Endless Space max difficulty strategy

If you’ve played Master of Orion 2 on max difficulty setting, you know how frustratingly difficult a 4X game could be. With all the bonuses the AI gets, it becomes a superb challenge to come up with tactics as well as builds that can give you a chance for a victory.

Endless Space is a new 4X game, that takes a LOT from MOO2 and other space 4X games. So you’d imagine their max difficulty settings (impossible and endless) to be just as punishing. Starting a game on endless warns you “You shall not pass”. Yet I had 150 turns of peaceful expansion. Hmm, how do we crack the difficulty even more??

For starters, let’s cover the basics:

  • Galaxy: I go for a small Spiral-4. I don’t like settling a lot of systems, so from the advanced settings I choose: few constellations and sometimes low density. If you want less friction with your neighbors choose remote for constellation distance.
  • Production systems: you need to find a good production system and it might not be your homeworld. The ideal production system will have plenty of happiness boosting luxury resources as well as 5-6 planets, preferably one with decent food and the rest lava. Huge planets and plenty of moons are a nice extra.
  • Science systems: since production system have a pretty good science output as well, they will probably have your best science as well. However, after a bit of production and growth focus, I turn all second-rate systems into science ones. Occasionally  you’ll have a super-science system – one with helium gas giants. It is worth investing in it but keep in mind it will not come online until midgame.
  • Heroes: you absolutely need at least one Administrator hero and preferably two. Corporate heroes can substitute if you only have one Administrator but they are lousy at system development. The administrator boosts production (early on), then food (important for growth), and happiness (to keep your lava system happy).

I spent a bit of time fine-tuning my systems to determine the best setup. I tried maxing my best production and science systems with the best terraforming had to offer and frankly, terraforming beyond lava/arctic is hardly worth it. So you might as well start the extermination at turn 120 (like I did).

Production systems verdict: Lava is perfect!

Lava System (endgame): Excellent production, however you need more happiness luxuries (or improvements)

Jungle System (endgame): The same production as the lava system but since you got more food, when you transfer that food into production, it will appear to produce slightly more.

As you can see, with food conversion turned off (Adaptive Industrial Systems improvement), both systems are virtually identical (the heroes are identical too). Considering you can get lucky with a natural lava system and lava is the first terraform option you research (it’s also very cheap to execute), lava is best.

Science system verdict: Artctic is cool, Helium is marginally better

This is a second-class system that had 2 planets converted to arctic (was almost naturally suited for science anyway). That’s around turn 130. Science: 1200

Let’s look at my home system, where I got extremely lucky with 3 helium gas giants. Science: 1400

Here’s my home system late game, churning 2600 science with my hero boosting science with wit of 19.

I never bothered terraforming the other planets to ocean and changing the exploitation, but as a test, I did that. With food converted to production and production converted with science (25% anyway), my home system peaked at 3200 science.

So the conclusion is simple: finding easily-colonizable systems with plenty of planets is the key to victory. Planet composition is not very important, especially once you get to lava and arctic transformation.

Next: Ships and Fleets at max difficulty

Bad piggies motorcycles

I haven’t played Angry Birds as I’m not fond of “launch” games or puzzles for that matter. I bought Bad Piggies for my better half but I ended up playing it instead.

The levels are interesting, with only a few of them slow or frustrating. I had the most fun constructing motorcycles though, even when the level didn’t call for one.

Rovio did a good thing by adding sandbox levels where you can actually drive your bike around!

XCOM impossible record time

Last night, I completed XCOM on impossible difficulty.

Frankly, since I already completed it on Normal and Classic, I had no plans to do it on Impossible, I just wanted to test my 5 sats in march build order and make sure it is doable on Impossible too.

If anything, leveling on Impossible is faster and since my tactical skills have improved as well, I never had an easier time with the story missions. The alien base was easy. The overseer was a bit of a challenge because I wanted to capture the Ethereal alive, and he was guarded by 2 muton elites who got in the way of the capture.

The biggest surprise was the final mission – the Temple ship. I simply walked my 2 colonel snipers along the central “corridor”, while my 2 assaults flushed any aliens they found in the two side corridors. It was like duck hunting (at least as duck hunting in movies).

