AI War: Fleet Command


Anyone playing the latest expansion? I’m about to give up 10 hours into this campaign. There’s a new homeworld guard post that counters blob attacks. It sends out a huge number of drones to steal all units vulnerable to reclamation, which is most of them. You’re supposed to raid it, but it’s extremely difficult since they’re sitting on the AI homeworld. It’s the endgame so I’m also dealing with a ton of raids. I need to remember to stop choosing AIs and extra options that enable huge starship attacks. It’s cool at first, but late in the game it’s a pain to deal with.

I’m not a fan of the new champion gameplay. You basically drive a ship (that gains experience levels) into special zones that contain little challenges. For most of them you have an ally you’re trying to help against the enemy faction. Each ally sends out creeps to attack structures. You use the champion starship to turn the tide of battle. It takes a lot of micromanagement. They’re easy to lose, and then you miss out on some upgrades. It might be a lot more fun if you had a co-op friend that wanted to play the championship specifically.

I’m worn out from the grind as usual. I’ll take a break and decide if I want to go back to it. Maybe I can find a SuperTerminal to reduce AI Progress.


If anyone grabbed the AI War collection in the Indieroyale arclight bundle, I see that the Steam key for Vengeance of the Machine is up now (not that you actually need a key to register it, but it lets you download the expansion via Steam).




And thank you. Now I will put it on my lust. After I beat to 2


I’ve heard a lot about this game on podcasts and read a few positive articles. When this showed up on the steam sale I swooped in and bought the whole suite. Incidentally this is also the time when I finally picked up Distant Worlds so the two games are providing a lot of contrast for each other.

I’ve played through the two basic tutorials and am playing with the pseudo campaign one now. How is this game holding up for experienced players? The expansions seem to have added a lot and there have been many of them.

Tom M


Aside from the tutorial, I never finished any game. Basically for me, as the game matured it slowed down further and further. I do not recall the numbers exactly, but when I had a fleet of 4k ships and wanted them to do something, especially engaging a large AI fleet of similar size, it just became a very slow slog. I stopped playing it long ago.


Warning: stream of consciousness/rambling thoughts to follow…

AI War is great. According to Steam it’s my most played game at 160 hours and, while I’m no rookie, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface in a number of areas. I enjoy playing it, I enjoy thinking about it, I enjoy browsing the forums hearing about how other people are playing it and the interesting discussions that result.

I also don’t play it all that often.

Why is that? I’m not entirely sure to be honest. Time commitment is certainly a major factor - one of my first games passed the 20 hour mark* and I was still a mile away from finishing. I’ll admit that subsequent games moved a bit quicker (a more aggressive approach on my part) but when you start a game I think you’re at least committing to 8+ hours at a minimum (assuming you aren’t destroyed earlier).

*per the in-game clock/timer, which romps along when you’re in time acceleration mode (waiting for something large to build/repair) but also stops while you’re paused to think things through. In my case I think the two roughly cancel each other out and reflect the time I spent playing.

I also have issues with the UI though, to be fair, I think it does a remarkable job making the game playable in the first place given the amount going on. And, as you say, the expansions have added a lot, but I also feel that in some cases it’s just extra ‘stuff’ that simply adds to my mental workload without a corresponding payoff (or a worthwhile one).

But I still want to play it. And I will usually fire it up for a game whenever a new expansion comes out or a major update is made. It’s like an old friend who’s moved away - whenever you catch up you have a great time hanging out, but you don’t always make the effort to stay in touch during the in-between times.

It has a lot to offer though, for anyone who’s willing to put in the time to learn. The things that particularly standout for me (good or bad) are as follows:

[B]It’s an RTS that plays like a 4X[/B] - I’d never class myself as an RTS player (Red Alert, Company of Heroes, is about it) and AI War doesn’t expect me to be one. It’s quite happy to let me pause the action, assess the situation, make decisions, give out orders, etc before letting things continue. Actions-per-minute are a non-factor here, with the focus going more on longer term strategic decisions eg which planets do I take (Rule 1: you don’t want anywhere near all of them unless you’re playing some odd masochistic variant), what do I want to research, etc. Although there’s a lot to do I never feel that my dexterity and quick-thinking is what’s letting me down - I simply made a bad choice.

