Having been a parasite-boy for the past few games, I have now fully and completely recanted.
In my latest game I have switched to Raiders (and I have gone over to Fast&Dangerous), and the combination was a whole new experience for me. I always thought that AI Wars was slow to start, but no longer.
The RaiderBlitz opening
I started an AI8 game vs Vicious Raider and Teleport Turtle (my favorite foes). I invested 7K Knowledge to upgrade Raiders to III at start, built 100 of them in three minutes or so and then sent them on a rampage, continually reinforcing them with more III Raiders and IIs when all IIIs were built.
Basically, a bunch of III Raiders:
- build fast: with the starting two II Engineers, one every two seconds. And they are cheap. And they don't cost much energy, saving fortunes on powerplants and energy upkeep.
- move fast (very fast in F&D mode): where my old cruiser fleets used minutes to traverse a map, Raiders do it in 20 seconds or so. So I zip along, taking all guard posts and wormholes out, then kill the orbital/warp gate and zip off to the next planet.
- kill all normal ships fast: they massacre cruisers and bombers and are only vulnerable to fighters (and possibly some specials), but the AI doesn't mass-deploy these. Additionally, they kill fighters a lot quicker than cruisers do.
- kill everything else fast: they kill normal turrets, they have enough range to kill lightning turrets, they can bring down forcefields by themselves and they kill starships and Ion Cannons.
And they come in vast hordes (250 or so level cap) giving you a vast horde of 750 raiders to play with if you upgrade to III at start.
So in the first twenty minutes or so, you just build III and II raiders and blitzkrieg everything in sight. IV planets might be trouble, but Teleport Turtle IIIs were overrun with only slightly more trouble than Is/IIs. You move so fast that they have no chance to reinforce.
After twenty minutes or so the AI starts counter-raiding. By this time, I had already killed off four planets (and occupied one) to make sure that only my home planet is adjacent to a warp gate, with exo-FFs on all of its harvesters. This means that the raid had to come to the shielded orbital.
Defending against raids was done by:
- cheap I fighters to kill Raiders. You don't have to prebuild them, as soon as a raid with Raiders is announced, you drop everything else and build only I fighters
- I bombers against Fighters. Again, no prebuilding necessary. Fighters are unable to damage the forcefield or the exo-FF, so you can just build the bombers as the raid is announced. You'll have only a few as bombers build slow (and require 1K metal), but the fighters cannot do anything except bleed on you.
- Raiders to kill everything else. Sometimes the raiders you can build in the 2 minutes after raid announcement are enough, sometimes you may have to move a few back from the front (fortunately, 2 minutes is eternity for zippy raiders)
After the first raid, I worked on creating a raid-luring planet that is not my home planet, and added III short range turrets (to kill everything that moves). In the mean time I killed, occupied and gate-raided the rest of my perimeter.
The RaiderBlitz strategy gave me 10 planets in an hour, with defenses built. And it probably can be done even quicker: the speed of conquest took me by surprise, so colony ships were built late, resource use was sub-optimal, engineer use could be better, energy use could be improved etc.
So there is this whiff of imbalance in the air: are raiders too strong?