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Subject: Why attack others in a multiplayer game? rss

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Eero Miettinen
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We have now played a couple of games with slightly different groups. Also for us the question of "Why attack other players?" has risen. Attacking in two player game makes sense since it is a zero-sum game, but the multiplayer game seems to be less than zero game. It reminds me of old westerns: there is a stare down and the bad guy acting first always loses. This may be partly about group thinking, but there seems to be very little incentive to go to war or even attack. Most people in our group play quite ruthlessly, so if you let yourself become vulnerable others will descend upon you like a pack of vultures. Maybe this makes everybody extra cautious.

This issue doesn't bother me as much as some others since it is nice to have alternative tracks and you have to adjust your strategy based on your findings. I also like the tension of waiting whether somebody blinks or not, but still. I won my last game by pretending to be militarily much more powerfull than I actually was and then teching like crazy. My original idea was to build an attack fleet of interceptors and then wreak havoc with them. I researched antimatter cannons and targeting computers and placed them on interceptors and starbases (ok, eventually to others too). However my material production was horrible and I couldn't build anything more expoensive. I therefore concentrated my ships on borders and started teching like crazy. I was trailing others for most of the game, but was convinced that I could tech myself to victory. In the end I managed to clinch the victory by completing almost all the tech tracks and building a monolith. Anyway, back to the topic.

Motives to attack:

So, again there was very little action. In the earlier games there has been some action, but those acting have generally finished in the last positions. Currently I see the following motives for attacking others:
1. The thing that makes most sense seems to be gaining reputation tiles, but you can get these from ancients too. Ancients also give you something special as a bonus. Of course if you have to meet ancients for this to work. Here the probing attacks (small force) work best. Downside is that you lose diplomatic relationship and and lose you extra resource point which is damaging particularly in the beginning.
2. Gaining sectors, but these will probably be exposed since it is another person's territory. Also here you lose diplomatic relationship and and lose you extra resource point which is damaging particularly in the beginning.
3. Pushing others down. This makes sense if you can pull it off, but it is difficult to do and the lead generated is difficult to maintain. The attacker is easily branded as an aggressor and leader.
4. Fighting for fighting's sake, but there are better games for that.
5. Ruining other people's game.

For the observed leaders it makes no sense to attack unless they can strike a killing blow with minimal expenses since attacks cost actions and resources that could be used elsewhere. It also opens one up for retaliation and one is seen as the one to beat. Probing attacks could be effective. For those just behind the leaders it is so and so to attack. You risk the possibility of giving the game to other players. You may gain something, but that really depends more on the other players at that point. Only for those clearly trailing it makes most sense to attack to divide the leaders, but in that case they still need to take care of their defenses assuming of course that they are playing to win.

Opportunities by the game phases:
Another way of looking at the game is to divide it in phases: 1-3 beginning, 4-7 middle game, 8-9 end game. This is generally my view. Middle game could sometimes start on third round. It is interesting to see how other's see this.

Beginning (1-3)
In the beginning the resource situation is generally thight so getting extra money is important and trading ambassadors is an easy way to achieve this. During the first two turns you still can't be sure what you will find and what your empire will look like. If you commit to attack here and your exploration doesn't work you are in trouble. Also, if you lose here you have given the enemy a chance to counterattack. If you manage to conquer a tile you have to spend one of your actions to populate the sector. So, only the best sectors are worth attacking in the begging and even then you have to defend. Probing attack will give you a repuration tile, but this is really just a gamey way of getting victory points. In any case your neighbour will be more aware of you later. So, I don't really see the opportunity here except for the probing attack unless you are willing to take a huge risk and gamble. Granted, if you attack here you can still hope to recover.

Middle (4-7)
In the middle game there is a build up phase. Everybody cranks out tech and ships for the final showdown. I see a short window of opportunity here particularly if you have materials to invest heavily into ship production. The risk is that you get tied up in a long war and that is a guaranteed way to lose. Even here one needs to be extra carefull not to expose oneself so that the victim or the others don't take advantage of the situation. If you move your fleet against one player you are exposing yourself to another. If you lose here recovery is very difficult, but if you want to play a fighting game this is the phase where you have to start.