[B]Asymmetry[/B] - I love (LOVE!) the asymmetric nature of the game. You and the AI are in completely different situations with quite different abilities/constraints to wage war. You effectively operate as a guerilla, making surgical strikes in key areas while trying to stay under the radar so as not to invite retaliation from the MUCH stronger AI. I think this also helps with the balance of the game where it’s entirely possible (and reasonable) for the devs to dole out new abilities/mechanics to either the player or the AI without having to make it useable (and balanced) by both.

[B]AI Progress[/B] - a simple, effective way of gauging the degree of ‘pissed-offedness’ of the AI. There are lots of choices you make throughout the game to either increase this number (usual) or reduce it (less likely). Each such choice is a difficult one and you really do need to weigh up the longterm impact of pushing the AI to heightened levels of anger versus the payoff you get from whatever it is you chose to do.

[B]Knowledge/Research[/B] - the mechanism whereby knowledge (research points) are gained only through capturing planets (for the most part) is brilliant. There’s a lovely tension between wanting more knowledge (to unlock new ships/structures, or better versions of the ones you have) but not wanting to take too many planets lest you provoke the AI into upping its game. This makes the choice of spending a fairly finite pool of knowledge all the more delicious - there’s a real opportunity cost involved.

[B]Configurability[/B] - the game provides you with a huge array of options to setup a challenge appropriate for your skill-level/mood. There’s a broad-brush (but very granular) difficulty level you can set, as well as turning on/off various game mechanics (and there’s a lot if you have all the expansions installed). Given not all the additions to the game over the years have been welcome ones (IMO obviously) this is a major plus.

[B]Variety[/B] - if we’re just talking basic ship types (the bulk of your fleet) the base game provides you with 30, and the expansions that followed added a further 42 (if my math is correct). Given you start each game with the three ‘core’ ship types (Fighter, Bomber, Frigate) plus one of the ‘bonus’ ship types (the 69 remaining ones) and can expect to only ‘unlock’ perhaps 3-4 additional types throughout the game, you realise just how much variety there is. And that’s not considering the different research choices you can make for starships, turrets, etc and the various mark levels for each. The AI itself can choose from an array of ‘personalities’ at game start which affects the ships it has at its disposal, the defenses it sets up, and the tactics it employs.

That said, the massive variety can also be a negative. Every ship has various strengths and weaknesses and when you start thinking about all the permutations of ‘this ship versus that ship’ it can become a bit overwhelming. And when you might only see a particular ship type once every few games it’s not like (at least in my experience) you get to a point where you see the name of one and immediately think “oh yes, I’ll build a bunch of ‘x’ turrents to deal with those”, etc. Apart from a few highly specialised ships which you might assign specific tasks to you’re often tempted to just bundle all your ships into one or more ‘fleet balls’ and just throw them into the fray. Not that that approach isn’t entirely spectacular and mostly effective, but you do feel that some of the lower level detail/chrome/whatever is lost.

[B]UI[/B] - mixed bag. There’s an absolute ton of information at your fingertips but often it’s hard to discern exactly what’s important and what you can ignore. A good example is the planetary information popup on the strategic map - most of the time the guard posts on a give planet are a mere speed bump, but they share equal place on the summary screen as the guard posts that you absolutely-need-to-be-aware-of eg Counter-Attack, Alarm, Raid Engine, etc. I also find it to be a bit of a chore identifying which ships types work well against which other ship types - you can access a table which shows you that sort of stuff in detail but filtering it down to, say, my core ships versus the core ships the AI is using is…challenging. You can also use the F1 key to cycle through all the ship types in the game and have it show you the relative strength/weakness of those ships against one you’ve chosen…but it shows you ALL the ships in AI War, not just the ones being used by you and the AI that game (unless you restrict the scope of the ‘search’ to the planet you’re currently viewing…okay in the middle of a battle but not as useful if you’re doing some forward planning). The hotkeys are a godsend in general though, if a little hard to discover by browsing through the options.

