Let's Play Master of Orion Classic Part 3: Meklars part 3

Welcome back to Let's Play Master of Orion classic. When last we left off, we had just colonized Rhilus and met the Mrrshan after a period of buildup and teching. Now, we likely go to war.

More immediately, we try to take Galos.

I futz about a bit looking around, and then end my turn...

You can see past the fleet production box that the screen was off to the upper left of the action. I'd been checking out various planets and stuff. Couldn't say for sure which of the yellow stars I had selected.

Anyways, with it being the next turn we can see the transport fleets I sent out late last update.

I start sending my shiny new ships off to guard Rhilus each turn, just in case.

Next turn... I happened to select Moro. It's basically undefended.

More of sending the new laserboats off to Rhilus...

And then I remember I should use this; The reloc(ate) button. It tells the planet to immediately send its newly built ships off to a target planet.

There we go. Now we won't have to baby the new ships to go to Rhilus. It's a convenience feature I wind up using rather regularly, given the need to send new ships towards the frontlines. It does inform us of how long it will take, as you can see. It's also not just a convenience feature, since ships head out immediately when produced under Relocate orders, reaching a turn earlier than if you let them be built and then sent them to the planet, unless I'm terribly mistaken.

Anyways, I go and check the Mrrshan tech. Unfortunately, they have a tech we are researching and otherwise just techs we already have. I leave the spy on them anyways. It'd be nice to get the Battle Computers faster, after all.

Next turn.

Vigaroe finally hits its factory limit. Quite the nice degree of research going on here, now.

Unfortunately, the Darloks took Galos before my Colony Ship could arrive.

Also note the blue line between Nordia and Rhilus; that marks the relocate route. The game animates it, making it clear in which direction it's going, which doesn't translate well to screenshots. Still, if this was a video LP it'd be pretty obvious. It certainly is in actual play.

I pass the turn, and we can see here the fleet movements, to a degree.

Here we see a Large size Bulrathi ship heading off, I assume given the angle, to that blue star.

Next turn...

And I notice Moro now has a missile base. Gonna need some dedicated bombers for that.

The Mrrshan, meanwhile, have taken a third system.

I check on their tech, but nothing new.

The Bulrathi, meanwhile, have both Class II Deflector Shields and Personal Deflector Shields now.

Combined with the missile base, we'll definitely need a bomber of some kind for Moro, whenever the time comes.

Here we can see that the colonists have arrived at Rhilus. Well, some of them anyways. The ones from Vigaroe are still on the way.

Our scout arrives at Fieras.

The Mrrshan have a large number of larger ships here. Colony ships, which are apparently armed given they advanced on us...

A large warship... Warcat because cat people, of course. Each species has their own default ship names for each ship size. They pick randomly from a pool defined by species, which is subdivided by size (eg not all Mrrshan large size ships are called Warcat but all ships called Warcat are Mrrshan large size ships). By the same token, we get default names from that same pool (so in the case of this run the Meklar name pool), though of course I tend to give my own names to my ships.

Fieras itself has five missile bases. Note that the HP is only for the 'top' missile base, as there are five we would need to do two hundred and fifty damage total to kill them all. Normal weapons always hit the 'top' ship/base, though, the only area of effect weapons directly hit max HP instead. So we have to kill ships of the same class one at a time. Of course, that's optimal anyways.

Sabertooth, another large ship design. Not that we know the differences right now.

And the Lynx, a medium ship. Mrsshan tend to favor larger ships, for whatever exact reason.

Naturally, I warp our scout out of there, retreating it before it can get shot down. I still have more star systems for it to explore.

Anyways, battle over, the peaceful parts of the turn start, with Zhardan hitting its factory limit.

So hey. When it says planetary spending ratios may be changed at this time, it means it; normally, clicking anywhere on the screen will dismiss these sort of blue announcement boxes, but we can use the planet management controls without dismissing it. This is useful to make it so we don't forget to go manage the planet later, on busy turns. I don't need more research, but I do need more warships. So switch from research to manufacturing laserboats.

