Stars!-R-Us Article

The Alternate Reality race
by: Robert M. Ashcroft

On 17 May 1997 14:46:00 +0100, (Dominik Mayer) wrote:
> [snip]
> Anyone testbedding ARs? I just LOVE them; and I am dreaming of a pbem
> where I finally will get the genesis device....

Yes I have been test bedding AR's fairly continously since their introduction 2.6b?  for months now.  (averaging 4 hours per day in testing).

The first thing that I would like to say is that since 2.7b revision it that tri-immune races have become much harder to kickstart.  The changes introduced to population growth rates make things very tough on AR.  This coupled with a fairly inflexiable design of space stations gives the player very little room for error.  For the AR loosing a space station is very deadly in the early game.  Other races have multiple turns to recover and defend, AR do not.  It a bit like a turkey shoot in this respect.

The one change I would like to see are general hull design changes, particularly for the death star.  Current designs do not allow the AR race to design a space station that can with stand determined attack in the way a planet based race can.  Things to consider would be to 1/2 the capacity of the armour and shield slots, but double the number of these slots.  Also the introduction of 4 extra single slots for general use (non-orbital) and mabye 1 extra orbital slot.  Since the AR race are space station based race they should have a decided advantage in space station construction.  Maybe they should automatically have the ISB LRT at no extra point cost.  After all what's the point in spending 100 points for two extra space station designs with out the 20% reduction in costs being added in as well, simply because it is a characteristic of the race.  If ISB came with really dynamic space station designs, it may be worth the cost, but at the moment AR pay a real penalty for this LRT with out any real advantage. The should get IS for free or get the 20% reduction on space station costs.  Example 100%-20%of 100 because AR ->80%-20%of 80% ->64% or it should cost them 1/4 or less in points to have the LRT as it does for other races.  They pay for the -20% construction advantage twice and do not get the advantage twice.  Bad form guys.

If you are going to play a tri-immune races in games, expect some very slow games.  For AR you must be playing in a large or bigger universe (in smaller universed other protection is required in the form of aliances or rules), with opponents distant to others.  Otherwise you are detected and attacked before you will have a chance to establish. The bottom line is that with 2.7b you cannot afford to miss a single turn from 1 through 100.  If you do you will suffer dissadvantage that even good players will find it hard to recover from unless all other players are slow growth as well.

My experiences
If you are playing against expert AI then anything smaller than 6% growth rate is a tough ask.  You will loose the game about 60% of the time no matter how good your micro management is.  5% is very dodgie, 4% you can forget it.  In version 2.7 it was a piece of cake to win with a 4% growth rate versus Expert AI.  In 2.7b you will loose far more that you win.

I am currently test bedding race designs versus a human player and have come to the conclusion that the early game mechanics are critical to survival.  Get it wrong and the game is a lost cause.  In the current test bed game (2 human, 10 AI), I was leading in production for about 60 turns, I have lost the lead due to AI and human contact. We are running at 14K and 12K resources after 84 turns. There is one AI at 14K and another at 57K.  We are both running 5% growth tri-immune designs and are in a state of truce.  I suspect that we may need to be an alliance if we are going to survive.  Fortunately neither of us have met the AI 57K.  If this happens then swapping ships for survival may be needed.

I am also test beding a 6% tri-immune race which is holding up very well given the circumstances.  In a huge universe bersus 16 AI Standard races that are in alliance I have only lost one death star station so far.  But it has taken 100 turns to get to the point where I can expand and not get the stuffing knocked out of my base worlds. It will take over 300 turns to reach the victory conditions that I have set.  Against AI expert players this usually takes me 250 turns to get to the expansion point and I lose up to 10% of my population from turn 50 to 250 into the game.  Even then it is a 40 win - 60 loose game.

Race design
Things that are a must are:

  • -50% energy
  • -50% construction
  • 7 co-efficient for production
  • IEF
  • ARM
  • IS - IS can be dropped if GR is taken.

    This will provide a 5% growth rate along with -50% weapon, and Netural Propulsion tech, the others are at +75

    If you take +75 in all the remaining techs you can get a 6% growth rate along with UR and AM.  If you change the co-efficient to 10 you can achieve a 8% growth rate, just, but the MM is very important.