[B]Economy[/B] - pretty easy to automate (can set up looping queues, etc) though I fail to see the value in having two different resources (metal and crystal) in their current implementation (each ship might need more or less of one resource but it’s pretty academic for the most part - certainly I haven’t felt compelled to capture a particular planet because it had more of one resource type).

[B]Timed events (waves mostly)[/B] - knowing that something bad is going to happen at a very specific time is actually a lot of fun. It gives the player a goal (considering how many options are open to you at a given moment it’s nice to have the game nudge you in a particular direction) and can add some real knife-edge moments when you aren’t sure if your static defenses will hold and the enemy spills into the soft underbelly of your empire (scramble the backup fleet!).


[B]Dev support[/B] - I think you’d struggle to find another game which has received the number of updates AI War has over the years. At one stage it was considered pretty normal to receive patches multiple times per week (even per day) for sustained periods. If you take a look at the release notes on the wiki you can see exactly how crazy it got at times. Things have slowed down in the last nine months as the devs have focused on getting new IP out the door but I’m pretty sure they have another expansion planned plus some major revamps for core systems (armor, etc).

[B]Forums[/B] - the official forums are populated by a very helpful bunch of fans, always happy to help out newcomers and engage with the devs discussing buffs/nerfs, new features, etc. Speaking of the devs it’s pretty rare to see a new thread not have some involvement from one of the two lead devs offering advice or another point of view.

[B]Wiki[/B] - with a game this deep it can be a real challenge to find out exactly how certain mechanics work. Enter the wiki. They’ve done a marvelous job at loading this thing up with a ton of useful information. Even better, the front page serves as a massive index so you don’t need to find stuff be searching - just work your way through the list clicking on articles that look useful/relevant. At one stage the furious pace of releases/updates meant that you couldn’t always rely on the wiki reflecting reality but it seems a number of users have made a concerted effort to keep it in step.

[B]Grind[/B] - I think it’s fair to say that game can involve a degree of grind, particularly as the game goes on. In the early game it’s all quick, surgical strikes, picking your targets and quickly overwhelming the relatively low strength defenses. As the game wears on, however, you do increasingly find yourself up against systems packed with higher mark ships or particular nasty guardposts which, while they can be defeated, might require repeated attacks to whittle down the numbers (generally you can rebuild quicker than the AI if you’re focused on a particular task).

All-in-all I think the game’s positives far outweigh its negatives, and it certainly has a lot to offer veteran players ie if it ‘clicks’ for you it’s the sort of game that you’ll potentially get 100s of hours of enjoyment out of. With the regular expansions and updates you can revisit it every 6-9 months and find that the strategies you last used are no longer viable and you need to shake things up - that I like. You just have to be willing to accept that the games can be long and (at points) grindy, and you’ll do it all with a UI that is equal parts wonderful (loads of info, hotkeys, etc) and annoyingly almost-but-not-quite (ship comparisons, ship/planetary wall-of-info).


Thanks ledShok, I bought this game some time ago on sale as it looked fun and I’m a big fan of the devs other games, but, sadly, have never really given it much of a spin.


So if you have all the expansions and never played the game at all, is it best to start with the base game and learn that? Then, as you gain proficiency add the expansions one by one?


I played a new campaign or two in each of the first four or five expansions. At that point I got burned out. I doubt I will ever go back unless my co-op friend is dying to play it or something.

Definitely start with the base game, without enabling a lot of extra options. Then you probably want to play each one individually. Otherwise there can be too much crap all shoved together at once.


Yeah, base game only is probably more than enough to deal with on your first game…though I can’t help but suggest that you at least enable Golems - too much fun. :-)


Thanks guys!


I am trying to learn how to play this game but one of the things I can not figure out is how to attack an enemy warpgate? How do you target the warpgate (If I right click on it all my ships just move to it - so not sure how to target the gate itself).

