Last, best hope for sleep   Leave a comment

Also: victory.

Saturday was a day off. Better: It was the first day in an entire weekend off! I looked back through here to try and find when I’d last had even a day off. It was before the 25th of July, whenever it was. No work or decorating or getting up early at all! Hurrah!

It was also the cross-country day at Burghley Horse Trials. I’d been umming and aahing over whether to go. In the end, being tired on Friday, and not having a day off for ages, meant that I had little enthusiasm for getting up at 7am on a Saturday. So I didn’t. I got up about twelve.

As well as a weekend off from anything useful or productive, I also thought I’d have a weekend off from calorie-restriction, and give myself a whopping 2,500kCal to scoff per day. So I went to Lidl to see if they had anything tasty for me to munch. By happy coincidence they had 500g packs of mince for 99p, so chilli con carne was dinner. And very nice it was too.

Of course, most of the day was dedicated to playing computer games, as is only right and proper. And by computer games, I obviously mean AI War.

This is going to be my talking-about-AI-War post. I’ll describe maybe half an hour of the game, and hopefully I’ll explain it well enough that it’ll make sense without bogging down into tedium. Here’s the map:

AI War Map: Nearly there

The game's a real looker (click for Big-O-Vision™)

Blue numbers are my ships, red numbers are AI ships. The 23 green planets are mine, and the 57 red/orange/yellow planets with red names are the AI’s, so I hope you’re not colourblind. Jurew, the system with the white circle around it, is my home planet; lose that and it’s Game Over. The two AI home planets have orange boxes around them; kill both of those home stations, and I win. Aosti is the system with the green pentagon around it; we’ll come to that in a bit. That’s the state of play.

It may not look like it, but the end was drawing near. I’ve captured every system I thought was worth the trouble and cost. I’d devastated the AI’s first home system, Charub, leaving only its heavily-damaged home station before pulling out my fleet. My attacks on the AI’s second home system, Tunecharmoat, meant it only had one Core Guard Post (which must be destroyed before the home station can be damaged) remaining, and careful suicide-raids had lured out most of the powerful ships guarding it. My fleet had almost finished being (re)built at Barkbul, where they would be loaded into transports and shipped straight to Tunecharmoat, avoiding the intervening core systems and their thousands of defenders. These strategies had already been used at Charub.

Not crippling the AI core systems has the advantage of not wasting thousands of ships whilst giving the AI time and reason to reinforce its home system. Unfortunately, transports can only make so many jumps in hostile space; they won’t be able to bring the fleet back. And any fleet that’s attacked an AI home system won’t be in any fit shape to fight its way home. It also means the core systems can gradually reinforce, and start throwing excess ships towards you. Fighting these off is half the reason I have a barely-sufficient stack of ships sitting at Sekjumu.

Why not capture more systems? Why didn’t I destroy the home station at Charub when I had the chance? More systems means more resources, more knowledge to unlock new toys, and in special cases the ability to build more types of ship. However, every time you conquer a system, it increases the AI Progress. When you destroy a home station, it increases the AI Progress by a lot. AI Progress is how pissed off the computer is, and how hard it will work to destroy you; it means attacks will be bigger, the AI will get more types of ships, and eventually they’ll even be upgraded to a higher tech-level. In the meantime, your expanding means you have more systems to defend, more incoming wormholes for the AI to attack through, and your fleet and defences are spread ever more thinly. If something’s not worth taking, don’t.
Also, there’s an Alarm Post on Yikatooth. When the Charub home station is destroyed, I’ll be swarmed by all the nearby defenders; over 3,500 high-level ships.

“Command, this is Aosti Defence. We’re picking up about two thousand ships massing for a cross-planet assault, ETA thirteen minutes. Requesting reinforcements.”
“Acknowledged, Aosti Defence. Prepare yourselves for the attack, and stand by.”

Most AI attacks come in the form of waves; generally a few hundred ships sent at a specific system through a warp gate, with a few minutes’ notice. Cross-planet assaults are different; the AI doesn’t build ships like the players, instead getting a set number of reinforcements to distribute amongst its planets every few minutes. During a CPA, a huge number of these ships simply become ready to attack all at once. You don’t know where they are or where they’re going until the assault happens.
Except: I had a pretty good guess. Aosti, the green pentagon on the map, was my main bottleneck defensive system, and it’d borne the brunt of most of the AI’s assaults so far. Its small defensive fleet, dozens of turrets, and fortress, combined with its secret weapon – a gravity drill, slowing everything at the planet to a crawl – could eat waves for breakfast.
But, by themselves, the defenders couldn’t hold out against 2,000 ships. Especially if the AI decided, this time, to bee-line through Aosti towards Megorchar and a fairly trouble-free ride to my home station.

This gave me two choices: Recall the fleet to defend, and give the AI more time to reinforce; or press the attack.

I guess 13 minutes just became the game timer. The fleet began its final preparations.

“Command, this is Aosti Defence. CPA in five minutes. Are reinforcements on their way?”
“Stand by, Aosti Defence.”
“I hope they’re waiting to ambush from Megorchar.”
“So do I.”

The AI ships won’t attack if they don’t stand a good chance of winning, so keeping a fleet out of the way to lure them in before pouncing and destroying them is a useful trick.

But the fleet weren’t in Megorchar. They were in Tunecharmoat, taking down the last Core guard post, the Home Station shields, and a fortress under them. As ships were destroyed, their replacements were being re-directed to Sekjumu.

“Any word on reinforcements?”
“Nope.”

All ships at Sekjumu had been loaded into transports and were being shipped to Charub. The static defences at Sekjumu wouldn’t hold out for long – no gravity drill there – but hopefully they wouldn’t have to.

“Command, we have two thousand ships incoming. Now would be a good time!”
“Stand by.”

In Charub and Tunecharmoat, the fleets ignored any remaining resistance and opened fire on the AI’s home stations.

They went down within five seconds of each other.

“The AI ships… They’ve stopped.”

“We’ve won.”

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