Things continue in this vein for a day or so, with a lot of maneuvering for position and taking-retaking of border worlds, but the end, when it comes, is disappointingly anticlimactic. When I logged off the previous night I was in possession a perfectly functional - if slightly skeletal - defence network. I probably could have staved off defeat for another three or four days if I'd kept an eye on things. Unfortunately I got up early and spent the next day out with friends, and when I got back late that night I discovered that Quinns had taken the opportunity to completely overrun seven of my ten remaining worlds, leaving me with less than twenty ships. After the amount of effort I'd expended trying to hold him off this wasn't how I wanted it to end at all. There was no thrusting and parrying, no feints, no desperate counterattacks, no final, apocalyptic last stand. There was just me, exhausted after a lot of travelling, logging in after a brief absence to discover that some bastard had repainted all my worlds a bright shade of orange. For a game that had seemed so glacial to start with, being away from a computer for twenty-four hours hurt me a lot more than I expected.
Never mind. My war with him was a real David-and-Goliath tussle, but without decent external support there could only ever be one outcome: That Bastard Quinns stands triumphant over the smoking ruins of my empire.
I hope he chokes on it.
Jim: Of course I've been feeding tech to Hentzau the entire time, just to prolong the struggle. Moreso when Quinns opens up the second front against me, although poor old H is clearly doomed vs the orange monolith of Q's empire. The situation for me is one of brutal attrition. I lose a handful of border stars, and then pump fleet after fleet into holding the remainder. Quinns launches a few heavy raids, and I mop these up, reducing my fleets even further. Eventually I push back hard, and begin to persuade both Graham and Kieron, who have been poking each other with large, pointy spaceships, that they should help me fight Quinns before all is lost. They agree, but what happens next is still a genuine surprise.
Graham: Oh crap. I've underestimated Kieron's forces. I thought I'd be able to wear him down, and slowly but progressively capture his territory. Instead he's destroying my ships and regenerating his own faster than I expected, and I'm now trapped in a dirty war against entrenched forces with no end in sight. It's still possible I could defeat him, but it wouldn't matter. Quinns is pulling further into the lead, and unless we turn to face him, he'll win. That's no good.
I send a message to Kieron, and rope Jim in as a mutual ally and third-party: How about we, uh, forget this war thing, and work together? Again? This time for reals, honest!
Kieron: Waking up to Graham saying HE'S MADE A HORRIBLE MISTAKE actually frustrates me. Things were simple then. Now they're hard. I'm back to worrying about the moral dilemma. While Graham arranges his attack fleets to move on Quinns, I'm sitting and chewing over what to do again.
Something's happened between then and now, in the day or so which I've been chewing over which way to go, in the time after I accept the cease-fire (And consider whether to attack Graham when his ships inch away). Quinns' ship production is enormous... but his wars have taken their toil. His actual number of ships, while still hefty, isn't exactly overwhelming. In fact, since I've been sitting comfortably in my turtle position, building my infrastructure, I have more ships than him. A lot more ships. Like, 400-500 more. And because I have the least number of stars of the remaining players, they're all concentrated. Quinns has far less ships to defend a far larger empire.