This was our third game of Space Empires 4X with the Close Encounters expansion. The first session I managed to blitz past my sons defenses with a stack of cloaked destroyers thanks to the “Cloaking Geniuses” Empire advantage. The second session my son went all in with an all-destroyer fleet and large amounts of ship yards. I didn’t even need my “Star Knights” empire advantage and my son’s “Nan-technology” which allowed him to freely update his existing ships proved to be more of a distraction.
So I was a little worried. What if this game is too complex for my son to really get the hang of? What if it ends up being too demoralizing for him to play it? I decided for the third game to (again) not use my Empire Advantage at all in order to balance things out, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough.
In the opening stages I moved out into deep space and quickly colonized four alien worlds. This made all my heavy cruisers able to take an additional hit thanks to the Emissive Armor I acquired, and another card gave me dreadnoughts that cost four less than usual. I had a significant economic advantage to this fancy tech.
Meanwhile my son was building ship yards and a massive fleet again. He forgot to build an exploration cruiser for it so he just sat there paying maintenance on it. This looked like a really weak strategy to me. He even scuttled his scouts again instead of exploring a little bit with them. He kept saying he had a surprise for me and when he was finally ready to make a move, it turned out there were four alien worlds blocking his fleet from coming at me!
So I had two fleets moving towards his space, including some Attack-3, Move-3 Dreadnoughts. I was sure that I was about to burn his colonies. Then he’d be stuck with huge maintenance costs and I would have an economic victory no matter how things shook out.
But things didn’t turn out that way. His star fleet began moving across the board, ignoring my invasion. I thought this was odd. I broke in and tore up a colony. I saw these two counters there and just assumed that they were nothing special. I did not consolidate my fleets, I just began burning down maybe three or four different worlds.
The two counters I ignored turned out to be a Titan loaded with three fighter counters. My units were no match for them. I thought my other forces could handle them, but… they proved almost impossible to hit. I was sure for some reason that a few veteran dreadnoughts could take one down…. It turned out that no, they couldn’t really.
This was a disaster. I thought I could still burn down some colonies with what I had left thanks to my superior mobility, but the terrain was not conducive to that. I was trying to figure how things could go so wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out. (My son explained later that he had saved back a lot of coin, built up ship yards, and bought ship yard tech. This allowed him to put up a much stronger defense than I expected he could.)
Meanwhile, his masterpiece of fleet design was headed my way. Two Titans, six fighters, and an exploration cruiser. I still thought I had this, though. I built mines and my son had no idea how well those would work. I knew his plan. He was going straight for my home world. He got next to it and then… he used his “Powerful Psychis” empire advantage to see what I had. He knew not to walk into my trap!
So he went around my home world while I built up one last fleet of my own. He blew up two of my colonies with his Titans… and then another pair of Titans were starting to threaten my deep space colonies in the middle of the board.
I had four green dreadnoughts and four skilled dreadnoughts. This looked good to me. I attacked and just barely took out that fleet at a cost of five of my units. But then I realized we were fighting in an asteroid hex and neither of us should have gotten modifiers for our attack technology. I looked at the rules for the titans again looking for some way to kill them and then realized I was wrongly taking a fleet size bonus against them when I shouldn’t.
I conceded right there because my fleet was completely outclassed.
We talked for nearly an hour about all mistakes I made. Failing to concentrate my attack fleet was just really, really dumb. And my son tried to tell me, but I probably should have been buying fighters instead of mines. And titans instead of dreadnoughts. And having Movement-2 instead of Defense-3 was very, very costly to me. My ships died in droves and my mobility just didn’t buy me a whole lot this time!
But yeah, I really failed to anticipate how many titans my son could field and what all they could do. They neutralized my fleet’s advantages, my alien technologies, and my production advantage. That’s just huge! It took a lot of discipline for him to hold back is fleet from combat until he could make his surprise count for something. Once he’d cold cocked me, he managed to capitalize on my mistakes while not making any of his own. Finally, his empire advantage meant I couldn’t spring any significant traps in return.
So yes, my son can get the hang of this game and doesn’t need any sort of handicap to keep it interesting. I did show him the empire advantage that I didn’t use, though: the “Industrious Race” card that would have let me colonize asteroids. I could have been getting half again as much income if I’d had that! And it would even allow me to colonize the asteroid hexes created by the titans blowing up planets!
So great game here. There’s lots more to do with this, too. Even without the advanced expansion rules we still haven’t played boarding ships, reaction movement, or fast battlecruisers. I’m definitely looking forward to the next big space battle with this. And now that my son has totally crushed his old man, he is as well!