Good, Bad, Interminable: A Neptune's Pride AAR

Well, things aren’t looking very good for me.

Or are they?

I’ve spent the last 2 days being pretty sure that I was going to be forced out of the game imminently. I settled on scuttling all my fleets (sending them with 1 ship into a fight they can’t win) and taking my single remaining fleet with all my remaining ships to retreat to the north. However, literally as I was writing my concession speech I receive word that ShaZaamboni (Orange) and Josemas (Pink) are fighting with one another. Evidently my plan of retreating worked. They saw diminishing returns in attacking me, as I had really concentrated all my forces into the capital, and they found each other being increasingly threatening.

Josemas claims he’s withrdrawing from my territories to focus on ShaZaamboni. He says he’ll withdraw completely from the territories he’s taken from me, including reversing course at Azimidiske. He’s definitely doing something, although I’m not sure that I believe he’s doing what he claims. In any case, I don’t really have much to gain by disagreeing with him. I can give up Azimidiske temporarily, because losing it doesn’t cost me anything other than preventing me from having a big dramatic retreat into the hinterlands. And I can even still do that if I have to fight through a moderate sized fleet.

I vacate Azimidiske, and hold off on my plans to have a big exit for the time being.

It can’t be said that this game isn’t full of surprises.

After our last communication, things apparently went very south for Josemas (Pink). He appears to be under attack from both ends: Omsion (Yellow) has attacked him in the south (I can’t see it, but judging by the ship count chart), and ShaZaamboni (Orange) is assaulting him in the west. I guess it makes sense then, that he would give up conquest in my direction. I assume his capital is going to be imminently occupied, as he has communicated to me that he’s in dire straits indeed. He’s not only withdrawn his troops from my territory, he’s gifted me all of his techs (at significant cost to himself), and even offered a suicide attack on ShaZaamboni in hopes of currying my favor.

At this point, ShaZaamboni is the top dog, and it’s a quest to halt his geometric expansion: more ships means more planets which means more industry which means more ships. At some point, his industry would become so overwhelming, that any amount of building up in my hinterlands isn’t going to save me, destroying my fleet would hardly even be an inconvenience. So, as with the last time I attacked, I might as well try to do something before I can’t do anything.

As for the long term, I’ve basically decided to place my long term support behind Ananab Tilps (Red). I’ve been betting on him for a while. His early tech-focus seemed like a good call, he’s well situated with limited border frontage. He also, due to geography, hasn’t attacked me directly. Also, he’s been pretty chatty in-game, which is nice.

Before the end of the day, Josemas seems to have backed off the ledge, he’s no longer planning to suicide, and is trying to rally his troops in the south, hoping to hold off yellow long enough for Ananab Tilps to get involved. I think this is the wrong move: combined, we’re roughly equal to ShaZaamboni right now (ship count + industry), and I think we could do a good job of crippling him. On the other hand, Ananab Tilps has just researched a level of weapons beyond what anybody else has, so holding off fighting may make sense if we can get access to that. Ananab Tilps cleverly noted that he should hold off gifting techs to either of us until he’s ready to (surprise) attack Omsion (Yellow).

Things are looking slightly up for me!

This morning, Ananab Tilps (Red) attacked Omsion (Yellow), and gifted weapons 5 to both myself and Josemas (Pink). So, I attacked orange, as per the plan.

Yellow offered me banking in return for manufacturing and gave me banking sight unseen. Tilps has requested I not give him manufacturing, so I won’t. As noted, I’ve thrown behind Tilps about as much as is possible. I feel a little bad about that though, and at least refund the money it cost him to send it to me.

My troops, a sizable contingent, are en route to attack ShaZaamboni. My only concern now is that he can counter-attack into my undefended capital, and then rampage around un-impeded. That would let him forestall a confrontation with my main force, and destroy my economy while I chased him around.

Fortunately, no such shenanigans occur. This is, likely, the largest single battle of the game so far.

