July 24, 2010

MOO -- High Tech

It's amazing what you can fit into a medium hull if your tech is high enough:


How high? Computer 84, Construction 69, Force Fields 73, Planetology 70, Propulsion 67, Weapons 80.

Which was pretty much wasted. The best weapon the  Sakkra had was Ion Cannon.

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July 13, 2010

Master of Magic -- experimenting with different magic types

So I'm messing around with creating custom wizards. I tried 2 white, 8 blue, and Sorcery Mastery, and I did pretty well.

But blue magic turned out to be almost entirely useless for most of the game. Phantom Warriors did turn out to be useful for defending cities against raiders, who were generally pretty low level and therefore quite vulnerable to illusions. Plus Phantom Warriors only cost me 8 MP to cast, with Sorcery Mastery. But that isn't all that much better than fire elementals (chaos magic) or earth elementals (nature) and not all that much cheaper either.

I put Flight onto one of my heroes (Whatserface the Healer), too, but that was more convenience than anything. Water Walking would have been nearly the same. (The only difference is that Flight made it so that walking opponents couldn't attack her in combat, but they never got near her anyway given that she had a bodyguard of 8 dragon turtles.)

Late in the game I did finally reach the point of being able to summon Air Elementals, and I called one when I took out each of my last opponent's last two cities. But I didn't need them. The stack I was using was fully capable of doing the job.

So it turns out that through most of the game, the vast majority of the spells I cast, in combat or overland, were white or gray. And I won the game mainly using conventional forces.

Other people are enchanted (ahem) with blue, but it strikes me (and I think it always did strike me) as being the least useful of the six.

Last couple of games I tried something entirely different: 1 white, 4 red, 4 green, plus Nature Mastery and Chaos Mastery. That worked a whole lot better. It was fun, and I got lots of spells from green and red that were useful. That game I tried playing High Elves, and my main combat stack that time was three heroes plus 6 elven archers, all of whom started with Heroism (until they no longer needed it) and Eldritch Weapon. That, plus the fact that one of the heroes was Volana who had Leadership +2, and those archers were terrifyingly effective against most opponents. Plus adding Shuri to the mix, and the stack also moved really well. (Aureas got rescued from a lair, and I said "What the hell". But he wasn't really all that important, and I could have done without him.)

Later I created a new stack consisting of 3 dragon turtles plus 4 high elf magicians plus Shuri and Volana, and that was the one I used to take out my last opponent, who at that point was nearly as strong as I was. Putting Heroism and Water Walking on all the mages, plus Invulnerability on the first one (which was invariably the target for all enemy Shamans) and they managed to kick serious butt without taking significant damage. The turtles didn't need any help beyond Volana's +2 bonus from her Leadership ability -- which was a lot.

I think the following would be fun:


...and what you get is a monstrous bonus on both collecting and on using mana. The disadvantage of this is that you don't get a lot of high level spells -- but you may not really need them. (2 rare and 1 very rare chaos, 3 rare and 2 very rare nature.)

I think that's going to be my next game. I just began it, and had five spell choices. So two chaos spells: Disrupt, Fire Elemental. Three nature spells: Wall of Stone, Water Walking, Earth Lore.

UPDATE: And playing with Nomads, I got killed early by Ariel (10 white). It's the first time she's been my opponent, and she managed to find my home city with a stack that was up-powered to the gills with white spells: heroism, holy armor, holy weapon. Those guys were tanks!

I kind of wondered what it would be like fighting against her. Maybe I'll try an all-white game myself some time.

UPDATE: Ubu has been playing the game, too.

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July 09, 2010

Master of Magic -- custom mage

So today I tried creating a custom mage. I haven't yet ventured into black, red, or blue magic; I'm still getting used to green and white. I had been playing Merlin, who has 5 white, 5 green, and the Sagemaster skill. My general frustration with it has been: too much white, not enough green.

So I created a wizard today with 2 white, 8 green, and Nature Mastery. With 2 white books I was able to guarantee that I'd get the Guardian Spirit spell. Next time I'm considering going for 3 white so that I can also guarantee myself the Healing spell, but maybe not.

