Sins of a Solar Empire is an RT4X game, fusing both Real Time Strategy and 4X gameplay into one package. It was released on February 2008 to wide acclaim.There are three factions in the game. There's the Trader Emergency Coalition, a semi-cohesive organization of human worlds who have banded together to try to defend their worlds from aggression, using Kinetic Weapons, heavy armor and Macross Missile Massacres. There's the Advent, transhumans who were exiled by the traders' ancestors many years ago for tampering with Psychic Powers, Crystal Spires and Togas and Frickin' Laser Beams, and are now back for Revenge. And there's the Vasari, Scary Dogmatic Aliens who once ruled a huge interstellar empire, but whose worlds have been gradually swallowed by... something. Every ship sent to investigate this menace has disappeared, except for one ship which returned with its crew driven mad. The remnants of a Vasari colony, now surviving as nomadic Planet Looters, have fled to this corner of the galaxy, leaving warning buoys behind them... and watching in dismay as those buoys wink out, one by one. All while the humans, who they initially thought would be easy targets, dragged them down into a Hopeless War.Sounds like an interesting potential plot, right?—Gray and Grey Morality, possible Eldritch Abominations, who knows what else. Unfortunately, the story basically ends there. You can set up a multiplayer match vs. AI or a multiplayer match vs other people, but there's no single-player campaign. However, there is abundant backstory, very dedicated to showing that each of the 3 main races has committed sins of their own and are now paying for them (hence the title).The game was designed from the ground up to be playable on a wide spectrum of hardware configurations, including ones most of its contemporaries would write off as "obsolete"; this didn't hurt sales by any means. It was also free of Copy Protection, making headlines at a time when invasive, unnecessary DRM was turning people off Spore. A pirated copy was essentially a fully-functional demo, allowing you to skirmish against AI but not to play over the Internet; you needed to buy the game for that. Those who held pro-DRM attitudes predicted failure, but as of September 2008 Sins had sold 500,000 copies, recouping its $1M development costs months before any of the $10 Expansion Packs came out. (There's no hard data as to how and why this game managed to be financially successful, but you can guess what most tropers think. Having said that, Ironclad Games eventually switched to Steam, and more pertinently Valve Anti-Cheat, as their distribution method.)Speaking of expansion packs, there were two "micro-expansions" released: "Entrenchment" added new ships and starbases; "Diplomacy" added more diplomatic options, including a (theoretically) non-military win condition. A third was supposedly going to contain a single-player campaign... but quietly evaporated before being Un-Cancelled (without a campaign) in March 2011 as "Rebellion," a full-sized expansion in which players of each faction can choose loyalty or rebellion, and gain access to new tech trees in doing so. Rebellion is a standalone expansion, with a discount for those who owned the original installment. Finally, for those who don't care to fork out more money, there is a robust and thriving Game Mod scene, dedicated to doing anything from providing factions from pre-existing sci-fi franchises to graphical updates to full game overhauls to code optimization so that the game doesn't crash as much. That's right, fans love their Sins so much that they are voluntarily debugging it.This game provides examples of:
TEC Loyalist: A mixture of Economists, Industrial, Brute Force and Spammer. Their manufacturing ability is practically unsurpassed and coupled with their strong economy and the fact that the TEC have some of the least expensive frigates and cruisers of any faction, they can easily build massive fleets of extremely durable warships and overpower enemies with sheer numbers. Oh, the Loyalists also get their superweapon earlier then the other factions and have reduced construction costs for said superweapon. They also get a lot of defensive bonuses, their Ankylon Titan specializes in fleet support and are able to deploy two starbases around a planet.
TEC Rebel: Like Loyalist forces a mixture of Economists, Industrial, Brute Force and Spammer while at the same time introducing elements of Guerrilla. They are capable of allying with the Pirates, using pirate warships and utilizing milita forces. They still retain much of the same economic and military characteristics of the TEC Loyalists, with the same cheap, tough warships. Their Ragnarov Titan also packs the absolute highest firepower of any ship in the game, being the super-offensive philosophical opposite to the super-defensive Loyalist Ankylon.
Advent Loyalist: Mixture of Technical, Loyal and Researchers. They are capable of advancing through their Tech Treevery quickly and their ships excel in long range firepower but lack durability; their ships have powerful shields but very weak armor and hulls. They get access to culture early and are more proficient in its use. Their Coronata Titan is capable of mind-controlling entire planets.
Advent Rebel: Same as the Loyalist but adds Spammer to the mix. They get a research ability that allows them to respawn destroyed frigates and cruisers. Their Eradica Titan packs a lot of firepower, is able to heal itself by cannibalizing other ships and when it does get killed, it will become invulnerable and continue wreaking havoc for two minutes before going down.
Vasari Loyalist: Elitists, Rangers and Espionage. The Vasari tend to have fewer, but more expensive units that have extremely hardened hulls. Their ships tend to use Phase Missile technology, which have the possibility of completely bypassing the shields of enemy ships. The Vasari Loyalists can generate income with their capital ships and can set their Vorastra Titan as a mobile capital world. They can also completely drain planets of resources, leaving dead husks behind.
Vasari Rebels: Also Elitists, Rangers and Espionage. They pack the same powerful but expensive ships as the Vasari Loyalists, and go even further with upgrading their Phase Missile technology. Instead of focusing completely on self-mobilization, they get a lot of abilities that allow them to support their allies more effectively as well as making for powerful offensive tools - such as their capability to add jump engines to their already-mobile Orkulus Starbases and effectively convert them into very powerful spaceships. Their Kultorask Titan is more of a fleet support ship than an all-out combat titan, but is still capable of heavy offensive power and is very hard to kill thanks to its abilities.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The CPU players taunt you when they invade your planets. Especially painful if they have a large invasion fleet, and you either have a meager fleet (possibly as a result of a failed invasion of your own which cost you a lot of ships, or you're focusing on research instead of building a military force), are being besieged by another player/CPU in another planet, or the planet they invade is really far away from your own forces, and reinforcements will take a while to get to the besieged planet.
Aliens Are Bastards: The Vasari, especially their ancestors 10,000 years ago, the Vasari Empire in proper.
Exaggerated with the Vasari Loyalists since they have no compunction to destroying planets whole. Averted with the Vasari Rebels, who wish to cooperate with other factions for survival.
Amazon Brigade: The Advent, whose fleets rely on Psychic Powers, have their ships commanded by women, since females are (apparently) much stronger psychics than males.
Anarchy Is Chaos: One planet attribute in Forbidden Worlds is "Anarchic Society" and is completely negative. Tax income, trade income, ship build speed, ship build cost, culture spread, and max allegiance all take negative hits.