Something that I haven’t mentioned that I probably should: I don’t really care if I live or die, something I alluded to earlier with my win / annoy comments. At this point, I’m pretty exhausted with the game, and I don’t foresee myself winning, so why do I care if I stick around? This gives me a certain freedom of strategy. I can be much less conservative than I usually would be. Most of the other players don’t really know this yet. I’ve informed Ananab Tilps, who tried to convince me to stay in the game as reversal of fortune is quite common. I don’t plan to commit suicide, as Josemas had, but I don’t really care if I do end up dying. As the game progresses, I’ll make this increasingly clear to the other players. My immediate goals are revenge against ShaZaamboni and Josemas.

I’ve been trying to convince Josemas to help attack ShaZaamboni, since a victory without damaging his industrial capacity is a hollow one, it just delays the inevitable. Unfortunately, he has troops occupied by Omsion (Yellow) in the south, so we can’t quite get to even 1:1 unit parity with ShaZaamboni (even though the total numbers look like that). He tells me there are a couple hundred more troops to the west of where I can see, which also prevent him from pressing. At the very least, I’ve managed to convince him to pull some troops into spitting distance of ShaZaamboni, with the hopes that the pressure he applies with his presence will keep ShaZaamboni from counterattacking.

possibly a stupid question, but in my hazy memory of those long-ago golden days of Ascension, Dave Perkins and Ananab Tilps were the same person. Is Dave actually playing two entries in this game?

Haha, yeah. I was hoping to avoid confusion by not mentioning it, but yes, Dave Perkins is Ananab Tilps. Another cheeky fellow (tylertoo) named himself Dave Perkins.

Excellent. I got many hours of joy out of a fantasy football league where I named my team after one of the other players and then made stupid trade offers, thus getting people annoyed at him.

There hasn’t been a lot of change, with regards to actual territory. But nonetheless, a lot has happened in the past day.

I made 2 attacks against ShaZaamboni’s (Orange) forces 1:1. I consider them successful because even though I did not take any stars, I traded ships 1:1 thanks to my weapons tech negating his defensive bonus (defending ships get an automatic +1 to weapons). I even managed to briefly re-take Gacrux, and use the defensive bonus myself, coming out slightly ahead in the bargain despite not taking any more territory.

Ananab Tilps (Red) attacked Omsion (Yellow) as a diversionary tactic to ease pressure on Josemas (Pink). This allowed Josemas to re-take many of the stars he lost in the south, and also has freed ships to use against ShaZaamboni.

I finally re-take Gacrux. Josemas attacked Tseen Kee, which is signficantly more valuable, so ShaZaamboni withdrew troops to reinforce the more valuable star.
Similarly, he drew down most of his forces at Chow and Alula, which I plan to attack next. Josemas informed me of an Orange concentration of force outside my vision (in Aldebaran), but presumably they’re being occupied by the ships Josemas freed up from the Yellow border. There isn’t much reason for him to be lying to me about that, and ShaZaamboni clearly has ships somewhere, so it seems reasonable enough.

After all this, I’ve decided to re-define victory, as I’m not going to win: in order to win, I need to defeat both Orange and Pink, and then also somehow manage to take out Yellow before butting heads finally with Red, who will have expanded towards me all the while with his more powerful core empire, as he hasn’t been significantly encroached on since the beginning - he essentially has a 10 day head start. This just isn’t going to happen, given my minimal industrial base, and non-existent research capabilities.

The winner only takes 1/2 the stars + 1. Which means that I can own very nearly half of the galaxy before the game ends. In real politics, that would be a huge win! Therefore, I’ve decided to just become a vassal to Ananab Tilps. If he wins, whatever, I don’t really care who wins, as long as I don’t lose, and ideally I also get revenge on both ShaZaamboni and Josemas. I’d like to wipe both from the map before the end of the game, if possible. I’ve informed Ananab Tilps of this decision, although he doesn’t seem particularly swayed by it.

I get some offers from Yellow to give him a weapons tech to use against Red, and also to get manufacturing to build ships for the same. This is a bad idea for me, since Ananab Tilps is my weapons supplier, and dealing with him has put me and Josemas ahead of all other parties. Since I don’t really think I can beat red anyways, I’m not going to poke a dragon for minimal gain.

To break down my thought process in detail:
If I give weapons to Yellow, there’s a chance he’ll give it to Orange to fight back against me. I’ll also have alienated red, who is my arms dealer. Eventually Weapons 5 will become more widely available, and I want to have an option when that happens to get weapons 6.

