Let's Play: Master of Orion 2 - Part 2

Master of Orion 2 is a 4X TBS released by MicroProse in 1996. If you haven't read part 1 yet you can safely skip it, unless you want to see a bit of detail about the early game.

If you have read it you'll know that it ended in disastrous defeat just over a 100 turns into the game... This just goes to show that even with an estimated 1000 hours of play time I still haven't seen everything in this game and I know there are many racial ability combinations that I haven't even tried yet!

So without further ado, let's get into my 2nd attempt...

Game Setup

I'm using the exact same game setup as last time (Average difficulty, Small size, Average composition, 8 Players with Pre Warp starting technology). Doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result is insanity - so of course I will change my race setup a bit to try and compensate for last time's failure.

I think the biggest factors in my defeat were:

  • Feudal: That research penalty is a much bigger hit to science progress than I anticipated and I really struggled to keep up with the other empires. Technology is a really powerful factor in this game and makes a massive difference to how powerful your empire becomes.
  • Mrrshan: I seriously underestimated the strength of that +50 Ship Attack bonus in the early game - this is because I usually played in Normal or Huge galaxies, so by the time I usually encountered the Mrrshan their bonus was already being neutralised by my technology, so they seemed weak.
  • RNG: My starting position was quite tough - surrounded by enemies and with nowhere to expand.

So I changed my racial setup to something a bit closer to the default Elerian:

Elerian 2.0

So again just quick explanation of my choices:

  • Dictatorship is a very neutral government choice. It provides no point bonus or penalty, has 20% morale penalty if you don't have a military building on a planet and adds +10 to defensive spies' skill.
  • Telepathic allows members of my race to read minds - it is the defining ability used in the default Elerian setup and it's almost overly powerful! It gives a +25% bonus to diplomatic relations, +10% bonus to all spies and allows you to mind control worlds if you have a Cruiser or larger over them and they don't have any more defences!
  • Large, Rich and Artifacts home world basically give me a home world that supports a larger population, produces faster and researches faster.
  • -10 Ground Combat is to help afford everything and since I'm Telepathic I won't need ground combat skills unless I'm losing.

The Beginning

I don't want to bore you with whole process of reaching space-faring technology and early exploration again... so this time around I'm just going to summarize the key events from the early game and then get into a bit more detail for the mid-to-late game.

By star date 3511.8 (which is about 20 turns longer than my previous attempt), I have reached the mid-game.

Mid-game galaxy view

As you can see I was lucky enough to have a world in range for colonisation and have managed to get to it before either of the other nearby races. If you look at the world you'll see that I was actually insanely, bloody lucky!

Large, Poor, Terran world with artifacts!

It's a large, poor Terran world with Artifacts so it won't win any production contests, but between the large population and the artifacts it's going to provide a massive boost to my research! In fact I'm already a few levels of technology ahead of what I reached by the end of my previous game:

Research as at 3511.8

Diplomatically things are going fairly well - I've managed to avoid any early wars (probably thanks to the diplomatic bonus from Telepathic). My worst relations are with the Mrrshan (Torfang), the Meklar (QX-537) and the Darlok (Vale):

Relations are good!

I have a small defensive fleet, because the Mrrshan recently started making some threatening noises:

Tiny defensive fleet

Made of crappy little ships

These pack almost as much punch as the Zephyr Cruisers I made near the end of my last game, so they should be able to handle anything that attacks me at this point in the game.

In terms of leadership, I have more Colony Leaders than Ship Officers this time around (the only ship captain that joined me is Captain Sparky who's an engineer that can repair ships during combat, boosts the damage of missiles and brought the Advanced Damage Control technology with him, which fully repairs all my ships between battles):

Leadership - such as it is...

Nothing spectacular there, but the farming and science leaders are handy given my large Terran worlds with research bonuses. Director Yota's fame will help me afford some of the later game Ship Officers and Director Nimraaz's Operations skill will help me field an extra star-base worth of ships.

The history graph shows that from here on out it's an almost dead-even race with just the Human and Mrrshan lagging behind a bit:

History graph

So that's how things stand at the end of the early game. Phecca is going to be an incredibly valuable colony that will produce massive amounts of research while acting as the front-line in my attempts to conquer the galaxy. Draconis is safely in a corner, far away from the action so it should be able to churn out ships undisturbed while switching to research now and then when I'm out of command points.