Anti-Hero / Anti-Villain: All three sides, really. The Traders, united as the TEC, are fighting the Vasari for their home and their survival, and the Vasari are only attacking the TEC in the first place for resources to ensure their survival against the unknown threat. The Advent meanwhile are fighting the TEC in order to seek revenge for the wrongs the Trade Order had inflicted upon them a millennium ago, and the TEC are again fighting back in self-defense. The Advent and Vasari are only fighting one another because the whole mess got started in the same region of space.
In Rebellion it gets even more complicated: The TEC Loyalists are still fighting everybody out of self-defense, which they've taken to the extremes in fortification and isolationism. The TEC Rebels on the other hand are fighting offensively against both the Vasari and Advent to seek revenge for the wrongs they both inflicted on the Traders during the war, as well against as the TEC Loyalists for the crime of seeking peace with the unforgivable aliens and deviants. The Advent Loyalists are still on their crusade against the TEC for the same reasons they always were and are still defending against the Vasari, while the Advent Rebels considered the Loyalists to have been made impure by the war, and hence want to cleanse them...violently, apart from defending themselves against everyone else. The Vasari Loyalists still have their original goal of acquiring resources and continuing to flee from the advancing unknown threat, and have only gotten more desperate and extreme in their resource-stripping measures. Now they are beginning to desert and destroy planets, becoming a fully mobilized Exodus Fleet once more, and trampling over anyone who stands in their way. The Vasari Rebels meanwhile have seen potential in the humans, and want to try and unite them by diplomacy (or intimidation) to make a coherent response against the unknown threat, whatever that may entail. Though, understandably, the humans don't completely trust them.
Arbitrary Head Count Limit: Played straight for the most part. The exceptions are the Advent Rapture and TEC Corsev battlecruisers, which have special abilities that allow you to steal non-capital enemy ships. On large maps, the game can start to get a little choppy and slow if there's a large number of ships. On larger maps you can actually run into the max fleet limit quite early.
Are We There Yet?: Upon selecting a just-constructed Advent Mothership: "All shall join the Unity, in time... Is it time?"
Armor-Piercing Attack: The only ordnance-based weapon the Vasari use (with everything else being Energy Weapons) are their Phase Missiles, and these are the only weapons in the game that can bypass shields and directly damage ships' hulls, with the shield bypass chance being increased through research. In the process, they're also able to avoid the damage reduction from shield mitigation, allowing them to hit even harder. They're frequently employed by Vasari bombers, long-range missile frigates, anti-fighter defense frigates, capital ships, and upgraded starbases, to create a Macross Missile Massacre, and are the most prioritized weapons to research for Vasari after building up a sufficiently large fleet. The TEC ships generally tend to have weak shields and tough hulls so this doesn't affect them too much, but it tends to be deadly for the Advent, who rely on powerful shields but have weak hulls and light armor.
Artificial Stupidity: The AI in this game is not the brightest bulb in the fridge. Instead of sacrificing its fleet to protect its planets, it will happily sacrifice planets to protect its fleet, thus allowing you to attrition it to death. It rarely builds planet-damaging bombers; if you do, you will almost always out-DPS it. If it loses all its ship factories, it will not demolish old buildings to make new factories either. Developer updates have alleviated some problems, but not much; and the fact that there is no Campaign, just Skirmish mode against other players or AI, only exposes these problems more.
The game has also fixed the highly-annoying practice of going the opposite direction from where you come, meaning that if you attack a hostile planet that's next door to yours, the enemy will have jumped just then to try and destroy your world.
Game patches have rectified this to a degree.
Pirates only leave a system they raided once every ship and structure is demolished. However, the Space Mines count as structures, and none of their ships are equipped to detect, and therefore destroy them. This results in all the pirates twiddling their thumbs in the system until you kill them off, or if you're a TEC rebel allied with them, destroy all the mines.
AI Players don't exactly plan well when it comes to planet specializations, as they base them more on their distance to the front lines. This results in placing their primary ship foundry on a fully socially-specialized planets rather than the ferrous planet the next system over, resulting in build times up to twice the regular, or deciding that industrious volcanic planet is a great place to make a cultural center.
The colonies you can place on resource-rich asteroids are explicitly mining colonies, with a population and development cap to reflect it.
This game plays the trope well past its logical extreme, with asteroids being the only source of metal and crystal. Planet mining is apparently a thing of the past.
Astronomic Zoom: Rightfully a touted part of the game. Zooming between a close-up of a single bomber and assessing the position of your forces over different solar systems at a glance, is a press of a button away.
Attack Drone: Advent strike craft are piloted remotely, by telekinetic specialists called "Anima". The highest level Anima are formidable psychics respected even by the ruling Coalescences, and their strikecraft, while individually very light, outnumber those of the other factions and have very high total firepower. Anima serve aboard all Advent carriers, titans and starbases, and as such these units can field more strikecraft squadrons than their equivalents in other factions.
Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The TEC in the backstory. With their formidable industrial base (they can start trading earlier than the others, giving them a higher cash flow) they are quite capable of pulling this off in-game as well.
Badass Beard: The TEC narrator / Kol battleship captain sports one
Badass Normal: In a World of nanomachine-wielding aliens and psychic transhumans, the unaugmented, baseline humans of the Trade Order hold their own.
The Battlestar: Many examples among each side's capital ships, from battleships with strikecraft capability to full carriers that - in the case of the TEC's Sova-class - even look like aircraft carriers.
Beam Spam: The Advent's warships in general. The Halcyon Carrier capital ship carries up to 12 drone squadrons each containing 7 beam-armed bombers in addition to the 8 heavier beam cannons mounted on the ship itself. Add Aeria Drone Hosts and any Advent player fielding over 30 bomber squadrons can 'light up' a target with an Alpha Strike composed of hundreds of focused beams. Or if they choose to go with frigates, their Illuminator Vessels can deploy 3 heavy beam cannons each, one in front and one on either side, with tactics that involve charging forward into the middle of an enemy fleet and putting on an impressive and highly destructive light show.
The Vasari, on the other hand, use Pulse Wave Cannons, which are generally used by Capital Ships. A variant of these beam cannons are used for bombarding planets.
BFG: All superweapons can be considered as one of this. Except the Advent Deliverance Engine, which is essentially a Big Freaking Mind-Control Device. Also, the Marza Dreadnought's Siege Cannon.
The Ragnarov Titan takes this Up to Eleven as nothing but a giant cannon with gun placements on the side and engines on the back of it.
Black Box: None of the three sides really know how Phase Inhibitors work. The TEC and Advent just steal them, while the Vasari use nanomachines to copy them.
Bottomless Magazines: TEC ships fire missiles and cannon shells, and some Vasari ships fire phase missiles, but they all have unlimited ammunition. The TEC justify this by the smooth background operation of their logistics and supply chain working to keep your forces supplied at all times, while the Vasari ships that use phase missiles probably just nano-manufacture them on-board.