But what’s my upside if I deal with Yellow? He fights (slightly more effectively) against red, buying some time to limit the growth of the Red empire. During that delay, Orange will eventually get weapons parity with me, and his larger industrial base again puts me at a standstill. Josemas (Pink), assured that Orange is no longer an imminent threat, could turn against me again. Nowhere in that map do I see a way for myself to overtake red as the primary superpower. I’m too far to even indirectly affect him. If I lay off on attacks against Orange, then what? I don’t have any confidence that he would free up those fleets to go south. Yellow and Orange are at least uneasy allies, both with other hot-wars that they don’t want to start new ones, so there’s no help there.

Oh, also, one other thing:

One thing that this game does really well is the scale of the empire. You can already see how different the scale of the first couple of battles, with a couple dozen ships, has progressed into a couple hundred ships per side. Keep in mind what a “huge” battle looks like now vs what it looks like as the game progresses.

The next few days, although exciting from an “I’m awesome” perspective, are pretty boring from an intrigue perspective.

Josemas and I attack ShaZaamboni apace, and slowly re-take the stars that he claimed from us.

In the meantime, some urgent messages are sent from the south!

As noted previously, While I agree that it’s probably already too late, I don’t know what’s in it for me. I respond as such, that I have no interest in winning, so it’s of little interest to me who does. I realize after the fact that this is not without risk: this could turn Josemas (or my other allies) against me as they realize I’m just crazy go nuts bonkers, as far as game goals go. Josemas has been on a similar suicide kick to me though, so who is he to judge?

Again, not a lot happening. Josemas and I continue our campaign against ShaZaamboni, with incremental weapons improvements on both sides that cancel each other out. Josemas is single-mindedly focusing research on weapons, while I’m doing some other things and sharing them with him.

Josemas has sent some messages re-affirming our alliance. He still seems honest enough, and I have no problem with keeping him peaceful until our stated goal (eliminating Orange, our common enemy) is complete. We both had a recent object lesson in what happens when you betray your ally prematurely.

There’s a lot of Sturm und Drang about Ananab Tilps, but I notice that nobody in the south is actually fighting actively against him (based on ship counts, which are public), which they would be if this was a real emergency. I don’t have any desire to do other peoples’ work for them, and I see no immediate reason to change my plans to support Red to the end.

Also, I built my first warp gates. I’m a little torn about their strategic value, but they do help me get ships to the front quicker, which is important for what I want to do (which is press Orange as quickly as possible to eliminate his industrial capacity).

I’ve re-taken Sargas, which if you recall was the starting point of all this business with ShaZaamboni (Orange). As such, it has tremendous symbolic value. Uh, you know, for the troops.

It’s actually pretty significant, as it marks a return to my original state. From this point on, I’m not longer recovering from their attacks - simply playing catch-up with the other players.

Since I have this in my notes, let’s talk specific troops movements and mechanics for a bit.
Originally, I sent out a force of troops to take Sargas, while having a couple additional fleets en route. Upon taking Sargas, I built a warp gate, so that I could keep Sargas by bringing my reinforcements up quickly from Scheat. Unfortunately, I had already shifted about half my troops to Nihal, which is closer, but lacks a warp gate.

Because warp gates decrease travel time to 1/3, it actually turned out to be faster to travel from the farther away Scheat than from closer Nihal.

This was a concern because I really didn’t want to lose Sargas to a counter-attack after I’d built the gate. Since ShaZaamboni has a gate nearby, even if I could re-claim it quickly, he could have launched ships at gate-speed while he had it. Fortunately, with the increment in ships from Sargas’s own industry, and the defensive bonus, I was able to re-take it very quickly, and my warp gate accelerated ships arrived to hold it for the long term. ShaZaamboni didn’t really seem that interested in keeping it. He may be under attack on 3 separate fronts now: me, Pink, and Red. So, he’s probably cutting his losses and pulling back where necessary.

Josemas (Pink) has started making plans for the post-Orange world. Since empires don’t need to be contiguous, and we can make pretty huge hyperspace jumps now, I can basically jump over his entire empire to get my ships to the front with Yellow. This is, perhaps, a weird plan. But since we’re both weakened from intense early combat, neither of us are strong enough really to go it alone, and fighting each other will just empower everybody in the south to eventually over-take us.

