In this Action Point, we will take a brief look at the two solitaire variants that are available in the base game for Space Empires 4X. There are additional scenarios offered in each of the 2 expansions but I will simply focus on these two here. If you have missed our other Action Points, Action Point 1 covered the basic actions that players have access to in order to build up their empire including Exploration, Colonization and Mining. We followed that up with Action Point 2 which looked at the Technology Tree and the various ship types players can build. In Action Point 3, we dove into combat including a look at its more subtle points such as Combat Screening and Tactics.
Recently, I have really started to find my groove with solitaire gaming. I still prefer live opponents, but in a pinch, a good solitaire game scratches my gaming itch. So is the case with the 1-Player Doomsday Machine Variant found in the base game. The basis for this solo variant is that an evil empire is sending “Doomsday Machines” at your growing empire to exterminate the threat you pose to their growth and development.
What is a “Doomsday Machine” you might ask? Well, they are an unholy terror that is designed for one purpose, your utter destruction. Here is a look at the table that shows the strength of each DM that is sent at you. You will notice that even the weakest of the lot, the 1 Strength DM, is quite the challenge. With an Attack Strength of D7 (the only saving grace for you here is that your units might have a chance to fire first if their firing priority is C Class or higher), a Defense Strength of 1, a Hull Size of 6 (remember this means it can take 6 hits to be destroyed) and it will get 3 attacks each round! That is just the lowest strength unit! As you follow the below table down, you will see that the challenge simply grows with each Strength.
The good thing about the scenario is that you can choose your challenge level. I have played the game twice now at the Easy level and I finally feel that I am ready to move onto a slightly more difficult challenge. At the Easy level, the first DM will appear in a random hex from among 5 possible locations at the start of the 7th Economic Phase and it will be a 1 Strength. The next DM shows up at the start of the 9th Economic Phase and is 3 Strength and finally the last DM shows up at the start of the 11th Economic Phase and is Strength 5.
Even at the easy level of difficulty, this scenario is a challenge. You will have to get your empire’s economy up and running quickly and start investing in various Technologies to make it so your units are able to stand up to the monstrous DMs. I recommend you start with focusing on expanding Colonies by buying Colony Ships and an extra Mining ship to get a jumpstart on your CP Production but by the 4th Economic Phase you will need to begin investing in Attack and Defense, Tactics and Movement Technology, as well as in bigger Ship Yards and Ship Size Technology to allow you to build the larger and more powerful combat ships like the Battlecruiser, Battleship and Dreadnought to stand a chance in the end.
The AI that controls the Doomsday Machines is really pretty simple as they will arrive in one of the designated spots via a random roll and will then simply move towards the nearest Colony that also gets them closer to your Homeworld. The DM will prioritize their movement based on the size of a Colony and if two are equidistant it will choose the larger producing Colony. The DM only has a speed of 1 and will move only once each Economic Phase. The goal of the DM is to destroy your Colonies and make their way toward your Homeworld to destroy it in the end. If you begin to lose too many Colonies, you obviously start to have less chance to defeat the DM and win the game as you will have less CP available to replace lost units and upgrade your Technology.
If a DM moves into a hex with the players units, it will engage them in combat. The DMs are very powerful and will be unaffected by system markers such as Nebula and Asteroids. The combat system is the same for the DMs as in the base game with the exception that the DMs don’t heal damage in between combat, but they are carried over to the next combat. They will, however, heal 2 damage if they are successful in destroying one of your Colonies and a planet.
The good news with the Doomsday Machines is that they only move one hex per turn so even after they appear, you may have a few rounds to prepare by building some ships at the Colony nearest their arrival location, but only if you prepared and have built Ship Yards in that hex. I always try to build at least 3 Ship Yards in a couple of different areas of my outer reaches that can offer some resistance to the DMs. If you don’t prepare, you will simply be destroyed and lose that Colony.
Overall, the Doomsday Machines scenario is a fun and relatively simple beginner scenario that will teach you the basic rules of the game and offer up a challenge that can be increased in difficulty to suit your tastes and increasing skill level. The scenario can be played in about 100 minutes for someone who knows the rules; in 120-140 minutes for new players. I recommend this scenario to start.
The Alien Empire 1-Player Variant is a little more difficult than the Doomsday Machines as it requires the player to in essence play the Alien Players, along with their own growing empire, as they send wave after wave of ships to destroy him. In the game, you will determine the number of Alien Players (AP) that you will face based on a table that lists difficulties from Easy to Good Luck! as well as their Construction Points they will receive per roll they have based on the Alien Economic Sheet.
The Alien Economic Sheet is a little bit more complex to follow but you will get it once you play the game. You simply make rolls and do what the roll says and track your CPs as they are gained in the various areas. If the Alien Player doesn’t have enough to spend in that round in a specific category, they will save those CP and wait until the next round to spend.
As each of the various identified areas are rolled during the Econ Rolls, players will simply mark the appropriate amount of CPs in those columns and then spend them when it is possible. I really like that the Alien Players AI will learn from their experiences and interactions with the player. For example, if the player has not yet developed the Point Defense Technology and has not “shown” that tech in a battle, they will then invest in the next level of Fighter Technology as they see that as an advantage. If the human player did buy the Point Defense Technology and used it in a battle, they will then move in a different direction. The AI doesn’t buy tech until they are in combat, which is also a very interesting point of the game. This can make for a really great challenge for the player.
The end goal of the Alien Player will be to simply send waves of ships, with a pre-set priority on the type of ships, against the player. The player’s goal is to destroy the Homeworld of each of the Alien Players to win the game. I really don’t want to go into all the ins and outs of this variant as it is much more complex and involves a lot of additional decision points that each have their own priority laid out in the rules. Suffice it to say that this variant will take much longer to play than the DM variant, probably 2-3 times as long depending on how many APs you are fighting against.
The point of this post is to share with you the various options that you have for solitaire play with Space Empires 4X. When I purchased my copy in October 2017, I didn’t even know that it had these two variants and I was pleased to learn that it did as I can now play this game by myself at my own pace and feel enriched from the experience.
Space Empires is a great 4X game! It is a little simpler and less specific than some other 4X games I have played and enjoyed, such as Eclipse, but still a very engaging and interesting experience. As a game with its roots in wargames, the combat system is fantastic with lots of different tactical choices to confront the players (if you missed Action Point 3 that focused on Combat, I suggest you read up on that.) and keep it interesting. I really like the choices that players have in the way they go about building their empires the way they want and offering challenges through its solitaire scenarios as well. Great job Jim Krohn and GMT Games….and I haven’t even entered the realm of the 1st expansion Close Encounters nor the 2nd Replicators, that have even more play options, and additional solitaire scenarios.