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[Stellaris] 4X Space Game Time!


Stellaris 00.JPG

Gotta love a pretty launcher

I mentioned briefly in my last post that I’d bought Stellaris.  I’ve played rather a lot of it this past month and finally feel like I’m getting a handle on it.  It’s VERY overwhelming at 1st, even with all the Master of Orion, MoO2, and Civ series 4X games I’ve played.

Some things I’ve found that are different than any other game I’ve played:

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The planet rotates, there are night-time lights, and the cloud layer moves independently.  Nice details!

It is a pause-able real-time game, not turn-based.  You can pause any time, though, and things queue up when paused, so you can turn it kinda pseudo-turn-based.  1 second real time = 1 day in game.  All months are 30 days, so it’s a 360 day year, meaning that 10 years is 3600 seconds — 1 hour.  This is on normal speed.  Fastest speed feels like it’s 1 second = 2 days.  And quite frankly, so little happens at any given time that since you can pause (and there are auto-pause options for events that you can set too) I really don’t know why anyone ever turns it slower, with the possible exception of watching a space battle play out.  Even on fastest speed with getting 20 years to an hour, I can’t really imagine a win in less than about 150 years (and I think that would be REALLY fast — you can see in my screenshots that these are all 250-276 years along…..), so that’s a minimum 7.5 hours for a game on fastest speed, assuming you never paused it.  Which of course you paused it, so…. yeah.  Games are really long.  Be ready for that.

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A late-game map.  I was “The Federation” — pacifistic egalitarians.  Worked pretty well.

The technology tree is indeed a tree, but what you can research next isn’t only dictated by its position on the tree, but also a random system that will only show you a default of 3 available options, so you can’t necessarily determine an optimum research path and then blow through that in each game — you can only pick from what you’re given.  You can take traits and get event rewards that let you see more than the default 3, but those are semi-rare and you can’t be sure you’ll get those in the course of a game either.  The options shown are weighted — prerequisites seem to show almost all the time, so you can generally be sure you’ll see one of them, at least.

The race appearances are completely cosmetic.  It’s the governing civics and traits that actually matter.  And boy do they matter….  Interestingly enough, since you’re the player you aren’t necessarily as governed by the traits as the NPC players are — you can take the Xenophobe trait for the increased border range but then play as a Xenophile, while the NPC player would stay true to the ethic.  But that said…. playing as a Fanatical Pacifist Xenophobe who expands quickly while closing his borders to all others and refusing all trade requests is an interesting RP experience.

Combat is generally “put it all in 1 fleet and whoever has the bigger number is gonna win.”  If you keep your “doomstack” as big or bigger than the NPC nations they tend to not attack since they know they can’t win (the diplomacy screen tells you relative strengths of navies), so try to keep your ship count at or near the cap at all times.  And here’s something a little surprising — your cap goes DOWN by 20% if you join a federation, since part of your fleet is considered to be contributed to the federal navy, so be careful when joining or creating one as it can mess with the upkeep costs and screw your economy.

The game saves the custom races you make and you can use them as NPC players in your games too, so it’s possible to make a bunch of pacifist races and then see who can build up the fastest.  Or a bunch of militaristic xenophobes dedicated to conquering the galaxy and purging all other races…..  or anything in between.

Megastructures — the Sentry Array’s ability to see all ships in the galaxy is a huge benefit.  The Ringworld is simply amazing.  The Dyson Sphere seems awesome, but ends up being a bit underwhelming, as does the Science Nexus.  Habitats seem underwhelming at 1st, but since you can build so many of them, they actually easily are better in the aggregate than the Dyson or the Science station.  And if you can find some of those rare systems with 9-10 planets in them, well … 9 habitats in a system is actually better than a Ringworld.  Or a decent sized planet and 7-8 habitats too.  Here’s the math on that:  Habitat = 12 slots, so 8 planets = 96, 9 = 108.  Ringworld is 4 sections x 25 slots per section = 100.  Size 16 planet + 7 habitats = 100, so that’s pretty much the cutoff there.

Stellaris 07.jpg

Ringworlds are amazing!

For energy, using base numbers (not the bonused ones you get as you research more tech and have higher happiness) — 12 slots.  Capital gives 5 energy and then the other 11 slots give 8 for a total of 93 energy per habitat.  4 habitats thus equals 372 energy.  Cost to build:  400 influence and 20,000 minerals, plus some niggling amount of minerals for the 11 power stations.  And of course the time cost of actually filling the 12 slots with pops.  You can build 4 habitats simultaneously in 5 years (2.5 years if you have the Master Builders ascension perk).  Serially, then it’s 20 years or 10 with the perk.  If you have more than 4 planets in a system you can build that much more energy too.  And when you add in happiness bonuses and whatnot…. well, in my current game I’m getting about 130 energy per focused habitat, so 3 = 390 energy, and 4 is 520.

