888 a brake van parted from its train near the summit of the Cromford & Sheep Pasture Incline. Unable to make the turn into Cromford Wharf it left the track, sailed over the canal and a double-track railway, and landed in a field on the other side. In 1937, an engine driver was killed when his engine (travelling chimney first at 45mph), three wagons and the 20-ton brake van derailed at the bottom of Hopton Incline and crashed down a 25 foot embankment.
The C&HPR never achieved any sort of profitability for its investors, just 3 years after opening the line was in difficulty and the chairman at the time said that it "never had a remote chance of paying a dividend on the original shares." Traffic steadily decreased through the 19th and 20th Centuries and, even though limestone and burnt lime remained its major cargo, the Middleton Incline was the first section to be closed in 1963, with the rest following in 1967.
There's four circular walks that start at Middleton Top, mine was the longest option at 7.5 miles but the shortest is just 1.5 miles, they're all well worth a go if you're in the area. Those who prefer two wheels to two legs should find the High Peak Trail more than suitable for cycling, though I'm sure the inclines will test your stamina.
Where next? Kinder Low? Win Hill? Personally I've got my eye on Hob Hurst's House, but Chee Dale looks interesting too...
- [+] Dice rolls
Oh my, well over a month since my last post. Truth be told, whilst furlough life is plodding along just fine, it's left me without much inspiration to write anything or even game much. Still, Rachel and I have managed a couple of sessions and a few milestones to boot.
Tapestry has been nickel'd, the game itself now grokked enough to provide solidly competitive play (though my city arranging skills need considerable work), and bullets flew thick and fast in our first two plays of Memoir '44. Finally, after many agonising, brain-burning hours, all ten cases of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases have been solved (to, ahem, varying degrees of accuracy) and the game passed on to my parents. It might be a while before they get round to it though, Carcassonne is still proving their favourite title and the recent addition of the Carcassonne: Expansion 5 – Abbey & Mayor has given them several new avenues to explore.
The real purpose of this post however comes after a recent rejigging of the Sneaky Meeple's Kallax and the boxing up of my Star Wars: X-Wing (Second Edition) collection. Having not played it for a damn good while, and with Tapestry, Memoir '44 and Hitler's Reich reduced to merely perching atop the shelf, Draugr Squadron's X-Wings and TIE Fighters were mothballed and relegated back upstairs to one of the office shelves for the time being.
And then last Friday, FFG only go and release some solo rules don't they? Just as I've packed it all away! No doubt wanting to keep the fan-base engaged and practising their piloting skills during the current situation, these alpha (i.e. still in development and awaiting player feedback) rules allow one (or two) players the chance to fly against 3 waves of AI-controlled ships.
And honestly, it's not bad. The overall rules are still pretty much the same in that ships activate in ascending initiative order and shoot in descending initiative order, but the AIs have a three-step process to their movement consisting of:
Step 1: Clock an appropriate "tally". Target-locked ships are the preference but otherwise it's basically whatever ship is closest to it's forward-facing "bullseye" firing arc. A ship dead ahead at long range is preferable to something close but behind.
Step 2: An "approach roll" to determinate the AI ship's manoeuvre, based on the roll of one Attack and one Defence die and the arc the tally is in. Four tables to refer too, no worse than most war games, but terms like "slowest blue turn" and "fastest advanced manoeuvre" mean the resulting move is potentially different for each ship type.
Step 3: The AI ship does an action, what that action is depends on the result of the previously rolled Defence die and the resulting "attitude" the ship is in. Defensive ships will try to barrel roll or boost away from enemy firing arcs, offensively minded ships will do the same but towards enemies to get better shots.
Cross referencing all this was a bit of a pain at first, in typical FFG style the provided rules (click here!) are not especially printer friendly which let to a lot of back-and-forth through the print outs. The tally step is quick enough to learn off by heart though, and the community has been fast to simplify and clear up the charts, such as this printer-friendly version for the TIE/ln from Reddit.
Actual shooting is straight forward, shoot at whatever is closest basically, spending any tokens and/or re-rolls in such a way to maximise damage dealt if attacking or minimise damage taken if defending.
For the most part, the system works fine and there is very little that's left up to the player to adjudicate, something I greatly appreciate as I like game AIs to be as independent as possible. That said, you do end up sometimes with decisions that make little sense. The above picture, for example. A 3-speed bank would have taken Sabre 2 in his TIE Interceptor right into an almost perfect firing position right up Red 2's backside. Instead he does a 2-forward, and being defensively minded (due to the evade result on his Approach Roll) simply takes an Evade action. There are no enemy ships behind Sabre 2. Nothing in any position to shoot at him.