End (8-9)
End game is the final phase of the stare down. Unless there was fighting earlier everybody is so stacked up on weapons that attacking doesn't feel healthy except in the final moments of the final round. Others don't have much chances to react then and recovery doesn't matter anymore.

The most sensible advice seems to be that players shouldn't worry about losing (or really winning) and just concentrate on having fun. Unfortunately for me that would break this game since it is at least partly an economic game.
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The zero sum point is legitimate.

However, ships have no lasting value in Eclipse, and therefore the loss of ships at the gain of any points whatsoever is positive, especially at the end of the game.

You also have races that are inherently better in combat, and races that are inherently better in a standoff. If you're one of the former, you will lose every game you play against the latter if you don't attack them.

Finally, games are chaotic, and players imperfect. If you aren't winning, then you have to do something. Might attacking make things worse? Sure it might, but doing nothing definitely won't work. I myself am awful about this, but it's easy to remember you aren't playing against perfect AI, you're playing against people.
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Matt Boehland
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ignorantpenguin wrote:
I myself am awful about this, but it's easy to remember you aren't playing against perfect AI, you're playing against people.


Depending on you play with, sometimes those are about the same thing.
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Markus
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Yes, a good point to remember is that unless you are winning, you are losing (oh really?) so you might as well put those ships into use. Chances are, that if you succesfully take a hex from your neighbour, he just might let you keep it. Of course, if he immediatly retaliates with all of his forces he is letting his neighbour into his territory and suddenly the galaxy goes down in flames.

Don't be afraid to attack - try it out and see what happens. The advantages are hard to lay out on the table because they are really dependant on the situation and mentality of other players. Its not always something you can straight out calculate in victory points (not beforehand, at least).
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Julian
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Maybe i did not understand original post (english not my first languaje - excuse my grammar), but my feelings about attacking in the game seem pretty different. In my opinion, fleets are easily replazable, since most of the effort in building up your military is not destroyed in war (teching up and upgrading blueprints). So once prepared to war, it pays warying (is that a verb? )

It seems just a matter of the group playstyle (i infer that by some of your expresions, but maybe i'm wrong), so I'm not going to discuss the points of your post which i dont agree with (they sure are valid for your group and experience), and instead i'll expose why I tend to attack.

In my games (just 6 played) there are usually wars during mid game - not just at the end, and winner usually have wagged war during the game. In the last two games, people even passed out of figthing ancients, focusing in player vs player conflict first, and leting the ancients to be beated during last turns (or whenever you have a couple of spare build/move slots). And winners usually have been agresive at least at one point. Of course you can not depend on combat alone to win, but I have only seen a mostly-pacific victory so far, and even it involved a little war with the other pacefull neigbough.

To the point - this is why I think you should attack, and attack early:

Because you have archieved an advantage in ships (by design and/or numbers), and if you don´t exploit it now it will probably vanish soon. Players will build up, upgrade, or tech. A small davantage is really enough in the first turns.

Because you want to full up your reputation track with good tiles. Is not difficult to have 10+ VP in reputation track, the same or more than to full technology tracks.

Because others have better economy, you feel you cannot beat them with more exploring/building up, so you concentrate in war to disturb their play before they can build up a defense. Don´t leet them focus on what they do better than you.

Because an oportunity target has arisen: a good system exposed, a small fleet wich can be destroyed easily, and the oponent have not the actions/resources/ships to reaction. In my group agreesion is seem as part of the game, and we have no problem with that (we are legal good in real live, no problem being caotic while playing )

Because you want to break a diplomatic agreement in order to get some room to expand or get reputation tiles (if little to no ancients or free systems to explore).

Because you want to break a diplomatic agreement soon, in order to let other break theirs latter and take the traitor card from you.

Because you are pretty safe in one side (maybe one neighbougrh is engaged in war, unconnected, or whatever) and so you have not worry (too much) of a backstab, so you attack now before you have your flank exposed

Because you have actions left, and no better use for them. And oponents do have a better use for them.

Sumarizing, you attack, and attack early, because you don´t want your opponent to choose when and where to figh you. You attack to disturb their play and obtain adavantages wich take you to the win.
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Ed Bradley
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Don't be soft! Have a fight!

