In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I put into motion my nap-powered stratagems for getting my civilization back on the rails. No more flailing after every popup, losing units to stupid garbage left and right, or worthless battles with eminently uninteresting aliens for this. From now on it’s all about trade, expansion, solidifying alliances, and gaining the power and standing I need to be able to win this game in the long run.
The poorly-thought-out, entirely unfocused research and technology selection can stay, though. I mean, that’s kinda become my jam at this point.
The closing act for last episode was the successful founding of the Outpost of Fidèle, which — hopefully! — will soon grow into the full-fledged Colony of Fidèle. Located such that its basic area of influence completely encompasses the western land entrance into my domain, my hope is that this hill-bound city can expand into a gateway of hub of sorts: both an outgoing port of call for Trade Convoys, Explorers, Colonists, and whatever soldiers I decide to send forward later on, and the Iron Gates of Justice for any enemies, aliens, and alien enemies that figure they can take a shot at me.
In order for that vision to come to pass, though, this city will need to be Strong, and it will need to be Big. Related to the first goal, I send both units of Marines to act as the Outpost’s temporary defense. We can work on getting more powerful defensive units here later, but this should serve nicely if those Manticores decide try any shit. I’m pretty sure my Tacjets can keep whatever alien rabble shows up near my current empire under control quite handily. And as for the second goal, I pull my one current Worker off of Prospérité, where it just finished building a Manufactory, and into Fidèle. Fidèle’s very first claimed hex contains a mass of alien food fungus: improving on that should both speed its development into an actual Colony, ánd boost that Colony’s population growth through Food.
That Manufactory, by the way? Not a fan. Sure, it provides a decent 2-Production boost to the tile it’s on, I can respect that. It also comes at the cost of 1 Health, however. And if I already wasn’t too happy about the Health cost of the Petroleum well, a vital strategic resource… Plus, and this is probably the pettiest complaint of all, but the Manufactory is just kind of ugly. Here, look at it:
Hey, wouldn’t you know it: all three of my major cities finish their construction projects within one turn of each other. In Prospérité, I decide to offset the Health cost of that giant smoking factory by building a long-overdue Pharmalab. In Aintza, fresh off a new Worker — who immediately gets to work cleaning up the last Siege Worm’s mess — I decide to follow up on the Health cost of the Petroleum well by building a Production- and Energy-boosting Petrochemical Plant, hoping against hope that the quest that calls for one of these to exist in Le Coeur will turn out not that picky. And in Le Coeur, I take the first actual step towards working up my military by queuing up two squads of Armor, the tier-two tank team.
Time passes, numbers tick down, and I turn my attention to my one remaining living Explorer. My discovering anything about this world is all up to you, little guy! I’ve sent this Explorer in a southwestern direction, hoping to find a good way into the Slavic Federation’s lands. The fact that I don’t know where these guys are located, exactly, and what it is they’re doing irks me. And if push comes to shove, I need to know at least where to send my soldiers. Without them, I dunno, being eaten by alien sea dragons or whatever.
You laugh, now, but it turns out not all Terra Atlantea coasts are as hospitable as mine was. For instance, this is what Explorer finds only a few dozen hexes out of ARC’s lands:
I really shouldn’t be landing on this coast, should I? So many aliens… on the other hand, ever since the completion of the Ultrasonic Fence, the aliens have been pretty mellow as far as aggression goes. Maybe they’ve forgiven and forgotten my earlier outbursts? And besides, if I let the aliens dictate where I can and cannot go on this world, I might as well pack my shit in and go live in a cave somewhere.
For my bravery, Explorer is rewarded with a single glimpse of a strange alien structure of some kind. Is that… ADVISR calls it an ‘alien nest’, and I can’t think of any way to describe it that doesn’t involve the words ‘festering boil’. I’d love to get a closer look, but alas: a nearby pack of Raptor Bugs takes affront, and the Last Of The Explorers is no more.
Somewhat exciting news on the Virtue front, for once. I select the new Virtue I’ve been awared with the same detached interest I’ve held towards this system so far…
…before remembering that, they, Virtues are kind of Franco-Iberia’s thing, aren’t they? Didn’t I get something cool every set number of Virtues? Something like… a totally free Technology, every ten Virtues? That was it, wasn’t it?
Of course, what actually happens is less of me remembering this randomly, and more of me selecting the Virtue and then suddenly spotting a ‘Pick Your Free Technology’ prompt in the lower right’s For-Your-Attention queue. It sounds like the world’s most unconvincing spam message, but it’s entirely legit: I’ve ethics’d my way into scientific advancement!