    I have also come to the conclusion that GR is a manditory  for tri-immune anything.  If you do not have it you start to loose the tech race when you can least afford to.  You will end up maximising tech before real conflict really gets going anyway.   However there will be some skirmishes along the way that can be telling and you need a balanced technology growth.  GR gives you this balanced technolongy growth when you need it.  Also the additional 25% research gained aids things considerably.  The greatest boon is that in the mid game section you have the general across the board tech needed to survive the early but telling battle skirmishes.  I know that there those that think that it is a wasted LRT but in this particular type of play I think that this is not the case.

    LRT's that penalise (such as ORBM and NAS) forget them.  The reason I was able to do so well in my first human vs human game (AR vs AR) was because I had ARM, and he had ORBM.  He had production capacity and stuff all in the way of minerals.  Even with the production dissadvantage described below I has able to hold him at bay.... Just NAS criples your information gathering capacity.  If you are going to play tri-immune races, you have a low growth rate.  Information about approaching fleets and near by planets is critical to defense.  Also there is a bug with NAS, when coupled with good scanners and nubians.You can scan far more than the game designers though possible.  The result is that you end up seeing nothing.  Sure you can see the entire huge universe with 1 ship but are no ships visible.  A similar effect occurs with mine layers.  Nubians with 1200 mine laying or better when grouped in the 100's create mine fields that are too large for the game to handle.  The end result is the mine field area calculations of the game stuff up (overflow) and you end up with no mine field.  This means that you have to have far more fleets doing mine laying that you might other wise choose.

    Jeff^2 if you are listening would you please fix the overflow errors that result from large fleets of mine layers, and nubian 36x Peerless scan ranges for NAS LRT.

    So far conducted with the 5% and 6% growth rates has me maxing out in the critical areas of energy and construction no later that 2540, usually much earlier, and complete tech max out but 2600 at the very latest.  The best I have achieved in test beds is nearer to 2480 and 2500 for enegry then construction from memory.

    The thing that really screws up plans are running up against leading opponents too early.  You find you are devoting resources you need in research into surviving, you are not strong enough to continue research and fight, the opponents get the tech lead and you are history.

    For AR races I colonise all planets within in a single move turn. Then research until I gain propulsion tech for the next expansion phase.  This means your research and population grow at about the right rate.  But in the current game I have experiemented with colonisation and the results seem to be negative.

    Colony ships can take 2,000 colonists on any jorney with out loss.From memory I think the max population is 2100 above this you loose colonists.  A tri-immune AR cannot waste colonists ever.  If you do you are not playing it smart.

    I am still fine tuning very early (first 50 turns) game mechanics, and have come to some interesting conclusions but still need to test them out in test beds.  Playing against an AR human opponent is also good in that we have both learned alot.

    The first game we played, I suffered early contact with the leading AI, the space station losses that occured crippled my production capacity.  So badly crippled it that by the time I had recovered I was running between 1/2 and 2/3 rds the capacity of my human opponent.
    Learned much from the experience.

    I am currently hosting two Tri-Immune games.  One is a one-on-one AR vs AR with 8 AI players to spice things up.  The second is a 6 human 6 AI game.  The second one is about 25 turns down, things will be very interesting in another 25 turns and the players in this game are going to find it a real challange.  I hope they have a second shot at the concept game after this one ends.  This is because they may have a very different approach to their game styles after the first experience.

    On a final note if you are going to play tri-immunity races, do not play against races that are not similarly matched in terms of population growth rates.  I would estimate that even a 10% growth rate human opponent will trash you.  The monster 25K by 2450 are very definitely a no-no opponent.  This is especially true of accelarated BBS mode games.  The population growth rate factors introduced in 2.7b have (IMHO) totally unbalance the game in favour of 10%+ growth rate races, such that the below 10% races do not surive human and barely survive Expert AI race conflicts.  I think that the points gained from lower growth rates are not large enough to offset the production gained made by the high growth rate races.  I would like to see 10% be the median with higher growth rates costing far more points than those gained by a dropping of growth rate.  I personally believe the point cost for higher population growth rate is by far the biggest single unballancer in the 2.7b version of stars.  It fails to account for the productive capacity of these fast growing races.


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