The Horwasps arrived in the Echo Cluster years ago, yet no proper guides about fighting against them were available — until now. The outcome is clear in games: Either the players fear the Horwasp too much and let them grow too strong, or they charge toward them recklessly, losing ships in vain.
My guide contains plenty of Horwasp information, but it is not a comprehensive instruction manual. Rather this is a strategic approach that I find efficient for managing the Horwasp threat. It can be concised into a handy acronym: SIR MF.
SIR – Scout, Impoverish, Restrict
The Horwasps are a peculiar race, because they can’t win allied victories or set Share Intel. They are capable of limited diplomacy via Safe Passage, and can be cooperated with. They have a lot to offer. But because of their restricted diplomacy, they are usually completely hostile. Their ships and planets attack you automatically, even if you don’t have fuel and without any mission or primary enemy set; if they can, they attack. And they are usually strongest in the beginning of the game.
When you encounter Horwasps, you probably have time to prepare for battle. You can block and restrain them with relatively few resources so that their attack won’t destroy your pre-Ship Limit economic development.
The most important things to do are:
- Scout the location of the Horwasp and the whereabouts of neighbouring natives and minerals,
- Impoverish the neighbouring terrain so that the Horwasp can’t develop,
- Restrict the Horwasp so they can’t reach you.
What if you hit the negative jackpot and are neighbour to Gnats? Well, you need to know some things. First of all: the tech levels on Horwasp vessels are based on the amount of clans on them. So even in the very beginning of the game, the Horwasp player only needs to produce something, load it full of clans and send it towards you shooting Mark 8 torpedoes and Heavy Phasers.
Take a moment to change into a clean pair of pants and then you can learn some more pleasant things:
Horwasp vessels are slow. Their most common warp settings are 6 and 7. They can overpower their engines, but there isn’t a lot of excess fuel around. This means the Horwasps are slower than you. You should be able to reach your border areas before the Gnats get there. That knowledge is extremely valuable.
The Horwasps don’t use money; their main currency is actually natives, as Jonnydoh suggests. Here’s how that works: They can’t grow population without them. Remember the movie Aliens? The Horwasp can only grow if they eat other races, mainly natives. If natives are not around, they can capture populations of other races and move them to small enclaves when they take over planets – but these amounts are small (10 percent of colonists) and it’s not at all an important source of population growth.
Natives are also needed for the Horwasps to be able to work. In order to do anything on planets apart from dying slowly, the Horwasps need to consume natives. The Horwasps can also build flying and moving stuff on their planets without the bother of building starbases. However, everything consumes Horwasp clans. So: no natives equals no growth, and no builds. Again, you can think of natives as Horwasp money. The more natives, the more money.
So what you need to do is to go to your border areas first and locate the natives. This way you can see which will be the most valuable planets for the Horwasps. Here is a handy table of natives and what each is worth for the Horwasps:
|Native||Growth bonus when harvested||Additional bonus|
|Reptilian||x3||Double mining rate.|
|Ghipsoldal||x3||Can launch Pods at warp 7.|
|Amorphous||x3||Can be harvested! They eat 30 Horwasp clans each turn, though.|
|Avian||x2||Native growth is +25%.|
|Insectoid||x1||Crappy natives, slow to harvest. Who likes Insectoids?|
|Siliconoid||x0||Cannot be harvested! Terrible. Must be exterminated with special worker mission, which is very slow.|
|Amphibian, Humanoid||x3||No special bonus.|
So now you know which planets are valuable for the Horwasps in a monetary sense.
So are those rocks with no natives useless for the Gnats? Not by a long shot. The Gnats need minerals. Each of their vessels need some of each mineral. Some bigger ones cost a lot, some very small ones just a little. Also, the more planets the Horwasp has, the more builds they can do.
When the Horwasp lands clans on the planet, if there are minerals, they can build something right away! But you can block this build extremely easily. Just pick up all the surface minerals of JUST ONE TYPE from the planet, and they can’t build anything for many turns. Beaming up all the fuel is also important, because the Horwasps dig minerals effectively only after there are thousands of clans on the ground.
