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Acts of Vengeance | Vanilla III  

Lost Tribes II

A weird game, but in the end we did prevale

I figured a Wandering Tribes scenario would be a good occasion for my first full Borg game, fully milking the advantage of assimilation. Sure, Pick had reduced the assimilation ratio to 50%, but it would still give me a nice edge in a game where nobody had more than a handful of colonists to begin with. I had had some doubts between playing these Borg and my beloved Federation, since the game had a 35% engine shield bonus, but I decided to take the Borg after all.

Turn one, I see my own freighters and I see those of the Privateers. Not a pretty perspective: six nice little Borg superfreighters, and certainly the first ships off the Privateer production lines would be those nastly little cloaking gravitonic ships of his, ready to snatch my freighters. Time to fire up the mailer program, so to say. Tried to woo him by summing up our mutual advantages when working together (ya know, unlimited clans, him controlling all the good native planets, gravitonics and chunnel combined, his sneakyness and my raw power, the works). Fortunately I met with a wise and friendly Privateer commander, who decided not to just go after my freighters but to cooperate. He didn't agree to the whole shebang right away, but a mutual border was fine with him.

We talked some more, I pressed him a bit on how we should ally as soon as possible to maximize our advantages early on and take out an enemy early, and the alliance grew a bit further. The Priv would get some native planets from me, and would tow a Firecloud of mine to a more remote cluster so I could get there undetected by others. South of the Privateers were the Lizards. By race characteristics, neither of us were really equipped to take out the Liz early so the Privateer was also talking to the Liz. Liz seemed to be rather new, colonising two of his superfreighters and thus wasting eight valuable transwarp engines.

At that time I received a friendly, short and to-the-point message from Matthias, commander of the Federation: "hi! nice to meet you... do you prefer a border agreement or a war ?" I asked for a few days to think about this (read: talk with the Privateers). The Privateers had meanwhile formed an alliance with the Lizards. Because of this, and also because I figured it would be a nice change to fight Matthias for a change, but mainly because he didn't have any bases yet at the time, I told the Feds to take a hike. My first base was up and running on a Ghipsoldal planet, a second on the way on a Humanoid planet and I had found two Bovinoid planets and one with Avians. I figured getting rid of the Feds, their Lokis and their ES-bonus- enhanced Thors and Kittyhawks would be a good move.

So I started hauling money and minerals to my bases, built some Fireclouds and a Merlin, recycled some superfreighters at the humanoid base to get some transwarps without paying for the techlevels and built me some Annihilations. The onslaught of the Federation was all set. Sure, he picked off one of my planets with a Nebula, but once he'd run into the cubes he'd be singing to another tune. Or so I thought.

Now, VGA Planets 101 clearly states that it's always helpful to talk to your enemy's neighbour. In this case, that would be the Crystals. It didn't help me quite as much as I would have liked, as the Crystals were negotiating a peace-treaty with the Feds already, but it still helped. The Crystals, as it seemed, weren't entirely happy with the Federation attitude. According to David, the Crystal commander, Matthias had "demanded a Crystal Thunder in exchange for 40 turns of protection". To say the least, David -in his own words- "did not trust" Matthias.

And damn right he was, as talking to the Fed's other neighbour (the Birdmen) revealed. I had jumped a probe over Fed turf, and it landed in Birdland. A good occasion to contact the Romulans, also because they seemed to be in Fed trouble. But again I was too late, the Birdmen had just started talks with the Federation to get out of war and into cooperation. The Birdmen were pretty interested in an alliance between them, the Feds and me, but my being at war with the Feds kind of prevented that. So the Bird would be friendly to both me and the Feds. Nothing lost, nothing won. Being the bastard I am, I did try to stir up relations between the Feds, the Birds and the Crystals. Since the Federation had chosen not to inform either of his allies about the other one, I took it upon myself to do so. After all, what the Fed doesn't want is bound to be good for me. The seed was sown, and the Crystal's distrust of the Federation would prove furtile ground. To finalize the multi-diplomatic engagements, I had asked the Empire who I also met with (his probe met my probe or something) to sniff out Federation bases. Better to hit where it hurts, and what better way to know where it will hurt than to ask the Empire.

