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An Emperor's Guide to the Highly-Ordered Gemini Sector

Contributions —> An Emperor's Guide to the Highly-Ordered Gemini Sector
Written by Darth Balls Year 69

This article is Darth Balls' wrap-up of the Gemini War. It was originally a series of nine posts in a Newsfeed thread. These nine posts have been put together here to preserve them.

Pre-Game and Early Game

In order to tell the story of how Darth Balls came to win the Gemini War and become the sixth Emperor of, it is necessary to start in the beginning, but I must admit that the story begins long before the first shots were ever fired in that sector. For this Commander, it began a few weeks before Gemini started turning when my good friend Jason Williams asked me to step in as a replacement in Die Hard LN 2 because the leading Borg player ( echoclusterveteran ) had vanished and the game needed someone to see it through to its inevitable conclusion.

When his request arrived, I had already received my invitation to join the Gemini War but it was still in the joining stage and hadn't yet begun. I was down to just one or two games at that point and with Die Hard nearing its end I was comfortable that it wouldn't spread me too thinly even if Gemini did begin before the other one ended. At the time I didn't recognize most of the players in that game, but I did notice Forger and Ronnie Robot among them and noticed that they were both on the roster for Gemini as well. I had never worked on the same side as either of these players before, but I had fought against and defeated them both in different games in the past. Given our histories, I was worried that when Gemini started they both might start coming after me immediately to seek vengeance for past conquests and was worried that it might bias the game too much against me from the get go. Since the "Kill the Borg first" remarks were already finding their way onto our public message board, I saw this replacement position as an opportunity to gain some favor with Forger (because ECV had been his ally before he had vanished) and I thought at best, I might be able to learn a little more about how Forger plays as an ally and at worst I give up a few of the operational details about how I am to work with in a team. I joined the game, helped Forger wrap up the game that was almost over when I joined it, and lost very little. We beat up on Ronnie Robot because of coalitions already in play since long before I joined, and the game ended before Gemini got started.

And then Gemini started! I was so excited to be playing in a championship match that I put in a great amount of time preparing for the game before it had begun. I studied every tactical manual and race guide out there, had thinned my list of active games to just one or two other games so I would have ample time to give the turns their appropriate attention, and felt that I was prepared for whatever was to come. My game started pretty well with me deploying the probes as usual to see who was out there. I spent the first several turns gathering intel and using the information I found as currency, giving it out for free in many cases to players who were willing to help me fill in the pieces of where the other players were located. I established some remote outposts, and engaged in simple diplomacy with those I encountered. In a stroke of good fortune I discovered that two of my nearest neighbors were Forger and Ronnie Robot, but also found that Lizard and Evil were not far away and the Privateer were only a little bit further beyond that as well. I expanded rapidly in every direction until I ran into a neighbor, which happened more quickly than usual against this lineup of champions.

On turn 21, Ra surpassed me in the planet count as my neighbors were finally getting around to wiping out many of my remote outposts as quickly as they could before my assimilation was complete and for a good stretch in this early stage of the game he had momentum on his side and few enemies. I wasn't on the top of people's threat list and I was happy to sit back and let Ra draw the fire and concern from others. I knew that if I could survive the early game and hang around long enough to build a few warships I would be in a much better position so I spent a lot of time engaging in fair trades and kissing babies in order to make it through those first 60 turns.

Early Borg Strategies and Philosophy

By now there had been some discussion in the main feed about Sphere and how it might help or hurt players in this game. We had no idea about the mess it would cause with the storm, but everyone was talking about the map feeling smaller with the wrap-around edges and having no really safe border at the outside edge to fall back on. As a Borg Commander, I have never really had difficulty with mobility, and we are generally accustomed to being surrounded by enemies at a very early stage and know how to deal with it accordingly. I was worried that if anything, Sphere would lessen the Firecloud's effectiveness because players could take the shortcut around the edge of the map to move big fleets instead of traversing thousands of light years the old way to get from one edge of the map to the other. I wasn't expecting Sphere to negatively impact my game play much, but I did observe that the others seemed to be a bit more gun shy about having so many opponents surrounding them on every side. This made the early game diplomacy seem like everybody was more eager to make friendships and avoid war than is customary. Ciocco entered into peace with me long before either of us even knew where the other player was located, and, knowing that the most critical time for a Borg Commander is in the early stages of the game, I was quick and eager to enter into as many peace agreements or border arrangements as possible. When my forces butted against Landgrab's forces after he had captured one of my border outposts, I made a quick joke, offered a compliment, and engaged him in diplomacy rather than rushing headlong into a war that he almost certainly would have won at that point.

