Part 29: Ship Design & Tactics Effortpost (Olesh)Lerion III battle:
You didn't really grok the initiative issues you were having. With Augmented Engines, your Invader beats out all the rest of your ships on initiative. You used Wait on it so that your other ships could run in and shoot down the incoming missiles, which is good and correct, but once those were shot down you dumped the rest of your ships' turns. In short, initiative was happening like such:
Invader -> Wait
Interdictors: -> Shoot missiles
Remaining Interdictors -> Shoot planet fruitlessly
Enemy Missile Base: Launch missiles
Delayed Invader Turn -> Uh there's missiles here, wait... oh wait we're the last remaining ship. Uh, creep forward one tile and end turn?
New Turn start:
Invader -> Oh it's our turn again and we still have missiles in our face, let's repeat the last turn...
(repeat the last turn)
Had you used Wait on the rest of your ships so that they would act after the Missile base fired (but before a new turn started), you could have shot down the missiles then waltzed in and bombed the planet much quicker, avoiding the tedium you mentioned.
You also mention at one point...
But having those Colony Ships on hand is immediately useful because the Mrrshan empire got bombed to oblivion. With Terraforming, Planetary Radiation Shields, and Planetary Gravity Generators, the only bad planets are Toxic, and given that you don't appear to be under any immediate pressure, you should be snapping up all of the Mrrshan planets before the Klackons can get to them.
SD 3521.9 - Several planets now have nothing useful to build, and we can't expand the fleet any more. There is no need for more Colony Ships. So, the only thing left to do is invest even more in research.
In the early and mid game, Antarans can feel impossible to defend against, but they aren't unstoppable. As you've seen, missiles are effective against them (provided you can field enough). Fighter Garrisons also help more than you might think. Star Bases and their upgrades are also useful, in that they launch more missiles and also draw fire (giving your planet time to launch missiles). However, in the early/mid game it is highly unlikely that any beam weapons are going to contribute much of anything - even Mass Drivers, the best early-game beam weapon, does piddling damage through the Damper Field, and since all Antaran ships have the fastest engines, it's unlikely that you can reliably hit them.
Treating them as something of a natural disaster is fine, but advancement in Chemistry (for better missiles*) is the easiest way to improve your defenses against Antaran attack. Later on, improvements in Computers (for, well, better computers) and Physics (for better beam weapons**) are key to leveraging the advantages *** you get over Antarans, but it's something of a race, as the longer the game goes on, the bigger the raiding fleets, and eventually your planetary defenses will simply not be sufficient to the task without fleet help.
* There are only four missile types in the game: Nuclear, Merculite, Pulson, and Zeon. Thotimx already has Pulson missiles, and the early game missile spam fleets don't tend to work that well against Antarans - I can go into more detail if desired.
Here are the stats on each type of missile:
Nuclear - 8 damage, 4 HP/missile
Merculite - 14 damage, 8 HP
Pulson - 20 damage, 12 HP
Zeon - 30 damage, 16 HP.
All missiles have the same mods - with 1 level of miniaturization, you get Armored and Fast missile options, and with 2 levels, the MIRV option unlocks (each missile does 4x damage at the cost of 2x space, but no increase in missile HP). However, Chemistry doesn't have very many tech levels - Thotimx's next Chemistry researches are:
Nano Technology (2000 RP)
Molecular Manipulation (4500 RP; Zeon Missiles are here)
Molecular Control (10,000 RP, last techs in the tree)
and then Hyper-advanced Chemistry (starts at 25,000 RP, provides no new techs but continues to provide miniaturization for existing technology).
This is part of why missiles tend to fall off hard after the early game - MIRV nuclear missiles are disproportionately effective, but their hitpoints don't improve and if you switch to more damaging and durable missiles (say, to deal with late-game shields against which Nuclear missiles are mostly ineffective), your damage per space efficiency goes into the toilet.
** Unlike Chemistry, which only has 7 techs to research before hitting Hyper-advanced Chemistry, Physics has more intermediate techs - 10 total. While this means that capping out all Physics research requires more total RP, Physics tech miniaturizes faster, which is part of the reason why beam weapons so rapidly pull ahead of missiles past the early game.
Physics is definitely the tree that is most fleshed out for non-Creatives, giving you a variety of standard choices to upgrade depending on your needs:
Rifle upgrades (ground units)
Scanners (detection range)
Communications (redirecting fleets and command points)
The specific beam weapon upgrades more or less are chosen at-need; there's no need for a non-Creative to take a beam weapon upgrade until they need to overcome a higher class of shields, although there are uses for specific upgrades and you don't want to rely on Laser Cannons or Fusion Beams for long, since Class III shields come relatively early in the tech tree. In addition, Physics holds a variety of one-off upgrades, some of which are very valuable. Creative races are absolutely flooded with an overabundance of useful technology here.
An interesting note is that there are relatively few Point Defense options in the game. The full list of beams that can be made Point Defense (and are thus valid options for mounting on Interceptors) are:
Laser Cannons (worst option)
Fusion Beams (Can be good upgrading with enveloping for 4x damage, but is basically useless outside of point blank range)
Mass Drivers (generally better than the other early-game alternatives, as it doesn't suffer the huge problem with damage fall-off PD weapons has)
Particle Beams (exotic, can't be obtained through research)
Phasors are an extremely valuable research for anyone with Fighter Garrisons or mounting Interceptors/Heavy Fighters, as it doesn't get any better than this***. Intentionally mounting PD weapons on your ships is mostly a trap; you're almost always better off using the space for regular non-PD versions of the weapon and manually shooting down missiles/fighters. However, PD Auto Fire Mass Drivers are perfectly fine so long as you don't expect them to be useful against anything other than missiles and fighters.
*** Exotic Technology Is Kind Of Crap
Unlike the technologies that the player researches, Antarans use "Exotic" technologies, which can't be researched by the player and don't benefit from miniaturization. Those Particle Beams on the Antaran raiders? Yeah, they may be 30 damage weapons with inherent shield piercing, but they're not all that good. Most beam weapons have a base Size of 10 units, which then goes down with miniaturization. Particle Beams have a base size of 15 units, and never get any smaller. In the long run, miniaturization is what kills Antarans. Their weapons never get any better, while researching anything in the same tech tree lets you mount more or your existing stuff or newer, better stuff, for the same or reduced cost. While the Damper Field seems like a great technology (and it kind of is, multiplying their already impressive HP effectively by 4), it also means that even Laser Cannons and Fusion Beams can take them down, if you have the accuracy to hit them and you throw enough volume of fire their way.
However, there's one notable niche exception - Particle Beams are the "best" available PD weapons, meaning that if you have access to Particle Beams, Interceptors (and Heavy Fighters, if you have them) suddenly get a huge boost to their effectiveness, since they don't modify or care about the miniaturization levels of their weapons.