Re # of ships: Next time I'm going to use the half ship modifier so that all the ships are double strength and half the cap. There were just too dang many objects going.
Keith, the two extra shipyards actually didn't make or break this game, but it did speed things up. Once I got my tactics figured out against the homeworld MS spawns I could have easily brought up some extra 'standard fleet' firepower to even the odds out. Whipping Boy One really didn't get hit a lot except by the H/Ks who would get through the softener systems. I could easily have taken Camel for another softener and really got things going. I had ~21000 research I never bothered to invest in getting that could easily have beefed the systems up to rediculous. Also I meant 20 Frigates earlier, not 2, sorry.
The only reason I went with non-wave AIs was because my early setup for the Hubs left a lot of 'holes' in my homeworld region. Once I was established I could have handled waves. CPAs of 4000 ships were literally ignored.
Those worlds on alert are most likely near the Dyson. It'll aggravate its world and alert everything around it, and that makes for a nice way to scout for it. Makes for a nice 'drain' of reinforcements early on when you're getting established. If it's the devourer you're in for a world of hurt. If that thing sucks down your primary fleet you're going to get run over.
So, the AAR:
While I was rebuilding the primary Spire Fleet and getting the Whipping Boy fleet rebuilt from my last endeavour and having to trap the MS back at the Whipping Boy, I started getting Fortress IIs in play. These monsters sucked down my resources but they were worth it. I took down all the F1s and put 3 F2s in Green Lantern, another 3 in Three Kings. I beefed up the FFs protecting the way to Warbird and put 7 F2s total into WB1. I messed with placement and used 5 as a sponge right next to the entry gate from Three Kings and then put my slowly rebuilding Spire Fleet right behind them, so they could FRD but be in position to open fire on things as they entered the gate. Because of all the resources going out I didn't invest in much else but the rebuild. I turned off space plane builds though. They were just a waste.
The next two exos were an ugly thing, since my defenses were pretty rocked. The first one obliterated 3 of the F2s. Power started to get into becoming a problem but that's okay, it was expected and I was activating quiet reactors as needed. There was a Z-Gen way out deep I could go get for another 400k if necessary, but protecting it would have probably eaten all the energy it would have provided. I could always just slurp up a random star arm up north if I really needed it though.
Once the main fleet was mostly rebuilt (Fact IV, Warbirds, etc were still getting around to finishing), I had about half of the Spire Fleet built. 7/8 cruisers, 13 DDs, a handful of frigates (around 40). I decided I'd go see what kind of defensive spawn the AI was going to fire up after two Exos. I take that fleet up north to the AI Homeworld and pop in... and what to my sparkling eyes does appear but a mothership, and 6 tiny hunters... D'oh. I back off the system and wait for them to come out, to see if I can wreck the MS and then let the rest fly past me.
It worked. I cracked the MS and the implosions immediately after, then ignored the rest and headed into the AI Homeworld system. They didn't follow me in, but went for the Whipping Boy. woot. I proceed to clean up the AI Homeworld and let the Whipping Boy handle the rest of the spawn, which really was about 1/3 of an exo when it started so it should have no problems now. I lost about 20 frigates during the MS pop so it was a little slow going, and I took a pretty good beating taking down the FFs around the Fortress that was in the system but I managed to get out with the majority of the capitals and 15 frigs or so. I send them home and go poke around, looking for that wave I popped loose. They're still meandering themselves to the Whipping Boy and I've got a few more spire ships getting into place on WB1. Excellent, no worries there. I go poke around in my defensive worlds and figure out that I need to move some things around for optimal enemy pathing.
I had placed my spiders and the like off to the side instead of directly down one of the grav turret 'chutes'. I move them around and add another 50 for good luck in Green Lantern (total 100 spiders, 3 fotresses, 10 basics and 5 Heavy Beams). Green Lantern is becoming a Whipping Boy in its own right at this point, which was a good thing. Nearly an entire CPA died in Green Lantern alone, though I did a bit of micro'ing of the raid starships to pop 4 carriers which were coming down over in Dyson.