Knowing that complacency could be a game killer for me, I refused to enter into many permanent agreements, and I rejected both Landgrab and Ra's early offers of Share Intel because I didn't like the idea of being shackled to either of them since it could only put a damper on my ambitions. With the good fortune of being located next to Ronnie Robot of the Rebel Confederation, I quickly identified that he would be my first target since a bit of our previous wars in other games bled over into this one when my probes and his falcons began engaging in clashes and border skirmishes very early on. I torched a couple of the really nice planets in his home cluster when I saw him coming to take them back and the natives would still be rioting today if I hadn't eventually returned and finished assimilating them into the Collective. Ra and I had emerged on the other side of some very intense diplomacy in turn 13 without resorting to war and I was quick to suggest that Ronnie Robot become a common enemy that we could go to work against. Unfortunately, our plans of milking him for Rushes to add to Ra's fleet never came to fruition because of the untimely arrival of ion storm 1 (AKA Borg Storm) which started picking at his forces even as far back as this. I would say that if I had to pinpoint a single reason that had the greatest impact on my victory in this game, it was the outcome of Ra and my negotiations on turn 13. I recommend that any of you who have a hard time with diplomacy study that entire exchange from start to finish and see if you can learn anything from it. It is important to keep in mind that Ra and I entered that dialog, which he initiated, without ever having interacted with the other person before.

At this point I was still only barely coordinating with Ra because he had demonstrated his prowess as a Privateer Commander when he somehow managed to capture a Loki or two from his attacking forces and there are few things that bring fear to the mighty Borg Collective more than a well-played Privateer Commander such as him. I continued to tell him this many times throughout the game, which helped his ego especially when he was down in the dumps a couple of times, and I meant it every time I said it. I spent the entire game preparing for an end-game war with Ra: trading to acquire D19s (D19b Nefarious Class Destroyers) from Siggi , picking up a few Lokis from Redwolfe , helping Siggi survive both Crystal and later Empire attacks, talking Ronnie into giving me Safe Passage even as I was finishing him off, and later helping Redwolfe repel an Empire invasion all because I knew that at least one of them would be necessary as a trade partner in case it came to war with Ra, and knowing that my trade prospects would be better if they were both around than if either one of them had a monopoly on anti-cloaking technology.

I owe a great deal of my early-game advances to the negotiated peace with Ra in which I was able to hang onto far more native-rich planets than I should have in this game and it gave my economy a massive boost over where I expected I would start out; this allowed me to start packing the queue with Biocides so that when we started building ships again, I would be prepared to grow my fleet to an admirable size.

Early Military Conquests

My war against Ronnie Robot went better than I could possibly have imagined, even if a large part of it was due to luck. Fortune favors the bold, I tend to tell players, especially when I am about to do something head strong and cocksure (or is it the other way around?). As I had discussed with Ra, my first attack wave would be a bluff designed to force Ronnie to start arming for war, and then Ra could step in and capture the ships as they were coming off the assembly line. As planned, I sent a Firecloud toward the only real cluster of planets in between Ronnie's core worlds and my own because I wanted to force him to adapt to a military economy rather than focusing on developing his planets. I can't remember if I had either one Biocide or two Biocides when I sent that first bluff run, and instead of building more Biocides I managed to build a Merlin or two which everyone else might have thought were Biocides because of the bump in military score. My bluff Firecloud got lucky and captured a couple of the Rebel planets even as I was rushing the newly built Merlins to produce the minerals that were needed in order to build the rest of the Biocides that I intended to use to back up my bluff run. To my surprise and great fortune, Ronnie wasn't able to recapture or counter my initial bluff run which allowed my initial incursion to take hold and become a real forward base of operations. I certainly don't think Ronnie did anything significant that was tactically incorrect at this point; how could he successfully plan a defense against a Borg aggressor when he was dealing with a Privateer incursion into his home cluster and do so without anti-cloaking technology? He later admits to me that his diplomacy in this game was incredibly under developed especially when I let him in on some of the deals I had going by this time. We still play cards on Wednesday nights; I have no hard feelings for Ronnie. (Just kidding ... Ronnie and I have never met and we've never done anything in a game other than fight each other; yet I feel comfortable enough with him that I can call him a friend because he's good people.)

