Haha, the first word of the thread title says it all
Congratulations getting the achievement; that is the only FS-specific achievement that requires Diff 10, etc. It's basically a puzzle to figure out how to survive that long and either get the shard home before you die or somehow actually kill the chase spawns. I didn't expect that players would actually keep playing past that point.
Sanity is not my strong suit.
With 8 HWs you get pretty insane caps and thus if you can actually get your spire fleet up it can be pretty fearsome (to your cpu as well as the AI, potentially).
My CPU hates me, this is barely considered a 'modern box'.
But exo budgets are multiplied by your number of HWs, and further multiplied by 3 on diff 10 (it's 2 on diff 9, 1.5 on diff 8, 1 on diff 7, < 1 below that). Multiplying anything but the very smallest exos by 24 is... really unhealthy I'm a bit surprised you weren't seeing Mothership(s) instead of just H/Ks. I don't know for sure which is even the more dangerous, though. Motherships give you more time to deal with them, so perhaps the H/Ks.
Probably in the next wave. I did finally beat these puppies, see below.
Seems like I may need to add more achievements
Working on that...
So, where was I? Oh, right, I left off prepping for the next shard yank down at Aver. Well, I started off with picking off Three Kings and Green Lantern to get the Dyson's troops involved. That was easy enough, but really... pointless. Well, kind of, let me get back to that. The Dyson though is pretty harmless except for dealing with some bleedthrough from Aellaudo. It can't defend Irian for anything and really is just a nuisance to anything I really care about killing.
I take my fleet, and super-nerf the entire star arm with Aver in it (the one with 4 planets east of Three Kings). No warp gates, no wormhole guardpost, nothin' left by the time I'm done. I get up about 6k in research and beef up my troops a hair. In particular, I pick up some Basic II Turrets for helping out with small time point defense on the outer systems, some Fortress Is (I lied earlier, sorry. Those were the mobile repair stations I opened early, not fortresses) for additional 'stupid' firepower, and beef up something to tech II (sorry, I forget). My fleet ships are nothing special, all things considered, and I realized I never mentioned them. Shield Ships, Space Planes, Tachyon Microfighters, Zenith Bombardment (first woot), Sentinel Frigate (alright, prefer snipers), Zenith Paralyzers (fine for small work), Acid Sprayers (yay?) and Blade Spawners (second woot). My spawners are at Tech III, most of the rest at Tech II/I.
I try to get fancy and break into Camel (west of the Whipping Boy) and lay down a massive minefield, doing the same for Green Lantern and Three Kings. I've only got basic mines but hey, they're cheap, energy free, and everything I can do to help myself, right? I also build off 2 fortesses in the Whipping Boy and get my fleet maxxed off. I then spend 2 hours waiting for all my Z-Generators to come online so I can feed the beast. I beat off a small 2100+ ship CPA and realize my mines in Camel are causing me all sorts of alert havoc and I've got threat pouring out my ears in Camel, coming in WITH the CPA... They were already free. Ugh.
Well, I blow up my invasive minefield and handle the wave of ~4000 ships. No big deal, really, and I'm feeling pretty sporty. My Raids and Bomber Stars are dealing nicely with their 'big' ships (a few zenith starships and a couple of spire starships), and it takes me little to no time to rebuild the fleet. I'm feeling pretty good about myself. I'm dealing with the rare incursion down in the southern area when necessary, and it's getting annoying. I take the fleet down, super-nerf Canopus and Syphon to get them to stop giving me grief about border aggression, and get ready to snag the first shard.
I take the fleet (a little shy of 3800 ships) down to Aver and flip on the survey ship. I bring 5 with me in a transport, and reload 4 of them in case of stupidity... or teleporters. Which was good, because a reinforce hit and blew it up, so I pop out another one and finish the survey.
Shard spawns, and the fleet starts moving with the shard. I'm expecting a 50/50 split between what's going to chase my shard and what's going to hit the homeworlds at the Whipping Boy. I was wrong. Other than a few token forces coming out of the south, almost everything is trying to get at me from Camel. Moving at speed 8 we get nowhere fast, and they're pouring in faster than my non-fleet'd whipping boy can handle things. They break through and pop the homeworld at Thorev faster then you can say 'soft candy middle'.
Okay, not good. Reload the save and split the main fleet. I leave my range units behind (spawns, wanna be snipers, bombards) and half the rest of the fleet ships. All starship+ ships to remain at the whipping boy.
Repeat process, with just the 'token' guardians of ~1600 ships guarding the shard. Well, this worked better, but not well enough. I do get the shard through to the Whipping Boy before it falls this time, and my 1600 ships are desperately needed to hold the line at this point. They've crushed off all 20 of the aggression gate defender FFs, have battered through about 10/20 of the homeworld facing gate. I'm down to roughly 1200 ships and no turrets when the defenders get there. The shard moseys its way across the Whipping Boy as we fight this defensive action. The shard gets to No Way Out so I can finally breathe a sigh of relief... Then another wave hits, and it's just one too many. They crash the party.
Hm. Houston, we have a problem.
Alrighty then, let's get Dangerous. I realize if I'm going to get through this I'm going to need to take care of a few things. First, the shard is going to have to travel solo. That means I need to take the Fact IV/Warbird system and Aver. At that point, I might as well just take the entire arm, get the Microparasites at the tail in Arc Royal and the ARS in Twycross, and get the research too. 12,000 research points could make/break this fight, and I need the extra troops. I crash through the arm with my primary fleet like they were butter and then back off. I build out 2 fortresses in Green Lantern, and another 2 in Three Kings. I beef out the Whipping Boy with 5 Fortresses and get my rebuilders more intelligently organized (like hiding under forcefields). My new econ helps a bit with the offset (nothing amazing, but 160ea x 4 helps) and I let my two Ion Cannon IIIs (courtesy of your local Zenith Traders) finish up. I'm REALLY tempted to invest in 8x Ion V's, but well... yeah. No. 90 mill each, yeesh.