Now, I'm not too worried about the difference between the 2-forward and the 3-bank. In typical games, players must guess, ponder and predict the actions of their opponents when setting their manoeuvre dials, making the wrong call and ending up out of position happens all the time. But the action a ship can take after it moves is something that Sabre 2 in this instance would have had complete control over. A barrel roll to the right and use of the TIE Interceptor's innate Autothrusters ability to immediately follow that roll with a Boost action would have brought him to point blank range on Red 2. No AI system is ever going to be perfect though so slightly weird happenings like the above are bound to slip through the net, in a thematic sense you can always put it down to bad or panicked decisions on the part of that pilot.
All-in-all it's solid enough I'll be giving it another go one day next week, probably with some more interesting ships for me to fly than just basic Red Squadron X-Wings.
Also, now that lock-down in the UK has been lifted somewhat and I'm still on furlough for the foreseeable, I'll be getting out and about into the Peak District for some walks so you can expect to see some more outdoor adventures in the next few weeks.
- [+] Dice rolls
Well, that's 3 weeks of furlough been and gone, and three more to come in all likelihood. In lieu of solo board gaming I've sunk back into a couple of PC games with friends and colleagues (especially space ninja hack-and-slash-and-shoot 'em up Warframe) and along with the usual "daily duties" and a few things on the house "To Do" list, I've been reasonably well occupied. That said, Rachel and I have found time at the weekends to indulge in some tabletop.
That's Pretty Clever remains the opener of choice, easily getting the grey matter calculating away and having us both sighing in despair at the terrible offerings that seem to invariably appear. We've three cases left with Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases, the most recent one The Banker's Quietus proving especially frustrating, I'm more determined now than ever to get the remaining cases cracked and move this title on. Carcassonne, Cottage Garden, Alhambra and Castles of Burgundy have all made it to the table at various points, I dare not tag them as I have nothing interesting to say about them.
The economy and life in general may be somewhat stagnant at the moment but there's some ripples of movement in the pond that is the Sneaky Meeples board game shelf, with new arrivals Tapestry and Memoir '44 having to perch precariously on top along with Hitler's Reich for lack of room below. Maybe it's time to pack up Draugr Squadron's X-Wings and TIE Fighters to make some space...
Anyway, why these? Well, I remember Rachel and I both enjoying our first go at Memoir '44 way back in June in Edinburgh, as a result it's been on my list since then. And Tapestry? Well, it was on offer at Chaos Cards...but seriously, it's another that's been on, and off, my wishlist since first hearing about it. Being Stonemaier made it an instant "must have!" and then some more reading made it fall off again. Trawling CC's offerings left it as one of very few interesting choices however, and I can't say I've ever been disappointed by any of Jamie's creations.
Our first play didn't disappoint either, it's been a while since a two player game seriously strained the dimensions of our 1970's vintage table. Tenuous turns at first and a good deal of trepidation from Rachel soon turned into smooth and quick gameplay, ending with what I assume are atrocious scores of 101 for Rachel's Inventors and a measly 71 for my Architects. Two solitaire plays today in the coolness of the kitchen (a pervious attempt to play Tapestry solo in the sunny conservatory led to cards and boards warping in the heat) have shed some more light on the game's ebb and flow, I have no doubt we'll be pushing the 200s when it hits the table this weekend. A "First Impressions" post will surely follow.
- [+] Dice rolls
You know what type of post I seem very, very often on this website?
"This card is totally broken."
"This player faction is ridiculous, they're unbeatable."
"This combo is way too powerful they win every game."
"wE HaVe oNe pLaYeR WhO SeEmS To wIn aLl tHe tImE!"
There's an easy solution to the vast majority of these problems.BE.
If you've got a player at your table consistently winning with the same strategy maybe you should take some steps to throw a bloody spanner in that engine and STOP HIM rather than just focusing on your own engine. Because your engine is a Reliant Robin with a dodgy wheel whilst your opponents is an Aston Martin Vantage DB11 roaring off into the distance.
"Whenever anyone plays Ecoline in Terraforming Mars they always win!"
Maybe that's because you're too busy fucking around with useless cards and you've completely forgot about the actual bloody BOARD, you know the big one in the middle of the table that LOOKS LIKE MARS? You're there adding +1 to your already +22 steel production whilst Mr. Ecoline is putting down his twentieth forest tile. "WHAT BULLSHIT, ECOLINE IS SO OVERPOWERED!!" you scream internally.