It took a long time to fight and defeat Ronnie, and the game was going on around us but nobody was making the rest of it my business. No one came to Ronnie's rescue and I was able to successfully assimilate much of his empire without dispute. I had several lucky breaks in this war. There were several battles against his starbases in which my Biocides took more than 90% damage and managed to just barely survive and eventually get repaired. Had I lost even a couple of those very close battles, it would have been a tremendous setback to my forces but lady luck kept smiling in my direction. During this time my propaganda machine was also very effective in helping to spark some wars between powerful factions which kept them at odds with each other instead of giving them the ability to devote much attention to me while I was still building my war machine. I knew that I couldn't win the game with those first 10 Biocides alone, so I needed the others to keep destroying ships so my starbases would continue to build a new Biocide with almost every new ship build.

With the Rebels gone, I am still in a strained peace with Forger (after the turd he stepped in on the public feed by mistakenly replying to all when he thought he was replying to a private message from CrystalCT ). I was at peace with Landgrab, peace with Ra, peace with Ciocco, peace with Redwolfe, peace with Siggi, peace with CrystalCT, and ... aww hell I'm at peace with everyone at this point. Loner and I hadn't engaged in meaningful contact yet, but I was unwilling to get sucked into the boring state of affairs you're left with once you've made peace with everyone, so I sought out and found reason to attack Ciocco. He had been ignoring my messages and when forced to reply, had given me faulty information which was more than enough to justify going to war. I prefer working with great communicators, not lousy ones, and Ciocco didn't present himself as someone who had a lot of strong support in this game so I hoped that with Landgrab's attacking from the west and my attacking from the east we'd be able to quickly finish him off, as we did. Sorry about that Ciocco; I still owe you payment for that White Falcon you built for me but I still believe that the Biocide you were asking for in trade for it was too high a price to pay when it wasn't agreed upon beforehand and I had built the starbase, and provided the credits and minerals for it, after all.

Troubling Times and Treachery

By this stage in the game I felt like I was really picking up the pace and my strategy of being like water was coming together nicely. I had managed to not lock myself into any particular path for a very long time while feeling people out to see who would be good to work with, who I could quickly eliminate, and who should be best kept at arm's length. Without becoming too closely aligned with any particular faction or coalition until around turn 150 when Ra and I started working together much more closely for survival, I was free to largely pursue my own interests in the manner which I thought was the most advantageous and I didn't feel the need to ask anyone else for permission to do so. If I gave some of you the impression that I'm a sucker and an idealist, that wasn't my intent. I certainly knew that everyone in this game should and would do what they needed to in order to win, just as I did, but considering that for a few days there several months ago I spent more time communicating with Ra than I did with my own wife (because of work schedules) are you surprised to learn that I think of him as a friend even though we've never met? I should have been leery of Landgrab's inevitable betrayal even back then because he spent so much time communicating privately with me outside of the game's interface that it should have been apparent he didn't want the game's official record to reflect just how much of what he told me was lies. I only sparingly sent players super secret messages throughout this game and really the only times was to discuss something completely out of character or when I was providing shadowy nudges to encourage players to do things that I wasn't particularly proud of. There are many facets to communication and this was one of the most fun elements of this game.

