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Endless Space 2 – A Guide to Cravers

This guide will cover the ins and outs of the Cravers, both for beginners and players looking to increase the difficulty level up to Endless.

Faction Overview

Cravers, like all the factions in ES2, have several defining features that will heavily affect their game play, so we’ll cover these first just so you know what you’re getting into.

Population: Craver population are politically militarist, and generated 150% FIDSI from non-depleted planets (see next). This means that Cravers can get off to a blinding start compared to other factions, and you should expect to be top of the score board for most of the early game due to this population bonus alone.

Depletion: Cravers will deplete planets per Craver population on planets. The rate of depletion depends on the size of the planet, the number of Cravers on it, and the game speed, which can make faster game speeds a bit of a struggle if you get a bad start. Once depleted, a planet will only produce 50% FIDSI. This is a serious problem if your planets deplete too soon.

Slave Drivers: This is your faction affinity, and it means that all non-Craver populations on planets with Cravers will produce 50% extra FIDSI, at the cost of -10 approval. To be clear, a planet with 1 Craver, and 10 non-Cravers will cause a -100 approval malus. If you move the Craver, the malus no longer takes effect, but nor do the FIDSI bonuses. This trait also means Cravers grow twice as fast as any other population. You can maintain a balance of Craver to non-Craver population by using luxury boosters in the population screen to double the growth rate of minor pops, or by maintaining more than one minor pop on a system. For example, with no boosters, a planet with a single Craver and Haroshem will grow at a 2:1 ratio respectively. With a booster on the Haroshems, it will grow at a 1:1 ratio. With two minor pop types it will also grow at a 1:1 ratio. Two minor pops boosted, it will grow at a 2:1 ratio in favour of the minors. This is important to know when trying to reduce the number of Cravers (so depletion) on your planets.

Autocracy: Cravers get their own government type – Autocracy. This gives you two starting law slots, as well as the force law, making it as good as democracy in early game. The law slots will never increase however, and you cannot change government. Importantly, systems will never rebel under autocracy, even with huge minus approval.

Eternal War: Cravers can almost never be at peace. The only exception to this is if you have pacifists in your senate.

With these factors in mind, we can already get a picture of how Cravers work – it’s going to be about population management, approval management, and warfare.

Changes #Nerfs and Buffs

Nerfs: The major nerf for Cravers in recent patches is that going to war with minor factions no longer gives +25 approval from the militarist force law. Hunting for minors to declare war on in the early game used to be a staple of Craver early game play as you could maintain high levels of approval even with larger non-Craver populations. This has made the Craver early game more difficult and you will now need to monitor your population and approval more carefully.

Buffs: Consuming planets rather than having to conquer them means you can manage your system overcolonisation approval far more easily. You can now choose to take important systems, and leave the rest.

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Buffs: Obliterators make supremacy victories easier. If there is a distant home system that will be difficult to conquer, you can simply destroy it unless it has suitable levels of protection.

Strategy

With some of the changes in the patches, the diversity of optimal strategies has increased. I will discuss three Craver strategies here. The standard militarist, the all-in militarist, and the religious strategy. Each have their benefits and drawbacks.

Standard militarist

  • Advantages: Still probably the most optimal strategy as Cravers, although it now takes a little more micro management.
  • Disadvantages: The micromanagement, and the possibility of an isolated start.
  • Victory Type: Supremacy

Standard militarist revolves around keeping your Craver population fairly low for the early game using manpower conversion, getting early population diversification through conquest, and growing that population using luxury resources in the population screen. The idea is to make use of slave drivers to get the most FIDSI out of your pops as well as keeping your depletion rates low. 2-3 Cravers per planet is a happy medium.

To manage approval in the early game, you will need to utilise approval buildings, declaring war on your nearest neighbour, and in a pinch the Toys for Boys law, and moving your population around. Your primary focus in the early game other than getting established is to locate nearby enemy homeworlds and conquer them.

The crux of the strategy depends on two parts. The first is using the Us vs Them law which should open up on turn 60 on normal speed. This will majorly offset any approval problems you are running into, allowing you to maintain that high slave non-Craver pop. With the law, each homeworld you own will give you 20 approval. Two captured homeworlds plus Husk, plus a war with another player will net you 85 approval. This approval boost, along with buildings should last you the majority of the game hovering between content and happy.

The second is the late game kill switch. Once your approval is beginning to dive again through conquests and high slave population, you’ll want to switch to using Feeding Pits excessively, and using luxuries to boost your own Craver population. The reason for this is manifold. The first is that it will again solve your approval problems. The second is your Craver population bonus at 50, which gives a 1% boost to ship and infantry power per depleted planet. The idea is that you now want to finish the game as fast as possible, so by laying waste to your own planets by increasing the depletion rate, you are increasing your military power to the level necessary to make that final push.

All Craver strategies depend on managing approval levels, so in short the way the standard militarist strategy does this is:

  • Early Game – War with neighbour, approval buildings, pop management.
  • Mid Game – Same as above, plus Us vs Them.
  • Late Game – Same as above, change from Us vs Them to the final military law for military power, use Feeding pits.

