Jarenth Plays Civilization: Beyond Earth — Episode 23: Onward And Upward

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I survived Hutama’s dastardly and unprovoked attack on colonies that are entirely mine, have always been mine, and history books will show were never initially his to begin with. Sure, Hutama took one of those mine-not-his colonies for himself… but between me repelling a secondary attack on Gran Éxito, Samatar and Suzanne going to war on my behest, and me spending Energy like a drunken sailor on shore leave to rapidly build a sizable army — so nothing like a sailor on shore leave at all, then — I don’t really see this unlawful occupation lasting longer than a handful of turns. At best.

I mean, I don’t see Hutama’s entire civilization lasting more than a handful of turns at best, at this point. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves re: the terrible vengeance I intend to wreak. Take back colony first, stomp Hutama into dirt and cinders second.

As if on cue, this Virtue appeared! I didn’t take it, but you can rest assured I was *tempted*.

Alright, let’s see. My first target right now is… Rahi, Hutama’s city closest to Aintza. You may remember me admiring Hutama’s guff in placing an Outpost so close to my land, and letting the Outpost prosper into a city out of the kindness of my heart. Clearly, this was a mistake, and now Rahi’s city defense guns are blocking access to most of the small island housing both it and Maeva.

I have my Arbiters at the ready to pound Rahi’s defenses into rubble. I have Shepherd-class carriers with Heralds ready to run air defense, and/or to snipe distant targets before they become a problem. I have Apostles, I have Executors, I have Prime CNDRs. This city doesn’t stand a goddamn chance.

Just to unbalance the odds a little more in my favour, I deploy a unit I’ve had sitting in reserve for a while: a Tacnet Hub satellite that I build in Fidèle way, way back. The Tacnet Hub provides combat buffs and extra healing to all my units under its moderate area of effect, and the lack of satellites over Rahi means I can put it up more or less directly above it.

Because what I really need in this situation is *more power*.

Launching this satellite completes a Quest? Somehow?

I completely forgot I ever got this.

And with that… let’s begin!

[cavalry bugle sound]

To say that Rahi drops like a chump would be underselling the experience a little. It takes me all of two turns to reduce the city defenses to zero. I won’t say the operation is entirely without risk: both Rahi’s rocket batteries and Hutama’s… Punisher? Is that right? Both Rahi’s rocket batteries and Hutama’s artillery unit, the ‘Punisher’, pack a significant punch. Poor Tacnet Hub, launched partially to solidify my victory and partially to brag, quickly falls to the Punisher’s anti-orbital strike. Yeah, turns out artillery units can destroy satellites from close range. I knew that, which is to say that I ‘knew’ that… it just hasn’t ever come up as a factor. Sorry, lil’ satellite.

But beyond that, my conquest of Rahi is relatively straightforward. The fight is so attention-un-demanding, in fact, that I spend more of my turns dealing with the hustle and bustle of my still-quite-active empire than I do fighting battles.

For instance, another one of these just popped up!

Honestly, the single hardest part of conquering Rahi is actually conquering it. As I’ve mentioned before, only melee units can actually take a city. And I have melee units, sure, Apostles and CNDRs both. But assaulting a coastal city like Rahi is a little trickier than taking a straight land city: performing a city attack from an ocean tile incurs a -50% ‘amphibious attack’ combat strength penalty, which increases the difficulty of actually doing it… but moving your units onto land in order to avoid that eats up their whole movement for the turn, leaving them defenseless in the face of city rocket fire.

And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times: city rocket fire is *nothing* to mess with.

I still win, of course. Of course I still win. You really think this was ever in doubt? Let me tell you how certain a deal this attack was: my victory over this dumb little city was so assured that Hutama hasn’t sent more than a single perfunctory unit to ‘defend’ it. I know he has airplanes and soldiers and that whole Cruiser fleet, probably lying just outside of Maeva. But to use those in the vain defense of a city I’m going to conquer anyway? Say what you want about Hutama, but he’s smarter than that. This was a sacrifice, nothing more.

Or maybe, as an alternative read, Hutama’s confident that he’ll be able to win Rahi back from me later? I actually kinda hope that that’s his reasoning, because if that’s the case, I’m about to add some much-deserved insult to this injury. See, I don’t actually need this city for anything: it doesn’t claim any interesting resources, it doesn’t project any force I can’t already get out of Aintza and Gran Éxito, and it’s only useful as a military outpost for a force looking to attack me. So guess what I’m doing with this city once I get my hands on it?

‘When in doubt, set something on fire.’

I take a snapshot of the burning remnants of Rahi to send to Hutama. I caption it ‘Wish You Were Here’. He doesn’t reply.