In order to excel in this game you have to be willing to put in the time, which is why I don't generally work closely with folks who wait until the last minute to look at their turns. I was willing to overlook that one because Siggi was a lot of fun to work with and he was candid with me when I called him out on it and promised to do better about replying in a more timely manner, which he did during the time when I needed him to most. In putting together some of the more complicated turns of this game it wasn't uncommon for Ra and I to exchange 20 or 30 messages in the 48 hour window between turns before we finally clicked the "Turn Ready" box and that level of coordination is impossible unless you are working with someone who cares about it enough to put in the time. Ra is the one who told me a long time ago that he would rather work with one excellent ally than half a dozen lousy ones. I couldn't agree more.

Probably the sketchiest part of my game occurred around after the Rebels and the Birds had been removed and the war between Crystals/Privateer and Federation/Colonies was taking place. A side war was going on at that time between Siggi and CrystalCT that Ra really wasn't really a part of, and even though I was at peace with CrystalCT I knew that my only chance of not becoming obsolete was in making sure that Ra needed me as an ally more than he needed CrystalCT. Regretfully, that meant that CrystalCT couldn't be around any longer. Siggi's war against the Crystals was going very poorly and Siggi was losing a large number of his warships and cloaking ships to web mines. Ra and CrystalCT also had a large number of Federation and Colonial ships stuck in web mines in the north. I felt that their coalition was about to reach a tipping point if they could pick up enough ships that they could start rolling over their opposition and I needed to take action if I wanted to hang onto my shot at the win.

I surmised that those two together would be powerful enough to break up any other combination in this game, so I approached Siggi discretely (out of game, even) and agreed to help him refit a pack of D19s with Heavy Phasers in another quiet Merlin kill so he could start sweeping his way out of some of those webs and take the war back to CrystalCT. I am no saint; I never claimed that I was. Fortunately Landgrab was hungry for planets at this point and joined the war against CrystalCT as well, which meant that CrystalCT was now overtly fighting Siggi, Landgrab, and Redwolfe which proved just too powerful for him to stand against on his own. He came to me requesting that I trade him some warships to help against them all; and while I didn't exactly ignore his request, I turned my back on him and allowed the others to get the dirty business of dismantling him largely out of the way before I became involved.

At the last minute as CrystalCT was rapidly giving up ground, I joined into the battle because Landgrab and Redwolfe refused to accept my territorial claims over former Crystalline planets and I resented having to take up arms against my former friend but I did so because I wanted to win the game and it would have been careless of me to stand quietly outside the war any longer and allow those guys to pick up all of the free planets. Somehow I didn't notice that Landgrab had picked up a large number of CrystalCT's ships until much later in the game, but looking back on things it now appears that he had made this same deal with many different players in this game. If you get sufficiently weakened that your defeat is imminent, give your ships to Landgrab before you die. I don't really know what CrystalCT got out of the deal; at least Ra received 2 or more Gorbies up front when he made this deal with the devil.

Pick on Someone Your Own Size

With CrystalCT gone I found myself again in the difficult situation of having too many friends and not enough enemies. Without an enemy it is hard to capture new planets, so I didn't want to waste too much time in this stage and I went shopping for another target. This is when Landgrab had completely convinced me that he was feebleminded and just wanted to give planets one more good show before his end came so I believed that I had a durable peace agreement with him wanting to score more highly in this championship match than any other Empire player has ever done in the past. If he had read some of my previous games' histories and judged me to be something of a sentimentalist, then he judged me correctly, but unfortunately for him I had never before been betrayed to this magnitude so there was no history on the books about how I might respond when it happened. It should be apparent by now that my biggest weakness in this game was trusting him so easily, which didn't end up costing me that much in the end. He was once a serious contender in this game, and now as a result of his treacherous actions he isn't even going to survive the game.

