This is the saga of the largest, longest possible game of the largest-scale, longest-lasting space strategy in years, and after six weeks and around twenty-five hours of play, it's finally over. The story so far follows immediately below, or you can jump straight to the final entry.
"I just finished the game you saw me start at 4.30," I messaged Tim, at half past midnight. "It was a 'Medium' sized one." I'd gone home (with my savegame) and eaten in the meantime, but other than that I'd been utterly lost in Galactic Civilizations II, specifically the Dark Avatar expansion, and I could no longer imagine what other people do with their evenings. Or jobs.
GalCiv invites careful thought about each turn - economies crash easily, people become restless and revolt, other races storm ahead of you in at least one respect, and rash choices quickly lead to at least one race declaring war on you. I crushed everyone in that Medium galaxy, not because I was playing a warlike race - I wasn't - but through a hilarious series of diplomatic SNAFUs, misunderstandings, accidental invasions, and an unexpected headstart on advanced hull research.
At one point I declared war on the most powerful race in the game in the same turn that my only military craft was destroyed. A few dozen turns later, they were requesting negotiations for peace. I charged them 8,962 billion credits and every technology they had for the privelege, then declared war on them again. That time, pretty much everyone rallied to their defense - but what did I care? I had the largest military in the galaxy and nearly ten trillion credits to expand it with.
So we got talking, or I got talking, about what lay beyond the seven-hour game I'd just finished in reviewing an expansion pack for a game very few people bought. The galaxy sizes go up to Gigantic, I had a third of the maximum number of 'opponents', and the AI on the third of twelve degrees of difficulty. Cranking that up too high would be counter-productive: in Avatar the AI is like Deep Blue's worst nightmare, and my demise would be swift. But the other options, dialled up to eleven, would set me up for an epic game that would take me weeks, at least, to complete.
My family did the whole Easter thing a week early this year, for reasons that you'd have to be a Francis to ever truly understand, so I had no religious festivals this bank holiday weekend. So I felt I owed it to the risen corpse of Jesus Christ himself to spend the lion's share of it conquering a vast galaxy in my boxer shorts. Thus, Das Ubergame was begun, and underpants were worn. Here's how it went.
Day 1: My God, it's full of stars!
Ulp. Gigantic appears to be somewhere close to the actual size of a galaxy. My race - the suspiciously bunny-like Spectres of Agony - found itself in a cluster of around twenty solar systems which, upon further exploration, turned out to have only one other race in it. We were isolated by a vast stretch of void on all sides, large enough that our ship's range would barely cover it, and which divided us from a chain of central clusters where presumably most of the other races lived. A few other islands like ours were dotted around, one as remote as us, but we were on the outskirts of an incomprehensibly vast nowhere.
I got off to what seemed like a good start. Conserving cash as much as possible, I put what little I could afford solely into grabbing the juciest planets and astroid fields, including an absolutely utopian class-18 right on my rival's doorstep. I even stole one in the same system as his homeworld - only a class 6, but it's the malicious, gloating thought that counts. Nicely settled in, I locked my war-chest, cut spending, and dropped all taxation to zero. This made my people very, very happy. This made my people very, very horny. This made my population growth very, very fast. This is the Super Breeder ability, and at one point two-billion Spectres of Agony were being born a week. We were breeding like Spectres; Spectres, definitely not space bunnies.