"PLAY MORE AGGRESSIVELY ON THE BOARD." I scream at you via forum post.
"Farmers are so overpowered in Carcassonne they always score so highly!"
Wow I wonder what the solution is? Maybe instead of adding another tile to your already outrageously large city for a measly 2 points you should use that city tile to block off their farmer in a shitty little field and deny them 18 points. Are you a card counter? Place that awkward road piece next to his cathedral city and laugh in the knowledge that there is now no tile left that will let him complete it.
I don't know if this is a controversial opinion or not, and yes I know that some games are genuinely broken in some way. But the vast majority are not, and all the problems of X being overpowered, or Y being unbalanced, or Z being too easy strategy, is all too often down to the fact that players are too passive and too scared of playing to intercept, delay and sabotage, instead preferring to concentrate on their own board or engine, completely neglecting what other players are doing and then complaining when they are beaten.It's not the game's fault.
Science cards in 7 Wonders aren't overpowered. You didn't hate-draft them away from your opponent.
Tharsis Republic from Terraforming Mars isn't overpowered. You just need to play the board harder, build your own cities to stop him building his.
Witch isn't a shitty Dominion card. You didn't "see any point" in getting any protective counters.
See the common denominator?
- [+] Dice rolls
Big developments in this, part 4 of my Stellaris playthrough as the Alzir Authority.
Part 1 - It's Hard Work Managing a Galactic Empire You Know
Part 2 - Respect my Authority
Part 3 - I Will Finish What You Started
Well, it seems like the ascendancy of the Alzir Authority has now been tempered. When we last left our firm-handed space lions they were about ready to carve another niche into the Glorious Gwesibor Imperium to open up access to the remaining fallen empire, the Fafossan Remnant. Being the last serious contender to Alziri dominance of the galaxy, taking these xenos down sooner rather than later was key.
Soon wasn't soon enough as it turns out. Just as we wrapped up our war with the Gwesibor, the Fafossan announced to the galactic community that they would be re-entering the stage to reclaim the galaxy they had once dominated alongside the Cirrulans. Exploding forth as the Fafossan Restorers, their fleets were soon met in battle by almost the entire Alziri navy. In an unprecedented turn of events Alziri courage and, perhaps, over-confidence, was no match for the vastly superior Fafossan forces, to say that the battle was a rout would be generous. Devastation more like, the Authority Star Orders were thoroughly smashed and sent back to Laais in tatters. Despite the desire to quickly rebuild the fleet and get back in the fight, events closer to home prompted a quick peace deal with the Fafossans.
We in the Alzir Authority weren't the only ones dabbling in robotics and cybernetics, our allies in the Huvidu-Zaan Republic had been using mechanical workers for decades and, at a most inopportune time for our alliance, reaped the sudden and disastrous "benefits" of the galaxy's second robot uprising. The Tronzaru Architects seized several key worlds and rampaged through dozens of systems with their star-fleet and it looked for a moment as if the Huvidu-Zaan might be extinguished by their creations.
Thankfully for them, the Alziri fleets were now reinforced and reconstituted and sallied forth, quickly destroying the Tronzaru forces and allowing Huvidu-Zaan armies to reconquer their former planets. Understandably shaken by these events, our Grand Marshall decided to purge all robotic and cybernetic populations from Authority space with immediate effect. This work has been completed and policy has been altered to outlaw further AI research and forbid the use of robotic servants and workers. Thankfully, the purge has had no side effects, worries that initiating a purge would cause an uprising in Authority space have proved unfounded. We have clearly faired better than the Gwesibor Nation, whose former workers the Model-16 Incorporators have now conquered almost all of their former masters' territory.
At least the admirals have a new toy to play with in our next war. The completion of the Colossus Project means we now have a Colossus-class vessel available for use. Debate was had about the benefits of the two proposed weapon types, a planet-shattering World Cracker which does exactly what the name implies, or the perhaps more sinister Neutron Sweep, which bombards the world below with a deadly wave of neutron radiation. This instantly kills all organic life (and mechanical "life") on the planet below leaving it available for re-colonisation. There is some collateral damage of course, the natural environment inevitably takes a few decades to recover from such a bombardment, but destroying the planet outright just seems so...wasteful.