Then I redirect its production with relocate, just like I did with Nordia.

Meanwhile, our scout. So, ships that retreat from combat set course for the nearest friendly system by default, and we can't redirect ships in between star systems until we have a specific technology that we don't. But if we select them on the same turn, before they move out, we can actually redirect them wherever we want. We can even tell them to go right back where they are, forcing another battle immediately (that is, on the same turn. Not instantly upon giving the order) without them going anywhere. I'll probably be doing that particular trick sooner or later.

In an immediate sense, I use this fact to order our scout to that unclaimed and unexplored red star.

I also decide to send off a few million colonists from each of our worlds to try to steal Galos, since the Darloks colonized it and we have a war fleet in orbit.

Then I check on our tech. We have possible breakthroughs coming in Computers, Planetology, and Propulsion.

End the turn...

And we get that Planetology breakthrough. While we have no current use for Controlled Barren Environment, the increase to our planetology tech is valuable in its own right, if only to make for a slight discount on Colony Ships.

No new options, and I still don't know of any Tundra or Dead worlds, so Improved Terraforming +20 it is.

And then the turn begins proper.

I order the current batch of laserboats at Rhilus to go over to Galos, since the Darloks will probably try to contest me orbiting their world. You can see the transport fleets I ordered to head to Galos, while we are here.

I appear to have missed the screenshot, but I actually tried to order the Colony Ship to go to that blue star last turn... only I actually ordered the laserboats to go and it to stay. Whoops. I send it off after them. This, incidentally, is part of why I redirected the ships at Rhilus to Galos.

End the turn, and...

Propulsion tech breakthrough. Excellent. Nuclear Drives are a big deal. I'll be designing a new warship as soon as we are done with the scientist, accordingly.

We have two new options, as well as the familiar Inertial Stabilizer. Sub-Light Drives are the next tier of ship drives, though the name confuses me. Aren't all are ships equipped with Faster than Light drives of some kind, given the whole 'warp speed' thing? So why is the third tier... 'sub-light'. Well regardless of the name, they are bigger meaner engines than the ones we just invented.

Dotomite Crystals are a higher tier of fuel cells, meanwhile. We don't really need more range, and Sub-Light Drives aren't as big a boost over Nuclear as Nuclear are over Retro, so I elect to start research on the Inertial Stabilizer, which would be a nice step up in warships and at the lowest research cost.

Our scout arrives at the red star, Guradas. A Tundra world, meaning we'd have some use for Controlled Tundra Environment, as it turns out. Still, I'm not eager to try to establish even more colonies on suboptimal worlds now that we are in contact with three empires and trying to wage war on the Darloks. Especially not on worlds close to the Mrrshan and possibly in range of my active enemy of the Darloks, given that it takes a while for a colony to pay for itself before the additional resources spent on defense of said vulnerable planet comes into play.

And then the turn begins proper. So. How about that ship redesign.

Retros out, nuclear in. I had to reduce the number of lasers by one to accommodate the space.

Oh, while we are here. Something I'm not sure the game ever explains: power as relates to engines. Each retro engine is 8 size, and produces 10 power. Each nuclear engine is 18 size, and produces twenty power. In general, drives produce 10 power per speed they move at. So that 'num engines' is telling us how many engines our ship needs to meet power requirements, and yes, we have fractional engines as a possibility, which use the corresponding amount of fractional space eg a half nuclear engine for us would be nine space.

Depending on miniaturization, it can actually wind up using less power to meet your power requirements with more advanced engines. In this case, we lose out on some space to get the speed, so like I said I removed a laser.

Then we set maneuverability to class 2, at a small cost, to make these ships harder to hit.

I coulda sworn I took a screenshot of the completed design on the design screen, but oh well. Behold our new laserships, which will be replacing the laserboats going forward.

I switch both Nordia and Zhardan to producing them over the older model laserboats.