The Middle

On star date 3512.5 I finish my research into Tachyon Physics unlocking the Tachyon Scanner, which allows me to detect incoming ships from further away and reduces enemy ships' missile evasion, which is handy given that my defensive capabilities currently revolve around missiles.

Next I'll research Battle Pods so that I can build more capable war ships. I've exhausted my options for peaceful expansion, so if I want to grow it will have to be by taking the Mrrshan or Darlok home world - they're the closest and least friendly of my neighbours.

Starting on Battle Pods research

On the very next turn (star date 3512.6) my scout stumbles onto the Orion system:

Found Orion!

The Orion system is the legendary home world of the Orions, one of two ancient species that fought over this galaxy long before the younger races rose to intelligence. Legend has it that the Orions were able to defeat their mortal enemies the Antarans and then left this galaxy to explore the reaches of the universe. All they left behind is their incredible home world, filled with some of their more advanced technology and guarded by an automated guardian of immense power - to ensure that only a worthy successor can claim the jewel of the galaxy. The guardian vaporises my small scout in a single shot from one of it's many beam weapons - I definitely won't be back here for quite a while...

I finish research into Battle Pods on star date 3513.0 and start on Spaceport:

Researching spaceport

On the same turn the Mrrshan demand a gift from me in order to maintain peaceful relations:

A gift?! That's all my money!

That's highway robbery - it's basically all my money! I tell them to go to hell and start preparing for war, but strangely they don't declare war immediately... I check the history graphs and realise they don't have a fleet to back up their big words - this should be fun!

Mrrshan angry, but have no fleet!?

The first thing I do, is to go chat with my friends the Psilon. They are a Creative race, which means they always unlock all technologies in a research category, so they're a good place to go shopping for a technology that you didn't choose (if you can tempt them with something that they don't have yet that would be useful to have sooner):

Heavy Armour + Tritanium Armour is a pretty good combo!

I skipped Heavy Armour earlier to get Automated Factories, so I'm willing to give them the technology for more advanced armour material in the form of Tritanium Armour. Tritanium is the material that a ship's hull and armour is made from and it's twice as effective as the starting Titanimum Armour. So a 10HP scout would have 20HP if it uses Tritanium and if you were to add in Heavy Armour that would get tripled to 60HP (I think it also grants immunity to armour piercing weapons). This will let me build some nice tough Cruisers, which I'll need to take advantage of Telepathic to mind control worlds I want to conquer.

I call it the ship design HiveMind after a product name I helped a friend come up with a few months ago. It's a good fit since I'm going to be using these to introduce some of the other races in the galaxy to my way of thinking:

HiveMind!

Between the Tritanium Heavy Armour and Reinforced Hull and having a Class 1 Shield this ship has a ton of hit points! If I had two of these in a mirror match it would take around 6 or 7 turns just to get through each other's armour. In terms of weaponry I've got 5 two-shot missile launchers that can deal 40 damage a volley to give some quick punch early in the fight and then some Heavy Mount Mass Drivers that can deal 27 damage per turn (if they hit) to continue the fight. I start building one of these immediately.

A few turns later I get a disturbing message from the Psilons:

I've been framed!

This happens a lot when you're playing in a galaxy with Darloks! They tend to spying on everyone all the time and they are very good at it, so occasionally they'll get a critical success and achieve the objective of their espionage without getting caught and while framing another race as a bonus. Relations with the Psilon take a sharp dive... :(

I finish research into Spaceport on star date 3514.6 and start on Robo-Miners to help speed up my ship production for the imminent war with the Mrrshan:

Robo-Miners are great for speeding up production!

I have quite a large cash reserve, so I decide to rush the first HiveMind so that I can be ready to attack a bit sooner:

Rushing a HiveMind

It takes about 3 turns for the ship to fly over and join the rest of the fleet at Phecca and a few interesting events happen in the intervening time...

Rear Admiral Chronos the Ancient Spacefarer offers to join me and he tells a most incredible story! He says that the ancient Orions were not able to defeat the Antarans completely and only managed to imprison them in a pocket-dimension with a single world to live on... Presumably the Antarans are looking for a way out of their prison so that they can take control of the galaxy that was denied to them by the Orions. He also says that he has the technology needed to visit this pocket dimension - I'll take it in-case we need it at some point, but for now I'll let sleeping dogs lie...

Read Admiral Chronos

On the same turn the Darloks threaten me with war... I tell them to go to hell too, they're world would be just as good as the Mrrshan one for expansion and with the bonus of getting rid of one of the most annoying species in the galaxy (getting framed sucks)!

Go to hell!