Whether the Colossus will be utilised or not depends really on what our next steps should be. Admittedly the entering of the Fafossans into galactic events and our defeat (let's be honest, that's what it was) at their hands has thrown the Alziri high command for a bit of a loop. The fleets are being re-jigged, re-armed and consolidated yet again in light of new technology but unfortunately the purge of all AIs in Authority space also meant the Navy had to give up their sapient shipboard combat computers.
Going to war again with the Fafossans means entering into a 2v3 conflict, us and the Huvidu-Zaan against the Fafossans and their new vassals: the Glorious Gwesibor Imperium and the Pouz-Jok High Kingdom. Alternatively we could opt for easier pickings, working our way through the galactic stragglers and remaining independent entities such as the Empire of Akk, the Model-16 Incorporators and the Principality of Wetij.
The only certainly is that we will never submit to the Fafossans. The galaxy will burn before that happens, rest assured.
- [+] Dice rolls
Typical English weather isn't it really? A lovely sunny day, gentle breeze, dry...during a nationwide lock-down. Oh well, time to set the gaming table up in the conservatory with the back-door open and enjoy a bit of it at least.
As always, That's Pretty Clever makes an ideal little starter game. Rachel and I both had a terrible time with the greens, it was perhaps ominous that on Rachel's first roll she used the white 1 to cross off her first green believing (rightly so) the odds were good that she could re-use the green die later on. Nope, the next roll offered up a green 1. I had exactly the same in my first round.
Carcassonne was one of the first modern board games I introduced Rachel too, almost 2 years ago now when our second date ended up in Ludorati for after-dinner coffee and cake, but we haven't really played it a great deal. Partly that's because my Carcassonne set remained with my parents for a long time, it's still their favourite, but I recently reclaimed it (leaving them with a standard copy with no expansions, very boring they say!) with a mind to play it more with Rachel and revisit this classic.
One of the really nice things about Carcassonne is how modular the rules are, it's very easy to remove certain elements and add them in over time, and Saturday's objective was the re-introduction of farmers now that we've got roads, cities, monasteries, inns and cathedrals down. Farmers definitely lend themselves towards more aggressive, feature-stealing play whilst at the same time being a huge gamble, I am sure that all Carcassonne players have experienced the trauma that is a zero scoring farmer. Indeed, the subtle engineering of the farmers into big fields is the inspiration behind this blog's name (sneaking meeples into ones field with a cheeky road piece) and Rachel was certainly aware of it in our two games, even thinking ahead and sacrificing a few points to join two farmers into one field to prevent potential encroachment from one of my own.
Something co-operative to finish our afternoon session and a title that's actually on my 10x10 last, Pandemic: Fall of Rome. With Rachel as the Regina Foederata and myself as the Consul we took command of the western and eastern empire respectively, getting some early forts down and clearing out the initial barbarian concentrations. Before long however we were being dragged from pillar to post fighting fires (and barbarians) but with the first alliance made and Rachel's ability as Regina Foederata making it much easier to recruit the savages we were able to hold on. After much plotting and trading cards at opportune moments, the fifth and final alliance was made and the empire saved for the time being. We play co-operative games very well I feel, each of us always has a firm idea of what a productive turn looks like but also being considerate of the bigger picture. A good sign I think!
Since tomorrow will be my first proper day of furlough (yep, me too now!) I will certainly be aiming to blog a bit more, especially some solitaire write-ups and of course, continuing our Stellaris saga of the Alzir Authority.
- [+] Dice rolls
A lesson that I learned quite quickly in Stellaris is "don't bite off more than you can chew". That neighbouring empire might look vulnerable, and your intelligence might say your fleet power is superior, but that can all change in the blink of an eye. Read on to see how the Alzir Authority is faring as we enter the last 100 years of this Stellaris play-through.
After absorbing the Kobanan into the Authority at the end of the last session some time had to be invested improving the infrastructure on the newly integrated worlds and adjusting their production quotas. Since only Alziri can hold key positions there were a number of disaffected Kobanan causing unrest and a great deal of grumbling, enough that on several worlds their factories and administrative centres were torn down and replaced with Strongholds and Precinct Houses, the new Soldiers and Enforces doing their duty for the Authority and establishing a more lasting peace. Martial law and anti-criminal campaigns were required on a few planets, along with a nationwide Information Quarantine to better regulate the network traffic and paint the Authority in a more welcoming light.