While searching for my enemy, I alluded to a couple of the players in this game that my decision would be much easier if somebody would just betray me already, but to my surprise the coalition to prevent my ascension was still forthcoming. Determined to find an enemy, I switched into what I referred to in my story as "higher-functioning mode" and did some serious thinking about how I wanted to play the game. By this time I had a substantial diplomatic record with every player in this game, and I assessed that if any of my opponents had the ability to lead a coalition against me, it would be Loner. I had enjoyed all of our interactions; he spoke clearly, responded quickly, was knowledgeable, intelligent, and spoke with an appropriate degree of humility. I saw a great deal of myself in him, and I was fearful! By now he was only a peripheral player in the war against Ra and was laying minefields for Forger and Zavulon as they continued their merciless advance into Ra's territory. To anyone who doesn't understand why the Borg wasn't the first target on everyone's list, remember that there were approximately 35 turns in the early stages of this game when Ra was the planet leader and he set a very commanding pace. If Forger and Zavulon hadn't gone after him when they did, this might have ended up as the reign of Emperor Ra, because I certainly didn't have the tools or the courage to challenge him at that stage by myself. My two Lokis and 4 or 5 D19s simply weren't enough.

My reasoning for choosing Loner as the target was that I had very little chance of defeating Loner and Forger and Zavulon together all on my own if they were successful against Ra, so I needed to tip the scale a little in Ra's favor and keep Forger and Zavulon busy with him while I focused on my new enemy without interference. Ideally, I would be able to continue to pick off one player at a time while I kept the others in something of a balanced fight against each other and I could watch their scores remain close together at the same time as I was growing strides ahead of them. Giving fair and proper notice, I advised Loner (along with Forger and Zavulon) that I was probably going to be going to war with the Robots soon and gave him time to prepare his forces. The night my forces first engaged him in battle, your Emperor wept because it was not an easy thing to do. Those attacks had an immediate effect of buying Ra some much needed relief and time to catch his breath, and he was able to continue implementing his plan of starving his enemies' fleets of fuel, drawing them in, and then capturing or destroying the ships. My war against Loner was going well and I had begun to pick off some of his border worlds as I was treating his large minefields with a large degree of disrespect and cutting through them while mostly ignoring them and then chunnelling in large fleets of ships to sweep them once my Fireclouds were already inside. I didn't understand why Loner didn't engage me more directly while I re-used the same tactic over and over again. He certainly had the forces to do so, but it was as if his doctrine of passive resistance was really working against him and he gave up far too much ground too easily.

So You Want to Be A Hero

Sooner or later, perhaps after I had bottled Loner up into a small but compact cluster of not much more than 30 planets, I noticed by watching the scoreboard that Loner had handed off a large number of heavy warships to Zavulon. I couldn't be sure if he had turned them over for Zavulon to fight with them using his Federation crew bonus and extra fighter bays or if he just wanted to have them refitted. I couldn't afford to wait and see. My allies and I in Die Hard Team 1 had just suffered an unsettling loss from a Federation controlled Biocide Class Carrier, and I was going to be damned before I would let myself get beaten in this match by Loner just because he has a Federation player in his pocket to do the fighting for him (nod to the players at Die Hard Team 1 who I am still fighting with/against). Zavulon's forces were out of position because he was still over-extended chasing down Ra's forces, and it is worth mentioning that Zavulon had recently chosen to permit his non-aggression pact with me to expire because he refused to renew it unless I agreed to cease hostilities with Loner, which I simply would not do. I decided that in light of this massive ship transfer it made Zavulon the more immediate threat than Loner, and I would refocus my efforts on the Federation's largely undefended home cluster which was just within reach of forces I already had in the area.

This is another fortunate turn of events that I seized and used to my advantage, because at exactly the same time as I was beginning my war against the Federation the Evil Empire was launching an incredibly ill-conceived and poorly planned attack against Siggi with the forces he had leftover in the area after the war against CrystalCT was concluded. He had approached me asking if I wanted to help fight Siggi and I said that I did not. From a tactical standpoint, Siggi and Redwolfe were both far too important because of their ability to produce anti-cloaking technology which I would certainly need more of if I were to ever have to go to war with Ra. Apparently Landgrab had also gone to Forger with the same plan to attack Siggi and was also told that it was not the right time to do so, but Landgrab proceeded with the attack anyway.