Yeah, taking Rahi sure was quick and painless! I lost a small handful of units, but beyond that…

Honestly, there’s only one casualty in this war that’s really worth mentioning. Not a unit, or a city, not even an alien. No, the one thing I hadn’t expected to die in this war of mine is my long-standing friendship with Samatar.

No. No, Sammy. Not you too.

After decades of friendship and collaboration, even without any Trading Routes to sweeten the deal, Samatar Jama Barre has decided he no longer wishes to associate with me. Not as an ally, not as a cooperation partner. Hardly as a friend, soon after. And… I kinda saw this coming? Like Suzanne, Samatar follows the Harmony Affinity, which means their wrong choice of life path was always going to clash with my correct one. That said…

Suzanne broke off her alliance with me partially because of the Affinity mismatch, but that wasn’t everything. She and I and Samatar and I had a few Alliance-refresh-moments when we were all already pretty deep into our chosen Affinities. For Suzanne, the breaking point wasn’t reached until my ‘aggressive settling of new cities’ became too much for her to bear. Looks like she already got over that, actually, looking at the Diplomacy screen? But the damage has been done: Samatar’s breaking point for turning his back on me is apparently Suzanne’s earlier condemnation of me. ‘Factions they like better than you have condemned you.’ Thanks a bundle, Suzanne. You cost me my best friend.

I’m saddened by this development, but alright. Okay, sure, if that’s how it’s gonna be. I didn’t need any friends, anyway. You guys were only slowing me down.

Still a little absent-minded, I start moving my soldiers towards their next engagement. You guys go here, you guys move this way, you guys over at Le Coeur go… wait a second, since when do I have soldiers at Le Coeur? I’m pretty sure I moved every available unit to the vicinity of Rahi before I started my attack.

And yet, here you guys are.

Oh, I see. My ‘Recruit Defectors’ operation in Khrabrost has concluded, that’s what just happened. And I got a few cool soldiers out of it. Neat!

…Except that in the conclusion of the operation, agent Tabora — my Khrabrostian operative — got identified. And shot at. And killed. Dang.

It doesn’t take Vadim long to call me. He is ‘understandably’ a little upset about this 100% undeniable piece of proof that I was up to no good in his capital. And by that I mean that he probably knew, he must have known, just like I know for a fact that he has an operative stationed in Le Coeur. But feigning distress at discovery is part and parcel of the game, I suppose.

Guess which dialogue option I picked here.

I honestly don’t know how upset I should be about this. Agent Tabora was a higher-level operative, leveled up through successive completed operations… but I don’t know to what degree that influences anything? It didn’t stop her from getting killed in the end, that’s for sure. I’m annoyed that I’m now down one special agent, but I can’t make the fact that this one was supposed to be ‘more valuable’ than others stick in my mind.

I start making my move on Maeva, adding another Gran Éxito-bought Arbiter to the mix. Better safe than sorry, am I right? I mean, I’m pretty sure my navy at this point is much more powerful than Hutama’s: last time I checked, all he had going for him were non-Affinity-upgraded Cruisers, tier 2 boats at best. But then again, that was a little while ago… and a lot can happen in a handful of turns. And it certainly wouldn’t do for me to confidently sail my small army into his waters, only to see them shredded to bits within turns.

It’s for that same reason I’ve quite hesitant to use my seaborne Heralds for anything other than air defense. The one turn I didn’t, using them to attack Hutama’s Punisher instead, the Arbiter nearest Freeland was immediately hit with two Needlejet strafing runs. Which wasn’t enough to kill it, so, good waste of your element of surprise there, yobbo. But it does serve of a grim reminder of what could happen unless I keep a good air vigil going.

Luckily, my Heralds are so much more advanced than his Needlejets that once I *do* resume my good air vigil…

Okay, I mean, I don’t have to always use all my Heralds for defense. I can see Hutama has no air force in Maeva or Freeland, because if he had, they’d show up as little numbers above the city. Which means the currently launching planes are probably stationed in another, yet unseen city… which means he can only have three of them at any given time. Which means I can afford to use one Herald to bomb this goofy-looking boat of his.

i.e. I just wanted an excuse to work this action shot in.

Yeah, see, look? Upgraded boats. Access to the tier 3 Purity Gunboats, ‘Destroyers’, theoretically puts Hutama’s power level on par with mine. Told you I was right to be careful!

Strangely, though, Hutama seems to only have… one? Of these Destroyers. Whereas during his war declaration in the previous episode, he had no less than four Cruisers. Where did the rest of those ships go? One of them got bombed during its failed attack on Gran Éxito… but I have no idea about the rest. Maybe he’s keeping them in hiding? I see the shadow of one of them just outside Freeland. Or maybe Samatar and Suzanne were actually more useful allies than I gave them credit for?