So here I was, gearing up for war on the Federation, Privateers on my side, production in full swing, the Empire running services and perhaps a bit of discomfort between the Feds and his allies. You'd think that once you're playing this game for quite some time, you know which stupid mistakes not to make. But heck, I made them anyway. The Feds paid a visit to my Humanoid base, and indeed ran into the Cubes I had been building to slap the Feds around with.

Unfortunately I had forgotten another lesson out of VGA Planets 101: to load sufficient ammunition onto the cubes (tip: always do so the minute they are built). So at the cost of two Diplomacies and a Nebula Matthias was now the proud new owner of a Merlin, a filled superfreighter, a Humanoid planet with a shitload of minerals and ditto money and quite the number of priority points from blasting through two Annihilations. The mighty Cyborg empire was reduced to one base, a handful of planets and it's only hardware consisting of freighters, Fireclouds and ofcourse a number of probes.

Sure, the probes had done their work, I had planets up to 1300 lightyears away and in far and quiet corners of the galaxy, but the Feds had hit me right in the heart. The Privateer didn't have many ships in my space yet, one MBR in orbit of the planet the Feds had just taken over, and even combined with the Borg Neutronic Refinery that had just been built and was sitting there fuelless, there was no sudden revenge from that either. So at turn 24, the Cyborg empire was near death.

But the opera ain't over until the fat lady does her thing, and there's always diplomacy. Time for a weird proposition. I contacted Matthias, congratulating him on his effective move, and giving him the choice of either killing me now or leaving me something to work with in promise of interesting battles later on. Although at first Matthias wasn't really interested, claiming I had too few ships to ever make for an interesting endgame battle and that he was sort of invincible with the ES bonus, Darkwings from his Romulan buddy and captured MBRs from the Privateers, he decided to let me pack up my stuff and go. In return for another Firecloud and a heap of cash, ofcourse, but the result was fine with me: I was allowed to chunnel out and start rebuilding.

At this point real life roared it's ugly head, and with my position in the game minimized I started paying less attention to it. I made my turns, built my empire and my ships, but wasn't very active otherwise. The Privateers did a nice job attacking the Feds, but all they got to show for it were some good hulls Matthias had not equipped with good weapons yet. While I was rebuilding and expanding, the Feds seemed to have a hard time handling the Privs and several MBRs got lost in Federation minefields. This enabled me to build some new ships, among which a couple of cubes. Things were looking a bit brighter again, but time was still limited. I built some outposts way north in the cluster, and sent a few cubes there for minor protection. The Birdmen and the Empire (closest neighbours of those outposts) were friendly so far, but you never know.

I then received a message from the Lizards, asking me for assistance in their war against the Rebels. The Rebels, who as you may have noticed are not mentioned earlier in this report, were leading the scores by far. I guess they had been lucky so far with plenty of room to expand and friendly neighbours or something. They did try to fend off the Lizard attack by sending out a message that the attack was useless, given the big lead of the Rebel and all. But since that whole futility stuff is more my kind of message, nobody really bought it from the Rebels. I was of course happy to aid the Lizards, if they could help me filling up my Biocides. So a few hissers and the Privateers towing a Firecloud to the Lizard/Rebel border later, the three of us were officially allied. The little seed in the Fed/Crystal alliance had grown into a nice little breakup: the Crystals were now on their own and still friendly to me, the Feds had one less ally. So the Federation, backed only by the Birdmen, was now fighting the Crystals on one side, and the Privateers and me on the other side. Reports on the war with the Crystals were that the Romulans were losing ships in webs, so this was a good thing.

The Privateers and I coordinated a nice little attack on the Federation. The main components were an MBR and a Firecloud, delivering death to the Federation's doorstep. Nicely marked by the Lokis in the warpwell and through experience in the Privateer/Federation war, we had a good idea of important Fed areas and decided to try and fool him. We used an MBR to tow the Firecloud into a perfect position to stage an attack, counting on the Feds to send defenders that way. The next turn we just towed the Firecloud another 160 lightyears to a base that we thought was very important to him and imagined how much that would have to upset the Federation.