Finally without any warning the Galactic Council is formed and meets to elect a leader for the galaxy. The nominees are myself and the Meklar:

Galactic Council: Meeting 1

This is one of the ways of winning the game, that generally only comes into play in smaller galaxies. As soon as a certain percentage of the galaxy has been colonised the council starts meeting every few years and if one of the nominees manages to get a two-thirds majority of the votes, they are elected ruler of the galaxy and all the other races unify into one empire under them. This can be quite a bummer for a player that was pursuing victory by less diplomatic means, so as a human player you always have the option of telling the galactic council to go to hell, at which point the game turns into you versus everyone else. I'll have to make a bit more of an effort to remain friendly with the other races now - I'm clearly powerful enough to have been nominated and I won't say no to an easy diplomatic victory...

Finally on star date 3515.0 my fleet is assembled and ready to attack Fieras... I feel a bit of déjà vu as I dispatch my first offensive operation towards the Mrrshan home world... This time I check the stats page and see that they have no fleet, so at least I'll only have to worry about star bases and ground defenses.

The Fieras offensive!

This will be an interesting battle, because Fieras is located in a nebula, which means shields are completely ineffective. The only defense is a star base, but it turns out the Mrrshan also have Reinforced Hull, so it has a massive amount of hit points:

Mrrshan Star Base

The massive amount of hull strength is a problem, because I have to get hull down to 0 as a star base doesn't have a drive (you can read the detailed aside below for an explanation).

How ship health works:

  • Attacks are first applied to Shields, which have 4 directional faces with the same amount of HP each. Shields regenerate a bit each turn and thanks to their directional nature you can maneuver to turn a shield that is in better shape towards the enemy.
  • Next attacks are applied to Armour which protects your ship's structure and internal systems. It's strength is based on your armour technology and the size of ship hull you are using.
  • After the above two options are depleted damage is divided randomly between:
    • Hull which measures your ship's structural integrity. If this is reduced to 0 the ship is destroyed.
    • Internals which is each individual component in your ship from weapons, to computers to drive - each with their own individual HP. If a system is reduced to 0 HP it stops functioning. Rarely a hit from a single weapon will do more damage to the ship drive than it has HP, in which case the core goes critical and the ship basically self destructs in a spectacular explosion that damages everything close to it.

My small destroyers unload their missiles into the star base in two rounds and then try to rush the star base to send in boarding parties of marines in the hope of destroying a critical system. The Cruiser also gets in close to maximise the accuracy of those mass drivers for hopefully finishing the job. The destroyers are gradually taken out and then the déjà vu gets stronger as a shot from the star base destroys my Cruiser's drive, stranding it...

Screwed - again!

It was close, but in the end I'm worn down and lose the battle without destroying the Mrrshan star base. At least it's not an unmitigated disaster like last time... there's a Star Base at Phecca and it will be equipped with Heavy Tritanium Armour and Reinforced Hull, so I'm much less vulnerable to attack than in my previous game.

The Mrrshan are of course a bit unhappy about my surprise attack, but I don't care. I immediately start building a bigger ship that will be able to take out their station and mind control their planet:

Angry Mrrshan are angry!

Meet the Broadsword!

This design eschews the limited ammunition of missiles to focus on packing as many Heavy Mass Drivers into the ship as possible. I do allocate some of the available space to an ECM Jammer and point-defense lasers to make sure the Mrrshan missiles are less effective against this ship. I start building it, but it's going to take a while...

On star date 3516.4 I finish my research into Robo-Miners and switch to building those before my first Broadsword (they add enough of a production bonus that this will be faster than waiting to finish the Broadsword). My next research is into Inertial Stabilizer, which should render the Mrrshan Mass Drivers ineffective as well (it will neutralize that nasty +50 attack bonus they have):

Inertial Stabilizers

In the next few turns relations with the Psilon return to good as they come to me with an offer for a trade treaty, but relations with the Darlok take a dive and it turns into war:

If you want it come and take it!

I finish my research into Inertial Stabilizer (date unknown - things were getting a bit intense here and my screenshots are not as frequent as they should have been) and immediately replace the still unfinished Broadsword with a new design, keeping the name:

Broadsword 2.0

On star date 3517.3 the Darlok steal Soil Enrichment technology from me and launch an attack on Phecca:

Bloody thieves...

... and murderers!

Fortunately my star base is very strong having Heavy Tritanium Armour with a Reinforced Hull. I manage to destroy both of the attacking ships!