 
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zorro_jv wrote:
Because you have archieved an advantage in ships (by design and/or numbers), and if you don´t exploit it now it will probably vanish soon. Players will build up, upgrade, or tech. A small davantage is really enough in the first turns.

When there are dice involved, I never trust a "small advantage" ninja

Other than that, good points. I'm so looking forward to geting my first play of this game!
 
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Smuggler wrote:
zorro_jv wrote:
:star: Because you have archieved an advantage in ships. [...] A small davantage is really enough in the first turns.

When there are dice involved, I never trust a "small advantage" :ninja:]


I aimed at being short... and failed both at being short, and at explaining my point :D. With "a small advantage" i mean having a simple upgrade which can itselft give you really better odds in combat. For example, having improved hull tech and assigned it to your interceptor free slot, your interceptros have greater odds to beat plain interceptors of another player wich has not (and could not) get war techs during the first turns.

This advantage is small because it is easily overcomed (next turn some war tech can be draft and researched by your opponent), but big because it give you better odds (while it last).

Just an example, anyway. And of course, dice can destroy your dreams anyway :D
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adebisi
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Good questions.

Previous posters have already addressed good reasons to smite your opponents. I'll throw my two pennies into the pot.

1) Take the initiative. If a fight looks inevitable, in my book it's always better to take the war to enemy territory where she/he has more to lose. I'd do this even if I had no incentive to conquer the hex myself.

2) An attack with a smaller force scattered all around the enemy space has a potential of hurting much more than a concentrated full force attack against one or two hexes, especially if the targeted hexes produce economy. This kind of invasion is almost guaranteed to force your opponent to commit more ships, actions and resources on the defensive moves than what you spent on the simple offensive manoeuvre. That gives you an edge.

3) Should you have an advantage in numbers, technology or upgrades made, you must utilize it while you still can. If you wait, your opponents are almost guaranteed to catch up. A strategic strike made early or in the mid game might take down the momentum your enemy has been gathering. You don't necessarily have to aim at complete extermination but to force your enemy to spend the couple of next rounds in getting back to the point where she/he already was.
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Eero Miettinen
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Thanks for ideas all, but I am not yet entirely convinced.

For example losing ships is not trivial if it put's you in disadvantagous position.

Still, I particularly like zorro_jv's suggestion of attacking if you don't have anything better to do and your opponent does. That is simply great if a bit risky suggestion.

Those who are clearly losing have a clear reason to start attacking others if they feel that they can't catch up otherwise. But this is difficult to estimate in the beginning before the exploration phase is over. If you start attacking before the exploration is over you are putting yourself in disadvantage since you can't be sure if you can follow through your actions.

Another thing is surgical strikes rather than massing the entire fleet leaves enough reserves to counter the possible reactions. Small attacks don't probably cause so much retaliation either. I was actually planning to try this in our last game, but I couldn't get the right resources so I had to adapt which is great in itself.

But most comments sound more like tips for two player games. What are your other neighbours doing while you go conquering? Are they spectating or participating? My experience is that when you move against one neighbour the other is more than happy to take advantage of the situation. Two front conflict is never a good thing. This happens particularly if they feel that you are leading or near lead and/or if you just leave yourself too vulnerable. Of course your opponent will probably have the same problem. Maybe this is our group's issue, but everybody feels that attack has too great risks compared to rewards at least if they feel that they are otherwise still in the victory race.

Off topic: Some people have complained that the tile drawing is too random. I don't feel that way. I like it that you can't form your strategy in advance, but you have to base it on what you find. Problem here is that somebody usually get's bad draws, but I guess they are the ones who should start attacking then.

 
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david landes
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An additional point.. just because "all the others" would like to hit you while you are overcommitted against one opponent does not mean that the galaxy is structured such that they have that opportunity.. and placing hexes strategically is not inconsequential for structuring potential 'gang-uppers' out of the mix.
 
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Eero Miettinen
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dklx3 wrote:
An additional point.. just because "all the others" would like to hit you while you are overcommitted against one opponent does not mean that the galaxy is structured such that they have that opportunity.. and placing hexes strategically is not inconsequential for structuring potential 'gang-uppers' out of the mix.


Isn't that kind of like turtling that some say doesn't work in this game? devil

Ps. I agree with you.
 