Stellaris 01

Dyson Sphere under construction

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Dyson Sphere complete!

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And it looks awesome!

Compare this to a Dyson Sphere which  is the only structure you can build in a system and can’t be built in an inhabited system.  Cost is 300 influence and 210,000 minerals, with a 55 year build time (27.5 with Master Builder perk).  And you get 400 energy out of it.  Period.  This doesn’t change.  Flat 400.  Habitats are cheaper and build faster.  But you can build a Dyson Sphere without it counting toward your inhabited system total and/or in a sector also, so there are cases where you’d still want to build them.  But not before you can’t build any more habitats, IMO.

Stellaris 02.jpg

This is a… hmm.  Custom race.  Humanoid appearance, but I think I chose the Avian ship appearances, so this would be the Avian habitat, even though I was playing humanoid.

Science Nexus is similarly underpowered/overpriced.  Habitats can do 33 science unbonused, so 3 habitats is 99 science, vs 90 for the Nexus.  Same 300 influence cost.  And 15K minerals for the habitats with a 2.5-15 year build time depending on your builder perk and 3 simultaneous vs serial builds vs the Nexus’s 25 year (12.5) build time and 70K mineral cost.  And this represents an 80% buff to the nexus from initial implementation.  It originally gave 50 science when complete, but is now buffed to the 90.  And you can only build 1 Nexus per system, while habitats are 1 per planet, s you can get up to 10 (5-6 is much more normal, but even 6 is more than double a Nexus’s output.  Or 3 power plants and 3 science to effectively have both a Nexus *and* a Dyson Sphere in the same system…).  And to boot — I’m getting closer to 50 science per habitat in my current game, so 2 habs = better than a Nexus for me.

Sentry Array – Brings the entire galaxy into your sensor range.  Nothing else is like it, so this rocks and you should definitely build one.  300 influence, 70K minerals, 25 (12.5) years.

TL;DR on megastructures:

  • Ringworld – Usually the best thing you can build in a system.
  • Habitats – Your workhorse megastructure.  It does count as a planet against the penalty to your Research and Unity costs for next, so plan around that when dropping them.
  • Dyson Sphere – Focused Habitats are generally better to build.  Only build once you can’t build more habitats.  Or maybe in an extremely crappy system that can’t have at least 3 habitats.
  • Science Nexus – Focused Habitats are generally better to build.  Only build once you can’t build more habitats.  Or maybe in an extremely crappy system that can’t have at least 2 habitats.
  • Scanning Array – Awesome!  Nothing else like it!

So anyway… yeah, it’s a lot of fun.  I’m very glad I picked it up in the pre-Stormblood lull from FFXIV.

Happy gaming out there!


[Civ6] Putting it all together

On Sunday evening I started a new game of Civ6.  Now that I know everything from my prior “info-dump” post, I had a plan going in and just needed to execute it.

I chose Germany due to them having their industrial zone be a unique tile, which means it gets a discount when building it.  I got a starting seed with 3 city-states fairly close by.  1 is to my NW, 1 is to the NE, and the last one is to my SE.  This essentially forced me to look at building to the south and west of my starting spot.  There were a lot of rivers in that direction, though, so it all looked good.

Except France was there to the south and she took exception to me dropping 2 cities “on her borders” early on.  I don’t think she’s forgiven me for that, becuz she just declared a surprise war on me during my last play session.  After getting those 2 cities down, my scout also found a nice spot close enough to the west to be able to “finish a square” so to speak.  I also found that India was off that direction, so if I wanted to get a city there I’d need to work on that, so I rush-built a settler and tossed it over that way too.  Over time, I was able to build 3 industrial districts in a triangle with commercial districts adjacent for big bonuses, and the 4th industrial zone is 1 hex away from that triangle, so it’s still close enough to everything to spread its bonus to all 4 cities in the square, even if it’s a slightly smaller bonus (+10 instead of the other’s +12 when I checked).  Here’s what it all looks like right now:


The red square shows all the industrial and commercial zones clustered in the middle so as to mutually bonus each other and all 4 cities.  And yes, I built the Ruhr BValley wonder in there too.  I *am* Germany, after all 😉


As you can see, I’ve also built a city off to the north now.  I had to do that to pick up some niter.  And I’ve got a settler headed over to the south of Amsterdam there as well since once I finished researching Steam Power some coal popped up down there.  My only “problem” right now is that I’m still landlocked, but once I get that city up on that coal resource it will be coastal so I’ll be able to build a harbor there, so that will be taken care of soon.  Of course it’ll be right on France’s border again, so that will make her mad too, but she’s using warriors and spearmen against muskets and field cannons.  I’m not worried….