I beef up my bombers to Tech III so the Fact IV can feed me a nice set of the Tech IVs as well. I want to make sure I don't have to deal with anyone hanging a left turn at Albequerque, so I leave ~1300 ships with the fortresses in Three Kings, harassing and abusing the 'light' exos coming from the south as they go through the minefield and fortress area. This will help lighten the load on the main Whipping Boy and make sure I've got an immediate reaction force before they decide to eat my Fact IV.
The map now looks like this:
The Blue area is where I've left some Warp Gates. You'll notice I had a BIT of time on my hands, too, and renamed a few things. I name planets after whatever you can build on them for easy reference, or notable features, and moved them around a little so I could read the names easily. Dyson in the middle south is next to Speed Boost on its left/west. In the Southeast, the blue circle is where the majority of the light waves come from. I didn't want to deal with full neutering them for the AIP expense, there's nothing worth ever hitting down there.
The red circle is the Factory IV, and it's just east of Three Kings, where the 'light force' is operating. No Way Out is now carrying 5 different base space docks to feed the front line (I haven't started getting Mercenarys going yet, they're my fallback last resort). The Large Yellow Region west and then north of Whipping Boy One is where the majority of the Exos will come through, figure 70-75%. In Green, I highlighted the two AI homeworlds. They're already at 1500 each for the Homeworld and the coreworld, and I've never even been near them. Great. Just figured I'd point that out.
You may have noticed I haven't finished my scout picketing yet. You'd be right, I'm just not that worried about it and it annoys me sometimes. There's about 5 ARS's out there I haven't tagged yet, and 4 Data Centers that are WAY to deep for your average deep strike... but I'm gonna need to hit them eventually, I'm just trying to be wise about it. No SuperTerminal to abuse for me. Rats.
Well, the fight here goes just fine this time. The majority of firepower on the whipping boy and all my units involved in the fight is enough to derail the assault. Picking up Impulse Reaction Emitters (Damage based on energy usage) helped a lot for the bigger ships. These little guys are pretty bad assed. I would try to keep between 1200-1700 units sitting down in Three Kings, and if I hit 1200 I'd pause, rebuild the Main Fleet (Ctrl-1 fleet), hit L till I had between 400-500 ships, and FRD them down to Three Kings to keep the support up. With my docks in No Way Out feeding in units as fast as they could produce, we were good to go. Shard's home. I do a quick save and build off the colony ship, thinking I'm golden now, there's 5/6 ships inbound and my defense is tight.
There were a few wise guys who tried to get to Warbird from Three Kings, but nothing severe. I did however build out a line of FFs between the Warbird and Whippin Boy gates just to make sure that the shard would stay protected through Three Kings. It took a beating though in Whipping Boy. It got to No Way Out with only 67% left. I'll have to think about that. I may give it a permanent escort of all my shield ships next time, particularly when it gets near the Whipping Boy.
So, Colony ship built, I send it up to start the hub on Hub 1 (top area of my homeworlds), and proceed to get duly thumped into oblivion by a massive anti-hub wave that I just didn't realize was going to happen. Yikes.
Well, I've got a save to work from luckily so I pull back and re-analyze. What do I need? Well, I'm going to need my entire fleet for starters, so I let the econ go to work and start building out my full fleet (~4500 ships). In the meanwhile, I start getting my mined paths cleaned up so I don't have 'wasted' mines. I figure if they haven't blown up yet they're not going to. I get a few more fotresses down in Green Lantern(2) and Three Kings(4), but really they're just there to be like the mines, softeners. I don't expect them to do a lot of real work on their own. Understand, we're talking 20k+ ships coming in, and the silly things tend to get hung up on bombers. I build out 11 fortress Is in Whipping Boy, and feel pretty good about my fleet. I also produce off caps of Fleet Starship Is and Antimatter Bombers, figuring I'll need the firepower.
I take a quick save and send the colony ship on up to Hub 1. I wait for a maximum econ so it'll build in nothing flat with my 40 Engi III's on it, and wait for the abuse. I sick all my 'big' ships on the H/Ks for priority, and I use my 64 bombers to alternate between Artilleries and Siegecraft, depending on who's bigger at the time. I get about 11-14 H/Ks in the full wave (hard to count). They break out with me having a good half my fleet left with only a few token H/Ks and some siegecraft, but it's enough. Soft Candy Center.
Fine, there's one thing that stops H/Ks cold. Armored FFs. Have 50 of them. I proceed to build out 50 FFs on the gate to No Way Out. Same tactics, a little more micro keeping the Impulse guys on the 'big' targets, cleaning out the siegecraft and artilleries pretty nicely (in hindsight I should have simply split them between the two for preferences and micro'd something else), and I choke 7 H/Ks up on the final FFs, who slowly but surely get whittled away.
I've got 6k in research I can use now as a backup plan, which will probably go to Tech II Hardened FFs for the Second Hub waves, and am currently building Spire City I. If I can win this game, it's going to have to be via Citadel. I'm 11 hours in and barely made any 'real' headway in the campaign. At current speed, one shard/6 hours, I'm going to be getting border aggression from the AI Homeworlds. There's no way I'll be able to crack them.
That's okay though. This is becoming 'epic'. I like Epic.