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eerom wrote:
dklx3 wrote:
An additional point.. just because "all the others" would like to hit you while you are overcommitted against one opponent does not mean that the galaxy is structured such that they have that opportunity.. and placing hexes strategically is not inconsequential for structuring potential 'gang-uppers' out of the mix.


Isn't that kind of like turtling that some say doesn't work in this game? :devil:

Ps. I agree with you.


In the last game I played the 2 military aliens wanted to thrash me in addition they had a diplomatic relations. Problem for them was one of them cut off the other one by jumping over one of my areas. So the other one split the first guy's forces in half. Then it was a free for all, after that I only lost one system and mainly just made units as speed bumps.
 
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Early and even in mid game, Unless you are attacking from the GC, the chances of someone else being able to attack your backside are pretty slim. They aren't going to have the wormhole generator yet, and you've been setting up your wormholes such that you block them the easy route but still have an access point somewhere, right? Besides, if everyone has decided attacking early is too risky, they won't be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.

The biggest reason, for me, to attack is threefold:
1 You are probably attacking a hex with great resources which will buff you up more than you'll lose if you lose a ship or two.
2 Its a victory point SWING, usually 6 points. That's a LOT in the game.
3 Your opponent not only lost VPs, they lost resources in future turns, making it harder to retaliate.
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eerom wrote:
But most comments sound more like tips for two player games. What are your other neighbours doing while you go conquering? Are they spectating or participating?


I talk mostly about multiplayer games, in fact. In early-mid game, the galaxy don´t seem so open in my games so far. Maybe i have offered an embasador to the less war-ready neighbourgh, and i feel safe for now. Maybe im not connected by one side, or one opponent have his fleet commited far away figthing ancients or protecting something. Maybe double ancients or GCDS act as a buffer wich don´t allow for inmediate atack on your back.

I dont mean that you have to do plenty of attacks every turn - most of the time you explore, build up, and prepare, but attaking sometimes have sense, not just the last turn.

Anyway, i don´t see attack as conquering. Grab a single sector. Destroy a fleet. Conquer a couple of hexes, and let the enemy retake them next turn. As you say, fast attaks that allow you to react, not a long total war against just one opponent - which your limited influence disks will disallow anyway .Of course will not work with every group, some people commit themselves to vengance and territorial recovey - which is not a bad thing per se ;).
 
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adebisi
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One more example:
In our last session, I was looking strong on the board in mid-game which made me an obvious target. I had two immediate neighbours, one with a fleet more or less as strong as mine and one with a little bit weaker fleet but furiously trying to catch up.

At this time I made my move against my stronger neighbour. I felt that I couldn't survive a war at two fronts, so I judged it would better to fight them one at a time. So here again, I took the initiative because waiting a round or two would have put me into a worse position.

We both suffered losses but he also lost a few hexes which really slowed him down. Unorthodox or not, but I didn't conquer the hexes. They just became kind of a buffer zone, where just one ship was enough to prevent my enemy from placing influence there. I was also able to recover quite quickly and was ready to confront my other close opponent in time.

And btw, I won that game.
 
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david landes
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eerom wrote:
dklx3 wrote:
An additional point.. just because "all the others" would like to hit you while you are overcommitted against one opponent does not mean that the galaxy is structured such that they have that opportunity.. and placing hexes strategically is not inconsequential for structuring potential 'gang-uppers' out of the mix.


Isn't that kind of like turtling that some say doesn't work in this game? devil

Ps. I agree with you.


Not completely the same. Turtling is essentially looking to keep all players out of your area. I am indicating that there are clearly easy ways to limit one (or more) players from being able to join the free for all. Thus, turtling is the most extreme form of limiting other players' access.
 
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Here's the thing... if I attack you, and take a territory from you, you may counterattack me and win... a territory that you already had. Had you attacked me first, you would have taken a territory of mine that I would then try to retake. It's more about maneuvering your opponent than conquering. If I hit here, and another guy hits there, then even better - it's hard to counterattack in two places. I don't have to commit my own forces entirely to one side, either. I'd rather be fighting two fronts over territory that isn't mine rather than fighting over one front over my own territory.

Also, if I attack, I can get the opponent to build starbases and then swing around a different way and that's less starbases he can build where I'm actually attacking. Drives are helpful.
 
