Rubber-Band Difficulty - Good or Bad?

So it’s turn 11. Through use of good fleet design and some reloading from backups, I’ve conquered Rana II and Kasheemun on Normal difficulty. I hit end-turn, and Kasheemun is attacked by 7 squadrons of fighters, nine cruisers, and a frigate. Again, this is on turn 11, and that’s actually one of the less ridiculous fleets. Even if I pull every ship I have to defend, I have virtually no chance of beating back the invasion.

I ultimately managed to hang on by pulling my forces back then re-attacking Kasheemun next turn, but really, should fleets that size really be seen so early. It seems to me that since the goal of this game is to have fun, hitting people with Kobayashi Maru-style scenarios seems a bit mean-spirited, particularly on Normal. Of course, the lack of any late-game difficulty adjustment would need to be accounted for, since steamrolling fleets a quarter of your own size is boring, but it seems reasonable to base such a formula off of territory controlled, with enemies getting more resources and becoming more aggressive, say, when your territory exceeds 25%, 50%, and 75% of the galaxy. Hitting someone with massive fleets on Turn 11 seems right out, no matter what the situation.

So what are your thoughts?

I have noticed that the Campaign AI pays attention to what players do. If you sit at home and do nothing, quite a few weeks can go by before a player will attack you. Week 11 for offensive ops is pretty quick in my limited experience. Ramcat’s guide makes an excellent point–you need enough fleet to guard the home and go take places at the same time.

So if the AI doesn’t get poked in the nose, it doesn’t poke you in the nose…for awhile.

Another thing I sense is that there are “stock” fleets, or fixed fleets of a certain size that await discovery. At some point the fleets that appear seem random–take a system, lose a system, retake system–you’ll probably NOT see the fleet you lost to, but a small force that is typically easy to steamroll. This may be an illusion resulting from a small number of random situations coming up this way, but I don’t think so.

So the AI has these offensive weapons waiting in the wings for you the player to do something…and when you do, whammo. Which can be a big whammo early in the game or a much more manageable whammo later in the game.

But overall, I agree that the randomness makes it hard to get in the groove…one simply doesn’t expect enemy fleets to change faction, size, composition, etc. in between encounters, as seems to happen after an initial encounter. sometimes. key idea here is “random.”

The only solution I’ve found is to not be shy about retreating, and to be sure you have ships that can retreat. A speed of 16+ seems to work much better than a speed of 10 or so. Once you see the battle screen pop up, hit the pause button and look the enemy over. If you thnk you can take 'em, unpause and cross your fingers. Otherwise, bug out. When you come back, if this is your system you just lost, you will probably see a random small fleet, same faction as the guys that chased you off. If this is an enemy system you’re popping in to more than once after being forced to retreat, you will probably see the same ships that chased you out before. YMMV and good luck…