On my normal game, I got locked out of the final room due to the infamous door bug. I had to load and backtrace to complete the game. It took me 2 hours to do it. Now, I knew I only needed one sniper with double tap in that room. I didn’t even reload the plasma sniper on my second sniper. As you can see the first shot took 2/3 and I had another shot.

The only challenge now is: what’s the shortest time to complete the game on Impossible.

I know I finished the alien base on the 140 day and after that I didn’t slack: Psy Labs, psi testing, overseer downed by firestorm, gollop chamber, and finally, temple ship. The only way to go reduce these final 36 days would be if the Overseer can be downed by a regular fighter jet.

However, in the first 140 days, there’s a LOT of days that could be shaved off. For one, you don’t NEED complete sat coverage, you can happy let all of North America or Europe go (you won’t need THAT many interceptors or labs/workshops). I’d say that 120 days is worthwhile target.

Diablo 3 inferno farming

This is probably a bit of old news, as no one seems to be playing Diablo 3 any more (myself included).

I wanted to post my Demon hunter and my Inferno farming gear. If I have more time, I do ACT I runs (selective farming of rares) and once I’m up to 5 stacks, I usually go to the Pony level (Whimsyshire).

The key to the item build is the full Natalya set as it gives you incredible discipline regeneration. In Athene’s tests, he was able to kite/stealth for 2 minutes straight. This was enough to kill rare spawns even before the inferno hit points nerf.

As to weapons, I have a 1050 crossbow. The impressive part is it has 80% increased critical damage and a socket, which I can upgrade to +100%. Currently, it’s +70, which gives me +150% from the crossbow alone.

XCOM Build Order (5 Sats strat, Impossible)

If you are hooked on XCOM, you’ve probably invested quite a few hours tweaking your build order in March.

Playing on IMPOSSIBLE difficulty, March is the make or break month, when every star needs to align just right. While it is possible to survive and later thrive with just one additional satellite in March, if you manage to pull off 5 sats in March, you have pretty much won the strategic battle.

So what’s the ideal build order for March?

1) I chose Asia for starting location because the bonus is nice (cheap soldier upgrades) and I don’t plan to sat it first. I’d rather leave the smaller continents in “panic”, then sat them. Asia and Europe are more difficult to manage through sats, so you’ll need to do missions there.

2) March 3: you need to start your workshop ($130). You’ll also need to select Engineers whenever you have an abduction mission (+4).

3) March 11: you need to have 4 sats building (4x$79). Note: always build sats one by one (as opposed to batches), because this way you can cancel 1 if the money is short later in the month.
Money is short, so luck comes in. There will be a small UFO around March 7th. Ignore it and shoot down the medium one they’ll send after it. I got lucky to shoot the medium one on March 11. Sell the alien navigation, computers, everything.

4) March 17: you need to start your satellite link building ($150), which means you needed to place your power plant on March 11/12 ($60).

5) Late March: there will be a council mission. Ideally you want engineers and/or money to help with next month’s expenses.

6) March 31st: Launch your 4 sats, targeting countries in red. You won’t be able to cover any continents, yet. That will happen in April.

XCOM Build order: 5 Sats in March

In April, you need to continue building workshops, power plants, satellites (by April 10, you need 5!), and sat links (by April 16, you need 2). It is possible to do it and it’s not as much luck-based as the medium UFO you need by March 21.

XCOM Impossible build order: 5 Sats in March, 10 sats in April

You’ll probably need to sell everything, which means your research will suffer. You will be fighting aliens in basic armor and with basic weapons all the way through May.

Shoot for light plasma research, start it after the mission you see (and capture) your first muton. Which means you’ll need to set aside a few Sectoids to get done with Xeno Biology and the Alien Containment.

Soldiers will have to live by their skills as plasma will be a long time coming. Plasma snipers will come in late June.

A few bits of tactical advice. I’m assuming you are aware of most of the points about fighting aliens on impossible difficulty as better AI, increased HP, etc.