It was all fun and games over on the eastern rim, the Gwesibor Nation reaping the, ahem, rewards, of their dabbling in robotics and suffering a full blown machine uprising right in the heart of their territory. The robots had been preparing in secret and attacked out of the blue with a full space fleet and ground forces, at time of writing all of the core Gweisbor worlds had fallen under machine rule and their empire split in two. We hold no hope for any remaining organic populations, the Model-16 Incorporators as they call themselves swiftly closed their borders to all other empires and will not answer diplomatic hails. Early reports indicate that the robots are "assimilators", their goal to subsume all organic life into their digital matrix. The Authority will deal with them in due course.
Before long the war-horns sounded again, this time it was not Alziri expansionism that sounded them. Our ally, the Huvidu-Zaan Republic, was expanding into newly-opened territory after a brief war with the Empire of Akk (during which over half their systems were sundered off into the new Principality of Wetij) and it so happened that they got a bit too close to the Cirrulan Ancients. The Ancients, a fallen empire that previously dominated the galaxy but has been stagnant for millennia, took great offence to this claim and declared war on the Republic, and by extension, the Authority!
Their mighty fleet swiftly plunged into Huvidu-Zaan space, scouring system after system, destroying Republic outposts with single volleys. Four full Authority fleets and the combined Federation fleet met them in battle in the Asmore system, the binary star a beautiful background to a bloody battle. Despite out-numbering the Ancients four to one in ships, their superior technology held fast and they smashed the Alziri fleets. Hundreds of ships were lost, tens of thousands of brave warriors and crewman. A disastrous defeat?
No. All part of the plan. True, our fleets were almost wiped out and two experienced admirals lost to the void, but the Alziri shipyards had a vast stock of alloys at hand and churned out new ships ready for when the fleets limped home. Restocked, refuelled and rearmed in no time flat, whereas the Ancients with their stagnant leadership and hedonistic, decadent population did not have the will or means to replace their losses. Losing three-quarters of the Authority Navy was worth it to destroy half of their irreplaceable ships.
They saw our fresh recruits coming, eager for revenge, and sued for peace, abandoning the claims they had on Hividu-Zaan space and pulling back behind their defensive perimeter. No matter. Our fleets held firm on the border, slowing but surely adding extra strength whilst the clock ticked down on the peace treaty. The very day it expired, we declared war on them, laying claim to all their systems, unleashing the star-captains and finishing the war they started. Their bastions fell to almighty volleys of nuclear missiles and laser fire, all coming to a poetic end as the pathetic remnants of their fleet, barely a dozen ships, were blown to atoms above their own homeworld. Whilst the Alziri fleets pounded their homeworld, Cradle, from orbit our ground armies, boosted by genetically engineered xenomorph creatures and gene-spliced soldiers from the Huvidu-Zaan, valiantly forced their way through the defensive lines on the other Cirrulan planets to claim them for the Authority.
The Cirrulans are now reduced to mere residents on planets they have known as home for thousands of years, though some in the Authority called for humiliating them further by reducing them to slave status. We will watch them keenly, if they abide by Authority laws and integrate well into society they have nothing to fear. Their advanced technology has also been reverse-engineered and studied, neutronium armour plating, hyper shields and dark matter reactors are now ready for fitting onto our own ships.
The biggest issue is what to do with the many synthetic servants the Cirrulan used and have now come under Alziri jurisdiction. Robots and their status has been a null issue so far, Alziri are happy to work themselves and see no need for a machine to help them, but these synthetics might pose a problem. We do not wish a repeat of the uprising the Gewisbor Nation experienced, but for now we will leave them at their servile level while they continue to function within their limits.
There is good news all round on the home front. The economy is proving extremely robust, the food and consumer good deficits we had previously have been rectified and production has greatly improved, especially of the alloys critical for star-ship manufacture. New technologies have allowed industries all over to expand and grow, specialised Refinery Worlds distil and extract the Exotic Gases, Chemical Motes and Rare Crystals that all our worlds now make use of in upgrading and modernising their own industries. Both the civilian and military bureaucracies have kept pace with expansion, newly-trained Administrators and deep space Anchorages keeping the economy ticking along nicely and everything within budget.
Any traders or caravans traversing the Boro Baba system, actually quite close to Laais and one of the first systems discovered when we started exploring, would have been treated to a light show as the primitive civilisation there went over the edge and exterminated themselves in a nuclear holocaust. Quite spectacular to watch from orbit, the overwhelming attitude from Alziri is that clearly these primitives did not have the necessary discipline and moral backbone to survive. Some network traffic was intercepted saying that the Authority should have stepped in earlier and enlightened the primitives, either way the observation station in orbit above the planet and the science team watching them were not to blame. At least we have the technology and resources required to swiftly terraform this irradiated wasteland into a brand new world ripe for resettlement.
