Endless Space max difficulty combat

Once you’ve mastered the exploration, expansion, and exploitation part of a 4X game , you are ready for some xenocide. In other words, you switch from strategy to tactics.

At the high difficulty settings, the Endless Space AI gets a lot of bonuses to research and production. You can catch up with research but you’ll never catch up with production. You can see the AI spawn a dozen fleets in 4-5 turns.

So how do you beat an AI that spawns an unlimited number of ships?

There’s two viable tactics: the suicidal destroyer route and the invulnerable dreadnought route. Both could work but I was never a fan of the former as it requires a lot of moving of ships around, plus you need to rebuild the ones you lost, so there’s even MORE movement of ships.

The other aspect that sucks your time are battles. Yes, battles are fun when you have a few battles each turn and you face different enemies. However, at max difficulty, you’ll have a dozen battles and they will mostly be identical fleet compositions.

With this type of ship design, you can finish an opponent in 10 turns or less, depending on the number of fleets you have built. Here’s the key elements:

  • Uniform defense: Yes, you can build ships that are specific to beating certain ships but you can get a nasty surprise when the AI changes fleet composition and you cannot retrofit because you are invading their planets. 10 of each defense is OK. Based on my experience with AI fleet templates, you can fine-tune it to 12-8-12.
  • Laser is the best offense: it just works at all ranges and the AI rarely stacks shields (laser defense). Augment it with a few missiles and kinetic weapons. You rarely need more than 10 lasers (2-5 of the others)
  • Support: once you get to the one that provides +% bonus. 6000 HP is a lot to go through. Put some repair as well, you won’t be coming home to heal.
  • Hero skills: you should prioritize defense, offense and tactician.

Heroes and fleets

If you’ve set up your production planets correctly, you will churn a dreadnought every one or two turns. Realistically, you need four fleets of three dreadnoughts in each (that’s a dozen dreadnoughts) but you can start the war with just one and half. The half is left as defense.

In some games, I do two dreadnought designs and keep a mixed fleet but frankly, that’s in the realm of roleplaying. A support cruiser with fleet bonuses (+damage, invasion, speed, and repair) is in the same realm. You don’t need them but they add a bit of flavor.

As you can see below, the fact that we call them invulnerable dreadnoughts, doesn’t make them so. Of course, this was a turn 130 design that met a turn 180 AI fleet but it’s here for illustrative purposes: don’t go it alone.

The AI can surprise you with a well-tuned fleet and your flak will not be able to handle the missile salvo. This is one of reasons I tend to go a bit heavier in the FLAK and DEFLECTOR departments. The AI’s endgame templates have dreadnoughts with 4000 kinetic attack and in the same stack ships with 2000 missile attack. Going 15-5-10 defense is probably a good call late game, if you want to make the victories more decisive.

TIP: If you lose a hundred HP each battle, you can still defeat 100 fleets (I am facing 40+ fleets on Amoeba’s warp planet right now). Every couple of auto battles, hit Manual and select the Repair card for all 3 slots. Do it in the first phase of combat because often there aren’t any other phases. The repair bonus is still applied 3 times though.

Here’s what your battle report should look like. Your efficiency should be above 95%. With a hero with defense and tactician and you will get 100 every time. Three dreadnoughts mean three different targets, so that’s what makes them invulnerable. Not just the defense stats.


I don’t mean the battle cards, as I do most battles on auto to save time (and reduce boredom). I mean how you should approach the attack.

  1. Scout. While you are waiting for the dreadnoughts to arrive, build and send a few cheap scouts equipped with the max scouting possible.
  2. Declare war and send those scouts to die. Check the enemy fleet compositions to make sure they are not all lasers (has never happened). Facing AI dreadnoughts with 4000 kinetic with your 500-800 deflectors is DOABLE. Just make sure you don’t send yours one by one!
  3. Move your hero fleet to your enemy hub. It will be easy to tell which one it is – there will be a dozen fleets waiting.
  4. Once you are there, just hit auto… a dozen times. The AI has a tendency to select “Intercept” for its hubs, so the result will be for it to suicide all its fleets on turn one. That way, you don’t have to waste 20 turns attacking a fleet each turn.
  5. Level your hero after the battles, you could be level 10.
  6. On the next turn you could face another stack or you might have just one fleet left from the previous turn. Kill it and start invasion.
  7. Send your number two (another fleet with another hero) to the homeworld or another hub, so they get a chance to level up as well.
  8. Send the invasion fleet to mop up (optional)

You can destroy the fighting force of an “empire” of the first 2-3 turns. If you take your time you can leave your main fleet to do the invasions. I usually do another design for an invasion ship. Stack it with invasion modules, add some defenses, and always group them with real dreadnought for defense. The AI will get sneaky and bypass your main fleet(s) to attack an invasion fleet two systems back.

TIP: If you are facing 10+ fleets, you can safely ALT-TAB and check your email or browse for 10 minutes. The battles will auto-resolve. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m obliterating Amoeba fleets at a rate of about 4 a minute. 10 minutes for 40 fleets.

The alternative to the invulnerable dreadnought is the suicide destroyer, often designed as a missile boat to maximize the initial salvo. As you can see it has 2700 laser attack which is twice the attack on the invulnerable dreadnought. When you consider you can stack four times as many into a fleet, this means eight times the offense.

The increased damage is good on paper. In reality, you will lose them to enemy missiles. Not all but some. And this means hauling replacements from the other end of the galaxy. Also, you will be losing ship and possibly hero XP. Finally, you might be tempted to do the battles manually, which will turn a two-hour game into a marathon.

  1. November 22nd, 2012

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