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Starjammer | Vanilla IV  

Harsh Realms

Recollections of an endless Struggle

We won.

Though sort of inevitable (Colonies in a mineral-poor game...) it still surprised me, since this was only my second game for earnest, and my first for the Colonies. Notice that I said: "we" won? This game was won by a team of three.

And so you will read here the write-ups of the Colonies, the Privateers and the Crystals.
The account of the war by Kai Rosenthal for the Colonies of Man:

In the beginning there was nothing but space and void.

Actually there was too much space for my liking around my homeworlds, and also too much void for my taste in the planetary cores. To say that the universe of Harsh Realms was "mineral poor" is like saying that the Arctic may not be all too sunny occasionally.

(We were playing on the standard Echo-Cluster map, so you may be able to follow my tale when I mention planet names.)

I came in as replacement in turn 5. All my predecessor had done so far was handing in no turns at all. So I started in turn 5 with the two standard ships of the Colonies and on last position in the score. My homeworld was Vulcan, and I could already see a Borg probe heading for Klamuth, a planet two planet hops away. Wonderful. I fired the engines on my Taurus and headed there. My first build was a Cobol (I couldn't afford anything but Nova 6 engines!), and I loaded her with clans and supplies, headed for the upper side of the map where major meteor impacts were reported. I took back Klamuth when I arrived there, and negotiated a non-agression pact with the Borg (Johannes "OlegBoleg" Ohlendorf) afterwards. Whew! One border safe. On my western flank were the Fascists (Ruffin L. Brown), which I only found out because they contacted me. Funnily enough, he judged my position by the lonely Cobol and tried to negotiate a border that would place my HW on his side... Well I cleared out that misconception, and had one more border relatively safe. The Cobol arrived at the meteor crater (minerals! *drool*) on Milab and started building up economy there. Friendly but unfortunately rather anarchistic insectoids helped a bit. The Milab area was then left alone with only the Cobol collecting minerals and colonizing planets nearby.

At Vulcan I by then had colonized the four planets surrounding my HW and started collecting money. A Gemini and a couple of Patriots later the Fascists declared war on me. His first hostile action was sending a MDSF to Carsonio to take it by ground attack, which failed because the MDSF was captured by a Patriot in orbit (Yes, captured. I didn't know Patties can do that...). Well, the Fascists learned and started to annoy my HW area with cloaking GA and Pillage. I started an attack on his territory, but soon found out that patriots don't react well on exploding glory devices...

I was on the edge of losing, when the cavalry came: a MBR under Crystal (Olafs Peteris Grigul) command, filled with torpedoes. Those torps made a wonderful webfield covering my home, and resulted in the capturing of two D7's immediately. The Crystals were given a Cobol, and the MBR was cloned.

(Side note to all Crystal players: a Cobol is a wonderful thing for you! Torpedo tubes, reasonable cargo space, two engines and when you reach that ship stranded in your webs, you always have fuel to transfer once it's yours.)

That's when the tide began to change. I was able to build my first Virgo, and towed by the cloned MBR I was able to do a complete surprise attack on the Fascist HW: the Virgo chewed through a lowtech Vicky, crushed a Neutronic refinery, killed two Glories with ease (they didn't explode because no ship arrived cloaked) and smashed the starbase. Although this resulted in a noticeable reduction in Fascist ground attacks due to the lack of clans, the celebration was called off quickly, when the Virgo was towed into the fangs of a Gorbie suddenly appearing on the stage! Boom. The Gorbie was joined by a second and a third, a Vicky, two Lokis (!), a NFC, a SSF and a SSD... a major imperial assault fleet was heading for my HW...Yes, you guessed it, there was a Fed-Fascists-Empire alliance opposing us...

Empire (Randy Davis) took Carsonio, which I managed to evacuate and void of fuel (except the 2 ktons produced per turn). Carsonio was webbed and the imperial offensive came to a grinding halt.

For the next 20 turns there was a stalemate: Empire couldn't go anywhere because of the webs, and swept like hell, (he knew what he was running into and had equipped his fleet with good beams,) our alliance of Privs, Colonies and Crystals couldn't go there cloaked because of the Lokis and couldn't go in with force because the losses due to 3 Gorbies would be too high. Imperial fuel losses were minimized by a steady flow of probes HYPing in with fuel.

In the meantime Privateers (Mike Burch) were given a starbase over Lynx Ceti, my best bovinoid world, complete with clans and a Merlin, and started to make MBRs like there's no tomorrow. I in turn got control over the Privvy's HW and made some Cobols and after that Virgos. While the imperial strike force was stuck at Carsonio, the Crystals webbed Empire space, a Virgo of mine cleared away the empire minefields, and this part of the Empire was soon ours. Next came a slice of Federation (Michael Hedden) space: webs immobilize the enemy, Virgos sweep the mines, MBRs sniff for Lokis, and Virgos, Crystal Thunders, and Diamond Flames take planets. Unstoppable. Until we ran into the Fed HW with several Gorbies under Fed command...