But Thou Must: When an AI empire comes to you with a mission to accomplish and Relationship Values on the line, there's no "Sorry, not interested" option: either you do the mission or you take the relationship hit. Two failed missions and they break the cease-fires, which verges the diplomacy mechanic into a case of Fake Difficulty. (Oh, and, until the "Diplomacy" micro-expansion, this was solely one-way: from AI to you.)
In the "Diplomacy" micro-expansion, you can refuse missions now (for a limited time after they are issued) to take a smaller relationship hit. Of course, the AI players usually just re-issue the same mission...
Locking teams before the game begins more or less nullifies the impact of diplomacy: you still get offered missions and still accrue ire when you ignore them, but teams are locked, forcing Teeth-Clenched Teamwork!
Cherry Tapping: You get achievements for feats such as not using Capital ships, not researching any military tech, and not using strike craft.
Cosmetically Different Sides: A good example of how to use a Tech Tree and a myriad subtle unit differences to avert this trope without introducing units with radically different functions.
Corrupt Bureaucrat: A game mechanic in the Forbidden Worlds DLC. The planet attribute Planetary Corruption reduces tax income by 2.0 (potentially into the negatives) and trade income by 20%.
Crippling Overspecialization: The TEC and Advent anti-structure ships can't target other ships, including hulking behemoths like capital ships and titans.
Slightly justified in that their shots are slow and unguided. It would be easy for any ship to dodge them, especially since they tend to fire at extreme ranges. This, of course, doesn't explain why they can still target Vasari Orkulus starbases, which are also able to move around, albeit more slowly than any ship.
Cruelty is the only option: the standard way to take a planet by force is to kill off the entire local population so you can then colonize it with your own people.
Death of a Thousand Cuts: The Entrenchment expansion introduced Starbases, extremely powerful (and expensive) fortifications that can be upgraded like capital ships. The best way to deal with them? Set your fighter and bomber wings on them; they're too small for the starbase to hit and come free with your capital ships and aboard carrier cruisers.
Death World: An explicitly-named planet attribute in Forbidden Worlds and is one of the few completely negative traits. The attribute lowers the max population, growth rate, tax income, and maximum allegiance.
Deflector Shields: A very common technology in Sins; almost all combat vessels are equipped with shields, which regenerate constantly at a decent rate and can mitigate a large fraction of the damage a ship takes under focused fire (60% for Red Shirt frigates, all the way up to 75% for level 10 capital ships and titans). The only unshielded entities are strikecraft, pirate ships, and orbital structures (usuallynote Starbases in Entrenchment have shields, and in Rebellion, the Advent can research Shield Bestowal for their hangar defenses, which give them and all nearby structures shielding). Shields are the primary defense mechanism of the Advent, whose ships have powerful shielding but light armor. The TEC on the other hand have weak shields but heavy armor, while the Vasari are in-between. Pirates meanwhile try to make up for their complete lack of shields by covering their ships in gratuitously thick armor plating, but even with this they are more fragile than the equivalent ships of the three main factions and rely essentially on the Zerg Rush to be dangerous.
Derelict Graveyard: The "Ship Graveyard" planet type in Stellar Phenomena. Despite containing several intact capital ships and a large space station, it's pretty much just a dead asteroid with a few metal mines.
In Rebellion, the Vasari Loyalists can strip any planet they capture for resources, culminating in an explosion that irreversibly reduces the planet to a worthless dead asteroid.
Also, while it doesn't blow it up, the TEC's Novalith cannon will heavily damage a planet (repeated hits will cause whoever owns it to lose said planet, unless they have a starbase in orbit with the remote government upgrade).
Easy Evangelism: All sides can overthrow enemy planets this way via the "culture" mechanic. The Advent are the most adept at this (More Than Mind Control, a genuinely better society, or a mixture of the two - you decide), and can boost it with their Deliverance Engine superweapon. The TEC however are the most overt about it, with a research option that allows them to spawn small fleets of rebels over enemy worlds (all of the fighting is taking place in Trader space, so this is basically just arming La Résistance).
The Empire: The Vasari, until they were forced to go on the run from an enemy that managed to wipe out their entire fleet (except for one badly damaged ship that came back with its crew gone stark raving mad).
Enemy Civil War: Can occur if you set two CPU players to be the same faction but on different teams, or two or more players using the same faction and fighting each other. The Rebellion expansion also features this happening canonically in all of the factions, although in the TEC's case it's more of an Opposing Combat Philosophies issue than an all-out schism and in the Vasari's case it's a "we're leaving NOW" and "we should try to bring these humans along with us" divide. The Advent however are all-out internally opposed.
Enemy Exchange Program: Several abilities can cause this, such as the TEC's Corsev Battlecruiser or the Advent automatically converting a few ships of a retreating fleet. The unit's response lines don't get changed a bit, which is excusable when it's the Advent Mind Raping enemy crews to their side, but less so when human boarding parties adopt the voices (and abilities) of the ship they captured.
Energy Weapons: Used by everyone, with the Advent emphasizing them almost exclusively, the Vasari using them heavily in conjunction with their signature Phase Missiles, and the TEC using them as secondary weapons to supplement their kinetic firepower. Both Frickin' Laser Beams and actual plasma-beam styles exist, in every faction.
Excuse Plot: That plot summary above? It...isn't a summary. The game lore is used only to justify each faction's technology/look. The developers promised a full campaign in an expansion pack, but... it sort of didn't happen.
Expy: The Vasari as depicted by the portraits appear uncannily similar to the Protoss. This carries over to gameplay as well in terms of cost.
However, the history of the Vasari is similar to that of the Rakata from Knights of the Old Republic. Both were alien conquers who ruled over a galaxy-spanning, multitude-enslaving empire which eventually collapsed from within.
Faction Calculus: Varies over the length of the game. Advent starts out Subversive and their light frigates, corvettes and drone strikecraft are built to be fast and cheap but individually weak, but as technology progresses their fleets become increasingly Powerhouse, built around larger more expensive units acting in a synergistic unison with each other and with their faction's strong cultural influence. The TEC start out Balanced, with their ships being middle-of-the-road, but their technological power doesn't advance to quite the heights of the other factions while their economy grows faster and further than the others, causing them to end up with large fleets of fairly mundane, easily replaceable ships that act as a Subversive force. Vasari meanwhile start out Powerhouse with expensive but individually strong vessels, and they gain the ability to deploy their high-quality ships in greater numbers and deploy them to where they need to be faster than anyone else, causing them to become more or less Balanced.
It's also a gameplay mechanic. During the calculations for diplomatic relations, there's a hard-coded "Racial Inclination" that gives you a positive boost for being the same species as another faction and a negative for being a different one. Some diplomatic research can reduce this penalty.
