This suggestion originated as a component of this forums post.
Mesophon gets weaker and the T&E doctrine gets worse as games progress. If games were seriously competitive T&E would be completely nonviable as a doctrine. This is because Mesophon worlds can be invaded by players - which is fine. However, once a Mesophon world is invaded, it is gone; Mesophon can't "grow back" and can be totally removed from the galaxy by a determined attacker.
Mesophon worlds are dangerous to have near your planets if you are not T&E, since hostile starship/ramjet fleets can come out of them with zero warning. This means savvy players attempt to destroy any Mesophon worlds within their empire's borders.
T&E empires are at a disadvantage because their Mesophon trading partner is typically weaker than a player world but still subject to being attacked by a hostile adversary, destroying the trade route. When a T&E empire goes to war, their adversary can permanently damage them by capturing their trading partner; no other doctrine can suffer permanent damage like this.
How people are dealing with this right now
The current preferred player method for protecting a Mesophon trading partner planet is to buy a bunch of starships from it and then sell them back to it so that there are strong defenders on the planet. This is kind of goofy, not to mention unintuitive. Fewer players will pick T&E as games progress because the number of Mesophon worlds declines over time.
What I feel is needed
Mesophon needs a mechanism for staying in the game with a little more resilience, but it can't rely on being able to flawlessly defend itself in an intelligent manner; moreover, players should still be able to conquer individual Mesophon worlds if they want.
This is a suggestion that gives Mesophon some resilience without requiring it to have a complicated AI. It gives Mesophon a limited mechanic where it uses jumpships to capture independent planets as replacements for worlds that it loses.
- Mesophon sector capitals and trade hubs get new, unique designations that are not available to players. These designations still have the starport structure but the primary structure is a "Guild HQ" which builds infantry at alloc:max. The administration structure is built instantly on Mesophon sector capitals, rather than requiring 24 hours. The guild HQ has the jumpbeacon property.
- Once per cycle, some piece of code performs a check on each Mesophon world. If the world possesses any jump-capable ships (right now this means that a player sold some jumpships to Mesophon), they are deployed into a fleet. This fleet paths to the Mesophon imperial capital and transfers down to it. The net effect of this is that all jumpships sold to Mesophon end up on Mesophon's capital.
- (Optionally, once per cycle the Mesophon imperial capital spawns ~10k jumpships of various types.)
- Once per period some piece of code performs a check on the Mesophon empire. If the number of Mesophon worlds is below a certain percentage of worlds in the galaxy, the game takes the following actions:
- Check the fleet strength of all jumpships and jumpcruisers on the Mesophon imperial capital, this is variable MESFLEET.
- Check the ground strength of all infantry on the Mesophon imperial capital, this is variable MESGROUND.
- Query the database of worlds to identify a world that matches all of the following characteristics: within 250 LY of a Mesophon world, >50 LY from a Mesophon world, TL5-8, independent or belonging to a sovereign that has previously attacked Mesophon, MESFLEET > 2x the planet's space forces, MESGROUND > the planet's ground forces. If there is no match, abort.
- If there is a match, deploy all jumpships, jumpcruisers, jumptransports, and as much infantry as possible from the capital into a new fleet.
- Send the fleet to the target planet.
- When the fleet arrives at the target planet it performs an invasion.
- If the invasion fails, the fleet returns to the capital and transfers down.
- If the invasion succeeds, designate the planet as a new trade hub or sector capital as appropriate. Create reciprocal trade routes to all Mesophon worlds within range. Return the fleet to the capital and transfer it down.
So if a player goes on a crusade against Mesophon to try to wipe them out, under this system Mesophon would hypothetically be able to periodically gain planets organically to counteract its losses, assuming that it has ships available.
- The guild HQ structure builds a stronger ground unit and a new jumpship unit, the aviso. Avisos are not for sale to players, they are for Mesophon use only. An aviso is a jumpship that both transports units and fights. For simplicity, this is the only combat ship that Mesophon will build. An aviso is basically a tough jumpship with heavy armor, a direct attack, and the ability to transport units. There could be two or three variants that use different combinations of resources that a player might sell to Mesophon (e.g. trillum + hexacarbide, hexacarbide + light jumpdrives, etc). The important thing about the aviso unit is that its supply-chain-inclusive cost is mostly in the resources needed to build it, not the labor. This means that if a player is selling lots of resources to a Mesophon world, that world will build a huge number of avisos since it does not have to operate the ancillary resource structures and the raw labor cost of an aviso is low. The result is that player trade contributes directly to Mesophon's local strength.
- If avisos are added, unit consolidation and attacks can be performed on a per-capital basis for Mesophon since Mesophon will have a lot more combat-capable units. Areas of the galaxy engaged in major trade with players will have a ton of avisos available and Mesophon will retain an ability to regrow when it loses worlds, whereas Mesophon presence will wither away in regions where players do not trade with it.
Other things that would be good for Mesophon:
- Make Mesophon worlds immune to civil war. Make Mesophon worlds rise to TL6 by default. Give Mesophon worlds a higher population cap than other worlds without needing to build habitat structures.