And without natives, the working Horwasp population dies a little every turn. So the first attackers need to stop for clan and native transports from home (yes, they can transfer natives) or wait for native populations to be exploited for population growth. The first attackers need a lot of fuel; their weapons are powerful only if the vessels are full of clans and thus they are heavy.
Okay, now the Horwasp have arrived on the planets you’ve just visited and boy are they pissed! They can’t continue their trip right away. Instead, they have to sit down and start to exploit those natives. They will likely need to spend many turns before they can begin effectively digging minerals.
When they harvest, they will first produce larvae of the amount of clans they have on the planet multiplied by the native type. After 1 turn of larva life, those clans turn into full grown Horwasp workers, meaning it takes two turns for the population to actually grow. The old clans are multiplied – so for the growth to be fast, the Horwasp need to bring some clans with them.
After some population growth, in order to gain fuel, it’s often fastest for the Horwasp to liquidate some of their own clans (at max 10 percent rate each turn) and transform them into Neutronium. This will require several turns.
Thus, scouting and impoverishing stops the bugs, but only for a while. To stop their advance permanently, you need to kill the Horwasp population off from the key planets every now and then, so that their growth work is in vain. But how?! They’re eight feet tall, and shoot Mark 8s from their eyes and lightning bolts from their tails!
It’s true, you need to use something that can absorb a few Mark 8s. You need a capital ship, the best you’ve got, and well armed. If it’s a carrier, it needs to not run out of fighters. If it’s a battleship, it needs proper torpedoes. Forget Mark 4s, they won’t suffice. And forget medium ships; you’ll lose! On the other hand, you don’t need an armada, just a big enough ship to stomp those main bugs. Your Big Gun can also be towable, since the Horwasp cannot cloak and tow you away or alter battle order. So you’ll decide who fights and in which order.
The area you have chosen is the Kill Zone. Move into the Kill Zone planet cluster, attacking the key planets every now and then. You don’t need to hold them forever; just prevent the Horwasp from growing big. Remember, the larvae emerge the turn after they have been harvested, so if there were a lot of clans, you’ll have to wait a turn there to eliminate the new crop of Horwasps.
So to stop the Horwasp from sweeping over you right away in the beginning and stop the onslaught:
- Go to the border planets first. Check out where the natives are. Plan the Kill Zone.
- Pick up all of 1 mineral type and all the fuel. When you can, send natives into Civil War via overtaxation.
- Keep the key planets for the Horwasp dead and barren by attacking with a capital ship every now and then. Keep a picket line against enemy Pods. Keep over 100 LY distance to your important planets from the Kill Zone.
Let’s talk a little about Horwasp vessels and combat. That will help us better understand the reasons for maintaining a Kill Zone and a picket line.
First of all, it’s extremely important to understand the difference between a Ship and a Pod.
There are three war Ships that the Horwasp have: The Brood, the Jacker and the Soldier. (In the scoreboard these are counted as war ships.) They cost hundreds of minerals and thousands of clans to build, and can be filled with hundreds of clans. Their engines are always Quantum Drive 7. These can be flown like a regular Ship and shoot torpedoes, beams, and sometimes fighters. The Jacker shoots only torpedoes, but has a hardened hull so it shoots a ton of them before it can possibly be killed. Broods are the toughest; Soldiers are a bit lighter and can flank you. These you can see, watching as they slowly approach you, and pack the biggest punch. Your capital ships will swat them like flies – individually. But if a stack of Ships approaches, you’ll need to scratch your head a bit. Be careful: Horwasp ships yield very few priority points, which means that you’ll need to kill more than you lose. These are the baddest things you’ll face to start with. Do some simulator battles; they will tell you: Use your best gun and don’t run out of ammunition.
