This guide is intended to show you a strategy that capitalizes on the power the Vodyani wield and why they are borderline OP.
I am writing this guide because a lot of people completely misunderstand what the Vodyani are about. They misunderstand why they are super strong. A lot of people complain about how the Vodyani perform and yes, if you play them wrong like the AI does, it will not work to your advantage.
I try to showcase where the real strengths of the Vodyani lie and show you how you can capitalize on all of their gimmicks
Let’s talk essence
Essence is a special resource exclusive to the Vodyani. It represents some form of life power that is absorbed by the Vodyani’s suits.
Let’s look at all the things a Vodyani can use essence for:
- Buy 1 population in a single turn at a cost of 250 * (num_pops – 1)
- Create an ark at a cost of 600 + ((num_arks -1) * 800) at normal speed
- Convert 300 essence to 300 manpower in one turn (unlocked by tech)
- Pa*sively converted to manpower at a rate of 5% of total income
Also, let’s look at ways you can generate essence:
- With the help of leeching modules installed on ships, orbiting other factions’ systems
- With the help of Ark-specific modules that grant a pa*sive income
- Destroying enemy ships with ships that have a leeching module equipped at a rate of 1 essence per module per CP destroyed
- By razing a system and turn it into hunting grounds for a few turns
- From brainwashed/a*similated minor factions
- From taking a tribute from a minor faction by gifting luxuries
- From other factions’ systems under your influence zone
- From behemoths with special modules orbiting systems with destroyed planets
Note: I might have overlooked a source of essence income. If so, please let me know.
Going over the list of essence income, the first one has to be elaborated on. Being able to create a population out of essence in one turn is very powerful. Other factions need to have an equivalent of 300 food overproduction to reach 1 population. However, due to how Vodyani populations work, a single Vodyani pop is up to 5 times more valuable than a strong pop of other factions. The reason is that a single pop will be employed on all colonizable planets of a system. This means, that in systems with 5 planets that can all be colonized by the Vodyani player, 1 Vodyani pop equals 5 pops of other factions. Now compare the cost of a Vodyani pop to another faction’s cost of creating 5 pops. Not only do other factions need a food production of 1500 for creating 5 pops, they also need to keep in mind the increased food consumption by the new pops. So the food requirement is more likely in the region of 1800 for other factions. This alone means that generally, the Vodyani would have to create 12 pops on a single system to break even with the food cost other populations can achieve. Since the maximum number of pops in a system for Vodyani is 9, Vodyani pops will in optimal circumstances always be cheaper than other faction pops.
Furthermore, let’s talk about arks. Arks are special ships that function like a system colonizer, exploiting all colonizable planets. However, Arks are also capable of equipping weapons, plating, shielding and most notably a big array of support modules. Traditionally, this is very useful for creating arks that can defend the system against early aggressors and allowing the player to put in a bunch of very useful system boosting support modules. However, arks can also be used as a combat ship. Due to the hull size, multitude of slots and very cheap CP of 4, they are very capable fleet ships. They are produced in a single turn, no matter how much industry they would cost to create. This is an important aspect to keep in mind for later.
Being able to convert essence into manpower should only be done in desperate circumstances, since it takes turns away from constructions. If you are careful with your manpower, this will never be necessary.
Lastly, the pa*sive conversion of essence to manpower is supposed to be a weaker equivalent of the 10% food to manpower that other factions get. This will be enough to fill all your systems and ships eventually.
Having a look at the ways to generate Essence, there is not much to tell. Some are more practical than others, coming earlier in the game.
As a summary however, we can see that essence provides basically three things:
- Expansion via system arks
- Insane system growth via proliferation
- Super strong combat ship
Your first essence
The previous section discussed essence, its application and where to get it. So what do you do with your first essence? And where do you get it? Let’s start with the latter question.