By the end of the game I had found 2 more green books, one blue book, and a couple more retorts. It wasn't too bad.

Some of the races make good ones to conquer and add to your empire, but they aren't good ones to begin with. I tried one game using High Men, and it didn't go well. They have some excellent units, but you have to build a ridiculous number of buildings before you can create mages, priests, or paladins. Much better to capture High Men.

One of the reasons I like the Halflings as a starting race is that their slingers are not only really good, but also they can be created very early. Of course, having an Alchemist's guild makes them better (it makes all units better) but they're OK without that. So all you need is an armory, and you can create them.

The Halflings also have good morale; they'll put up with more taxation without rioting. And they're really productive, and have a good supply of buildings.

The booby prize race is Gnolls. When I find an opposing mage and see that his starting race is Gnolls, I know I don't have to worry much about him.

Lizardmen are another race I like to conquer. But as a starting race, they're just too limited. Too many important building types they can't create. But I love conquering them, because I love dragon turtles. And you get those as soon as you build a stable. I love dragon turtles because they move speed 2, they're amphibious, and they're tough as hell.

Slingers and Dragon Turtles aren't necessarily better than High Men mages etc but they're earlier and easier and not really any worse. And that's a huge advantage.

I finally found a way to fight against air elementals. You need the green "Call Lightning" spell, and once that's going it'll hit the elementals even if you can't see where they are. I managed to get that going in a blue node one time, which was lucky. But they still scare me more than anything else I've run into so far.

I fought a demon lord. I was using a very advanced stack, and in fact it wasn't all that hard to take him out. He summoned one demon before I nailed him, but a web took care of that.

I have fought invisible stalkers. I have fought against shadow demons. I have fought against doom bats. I have fought against fire giants (five at once!). I have fought against a colossus. None of them have given me anything like the kind of trouble that air elementals invariably do.

And when I finally get tired of green magic and move on to blue, the ability to summon air elementals will definitely be something I make sure is in my spell book!

In the mean time I have found that summoning earth elementals is a really good way to defend a city that doesn't have a lot of conventional units.

...but Call Lightning is even better. It's one of my favorite spells.

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July 07, 2010

Master of Magic -- The best treasure of all


It hardly gets better than this. (I do remember once upon a time finding two spell books at the same time.)

UPDATE: Table of spell books and how many spells they enable below the fold.


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July 06, 2010

Master of Magic -- Runes


Note something odd about the pattern of runes on the left side? Turns out the first one is "Summon Hero". the second one is "Summon Champion". Notice that the last two runes of "summon" are the same as the last two runes of "champion"?

It seems that "runes" are a simple substitution cipher.

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July 05, 2010

Master of Magic -- second game

I'm playing again at "intro" level. Last time it was a "medium" world; this time it's "large". Still only one opponent, and it turned out to be Kali.

I actually have been way in the lead for most of the game, and I've been able to finish her off for at least 200 turns, but it's just so much fun to explore the landscape and attack lairs and nodes that I can't bring myself to do it. I'm playing Merlin again (5 white, 5 green) and I've been hitting Kali's only city with Earthquake spells. So far I've managed to take out a fighter's guild, a shipwright's guild, and a marketplace. I only settled one additional city, but I've been conquering all the independent towns I find instead of razing them. So right now I've got one Troll, one Draconion, about five High Men, one Orc, and about 6 halfling, one of which I started with and one I settled.

Kali turns out to have started with halflings, too, but if she's built any of the legendary slingers I sure haven't seen them. I've put in a road system connecting almost all of my towns (it isn't complete yet) and every once in a while she sends a couple of ghouls down, to bypass all the other cities and head for my capital.

Lotta good it does her. My capital has six slingers in it.

Halfling slingers are legendarily one of the very best units in the game. I also like lizardmen armored turtles, Trollish swordsmen (regeneration is sooo nice), dark elf wizards (though High Men wizards are good, too), and draconian almost anything.

