I've recently got back into Star Trek: Conquest, one of only a few strategy games for the Wii (I hadn't played it since it came out over four years ago). I love me a good strategy game, but even the best ones are hampered by dopey AI, if not other, more mundane gameplay issues. And Conquest isn't one of the best -- but it is oddly, addictively compelling.
Part of this is because of its horrible contradictions. On the one hand, it is an absolute mess of a Star Trek game, and yet somebody behind it clearly knows his or her Trek lore. Note the intro:
Stardate 41153.2: It is a time of conflict; all major races are at war. Diplomacy is dead, age-old alliances forgotten and galactic borders ignored as each race battle for supremacy. Powerful fleets prowl the galaxy,establishing outposts, vanquishing indigenous and enemy fleets alike, in the pursuit of the ulimate prize: the capture of all homeworlds and galactic domination.
In other words, Total, Random War! This is not Star Trek. And yet note the Stardate: as any Trekkie worth his velour pullover can tell you, this is clearly set in season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation, fully in keeping with its TNG-era ships and races. The game is full of details like this, even as it inexplicably lets your underpowered ships cut through fleets of Borg assault cubes like they were warm butter.
The real challenge comes from trying to beat the game in as few turns as possible for each race. (Not that there's any hint that this is something to shoot for within the game, aside from the fact that it records the number as part of your completed conquests.) The key is to develop movement admirals (who can attack multiple systems per turn), and to keep expanding as much as possible without taking significant damage.
Conquests go through three stages: the frantic grabbing phase, where you're overstretched, but have to grab as many systems as fast as possible (just like the start of Monopoly); the strategic phase, where you butt up against the other main races, and have to make some tricky calls about where to attack, and how to avoid getting outflanked; and, finally, the mop-up phase, when you've got overwhelming resource superiority and hunt down the remaining enemies and grab their homeworlds.
Star Trek: Conquest could've been a great game, with more tweaks, or, frankly, with just more. It only takes up about 550 MB of space, so they could've crammed so much more onto the disk (it easily could've been WiiWare). With a bigger map, more movement variables, more ship options, and maybe even a smattering of a plot (like in the equally, but differently-flawed Star Trek: Legacy, also from Bethesda Softworks) Conquest would have been truly engaging. And why they didn't just set it in the Mirror Universe is beyond comprehension -- such an easy excuse to justify the endless battles.
Perhaps, one day, some intrepid Trekkie will be inspired to hack the game (Star Trek: Dark Conquest, anyone?) ... but I doubt the interest is there.
1. Always build movement admirals first; races with one or more (e.g., Cardassians), will have much faster possible conquest times, while those without (e.g., Klingons) will take a dozen or more turns to beat everyone.
2. Always attack in arcade mode, if you can; simming will get you extra damage and lose ships. This applies even for defence of systems; for instance, if an enemy attacks one of your systems after your fleet has left, if you have a Starbase, you can still control it in arcade mode, allowing you to target the biggest ships and rotate your shields to last as long as possible -- this can be enough to force a retreat or even destroy all the attackers.
3. Always destroy ships away from structures, then finish off the structures. Starbases, stations, and gun turrets can be attacked without taking any damage, as there's a "sweet spot" at the edge of the screen, where you're out of range but can still land hits on them. Just circle around and release volleys of fire as you get close, then pull away.
4. Always order your ships into a defensive formation: they will surround your control ship, and all attack the same target. This lets you concentrate their fire, and keep them from getting picked off.
5. Generally, control your smallest, weakest and/or most damaged ship yourself. The shields of stronger ships, when in the defensive formation, will screen it. Also, bigger ships will often improve their handling and speed to keep in formation if they're following a scout.