Chronicles of an Anonymous Berserker

By Jack Fulmer

Part One

In recent years my preference has been to play anonymous Starweb. This article is a chronicle of SW-A1324 as I experienced it playing an anonymous Berserker.
I have provided several maps of the web that was visible to me at various points in the game. This chronicle can be read either with or without referring to the maps. However I do believe the maps help to show the ebb and flow of the players’ positions that I could see.
In addition I have referred to the other players that I met by a generic “Player” number if I did not know their character type. Once their character type was known I refer to them by their type and a number (for example “Pirate 1”). Hopefully this will be easier for the reader to understand than attempting to remember player code names and their character types.
Typically I play either the Pirate or Berserker character types in anonymous games. In SW-A1324 I played a Berserker. My Starweb style is to play to win each game. As an anonymous Berserker I have a simple, three step overall strategy to achieve victory.

Step 1: Explore, explore, explore until another player stops me.

Step 2: Attack and conquer one or more other players.

Step 3: Score enough points to win the game as quickly as possible.

As the game progresses my tactics evolve to support this strategy. Step 1 of the strategy will be implemented during turns 1 through 5 in most games. Step 2 will start with victim selection on approximately turn 5, 6 or 7 depending upon the availability of information. It continues with an attack beginning no later than turn 10. If I can conquer one player quickly enough then I may try to take out a second one.

Step 3 commences in earnest on or after turn 12 in most games. As a Berserker you must be patient with scoring. You will often see other player’s scores as much as 3,000 points ahead of you by turn 11 or 12. If the game happens to have an unusually low ending score then as a Berserker you have little chance of winning. You should assume that you will have enough time to both develop your position and then score your points.

An alternative approach that is occasionally used is to robotize your own worlds as quickly as possible and then attack another player. I don’t recommend this for two main reasons. By the time you attack him your neighbor will have built a lot of ships and your forces will be relatively weak because you used ships to robotize worlds.

OK, so what happened in SW-A1324? Well, that’s an interesting question…

Turns 1 through 3

A shortage of keys hampered my exploration somewhat. On the other hand I also had a shortage of worlds to explore.

Turn 4 – “Trouble in River City”

That starts with “T” which rhymes with “P” which stands for “Pirate”.
The turn 4 printout revealed that I was already in serious trouble in this game.
First, I was severely limited by available world and key resources. I owned 13 worlds and 11 keys and one of those worlds I captured from a neighbor at his ring 2. There were only 14 worlds plus my homeworld within my ring 3. Two of those worlds were clearly ring 2 or 3 worlds for the two neighbors I met on turn 4. So unless and until I could conquer someone I had 13 worlds at most to work with.
Second, population within my ring 3 was disastrously low.The actual population on all 14 worlds was only 436 on turn 4. Even worse the total population limit of all 14 worlds was a mere 1,011. I wasn’t going to get many points from my own worlds out to ring 3 even if I captured the ones my neighbors owned.
Third, I met only two other players out to my ring 3. Therefor I had only two potential victims within reasonable proximity. One of them had to be my first target. “Player 1” and I crossed over each other on turn 4. His ring 2 was my ring 3 and vice versa. “Player 2” and I met at what appeared to be a ring 3 world (world 248) for both of us.
To continue the bad news Player 1 was actually Pirate 1. I had captured one of his ring 2 worlds (world 140). He had pirate captured a 2-ship key of mine at my ring 2 world (world 234). The only bright spot was that metal production at my worlds was adequate to support the industry at my homeworld.
It appeared to be time for…

Tactical Assessment #1 

[SW 1324 Map 1]
My assessment of the situation as of turn 4 was:
- I had a very low chance of winning the game.
- Due to his proximity Pirate 1 was the most logical target.
This was certainly not a pleasing assessment to make. However, I tried to be realistic. I decided that I would attempt to follow my Strategy Step 2. I would concentrate first of all on survival and, if possible, conquering a neighbor. I assumed that if my area was typical then a relatively population poor web would hinder the scoring of any other Berserkers in the game. Empire Builders and Apostles would also find low population somewhat of a handicap. The low population wouldn’t bother Pirates, Artifact Collectors and Merchants.
Pirates and Artifact Collectors have a difficult time scoring well in anonymous games. That seemed to leave any Merchants as the players to beat, as usual.

