First Turns: The Empire Of The Birds

Most wars are won or lost long before the fighting starts. This series concentrates only on those critical few turns leading up to the Ship Limit as a key to achieving long-term goals necessary for victory.

Overview:

The Bird Empire, like the Crystals, has the weakest economy of any race in the Echo Cluster. For their survival they rely on the justly dreaded Dark Wing, the only cloaking battleship; however, absent extreme luck, they will rarely produce enough before the Ship Limit — and, even if they do, the ability to cloak gives a battleship no extra survivability against heavy carriers. The Birds have little hope in direct combat.

Which is why their ship list and abilities were designed to excel in indirect tactics.

There are few raiding forces as deadly as a flock of early-game Swifts, Deth Speculas, and Resolutes. A targeted enemy’s entire economy can be captured or destroyed at will; the Bird Empire’s ship and planet count can be doubled with relative ease. After all, who needs their own economy when instead they can simply conquer someone else’s?

For Bird commanders to be effective late in the war, they must seize a massive advantage in the opening turns. Before the Ship Limit hits, they should have constructed or captured three or more alchemy ships, several freighters, a large number of cloaking scouts to facilitate early exploration, several well-armed Resolutes, and as many combat-ready Dark Wings as practicable, all while generating multiple starbases which they must use to clog the Queue. For the Bird Empire to have a fighting chance, the Ship Limit should be reached before Turn 30.

Rules Of Expansion:

Although one can’t manufacture good natives out of thin air, they aren’t the only income available. Every commander should start by building 100+ factories at each neighboring world. The price of a factory is repaid after four turns of production, so it’s a foolish general indeed who fails to build the maximum as soon as practicable.

The Birds have two additional methods to generate cash: simple theft and outright conquest. Their Super Spy mission can be used to convert an enemy world’s Friendly Code to BUM, which ideally should permit the theft of not only cash but also fuel and minerals as needed. Against an unfortified adversary, of course, it is often far wiser to capture their developed worlds en masse; even a weakly armed Deth Specula or Resolute is more than a match for any planet it’s likely to encounter early on.

The scattered nature of Bird income will demand dedicated vessels on regular routes to collect and deliver supplies (converted to MegaCredits) and loot to your early starbases. The only existing hull that can travel indefinitely at high speeds without burning fuel is the Neutronic Fuel Carrier; you’ll want at least one early on and more as things progress — though to be sure they can be built easily with banked PBP, particularly immediately after the Ship Limit.

Because you rely on top-level engines for your NFCs, Swifts, and freighters, you’ll want to seek out a nearby Ghipsoldal world for early production. A rather more distant Humanoid starbase can be invaluable for the construction of pre-Limit alchemy ships. In Classic, one might profitably send engines between them on recyclable NFCs, particularly as even Dark Wings only need two engines; doing so via a Siliconoid base that constructs disposable Deth Speculas armed with Mk8s is amazingly useful if it can be accomplished before the Limit.

(Remember that in Classic, one can usefully bank a maximum of 20 PBP pre-Limit.)

One final note: Many commanders waste their early funds on nonessentials, such as excessive mines on mineral-poor worlds and Defense Posts where they’re not needed. While a degree of secrecy ought to be maintained by concealing your expansion from your neighbors, if you move with sufficient celerity, you ought to be able to both claim territory and land a powerful early strike before you are detected even without resorting to such expedients.

Gambits:

  1. Gunboat Diplomacy: Early expansion into a neighbor’s immediate vicinity and even rear areas can be an effective method for forcibly encouraging their cooperation. It is important to secure territory early, but having an ally with no choice but to support your agenda can be invaluable. Choose your target wisely.

    Should your first target be unwilling to negotiate, aggressive commerce raiding is a fine way to twist their arms. Any freighter you capture is profit, true, but it also counts as leverage; all things being equal, someone with no ships and therefore no economy will be less apt to resist your perfectly reasonable suggestions for accommodation.
  2. Headshot: It is within the capacity of an aggressive Bird commander to land a deadly headshot against a vulnerable (non-Empire) neighbor using two Mk4 Resolutes or Deth Speculas. Even if not actually fatal, this will cripple their production. Just against the starbase, a single Deth will burn up 20 torpedoes in the attack; if freighters or logistics ships get in the way, more ammo will get burned. If your neighbor is an early developer, you may even need to tow a Merlin clear; that will eat up 35 Mk4s. Please note that high-tech beams are almost unnecessary for such a strike; particularly when leading with a deliberate sacrifice ship, Plasma Bolts, X-Rays, or even Lasers will do all the damage you need.

    A truly ambitious Bird might construct these vessels on turns 3 and 4, sending one in each direction. Remember, though: It’s pointless to kill your neighbor if it’s his other neighbor and not you that takes the territory.
  3. Hidden Growth: Multiple lightly-armed cloakers are used for concealed expansion to every neighboring cluster, particularly those in the direction of your neighbors. Every viable world should get four Colonists plus a factory; only the best native worlds get more. Set PE to engage any of the three HYP probe races; rush for the end of the constellation and as close to the enemy’s homeworld as practicable.

    Beam weapons can be kept light since anything more powerful than a Plasma Bolt is likely to destroy a chance-encountered Medium freighter. Mk4 torpedo tubes are best for these ships, as minerals are far more common than cash while one is out exploring. Bring some spare MC for torpedoes; the hold is for Colonists.

Construction:

Remember the initial goals: three to four alchemy ships, sufficient freighters, a large number of cloaking scouts, several well-armed Resolutes, and as many combat-ready Dark Wings as practicable, all while generating multiple starbases to clog the Queue. The first Merlin is almost a simple matter if one hoards Duranium and hauls it back on empty freighters, but acquiring enough cash for torpedo and engine tech in order to build combat-worthy Dark Wings early on will be extremely difficult. Nevertheless, there’s little choice; it simply must be done.

Clogging the ship queue is also essential. In Classic, one can spam SDSFs at secondary starbases, but either there or in Standard, setting up a Ghipsoldal freighter factory and a Humanoid base to produce the remaining low-tech alchemy ships is of vital importance. Most of the minerals will be too far from the homeworld for all construction to take place there, even if one could build multiple ships per base per turn — which one can’t.

As a fallback, it’s possible to profitably construct Swifts with low-grade engines at secondary bases, and in tight-knit clusters it’s perfectly reasonable to use freighters with a max speed of Warp 7. For the most part, though, it will be necessary to overtax natives, tax outgoing Colonists, and above all to thoroughly dominate at least one neighbor in order to have all that’s needed to build a successful empire.

Conclusion:

The Bird Empire is the most difficult race to develop, much less win with. One must begin with a highly aggressive, conquest-oriented attitude, and pursuing continual planetary expansion to the Ship Limit and beyond is a necessary goal.


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