And upset them it did. It didn't so much surprise him (after all, Matthias is an excellent player, he knows me and he knew that we knew where his important bases were) but we somehow pulled off this trick at the best possible moment. The Feds had missed the turn, resulting in the following message: "i have no idea why, but the turn did not get relayed from my mailserver to Pick’s for over 2 hours, so it arrived 40 minutes after the hostrun. (....) without this turn in am doomed. I anticipated that Donovan would go to my other base and moved reinforcements there (if you ever get a second turnfile for this turn, you will actually see a nova going at full steam to that very base, with another one being towed there by a br4 (which you wont see)). I also moved my own firecloud closer to that second base and it would have brought dearly needed resources to fend off the attack. I also lost a maxxed out darkwing due to the turn not being delivered. with my turn in, i would have gotten in my ships just in time for the attack, but now they will come one turn late, my most important base will fall and my empire will be split in half"

This ofcourse was a nice result for us. Matthias did ask for a re-host, but since the Privateer had also missed some turns in the past which had been very favourable for the Feds, we did not vote yes on this idea. The Rebels, still leading the scores, also voted no because of earlier missed turns, so there was no rehost. Things looked very nice for us, and much less favourable for the Feds. We were about to trash his most important base and the 30 empty hulls orbiting it. From the Fed point of view, a pretty f*cked up situation.

Which brings me to a quote from an earlier line in this report: "there's always diplomacy. Time for a weird proposition". Some talks back and forth between Matthias and me ended with the following proposition from his side: "both of you will get 15 of my ships to trash and get PBPs for it plus both of you will get 2 max tech darkwings. For that you will have to leave me alone until I kicked the crystals butt. after that I dont care what happens anymore." Fair enough, he had let me survive earlier on, I would let him survive now. Two nice Darkwings were as welcome as they always are, having someone take care of the Crystals would be nice too and it meant peace on practically our entire border with the rest of the cluster. We never did get around to trashing the hulls, but all in all it was a fine deal.

All this lead up to the situation that would remain for a large portion of the game. Both the Privateer and myself were now free to focus most of our resources on the Rebels, helping out the Lizards. The Lizards and Privateers had been fighting the Rebels for a while already, and many MBRs had died in Rebel minefields. The Lizards didn't have much heavy firepower, but the Privateers managed to steal some Rushes so it was a nice and even playing field. This situation existed for a while, and during this period the Feds nicely took care of the Crystals. The Romulans and the Empire apparently got tired of my presences in the north, as they attacked both my outposts there. They nicely cooperated to, but the Romulan didn't quite know how to hold on to the SSD the Empire had traded to him - he lost it after taking one mere Borg planet. I managed to successfully chunnel out of the first attack, but made a rather foolish mistake when getting the hell out of the second nasty situation.

I figured I might as well chunnel out my cube and freighters from the Imperial outpost to the Rebel warfront. But while the Birdmen towed my Biocide to it's death the evil, evil Empire towed a Gorbie to my awaiting Firecloud, which ofcourse chunneled along and destroyed several Fireclouds and freighters upon exiting the chunnel. Quite a setback, but luckily this time there was a strong Privateer presence at the planet I chunneled to. Next turn that Gorbie was ours. This was about the only time the Empire really bothered us. He'd send some Gorbies our way later on (two or three) but those landed straight into the hands of the Privateers.

War against the Rebels was going fine, we succeeded nicely in taking out Rebel assets and pushing back the warfront. We lost one Biocide due to the Rebels using a cloaked ship to tow it to a pack of Rushes, mainly to blame on my Privateer partner. We did foresee this possibility, but the Privateers had forgotten to set their Biocide to rob. Once the Privateer Biocide flipped on the 'rob' button, the Rebel cloaker got robbed silly the very next time it tried to pull off this trick. Much to the amazement of my Privateer buddy I must add, he didn't think the Rebel would fall for such an obvious trick. But heck, there's one born every minute...

