Variations on a Swarm

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Variations on a Swarm

Post by baknight »

My late friend Mike Noble got me into my first Starweb game in 1977. A year or so later he play-tested his own galactic conquest game, Against The Fall of Night (ATFON). One of his player types was the Inter-Galactic Invader; I wanted to play it as soon as I read the rules.
The Invader started at the edge of the map, with many more fast and tough ships than other types, and earned points by conquering and populating worlds and killing other types. The Invader's disadvantages were the inability to build any new ships or communicate with other players. Only one Invader could be in any one game.
This was before cheap computers existed. After several turns Mike realized that ATFON was too complex for him to moderate by hand, and stopped the game. So I never got to exercise the Invader's muscles beyond the opening.
In 2021 I re-imagined Mike's Invader as a new RSW type, the Noble Swarm hive mind. That "gestalt" is far more intelligent than any individual. Its efficient control and coordination of individuals make its populations twice as effective at fighting off robot attacks, and combined with its drive to reproduce, enable rapid population growth.
RSW rules allow no-communication games, but don't provide a way to block messages to or from a single type. I could and did make it too expensive for the Swarm to build ships, and I set up a specialty game with a minimum of several other players -- giving them a chance to unite against the Swarm.
Not enough players joined that Swarm game, so I started another for only 5 players -- a multi-position game with 3 positions per player -- allowing all players to choose a Swarm as one of their 3 types. That game (divert8q) has now ended, and taught me more about the Swarm's potential.
To my surprise only one other player in divert8q (ALEX) chose to play a Swarm. ALEX dropped out early, perhaps because the map was so poor in mines. With no competing Swarm, I gobbled up his territories while waging successful war on my opposite flank.
With built-in allies (my Positronix Nutzenboltz and Trader MetalMan) my Swarm (ExGalax) was just too powerful. Nutzenboltz and MetalMan gave fleets and worlds to ExGalax in the opening, and the fast Swarm fleets (5-link movement range) let Ex grab more worlds and move metal faster than other teams possibly could. Ex and MetalMan gave Nutz their home worlds, so Nutz could build ships for Ex on all three.
In the mid- and end-game Ex brought metal from the boondocks to depot worlds, letting MetalMan score for hauling surplusses to all three home worlds. Ex also built cheap Planet Buster Bombs and gave those fleets to Nutz. Nutz dropped the bombs as Ex fired on enemy populations, scoring lots of points for both.
So my scores were in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place for most of the game, ensuring my final victory since the team with the highest low score would win. ALEX's team might have been an effective counter force, had he played wisely; but the other teams had little chance to win.
To better balance the game, the Swarm should never be allowed to communicate or make alliances or gifts. Since RSW rules don't provide for those restrictions, I'll impose that honor system on myself playing Noble Swarm in my next game (prestige8s). I won't read or send messages, or communicate by other means; and I will not declare any allies or loaders, or make any gifts. Players who know me can assure you that I keep my word. Even under these restrictions the Swarm will seriously threaten neighbors, especially in the early game. Other players will eventually out-build the Swarm, and are strongly advised to co-operate for their own survival.
That next Swarm game will never start unless several more qualified players sign on. So I hope that enough of you can find the nerve to face the hive mind and ally together against me. I'm sure the Swarm can be thwarted by a strong enough alliance. Are you up to that challenge? Who's afraid of the big bad Swarm?
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Re: Variations on a Swarm

Post by Gorf »

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