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Dan Moore
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adebisi wrote:
We both suffered losses but he also lost a few hexes which really slowed him down. Unorthodox or not, but I didn't conquer the hexes. They just became kind of a buffer zone, where just one ship was enough to prevent my enemy from placing influence there. I was also able to recover quite quickly and was ready to confront my other close opponent in time.

And btw, I won that game.


Ooh, I like it. It might be a person could defeat and repopulate a hex in a turn, but two in a turn? It would mean, probably, not being able to rebuild fleets or research or whatnot; one at a time could be more balanced but slower . . . it depends what your relative fleet sizes have become . . . and you might could do it again in response. I'ma give it a try.
 
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Jythier wrote:
I'd rather be fighting two fronts over territory that isn't mine rather than fighting over one front over my own territory . . . Drives are helpful.


That if there is going to be war, better it's fought on your enemies territory than yours, indeed. Easier to persuade your people to support the effort, as they don't suffer the consequences; and better not to lose resources. Since this game doesn't account for popular feeling it's a moot point but it's still good strategy.

If you are afraid to be attacked by another after attacking first, then yes, I think it's good to preempt or hobble that second opponent.

Drives are hella important. Someone who can dash past those buffer zones is going to be trouble. So again, the game shapes every strategy.

PS: Warying doesn't mean Warring, and Warring isn't quite the word to use in your context; Fighting is more to the point, or Fight: as in "What reason isn't there to fight?" I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I love my mixed up language and Wary, an adjective meaning suspicious, uncertain, doubtful, could become the adverb Warying, as in "It's warying me, how many ships my opponent has next to my hex" or "I'm warying my opponent by piling up ships next to his hex." Technically it ought be "It is making me wary" or "I am making him wary." But like I say, English will roll over for you if like.
 
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Petri Savola
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I'll give a typical example when early game warfare can be seen:

Let's say that players A and B are neighbors. Player A decides to develop advanced economics as his first tech, which is not too unusual. This lets him put 3-4 additional orange cubes on the board, giving him access to 2-3 additional actions each turn.

Player B would also like to boost his economy, but there are no suitable technologies available. What will he do? He develops neutron bombs and plasma cannon, builds some fleet and attacks player A. Player A has no science (he spent it on adv. economy) and his fleet would stand no chance against player B ships. Therefore B occupies 2-3 systems from A, gaining the economy boost from there, and at the same time he slows down A's economy.

If player B would just sit back and watch, he would've been run over by player A's better economy sooner or later. You have to attack when you have the chance. And avoid giving these opportunities to your neighbors.

* Money gives you a chance to attack, because you can attack after your neighbor has passed, making it very difficult for him to defend
* Science gives you a chance to attack, because low cost military tech greatly increases your winning chances in combat.
* Materials can give you a chance to attack, because with superior fleet you can win combats with little or no damage.
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Eero Miettinen
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Petri wrote:
I'll give a typical example when early game warfare can be seen:

Let's say that players A and B are neighbors. Player A decides to develop advanced economics as his first tech, which is not too unusual. This lets him put 3-4 additional orange cubes on the board, giving him access to 2-3 additional actions each turn.

Player B would also like to boost his economy, but there are no suitable technologies available. What will he do? He develops neutron bombs and plasma cannon, builds some fleet and attacks player A. Player A has no science (he spent it on adv. economy) and his fleet would stand no chance against player B ships. Therefore B occupies 2-3 systems from A, gaining the economy boost from there, and at the same time he slows down A's economy.

If player B would just sit back and watch, he would've been run over by player A's better economy sooner or later. You have to attack when you have the chance. And avoid giving these opportunities to your neighbors.

* Money gives you a chance to attack, because you can attack after your neighbor has passed, making it very difficult for him to defend
* Science gives you a chance to attack, because low cost military tech greatly increases your winning chances in combat.
* Materials can give you a chance to attack, because with superior fleet you can win combats with little or no damage.


So, timing is everything. You have to learn when to attack. The opportunity window is always very small and learning to recognize that takes effort.

What is player B's neighbour C (and others) doing while and after this is going on? I suppose that he either doesn't have a connection to B or has some other reason why he let's player B run rampant. After that move B is in clear lead since he already had materials and science. Now he also has money.