Feudal Future: One of the planet attributes in Forbidden World is this. In effect, it reduces tax income, culture spread speed, and ship build speed, but also decreases ship cost and increases resources mined.
4X: As evidenced by the "RT4X" moniker. The base game lacked much in the way of civil development for your solar empire, as well as a staple of the 4X genre: non-military win conditions.
In Diplomacy they added Diplomatic victories. Oddly enough, this doesn't change much. Sure, you can gain diplomacy points and win that way, but the main way you get those points? Finish missions that have you destroy enemy ships and structures, inevitably leading to war. So yeah... There's always the research victory.
Fragile Speedster: Corvettes in Rebellion, which sacrifice the hull and shield points of normal frigates for speed and evasion, and carry a versatile arsenal of light weapons and a minimal crew. Somewhat subverted by strikecraft - although they are even faster and have no shields and few hull points individually, most weapons and abilities can't target them at all, and their carriers or hangars will keep rebuilding them for free using their antimatter reserves whenever they do get destroyed. Strikecraft act more as proxy weapons systems for carriers and hangars than as autonomous ships.
Frickin' Laser Beams: Vanilla laser weapons are fired in pulses, taking a few seconds to get to the target. Inverted with "beam" weapons, which are sustained-fire plasma/laser weapons that hit instantly.
There is a mod that replaces standard TEC pulse lasers with thin red beams that pulse. This changes nothing in the gameplay (although, the mod may reduce your fighter/bomber count gained in expansions), but makes it look and sound more realistic (less like a Star Wars blaster and more like pulsing hum). The mod only affects TEC lasers, though. The Advent ones still travel to target.
Fun with Acronyms: The final Phase Missile upgrade technology on the Vasari tech tree is called NME Warheads.
Gang Up on the Human: Largely averted, but can be invoked should you make teams, and both CPU players on either side of the player happen to be on the same team. And then decide to attack you at the same time. Can be painful unless you have a strong fleet, strong defenses, or a good ally.
Glass Cannon: The long-range frigates (Javelis LRM, Kanrak Assailant and Illuminator Vessel). Lower speed and defensive stats, but more offense and quite a bit more range too. Multiplayer tactics prior to Entrenchment used to revolve around Zerg Rushing these frigates and then going to town; later balancing would make them less dominant while still being useful. There are also the Siege Frigates and Anti-Structure Cruisers. The former of which uses heavy weaponry to bombard planets from orbit, and the latter of which trash orbital structures with specialized weapons. Both classes are lightly armored and are virtually helpless when attacked. Rebellion adds in Corvettes, which pack a surprising amount of generalist firepower that can take on all sorts of targets, but are fragile and tend to suffer significant attrition in pitched battles. Finally, in the realm of capital ships, the carrier capitals (Vasari's Skirantra, TEC's Sova and Advent's Halcyon) pack the greatest firepower of all capital ships by a large margin when combining their own weapons with those of their squadrons, but are the most fragile, and are generally kept in the back lines in large fleet battles.
Gravity Master: The Vasari have gravity manipulation as one of their many advanced technological capabilities.
The Advent were a peaceful society seeking spiritual escape after the great wars of the past, but their exile darkened their racial psyche towards Revenge, leaving their crusade to reclaim their homeworld (and punish their oppressors) open to interpretation either as the actions of Well-Intentioned Extremists or Knights Templar.
The Vasari ruled their empire by oppression and slavery (if you've developed space travel they'll enslave your race; if you haven't then you're not a threat, so you'll be given minimal status in the empire as a "valued citizen"). But you can't help feel a bit sorry for them after they were all but annihilated and forced to go on the run from some unknown Eldritch Abomination.
The only seemingly truly evil presence in the systems is the ominipresent Space Pirates. Add in the fact that owing to a certain bug/programming overlook that makes them incredibly powerful and hard to beat, they can and will be a player character's worst enemy both in and out of character.
Hard-Coded Hostility: The pirates and the planetary militias to every faction. Even if the pirates are hired by you to attack someone else and their path takes them through your territory, they'll still engage your forces if they encounter them en route.
Only the TEC Rebels get a research development that ends this hostility.
Hired Guns: TEC Rebels can eventually hire mercenaries with the Broadcast centers, which spawns a small fleet of pirate ships to the planet. Extremely useful if you need a few defenders there in a pinch, or for some fodder to cause a distraction while your main fleet attacks somewhere else.
Hold the Line: Defensive structures such as turrets are basically just speed bumps for an invasion fleet. But a fully upgraded defensive starbase can hold its own against most forces. It can decimate smaller fleets, and against larger ones, will usually put a large dent in their forces, even if you don't send a relief force to assist it. It can sometimes be a good idea to plant one in a wormhole system (preferably on both ends), so that it can delay potential invaders and bog them down for your forces.
Hyperspace Lanes: You can only travel from one planet to certain nearby planets in any given jump unless you have phase stabilizers. However, interstellar phase jumps can be done from one star to any other star, or between the mouths of a wormhole.
It's Up to You: as usual. What's particularly jarring about this, though, is that your opponents tend to do pretty well, whereas your allies are saddled with a clear case of Artificial Stupidity. The end result is Fake Difficulty: you'll win, but it'll take a long time as you march through every enemy's territory one planet at a time—or sometimes less, when you're forced to double back.
Later game patches have mostly fixed this. Allies now have been known to defeat enemies by themselves with minimal assistance.
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The TEC are predominantly reliant on kinetics and explosive ordnance, as their few energy weapons are mostly inferior to those of the Vasari and Advent. Any ammunition costs that may be associated with the use of lots and lots of plain old guns are invisible to the player because of the superiority and efficiency of TEC logistics and manufacturing abilities, and the brute force of these weapons allow them to match the superior technology of the other factions. Advent also use kinetics for planet bombardment, although for ship-to-ship combat they rely entirely on energy weapons.
Lampshade Hanging: The descriptions for the Unrealistic Black Holes mention how unlikely it is for the black hole to not have absorbed the planets orbiting them a long time ago, and is still able to function mostly how a regular star would.
Every neutral planet starts out with a small fleet of varying strength. Lore-wise, they're Trader citizens whos planets have been largely wiped out, and those ships are all they have to defend what's left.
The TEC's "Insurgency" upgrade, which periodically spawns an assorted collection of TEC ships on enemy planets. Useful for automatically wiping out defeated enemy remnants or disrupting enemies who haven't invested in defending planets deep in their own territory.
Large Ham: Planet-bomber Capital Ships seem particularly susceptible:-
Pirates and some Titans and corvettes in Rebellion
Ragnarov Titan:I put the 'LAUGHTER' in 'SLAUGHTER'!