At this point the Federation had taken care of the Crystals and announced that he would no longer remain friendly towards us. Not too much of a disaster, but the Lokis pouring into Rebel space made life a bit harder. Once we started losing ships to Federation Rushes we got really annoyed, and decided to do something about this. Standing up against an alliance of Rebels, Evil empire, Birdmen and the Federation was a nice challenge. So we put some more effort in supporting the Lizard economy to build some more cloakers, and called upon the thus far very dormant Robots to do some countermining.

Dave, our time-pressed but trusty Privateer commander, got involved in a car accident at this point and was unable to do his turns. Personally I was so busy with other stuff I didn't actually notice this until Dave sent us a message, regretting to have missed the last six turns. I managed the Privateers for three turns, focusing mainly on cleaning up after so many turns of being unattended and passing MBRs to the Lizards who could use them best with their Loki-immunity. Meanwhile we sent out loads of e-mails trying to find a worthy replacement Privateer commander. We'd need someone good, someone who knew the game and someone who was a team-player. After some searching, we found Mark Beilke to be willing to take the position. I had played with him a few times before and I knew he'd be the right person for this. I can't thank him enough for taking the position and performing the way he did. From the turn he stepped in he had a good overview of the situation and our mutual possibilities, and started coordinating our moves in a manner much better than I had time for at the moment (I was in the middle of moving).

It was smooth sailing from there. In a great combined effort the Rebels were quickly diminished further, with Lizard MBRs wreaking havoc on ships thought to be protected by Lokis. Their other means of defense, minefields, were nullified by Robot countermining. Cubes ruled over Rebel bases, and the Darkwings the Federation had provided us with earlier also came in handy. Once the Privateers got their hands on some more Rushes again, we were really on a roll. With Rebel scores diminishing the Birdmen temporarily were the new leaders of the scoreboard, but with Mark taking care of coordination issues I got to focus on the ol' Borg economy (which, by the way, kicks major ass) and swiftly outscored the foul Romulans.

The Rebel player, as it seems, is a lousy loser. He sent an e-mail to Pick asking for a vote to end the game. His motivation: he didn't like the multi-race alliance war this game had turned into. Personally I think it had more to do with our multi-race alliance kicking his ass and that of his multi-race alliance, because even though he had been backed up by the Federation and the Empire for quite some time he only complained now that he was losing.

But heck, I was leading the scores, the game was at turn 109, and someone wanted a vote to end the game. The Birdmen had been mildly annoying up to then but had a potential to become very dangerous with their refitted Darkwings, the Feds were looking very dangerous and our Lizard leader was also getting pressed for time by those real life issues like work. So guess who voted yes? In the final turn Mark put in some extra effort, resulting in both the Privateers and the Lizards passing the Birdmen in the scores. The game ended with the Borg, Privateers and Lizards on the podium. Our other ally, the Robots, had been way behind in scores and still were. They ended last, but I don't think they were too disappointed.

All in all I of course think the final scores nicely reflected the balance of power in the game, but then again anyone who'd end a game in the winning position would say that. I have to admit I'm glad we never got to face the full power of the Federation's refitted fleet with it's engine shield bonus or the Romulan armada which no doubt consisted of much more Darkwings than we would have liked.

When reading reports by other players in the past I have often been amazed about the amount of diplomacy displayed through them, and have often wondered if all those people used more diplomacy than I did. While writing this I noticed about 75% of the report consists of diplomatic relations. During the game however, I never felt like there was an unusually high amount of diplomacy going on. If you have read this report somewhat carefully you will have noticed the importance of the diplomatic actions between the races in this game. Keep that in mind.

In closing I would like to thank a number of people. First of all Pick for reliably hosting yet another kickass game and allowing us some time to find our own replacement Privateer. Second, many thanks to Mark for keeping it together in the endstages of the game and doing a superb job as replacement commander. Third, thanks to Larry and Erik, commanders of the Lizards and the Robots, for aiding in the war against our common foes. Also a big thank you to Matthias, for letting me live when he had me by the balls early on. I know you probably regretted it later on when I showed up at your important planet. I was starting to regret my own decision to let you live then, when you were gearing up for battle against us in the final stages of the game. Many thanks to the Rebel commander for whimping out and calling for a vote to end the game the instant you were kicked off the top spot. And last but not least thanks to the other players in this game, it's been fun.