The science team will not be idle for long however, as with recent territorial acqusitions we have come into possession of another system with a primitive species. They are currently in a Late Medieval Period, black powder weapons are becoming prevalent and the world is split up into many nation-states in various alliances. Based on the third planet of the Sol system, they should prove an interesting research subject.
With the economy doing well, there is no better time for war. With the Cirrulan Ancients destroyed as an independent nation the Alzir Authority is now the chief power in the galaxy. Our next target will be the second fallen empire, the Fafossan Remnant in the galactic north. The slight issue is that we currently cannot reach them as they are completely surrounded by hostile (to us, at least) Gwesibor Imperium space.
Our solution is to first lay claim to enough Gwesibor systems to create a "corridor" linking Alziri and Fafossan space. This will be a severe blow to the Imperium as the systems we will capture include their capitol and half a dozen of their core worlds, the ones settled in their early star-faring days and thus the most developed. This will also divide the Imperium in two, one of the "halves" being the "eastern pocket" which whilst fairly undeveloped should be easily conquerable, and in the future will open up access to the Eastern Rim. Once the corridor is established, we can then begin work on eliminating the Fafossan.
As promised, the Hesukar have been wrapped up and absorbed by the Authority after a brief blitzkreig forced them to submit as vassals. As the Cirrulan brought their synthetic servants with them, the Hesukar have a number of robotic workers working the mineral mines and hydroponic farms of their former planets. Definite thought will have to be given now to the machine problem. The inclination of our current ruler, High Marshall Sagg (son of Murk) is that we deactivate and purge the robots sooner rather than later, outlawing the use of AI completely. It may well prevent a future uprising (unless the decision to purge causes the uprising) and free up excellent migration and job opportunities for Authority residents. Others on his council recommend caution, that we simply let the robots and synthetics function in their current service roles and take active measures only when problems start to arise. The admirals also raise the very valid point that outlawing AIs would necessitate a refit of all current Authority fleets as their combat and targeting computers all use sapient operating systems with a small (but controllable) degree of self-awareness and self-evolving learning processes.
Rather unusually for the office of the Grand Marshall, he is reaching out to all sector governors, leading scientists and wise sages of the Authority and is encouraging discussion of the topic. The question is thus:
What should we do about the synthetic and robotic workers and servants we have recently integrated?
In other Authority news, the Colossus Project is nearing completion...
- [+] Dice rolls
31 Mar 2020
I'm going to roll with this whether you like it or not! Part 2 of my Stellaris game as the Alzir Authority follows...
One slightly awkward thing about being part of a federation is that I can't declare war on just anyone anymore, the declaration has to be ratified by the other members of the federation. Thus my attempts to bring the neighbouring Hesukar Galactic League to heel proved fruitless, my two federation buddies not seeing the need and vetoing the motion.
War still came however, the Huvidu-Zaan Republic clamoured instead for a meatier conflict against the Glorious Gwesibor Imperium who despite their relative remoteness on the far side of the galaxy were easily reachable via a wormhole connection from within Huvidu-Zaan space. The combined federation fleet as well the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Star Orders of the Alzir Authority sallied forth to try and carve out a bridgehead in the middle of the Imperium.
It was a good while before the real Gwesibor fleets came out to meet us, they were willing to let vast swathes of territory go and slowly chip away at our fleets with small attacks. The 2nd and 3rd Star Orders relentlessly smashed their way through the coreward edge of the Imperium before finally bringing their two main fleets into a decisive engagement. Lasers burned and missiles lit the sky with nuclear fire, our courageous Alziri ships taking great losses but ultimately routing the enemy fleets.
Meanwhile back on the home-front, the rebellion on the world of T'Tra was put down and as punishment, all Jaazijan were declared Undesirables and ordered to leave Authority space forthwith. As it turns out, displacement was the worst I could do, purging is only available to races to start the game with the specific Xenophobic ethic. Oh well!
Back in Imperium space, the 2nd and 3rd Star Orders had a tough decision ahead. The remains of the enemy fleets had reinforced with fresh ships a couple systems over and appeared to be bolstered further by another full fleet from their ally, the Empire of Akk. Judging by the tactical readouts, the fleets were more-or-less evenly matched, so the Alziri plunged in fearlessly. This time the Authority tasted defeat, the Star Orders having to retreat via emergency FTL jump but not before mauling the enemy severely. We give as good as we get.