I decide to start Rhilus on a bit of terraforming at this point.

With our scout having reached its destination, I order it off to the next star system it can reach.

End turn...

And our spies are successful at last. Excellent. With our spies successful, we choose a field of technology to get a tech the Bulrathi have in that field that we do not. We can't select fields where they have no tech we lack. We also have no say in which tech to take beyond that. Since I wanted their deep space scanners and that's a computer tech, I pick computer...

And we meet the Meklar spy. Vaguely reminds me of IG-88. Regardless, we see the spy here whenever getting a tech via spying instead of via research. The spy also has a nice little theme tune for when we get a spy success, which doesn't vary by species. Completing research has its own tune, though the game is actually pretty light on music in general. Anyways. Deep space scanners, as they say, allow us to detect enemy ships up to five parsecs out from our planets and one parsec out from our own fleets. But also by upping our computer tech level, we'll have slightly better odds of successful spying actions in general.

Turn start proper, and you can see that Rhilus has begun to be terraformed properly.

I check the population of Galos. Unfortunately, my earlier slip up with accidentally telling my warships to leave has allowed the Darloks to send more colonists over unobstructed.

So I order up some more troops to head in.

I also adjust the ratios to get some artificial pop growth going to avoid hamstringing the production too much. Note that factories can't do work if you are short the population to man them, so sending off colonists/troops can really cut into the productivity of a planet.

I also order the laserboat that has arrived to Rhilus this turn off to Galos, because I am expecting combat with the Darloks in the near future over Galos.

End the turn...

And my laserboats arrive at Tyr. Our first mineral rich world. Mineral rich worlds are highly desirable, building factories, planetary defenses, and ships twice as fast for the same population and factory count. Unfortunately, between that small population limit and us not actually being able to colonize Tundra worlds yet, that's not an opportunity we can really take advantage of right now.

Anyways. I order the laserboats here right back to Galos.

So, how about that Colony Ship? This is the fleets screen. It shows every fleet we have, locations and ship counts alike. It also informs us of our ship maintenance costs as a total.

And I'm quite confident there is no place to send our Colony Ship with Galos taken. It's probably a good 10-13 of that BC cost per turn right there. So...

We use the scrap button, which allows us to decommission a ship design of our choice. Since the Colony Ship is now little more than a burden, I scrap it. I'll be able to make a faster design with Nuclear Engines later if we find a new planet to colonize, anyways. Little reason to keep the old design around.

Anyways, this isn't the first time the planetary reserve has come up. I'll talk about it at some point, but since I'm pretty much ignoring it right now that point is not now. This is what we get when we go to scrap a ship, though. We pick yes, because like I said it's burning resources to no benefit right now.

I again order those laserboats present at Rhilus off to reinforce my fleets at Galos.

Due to the deep space scanners, we can now see the Darlok fleet in orbit of Centauri. It's two 'venoms'. Medium ships, I can tell you from the graphics. Not impressive, given the number of medium ships we have floating about. We have at least (it's strictly possible we have multiple fleet icons occupying the same spot) eleven different fleets on screen right here in this screenshot, and each is 1-3 ships for the most part.

Note that systems with their names lit brightly are in our scanning range. Those like Ursa with darker names are outside it.

Next turn...

Oh hey. I'm attacking the Darloks.

I'm not sure on if there are any edge cases, but in my observation the AI is always considered the attacker if the encounter is in an uncolonized system and the planet's owner is the defender if the planet is owned by either side. So since the battle is occurring at Galos, we are considered the attacker even though our fleet has been parked there for a few turns.

One Venom vs four of our Laserboats. I like those odds. Though of course I don't know their exact loadout due to a lack of battle scanners, it's unlikely to be good enough to win at four to one odds against my solid design. The Darloks do not have a significant tech advantage over me.

I move forward, they move forward. They aren't so scared as to run, though they honestly should be.