  • First mission is tough because you only have assault rifles. Use grenades to soften up the Sectoids, then finish them off. You need to rotate your troops, so all four get a promotion.
  • First abduction mission could be tougher, so use blocks as much as possible. Second turn in general there will be movement from the AI, so plan your position and overwatch carefully. Your sniper needs to get to squad sights (lvl2 skill), so give him a few kills. It’s important not to lose soldiers, so use explosives as you see fit.
  • Mind merge is great because you can kill the Sectoid that initiated it and get two kills in the process. Easy with run-and-gun (see below)
  • Thin men need to be killed on sight. Rockets, double grenades, whatever it takes. Weapon fragments are important but you are only researching plasma and that’s  month 3 anyway. Winning tactical battles and getting promotions is more important.
  • UFO missions – obviously, don’t use explosives unless you are blowing up walls. A damaged computer can cost you 35 credits and make it impossible for you to get 5 sats in March.
  • May missions – Mutons will start to appear, make sure you’ve researched Xeno biology, so you can stun the first Muton you see. This will give you light plasma rifle (item) and allow you to start the research on it with a bonus to plasma. That means not selling 4 Sectoid corpses, sell everything else, even elerium and alloys.
  • Muton charge – some missions in late May/early June will pit you against 6-9 Mutons. If you are lucky, you could be armed with light plasma (so get more assault/support guys in battles). You will need to fight a retreating battle, the AI is pretty easy to fool to follow you. Just show them someone in full cover (hunker down), whenever you’d like to see them moving in any particular direction.
  • Rockets and grenades are your friend here, not only for softening, but more importantly, to blow their cover. Mutons are 10 HP and your assault rifles (even snipers) will do 2-3 damage, unless they crit. So a fire rocket or 2 grenades are the perfect opening.
  • Learn the spawn positions on maps. It looks like sometimes the AI will spawn a group only when you get close to a spawn point. So scout with the guy that’s part of “hit team” and not with the lone sniper on the roof. You might get a nasty surprise.
  • Go assault heavy or sniper heavy. Hybrid teams can work out but generally require more research. Assault teams work well if you are losing people – run and gun is assault’s first and most useful skill (after you get New Guy at the Foundry). So if you have problems keeping your people alive, go assault heavy and send those squaddies to the front line. If you enjoy a more defensive play, get multiple snipers but keep in mind that plasma sniper is not coming before June, because first you need to get a regular plasma rifle, research it, and then research plasma sniper. In the meantime, your assault squaddie swill be running with light plasma, running and gunnning.
  • Assault tank – I don’t mean the SHIV, it’s too much research. I mean if you get 3 assaults, it might be worthwhile to get one of them to spec as a tank (+defense). Use him to lure enemies with a full cover + hunker down. It should get him close to 100 defense, though he still won’t dodge grenades!
  • Cheese alert: new rookies you hire will come at 6 HP, as opposed to your original ones. Some consider it a cheesy tactic, however, you have little choice here as you’ll need to recruit new people. The other “cheese” I found is that thin men when dropped will only come at 3HP. You can wait just next to their future location with an Arc Thrower ready. Or you can Overwatch a rookie (2 tiles away not to get poisoned).

P.S. If you are done with XCOM and you are looking for an online tactical game,  check out Riftforge. Yes, it has a fantasy flavor but when it comes to tactics, it really doesn’t matter if you are running from a blood call Muton or an enraged Caldarian (walrus-like brutes).

Steve Jobs tribute

Apple has just updated their website to include a video tribute to Steve as well as a letter by Tim Cook.

We managed to beat them with a minute or two by updating ours. We pledged support for Apple devices and today we have something tangible – a video demonstration of Riftforge gameplay on iPad.

Thanks Steve, for being an inspiration, and more importantly, for helping us stay clear of Flash! RIP

League of Legends quests

Last night, my team and I in particular received our first League of Legends quest – bring the head of Kha’zix.

I  was playing as Rengar, in an attempt to stave off my Maokai dependency.

The team was really excited when the quest popped up, so it’s easy to make the case for MORE quests like that. They are fun and require a bit of teamplay, which sometimes changes the dynamics for the better.

My Maokai record from last year. This year I came back to him as a jungler and late-game tank. Works out pretty well.


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