The best summoned unit in the game is the red dragon, but blue dragons are nearly as good. I remember using a lot of those, but upkeep is expensive. This game I've been playing exclusively with non-summoned units.

For a while I had a cash-flow problem, but now there are Prosperity spells on my four largest cities and cash flow isn't an issue any longer.

White magic isn't my favorite, but it's got some really nice spells. My problem in this game is that I've been coming up real short on battlefield magic. I've had Web for a while, but nothing much better than that. Finally, just a few turns ago, I turned up Crack's Call in a lair in Myrror. So now I can help with the fighting.

Of course, I can also help by casting High Prayer, which gives every friendly unit +2 attack, +2 defense, +3 resistance, and +10% chance to hit and to block. I had a battle I was sure I was going to lose, and I cast High Prayer, and my guys kicked serious ass. 2 sword units and a unit of spears in a walled city attacked by eight phantom warriors! Ack! But they won, and I didn't lose any of them.

Another White spell that's really useful is Guardian Spirit. Ordinary Magic Spirits can be used to take control of a node, but unless you garrison each one with military units, they can be replaced by enemy spirits.

In my first game, Freya kept trying to do that to me. But if you've used a Guardian Spirit, there's only a 25% chance of success.

In this game Kali hasn't been trying. Probably Freya (green, remember) had used Earth Lore and knew where they all were. Kali hasn't explored much of the board.

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July 04, 2010

Master of Magic

I'm kind of getting burned out on MOO, so just now I tried playing Master of Magic for the first time.

The game didn't last very long. A wandering group of lizardmen destroyed my city. Umm...

I was playing Lo Pan, who has half green and half blue IIRC. All I know is that I didn't see any spells being offered to me for research that looked at all useful.

Even with that short experience, some things came back to me. Those of you who are more up to speed on it, check this please:

You do your first exploration using the spearmen. The swordsmen stay and garrison.

The first building you do is the armory. Then you create a couple more stacks of swordsmen. Once your city is more secure, you build a granary, a marketplace, and a shrine, in that order. Right?

I have vague memories that the first spell you research is "Magic Spirit", and when you can you create one and use that for exploration. But that could be wrong.

MOM has been described as "Civ 2 in a swords and sorcery setting" and I know that it's a very deep game. I think I spent hundreds of hours playing it, 15 years ago, but I hardly remember anything.

The one thing I do remember is that I never used any of the preset mages. I always did my own mix-and-match choices of spell books. I'm gonna have to peruse the spell manual to try to remember which spells were useful, and what the general character of each kind of magic was.

UPDATE: When all else fails, read the manual. "Channeler" ability sure looks like a winner!

UPDATE: No. The first thing you build is a swordsman. The second thing you build is a marketplace! Gotta get that gold flowing. Then you build a granary!

UPDATE: OK, I'm a long way into a game now at intro level, and doing pretty well. I'm playing against only one opponent, and I'm Merlin, who has 5 white books and 5 green books. (At intro level you can't customize your mage.) I'm playing as lizardmen. I've captured two lizardman towns, two halfling towns, and a barbarian town. I've got a major league stack now going around taking things out. It consists of one lizardman swordsman, one lizardman halbardier, four lizardman javelineers, Theria, and Marcus. All the infantry are now level 3.

Marcus was a rescue from a dungeon, and his "pathfinder" ability is definitely very nice. As soon as he joined the stack it started moving speed 2. Theria and Marcus are both wearing magical armor.

And, by damn, that stack has been kicking some butt.

The music says I'm in the lead. I chose to have only one enemy, and I haven't found him or her yet. The one thing I cannot remember how to do? I thought there was a way to get a world map on the main pane instead of the standard closeup, but I can't figure out how that's done. Or maybe it was full screen.

Likely it's a function key or something like that. I guess I should check the manual again.

UPDATE: Aha! Under "Info", it's the Cartographer!

UPDATE: OK, my opponent is Freya (swoon).