Limit Break: The Finest Hour ability for TEC Kol Battleship. The ship lights up, the crew cheers like soccer fans, and the ship can perform its anti-matter based abilities and repair its hull more quickly.
The TEC's Javelis LRM Frigates or the Vasari Kanrak Assailants, whenever there are more than one of them in one place at any given time (which is pretty much always). Or whenever you have swarms of TEC or Vasari bombers around, which also both use missiles.
In Entrenchment the TEC are granted the Ogrov Torpedo Cruiser- the bulk of which is storage space for GIANT torpedoes that can only target buildings. The explosion each of these makes is comparable to the size of the torpedoes. Think an ICBM silo with rocket engines at the back.
Mad Scientist: The Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser voice certainly sounds like one.
Magikarp Power: The Kol Battleship isn't that strong fresh out of the drydock, despite the glowing description in lore. It has poor antimatter reserves, unflattering damage and can be beaten by most other capital ships in a duel. With enough levels and antimatter upgrades, though, it becomes able to use its abilities much more freely, dramatically improving its power, and Finest Hour can turn a fight around.
Magic from Technology: The Advent's Psychic Powers are implied to have been created through technological means (neural and chemical Bio-Augmentation as well as cybernetic enhancement and integration) and honed constantly over a millennium to the point where Clarke's Third Law can be invoked by the other human faction, the Traders/TEC. The Unity have become rather incredibly dependent on it though, and use for everything from early warning (which the TEC just achieve through plain old electronic technology) to holding their ships together under fire (which the TEC achieve by just having more armor).
Magic Genetics: The Vasari tailor their biochemistry to better suit the worlds they (temporarily) settle down on, for example, Vasari on volcanic planets are modified to breathe sulphur.
Magic Tool: Everything in the game is built with what appears to be an oversized blowtorch.
The Vasari constructors use a kind of nano-spray instead of the blowtorch.
Magnetic Weapons: Both railguns and Gauss cannons are employed by the TEC. Their defense platforms use Gauss cannons as their main weapon, and the Rebels' Ragnarov Titan uses them as its secondary weapons, while the Kol Battleship has an antimatter-powered ability confusingly called "Gauss Rail Gun". Full TEC railguns however are their rarest and most powerful weapons, seen only in two cases. The first is the giant and incredibly powerful main weapon on the Ragnarov, which has the highest base damage of any single ship-mounted weapon in the game before using its deadly antimatter-powered abilities, and the second is their factional superweapon, the Novalith Cannon, which is a massive orbital railgun used to project nuclear warheads across interplanetary or even interstellar distances to wipe out enemy colonies.
Mega Corp.: Each individual TEC "player" is basically one of these.
Mega Maw Maneuver: The Vasari Loyalists' Vorastra Titan gains an ability at level 6, aptly called The Maw, which allows it to suck in and swallow entire fleets of enemy frigates and cruisers, instantly destroying them and giving resources to the Vasari. It doesn't matter how much shields or hull you have, if you're in anything lighter than a capital ship and in range when The Maw is activated, you're going to be Eaten Alive. That said, it is a rather short-ranged ability, and the Titan is normally slow... until it Micro-Phase Jumps right up to a fleet and eats it.
Mental Fusion: The concept behind the Advent's religion, "the Unity" - as evidenced by the Coalescences and their military equivalent, the Psintegrae. However, since their civilization went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge their powers are often applied to Mind Rape.
Mind over Matter: Various Advent special abilities work through telekinesis; the most impressive of which would be the Iconus Guardian's Repulsion, which can toss all enemy ships (except for strikecraft) out of its effect radius and keep pushing them back, creating a barrier that can prevent short-ranged vessels from attack and bunching them up for easy targeting by various area-effect abilities. Even capital ships and titans can be shoved around helplessly by the ability. The Halcyon Carrier has a similar ability that targets strikecraft, Telekinetic Push, which also damages them and leaves them disabled for a while. Finally, the Advent even have Mundane Utility uses for telekinesis, and use it to improve their resource extraction.
Mind Rape: A lot of the Advent special abilities are based on mind control, from the Domina Subjugators who psychically paralyze the crews of enemy ships, to the Revelation Battlecruisers that can cause planetary populations to go insane and start killing each other. High-level Rapture Battlecruisers can simply take over enemy frigates and cruisers using an active ability to dominate their crews' minds, while the Advent Loyalists' Coronata Titan can empower its weapons fire to inflict extreme fear on enemy crews and cause them to defect. And finally, at high levels, the Coronata can instantly take control of whole planets even when they're defended by loyalty-enforcing starbases.
Mile-Long Ship: The capital ships may be this, although it's unclear exactly how large the physical dimensions of any ship in the game is. The titans are more likely to be this, with the TEC Rebels' Ragnarov being perhaps the longest ship in the game (mostly composed of a giant railgun, like the UNSC ships from Halo), and the Advent Titans being mile-tall and the Vasari Loyalists' Vorastra being mile-wide. The Vasari Rebels' Kultorask is perhaps the largest ship overall in terms of maximum dimensions, being shaped like a giant spiky sideways umbrella whose handle is its tail. All capital ships and titans have crews of thousands, although for the TEC and Advent this ranges from just over 1000 (for specialist capital ships) to about 5000 (for titans). For the Vasari, capital ships have "crews" of around 10000, and titans carry a whopping 130000 - most of which is the remnant Vasari populace, and not actually military crew, seeing as the Vasari have been on the run for the last ten millennia and live mostly aboard spaceships in a Battlestar Galactica sort of manner.
The Mole: TEC have La Résistance and merchant spies, the Advent have converted locals, and the Vasari try to root out both of the above by the very Orwellian use of fake sympathizers.
More Dakka: The TEC's Marza Dreadnought takes this trope and runs with it. Then throws it out the window. Then sets it on fire. It's armed with missiles, pulse lasers, rocket pods and autocannons firing incendiary ammunition. And it can be upgraded further with a Siege Gun to attack entire planets. Andnukes.
The Marza is particularly egregious because it came out of the gate with a high-tier ability to launch a barrage of missiles whose count scaled with the number of enemies in range. It also was able to put out more damage than almost any frigate could take, allowing it to annihilate whole fleets in one hail of destruction, or at least close to it.
The whole niche of Dreadnoughts is in fact planet bombing, although they can be a horrific capital ship to face in any case. The Siege Gun "upgrade" for Marza is basically a massive chain-gun the ship is built around on that fires slugs roughly the size of a small spaceship towards a planet.. Sigh.. For Massive Damage.
The Titans run on this trope and can destroy whole fleets by themselves. Almost all of them, save for the TEC Loyalists' Ankylon and the Advent Loyalists' Coronata, possess area-effect abilities that can annihilate entire fleets of sub-capital ships, and they all also possess lots of straight-up firepower on top of that. The TEC Rebels' Ragnarov is perhaps the most extreme example - it's a massive gun, with more guns attached to it, and it takes everything exemplified by the Marza and turns it Up to Eleven.