Soon after these battles the war ended, the Huvidu-Zaan had achieved their goal of claiming the systems around the wormhole exit, so it was time to look inward again and rebuild the fleets.
As it turned out I'd done my soldiers a disservice and sent them into battle with obsolete weaponry and shielding, technology had vastly moved on whilst they were out smashing the Imperium. Refits and reinforcements were completed in short order for all fleets, even though the 4th Star Order had not been fighting the Imperium I had taken the opportunity to send them to exterminate a pirate clan that had previously raided Alziri space and taken slaves. Their wrecks provided a wealth of salvage and opened up another route into the Gwesibor Imperium, previously blocked by the hostile pirates.
Meanwhile the bureaucrats completed the process of integrating the vassalised United Kobanan Holdings fully into the Authority, their worlds, fleets and starbases now serve the Alziri cause. I have no doubt that some of these liberal, egalitarian aliens will chafe at our rule, no Alziri would appreciate being make a simple "resident" overnight on a world they have worked and bled to terraform and civilise, but the simple truth is the Kobanan lacked the stomach and iron will required to survive in such a hostile galaxy. Several of their former worlds already show signs of increased criminal activity and civil unrest, measures have been taken to quickly erect Strongholds and Precinct Houses to reaffirm our grip on these new acquisitions. They will learn, or suffer the same fate as the Jaazijan.
Suddenly incorporating an entity that doubles the size of the Authority overnight was a bit of a shock to the economy and we are now running deficits on food and consumer goods. The stockpiles will last but some work will certainly have to be done to realign some of the former Kobanan worlds (the AI don't really build their planets sensibly) and keep an eye on unemployment and unrest. Many of the Kobanan military forces will need refitting and updating as well, two more sizeable fleets have come under our command and the military bureaucracy urgently needs to expand to keep up. Nations have a soft cap on their fleet size and whilst players are free to exceed it, doing so makes all ships more expensive to maintain.
Once refits are done the economy is stabilised, it will be time to look outward again. I don't really like the idea of having the Hesukar at my back, despite their weakness they could easily prey on the Authority should I be distracted with war elsewhere. Otherwise, my options are to chip away at the Gwesibor on the new northern front, working my way clockwise around the galaxy and seizing what territory I can.
The alternative is I remain at peace and continue to build my fleets. Despite the size of the Gwesibor Imperium and the Huvidu-Zaan Republic, a greater threat...and prize...awaits in the galaxy's two Fallen Empires: the Fafossan Remnant and the Cirrulan Ancients.
- [+] Dice rolls
As mentioned in my previous post, board games are a little bit on the back-burner currently. Though Rachel and I did play some Dominion and two cases of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases on Saturday, the former wasn't really worth writing about and the second I can't really write about for fear of spoiling it for others.
But, I do miss writing something so how about something a little different. I've been playing a lot of galactic empire simulator Stellaris recently, so how about I introduce you to my current playthrough and how it's been going.
Note: Stellaris is a game where players can play as species with wide ranges of ethical and moral codes, from spiritualist peacekeepers to ruthlessly despotic slavers, genocidal machine hive-minds to isolationist technocracies. Any views or actions I express are purely from a game play perspective and do not reflect in any way my own personal beliefs.
Presenting, the Alzir Authority. A mammalian species from the galactic southwest, after a peaceful unification of their homeworld Gaoria and consolidating their home system of Laais, they set forth to the stars. Fanatically authoritarian and militarist in nature, this race is very nationalistic with a firm hold over its people and a strong focus on a robust, technologically advanced military. Citizenship and colonisation rights are granted only to Alziri. Other alien races are granted residence rights only, colonisation of worlds in Alziri space is a privilege reserved for the Alziri alone, however other xeno-races may take lower- and middle-class jobs where possible and social welfare is available for all unemployed populations. Leadership positions in both civilian and military life are reserved for Alziri, and while all resident races may serve in the armed forces none have yet proved the equal of Alziri warriors who are stronger, faster and fight more fiercely.
In darker days slavery was common between the warring Alziri tribes on Gaoria, the practice grew less common as the species advanced but was never fully abolished. Hence the Alzir Authority still technically allows slavery and while all (current) aliens are granted fair rights, those who show signs of rebellion or social deviancy might find their rights revoked. Or worse.