And she really got the shaft as far as her starting position.


Anyway, she has 10 green spell books. She was doing something strange that made a green sparkle happen on her island, so I cast the Detect Magic spell in order to find out what she was doing.

It's "Change Terrain". She's been converting desert and mountain into grasslands. But there's something wrong with the program: every time she does it, I get the "spell casting" sound effect, and then I get about 20 seconds of bogus crap in the sound. It sounds like it's playing a binary file by mistake. I wonder what the deal is? It's pretty annoying.

Regardless, I have the whole map explored now, and there aren't any independent villages any longer. I could either decide to attack her, or I could take my allstar stack and shift it over to the other plane, to see what's happening there.

I tell you; this game is even more heavily infected with "gotta play just one more turn" than MOO is, once you're past the initial learning curve.

UPDATE: As is always the case with the computer wizards, Freya is running it right to the edge. She's got like 40 GP and zero mana stored up. Me, I haven't really been doing much, so I've got like 3500 gold and about the same amount of mana in the vault. I've only got four continuing spells running (Detect Magic and three Water Walking spells).

Right at the moment, though, I'm doing an 1100 point Create Artifact to create a magic staff for my third hero, who doesn't have anything good.

Freya, on the other hand, is churning out spells as fast as she can cast them -- which is why she doesn't have any money. She's been using alchemy to turn gold into mana.

I saw her summon cockatrices. Then she cast water walking. I hope it wasn't on them.

UPDATE: One of the things that makes this game addictive is all the ruins and lairs and holes in the ground and abandoned temples. Every time you find one and send in a combat stack, there's always the two questions: will there be any defenders? And what will they be guarding?

I've found a lot of spells. But the treasure of all treasures is a spell book, and I haven't gotten any of those yet. That's why I think I'm gonna send my superstar stack over to the other plane. Myrror is a nastier place than Arcanus, but at "intro" level it shouldn't be too bad for a stack where all the units are at their top level. Who knows? Maybe they'll find a spell book for me!

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July 03, 2010

Cheating at MOO

How to cheat to give yourself a particularly good start in MOO:

First, download and install HxD, a freeware hex editor.

Fire up MOO and start a game. Don't be afraid to restart a lot of times to get a good start situation. If you've explored all the stars within 3 parsecs and they all suck, bag it and start again.

Once you've got a decent candidate for your second colony and good long term prospects for more, settle the second colony and then do two turns of full-transfers from your main planet to the other. As a result, three quarters of your population will end up in the other star. You don't have to wait for the transports to arrive; you just need them off your main planet.


Then save the game. Hit Control-F10 to free up the cursor.

Run HxD and edit your save game. It can be found in the MOO install directory with the file extension  ".gam". I have that slot set up as "save1.gam". (I'm pretty sure the save file will always be called "save1.gam" no matter what you put in as the description.)

Once in HxD, hit control-F and do a string search for the name of your home planet. Since I'm playing the Alkari this game, it's Altair:



Once you've found it, look in the hex section and you'll see a place which says "64 00 64 00 64 00". Those are 16-bit values indicating  the size of the planet. You'll want to change them all. 64 in hex is 100 decimal. You can change them to "96" for size 150 and to "C8" for size 200.

2 lines below that are two more numbers you'll want to change. They're the current population. They'll be in the same columns as the first two of the three you just changed.

And on the line in between, two to the left, is the "minerals" value for the planet. It starts as "02" which means "normal". Potential values are "03" for "artifacts", "04" for "rich", "05" for "ultra rich", and "06" for "Orion-class" which means 4*artifacts.

Just in passing, the structure that's being iterated here isn't a multiple of 16 in length, so the values won't necessarily be in the columns you see here. But their relationship to each other will always be the same.


Now we're cooking. Save the file out of HxD. Go back to MOO and click in its window. Load the save game.


Sometimes the numbers will look a little funky, but they're right, and they get cleaned up when you click "next turn".

