It's a free browser game with wonderfully simple rules. You check in once or twice a day, move your ships, upgrade your stars, then let the galactic war play out over hours and days. So far in our massive war, Quinns is trying to manipulate Jim and Sponge into attacking Kieron, Kieron has persuaded Sponge to give back his two stolen stars, Hentzau has devoted himself to destroying Quinns, and Tom was oddly silent. And now, the thrilling continuation!
Phill Cameron/Poisoned Sponge, Rock Paper Shotgun Affiliate
Tom Francis, PC Gamer
Kieron Gillen, Rock Paper Shotgun
Hentzau, Freelance Soldier of Fortune
Chris Pelling, Inventive Dingo Games
Quinns, Rock Paper Shotgun Affiliate
Jim Rossignol, Rock Paper Shotgun
Graham Smith, PC Gamer
This diary is going up in seven parts, one a day, both here and simultaneously over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. We'll just Photoshop our hideous alien portraits to look prettier.
Kieron: I had no idea that Quinns was double-playing me. In fact, as well as a Non-aggression pact, I was doing tech trading wtih him. He was the only person I was giving a sniff of my hard-earned weapons. The fascinating thing about the early part of the game was how I creepingly became aware of who was really allied with who. When someone gained a tech level, you noted who also gained that tech level, because it was a sign that someone from the alliance block was leaking the science to someone else. Quinns was gaining tech at twice the rate he should have been, so it was obvious he was being diplomatically slutty. But - y'know - it didn't matter. That was a problem in the far future. I was fighting for my life.
And I had actually learned how to fight. In the early game, I considered the combat system something mysterious and alien, based on some sliding scale of number of ships and weapon tech. Thanks to Sponge - and I suspect he ended up regretting giving me this bit of advice - I discovered it wasn't. It was just really very hard maths. The number of ships you have in a fleet makes no difference to the damage it does. Combat works in rounds: the defender attacks first, and each round you each kill as many ships as you have Weapon Skill, the defender getting a +1 bonus.
So if a fleet of 10 with 10 weapon skill attacks a star with 10 ships and 9 weapon skill, the attacker would be wiped out before they'd even inflicted one casualty. However, if the defender had a weapon skill of 8, the attacker would win, with a single ship surving.
The implications are important: if you're defending and you're going to lose, you can flee and leave just one ship behind. That ship then will do your weapon-tech+1 of damage to the fleet. In other words, you'd take much less material losses in terms of ships-lost than the attacker. Since all the tech levels are open information, you can calculate every engagement to the best effect.
So that's what I did. I didn't spend much on my economy, throwing it all into industry and science. The former gave me the ships to dissuade further advances, and the latter gave me the tech edge: I did the most damage. My total lack of an economy would ruin me long term... but in the short term, it made me a less attractive target. When you take over a star, the economy is destroyed and the attacker gets a cash bonus. Attacking me would get you a minimal cash bonus, at best. So why bother, when the stars are bristling with space-guns all pointing paranoidly outwards?