- To placate Pirate 1 for now I gave his ring 2 world back to him.

- I probed Pirate 1’s ring 1 (world 185).

Turn 5 – Even Worse Trouble

It looked as if I might be attacked early by both of my neighbors. At least both of them were making aggressive early fleet movements. When I play a Pirate if I plan to attack a Berserker I will try to do so early. There are no Pirate points to be gained from robotized worlds. I hoped that Pirate 1 had not arrived at the same plan.
- Pirate 1 had stayed at my ring 2 world that was neutral (world 234).
- Pirate 1 had also moved a fleet to a ring 1 world of mine (world 109).
- Player 2 was not helping at all. He had moved further into my territory and captured two of my worlds. They were a ring 3 (world 102) and a ring 2 world (world 8). He also stayed at the neutral ring 3 world between us (world 248).
- I had met Player 3 at a Player 2 world that I explored.
Somehow I had to make a semblance of a defense against both of my neighbors. Due to the world connections Pirate 1 had seen he could easily deduce the world number of my homeworld.

Turn 6 – Good News / Bad News

Well this turn brought a little good news but I really, really wish that I had two Apostles as next door neighbors instead of these two!
- Pirate 1 had retreated. I captured my neutral ring 2 world (world 234) neighboring Pirate 1.
- Player 3 who I met last turn was actually Apostle 1.
- Player 2 was actually Pirate 2. My two closest neighbors were both Pirates!
- Pirate 2 plundered both worlds that he captured from me on turn 5.
- Pirate 2 moved a one-ship key to my ring 1 (world 245).

Tactical Assessment #2 

[SW 1324 Map 2]
- I had no realistic choice but to assume Pirate 1 had decided not to attack me. I couldn’t defend for very long against two Pirates anyway.
- Decided to give more worlds to Pirate 1 in hopes of buying his good will. The population on most of my worlds was so low it wouldn’t matter if he plundered them.
- Decided to concentrate my forces against Pirate 2.
- I needed to demonstrate to Apostle 1 that I was a Berserker as soon as possible.
- I was unable to complete Strategy Step 1. I didn’t have the resources to visit two ring 4 worlds and simultaneously defend myself. They would stay unexplored except for a probe for the entire game.

Turn 7- Now What?

I wish these guys would make up my mind!
- Pirate 1 entered and captured an undefended ring 2 world (world 234). Was he too going to press an attack?
- Pirate 2 had withdrawn his keys. Was he going to stay away?
- Player 4 had appeared at a ring 3 world (world 213). I ignored him due to lack of resources.
- Despite Pirate 2’s apparent withdrawal I moved this turn as if he would attack me.
- I gave Pirate 1 another world still hoping I could buy peace with him.

Turn 8 – Aha! I thought so.

I knew that I had that itchy feeling in the middle of my back for a reason.
- Pirate 1 retreated. He gave back to me the ring 2 world (world 234, again!) that he had captured last turn. Maybe the gifts were working after all. I decided to declare Pirate 1 my ally and hoped that I was right.
- Pirate 2 sent a fleet back into my ring 2 (world 8). I had probed a ring 3 world he owned (world 248) and saw that 3 more keys were headed my way. Apparently I was right to believe that he would be the one to worry about.
- I decided to robot attack my ring 2 world (world 8) owned by Pirate 2.
- Apostle 1 gave a world to me on turn 7 (world 197). I gave it back to him on turn 8.
- I made a one-ship robot attack at an Apostle 1 world (world 197) this turn.
- Player 4 departed my ring 3 world through the same connection that he entered on turn 7.