I don’t intend to betray him anytime soon. But, if I wanted to, this setup works better for me. My troops must build up along his northern border, whereas he’s ostensibly fighting on the opposite front. So, its not suspicious for me to concentrate force opposite him. If I want to, I can destroy his relatively unprotected backside with nearly my entire army when the time comes. I actually don’t think it will come to that, I think Ananab Tilps (Red) will win before that really matters.

I think I’ve engaged in more actual combat than any other player. Kind of crazy considering my original goal was to be a quietly economic powerhouse. However, I think the early game betrayal was instructive: I’ve definitely been much more willing to lose ships than anybody else, probably due to my desperation.

Our campaign against ShaZaamboni (Orange) continues, he is falling back steadily, in the same situation where I was earlier, where there’s really nothing he can do about it except hope that his enemies fall to in-fighting.

With the writing on the wall, Orange posted a mini post-mortem of his game.

Here’s a screenshot of the battle:

These days, as I noted above, are kind of boring. I’m gaining stars and power, but everything is going according to plan, so it’s sort of auto-pilot-y.

Josemas (Pink) also sent me a note re-iterating his dedication to our alliance, and hopefully forestalling any attack against him. While my original plans were to attack him once Orange was gone, I don’t think I’m going to, for a couple reasons:

  • He’s basically protecting me, with him as a buffer (as I originally noted).
  • I think the game will end before I get eliminated.
  • Attacking him would be long term suicide for both of us: while we were tied up in our satellite war, Red or Blue would swallow us up.
  • Combined, we’re about equal to one of the southern superpowers (Red / Blue). It will be interesting to see how well an alliance like this can work in the face of those kinds of powers.
  • In theory, I can get information about others attacking Josemas and use it to our advantage.

What happened about my pledge of allegiance to Ananab Tilps (Red)? That’s still there, on a back burner. But since he didn’t seem to take it very seriously, I can’t either. If I have to king-make, I’ll choose him, but I’m not going to worry too much if something happens to him.

Not a lot of interest. Removed the last remnants of orange from the map, he’s completely gone now.

I have a lot of screenshots, but not a lot to say, so I’ll let the images speak for me today.

Combat:

Illustrated history:

Last Legs:

The Fall of the Orange Empire:

Leaderboard:

Dave Perkins (Green) lost all of his planets, but is still bouncing around with a medium sized fleet (1000 ships) in Ananab Tilps’s backyard, just making trouble. It’s kind of entertaining, although it probably won’t last long. I don’t really know what happened there, he appears to have been divided up between Blue and Yellow, but I don’t have any visibility down there.

Josemas (Pink) is trying to figure out what to do next. As usual, it’s more of a concern for him than for me. I’m re-building my forces, and have taken Alshat, which will be my gateway into Yellow / Red territory.

  • Blue is attacking Red with small salvoes in the south, and trying to get support. Josemas has claimed that Red has too much forces in our vicinity to make attacking worthwhile. We’re still working a non-aggression with Red, so that’s partly true, and partly to buy time.
  • Yellow is just sitting there in the middle. I think he’s trying to be a barnacle, too compact and inconvenient to kill. That may actually work out for him.
  • Red was apparently AFK for a while, he’s been playing it pretty cool. He gobbled up a couple of ShaZaamboni’s planets in the autumn of that empire.

Josemas has mentioned that it might be time to play kingmaker. Alternately, we can pretend to support somebody, while planning our own ascension, but that really relies on riling Ananab Tilps (Red) and White Chocolate (Blue) up against each other. There’s no benefit for us to try to start something with our own fleets.

If there’s one thing that reading the 3 Kingdoms taught me, it’s that you never want to be the one to strike first, because that weakens you and opens you up to a counter-attack by both other parties. Usually the most desperate will strike first: the one with the most to lose by waiting. Seeing as Blue is fomenting already, I think that it will be him. I think all we really need to do is wait for him to start attacking red, and respond appropriately.

But yellow throws a wrench into the whole works. he has a significant army, and it will only grow. He stops anybody else from being able to make much progress.