Here I point out our attack level of 1. Let's talk about Initiative. Initiative determines who goes first in combat, for a start. Initiative is the sum of our maneuver and battle computer levels, at a baseline. Battle Scanners additionally add +3 to Initiative and the Mrrshan receive a +4 to their Initiative as a species advantage. There's also another species that receives such an initiative edge, but they aren't among our opponents this time, so I'll wait until they can actually come up to talk about them.

Since we only have a Battle Computer level of 1 and basic maneuverability, this suggests the Venom lacks battle computers, as we seem to cleanly beat it. I don't actually recall what happens in a tie.

Anyways, we close in farther...

And eventually we meet the Darlok ship around the center. Those red beams are our own lasers. Due to our higher initiative, we get to fire first, even if they close to range on their turn. Ships with higher initiative will automatically fire beam weapons at ships with lower initiative when they come into range, unless they already fired those beam weapons the preceding turn.

Ships with lower initiative than their enemy don't get to do the same. I like this design feature, because it reduces the amount of shenanigans you get up to for trying to secure the first strike. If you have the higher initiative, you'll pretty much get it automatically, and if lower, you pretty much can't set up to force the first strike, since the enemy will fire as soon as you enter range to fire yourself.

Then the Darloks open fire with their own weapons. Those brownish beams are the Ion Cannons they invented awhile back.

I don't recall if we took any damage, but we nearly destroyed them due to our larger number of ships with multiple lasers.

So we fire on them and destroy them. Like I said, they really should have fled. HP damage is repaired for free after battles, so they just threw away a ship for nothing.

Our scout reaches the Esper system. Habitable, but outside our non-extended fuel cell range and therefore worthless to us.

I hit continue...

And our first transports arrive at Galos.

You can just barely see the transports descending right on the upper left. Before we continue, I'll comment on the penetrating defenses line.

If you do not take out the enemy defense fleets and missile bases from a system your transport ships reach, the game enters a simulated battle that you have no input on. Your transports have a base HP of 15, which is slightly lower than Medium size ships, and have a warp speed one lower than your most advanced engine type (IE we still only have warp one transports in spite of inventing Nuclear Engines, but if we invented Sub-Light Drives they would move at warp 2), and, according to the manual, have a combat speed half their warp speed. I'm not sure if that refers to combat speed being half of maneuverability (rounded up) or if the manual means they have half the maneuverability that their warp speed allows. I think it's the former, but it could conceivably be the latter. Anyways, the transports rush to reach the world while any defenders and missile bases try to shoot them down, and only ships that actually reach the planet get to offload their troops.

So you can't just drop transports on heavily defended worlds, but lightly defended worlds will get hit more or less full force.

Anyways, our colony transports land (and yes, that is the same graphic of ship used when establishing a colony) and then the troops appear and their combat modifier gear is listed.

My guys are probably dead meat. Alright, ground combat. I've mentioned bonuses to it before, but here's how it actually works. Each side throws a hundred sided die, thus getting a result between one and one hundred, and then adds their bonuses to it. Whoever's final number is lower loses a troop. A tie kills one soldier from each side. Bonuses include various technologies, such as the hand lasers we both have, being Bulrathi (for +25), and being the defender (for a +5 to rolls),

Since they outnumber us three to one and are defending while our relevant techs are the same, I'll put a dent in them but am probably losing every troop in this wave.

Side note: You can barely see it here but Darlok soldiers carry rune covered swords. Yeah, they're basically Nazgul.

And the aftermath. Only killed seven troops.

Oh well. I have more transports inbound.

I observe a Bulrathi fleet heading past Nordia, heading for Zhardan, if I read its angle right. So...

I rejigger Zhardan to dump enough industrial effort into defense to get a missile base up within a couple turns, to keep it safe.

Next I send the ships at Rhilus to Galos. I believe I ordered both ship types to go, but fleets move at the speed of the slowest vessel, so sending the laserships with the laserboats will make the laserships take twice as long to cross the same distance.