- I gave W234 back to Pirate 1 again. If that didn’t get my message of friendship across to him then nothing would do it.

It did seem that Pirate 1 had decided not to attack me for now. Even better Apostle 1 was trying to be friendly. Next turn Apostle 1 would know that I was a Berserker. Pirate 2 would also know that I was a Berserker.

I had hoped that Pirate 2 would decide that there was little profit for a Pirate in attacking an alerted Berserker. Despite everything else going on I had reached full ship production at my homeworld. An invader would have to fight for anything he got from me. On turn 8 I sent more than forty ships out to defend against Pirate 2.

Turn 9- Confrontation

I was positioned eyeball to eyeball with Pirate 2 on this turn. Our forces were more or less intermingled at my ring 1, 2 and 3. He had pushed two keys with fifteen ships to my ring 1 (world 245) where I had no fleets. I had six keys and forty-seven ships to his two keys and thirty-two ships on my ring 2 and 3. It looked as if the battle was on.
Since I had achieved full production at my homeworld on turn 8 we should have had a roughly equal number of ships. Without a pirate capture of significant ships Pirate 2 was in for a long tough fight. The worst aspect of the situation was that he had the initiative.
I decided to consolidate my ring 2 and 3 forces at ring 3 (world 248). I would leave ring 2 defenseless and put all available ships and keys from my homeworld to my ring 1 (world 245). I also decided that I would follow a “scorched earth” backup plan.
If at any point I lost my homeworld then I would disperse my ships and keys to all of my worlds on the same turn. I had enough force to robotize all of the worlds simultaneously. Pirate 2 was not going to get any profit out of my demise if I could help it.
Meanwhile good things were happening elsewhere.
- The Apostle contact had been well and truly made.
He gave me two one-ship keys on turn 9. One of the keys was at his homeworld (world 120). Clearly he was expecting me to make robot attacks to score points for both of us. I would do my part.

- Pirate 1 gave a one-industry world to me (world 189).

I decided to move a one-ship key through two Pirate 1 worlds to test whether or not he had declared me as an ally.

Turn 10- Good News All Around

Pirate 2 retreated. He pulled all his fleets, except one, out of my worlds and back to ring 3 (world 248). The one fleet that he did not pull back he gave to me at my ring 1 (world 245). Once he knew that I was a Berserker maybe he decided that there was not enough reward to be had. Or maybe he saw that I would not be an easy conquest.
In other news…
- Apostle 1 gave me another fleet. My one-ship robot attacks continued.
- Pirate 1 did not ambush my fleet so he had probably declared me as an ally.

Tactical Assessment #3 

[SW 1324 Map 3]
On turn 10 my situation was:
- Score = 169
- Owned 12 worlds and 18 keys
- Population on the worlds that I owned was 591
I had a breathing space but that was unlikely to continue. It would have been boring and pointless to just “fort up” in my little empire and kill off the population. Even skimming off some population kills from normal growth using one or two-ship robot attacks wasn’t going to do much. In fact I could PBB all eleven worlds other than my homeworld and still score less than 3,500 points.

So I was back to Strategic Step 2, find and conquer a victim.

Apostle 1 would have had the most population to kill. Unlike the Pirates he would be trying to grow as much converted population as possible. But he was already cooperating. Besides, his homeworld had turned out to be on my ring 8 (world 120). There was no way to overrun him in a blitzkrieg. There was no point in trying to conquer him unless there was no one else with a higher priority.

Pirate 1 was at least nominally an ally. Although it was doubtful that I would ever get much scoring from the alliance I did believe that I could attack elsewhere without worrying too much about the Pirate 1 border. It was true that I had given him several worlds for plunder and received only one useless world in return. Plus his homeworld was the closest one of my neighbors and I knew how to reach it. On balance I decided it was better to look elsewhere.