Honestly, I was going to help Siggi anyway for the entirely self-serving reasons already mentioned above but when he contacted me with a message about a large super coalition (Colonies, Federation, Robots, and Empire) preparing to move against me it was all that I needed to come out and help him survive this attack. I discretely moved a Firecloud into position (using a Meteor to tow it across a large gap between planets) and traded him a couple of Biocides free and clear along with an agreement to help him win the war against the Empire in exchange for him helping me to defeat the Federation. I'm pretty sure it was Siggi who suggested that I get to keep the planets we were about to conquer with him piloting my Biocides against Zavulon's starbases. At nearly the same time as Landgrab was attacking Siggi, he had convinced me that I should be attacking Redwolfe because Redwolfe held a large amount of ship hulls and hadn't really done anything with them other than sit on them. I started laying the foundation for a war against the Lizards and even went so far as to kill one of his ships and chunnel in the attack force that would be needed to inflict serious damage, but only after Redwolfe called me out on it did I realize that I was being manipulated by Landgrab. Redwolfe and I agreed on peace in what would become my second longest-standing peace agreement in this game, and I told Landgrab that I had needed to delay my planned attack on Redwolfe due to logistical complications.

After what seemed like just two turns of war against Siggi in which he incurred heavy losses, Landgrab showed that he did not have the stomach for a protracted war and surrendered to Siggi, giving him ships in exchange for peace as he retreated his forces and licked his wounds. Oh how he must have hated me for my involvement in that war and helping Siggi quickly defeat him in what must have been a humiliating loss to him. I didn't become Emperor because I killed everyone; I became Emperor because I killed the right people at the right time. I won more easily because of Landgrab's poor choices, erratic/back-stabbing behavior, and the fact that nobody here really liked playing with him because of those choices. You don't need to act like a jerk to win, even if you are "just pretending" or playing a role.

Ra's Road to Recovery and the War Against Four Armies

Even though Siggi's war against Landgrab was short, he still held up his end of the agreement and helped me push on into Zavulon's home cluster and pick him apart from the inside while his forces were scattered by the Borg Storm or destroyed. When we had finished with that war and Zavulon had handed over his remaining ships to Landgrab, Siggi returned my Biocides as we had planned. Without Zavulon's ability to provide Forger with new Lokis, Ra was able to use some of the Biocides I had traded him to retake many of the planets that he had lost to his invaders, and he was working to rebuild his severely damaged infrastructure once the Borg Storm swept past his interior planets and former home cluster. Thinking that things were getting back to business as usual, I resumed my war against Loner for a few turns and started gaining a tremendous amount of ground against him. The momentum was entirely mine, and embarrassingly, at this point I sent him what proved to be a considerably premature "Good game" message in which I congratulated him on the good performance and told him I would be happy to fight against him again in the future. Then, to my chagrin, he did the most selfish thing I could have imagined when he didn't die.

Over a very short period of time, Landgrab's forces were beginning to behave strangely and Siggi started receiving more and larger Empire ships which he was in command of all along my border worlds. In the most polite way ever, Siggi joined the war against me and Landgrab's true intentions for me were at last revealed when I caught two of his SSDs moving to intercept my advance Firecloud in order to prevent me from chunnelling in more forces to use against Loner. I gave Landgrab a chance to explain his aggressive actions against me and that is when he used the old "my eyesight is fading" excuse to try and explain it away. I may be sympathetic, but I am not a sucker, and I held the SSDs in purgatory for a few turns with my Meteors while waiting for a satisfactory (or at least palpable) explanation about what the ships were doing and when he realized that he couldn't provide me with one, Landgrab cancelled our Safe Passage agreement and attacked all in the same turn, directing Siggi to do the same. As is true to his Evil form, he did so without notice and while we were in a peace agreement. He has claimed many times over that I had asked Ra to help me capture those SSDs, but I very specifically had chunnelled his SSDs into a low-intensity ion storm while I was holding them as I conducted my investigation because I wanted him to be completely certain that we didn't have cloaked ships around and that we weren't preparing to rob them.