The other Horwasp vessels are Pods. (Most of them are seen on scoreboard as freighters.) These are not affected by the Ship Limit, so a smart Horwasp will use them more after the Ship Limit has been reached. They are mainly flimsy and cheap to build, both in clans and in minerals. Once built, they are assigned to a destination with a warp speed, and then the Pod is launched. Pods can’t be steered but will change course at an Accelerator (expensive immovable Pods in space, these add 25 kt fuel to ships each turn and increase pod speed by 50 percent). The other static Pods are Sentries (cheap beacons in space, sit in fixed positions, can be towed, refuel 5 kt of fuel each turn).
Horwasps don’t have freighters. Instead, they can send unarmed Nests with up to 1200 clans, Armoured Nests with 3 beams and up to 1800 clans, Farms with up to 12000 Native clans, supplies as Dung, and each mineral as a 1 to 1000 kt Rock. The Rocks have three main functions:
- Send minerals to a planet. (D’oh!)
- Scout an area (with even 1 mineral). The Horwasp can scan everything, even cloakers, but their scan range is short (150 LY).
- Send a 1000kt rock at, ideally, Warp 9 (via an accelerator) to destroy all Colonists on a target planet. This requires a lot of resources and a safe arrival, but it’s extemely fun for the Horwasp player. (Nyeh nyeh!)
All these non-weaponized Pods can only be seen by the enemy from 25 LY distance, or 30 if by an enemy ship with mission set to Sensor Sweep.
Weaponized Pods can be seen from 50 LY away, 60 if mission is Sensor Sweep. The Accelerators, Sentries and Armoured Nests mentioned above are all combat Pods, and so are Stingers. These are small Pods with up to 300 clans and beams and torpedoes enough to kill light ships and take over lightly defended planets. They are flimsy, and easy to intercept. Either medium Ships with good equipment or solid Starbases with fighters will take them down easily. You just need a picket line of planets and little Ships to know when they come. In the beginning of the game this can be hard; on the other hand, if your enemy wastes early resources on Stingers, he is probably not playing very well.
Protofields are Horwasp minefields. They need to be launched from a planet, which makes them vulnerable to interception unless the launch planet is set as the target. The size of the Protofield depends on clans used, and they can be counter-mined. Protofields work like this: When you fly through them, every lightyear some gremlins attach to your ship and cause damage every turn; a towed ship doesn’t get any gremlins, nor a ship that doesn’t move. Those gremlins can only be removed by the Starbase Fix command, although the ship crew can also remove 1 point of infection each turn. (So don’t fly around in a Protofield.) Protofields are primarily useful as anti-cloak weapons and can also stop an early rush with a capital ship.
Something to remember: If you destroy a Ship or a Pod, it’s clans are dispersed to all planets within a 100 LY radius, doing ground combat. (They also scout while dispersing.) Your starbases will need to have enough clans and defense posts to stop these ground assaults. This is one of the reasons why you need the Horwasp combat to happen in a designated Kill Zone on your border; another is to have enough space to see approaching Ships and Pods.
But the main reason for the designated Kill Zone is the Hives. (These count as Starbases on the scoreboard.) They are not affected by the Ship Limit, but instead limited by planet count. These are nightmare creatures — effectively heavy carriers that shoot torpedoes. They can fit 24000 clans and they can Swarm, dissolving the Hive to ground assault all the planets within a 100 LY radius with those 24000 clans or, instead aim all those clans at a single target.
Hives can move, but if loaded with 24000 clans it costs about 1300 kt of fuel to travel 49 LY. On the other hand, even if they don’t move much at all before they Swarm, their very existence will force you to maintain your important planets at least 100 LY away from the Horwasp planets. By doing this, you in turn force the Horwasp to attack with a large stack of warships and Hives filled with clans. Getting this into the Kill Zone requires tens of thousands of kilotons of fuel, and by the time he arrives, you might have another or more high-end ships ready. After all, the Horwasps are slow and you can see them coming.
So either the Horwasp does this large stack and hinders his own production pre-Ship Limit by using his fuel up on the stack of Ships sent only your way or the Horwasp, instead, chooses to leave you be, allowing you to develop and build normally. This is also good for you, as your high end Ships probably trump his.
