Marauders (Apocalypse Feature)
Marauders are a new type of non-playable empire that those with the Apocalypse expansion can encounter in the galaxy. They are essentially nomadic FTL societies that have eschewed planetary living in favor of living on ships and stations in and around a handful of resource-rich systems, subsisting largely on raiding each other and extorting tribute from settled empires. Being born spacefarers, they are hardy warriors and expert ship crew, able to muster impressive fleets despite their relative lack of technology compared to other older civilizations (such as Fallen Empires). Marauders are always hostile to regular empires, but will generally not attack them unless you attempt to enter their home systems, or they are in the process of raiding them.
Marauders will occasionally set out to raid settled empires they have established contact with. Before raiding, they will offer said empire a chance to pay them off with a hefty tribute of minerals, energy or food. If you refuse, they will send a fleet to that empire's territory, pillaging stations and raiding planets for slaves, stopping only when they are either destroyed or satisfied with the amount of booty they have amassed. While in the process of raiding, they can still be bought off with tribute, but the price will be raised significantly from if you just agreed to pay them off from the start. Settled empires can pay a Marauder empire to conduct a raid on one of their rivals, both diverting their attention from yourself and potentially weakening that rival's military and economy. A Marauder empire can be wiped out by destroying all stations and ships in their home systems, but these systems are well defended and will take a powerful mid to late game navy to deal with.
Settled empires can also enlist the aid of Marauders as mercenaries. At the start of the game, it is possible to hire them as Generals or Admirals with a high starting skill and special traits, and after a certain amount of time has passed, the option to hire their fleets will also be unlocked. Marauder fleets cost a large energy payment up-front, and consist of a fixed-size fleet that cannot be split, merged or disbanded, with a leader that cannot be reassigned. The fleet does not count towards your naval cap and will not cost any maintenance, but will only serve you for a period of 5 years, after which you will have to renew their contract by paying the full cost again.
Horde Mid-Game Crisis (Apocalypse Feature)
Also new in the Apocalypse expansion is something we're calling the Horde Mid-Game Crisis. This is an event chain that can trigger after the first 100 years of the game, where one of the Marauder empires unifies under a Great Khan. Once this happens, the Marauder empire becomes a Horde, and will begin expanding in all directions, claiming empty systems and sending fleets to destroy the Starbases of any empire that will not submit to the Khan. At any time, it possible for a regular empire to submit to the Khan and become a Satrapy, a type of subject that has to pay part of its income and naval capacity in tribute to the Khan, but is otherwise left to its own devices. The Horde will grow stronger for every system it conquers and Satrapy it acquires, but it is a fragile construct, held together only by the personality of the Khan. If the Great Khan is killed in battle, or falls victim to disease or assassination, the Horde will collapse, at which point one of several things will happen to the Horde and its Satrapies: It may dissolve into a myriad of squabbling successor states, or a new, democratic Federation may form out of its ashes. Regardless, the appearance of the Khan and the Horde is sure to shake up the galactic scene of any game in which it makes an appearance.
Pirate Rework (Cherryh Feature)
Finally, though not directly related to Marauders, we wanted to mention that we have made some changes to pirates in the 2.0 'Cherryh' update. Back in the dev diary about Starbases, we talked about discouraging 'snaking' and leaving empty systems inside your borders by adjusting the influence costs. This turned out not to work so well in testing for a variety of reasons, and so we decided on a different solution, by expanding on the concept of pirates. Now, once the Birth of Space Piracy event has fired, Pirates will be able to spawn in empty systems bordering your empire. These pirates will attack your systems and pillage your stations until they are destroyed, and will grow stronger and more numerous over the course of the game. They are especially likely to spawn in systems that are fully surrounded by your borders, making any empty systems in the middle of your empire into potential hotbeds of trouble that you are likely going to want to take control of sooner or later. As part of these changes, we have removed most of the static pirate spawns in the galaxy, leaving only their home system with the Pirate Galleon.
That's all for today! Next week we'll continue talking about Cherryh and the Apocalypse expansion, on the topic of Edicts and Unity Ambitions.