I started a game with a Devouring Swarm in 2.2, it is 2336, I am biologically ascended and researching reputable technologies. I have 865 pops in 20 planets (100 systems, empire size 400), with a monthly pop growth of 8.88 in each planet. My score: 14231. In a parallel game, I have a standard empire in the same year, and my score is less than half. I didn’t even go to war against anybody, so the only bonus I have effectively used from being a Devouring Swarm is the 50% influence discount in starbases. This is completely broken.
I can think of several reasons why this happened:
- The pop growth for hive minds is naturally high. While a normal empire starts with +3, a hive mind starts with +4.5. However it can go up way higher, as the available bonuses to pop growth are bigger and cheaper than for normal empires (drone campaign 500 food empirewide, promote planetary growth 1000 food per planet).
- Pops are cheaper to maintain, as they require 0 consumer goods. Standard empires have to dedicate a considerable chunk of their economy to consumer goods. Instead, I just dedicate all the extra pops to science.
- Menial drones are as productive as workers from a standard empire. While they don’t benefit from happiness bonus, this bonus becomes so small in comparison to all other bonuses (like tech) that there is practically no difference.
- Complex drones are actually more productive than specialists from a standard empire. Researchers give +3 research for -2 consumer goods, brain drones give +4 research for -6 minerals (equivalent to 3 cg). You have 50% more minerals as hive mind, so you can easily afford those minerals and get +33% research from the same job, and you will actually have more brain drones than others have researchers. Synapse drones give a bit more society research for the same input costs than culture workers.
- Complex drones demote to Menial drones instantly. This makes balancing the economy completely trivial.
So in short, hive minds have way more pops than standard empires (i would say 100% more, rather than 50%), which are cheaper to maintain and actually more productive, therefore much more cost-effective. The lack of trade does not make up for all these benefits at all, just having +50% energy workers makes up for that alone.
All this made me snowball like crazy. I can actually play a better tall-style game than non-gestalts, while the penalties to tech and unity in a wide style do not keep up with my increased production at all. I recommend big nerfs to the productivity of complex drones and much bigger penalties to wide playstyles.
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