I also go ahead and order even more transports to head to Galos. From Zhardan, and also other systems.

I believe I was rejiggering ratios for a bit more pop growth boosting here.

I check on my tech, and it's now possible for our scientists to make a force fields breakthrough.

I check on the Bulrathi's tech. They now have Hyper-V Rockets. Not as high a priority as the Personal Deflector Shields for stealing, but still nice.

The Darloks also have Hyper-V Rockets, but more importantly they now have Improved Robotic Controls III. Contrary to what you might expect, that's the first tech in the Improved Robotic Controls series. It allows each citizen to operate one additional factory (for a total of three, hence why it's labelled as 3). Normally, it raises the price per factory, but for the Meklars our factory prices are unaltered if we get it. Therefore, it's the tech the Darloks have that we most want out of everything.

Anyways, I order my scout to go from Esper off to what is likely the Psilon homeworld.

All that done, I end the turn.

At this point, I've gotten enough ships in orbit to engage in orbital bombardment. I'm unsure the exact cut offs of this, but if we have enough firepower in orbit we can use our ship weapons to kill people and blow up factories each turn. The former is desirable, the latter not as much; while destroying factories will weaken the world's production capacity, we can steal all the factories at no extra effort if we win a ground combat.

Since I have transports on the way and they have like no factories, I proceed with the bombing of Galos to soften them up a bit for round two.

Here we can more clearly see the fact that it is the same ship landing animation as for colonizing.

Still badly outmatched, due to my troops trickling in from assorted planets.

Here's a screenshot from partway through of one of my guys exploding. That little blast graphic briefly replaces each soldier on either side as they die.

Only took out eight of their guys. It helps the Darloks that they are the defender, but I'm also just getting unlucky. The manual says a +10 advantage is good enough to achieve a 3-2 kill ratio, and here they are getting a 2-1 with just a +5.

Turn start, with three more laserships existing...

And I decide to immediately throw as many transports from Rhilus at Galos as I can, in my continuing efforts to overwhelm the Darlok defenders. This kinda thing is exactly why I wanted to colonize it myself and not try to steal it after someone else took it. War is bloody and expensive in Master of Orion.

Here is where I thought to show off what I was talking about earlier. If I send all the ships together, ETA of four turns...

But if I send only the faster laserships, ETA of 2 turns.

Speaking of new tech, the Mrrshan invented Fusion Bombs, which are the next step up from Nuclear Bombs for planetary bombardment and missile base destruction.

I adjust the production on Zhardan towards missile bases even more. I believe it had been delayed by sending troops from Zhardan, thus lowering the production.

End the turn...

And a new battle at Galos.

Space combat is divided into a grid of tiles. The arrow and ship icon you can see in this screenshot tells us that the current ship, the Lasership, can move there this turn.

And the red crossed through circle here shows that this spot, which is three spaces out, is too far.

I move the laserships, and the laserboats get their turn. Note that they can't move two spaces, still stuck at one space per combat turn. This is one of many reasons I wanted Nuclear Engines ASAP.

They are stuck with the older engines since engines is a design choice, so they can't move any faster than they already could. This kind of thing is part of why I immediately designed a more advanced design. The other part is, of course, galactic level speeds.

Anyways, the laserboats go forward one space. The enemy Venoms remain where they are, and then it's the Laserships turn again.

I move my ships forward as far as they can go, and then grab this screenshot of the Venoms retreating into hyperspace.

Sweet, more Bulrathi tech theft. We aren't offered force fields, so we can't get Personal Deflector Shields to help with the ground invasions. I don't fully understand the details, but you don't necessarily have the opportunity to steal more advanced technology when you are offered the chance to steal less advanced techs.

Anyways, I go with weapons tech and we snag the Bulrathi's Hyper-V Rockets. A fine addition to our arsenal.

We still have transports en route, so...

Two million more Darloks dead. Should help the ground forces when they arrive.

We've got more laserships, of course, as the turn begins proper.

