AI War:Defending Many Fronts
How Do I Defend My Ever-Expanding Fronts?
Q: As the game progresses, I get more and more "fronts" and it becomes harder and harder to defend. I end up trying to spend lots of research on turrets and whatnot, but still it always seems to become unmanageable. It is also very hard to defend a system without a FF protecting my base (you only get 15). The AI can always throw a few 100 guys through a gate at my once in a while and I just cant afford all those tractor beams everywhere to handle this, not to mention the local firepower to deal with a large group of enemy ships before they blow the tractor turrets away. Then there is the problem of ships that ignore tractor beams and will just own your command station if there is no FF around it.
A: This is definitely the challenge of the game, but it can be very straightforward to manage if you are careful about it. Here are a few tips, which you can use individually or interchangeably:
Small Profiles Are Easy To Defend
Try to keep as small a profile as possible (as few hostile wormholes as possible, in other words). On certain map styles -- hubs and grid, for instance -- this can be very much harder. On others, like Vines, Trees, and Snake, it is trivially easy. Realistic and Simple are a good balance of the two. If there are fewer possible ingress points, then obviously your empire is vastly simpler to defend.
Large Profiles Require A Variety of Tactics To Defend
If you have a larger profile, then you have three distinct kinds of worry at each of those wormholes:
- a. Incoming Waves
- b. Special Forces ships
- c. "Threat" ships that come from from a variety of sources (ships that were freed during battle, during a Cross Planet Attack, from Alarm Posts, or similar).
Dealing with (a) is by far the simplest, simply do gate raids on the neighboring planets and kill the warp gates to prevent the waves from coming to you at the planets that you don't want them to arrive at. Depending on the AI type you are facing, the waves might be the primary threat against you (Raider types, and other aggressive types in particular), or might be relatively inconsequential (particularly all the turtles, which don't even use waves).
Dealing with (b) is harder, but still something that can be well managed unless you are facing against a Special Forces Captain (and even then, it can be done). Here is a detailed explanation of ways to mitigate these.
Dealing with (c) is the hardest thing of all, because there simply is no way to completely block ships that are "free" in this sense. They have the same movement abilities and freedom of decision making that you and your ships do. So if you could go through systems to an AI planet, they can similarly come through to your side of things. If you are overmatching the AI on one side of the galaxy, their ships might retreat and then come back at you from the complete opposite side of the galaxy. This is another good reason for keeping a smaller profile.
Take Only What You Need
In general, AI War is a game about guerrilla tactics and not wanton capturing of the entire galaxy. If you try to capture everything, you are meant to lose. This can be circumvented with a lot of care and precision, but it is a harder game. Here is a great topic about minimizing the AI progress and about target valuation.
Don't Try To Permanently Hold Every Planet You Take
Sometimes you need to take a planet that is way off in order to capture an Advanced Research Station, or something similar to that. Generally once you get your Advanced Research Station, then research all the knowledge on that planet, there are only two benefits to holding that planet:
- 1. Gaining whatever resources it has.
- 2. Providing supply to that and adjacent planets, which could be useful for a variety of reasons including staging further attacks in that area, knowledge raiding, and similar.
On the other hand, holding a planet like that way out in the middle of nowhere also comes with a variety of nontrivial drawbacks:
- 1. You're probably surrounded, and mitigating that will take way more AI Progress increases than it is probably worth.
- 2. Long-term, you'll probably spend more resources (and valuable ship cap of turrets, etc) on this planet than it is worth.
- 3. Going along with #2, basically you're spreading yourself thinner and thinner over the galaxy, and the benefits may really not be worth it after you get the things you were there to capture and the knowledge from that (and possibly from adjacent) planets.
Do note that certain immobile ships, like Fabricators and Rebelling Human Colonies and Advanced Factories, are designed specifically to make you have to potentially defend outposts like this. Choose wisely when deciding if that is worth the ships you get, sometimes there is somewhere easier to defend where you can capture something almost as good. Everything is give-and-take, except when you get lucky.
Try To Form A Resource Core
A common strategy that a lot of players use is to basically build up a set of core planets that will form the backbone of their economy, and which provide some buffer protection to their home planet. If you can make it so that there ideally only one, possibly two, ingress points into this core zone, then you can just focus a lot of defenses there, along with maybe a few staggered defenses for if any AI ships do manage to break through that front door. Then you're freeing up your resources and ship caps for offensive purposes, or for defending the occasional lone planet you might take and hold either permanently or for a shorter while.
So Should You Ever Take Useless Planets To Consolidate Your Front?
Definitely, this can be a good strategy. Or, alternatively, you can just neuter the planet if you think that will be enough, or you could just clear it out but not capture it if you don't want it to be a source of new incoming waves if it borders many planets. But usually it's nice to capture to get the resource income, if you need it. To some, this seems like it may be an unrecoverable mistake -- can you ever really get the AI Progress back down if you take too many useless planets just for consolidation purposes?
Well, this is always somewhat recoverable -- take a look at your mission list to see how many data centers are in your current campaign. Usually it's around 12-20, but if you've already killed some or are playing on a smaller map, it might be fewer. Each one of those basically counteracts the taking of one planet, and they are pretty quick to kill overall if you can get right up to them, so doing some deep raids for them can counteract more than a few mistakes with regard to taking planets. The more costly mistakes are misuse of golems, warheads, losing captive human settlements, etc. One captive human settlement loss can eat up the benefit of fully 5 of those.
This is another case where having scout intel and advance plans can really help. What planets do you think you will want to take at your final push to the AI? How hard does that look likely to be based on their distribution of planets? How hard is that going to make things based on what planets you put on alert during your final push? It's always impossible to plan for the unknown, so getting a bit better visibility onto those final planets is something that can be pretty important for knowing how much leeway you have.
In general, I guess I try not to take more than 10-14 planets that are "just for me" in terms of economy and consolidation and (hopefully) also some Advanced Research Stations (ARSes). Then I take another 3-5 for the point of making strategic acquisitions (advanced factories, ARSes, fabricators, golems, etc). Then I might take about 5-8 for purely strategic purposes, as launching points against AI strongholds, and a kind of distributed path across the galaxy. In the end, that gets me to my 20-30 that I take in all from my 80 planet games.