My scouts also found China and Egypt pretty early on and they both declared war jointly almost immediately.  I ‘d put an Archer in each city, and I thought I’d built walls around all of them, but overlooked one (Mainz on the SW corner), so of course that was the one closest to Egypt and the one that got attacked by a bunch of warriors and archers.  Fortunately for me I had already built roads from my other cities so I was able to bring down a swordsman and some more archers to drive her back even without the city being defended by walls.  Though oddly enough after I’d killed off all but one of her warriors she used her archers to take my city HP to nothing, then instead of attacking with the last warrior and taking the city she sued for peace and withdrew.  Whew……  I never even saw China before they sued for peace.

Other than that early scare the game’s been going very well for me.  I’m completely dominating in Tech and Civics.  Although I’ve started to be spied upon and I can’t build spies yet, and I’m not sure what I need to do to get them.  More to look up how to do…  But anyway, I’m a powerhouse this time due to knowing how the bonuses stack now and making sure to build in a way to take maximum advantage of the bonuses.  How well?  Well, check out this screenshot showing the horrible reporting UI and see how much production I have in my capital and the “worst” of the other 3 cities in “the square:”


Yes, 110 production in my capital, and 81 in another city.  The other 2 cities in “the square” are doing 84, and 85 production.  I wish I could collapse the city view on that report and just show overall totals, but… bad UI is bad.  The 5th city up north that isn’t part of “the square” also has 45 production, which isn’t bad at all, just not quite as insanely good as the 4 central cities.

But yeah… I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on the game.  Time to start branching out and trying other civs and playstyles…

Happy gaming out there!

[Civ6] CivVI Impressions after the Weekend

This is actually an email I sent to a friend today about what I’ve discovered so far:


The Diplomacy screen UI is terrible.  You do your “work” in the top left corner of the screen.  Then after it’s accepted or rejected, you have to wait a couple of seconds before the button you need to advance the screen comes up – in the bottom left corner.  And then to close out of the screen you have to click a little X button in the top right corner, so you have to travel your mouse to all 3 corners of the screen every time you do Diplomacy.

The Spying UI is even worse  becuz it shows you a list of cities that you can deploy to, but doesn’t actually show which city you’re already in.  You pick your city and then it *displays* a list of your available things you can do in that city, but you can’t click on them, oh no – it’s just a display (and thus confusing and shouldn’t even be there, IMO).  You have to click a small button at the bottom of the list (long mouse travel, since you probably clicked toward the top of the list) to confirm that you wanted to go to that city.  Then after that click the displayed list changes to active and accepts whatever you click on without a confirmation.  If you mis-click, then you have to go find the spy, click him, then click “cancel” on him and he loses his action for the turn, and next turn you can repeat that process, hopefully not mis-clicking this time.

Trade UI is a bit weird too.  I’ve read that you do have the ability to send a trader to a different city to start trading from there, but I haven’t found it yet.  In the early game internal trade routes can give you a really nice boost to food and production, but if you let that go too long your cities will “overgrow” your natural food production and if you want to do international trade for money, culture, science, etc then your cities will decrease in population if you don’t make the switch early enough.

Why no option to turn off espionage?  Why no option to have no city-states?  Why no option to have double the amount of city-states?

If you lose the game, it doesn’t tell you why, just says “You lost.”  How am I supposed to know what to try to stop from happening in the future if I don’t know what happened?  I mean… I did a duel with Kongo and he asked me to establish an embassy and I said “ok” and boom!  I lost.  And I have absolutely no idea why.  How does establishing diplomatic ties equal a loss?  It was the same when I didn’t know that there was a possible religious victory and the Aztecs sent a wave of Apostles and Missionaries through my lands and suddenly “you lost.”  This was on turn 212 in a Settler-level game.  I had no idea what had happened, or how I’d lost so early on.

The replay is also just a series of graphs – the map is not there yet again.  It wasn’t in Civ5 at the beginning either and got added in later due to player demands.  Since the devs know it will be demanded, why didn’t they have it in from the get-go?

Religious fighting is pretty interesting.  Basically religious units can’t be attacked by normal ones, nor can they attack normal units either.  Missionaries can spread religion and defend themselves, but can’t attack.  Apostles spread religion and can attack or defend.  They also can add beliefs to your religion and open an Inquisition.  Starting an Inquisition allows you to create Inquisitors which can attack Apostles and Missionaries, as well as remove opposing religious views from your cities.  They toss lightning around at each other when they fight, so it’s a little like watching wizards go at it.  When you kill a unit from a different religion any city within 6 tiles will also remove a bunch of that religious influence from it and gain a bunch of your own, so doing religious battle can affect 2-3 cities at a time and might be more effective than simply spreading the religion.