The wave spawned hits the WB1 and dies a horrible death, the H/Ks barely reaching the FF before getting flatlined. Excellent.
My primary Spire Fleet gets home and I grab the newly built ships and head down to start carving a path to the other AI Homeworld. My first stop however has a counter on it. After examining the possible alternatives I decided I didn't want to pop any of the other 'local' systems because I didn't want to expose their fabricators or Fact IVs to possible loss yet. So I hit it, pop the counter, neuter a few more worlds in the direction I was heading and send the Spire Fleet back to defend the homeworld the counter popped up on. Toss up about 10 FFs on the station and escape wormhole and start shipping newly built Spire Fleet up there as well. When the counter popped I had ~12 CCs, 26 DDs, and 60 Frigs or so. It chewed the Counter to pieces and I went back to work on the final path.
Along the way I've been glassing every system to keep things easier on my return trips if I need to do them, and I continue that policy. One Exo has fired off between the last AI Homeworld and now, and a 50% meter pops up on my screen. 2 Exos cause a MS spawn and I want to see what 1 does. I speed up the process and start leaving some of the Wormhole Guardians behind since those take time to travel between and the snipes don't clean them off very quickly.
I get up to the coreworld approaching Eridani (final AI Homeworld) with about 5% of the Exo launch to spare. I hustle through a quick nerf of the system, save, and throw myself through the gate... to find another MS. Razzlefrackinrumblegrumble. Pointless, reload save. No reason two eat two defender waves.
I've got nearly full caps of CCs and DDs, and about 100 Frigates with me at this point. I send the 40 or so Frigates hanging back with a DD in WB1, so I send them on a merry trip to catch up to me while I decide what to do. The exo fires up and I chew on it in the coreworld system for anything that was Homeworld spawned, which took about 10% off the top of it. The rest went for the defensive worlds and I ignored them. The Frigate backup fleet was taking its sweet time catching up to me and was causing all sorts of havoc to the AI's forces along the way, so I decided to step up and fire up the defensive fleet. I head in and immediately pop the attritioner in the system. There's two fortresses in here but they're both well off the gate. I let my guys clean off the local defenders and then head back to the coreworld... and maddeningly, the MS won't chase me. D'oh.
It finally does after a few minutes. I think it was deciding what to do because of the Exos on the loose. As they died off it finally decided it should get involved. MS, 60 Siegecraft/Implosions (or so, I didn't take the time to count), and 8 H/Ks make their way to me in the coreworld. My homeworld defenses took a bit of a beating stopping the Exos this time so I decide I'm going to make a stand here and pop anything that'll hang around long enough. I pop the local counter and command center and I'm on a timer. 15 minutes to win.
the MS comes through and tries to outrun me! D'oh. They didn't want to stay and fight. Well, fine! My fleet takes the MS down about 30 seconds before it escapes the next gate and I rush the homeworld. The fortresses made a nuisance of themselves and the neinzul spawner went down in a heartbeat. I finish the cleanup with the help of my reserve forces arriving about 5 minutes after first strike. 4 minutes to go on the counter and I win!
I may try this again, with wave AIs and a tighter homeworld collection. I can build the Hub on the Whipping boy and let the reactor add its firepower to the WB's defenses, especially since I'm using a multi-world defensive plan before they reach the Whipping Boy. If I do that and am more particular about which ships I take at the beginning it could do me a world of good.
Regarding energy, if you're tight on energy one thing I realized was Mark III and IV ships use the same as the Mark IIs, but with more firepower/lifespan. From an energy perspective, don't upgrade to II unless you're going to III, and then only build IIIs and IVs. Z Generators can stack in the same system without power degradation as well. They are well worth the investment time to bulid and get the weight of them off your economy. Also go through all your homeworlds and selfdestruct your Mercenary and un-used spacedocks. At 16 of them total that's 16k in energy you could use elsewhere.
Thanks for listening and all the comments, this was fun.