AI War 2: The Scourge

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The Scourge

The Scourge are an optional faction that can be enabled via the Game Lobby, or by activating a beacon in game. The Scourge are intended to satisfy the Nemesis kickstarter goal, and draw further inspiration from the Hybrids from AIWC.

Lore

The AI felt a need for a subsidiary force to wipe out small annoyances, and not need to bother its main Processors with petty things. The AI took various races they have conquered in the Arcenverse, twisted them by genetic engineering, and fused them into a new and powerful force to crush its foes. The primary races the Scourge use are the Thoraxians, the Peltians, the Neinzul, the Evucks and the Burlusts. I hope the Scourge never get their hands on any Spire ships though. That would be scary....

Primary Features

  • Give the AI a new way to be more active and attack the player in new ways. For example, the Scourge can build a few cloaked ships, then suicide them into your economic command stations behind your defenses.
  • Give the player some juicy infrastructure targets that can be killed to weaken the enemy. It's always fun to destroy your enemies production facilities.
  • Give the AI a new method of building defenses
  • Make it possible for a faction to have really strong flexibility and coordination in launching attacks. Fireteams were developed to power the Scourge, though they have now also been made to work for a number of other factions.
  • Give the Scourge a giant scary ship called the Nemesis, to fulfill the Kickstarter promise
  • The Scourge are canonically allied to the AI, but you can have player-allied scourge or minor faction-allied scourge (Marauders, Nanocaust and Scourge as a team is terrifying)

What's Actually Going On

The Scourge have a few basic structures and units. All Scourge units gain experience over time and can be upgraded to get more powerful.

Structures

  • Spawners
    • They create Neophytes. Can be upgraded to higher levels by builders. At Mark VII Spawners can summon Nemeses; it takes multiple Spawners to power a Nemesis (higher intensity Scourge requires fewer spawners per Nemesis).
  • Armories
    • Each Armory is associated with a Scourge race. Builders and Warriors level up here. A Warrior that levels up enough here Evolves into a Warrior of the given race. If a high-level warrior of another race upgrades at an Armory it can sometimes become Hybridized. Hybrid units are very scary.
      • Example: A Warrior upgrades at a Burlust Armory and becomes a Burlust Warrior. If a high level Burlust Warrior then upgrades at an Evuck Armory it can become a hybrid Burlust/Evuck warrior, with new abilities that draw on the strengths of both races.
  • Fortresses
    • Strong defensive structures built by the Scourge. There are a number of Fortress types, one for each race.

Units

  • Neophytes: all Scourge units start as neophytes, and then transform into either Builders or Warriors
  • Builders: Builders gain metal over time, and can use that metal to build or upgrade structures. They tend to wander the map at random.
  • Warriors: The base caste for Scourge units. They are weak, but level up at armories. They can Evolve into more specialized units, and then Hybridize into very strong units. Warriors are analagous to fleetships; Evolved units are analagous to Guardians and Hybrids are analagous to Dire Guardians
  • Subjugators: Giant. Scary. Bad news. Produced by high-level Spawners.
  • The Nemesis: Good luck surviving this. A high-level subjugator evolves into a Nemesis.

Scourge units are upgraded by travelling to an Armory. Scourge structures are upgraded by Builders.

Warriors join Fireteams to attack their enemies. Each Fireteam is between 1-4 strength (give or take), and it picks a target to attack. They will wait until they can take out the target, then strike.

Scourge units prefer to hide on planets that aren't Watched, so you won't know when they are coming.

Scourge fireteams can either be focused on attacking their enemies or defending their allies.

Each race can hybridize with at least one other race, but not every race.

Game Start

For AI-allied scourge, the AI begins with one spawner per AI Overlord.

For Player allied scourge, you start with a spawner and an armory on each player's home planet. This is a balance tweak because you only start with one planet, so expanding is harder. Allied Scourge will devote some of their ships to Defense (acting like a mini-Warden Fleet) and their offensive units will often show up to help you when you attack.