N.G.O. Superpower: If you don't put in the effort to smack them down regularly, the Pirates can become powerful enough to hold off player fleets while razing planetary populations.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Averted by TEC ships, which are just a name and a descriptor, like "Protev Colony Frigate", "Percheron Light Carrier" or "Kol Battleship". But played very much straight by the Vasari - their ships have rather more dangerous sounding names. Such as Kanrak Assailant, Sivuskras Ruiner, Kortul Devastator and Vulknoras Desolator. The Advent are in-between - their frigates have bland names along the line of "-something- Vessel", such as the Seeker Vessel, Missionary Vessel, Illuminator Vessel, etc. Their cruisers have slightly more Vasari style naming pattern - Talion Savior, Destra Crusader, Iconus Guardian, etc. Their capital ships are TEC style names plus descriptors, but the names themselves tend to symbols - Radiance Battleship, Halcyon Carrier, Progenitor Mothership, etc.
N.G.O. Superpower: The Pirates, who start the game with a well-fortified base and periodically send out raiding parties on whoever has the highest bounties. Late-game fleets can easily decimate enemy planets and can destroy unprepared response teams.
Nanomachines: The Vasari's forte, along with their gravity-manipulation and genetic engineering technologies.
No Biochemical Barriers: Averted; planets and atmospheres of different types have different defense and population thresholds.
No Transhumanism Allowed: Played straight by the TEC, averted by the Advent. Partly why the Advent were exiled by the Traders in the first place.
Nuke 'Em: The TEC, and the Marza Dreadnought in particular. The Novalith Cannon takes this trope and runs with it, as one-yes, ONE!-can completely sterilize any planet with only two shots. (Except if the target planet is shielded.)
And if you build more than one, your opponent (or you, if they flip it around) is basically screwed.
The Entrenchment expansion allowed you to build starbases in orbit around your planets and give them off-world government upgrades, allowing you to maintain control of the planet despite Novalith bombardment. It's still quite expensive though, and the threat of a Novalith can give the TEC player an economic edge.
Old-School Dogfight: Sort of averted. Vasari and TEC have guided missiles, but TEC fighters only use autocannons, while all Advent weaponry is beam based. Advent fighter and bomber craft are however specifically stated to be drones, so they're forgivable.
One Game for the Price of Two: The game shipped with Skirmish mode being the only functionality, with three "micro-expansions" promised. One added options for system defenses; the second more Diplomatic options, bringing a little more 4X flavor in; and the third has been expanded into a full-fledged stand-alone.
Not so with the Trinity pack, which is the main game and the "Entrenchment" and "Diplomacy" and is reasonably priced.
"Rebellion" is a standalone expansion, and if you own the original, you can get it at a discount.
Orbital Bombardment: Standard way of destroying and capturing enemy planets. The TEC can even take it all the way to interplanetary and interstellar bombardment with their Novalith Cannon.
The Plague: A game mechanic in Forbidden Worlds, with the "Virulent Plague" planet attribute that reduces maximum population by 20 and slows population growth.
Planet Eater: The Jarassul Evacuator (once it reaches level 6) and the Vasari Loyalist faction in general.
Planet Looters: The Vasari, although it's driven by necessity rather than inclination.
Mind you, Vasari diplomacy was always of the "Surrender or die!" variety.
The Vasari Loyalist faction in Rebellion has this as its top-level research, allowing them to completely destroy a planet they control for a massive resource boost. The same research chain lets them use their Titan as their capital and their capital ships as both kinds of research station and for tax income, meaning they don't have to build structures at all except to build reinforcements.
Possible normally, by hiring different sides to attack the other while exploiting their distraction for your own gain.
This borders into cheating, but if you're playing single player and reload a save, you can swap places with an AI character, then sabotage their operations or direct them to raise relations with your true faction.
Point Defenseless: Strikecraft (fighters and bombers) are tiny, very fast free-to-build ships that are deployed into battle by capital ships, titans, specialized carrier cruisers, orbital hangars and starbases. They cannot be targeted by most weapons or abilities; the only things that can attack them are other fighters and flak frigates, and a few antimatter-powered capital ship special abilities (the TEC Kol Battleship's Flak Burst and Advent Halcyon Carrier's Telekinetic Push). Starbases in particular are exceptionally defenseless against strikecraft without fleet support, as they have nothing that can attack the strikecraft directly, and they either don't move at all (Advent, TEC starbases) or they move too slowly to effectively engage the carriers (Vasari). Starbases also tend to not house many or any fighter wings of their own as they would have to sacrifice a lot of direct firepower upgrades in order to field a small number of squadrons. Titans in Rebellion though avert this to a degree - they do have turrets that can target strikecraft, and all of them can house their own fighter wings, but, of course, they still need fleet support to fend off serious bomber assaults. Rebellion also added the Corvette class ships, which can target strikecraft with their secondary weapon pods and can be used to take out enemy bombers in a pinch if fighters aren't available.
Portal Network: The Vasari can build one of these, allowing ships to jump from one gate another within the same solar system instead of picking their way along the standard phase-space routes.
Power Glows: Whenever a capital ship or titan levels up. Also, many units do this when activating special abilities.
Psychic Powers: The Advent use them for everything from interplanetary communication to remote piloting their fighters in combat.
Psychic Radar: Foreshadowing and Acute Premonitions, upgrades in the Advent's research tree, allow them to extend the range at which they can detect hostile fleets whose destination is the player's territory as their psychics increase their own range.
Ressurective Immortality: The Advent Motherships had shades of this since the beginning (via Body Backup Drive) with their Resurrection ability, but in Rebellion the Advent Rebels have fully harnessed the ability (possibly as a result of them "purifying" their section of the Unity of its revenge obsession and returning it to its "true purpose").
Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Vasari Exodus Fleet began as a single colony which invoked this trope. They've been invoking it constantly for 10,000 years, and it's even factored into Vasari gameplay, with their emphasis on phase space manipulation and mobility. The Loyalists can strip down their own planets and go completely mobile with their titan being their capital, and the Rebels can even make whole starbases jump between the planets and stars as if they were normal spaceships. The trope is also very common in gameplay, as retreating whenever a battle is looking unwinnable or becoming too costly is a good idea for any faction, and is indeed vital to preserving high-value assets such as capital ships and titans - and various ships and structures have abilities that can help them and their fleets get away or prevent their enemies from escaping.