Our galactic ambitions found themselves checked very early on, our scientists quickly establishing contact with three neighbouring races and our borders meeting theirs not long after. To the north, the United Kobanan Holdings proved friendly at first and a non-aggression pact was signed between us. To the southwest, the neutral Keerim Foundation who despite diplomatic overtures kept their borders firmly closed. In the east, the presence of the Jaazijan Star Hunters was a worrying development, their species outright refusing to engage in any diplomacy and vowing the destruction of Alzir and all other galactic races. All in good time.
The biggest issue facing the nascent nation was a lack of suitable worlds for colonisation. Alziri are adapted to a dry, savanna environment and whilst plenty of habitable worlds lay within our borders all were either too cold or too wet. More space was needed, and so we laid claim to the worlds of the Keerim Foundation, subjugating them in short order and expanding the Authority. The fall of the Foundation also opened up the chain of unexplored star systems to the west, extending our reach out to the galactic rim and northwards to again meet the borders of the United Kobanan Holdings.
The fleets did not sit still for long. The latest equipment had to be utilised and all existing ships were refitted to new versions to fit the new combat doctrine: fast corvettes, equipped with shield-piercing nuclear missiles to deliver massive alpha strikes to enemy fleets; nimble destroyers, equipped with fast tracking weaponry to shoot down enemy corvettes before swarming onto larger targets; and finally heavy hitting cruisers that stay at range to pour down laser and railgun fire. In the galactic south, a suitable target emerged on which to test these new ships.
After our incorporation of the Keerim Foundation we made contact with the Butherian Slayers, another highly xenophobic race with the same goal as the Jaazijan: exterminate all other life in the galaxy. Thankfully, there's nothing a fanatical purifier hates more than another fanatical purifier and before long the Butherians were at war with the Jaazijan. Seeing the latter pushing deeply into Butherian territory, the Alziri figured it was time to help finish the job and if that helped us, ahem, "liberate" some more territory (and more importantly, worlds) from the maniacal xenophobic scum then all the better. Then we went and did the same thing to the Jaazijan, allying with their neighbours in the Huvidu-Zaan Republic to crush the Jaazijan between us. The galaxy can rest a little easier now that the two most dangerous alien empires have been taken care of.
From the eastern border to the northern border now. After a short period of peace in which the fleet was upgraded and expanded, the Kobanan Holdings suddenly broke off all diplomatic contact and began to treat the Alzir Authority much more harshly. This would not do, especially not after decades of calm and cordial relations and open borders. Merely claiming a few star systems and eating away at their borders would not do. No, it was time for humiliation. We demanded they submit to us as vassals. They refused. And so their fleet burned, the survivors who escaped by emergency FTL jumps were chased back to the shipyards and burned again. Their capitol was the first world to fall. Others followed, the Alzir legions now bolstered by Keerim, Jaazijan and Butherian auxiliaries. Unable to face any more, they bent the knee.
The current state of the galaxy, well into the mid-game now.
Internally, there is work to be done. The economy is stable but production of alloys needed for star fleets needs to be urgently expanded in order to keep pace with potential demand. The trade network could also do with expanding and with it a review of all star-bases in Authority space, especially an eye to expanding the available shipyards, anchorages and trade hubs. There is also rebellion to take care of, a world at the very edge of Alziri space (literally, it's the purple blob at the bottom edge of the galaxy) has erupted in popular uprising. The Alziri population are not to blame, the original Butherians are. A punitive fleet and ground army is on its way already, we can only hope they do not grow their uprising further. What this will mean for their species is yet to be decided. A reduction to slaves at the very least, though as this is the first rebellion of the star-faring Alzir Authority perhaps a stronger example should be made. Not a full-blown purge, we are conscious of the diplomatic effects, the other nations would not take kindly to genocide, even of a species that previously threatened all others. Perhaps neutering.
Looking outside our borders, I have formed a federation with the neighbouring Huvidu-Zaan Republic, a martial alliance that will benefit our military power, and with the Kobanan Holdings subjugated there are no immediate threats to our borders. The Hesukar Galactic League to the west are weak, they could be easily turned to vassals and may well be our next target. Similarly the Pouz-Jok Star Regime in the galactic north-west can be reached via wormhole and, after attempting to help defend the Kobanan and getting stomped by the Authority in return, are pathetically ill-equipped to stop an annexation attempt. Incorporating them into the Alzir Authority would open up quick access to the north and allow us to put pressure on the second-most powerful threat to our nation, the Glorious Gwesibor Imperium.
The most powerful threat currently? Our friends in the alliance, the Huvidu-Zaan Republic.
They say to keep your friends close...
- [+] Dice rolls