In the first turns, you are very limited in the ways you can generate significant amounts of essence. You do start the game with 2 leecher ships, which will be your most important ships to start off with. Leecher ships hold 3 leech modules each, which in turn leech up to 12.5 (shown as 13) essence per module per turn. Your two leechers have thus a leeching capability of 75 essence per turn. It is vital that you find one or more systems quickly from where you can start leeching essence. It can be a minor or major faction system.
Another, not quite as powerful source of essence income is from your starting ark’s modules. You can equip a module called all must provide, which initially provides you with 10 pa*sive essence income per module per turn. In the beginning, you can fit up to 4 of those on an ark.
Finally, your last early game income of essence is through the first religious law: Species stability act. It provides 15 + 2 * num_pops essence per turn at the cost of 1 influence per pop
Looking over these numbers we see which way is the strongest to get early essence: via leeching. So you do park your leechers in an enemy system. What to do with this early essence?
This is where a lot of people will give you a different answer. They will recommend you to invest in pops in order to boost your system. And i disagree with this. The problem with this is that you are not investing in a resource feedback loop that provides you with more essence. Sure, you research faster, you build stuff faster and maybe even get a good reserve of dust. But that all doesn’t help you expand in any way. This is why I am telling you to save up for a battle ark (BARK) loaded with leeching modules. See, leeching modules have a horrendous industry cost and producing more leecher ships is a huge pain. Also, those leecher ships are defenseless and have to be protected by a fleet of ships. You do not have this power to create so many expensive ships so early on.
Given that arks are created in one turn no matter their industry cost, you can essentially bypa*s the leech module cost entirely and create a ship that not only leeches more than a leecher, but also has the capability to defend itself against attacks. Arks start with a module modifier of 4, so every leecher module basically counts as 4 modules. Typically, you’d stick 3 leecher modules and 1 engine on an early BARK. This gives you a leeching potential of 150 essence per turn for a cost of 600 essence. After 4 turns of leeching, it paid for itself and after 6 more, it yields you a new Ark.
Another perspective of why i would not advise you to invest in a new pop right away is that you can simply unlock colonization for one of the planet types in your home system to basically gain a free pop. Of course, you can also do that when using essence to boost pops, but then you are left with a very poor essence income.
Where you take it from there is more up for discussion. I generally advise to get a second BARK and also invest in your populations. If there is a great 5 planet system however, you might want to grab that.
The early game
The Vodyani have a generally score poor early game. You’ll look bad compared to pretty much every other empire. But that doesn’t mean you are doing bad. It is actually to your advantage that others might conceive you as weak.
Let’s look at the Vodyani pops. They create 4 FIDS but receive a 50% food penalty on the system. This bonus is huge and only surpa*sed by the bonus from the Riftborn pops. However, you do have one crucial advantage: Your pops can be boosted with luxuries while Riftborn pops can not. Boosting a pop doubles its resources produced while also increasing the chance for this pop to grow. While the latter is pointless for Vodyani, the first bonus is huge. It turns Vodyani into a super-pop that produces 8 FIDS and suggering 50% food penalty. If you can manage, always keep your pops boosted since they give you as much value as the planet they are on as well.
So you have your first BARK out, settled another system and boosted all available pops to the system capacity. Where to go from here?
Due to the unique ark mechanics of pops, the Vodyani are very reliant on system developments. Arks have 3 + 2 * num_system_developments slots for populations on every planet. This means that in order to increase your systems’ effectiveness, you need to get system improvements very early. It is thus important for Vodyani, to secure a source of a good early game luxury. I would recommend you any of food, science or production focused luxuries. You might ask: why food? They receive a penalty to food production. That is correct, but despite being created through essence, Vodyani pops can still grow naturally and will still eat food. It is very easy to proliferate and find out next turn that you immediately lost the pop because there was not enough food on the system. Production obviously helps you setting up new improvements faster and science is important to further improve the Vodyani strategy. I don’t think dust is all that useful since you’ll get enough of it anyway (i dont even know where it all comes from).