Settling the Frontier: As with most 4X games, you must race to establish new colonies before others beat you to it. The worlds you're capturing aren't uninhabited though - they have existing Trader populations which are hostile to every one of the playable factions (even the TEC, as they don't want to give up their planetary sovereignty) and tend to have small defense forces trying to prevent you from colonizing them. They're also always willing to bombard their own planets with nukes from Krosov Siege Frigates in case you do set up a colony. The TEC Rebels though can research a truce with the neutral planets, though, that causes their forces to ally with you and allows you to freely colonize their worlds. But otherwise their defenses are typically used as an easy way to gain experience for your first capital ship early on.
Averted with Terran planets, which are extremely Earth-like and presumably have the geographic range that we do.
Played straight with every other type. In the vanilla game there's volcanic, desert, and ice, and the latter two contain slight aversions due to possible having visible oceans. The Forbidden Worlds DLC adds the classic Oceanic and Jungle planets, along with Barren and Ferrous planets.
Sinister Minister: There's one leading the rally in the intro movie where the Trade Order decide to exile the Advent's ancestors.
And then there's the Vasari. Since they're this game's Evil Empire, it is to be expected.
So Last Season: Happens with every expansion, some things that used to be prominent in the earlier iteration of the game fade into niche uses or uselessness. Titans in particular can render entire fleets of standard frigates and cruisers near-obsolete once they're deployed, given their powerful area-effect abilities, with the only exceptions being corvettes, which are not affected by Titan abilities but can still be targeted by normal weaponry, and carrier cruisers, which can stay far away and attack with their strikecraft. Hence Rebellion fleets tend to be centered around Titans and large numbers of carrier cruisers primarily deploying bombers, escorted by capital ships and small numbers of support cruisers and flak. Heavy cruisers in particular are much less powerful in the expanded game then they were in the original.
Space Is Noisy: It's actually optional. You can reduce the volume of sound effects to zero separately to the other sound options (like music).
Space Is an Ocean: Complete with noise, ships (some of which look like ocean vessels) with bridges and distinct upper/lower sides, naval ranks, small maneuverable fighters/bombers (some of which look like aircraft), trade routes, and pirates.
Space Pirates: You can pay bounty to get these guys to attack whichever other players you want.
Just make sure you pay attention: the AI loves to counter-bid at the last second. Which you can't do, because there's a timer that lists how long until they open bidding, but not how long the bidding itself is open.
However you can build up a fleet big enough to wipe them out. All you have to do is either build your fleet up late-game or smack them down early-game.
In the expansions, you also have the ability to make them inactive, which makes them just stay at their base instead of taking bounties.
Alternatively, they can be destroyed using Novalith Cannons.
Possibly by Rule of Funny, the Pirates talk with stereotypical pirate dialects, using old nautical terms such as "Matey" or "Walk the Plank."
The TEC rebels can form a peace treaty with them; since they will then attack only other Empires it basically makes them a powerful ally, especially if you do it early. Later research lets them hire pirate fleets as mercenaries.
Space Nomads: The Vasari are a nomadic race running from some nameless threat, and while they colonize planets in the game ... in terms of the background that is only temporary before they pack up and leave again. The Vasari Loyalists in Rebellion can do just this - moving all facilities onto their capital ships and Titan and abandoning planets.
Spikes of Villainy: Vasari ships to a degree, though the Pirates go nuts with the concept.
Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Each faction has 2 Frigates (a scout and a combat ship), a Cruiser, a Light Carrier, a Missile Boat, a Colony Ship and 2 Science Vessels (one supportive/defensive, one disruptive/offensive). Troopships are supplanted by planetary bombardment frigates, and the Advent have a Beam Spammy Space Gun in place of their Missile Boat. Also, in terms of Capital Ships, each faction has a Battleship, a Battlecruiser, a Carrier, a Worldship (capital ship capable of colonizing) and a Banner Ship. Technically, any capital ship can be considered a Battlestar after gaining a strikecraft squad, and all Vasari capitals can be considered to be Worldships. The strikecraft themselves include an Interceptor and a Bomber. Rebellion adds Corvettes that are smaller than Frigates as well as super-sized Titans. The Titans in general are even larger and deadlier Battleships/Battlecruisers, and the Vasari titans are again, Worldships, while the TEC Rebel titan is one gigantic mobile Space Gun.
Stone Wall: The TEC Loyalists' Ankylon Titan, which has far inferior offensive capabilities to the Titans of the other factions, traded off for being incredibly tough and packed with defensive support abilities. Similarly the Advent's Iconus Guardian support cruiser is this; they can push back enemy ships and create a telepathic barrier to their movement, or project their powerful shields around friendly ships and absorb fire for them. Finally, flak/anti-fighter frigates are also this in a sense; they have no focused firepower and only provide area defense against strikecraft and corvettes, while being surprisingly tough for their cost.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Sins has always featured a complex rock-paper-scissors, but prior to Rebellion the early-to-mid game set-up somewhat favoured long-range missile frigates (LRMs) since they hard-countered light frigates and could focus down capital ships but their own counters were either later-game (fighter swarms, which also tend to get distracted by bombers) or suboptimal (flak, scouts). In Rebellion, the introduction of Corvettes as a hard counter to LRM frigates creates an early-game tactical square: LRM frigates -> light frigates -> flak frigates -> corvettes -> LRM frigates. Also new to Rebellion are the Titans, which possess powerful fleet-killing abilities and effectively counter all frigates and cruisers except for corvettes (which are not affected by their abilities) and light carriers (which can attack at extremely long ranges using their strikecraft). This has created a late-game system of titans (once leveled a bit) countering frigates and cruisers, corvettes and bombers countering titans, fighters countering corvettes and bombers but not doing much else. Carriers have the advantage of being able to destroy starbases efficiently with bombers, which corvettes can't do, and of being able to switch to fighters on short notice to fend off enemy strikecraft and vettes, but vettes have the advantage of being able to move between gravity wells twice as quickly as the slow-plodding carriers, in order to respond to threats or to hunt down retreating damaged capital ships and titans. Meanwhile, capital ships, depending on their ability sets, can be built to counter all sorts of things (eg. a Halcyon Carrier or Kol Battleship can counter strikecraft, a Radiance Battleship or Kortul Devastator can counter enemy capital ships, a Marza Dreadnought can counter all kinds of frigates and corvettes, and so on).
Factional differences make the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors web in Sins even more complicated - normally Scouts aren't effective against structures, but flotillas of TEC Arcovas upgraded with Timed Explosives can be used to slip past enemy lines and blow up high value assets quite efficiently, such as superweapon cannons and titan or capital ship factories (often while they're in the process of constructing said ships). Meanwhile, the Advent's Illuminator Vessel, officially classified as a long-range frigate, isn't anywhere near as vulnerable as the TEC and Vasari LRMs are against corvettes, and in equivalent fleets they can match or even defeat the corvettes thanks to its superior armor and shielding and its multiple beam cannons - with the tradeoff being its inability to focus all its firepower on a single target like the other LRMs can, and having a shorter range.