For Minor Faction allied scourge, when an allied minor faction owns a planet and the scourge have no spawners, the scourge will join the invasion by building a spawner, armory and fortress on that planet. So assuming the marauders and scourge are allied, when the marauders capture their first planet the scourge will join them. If you then destroy that invasion and they capture another planet, the scourge will join them again.

How to play against the Scourge

The scourge need space around all their structures; they generally won't build multiple structures on a planet. The more Spawners and Armories they have the more powerful they get. You need to be proactive and try to take out their infrastructure before they get too powerful. Killing high-mark builders is also a good idea.

Nota Bene Some Scourge units are specialized anti-forcefield units, so you'll need to use some new strategies to defend important structures.

The Scourge won't start to attack you until 30 minutes to an hour and a half into the game, based on the intensity. So you have a bit of grace time at the beginning.

The Scourge prefer to hide their units on planets you haven't Watched, to try to catch you by surprise. Similarly, scourge Armories and Spawners can also be hiding on Explored planets you haven't looked at recently. You will probably want to Watch a lot of planets, or do regular patrols.

Difficulty Considerations

The Scourge are a very powerful faction. Adding AI-allied scourge to a game is very roughly equivalent to adding a new AI of that intensity to the game on top of the game's other difficulty. They also requires new strategies, so expect a real challenge the first few times you play against them.

Note that having multiple AIs and AI-allied scourge will mean the Scourge will start with additional Spawners (one per ai homeworld), so it will be even harder.

Very High Intensity AI Scourge

On high intensity the scourge faction completely changes the way you need to play. You are on the clock. The scourge will expand rapidly throughout the galaxy building bases. Each base produces and upgrades more scourge units, and builds more bases, so scourge expansion is exponential. During alpha testing an intensity 10 scourge opponent left unopposed would throw hundreds of strength of warriors with hybrid support against you 2.5 hours in to the game. Worse, they'll do this on the far side of your territory while your deep striking, or hit two planets at once. And they'll stun your forcefields (FFs), making them nearly useless against a built up scourge army.

Clearly, leaving the scourge unopposed is not a good plan. You need to cut them off and kill their bases. High intensity scourge counter this by building far flung bases early on, so this certainly wont make things easy. To give yourself any chance of victory I recommend a map type with a good number of choke points, such as Octopus or Clusters. Determine where the scourge are coming from by watching their movements and locating bases. One these locations will be toward the AI homeworld (HW), which is where the strongest bases are likely to be. The others will be early expansions you're too late to cut off. Try to cut these off from as much of the galaxy as possible, then move in and start killing bases. If you haven't cut them off by 1h on intensity 10, you're probably too late.

Expanding this quickly is going to be tricky, particularly since your very likely to need to eliminate some mkIV or higher planets. I recommend playing against an easier AI than you normally would so that taking some less valuable planets early on for a science boost wont cause you too much trouble. I primarily tested 7/7/7 AI with intensity 10 scourge and no other factions. Tech up your HW for an early boost to resources and grab any fleets on the weak planets near your HW. Get raiders or daggers for a speed boost and focus on maximising the overall damage per second (DPS) of your fleet. Combined these should help you clear planets quickly and rapidly respond to scourge attacks on different parts of your territory. Later on they'll help you pick of scourge bases faster than they're rebuilt.

Defending against an enemy with FF stunners is an extra challenge. Don't bother trying to hold a capturable structure unless you can put it on a planet the scourge will struggle to reach in any numbers. Think "defence in depth", try to have planets adjacent to capturables cut off access with tractors, tacyon and gravity generators. At time of writing these are cheap to upgrade too, and gravity generators in particular become very powerful when stacked and high mark. Logistic command stations are the only type to get gravity generators by default, and they also tell you immediately when scourge build a base adjacent to your territory, so they are highly recommended. All this said, I usually find holding capturables isn't worth it, and just hack them instead.

A final warning for those attempting intensity 10: expect to lose. Losing is fun.

This section contributed by Astillious.

Alpha Testers

Big thanks to the Alpha testers, including Astillious, Rocket Assisted Puffin, ZeusAlmighty, Ovalcircle and Democracy.