 
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Petri Savola
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eerom wrote:
Petri wrote:
I'll give a typical example when early game warfare can be seen:

Let's say that players A and B are neighbors. Player A decides to develop advanced economics as his first tech, which is not too unusual. This lets him put 3-4 additional orange cubes on the board, giving him access to 2-3 additional actions each turn.

Player B would also like to boost his economy, but there are no suitable technologies available. What will he do? He develops neutron bombs and plasma cannon, builds some fleet and attacks player A. Player A has no science (he spent it on adv. economy) and his fleet would stand no chance against player B ships. Therefore B occupies 2-3 systems from A, gaining the economy boost from there, and at the same time he slows down A's economy.

If player B would just sit back and watch, he would've been run over by player A's better economy sooner or later. You have to attack when you have the chance. And avoid giving these opportunities to your neighbors.

* Money gives you a chance to attack, because you can attack after your neighbor has passed, making it very difficult for him to defend
* Science gives you a chance to attack, because low cost military tech greatly increases your winning chances in combat.
* Materials can give you a chance to attack, because with superior fleet you can win combats with little or no damage.


So, timing is everything. You have to learn when to attack. The opportunity window is always very small and learning to recognize that takes effort.

What is player B's neighbour C (and others) doing while and after this is going on? I suppose that he either doesn't have a connection to B or has some other reason why he let's player B run rampant. After that move B is in clear lead since he already had materials and science. Now he also has money.

During the early game, B is likely to have 1-2 neighbors. If he has just 1 neighbor (A), then he doesn't need any defence during an attack against A until somebody takes the center.

Of course if C is in a position to attack, B needs to think twice before attacking A. But more often than not, C will be unable to attack, because:

* He might not have neutron bombs. Attacking is quite useless if you can't get rid of the population.
* B and C have probably changed ambassadors and the extra cube production is too valuable for C.
* C might not have enough money for all the required actions.
* The distance from C to your valuable systems with more than 1 production cube can be so large that C's unable to attack well with the basic drives. You shouldn't care if C attacks your system with less than 2 cubes, because it just helps your economy.
 
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Eero Miettinen
Finland
Tuusula
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mb
I think our approach to the game is a bit more cynical than yours (prepare for the worse and threaten with MAD-doctrine if necessary). Maybe that is where the difference comes from. Nobody should leave themselves open to an attack like that you described in the example.

My description that follows is a bit unfair since I can critizes the scenario that you described, but this is generally how similar situations have developed in our games (except player B rarely attack after this).

I agree that the scenario is possible (and there are other cases where attacks are possible), but if this particular case happens then the player A deserves what he gets. Player A has an extremely aggressive neighbour who's entire production is geared towards war, who's only expansion direction is player A and player A still does nothing?

On round one both probably explore, but player B has to at least research those neutron bombs. That is a clear sign that he is preparing for war. An additional indicator is that he doesn't sign diplomatic relations. Or he could do that and break them later, but that is a one time trick. In the future everybody knows that he will do that and prepare accordingly.

On round two player B has to: Research plasma cannons, upgrade his ships, build his fleet and move them to the enemy sector. This takes four actions and he can only move three ships. On fifth he can move further assuming that he is not pinned or move more ships into the combat.

Meanwhile A has seen all this and should prepare somehow. Move his starting interceptor to the border sector, use six materials or equivalent to build more ships on that sector (interceptors or starbases). Now he can pin the opposing force. Sure he may lose the battle, but he get's to fire first and is going to do some damage to the attacker at least delaying him if nothing more. Opponent's plasma cannons don't offer any advantage against interceptors. However it IS possible that he spent everything on Advanced economy, but then this is a good learning session and he will be wiser next time round if he ever plays again.

Now these guys are locked in a war where they are quite equal.
 
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stephen biggs
England
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eerom wrote:
I think our approach to the game is a bit more cynical than yours (prepare for the worse and threaten with MAD-doctrine if necessary).

"MAD" may work in the real world, where the cost of calling their bluff is racial extinction.
In a wargame. One of the people I played against rescently threatend me with a MAD strategy. I have attacked him in every game since then, as a wargamer I find the result "fun"

 
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