Taking You with Me: TEC starbases can be upgraded with the "Safety Override Protocol" function. It causes the base to self-destruct, causing immense damage to an invading fleet. Useful when you're in danger of losing the base anyway.
Telepathy: All Advent, either via natural psychic talent, or psi-boosting implants. Almost all humans are capable of receiving telepathy - those who aren't are called "Silent Ones" and are treated as the Red Headed Step Child of Advent society.
Teleport Spam: Some Vasari ships are capable of phase-jumping short distances within a gravity well - namely their Stilakus Subverters, which can phase jump into an enemy fleet and disable it, and their aforementioned Loyalist titan.
Transhuman: The Advent and the Vasari are both technologically enhanced over their biological baselines, in different ways.
Turns Red: The Advent Rebels' Eradica Titan once it gets its ultimate ability will turn invincible and glow angelically for a few minutes when destroyed and gets almost unlimited supply of antimatter before dying when the timer runs out. Even before it's destroyed, it will get stronger and stronger the more you damage it
2-D Space: Space looks very three-dimensional, with ships weaving over and under each other, but for gameplay purposes it may as well be flat.
Ships grouped into fleets usually adopt some sort of "wall" or "sphere" formation, but they still all orientate the same way.
However, it is nice that the ships realize that they don't have to go around stars or planets, and will readily fly over them to get to their target.
Even though some players consider it "cheating" to direct your fleet over a planet towards their own fleet because they built tactics around using the planet as a natural barrier. Ya know, like they might do for naval combat. Regardless of the fact that it makes the most logic to maintain formation and attack as one by going straight ahead than going around and having your fleet stretched around the planet.
Unrealistic Black Hole: Black Holes are a type of star in the stellar phenomena DLC, and despite being unrealistic, they're still death-traps for other reasons. On the good side, you're never at risk of being pulled into one. However, they have a permanent phase jump inhibitor effect, so if you're engaged with the enemy, it's often a win-or-die scenario. Additionally, there's a constant DoT effect, making it hazardous to keep smaller ships stationed there, and trade and refinery ships don't acknowledge it so they often randomly explode mid-journey.
This would fit in with the "Each race paying for its sins" motif that the game uses. Alternatively, it could be a slave-race rebellion, a superweapon that went off, or even a new, unseen race that's come to punish them... basically, ANYTHING. They never do say...
Used Future: TEC ships, due to almost all of them being re-purposed from civilian vessels for the war. The Kol Battleship and their Titans are perhaps their only exceptions.. and their strikecraft, for that matter.
Military Victory: Conquer the galaxy by exterminating (the majority of) all enemy forces.
Capital Victory: Simply knock out their capitals.
Diplomatic Victory: As mentioned, this mostly involves pleasing some opponents by beating up on others, so it's more of being a Villain with Good Publicity than actual peacemaking. Hey—everyone who's still alive thinks you're awesome!
Research Victory: Once you research ## number of standard topics, a special (and super-expensive) topic comes up that, when researched, causes victory.
Occupation Victory: A planet exists somewhere, guarded by Vasari mobs. Occupy it for ## minutes to win instantly.
Flagship Victory: If enabled, each player gets a "Flagship," which cannot be rebuilt. Destroy everybody else's to win.
Vestigial Empire: The Vasari once ruled a great interstellar empire that was destroyed by some unknown menace. The Vasari you see in the game are the survivors of a single remote colony that autonomously decided to pack up and leave. They still follow many of their old imperial practices, such as "Locking down" a planet and enslaving the populace, but these days it's more because it's the only way they can work fast enough to survive rather than to build an empire. See We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future below.
Visible Invisibility: All the Space Mines have this, which despite being phased out, invulnerable, and can't be targeted by most ships, are helpfully marked on your screen so you can spot and avoid them (the computers don't). Only scout frigates can expose the mines, which then allows every other ship to blow them up.
The Worf Barrage: In the game's lore, the Vasari sent their entire fleet after whatever it was that was eating its way through their empire. Only one ship made it back, and it was badly damaged, and its crew had been driven insane.
Wave Motion Gun: The Advent Radiance Battleship's Cleansing Brilliance, and Advent Loyalist Coronata Titan's Unity Mass.
Whenever different players have the same race and ideology yet are still enemies.
TEC get access to an "Insurrection" ability, which periodically spawns hostile TEC ships on random enemy planets. However, those rebels are still hostile even to the faction that presumably armed them and sent them to attack!
The TEC Rebels get a useful ability that subverts this. "Truce Among Rogues" allies the player with 'all neutral factions. Extremely useful, as it stops you from ever being a pirate target, and the planetary militias will just let you colonize their planet and then act as an extra layer of defense. Also, rebels can periodically spawn on your capital and be placed under your control, giving you some free ships as well.
We Will Use Manual Labour In The Future: Vasari policy towards their empire's "valued citizens" consists of sitting in orbit with a BFG pointed at the planet while the enslaved indigenous population mines resources for them... or else.
Granted, this was probably For the Evulz more than anything else, given that they have spaceships capable of strip-mining planets clean from orbit, using gravity-manipulation and nanomachines, and definitely don't need slave miners to do it.
Also, it is far cheaper to set a rabble of primitives, who probably have no idea of what the Vasari are, given they remain in orbit they may even appear as gods, to gather tribute, than it is to build nano-ships. Also, slave-miners keep the population under control and tributes regularly - go about obliterating planets and you waste vast energy.
This trope is Played With in Rebellion regarding the Vasari Loyalists. Simply stripping planets to the core with nanotechnology and gravity manipulation does give you a quick burst of resources, but is less efficient long-term than actually maintaining planetary populations. Nonetheless, the Loyalists are resorting to strip-and-run operations now given how desperate they are to escape before the unknown threat arrives.
We Have Reserves: Can be deliberately invoked in two situations. One where your planet is being invaded, and you crank out as many ships as possible to delay them, or if you split your forces up, and hold back a portion of your fleet to use as a reserve force should another part of your empire be attacked while your main force is attacking, or in case your main fleet needs help.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: All three factions to an extent. The Vasari literally destroy whole planets while running from an enemy that practically wiped out their race. The TEC Rebels want to wipe out the aliens and "deviants" who nearly wiped them out. The Advent were just a peaceful collectivist/religious/hive-minded society on a desert planet. And then along came the Trade Order, who banished them from their homes for a thousand years for "deviancy."
You Require More Vespene Gas: Or rather, Credits (gold), and then Metal and Crystal (lumber). Ships require more Metal than Crystal, but almost everything else is vice versa, and Crystal is the rarest resource. Fortunately there is an Exchange where you can buy and sell resources. (The AI never uses it.)
Zerg Rush: Light combat frigates and corvettes are built for this.