A short term goal of yours is to upgrade your essence gathering options. In the 3rd ring of the science & exploration research tree there is a tech that gives you improved versions of the leeching and pa*sive essence income modules. This tech is a priority, since it basically doubles your leeching potential from your BARKs, leechers and your system arks.
Once you get that module and having a handful of BARKs, it is easy to leech enough essence in a single turn from a previously unleeched system to get another ark in a single turn. This is the stage where you snowball like crazy. You can churn out Arks insanely quickly, colonize systems left and right, create pops like there is no tomorrow and create strong battle-ready arks.
Battle arks are not a new concept to the Vodyani player. They used to be great when they were still 8 CP, but they are even better now.
Arks start with a modest number of modules and good hull, comparable to a medium ship size. However, as you reach new science tiers and research more technologies, you can increase your Arks’ power tremendously. Reaching the 2nd ring of the military research tree unlocks additional modules for the ark. Reaching the 3rd, 4th and 5th ring of the Economy and trade research tree also unlocks new modules, however, those modules are only actually working if the ark has also built the corresponding system improvement levels.
Due to the early availaibility of BARKs, no enemy can build a ship that can withstand it. Since you can very easily boost your ark’s efficiency by just increasing your economic power, you have an advantage over the enemy who has to research both military and economic applications to compete. It is always recommendable to research one tech of the first military tech tree in order to be able to make better BARKs from a module point of view. Since I see converting essence to manpower as pointless, I always go for the option to create shipyards, that increase the level of your ships, automatically making them even stronger from the get-go.
When you reach a point where essence is abundant, your limiting factor for BARKs is luxury resources. You need to plan ahead of time and plan well which resources should be used in your system upgrades, since you’ll be using it until the end of the game. You should also generally not use a luxury resource for two or more system developments, since this will likely starve your BARK efficiency tremendously.
So, you have system developments and just created a new BARK. What do you do now? Well, you find the closest system where you can anchor the BARK, send it there, anchor it and build the system improvements. While you are at it, you can also send away the pop that was created with the ark to another system once you have built your first system development. Depending on how much time you want to spend, just note that the manpower capacity from defensive system improvements add to the manpower capacity of the BARK. It doesn’t raise the manpower you can bring to a fight – that is governed by manpower/invasion modules, however, being able to carry more troops is always a bonus.
I have made comparisons in the past and a fully upgraded and kitted out BARK is almost on par with a fully upgraded Military Behemoth. Only the Juggernaut beats the BARK by a good amount, but then again, it costs 10 CP as opposed to 4 of a BARK.
So your essence economy is bursting, your systems extremely well developed. But where to go from now?
Basically that is up to you. Since the Vodyani have a strong incentive to go on the warpath very early, a supremacy victory is a very natural path to take. You just fly to an enemy capital and take it in a turn. You dont even need to declare war due to your religious laws. However, the Vodyani economy booms so much that you can go for any victory type that fits you. Due to the mobility of arks, you can move them around to specifically gather the strategic resources you need to create wonders. The insanely boosted science from pops can easily lead to a science victory. The same applies to economic victories as well, since you can move your arks in such a way that you maximize trade profit. Expansion is probably a bit harder to pull off, due to the general shortage of luxuries for Vodyani and the limited ways to keep your pops happy (no terraforming for Vodyani).
A fun and for your enemies annoying thing to do is to simply destroy the planets of systems you dont intend to colonize yourself. Not only is this beautifully cruel, but it also prevents your enemies from settling there and being problems for you. Additionally, you can always park a behemoth with special modules in such a system that generates pa*sive essence income from every destroyed planet.
The Vodyani are an extremely powerful faction once they get going. And it is easy to get them going too with the help of leeching BARKs. I challenge everybody who says that the Vodyani are weak to a duel. Sure, the early game is rough, but if done right, nothing can stop a Vodyani player. The sheer economic and military powerhouse that is essence is uncomparable. I hope this guide has given you some insights as to why the Vodyani are by far not a weak faction.
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