That left Pirate 2 as my target.I would send my ships and fleets to attack Pirate 2. Besides, I wanted to attack him in revenge for the trouble he had given me already.Isn’t it wonderful when both logic and emotion lead you to the same course of action?!!

Turn 11- Attack in Relative Quiet

Pirate 2 was melting away in front of me. I had four keys and sixty-eight ships at our shared ring 3 world (world 248). I also had two fleets with thirty-two ships at his ring 2 (world 183). The only Pirate 2 fleet I could see was a one-ship fleet at his ring 2 (world 183). I would keep boring into his empire while attempting to avoid any pirate captures.
I was milling around in Apostle 1’s empire with three one-ship keys. When he gave a ship to me I did one-ship robot attacks.
I had seen and heard nothing from Pirate 1. I decided to send a small fleet to his homeworld. Maybe if I did a one-ship robot attack at his homeworld he would get the message and help me make a few points.

Turn 12- Now What v2.0?

This game’s tactical situation is beginning to approximate either a pretzel or possibly a Moebius strip.
My invasion of Pirate 2 was proceeding fairly well. I had two of his ring 1 worlds visible this turn. At one of them (world 30) I was outnumbered eleven fleets and 152 ships for Pirate 2 to my two fleets and 59 ships. But at the other ring 1 world (world 125) the route to Pirate 2’s homeworld was guarded by a single ISHP. Pirate 2 has also given to me his ring 2 world (world 183) which is my gateway to his empire.
I would not be bought off at this point with the gift of a world. Pirate 2 knew that I was a Berserker so he must have believed that his situation was getting desperate. Otherwise why would he give a world to me? He had to know that the world was useless to me while he must have needed it for plunder.
I was not sure why he would be desperate at that point. His defensive force still slightly outnumbered my invasion armada. I decided to invade his homeworld via his unprotected ring 1 world (world 125) while ignoring his forces at the protected one (world 30).
The pretzel part came in with my other neighbors.
Apostle 1 had stopped giving ships to me for my small robot attacks. Since I hadn’t given anything of consequence to him that was understandable. More worrisome was that he had moved a forty-ship fleet adjacent to one of my ring 3 worlds. Had he decided to make me a jihad target?
Also on this turn I had found out the hard way that Pirate 1 no longer considered me to be an ally. The small fleet I had sent to his homeworld last turn was ambushed by him on the way and pirate captured on arrival at his homeworld.

For added interest Player 5 had made his initial appearance on my printouts. He did so at the same ring 3 world of mine (world 213) where Player 4 showed himself on turn 7. Had Player 5 conquered Player 4?

Tactical Assessment #4 

[SW 1324 Map 4]
On turn 12 my situation was:
- Score = 288
- Owned 14 worlds and 19 keys
It made no sense to me to abort my attack on Pirate 2. The majority of my ships and keys were deep into his territory. Our enmity for this game had to be chiseled in granite by then. Taking out his homeworld seemed to be not only the best offensive move but was also likely to be the best defensive move.
Therefor I had no large number of ships to spare for operations in another part of the web. Apostle 1, Player 5 and my own scoring would just have to be ignored for the moment.

The situation at Pirate 1’s homeworld was very interesting. Since he had ambushed and pirate captured my fleet I felt free to act as I pleased. In addition he was amazingly weak at his homeworld. He had only twenty metal to build with on turn 12. He had one ISHP and 3 fleets totaling eighteen ships visible at his homeworld and only one ISHP apiece at the ring 1 and ring 2 worlds that bordered my empire.

With Pirate 2 in a defensive position I decided to begin sending all new ship production at my homeworld toward Pirate 1. It would be a piecemeal attack but Pirate 1 appeared to be very weak indeed. If my attack on Pirate 2’s homeworld could deny the industry to him then I would withdraw my remaining ships and keys from the remainder of his empire. I had no intention of leaving Pirate 2 behind me in any condition to build a larger armada of his own.

See Part 2 in next month’s SEDG

Return to SEDG Volume 71