Sins of a Solar Empire: Lessons Learned, Sorta

So I've been playing more of Sins of a Solar Empire this week, and while I'm still having fun, I don't seem to be doing very well. I haven't had a ton of time to play the game, but I actually haven't won a game yet. It being a real time game, I had trouble remembering to take screenshots as I played, but the below thoughts are what I remembered and what I've learned from my first few failed attempts.
  • In my previous post on the subject, I talked about this game having a bit of a steeper learning curve than the other Stardock games, and I think that's about right. I got annihilated in my first attempt at the game, and have learned several strategies that improved my survival... but I still haven't won a game (I've played about 4 games).
  • The first thing I learned was that I had to expand my empire as much as possible to take advantage of resource mining and trading (to increase funding). Having a solid resource and economic base improves things vastly, and in my first game I spent too much time in my own planet's system. In later games I recognized the virtues of sending a scout ship on auto-explore around the solar system, discovering all the planets and large asteroids (which are big enough to put a colony on.) And then I had to make sure that I expanded my empire, creating colonies on nearby planets and asteroids (and mining resources and setting up trade). The screenshot below shows the largest empire I managed to build, which consists of about 5 planetary bodies (2 planets and 3 large asteroids). Not only that, but I also seem to be in a relatively isolated position of the solar system... alas, things turned bad shortly after I took this screenshot. The bottom right colony was attacked with a large fleet of enemy vessels. I had to shift my military power from other colonies to fend off the attack, which I managed to do, but not without leaving my other colonies vulnerable.

    My Empire

  • Combat has proven to be relatively tricky (for me, at least). After the first game I did some reading around and found out that you start the game with the ability to create a "free" capital ship, which helps enormously in expanding your empire (most "unclaimed" planets still have low-level enemies that you must defeat, and they're generally no match for an invasion fleet with a capital ship). Now, which capital ship to make is still a bit of a mystery. In the game I'm chronicling, I opted to use KOL Battleships and Marza Dreadnoughts, as they seem to have the most powerful weapons. Since I was under attack, that's really what I was looking for. However, I kept having trouble fending off attacks, and my enemies seemed to have no problem taking out my capital ships. I later found out that the ships that caused me the most problems came from one of my enemies called the Advent, and their capital ship type called the "Progenitor Mothership." The below screenshot shows me actually destroying one of these motherships. At this point, the number of ships on the screen has been drastically reduced. Towards the beginning of the battle, it resembled the first scene in Star Wars Episode III - all these ships firing at each other. The Sins interface allows you to zoom in and out with ease, and it was neat to be able to zoom in close enough to see the bullets flying, but then also be able to zoom out a bit and get a more global outlook.

    Battle

  • Capital ships aside, I've also realized I drastically underestimated the necessary size and makeup of a good fleet. I'd have a capital ship and maybe 5 frigates, but from reading around the Sins forums, it seems like what I really need is at least 1 capital ship, 10-15 frigates, and maybe some long range ships that launch support fighters/bombers (and honestly, I'm probably still lowballing that). Part of the reason I keep losing is that I run out of frigates and so all I have is a capital ship where the enemy can concentrate all it's firepower. And honestly, in the screenshot below, I'm destroying another mothership, but you can plainly tell from the stuff on the left of the screen that the bad guys badly outnumber me (they're green, and most of my stuff are immobile logistics structures, not fighters). (Oh, and I took a bunch of screenshots in a row, trying to capture that explosion, so I had to block out a portion of the screeshot that showed the file structure where my screenshot was saved - sorry).

    Kaboom.

  • So I like the game and I'm learning (sorta), but I keep losing, and that's not especially fun. One of the things the game seems to be getting dinged on in the press is the lack of a gameplay mode that features a sort of progression or story. Personally, I don't mind the lack of a story, but other real-time games like Warcraft and Command & Conquer always started you off with easy scenarios and walked you through them so that you could get a handle on all the details. Now, the game does come with 5 short tutorials that go through a bunch of issues and they do indeed help you learn the controls, but they're a little lacking. They don't cover an actual scenario, they just sorta show you how to use the interface. The truth is that I'm still figuring out the basic strategy of the game, which is getting a little annoying. Maybe it's just that I'm a casual gamer and haven't ever been really good at real time games (again, I've played them, but I don't think I ever finished one). In any case, a better way of learning the ins-and-outs of the strategy portion of the game would be a help. As it is now, I might have to resort to reading the manual (and you know how I feel about manuals!) I'm still having fun, and I still want to try out some strategies. I don't mind being challenged by a game, but on the other hand, it would be nice to win a game every once in a while... I think my general temperment isn't aggressive enough with these types of games. I tend to like to build up huge, powerful fleets if I'm going to be militaristic, but in games like GalCiv, I usually ended up winning a cultural victory or a technology victory. This game seems to require a more aggressive military strategy. I guess I shouldn't just be sitting around waiting for people to attack me...

    Defeat!

That's all for now. I'll continue playing this game because it is genuinely pretty cool... but I just haven't gotten the hang of it. I guess that game's not made for casual gamers who don't have a lot of time on their hands... I wonder how a more experienced gamer like Shamus would do with this game (and I know he likes Stardock and was looking forward to Sins, so I'm guessing we'll find out at some point in the near future - I think maybe he's waiting for Impulse (Stardock's new digital distribution software) to come out first...)

Update: Seems I'm not the only one who's having trouble getting started. Some interesting suggestions are given there. Of course, some of them would bother me. For instance, playing the game on slow might give me some more time to read the tooltips and develop a better strategy, but as it is now, I get frustrated having to wait for my resources to fill up so that I can do this or build that... Also found this Tips for New Tyrants guide which looks promising...