‘Were’, yes. Hutama has long since made peace with both of them. I don’t know if he offered them similarly insulting ‘peace offers’, the way he keeps offering me, but I can only assume he was a little more lenient with them.

Well, regardless. Hutama has only a small number of boats, one or two ranged units, three Needlejets — all moved to Maeva now, in a somewhat impressive feat of pattern prediction by the AI — and a whole mess of melee units that I don’t know what tier they are. ‘Battlesuits’, huh. I’m pretty sure those aren’t standard Soldiers with Purity upgrades. Purity-Unique units, maybe? I’d poke fun at the fact that they’re ‘just’ humanoid soldiers with silly flags, but my initial unique unit is just a humanoid robot and that’s it.

Little envious of the flags, I’ll tell you.

Pretty sure I can take down all of those regardless of how cool they may or may not be.

And if Hutama wants to play the technological advancement game, I’m more than happy to match him step for step. My next Supremacy-related scientific advancement is still quite a ways out, but there are other ways of gaining that much-needed Supreme EXP.

For instance, I could complete a quest!

I guess!

(Future Jarenth’s note: Little behind-the-scenes action for you here: a thing that occasionally happens with my reliance on Fraps’ auto-screenshot function is that, every now and again, I’ll mess up for a little while and find I didn’t capture a certain bit of time. And sometimes, what’ll happen is that certain plot-critical elements — like, say, receiving a new Supremacy Quest, in which I’m tasked to build four CEL Cradle buildings in four cities — are overlooked. And then I’ll forget them entirely, only remembering that these were things that existed when I run across the impact of them in a later series of screenshots.

Or, in summary: I got this Quest, I don’t remember when, but it was a period of time I didn’t properly screenshot. It was about building buildings. I completed it just now. You didn’t miss much. Back to the show!)

Level 13 in Supremacy means my Prophet tank vehicle — that hasn’t even seen action once — is upgraded again, into its tier 4-incarnation of Redeemer. Look at this sexy, sexy bastard. Not only is at almost twice as strong as the Prophet, and with a higher movement allowance, but it also comes with a sweet suite of additional tricks: it ignores zones of control while moving — no idea what that even means, but the other perk was even less worthwhile — it can traverse difficult terrain at 1 Movement point each, no matter what it’s crossing… and oh yeah, it can levitate over ocean tiles.

That’s right. Hover tank, mother botherers!

Level 13 in Supremacy is an important waypoint for another, entirely different reason, though: it means I can start trying to win the game.

Remember when I was talking about Beyond Earth’s victory conditions, a couple episodes ago? While the three Affinity-related victories each have a somewhat different overall structure, they all share one common barrier near the end: a player has to reach level 13 in their chosen Affinity to be able to proceed. Once that hurdle’s cleared, and assuming the correct research has been done — that was Hypercomputing for me — the player gains the ability to build a giant on-map building, a ‘Planetary Wonder’, that… in some way feeds into winning the game. I’m not entirely sure on the how or why of it yet, because this is the first time I’m even reaching this point. But reach it I did: I hit Supremacy Level 13, and now I can start construction on the Emancipation Gate.

As both evidenced and explained here.

The Gate is built on the map outside on of your cities. I build it near Le Coeur, because of course I build it near Le Coeur. Where else would I try to score my ultimate victory if not there?

Well, one possible good reason for opting to go somewhere else with this is that Le Coeur isn’t exactly my most Production-heavy city. With disappointing terrain and a lot of Food-focused resources, it’s never been the best at getting things done quickly. And because of that, the Emancipation Gate project will take a whopping 78 turns to complete.

Yeah. If I don’t improve Le Coeur’s Production, drastically, I’ll be at this Lets Play for quite a while. I briefly consider filling all of Le Coeur’s empty workable tiles with Terrascapes, which provide +2 Production each… at the cost of six Energy per turn each. And I like Energy. Energy helps me win wars.

No, instead, I opt to fill up all of Le Coeur’s empty workable tiles with… Manufactories. They provide +3 Production each, at the cost of only one Energy per turn… and one negative Health, for each one I build.

But let’s be real: I am never, *ever* getting that Health back into the green, anyway.

Let’s leave the Gate construction running in the background, and check in on my war against Hutama the Soon-To-Be-Doomed.

Yup, still going on.

Okay, but in all honesty: the war against Hutama is slow, careful, and boring. Hutama has a bunch of units guarding his main coast line that I can’t really afford to mess up around, like his Punisher artillery units and his Needlejets. But as long as I take care not to make any overt mistakes… I’m never actually in any real kind of danger.