And with Zhardan having a missile base, I switch it back to all out ship production.

I notice Centauri now has a more formidable fleet. While I don't know what this King Cobra ship is armed with, it's probably safe to assume it is worth about six medium ships, given it is a large. Maybe not precisely, but in that general range.

Offcamera, so to speak, I order the fleet at Rhilus to Galos again. Not really worth a screenshot just for that.

That Bulrathi fleet arrives at Zhardan.

It's a single Colony Ship. Clearly armed given it is advancing.

Here we can see how our Missile Base is equipped. Not really anything here I haven't covered previously. Of course, since it has battle scanners, we can scan the enemy ship at will. I mean, they aren't explicitly listed, but missile bases always have battle scanners.

However, note that just a single turn back, we stole Hyper-V Rockets from the Bulrathi and now here is our missile base equipped with them. Missile techs are quite valuable, in that way.

They have a single nuclear missile launcher with five shots. Even if they never miss, they'll do no more than ten damage to our fifty HP missile base, due to our shields. We can potentially kill them. The AI is a fool to be charging in.

I fire my first round of missiles, and the Bulrathi ship closes in more. Note that missiles actually take time to travel, unlike lasers and other beam weapons. Missiles move in response to their target moving, or the other player ending that unit's turn- newly fired missiles will sit on the unit that launches them until one of those happens.

Each missile type has a speed that describes how fast they move, however you can load missiles as 2 rack missile launchers or 5 rack missile launchers, which describes the number of missiles that launcher can fire. Two rack launchers have an additional point of speed and two more range, while missile bases supposedly have double the range but I have never actually seen them hit a range limit and I believe they use the speed of the 2 rack launchers even though the manual frames it as 5 rack launchers being the baseline on speed and range. 5 rack launchers use up half again the space, meaning they do get more overall damage for the space if the missiles are all launched, however in general ships are usually better off running 2 rack launchers.

Our Hyper-V Rockets theoretically have a speed of 2.5, but ours appear to have moved 3.5 tiles, in line with my observation on planetary missile base missiles having the speed of the 2 rack missile launchers. The maximum range on them is five, the maximum range on the Nuclear Missiles our enemy has is four, except since this is a missile base we have either 10, 14, or infinite range, depending on whether the manual is correct or my experience of infinite range is, and whether it has double a two rack launcher (which has +2 to range) or double a five rack launcher's range. That range is not how far away the missile can go, it's the total number of tiles it can move- if a ship is moving away from the missiles after it, those missiles can run out of range and vanish, even if the ship stays within the maximum range of the enemy ship by eg moving around in circles.

Moving on, we fire another round...

And they close in even more, hit by our first shots.

They continue to move in.

Here we can see them starting to return fire.

They're about half dead. This is a fight they should not have picked on a number of levels.

We, meanwhile, are barely scratched.

We keep exchanging fire...

While they close to point blank...

And then they run out of missiles.

On the edge of death, they try to flee.

Sadly, they actually pull it off. Not a huge deal, all told, but I had hoped to finish them off. As is, the Bulrathi wasted our time and, well, failed to do anything.

Then it's our turn, and the scientist informs us of our shiny new battle computer tech. Excellent.

ECM Jammer Mark II is old news. Mark III is, shock, the bigger meaner version of the same. Pass on both.

Improved Space Scanner. That, I want. It's the bigger, meaner version of our Deep Space Scanner (stolen though it may be), allowing us to know of ships from farther away. More critically, it allows us to directly see where enemy fleets are going and how long it will take them to get there.

We also have mark four battle computers available. Good, but they will hold till later. So we go for Improved Space Scanner.

Then it's time to murder more Darloks on Galos. Space warfare is bloody in Master of Orion.

That'll help our ground forces.

And then we have the turn start proper. This update is getting too long, let's be honest, so while this is not a very natural point to stop in terms of events, I'll end the update here, and we'll be back to keep trying to take Galos next time.


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