If you don’t do the SIR, then a single Brood can quickly colonize a planet cluster and then they start to spew out new Horwasp vessels right next to your home.
MF – Maneuver and Fight to force Fail
With SIR, you can stop the Horwasp from advancing with relatively few resources, build your own economy pre-Ship Limit, and keep on playing normally. But in order to conquer the Horwasp, you need a bad MF.
With any race your primary strength is being faster than the Horwasp. The Horwasp has some other serious weaknesses, too; for instance, they lack alchemy ships. Either they build attack Ships and send resources to the front or they build Hives and Protofields to their home area. But they can’t do both — not well.
- So flank the Horwasp and threaten his home. If he puts up defenses, you have just caused the enemy to stop resupplying his front.
- Intercept the pods. Especially if shot through an accelerator, they all use the same flight path.
- The Horwasp transfers his warships to the front empty to save fuel and fills them at the front from natives there. Intercept those ships when they cross a large gap in space empty! Then, you’ll face those when they have only Mark 1 weapons.
Fight to force Fail
I believe all Horwasp games are FoF games. The core worlds, when under an imminent threat of an assault, might be filled with Hives. Let them be! Fight war Ships when you can surely win to gain priority points, but avoid these Hives. Scout areas and take planets; the amount of Hives is limited by planet count. Time is your friend. FoF will finish the Horwasp.
Use your specialty!
Each race of the Echo Cluster has special abilities and ships that really suck from the Horwasp point of view. Exploit them fully! In general, carrier races are stronger against ships, but with cloakers it’s easier to scout enemy planets and tow ships away from stacks.
You are very well equipped to create high tech weaponry. Quantum torpedoes work great.
You are quick to get resources for high tech weaponry. Use cloak to tow enemy ship stacks apart for destruction. Ground assault bonus is useful both for attack and defense against emerging larva and ground assaults.
Tow those stacks apart, flank those supply lines. You need to not let Horwasp get to you; you lack a good enough capital ship for direct combat.
Double beams are great! Also, you can POP amorphous natives. Pillage works well. Ground combat bonus helps. You can tow the stacks apart, scout their planets. Planetary Immunity is fun; they can’t alter their FCs so you can beam up anything freely.
You can flank, tow them apart and rob them. A Horwasp Ship without fuel disintegrates! Gravitonic engine ships take no damage from protofields if move Warp 9 while cloaked. But if you rob inside a protofield, you die instantly. …Actually, stay far away from Horwasps; that’s safer.
The Horwasps spread natives all around! How nice of them. You on the other hand can destroy natives. If they are not your immediate neighbours, you can kill them easily. You have heavy carriers! You can chunnel gremlin-infested towers home from protofields. Also, the other players hate the Horwasp even more than the Borg! How nice.
Your ships suck against the Horwasp, but ships without fuel disintegrate. Rely on Webs. Although remember: Webs do nothing whatsoever to Pods.
One of the best races to face the Horwasp. HYP ships can Dark Sense, causing havoc in the rear. Starbases and fighters are your friends. Gorbies kill anything and fighter transfer keeps it happy.
Minefields to counter protofields, heavy carriers. Nice. Also, because Robots aren’t organic life forms, Horwasps can’t see cloaked Robot ships! And don’t forget the Pawn.
Heavy carriers, HYP ships, and Planet Immunity. Nice.
Cobols find those natives. Fighters sweep protofields. And because of your fuel and maneuverability, you can flank the Horwasp with heavy carriers. The nicest.
This is the way I fight the Wasps. It’s slow, but efficient. The biggest problem is if the Horwasp can spread the other way than where you are or access planetoids. But hey, there is an easy solution: Everyone, gang up on the Horwasp! Hooray! SIR MF, everybody!
This guide is based on my personal experiences playing as and against the Horwasp. It has been strongly affected by help and instructions given to me by Tom Graves. I would also like to thank Jonnydoh for his multiple comments and additions. I hope this guide will make it easier for you to encounter the Gnats, and to respect them in their rightful role as the 12th race of the Echo Cluster. -CK
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