Just as Landgrab's forces and SSDs were moving against me, and Siggi's Gorbies were approaching my planets followed closely behind by Forger's Virgos as they were sweeping my mines, Loner finally responded to my "Good game" message with a somewhat condescending message in which he forecasted the Borg's complete extermination from this game as my planets were razed and my ships destroyed. This was exactly the lowest point for me in the game, and I sent out a message to my friend Jason saying that I feared the Borg may have reached their apex. Fearing that I would not be able to maintain my independence for long against all of these opponents, I also reached out to Ra and asked for the first Share Intel agreement I had asked for from any player in this game. He agreed; we were both still in a difficult way at this point and Share Intel actually provides a fair amount of advantages in coordination that are not possible with just Safe Passage. With my resolve fully solidified at this point to either defeat all of them and win the game or die trying, Ra and I dug deep and really played a game in which we deserved to win. Some of our most amazing joint endeavors were starting to come together, and during this time we managed to rob capture a Gorbie or two, cleave Loner's empire in half, and reclaim most of the planets that Landgrab's initial strike with SSDs had taken without losing very much. We also scored several tactical victories over our enemies through the use of brute-force attacks in addition to some rainy-day tricks such as the Frycutus maneuver ( ) and starbases forcing enemies ships to surrender by matching Friendly Codes which dealt blow after blow both tactically and psychologically to our enemies until they had no other choice but to realize that we were really quite an unstoppable duo when our backs were against the wall and we put our minds together.

I would like to specifically call out turn 162 and nominate it for turn of the year because of the tremendous victories that we experienced as we inflicted very serious damage to both Siggi and Forger (and Landgrab, by proxy) when we shattered two of their separate battle groups hundreds of light years apart as we successfully repelled the only significant attack that anyone ever launched into one of my home clusters and did so at what I believe was a tremendous PBP gain for our side. Following the defeat of Landgrab's fleet which Siggi had sent in to attack me, I began planning a counterattack with Redwolfe which would have allowed him to keep all of Siggi's planets and given him room to double the size of his empire but Redwolfe never really stepped up to the plate and demonstrated the desire to improve his position in this game. I wasn't going to press the issue because I liked Siggi and I admired the way that he had extricated himself from our relationship and turned against me within a short period of time in a very tactful manner which left me with respect for him rather than contempt. That, and his ability to produce D19s. When someone tells you that they would rather see you as Emperor than someone else in the game, you don't go out of your way to destroy that player unless you have to. It's just good foreign policy.

Endgame and Victory Countdown

I feel like most of the rest of the game as it has wrapped itself up has been hashed and rehashed elsewhere. You know how this part goes. Forger and Landgrab had a fairly successful attack against Ra and I underway and then Landgrab lost his temper, overreacted, and attacked Forger which shattered the coalition against me and handed me the victory. By the time of Landgrab's attack against Forger, Ra and I were already several turns into the planning stages of "Loner's Last Stand," the joint operation I had designed to finally force Loner out of the game, and even as Forger and Siggi were starting to talk with me about peace I green-lit the operation and Ra and I dropped the hammer on Loner so we could purge the game of the Robotic menace which had troubled me for a very long time. In the wake of the Robotic ships disappearing after FoF was invoked, I managed to replace nine Biocides which had been lost fighting our enemies, and everything rapidly came together for me once that was accomplished.

Ra feels justifiably let down that Forger and Siggi didn't continue fighting me after Landgrab's tantrum cost them any hope of an organized resistance, but I believe that Forger and Siggi may have felt like they didn't have anything left worth fighting for because they just didn't want Ra to win instead of me. They each realized that there was a near-zero chance of either of them winning the match, and I knew that, given Landgrab's betrayals of nearly everyone, I would personally be a lot happier if I could win the game by taking the remaining planets that I needed to kick off the countdown from Landgrab and Landgrab alone. It would be even better if I could kill off Landgrab completely so I wouldn't have to see his name on the list anymore when I logged in to play my turns. I had no reason to take planets from Siggi and Forger when Landgrab had volunteered himself as the scourge of our game and because of the technicality that it never came down to just Ra and I, I was able to make it through this game without ever having to clash forces with him.