Since it's generally a bad idea to be in a war on two fronts and since I just destroyed the Darlok fleet, I decide to make peace with the Mrrshan and go after the Darlok instead:

Peace in our time!

Another Galactic Council election takes place, but it's still a tie between me and the Meklar. It turns out the Darlok had another Battleship, but I manage to dispatch it with ease. Then Darlok and the Mrrshan kick their espionage into high gear!

Thieves...

Stinking spies!

Thieving stinking spies everywhere!

To try and stop the deluge I trade the Humans for Neural Scanner which provides a bonus to espionage and allocate a significant portion of Phecca's limited production to training some defensive spies:

Neural Scanner

Luckily it's quite cheap to train a spy at this point in the game!

A little bit later the Mrrshan come to me asking me for Robo-Miners?! I'm guessing it was actually the Darloks that stole Robo-Miners from me and framed the poor Mrrshan.

Dupes!

My first Broadsword is finally finished some time during 3518 and it reaches the Darlok home system of Nazin on star date 3519.0, but it turns out they have a Star Base, Planetary Missile Base and some ships for defense, so I return to Phecca without attacking.

Nazin is well defended.

Then something interesting happens! Long range sensors detect a giant space eel that is approaching the galaxy and as my luck runs it seems to be headed straight for Phecca!

Giant space eel of death!

The Giant Space Eel Saga

Luckily it doesn't attack Phecca Prime - it seems to be content to use some of the other planets in the system as a spawning ground, but I'm afraid it might attack if I move my Broadsword away. The other downside is that Phecca is now blockaded and can no longer import food from Draconis, so I have to cut back on research a bit and assign more people to farming. Suffice it to say my offensive plans are a bit fucked!

For a good long while my game devolves into one of repeated attempts to drive off the space eel using increasingly advanced ship designs interspersed with diplomacy, tied galactic council elections and research... On star date 3522.9 a baby eel reaches maturity and heads off to Meklon - good luck to the Meklar!

Giant baby space eel!

The Mrrshan declare war on me again after someone (presumably the Darlok) frame me for stealing some technology. The Bulrathi join in, but neither of these turn into a real shooting war (I think they're too afraid of the space eel to attack me).

At some point I ally with the Meklar and they pull me into a war with the Psilon. I'm not much help, but apparently the Meklar thrash the Psilon and they are so eager to have me out of the war that they offer me the Pipiri system in exchange for peace:

Free system!

The other various wars I'm involved in come to uneventful ends... The Meklar try to pull me into another one, but I decline breaking the alliance and souring relations with them a bit.

Finally on star date 3525.6 my latest Broadsword (design III) with the assistance of a couple of Pincer ships kills the space eel!

Broadsword III design

Ongoing research into energy technology has miniaturized my Mass Drivers and allowed me to make some advanced modifications to them like Armour Piercing, which allows shots to bypass armor completely and strike hull or internal systems directly.

Pincer design

My missiles have also advanced quite a bit... as you can see above I can fit 28 two missile launchers on a single battle ship, although that ship has no other systems of note. That's two whopping 224 damage volleys in two turns after which the ship can retreat out of a fight.

The Eel's last moments...

Jubilation!

The Beginning Of The End

A few turns before defeating the Great Eel, the Darlok declared war on me again for refusing to pay tribute to them. With the Great Eel defeated the moment I was planning for so long is finally at hand! I have a Broadsword III and a Pincer I ready and immediately proceed to attack the Darlok home world of Nazin (I get there in 1 turn thanks to commanders with Navigation skill assigned to my fleet):

Nazin II is defended by a Star Base and Missile Base

With my crews and my ships forged in the fires of fighting the Great Eel the Darlok defenses are completely over-matched and they fall quickly without any casualties on my side!

The last moments of the Darlok as a free species!

As the last defenses crumble my ship crews turn their telepathic abilities towards the leaders of the defenseless planet and soon the Darlok are obedient members of my empire! We manage to recover some technology from the conquered planet as well.

Mind Control makes conquering planets almost too easy!

Sexy military commander briefs me on the new technology!

Sexy military commander briefs me on the new technology!

Both of these technologies are quite handy. Positronic computers will ensure that my Armour Piercing Mass Drivers hit what I'm shooting at and the extra boost to spying ability from Telepathic Training should prevent any further espionage against me.

To be continued

This post is getting a bit long and it's taken me most of the day to write it, so I'll break here and continue soon in part 3 of this let's play. If you have any feedback on this series please tweet me @chaotikZA!