In the meantime at Carsonio a strategy was developed to get rid of the annoying Lokis: the "Aries maneuver": You need an Aries (preferrable with low ID) with good engines and an expendable warship capable of taking the defended planet. We used a captured D7 with bad engines for this. Load the warship for battle with the planet plus as much minerals as will fit in the cargo space, but NO fuel. Tow the warship with the Aries to the Loki-covered planet, so that the Aries runs out of fuel arriving there. They're fuelless, so ships can't attack. Planet could be set to NUK, that's why you should have the warship capable of handling the planet and of course attack first. No matter if the hovering warships take the planet back, your prime goal is staying in orbit. So, next turn you should have two fuelless ships in orbit. Transfer the minerals from the warship to the Aries, set the Aries to tow the Loki away to his demise. Set the fuelless warship to escape into the warpwell. If you conquered the planet, you can transfer a bit of fuel and escape totally. Else the warship may get 1 kton of fuel transferred by the enemy, towed and killed. But hey, that was an expendable ship, remember? You get the Loki killed, next turn you can proceed with cloaker operations. This would work also with a Neutronic Refinery, but the costs of these with good engines...Yikes!

The strategy worked, the Lokis got toasted and the Rob mission had a high effect. We captured three Gorbies and killed most of the other ships...

All that time I was trying to suppress any resupplies and reinforcements for that battlegroup. Doing this I secured the area and for the second time killed the Fascists only starbase. A great salute to Ruffin, he continued to fight till the bitter end, when I took his last remaing starbase for the third time!

One of the captured Gorbies was towed to the heavily defended Fed HW, and in two attack waves I finally took the Fed HW at Cornrelius. I offered a surrender to the Feds, but they chose to fight. After they lost their last base at Pacifica, they dropped, and Q played. Nasty, because Q ships are difficult to rob and to be drained by webs...

From this point, all went very fast. I owned nearly the upper left quarter of the map, Borg owned the upper right one (non-agression pact and border between us). Fed was dead, Lizard gave all his ships to the Rebels and totally vanished afterwards, Borg also supported the Rebels heavily (=with cubes!). Stealthy Bird had silently and completely disappeared very early on. Robots had chosen to support us and to live. Left were Borg, Rebels and Empire to fight us. We left Borg to grow for too long, and it was proposed to attack. Since I still kept the non-agression pact to keep my back free for the ongoing war with the Empire, the attack on Borg was conducted by Crystal and Privateers alone. But because the non-agression pact only forbade any ATTACKS, there was a Gemini sweeping mines with the allied attack wave. Borg didn't own a single Loki, so the rest of his empire was a walk-through: Web, Rob, kill planets with freshly acquired cubes. At the end Borg only had 14 ships left... the player dropped and was replayed by the Q.

Rebel had fuel shortages and dropped also to be equally replaced by the Q.

Empire was a tough fight, though. Mainly due to his Gorbies I had sunk almost 20,000 tons at game end. Many a carrier fight was seen between us. He had Lokis, he had Gorbies, he had a good economy. I was able to snatch border planets, but any progress was costly and slow. When Randy realized, that his was the only race opposing us that still was played by a human, he offered his surrender. A great salute goes to him for keeping up the fight the longest. And so the game turn 117.


1. Priv-Crys-Colony is a very strong team, especially webs plus fightersweep plus cloakers is devastating.

2. Don't let the Borg grow over your head.

3. Mineral-poor games are a very nice surrounding. Big carriers are rare at the beginning, so they really make a difference.

4. In mineral-poor games the Colonies' advantages should be balanced somehow. They don't use fuel, and they negate the expensive minefields, resulting in another economic advantage. Perhaps let the Cobol only produce 1kton fuel per lightyear?

5. Economy! Merlins!

My gratitude goes to my allies: Mike Burch and Olafs Peteris Grigul, great players with a great deal of devotion. As described, they saved my butt in the early turns of the game. A close and powerful alliance was the result.

My deepest respect goes to the most honorable of our enemies, those that kept the spirit and continued fighting instead of dropping: Ruffin Brown and Randy Davis.

And last but not least, this game wouldn't have been possible without our reliable host, Lord Firefall/Pick.


The Privateers' Summary by Mike Burch

Ahh, Kai, you’re a wise man after all.

In the beginning, when I had thought of this alliance, I had approached Olafs. We were looking for someone that was powerful enough to make us whole. He had doubts about you, but I knew your race was the one we needed. You have to admit that you were suffering till the crystals arrived in your area. (True!) After a few webs were done, you had time to breath and build.

My main goal was to expand and to help my allies. I gave ships freely, though mainly to the Crystals, as there is nothing more dreaded than a cloaking web layer. We each had starbases in each others area's, which helped our winning I think. We helped each other new bases with cash and minerals when needed to keep our war machine going. And we communicated on plans often enough, that nothing went amiss.

We are a team, we breathed, and thought like a team. I gave ships freely, because my team needed them. I cared not for the scores, just that the team was prospering from my sacrificing of MBR's. That sacrifice was brought to a conclusion as we swept the enemy under our ships, and by the end of the game, the ships I had given away, were converted into a total of 9 Borg Biocides.

Enough said.


Olafs Peteris Grigul's Abstract for the Crystals

Well I think mainly Mike said it :) I entered the game in about 20th turn when somebody had dropped Crystal player and Privs were allied with Crystals. So I thought it might be a good idea to continue and develop this alliance, because it seemed as if the previous owner of the Crystals wasn't too good on it's economy to say the least. With the support of cloakers and attacks started on Feds, which were trying to "negotiate" about our planets, we reached the Colonies, who were having problems with our Fascist enemy (that bastard pillaged my home planet with a probe and took 10000 cash:). It was obvious that common enemy can make us allies, especially when both sides can benefit from it greatly :)