It is worth noting that when Forger and Siggi each accepted my offer of peace, Landgrab still had a significant fleet of at least 8 or 10 Gorbies and 20 or 30 SSDs which I thought I was going to get to chase down and exterminate as I was picking up those last planets that were needed. I had no idea that Landgrab was going to take the coward's way out and self-destruct his empire by handing over all of his forces to my enemies just because his plans were so completely and thoroughly foiled.

Seriously, for someone who prides himself on his masterfully designed betrayals and months-long con setup, he did a really poor job of judging what those players would do with his ships once they had them. I believe that it was Landgrab's epic betrayals and complete lack of emotional restraint in this game that made the game easier for me to win, and provided an excellent case-study for honest versus dishonest game-play which can be studied for quite some time to come.

Closing Thoughts

Do I have anything else that I feel like mentioning while I have your attention? Yes, I suppose I do. Some of the earliest conflicts that I had with Ra in this game were around our completely opposite PBP build strategies. He identified his as 1) Build as many Merlins as possible and then 2) sacrifice them to gain PBP with which to build Meteors when needed. Mine was 1) Build a lot of Biocides. If he was doing a good job with his strategy, it was clear that I would not be able to do a good job with my strategy. It wasn't a perfect solution, but we began using a strategy of "PBP Parity" which I suggested to resolve some of these conflicts by ensuring that we split the spoils of war somewhat equally, by using net ship tonnage as the basis for splits after battles in which we were particularly successful. This allowed us to largely head off and prevent disputes over these somewhat petty and sometimes completely critical conversations as we each gave in to the spirit of achieving a degree of parity and fair play. As the so-called 800 pound gorilla, I had more room to spare and as a result I was very generous with him in nearly every exchange. In general, if you can afford to do so, your allies will like to work with you more frequently if you always give them more than you ask in return, so generosity can often pay for itself in excess loyalty.

As the game shifted into the late stages and I knew that I had largely defeated my enemies but I still had a large number of planets that I needed to capture, I decided to try and kill two metaphorical birds with one stone by funneling almost all of my excess PBP into building kite ships to be used fighting and capturing fully-defended starbases. Forger taught me in that previous game I mentioned earlier that B41 Explorers are great for stripping away 8 fighters from fully-armed starbases before engaging them with a heavier warship. This strategy dramatically increases the chances of your attack to be successful without losing a Biocide. At the low cost of only 1 PBP each, it is far easier to throw a B41 or two against an enemy starbase just before a Biocide to almost ensure that you don't lose anything other than your kite ships. Sure, it isn't as seamless as using SSDs to capture them, but when you've got PBP to spare and you are trying to prevent your Privateer partner from achieving the 100 or more ships he really needs in order to successfully move against you, building nothing but B41s can sure slow down the rate at which others build ships, even if you are sacrificing them at a very high rate and occasionally using them to sky-write messages to your nemesis (see ) as he is fleeing from your ships and trying to get out of the game as quickly as possible.

Playing in this game was a lot of fun. I am looking forward to the outcome that looks like it is right around the corner, and I am grateful that I will be able to step back a bit and concentrate on some RL things which are coming up in the very near future. I first read a long time ago before this game started that in order to become Emperor it is necessary to be ruthless, skilled in tactics, be an excellent diplomat, and possess wisdom. I still do not believe that I possess all of those characteristics, but I am certain that I put my best foot forward in this game, that I had fun, and that some of the steps I took weren't only because I wanted to win but they were also because I wanted to help the greatest number of players in this game have the best and most entertaining experience that they could. Regretfully, that meant that I had to kill some of them off before the end. Even so, I am happy to say that I would gladly play with almost any of you in another game when the time comes. Thank you all for being part of the greatest gaming community on the web; and I am very proud to share this experience with you all.