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Full Version: Full military builds are OP in FFA
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Traits:

Combat pilots, Fantastic Engineers, Battle Hardened and Sanctioned Piracy with production boosts can be very overwhelming in a FFA.

Generally speaking, you can one on one any neighbor who does not have the traits and expect to eventually defeat them, with a 1.3x to 2X advantage especially on your bigger ships. If your oppoent doesn't abandon some planets you can get a large early game boost from their planets and/or tech. Sanctioned piracy gives you a tech edge for the rest of the game, and you can travel the map clockwise or counter clockwise one on oneing your opponents and snowballing.

By this point you are in the lead, and everyone who is playing to win is too afraid to attack you alone and lose ships, so you continue to snowball harder. Basic game theory/tragedy of the commons at work.

I don't know if this needs balancing because I have not fought anyone who used the same traits, or players who have predicted the early blitz ganged up on me early on to stop my rush. However, I have won my last 5 FFA games with 8 players doing this, which is why I can surmise that full military traits are optimal play when you spawn near opponents. (At least when there are 7 separate opponents* in the current meta.)

If it is OP then I think there should be enough awareness to have unofficial rules in large FFAs to limit the number of military traits you take.

"Choose only 2:"
FE, BH, CP, Sanctioned Piracy

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*A side note: Obviously, this doesn't require balancing when there are fewer opponents and larger galaxies as there is more time to build up production, research, explore, establish colonies, grab leaders, build better ships, etc. before making contact, so the benefits of taking full combat traits when you can't effectively rush are greatly diminished.

If rushing does take hold, a possible way to nerf the early blitz might be to slow the fleet by not allowing galactic navigators to be taken with 3 or more combat traits.
There are a few things you're not taking into account.

If the galaxy is a massive spiral, as it often is in 8-player FFA, you need to build several colony ships before you can even get in attack range. That leaves time for your opponents to build up defenses and develop:

- If your opponent plays a science build, as soon as they get in contact range with you, they will switch to researching military and can get a powerful tech advantage very soon. You try and overcome a SB w/ shields 1 with your ships equipped with stones and sticks.

- If your opponent plays an industry build, they'll have time to build plenty of ships of their own. They won't be as tough as yours but there will be more of them, plus potentially a SB. The difference in numbers is exacerbated by them fighting on their own turf, meaning their newly produced ships will be very soon where they need to be, whereas you basically need to commit a fleet of a certain size to the invasion possibly over 10 turns before any battles (with SD1 or no SD) since it takes a long time to bring the ships over from your production center (= your HW at the beginning of the game).

I do agree that military traits are very powerful in 8-player cluster and ring galaxy games, though. But at least the FFAs I've played have nearly always been spiral precisely to allow for some time to develop early on, bringing more variety to people's racial trait choices.
(06-05-2017 02:13 PM)anthee Wrote: [ -> ]There are a few things you're not taking into account.

If the galaxy is a massive spiral, as it often is in 8-player FFA, you need to build several colony ships before you can even get in attack range. That leaves time for your opponents to build up defenses and develop-

Maybe it can be countered by advanced or prepared players? Let me lay out my strategy for a low tech military build blitz:

-Spirals do sometimes require another colony ship to reach them, but if you use all of the colony ships you start with to move toward an opponent instead of toward the middle, then you can go sideways instead of to the middle and soon start attacking their external colonies. One of your opponents will probably expand toward the center (if there are specials) which will help you by reducing the distance between you. (You might find lost colonies too.)

-Remember, if you can capture a homeworld it's probably worth more than any specials in the middle, and instead of grabbing specials from the middle, you can poach the technology of the person you attack and aggressively explore a few of worlds in his territory by checking the starmap to see where he hasn't gone yet.

-Advanced empire is the best for rushing because you start with 3 colony ships, and your initial fleet + cruiser can beat anyone else. Do not scrap your cruiser until you use it to win at least one fight! Coupled with gauss and/or nukes, that thing is a damage absorbing tank that can kill several laser 1 frigates and survive, or tank a ton of starbase damage, and it gives you more tactical options. (If you send one close range at a laser 1 starbase while your frigates keep medium range, your opponent will waste shots on a nearly unkillable turtle if he chooses "target closest.")

-I usually prey on the weaker of the 2 opponents I spawn by first. I look for the opponent who has fewer military traits and who probably is researching civil traits at the beginning (which is normal.) I prioritize whoever has borderline genuis, baby boomers or plant whisperers, so even if I only win one planet, I can steal their population and breed them for the rest of the game and stay competitive.

-I also start by researching military tech. Nuke 1 or gauss are the best (and they synergize). If specials are on then you will probably find another military tech too. If you research Nuke 1 fast, then you won't waste that bonus on nuke 1 which is cheap to research.