Religious Cravers

  • Advantages: Less mid game micromanagement, less vulnerable to isolated starts, potentially very high FIDSI output due to less depletion and high slave population.
  • Disadvantages: Potentially lower FIDSI output due to no Happy or Ecstatic bonuses, more early game approval problems.
  • Victory Type: Conquest
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The religious Craver strategy is similar to the SM strategy in maintaining a low Craver to high non-Craver population. The difference is in the way it handles the approval problems. Instead of warfare, and Us vs Them, you will depend on the third religious law to force maintain approval to content on all planets.

This is a double edged sword . In its favour is having systems with one Craver per planet and the rest be minor pops, giving 50% more FIDSI and very little depletion. Against it is that you will never get any approval bonuses, and you will be sacrificing militarist war approval by switching to religious. There is a 40 turn window between getting the force content law, and switching to religious, an managing your approval in that time can be quite difficult. Whether or not switching to religious or not is worth it mostly depends on whether you could have maintained higher approval by staying militarist or not. In pursuing a supremacy victory where you only take important systems, the answer to this is that you probably could. A conquest victory however is more difficult for militarists given the overcolonisation maluses, so if this is the victory type you wish to pursue, then religious is superior. Which victory type you wish to pursue will depend heavily on personal preference, and what you manage to scout in those first 20 turns. Two nearby enemy homeworlds? Go militarist. Looking isolated and in for a longer game? Go religious.

Remember the key to getting the most of this strategy is by having the lowest amount of Craver pop per planet, but no less than one. This can get a bit fiddly. Also remember that Feeding Pits is not very effective with this strategy as you don’t get approval. You might want to make the kill switch move anyway by cancelling that law, again to get the boost in military power.

The Military All-In

Probably the most enjoyable Craver strategy, but it’s pretty risky and only try it if you have a good starting position with some nice systems around it.

  • Advantages – Fun, incredible early and mid game, feels Cravery (nom nom)
  • Disadvantages – You can end up with a dead economy very quickly, start dependent
  • Victory Type – Conquest or Supremacy

This is all about using Feeding Pits and luxury boosters on your Craver population (opposed to your minor populations). Approval management this time comes from using Feeding Pits and warfare, with the goal of front ending your FIDSI output as much as possible. Basically, any excess of beyond +1 minor pop gets eaten, and your Craver pop gets boosted adding an extra +2 FIDS per Craver pop. Bear in mind with the 50% bonus your Cravers get on undepleted planets, this is effectively +3 FIDS per Craver, which is extremely strong.

You will deplete worlds pretty fast doing this, but you will also build that 50 Craver pop rapidly resulting in a quicker boost to military power. This way of playing also removes any approval problems allowing you to maintain ecstatic on all systems. You still want to transfer minor pops via space port to all your systems so you can eat the excess.

The overall result is an unparalleled military presence all game, but if for whatever reason you do lose conquest momentum, your chances of victory severely dwindle. Obviously stay militarist for this strategy.

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Warfare

Cravers have excellent ships, only really rivalled by the Riftborn and to a lesser extent, UE. They have excellent troops, only outclassed by Vodyani, and they have the biggest fleets in the game. Big fleets is really where the magic lies, although the bonus wanes as the game goes on. It gives you +2 command points on fleet, which is huge early on.

Fleets should be built almost as soon as your first system has all the basic food, science and industry buildings. Your starting hero should also be used as a fleet hero for the entirety of the game, first as another scout, then as a full on commander. Craver heroes get bonuses to projectile damage if you choose to use them as fleet heroes, so it might be best to focus on slugs and rail guns for your ships. Hyperium beams are good counters to enemy laser weapons due to increasing their cooldown, so I tend to like a mixture of slugs, rail, and beams for my ships to counter as much as possible.

You should be stocked to the rafters with manpower if you were managing your population right. If you conquer a system, you can disband a fleet to the hangar to refill it’s manpower even if you are not in your influence zone. Just be careful not to get your lone hero ambushed during the refill.
Never stop taking good systems, and always focus the homeworlds as previously stated. This will stave off approval loss from expansion for a considerable amount of time. It’s at this point you may need to start thinking about using Toy for Boys to ward off that approval loss.

Make sure to stay on top of troop upgrades, and whenever you have enough to build in your systems, grab more military tech to upgrade and add to your fleets. And remember – newly conquered systems need those minor pop types too.

Quest

The questline deserves a brief mention both in terms of how good it is in some ways, and bad in others. There is pretty much only one way to go with the questline that makes sense if you want to win at higher levels

1. Choose intercept the ship – gives you a T2 Cruiser, lets you take out a neighbour easily. The bonus for the other line of this is a building that gives you more line of sight – it’s expensive, it’s awful, and you have to build it to progress.

2. Choose Reyaryn – It’s a great hero for fleet, and Craver heroes are fairly OP governors with their final Craver skill, so you’ll probably want to make Solutus a governor early on.

3. Choose the quest that improves fleets led by heroes – it’s a ridiculously good reward, especially compared to the other manpower boost.

4. Doesn’t really matter, but if I had to make the choice, Insatiable Maw is much better. It’s just a bit more difficult to attain, and if you never get round to it you won’t really miss it.
So the bonuses are great, shame there isn’t a bit more flexibility in the choices, but the other awards and bonuses really don’t compare.

That said, if you want to play around with the other parts of the questline, by all means enjoy! Just bear in mind that you might be losing a big advantage, but if things are going well anyway, then why not?

Written by Snuffalo

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