This diary was originally published back in 2007, when this site was just a cosy corner of CVG. We're republishing it here a few entries at a time, every Saturday. Missed the previous parts? They're all here.
Tom has since switched careers to game development, and is now making a space game of his own, Heat Signature.
Day 16: How screwed I am in pictures
I am—and not for the first time, long-term readers might have noticed—utterly screwed. That was my ace, my Babylon 5, my last, best hope for victory. If I saved up for a few years I might be able to afford two of them, but some Drengin fleets have three capital ships and a gaggle of corvettes (that's the correct collective noun, by the way). I was there with them at the top of the tech tree, and sheer numbers and resources left me just as screwed as I had been before.
This was the fifth time I'd discovered my best effort was utterly insignificant in the face of my enemies, and it was starting to take its toll on the reckless enthusiasm with which I threaten and insult the other races. What was the point?
The truth is that apart from that recent glimmer of hope, I've known I was screwed for some time now. At first I assumed my underdog status was just a precursor to one of the spectacular comebacks I'm accustomed to stumbling into, but it just never came. And as I became more and more screwed in more and more ways, and more and more of my last ditch secret weapons failed, it was sinking in that my defeat would not only be pathetic, but also extremely public. Short of posting "Day 17: Then I won," there isn't going to be any way to get out of detailing my painful defeat on a public blog, when everyone had probably been expecting I was leading up to a dramatic recovery.
Then I saw it. I looked again, and thought about it carefully, but I couldn't see anything wrong with the idea. I sneakily checked the other races, and none of them were trying it. There were a few unknowns involved, sure, but however I crunched the numbers in my head, it came out doable. It would take a while and mean a lot of spilt blood, but it'd render everyone else's military might irrelevant. GalCiv players have probably spotted it by now—I don't know why it took me so long—but I won't spoil it for those who haven't.
I'm going to win.
Day 17: The plan
It's called a Technology Victory, and it's a fairly obvious path. It means researching the nature of existence itself, until somewhere down the line you discover a way to transcend this mortal coil and become a being on another level entirely. I had, of course, considered it as soon as I noticed how quickly my new empire could learn things, and in fact a commenter even suggested it before yesterday's post.
But by itself it wouldn't work: the Drengin had finally invaded the first of my planets, and the Yor and Terrans had been picking at me for a while, even managing to claim one or two respectively. I wouldn't last long enough unless I could hold them off, so I'd gone back to researching the components for a Bongolian Deathcrab.
The actual solution was both fairly close to that and almost the exact opposite: Bongolian Ultraprawns. Remember I introduced these diminuitive fellows to defend Petroni I, an incredibly fertile world I stole deep in Drengin territory? They got destroyed within a week or two of being built every time, but they worked. Petroni I is still mine to this day, and making me masses of money. Right now it's paying for most of the Altarian empire.
The Terrans and the Yor will always have a go, there's no stopping that, but the Drengin always crush first and invade later—they won't try to land on a planet if it has any form of combat craft in orbit at all. And there's a word for that, I'm sure. Oh yeah: COWARDS.
Well, they can make as much Prawn-toast as they like, but every time they launch their troop transports in the murky depths of their territory my sensors can't penetrate, they'll find another tiny space-crustacean waiting for them. And then, I'm almost sure, they'll turn tail and head home.
I set every single one of my colonies to produce Ultraprawns continuously and indefinitely. All had an ETA of 'Never' since I wasn't devoting a penny to Military production, but I only had to siphon of a few percentage points from Research to get a lot of three- or four-week times. Not everything would be defended all of the time, but the only time the Drengin invaded anything at all—in my extensive experience with pissing them off—was when there had been no military craft anywhere near it for months. This ought to do it.
And it did. The next few months the universe was aflame with explosions—everyone and their space-grandma was swooping in on freshly produced Bongolian Ultraprawns and blowing them to dust. But no-one invaded anything. It was a warzone, not the safely smouldering ruin you want to bring a troop transport into.
Before long, I even caught a break. The United Planets council assembled to vote on a pressing issue, and the motion was "Should all current wars be called off?" And I tried to vote yes.
Day 18: The vote
I couldn't do it. The Spectres of Agony, who again are definitely not rabbits or adorable, bow to no-one. Engraved on the seal at the base of a mile-high statue of their leader, Paul Davies Mutilator of Worldsblood, are the words "Bring it the fuck on" in Latin.
It wouldn't have mattered anyway—my population wasn't enough to swing a United Planets vote, particularly against three allied races. But then something completely bizarre happened: the motion passed. I voted no, the Terrans voted no, the Yor voted no, which meant that- good God, the Drengin voted yes? They're only at war with me! Are they scared of the Ultraprawns? Are they running out of ammunition to slaughter them with? Is the boredom tearing them apart?
Regardless, this was space-Christmas for me. Not only did their decision prevent the Terrans and Yor from invading me for a while, but it was the ultimate slap in the face for them to learn that I'd voted against it. They'd probably imagined they were being benevolent, granting a dying race its last request, but they'd ended up looking like they were begging me for mercy.
Day 19: Time left
There's a misconception that the Technology Victory route is boring. I'd thought it would be too, which is why I didn't try it from the outset (that and arrogance). But it's actually the GalCiv equivalent of those RTS missions where you have "hold the base for five minutes". Only it's "hold half the galaxy for three years."
For a while though, thanks to the vote, it was quiet. That massive swarm of battleships closing in on Altaria prime sheepishly veered round and headed home, bound to oblige the bizarre decision of their masters to abort the war. The Terrans and the Yor drifted aimlessly, geared up for invasion and unsure what to do with peace. And I learned, furiously.
Another reason heading for a tech victory isn't boring: I don't know if it'll be three years. At each step along the path—Galactic Understanding, Near Omniscience, Beyond Mortality—you only know how close you are to a breakthrough with your current task. The next ones have no ETA at all—they could be the same again, or ten years. I'd reckoned on each rung on this ladder of learning to take about twice as long as the previous one, but each time a new ETA was revealed, the numbers made me wince.
War broke out again, of course—the joint resolution reset all race relations to 'Cool', but it's not quite the same sense of the word as "I'm cool with the French." Soon they were demanding cash for my continued survival, and I was only able to avoid spitting on my monitor by repeating my counter-offer of their entire civilisation in exchange for some space-cumin.
So the Drengin declared war, the Yor declared war, and finally the Terrans declared war. Another, more intense spate of invasions rocked my colonies, and another planet was lost. And at last I mastered Beyond Mortality, the second-to-last milestone on the path to enlightenment, and discovered exactly how long the home stretch would be.
This was going to be a tough year.