If one goes into a system and destroys the warpgate how do you get your ships to go back to your own system (I realize I must be missing something that is obvious).


Any chance you can screencap what you’re referring to? If you’re trying to destroy an AI Warp Gate, can you hover over it and get the tooltip in the screenshot, as well?

I’ll take a stab at it anyway in case I can hit on what you’re looking for.

Warp Gates, assuming we’re talking about the AI structure that appears in many AI systems and not just inadvertently referring to the wormholes, have no impact on where you can travel as the player. The player is limited by the wormhole network, and you can either toggle to the Galaxy Map with the Tab key to give orders among a series of planets, or you can issue a Ctrl + right click order on a wormhole from the typical game view to send your units through to the other side of a single wormhole. Only right-clicking would move your ships into a cluster around the wormhole but would not send them through (which is still nice for staging an attack so your units all traverse the wormhole simultaneously).


When I read up on the game it seems one should try to limit what worlds the AI can attack. I thought you do that by destroying the warp gates. Unfortunately, a lot of articles mention this as a basic strategy but I cannot find any pictures or youtube videos that actually show how to do this.

They seem to say destroy any “warp gates” on adjacent enemy worlds so they can not attack resource planets you want to protect. I guess I still have not come to a full understanding of how the AI actually gets to your worlds/systems (I thought it was always through a connecting warp gate.

I have been going through the tutorials and about to start the 10 planet campaign tutorial so hoping that will help.


Oh, okay. I think I get it.

There are multiple mechanics through which the AI can attack your systems. Over the passage of time, the AI naturally accumulates ships in it systems which are generally used for defense. However, the AI can sometimes free these ships up to attack your planets, which is the most basic form of attack. This obviously just consists of taking ships already physically present in an AI-controlled system and sending them through a wormhole to an adjacent system that you control.

The Warp Gate structure presents a second method of attack, wherein the AI is able to use the gate to warp in a “wave” of ships which will attack a designated system. The AI has a public knowledge schedule of raids which you are notified of in advance (how many ships, what system they will attack, and when), but valid targets for these generic raids are limited to systems under your control that are adjacent to an AI-controlled system with a Warp Gate.

The concept of a “gate raid” is the idea that you can limit the AI’s ability to attack you from a given AI-controlled system by entering the system, destroying the Warp Gate, and then leaving. This helps to minimize the AI Progress gained from your activity while denying the AI the ability to raid you from a specific direction. It’s a middle-ground option between the extremes of leaving the planet alone (which risks raids from that direction) and capturing it outright (which moves your borders and more dramatically increases AI Progress, which has very long-term implications).

No clue if the tutorial covers all of that since I haven’t played it in over five years, but it will definitely cover AI Progress and should give you a better idea of how the game flows.


My questions:
How do you target the warp gate to attack it in the enemy system. I tried to do this in one of the tutorials but right clicking just moves them to the spot and I could not figure out how to tell my ships to destroy it.

Are ships able to just move to an adjacent system without a warpgate? So if I destroy a warp gate in an adjacent enemy controlled system I can just move my ships back to my own system by clicking on it in the galaxy map?

Thanks for the huge explanation above that really helps a lot.


Having not played them recently, the tutorial you’re referring to may have had a shield on the Warp Gate. A shielded structure (which is part of why the tooltip would have answered the question if we had a screenshot) is completely invulnerable until whatever is generating the shield gets destroyed. That’s the only thing I can think of off-hand that would cause the behavior you’re referring to, with ships clustering around what appears to be a valid target but refusing to attack it.

AI Warp Gates, despite any connotation their name might contain, are not used by the player for inter-system travel. Destroying an AI Warp Gate has no impact whatsoever on your ability to travel between worlds. The distinction between wormholes (which are the portals that are used for normal space travel) and Warp Gates (which serve thematically to circumvent the wormhole network entirely and are effectively a game mechanic to allow the AI to summon units out of thin air) is particularly important to keep in mind when you’re starting out, as I can see how that might be confusing to the uninitiated.


Teaser for AI War 2.