-Start by building laser 1 frigates and at least two troop ships.

-Hide your ships though (especially the cruiser) and don't make first contact and reveal your military race/strategy to keep the element of surprise until you are ready to attack with a mass of them out of nowhere. Even if your opponent abandons colonies, that still hurts his economy and gives you breathing space to explore unimpeded. (Then you can keep pressing him, or attack the guy on the other side if he looks easier. )

-Strive for an early engagement and kill any of their scouts/ships you can before they upgrade them. Your ships are better at surviving and you might not even lose any at first. I do not suggest waiting until they have time to build ships or research tech. Attack after you have only two or three extra frigates.

-If you discover free credits, then rush more ships.

-I suggest Nukes 1 and Gauss 1, but if you're far enough ahead then you don't necessarilly need to research gauss before you attack a Starbase, especially if they don't have Heavy Armor Plating yet yet. Nuke 1 does 4% structural damage to a starbase, and a single destroyer with one gauss can kill a Starbase with structural damage in half the time. Just a couple of nuke frigates can lay deal more damage to a starbase than any other early weapon.

-Finally, if you want to test the early rush before using it in a FFA, try using it against an AI. This is especially important the first time you do a laser 1 rush + nuke 1. If all goes well, you will have two homeworlds by the time that most of the empires have reached the middle, will be slightly ahead in military tech, and will have kept enough ships to attack another player with a numerical advantage before your existing fleet turns obsolete.

-A science build typically wastes time on research center 1 and II because that matters for the long game. By the time they research military tech, you have a fleet and are attacking while they don't have the production to defend their external colonies. Worse case scenario is that they will have caught up in tech when you reach their homeworld, except they won't have the production while you will have taken or erased their colonies. They're now trapped while you have a numerical advantage and can expand in their territory or outproduce them.
Any experienced player is going to be aware of all of that. You're making some assumptions that only apply to inexperienced players, like them letting you capture their precious scientists instead of evacuating them when outmatched, or only researching civil until it's already too late.

You're also severely underestimating the time it takes for a research build in FFA to get some techs that, when equipped on a SB and some supporting ships, easily stop a gauss/nuke rush.

Test invasions against the AI have zero instructive value except from the point of view of learning the ins and outs of your own development, but then, you don't need the AI for that, might as well play solitaire. The AI is stupid as hell.

Advanced empire age obviously favors any builds that trade productivity for combat prowess. Your original claim about the overall superiority of maxed combat traits is no longer valid if you have to add: "Oh, BTW, I was talking advanced empire only."

All in all, going all combat traits is a gamble that doesn't always pay off against good players, especially not in a spiral galaxy. Maybe you play FFAs with players below your level. Good players know how to deal with early rushes, at least to the extent that your gamble isn't as solid as you apparently believe. One common trick is to save money for a rushed SB against an early rush, and at that time, you don't know yet what you're up against if they're playing science so you don't know exactly how many ships you're going to need. They, on the other hand, can be fairly confident about what you at least do not have at that stage in the game so they can decide the right timing for the rushed SB.

It only takes one miscalculation, one failed rush against a SB system, for your initial steam to dissipate and your choice to go all combat traits to turn against you in the long run.
It is a gamble, and I would hesitate before trying it with experienced player which is why I started a thread.

But suppose it can be readily countered by a pro? Even then I still think taking full combat traits should be restricted for most FFAs, if for no other reasons than 1) any less experienced players might be easy prey/fuel 2) the less experienced remainder might not recognize the depth of the threat until it's too late to stop it.

(The last time I used it, I also took freethinking and briliant researchers which helped in mid to late game. The combat build relies on the strengths of empire-wide bonuses more than racials, and these bonuses continue to apply no matter what populations you capture.)

I think with this build, unless you fail drastically, then even experienced players will eventually lend at least one population that you can breed. All it takes is one victory by surprise or miscalculation, and one of their colonies will be blockaded before they can evacuate it. That one seemingly minor win is enough to eventually negate the worst initial racial traits. And if no one else knows you took a planet, they will think you still have the initial setbacks upon making first contact, resulting in a deception.

This build is incredibly easy to underestimate. You can present fewer ships than an opponent in an arms race, get scouted, and still have much more firepower because of how well the three combat traits synergize. You can out-endure, outrace, (and usually "outrange") anyone with armor, combat engines or plasma/gauss, and can switch tactics and builds without the difficulty of someone who is more invested in certain military tech trees and fleet formations. Close range or long range threats make little difference to you, because your defualt ships have strengths without weaknesses. When combat starts it's like playing Starbase Orion with all the cheat codes on.
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