Part 5: When Fortresses AttackAnyway, after starting all the turrets building on Durxuha I needed to wait ten minutes for the economy to get out of its -52,000 metal/s nose dive. Everything builds real slow when you've got a negative flow of that kind of magnitude. Unfortunately the AI had other ideas.
Remember those Halycon days about 20 minutes ago when waves were only 100 missile frigates strong? Yeah, that's what happens when you bump your AIP from 10 to 50 by capturing two planets. Because we haven't secured one of the three planets bordering our homeworlds yet, we're also getting a wave hitting Zivu through the Miknei wormhole. What are missile frigates weak against? Bombers. And they eat fighters for breakfast. So we want to retreat the fighters to Dageo, then the rest of the fleet can run defence on Zivu before moving on to mop up anything that's left on Durxuha.
Here's Durxuha seconds after the wave hits. Fortunately most of the turrets finished construction just before the ships got here, but I had to micro the engineers to get two of the forcefields covering the command station up. The other six are in various states of construction, but a half-built forcefield is naff all use to anyone. If you look down in the bottom-right corner you can see the no-longer red bordered icon which indicates that our OMD has just terminated a plasma siege starship with extreme prejudice. Give it another 10 seconds to reload and that flagship will be waving bye-bye as well. We'll come back to this group of missile frigates in a moment.
The battle for Zivu begins. This wave is slightly smaller than the other, but there are considerably fewer turrets in place on the home-world. What we do have, however, is a group of Neinzul Enclave starships. Hanging around safely far from the front line, these guys are blasting out a group of multiple different drone types every 9-10 seconds. These are perfect for clogging up the AI's targeting algorithm, in much the same way as lightning torpedoes. Sadly missile frigates are immune to AOE effects, which means the lightning torpedoe frigates sitting under the forcefields aren't anywhere close to as effective as normal.
Aargh, blasted cowards! The ones attacking Zivu have all run away to join the threat. That's going to make taking Miknei in a few minutes somewhat harder than it should have been. Oh well, let's redirect the fleet to Durxuha to help with the situation there.
Looks like the fixed defences on Durxuha are winnowing out the missile frigates somewhat. Soon the fleet warps in, and the majority of the frigates start fleeing in the direction of the Arkhag wormhole.
In the end, of the 1,700 or so ships the AI started this battle with 900 were killed. The other 800 have retreated, with scouts indicating 760 of those are on Miknei. While cleaning up the aftermath, let's talk about two mechanics that it seems sensible to introduce at this point.
First up are remains, and remains rebuilders. To prevent massive micro-management the majority of structures in AI war drop remains. With the help of a handy fleet of rebuilders (my global controls state that each planet should retain at least five at all times), these can then be painlessly and automatically rebuilt. The screenshot shows a cluster of five sniper turrets remains that the rebuilder is homing in on. The reason I tend to stick my sniper turrets around the outside of the grav well is because the AI loves to send small parts of their forces off to attack them for some reason, so they make nice distractions.
Next up, let's talk salvage. Recently introduced, salvage is an attempt to shake up the 'attack → refleet for 30 minutes → attack' dynamic. Every time the AI loses a ship in your territory, you get metal added to your pool of salvage. That is then extracted by the local command station with varying efficiency. A Mil II command station like we have on Durxuha is only 8% efficient, while a home command station is 40% efficient. In theory then, it can make sense to have your homeworlds take the brunt of attacks. But that's rather a risky strategy. The flip side of salvage is that the AI gets it as well, and use it to send 'reprisal' waves at your defences. So if you lose a fleet worth 5 million metal, suddenly you're likely to find yourself with a rather strenuous defensive battle on your hands. And of course, you then get the metal from that wave to go towards your refleeting
This is the situation on Miknei. 760 threat ships sitting in a cluster right in the middle of the planet. Correctly, 760 mostly AOE immune threat. This is important, as it means we can't just throw some missiles through the wormhole to take them out. What we probably want here is lots and lots of bombers. So the engineers on Zivu are told to prioritise construction of those.
We've now got a full cap of bombers and missile frigates. However we've also got some other new toys. We've added leech starships and flagships to our fleet, along with the Neinzul combat carrier bonus ship we chose right back at the start of the game. The combat carriers are essentially enclaves with a different selection of drones, popping out beam, rail, spider and grav dones rather than the standard missile/laser/needler damage dealers. Flagships are moderately powerful in their own right, but also give all ships within range of them an attack boost. The leeches are particularly nice because their shots do reclamation damage. Is a unit has more than half its hitpoints in reclamation damage at the points it is killed, we then get that unit for free. So we may end up with a few dozen more missile frigates than we started with, even though we're already at the buildable cap.
Here's our strike team then, moments after entering the Miknei system. The drones dash ahead of the main force, kept waiting by the wormhole. Let them take the brunt of the firepower.
Drones are everywhere, killing everything. Most of the enemy ships are retreating. Well, retreating from this planet. More than 700 ships are now attacking Dageo, my second homeworld.
The fighters I left at Dageo go down to a blistering missile barrage. In seconds I've lost the whole cap, almost twenty times more units than I expended capturing Oorto and Durxuha. Almost 400 drones are pummelling the dregs of resistance on Miknei while the rest of the fleet dashes for the Dageo wormhole, pausing only to wipe the command station on their way over there.
The fighting on Dageo is fierce, but in the end no enemy ship escapes.
That just leaves the fortress on Miknei to deal with. Fortresses are nasty blighters, especially when under a forcefield like this one is. They fire plasma bolts that can wipe out 30 fighters per second, and reload every 6 seconds. Their key weakness however lies in the 'Polycrystal 0.01' attack multiplier. They can't do squat against bombers. So, with the drones tagging along to provide covering fire, our surviving bombers go and blast the hell out of that fortress and the special forces guardpost it was shielding.
Typically, seconds after the command station goes up on Miknei three more waves are announced. Missile frigates to Miknei, bombers and fighters to Oorto. However with plentiful turrets on Oorto and the majority of the fleet on Miknei, this shouldn't really be an issue. Because both homeworlds are accessible from Miknei, I've just slapped the command station in the middle and put a single forcefield over each wormhole. The best part about this planet though is that there's only one way the AI can get in. This means I can justify buying one of my favourite toys area mines. Bombers just melt when they run into these things.
As expected, all waves were dispatched fairly handily (apart from the cowardly fighters who left to go join the threat). I'm now also completely out of energy and can't build anything else. So, the first ~hour of the game has been spent securing my position on the map and setting up some defence in depth for my homeworlds.
Next time, on AI War: Strategic Objectives and Data Centres