I could tell you about the Franco-Iberian – Polystralian war in extensive detail, if I wanted to. I have the records handy to go blow by blow. But the reality of the situation is that we’ve hit that unavoidable part in any Civilization-type game where all of this low-level play starts mattering less. The individual actions that go into running an empire, the decisions of what to build and where to colonize and which Quest reward to take and which unit to have attack which other unit, all slowly get subsumed into the larger running narrative of ‘fighting my enemy’ and ‘trying to win’. A similar thing happened in Warlock, for those of you who were there to read that.

So instead of boring all of you to tears with in-depth descriptions of every of the next ten turns or so of combat, here’s a summary:

First, I kick Hutama’s defensive forces — such as they are — off of the island that houses Maeva. Since I’ve already destroyed his navy, apparently, there’s basically nothing he can do to stop me. He could roll his Punishers out of their protective city shells, but that would mean opening them up to my Arbiters and my Herald bombardments. And he knows this. So he doesn’t.

The one Lancer tank unit defending Maeva fights valiantly, but come on. It’s one tank unit.

With Hutama’s land and air forces gone, Maeva is ripe for the taking. I pound its walls into powder from the ocean, then surround it with my robotic land army.

Space for another cool robot action shot? Don’t mind if I do!

Also this asshole happens.

A little after-the-fact for him to condemn me about that spy business *now*, but I do like that he has a reason.

Despite Maeva’s AI trying its best, there is just no way it can take out all of my melee soldiers in time. Or any of them, for that matter: even an unupgraded city can be a threat of sorts to most lower-tier units, but these soldiers are are tier 4 and ready to rumble.

I take Maeva. Was that ever in doubt? Rather than turn it into a puppet city again, I elect to annex it this time. Nothing like a city I can actually control right across from Hutama’s capital, no?

I won’t actually gain full control over it for another dozen turns or so. But listen, that’s beside the matter.

With my forces thusly in place, I begin shelling Hutama’s mainland forces. And there’s not a damn thing he can do to stop me. Melee units are just not that good for defending coastlines, Hutama! No matter how cool your flags look, they’re not actually adequate defense against long-range plasma bombardment.

“Kill us if you must, but leave the flags alone!”

The shelling continues for three turns, as I heal up the rest of my army. That’s about how long it takes for me to kill every unit Hutama has in visual range.

TIME used HEAL! It’s super effective!

And that, as they say, is that. Eleven turns after my first offensive began, my armies are congregated in and around Maeva, now once more and forever my city. Hutama’s armies are ravaged, his cities surrounded, and his future highly uncertain.

Or, well, ‘highly uncertain’. I’m actually pretty certain what Hutama’s future will hold. Because unless something really crazy happens in the next handful of turns, I can’t really see the next episode being called anything other than ‘The One Where I Set Freeland On Fire And Force Hutama To Eat His Words, Also His Suit’.

Next episode: Pride goeth before the fall. Wait, whose pride?

7 comments

  1. “Bosun Jones, why is there an army on my ship?”

    “Worl, Cap’n, there was a man in the tavern, needed a quick sale, and I thought they might be useful, so…”

    “This is a ship, Bosun. Note the lack of barracks, and indeed an enemy to engage. What, exactly, are we going to do with them? Pillage some coral, hmmm? Execute a cunning pincer movement on a shoal of minnows? Well?”

    Bosun Jones looks down at the deck, shuffles his feet. The Captain’s face softens.

    “All right, you can keep them in the hold.”

    Bosun Jones looks up, his eyes sparkling. “You really mean it, Cap’n?”

    “You’re responsible for feeding them, and don’t come crying to me if you get accused of war crimes.”

    “Thank you, Cap’n! Thank you!”

    “Just get back to work.” The Captain turns, stares out over the ocean. “Damn that Jarenth and his thought-provoking similes.”

  2. I’m surprisingly excited to find out whose pride, and indeed whose fall, is in action here. The suspense is immense. On a possibly unrelated note, is your frankly dire health going to have some perceivable effect at some point? I can see why a society of robots might not have particularly high healthcare standards, but still…

    1. Negative Health impacts Science gain, Culture gain, resistance to Intrigue, and even Production a little bit at very high levels. You haven’t been ‘seeing’ much of it because number-crunching like that doesn’t really translate to LP storytelling well. Also, because I didn’t really notice it while playing, so there’s that.

  3. So a society that at one point watched all its citizens is now a society where all its citizens are of a collective consciousness. Was everyone melded together or is everyone Jarenth?

    1. Collective consciousness? You think I’m running some kind of Harmony outfit here? Take that collective unity snake oil to Suzanne and Samatar.

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