Still trying to decide what to do. I concluded based on various intel that Blue and Yellow were working together to try to get Josemas to attack Red. Likely, they would then scoop up his undefended territory. Red appears to have come to the same conclusion, and for whatever reasons, Josemas doesn’t trust Blue either. Right now, I think our best bet is still to work with Red.

This seems like a good place for a break. We’re about halfway through the game, and we’ve seen a good bit of drama. Honestly, I think that my story is pretty much over. I was double-crossed, hung on, and sought and found revenge. Of course, there’s some additional revenge to be had against Josemas, in theory, but I never really got that far. I suppose I could have suicide attacked him at any point from here on out, but I was interested in how it would turn out, and the fact that I was planning to write this meant I wanted to hang on through as much of the game as I could.

If anybody else from the game has any insights into the first half that I missed, feel free to post them here. It would be neat to get capsule notes of what was going on at the time in places I couldn’t see, if you still remember.

I’ll pick up the timeline again in a little while.

This is a really entertaining read. Neptune’s Pride sounds like a pretty intense game; it’s interesting to see a regular 4X game melded with more serious diplomacy components. It reminds me a lot of the board game Diplomacy where you spend a half hour per turn talking with people and trying to plan things before a very brief (five-minute long) window of actual action on the board.

It’s also awesome how these games can sometimes create narratives that you weren’t expecting. With Green floating around in space with a fleet, I can’t help but think of the Quarians from Mass Effect, or the folks from Battlestar Galactica; with no actual home remaining, the remainder of the entire species is forced to stay on their ships and float around the cosmos. Maybe one day he can find a new home but, for the time being, no one wants to take them in! It’s a interesting tale in the midst of a bunch of intergalactic intrigue.

Keep it up, I’m really intrigued to see how it ends!

White Chocolate (Blue) here.


Whilst all this action was ongoing up on the north things were much more quiet in the South. Red and I initially worked together to wipe out Light Blue, followed by a swift and effective Red backstab to take the prime Light Blue stars. This left me quite weakened and I retreated back to my home-stars to lick my wounds and mumble grumpily.


Green attempted an attack along our northern border but I had enough ships to repel him and I went into a period of hibernation.

Had either Green or Red pushed an all out attack at this stage I am pretty sure I would have been done. Much like Purple, I would have retreated back as far as I could but eventually the production loses would be too much to overcome. However, neither decided to attack, largely because of the layout of the “board” I suspect. My three stars on my Red border provided enough ships, in total, to cover an attack on any one star (based on the Red ships I could see). Likewise, the long distance between stars on my border with Green meant I could bring ships to defend up there before any attack would reach me.

Realistically, the only way for either of them to beat me without tremendous loses would be to attack simultaneously. Thankfully, for me, that did not happen.

The defenders Weapons +1, effective use of distance, and the ability to quickly bring in ships with Warp Gates means that the defender usually has an advantage when it comes to any attack. Warp gate in particular are a huge benefit once you have the economy to support them, to the point where I expect the game will be changed to nerf them somehow.

After a number of turns I had rebuilt my fleets to the point where I could bring some righteous retribution upon Green, who had left our border relatively unguarded. This attack went swimmingly and in short order, Green’s empire was largely mine. In Green’s dying throws he/she went a little crazy:

Jos (Pink) and I agreed to a non-agression pact which was fine with me because we only had a small border in common and I needed time to regroup after my attack on Green. My main threat was still Red, who had a ton of stars and had been largely unharrased throughout most of the game. Even our brief skirmish resulted in few loses because I chose to save what ships I could rather than take a few from Red and still lose each battle.

At this point I was not quite sure how to proceed. Jos and Mal seem to be best buddies up in the north and I am much closer to either of them than Red. It would seem that I’m the odd man out at this juncture as Jos + Mal are the largest force and Red is almost their equal in terms of tech, ships, and stars. None of us are close to the 1/2 galaxy +1 needed to end the game so there isn’t a clear player to take out. With Red having a greater ship count and production that me, I decide to attack Red before the scales tip in Reds favor even more. I attack Red with a large percentage of the ships I’ve built up, in hopes of catching him napping or, at the very least, whitlling him down some:

I end up winning a grand total of one star in the exchange making the attack a failure. The only silver lining is that I may have diswaded a similar attack from Red thus buying me time.