Here's another cheat: Ever accidentally hit "bombard" and wipe out an enemy planet when you have a landing force coming? Ever have a random event happen (e.g. your home planet getting irradiated) that you just don't want to cope with?

Rest assured: even if you don't think you have a save game to retreat to, you do. The game auto-saves its state every few turns. So when something happens that you wish hadn't, immediately hit Control-F10 to gain full control over the mouse pointer, and then click the "x" in the upper right corner, killing the window off.

Then restart the game, and choose "Continue". It'll load from the magic save game, and you'll probably have to replay three or four turns, but the random event is highly unlikely to be repeated.

(I think I mentioned that I'm a wimp, didn't I?)

UPDATE: If you hit Control-F9 instead of Control-F10, it kills off the window. AAAARGH!!!

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June 27, 2010

Master of Torpedos

I was wrong about torpedos in Master of Orion. Used properly they're really neat. I beat the Guardian one time with 17 large ships each of which carried 5 Antimatter Torpedos. It only took one shot.

One reason they're nice is that they're a great intimidation weapon. Enemy ships quite often boogie immediately if you fire torpedos, even if they have a chance of winning. Another reason is that they're a reall good planetary bombardment weapon.

I've been trying to play using different races. It really changes the game. The Silicoids are probably the biggest challenge. Their advantage is that they effectively start the game with "Controlled Toxic Colonization" and "Industrial Waste Elimination", so they never had to spend money to clean up pollution, and they can colonize any planet using a standard colonization base.

That makes them more productive than anyone except the Klackons in the early game, and of course it means they can grab any planet they see.

That's most important early in the game, of course. Their big disadvantage is that they reproduce half as fast as anyone else. Fertile and Gaia planets don't change that. You have to be very careful with your colonists. You can't afford to throw away 150 of them invading some enemy planet; they aren't that easy to replace.

To win with the Silicoids you have to colonize like mad early in the game, in order to create as many places as possible for colonists to breed. But if you succeed in doing that, especially if you grab some rich or ultra-rich hostile planets, you can kick ass.

The Sakkra, on the other hand, breed like rabbits. That is their racial difference. You can afford to toss lots and lots of them into tough invasion fights, because they're easy to come by.

I just now tried playing the Alkari. I can't get over the fact that their characters all look like Sam the Bald Eagle -- but the +3 defensive bonus in tactical fights is really very nice. I'm used to cringing when I attack an enemy planet armed with Hyper-X missiles, let alone anything even more advanced, but my Alkari fleet was hardly touched by them. It was amazing.

Anyway, now I try to include one bank of torpedos in my advanced ship designs, along with one bank of a streaming weapon (Graviton beam or Tachyon beam) for fighting swarms of smalls, and one or two banks of some good beam (Auto Blaster etc) for everything else. If you do it that way you don't need to include a bank of bombs; the torpedos serve that function.

UPDATE: Introducing the "Hellfire 6":

Type "Huge"
Mark V computer
Class VI shield
Class V ECM
Andrium armor (1500 hit points)

Weapon bank 1: 6 Hellfire Torpedos

Special 1: Battle Scanner
Special 2: Automated Repair
Special 3: Repulsor Beam

This has been a fun ship. They don't build very fast (they cost 4437 BC) but it only takes one to dominate an enemy system.

I had to get a clue from the "auto" combat on how to fight this ship. It's very straightforward: it never moves. The Hellfires have range to hit every square in the tactical map, so the right way to handle it is to sit there and shoot at everything that looks like an enemy until they're all gone.

My enemies are pitiful anyway; I think the best weapon any of them have is Hyper-X missiles, and none of them have a large enough fleet to even make one of these bruisers break into a sweat. Because they'd have to not only hit this ship hard, but to keep hitting it. The Auto-repair fixes 225 points of damage per turn.

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June 16, 2010

MOO graphics

This post is for Toren. The rest of you are welcome to look at it, but probably won't find it too interesting.

I told him by email that I was going to post some frame grabs from Master of Orion to show how well they were able to use the primitive graphics of the era. So they're below the fold.


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