Faced with this overwhelming selection of free possible technologies, I am… well, overwhelmed. Wow, I actually don’t know which one to pick. This one looks cool, this one looks cool, this one looks cool… this technology looks immediately applicable, but it’s also really cheap. Do I really want to use my Free Technology bonus for that? This technology is incredibly expensive, but I don’t immediately see how it’s connected to what I’ve been doing so far. This technology holds a cool Wonder I’d want to own, but wait a minute, didn’t someone else already build that? And so on, and so forth.
In the end, I opt for the Nanotechnology technology. It’s one of the more expensive technologies, and it holds both a cool regular building and a cool Wonder nobody’s gotten to yet, I’m pretty sure. The associated leaf technologies aren’t all that interesting, being respectively Purity- and Harmony-aligned, and researching Nanotechnology is apparently a big milestone in the Purity-associated victory ‘Promised Land’… so it’s probably fair to say that this technology selection hardly helped me at all! Wow, I’m getting buyer’s remorse after five seconds. That’s gotta be some kind of sad record.
Alright, my trading empire is more or less set up. Time to resume building cool buildings! In Prospérité, I follow up a long-overdue Earth Relic — why haven’t I been focusing on Culture to the exclusion of everything else, again? — with a recently souped-up Alien Preserve building. While in Le Coeur, fresh off the heels of two groups of tanks…
Alright, fine. I guess I’ll look into what this whole thing means.
Long story short: I was right, last episode, when I called Intrigue as being ‘related to cool spy stuff’. Basically, the gist of it is that once you build a ‘national wonder’ called the Spy Agency, you can start recruiting covert operatives and sending them on missions. Steal credits, steal research, steal technology… a whole lot of stealing, at first glance. Which operations are available in which cities depends on that city’s ‘Intrigue Level’, which is represented by those diamonds in the city HUD. High Intrigue means dangerous operations, so I should probably be worried that Le Coeur’s Intrigue seems to be steadily rising.
Intrigue can be counteracted by… assigning some of your own operatives as ‘counter-agents’ inside a city. Which means I’ll need operatives of my own. Which means I’ll need to build a Spy Agency of my own. Which means I’ll need to research… oh, Computing! Didn’t I get a quest to research Computing, way back when? Come to think of it, that quest was clearly spy-themed and -related, as well. I guess I ignored the explicit bread crumb trail, huh?
I’ll put Computing next on the study list, then.
Anyway, back on point: I didn’t even build a basic Laboratory in Le Coeur yet. Wow, that seems like an oversight and then some. I add the three-turn Laboratory to the build queue. That build time coincides almost exactly with the completion of Collaborative Thought, meaning I can start work on the Precog Project wonder next.
Contrary to what you might expect, Le Coeur’s two tank teams are not going to be relegated to either city defense or alien killing. No, rather, I have a different plan in mind for them: armed exploration. My expansion plans are far from done, colony-wise, and I think it’d be really good for me to settle a colony on the southern island past Alien Bridge. Which means… not clearing Alien Bridge, gods no, that sounds like an awful chore. But previous adventures in exploration have shown that the sea-borne route to Southern Island is pretty clear. My plan is to send my tanks there, by boat and by wheels, and have them safeguard and (if necessary) clear out a good colony spot.
As my tanks embark on their exploration and my research into Computing spins up, I can’t help but keep wondering about that Intrigue. And about the Covert Ops I apparently spotted, but could not identify. What do you suppose happened, those two times? I don’t think I actually saw any of my stockpiles go down, or anything like that. No technologies were lost, no Energy is mysteriously gone, all my units are still there… was it all information-gathering? Or is there a deeper, more sinister plan at work?
And more to the point, who do you suspect is the mastermind behind the operations? Or are the masterminds, possibly. It’s tempting to point the finger of blame at Vadim Kozlov: I hate him, after all, and my denouncing means it’s not unlikely he hates me right back. But a brief look at the score list shows that everyone but me has access to a Spy Headquarters already. Which means anyone with an axe to grind could have their spies three layers deep inside my cities without me knowing about it. Maybe Rejinaldo, maybe Hutama, maybe Kavitha… maybe even Daoming.
I’ll tell you who I’m not suspecting, though. Samatar has been nothing but a sweetheart to me this entire game; why would he be spying on me? And Suzanne… it’s odd, because normally, I would totally have pegged the espionage-heavy ARC as a likely suspect. But Suzanne’s opinion of me has only been trending upward the past couple of turns. I mean, only just now, she commended me for being friends with Samatar.
And… you know what? I’m just going to put this new friendship to the distance test. I call up Suzanne — “Hey”, “Hey”, “What’s up?” — and, as with Samatar before her, offer her a no-strings-attached military Alliance. Friends for life, am I right or am I right? And as I put that offer forward, Suzanne replies with…
Aw yeah. Whoever’s sending out this rotten spy-work had better beware. Because These Allies Three are nothing to mess with.