You can cheese wins for achievements really easily.  Choose Russia as your civ, set a custom time limit on the game of 1 turn.  Settle your city, click next turn.  You win!  Watch those achievements roll in!  This is due to Russia getting the Civ5 Shoshone’s power of extra tiles on settlement, which increases their score above any other civ in that 1st turn and thus guarantees the victory.

Another easy win is a duel vs Konga on the Pangaea map.  Set religious victory as the only win condition, then play as you normally would until you establish a religion, then start spamming Missionaries at him.  You get the religious victory very quickly doing that, since he can’t create a religion to fight against you and actively wants you to spread yours to him.  The corollary to this is that if you’re playing as Kongo, you might want to turn off the Religious Victory condition especially on a smaller map since you can’t really defend against it.

Fresh water is critical to your early city development.  City size is limited by your “housing” stat, and a city without fresh water starts with only 2 housing, while with fresh water starts at 6.  The Aqueduct can help if you find a really good spot that’s only 1 space away from a fresh water source (river, lake, oasis, or mountain – yes, the aqueduct turns a mountain into a fresh water source).

The AI tends to be pretty aggressive early on.  I’d meet a civ and they’d declare war on me that instant.  And then after I’d not see them again for 100 turns and finally pick off a unit they’d sure for peace, and then suddenly we’d be best friends, all the way up to alliance.

It’s hard to get a city much above size 20 due to limited food production.  Playing as Rome last night, I made it up to size 24 in Rome and size 22 for 2 other cities by using multiple internal trade routes that gave massive amounts of food, but building districts and wonders completely destroy any production on the tile they’re built on, so expanding your city and building lots of wonders can reduce your food production.  I was pretty haphazard on how I built out, though.  Had I planned ahead better for when you get the “bonus food for clusters of farms” instead of spreading everything out as I did, I might have done better.

Try to cluster your districts together as best you can so that 1 spy can defend many districts at once.  Something else that seems to work nicely is clustering districts from multiple cities in the same area, so if you can build your cities in a circle or triangle and build up an urban core in the middle then they reinforce each other and give big “adjacency bonuses.”  Then you can put your farms to the “outside” of your shape and cluster them also so that they give a bonus to their yield (eventually) also, which might help in getting bigger cities so you can get all the districts.

Woods kinda suck in the early game until you can build lumber mills.   Until then, you can spam out builders and cut the all the woods you can find down for big production bonuses in your capital, even when they’re outside your borders.  Some are calling this an exploit, though.

The Oracle is an amazingly overpowered wonder giving Great Person Points for each district you build that other civs won’t get.  Build it ASAP.  This is a big deal becuz Great People are now a competition with the other Civs.  If they gain one 1st, then any contribution you had toward earning that one is lost and you all start fresh to compete for the next one.  Same for you – if you get one, they all lose out.  They don’t have static abilities either, so this Great Scientist might give a boost to 3 random techs, that one might give a boost to 2 specific techs, and that other one might just plain give a flat boost of 250 science per mountain that you expend him next to.  Or this Great Engineer might help build wonders, while that one might give a permanent production bonus to the city.  This Great Artist might paint, that one might do sculpture.  Etc.

Venetian Armory is also wickedly OP if you’re going for a big navy since it give you a double-build on any naval unit built anywhere in your civ, not just in the city where this was built.

Deleting a unit gives a ton of cash, even if it’s outside your borders.  Scythians can abuse this mechanic in the early game by building light cavalry units (especially using builders to boost production by cutting down forests) since their civ-bonus is double builds of any cavalry, so they build 1, get 2, sell both, use the cash to buy something else, etc.  This is thought to be a bug.  Or something in need of a severe nerf.

There aren’t any social policies that will give late-game cities production bonuses like they did in Civ5, so when I had to build some cities halfway across the map to get Niter, Aluminum, and Uranium, I had to make sure to send along several builders and defensive units, and then buy up the tiles I wanted.  They never “caught up” so to speak.  In fact, the more cities and districts you’ve built, the more expensive later ones become, so late-game cities actually have a disadvantage since they will want to build workshops and factories, but that requires building a district and they’re little and don’t have much production so a district takes a long time….  You can’t buy a district, so you can’t rush buildings until after the district is up and running.  The district itself gets built the long way of waiting for “next turn.”  Military Engineer’s Airstrips do NOT count as airports for airlift purposes either.  They have to build an aerodrome district.

Archaeologist have 3 charges like a builder, but I didn’t notice that showing up on their UI.  I didn’t really pay attention to them since I was assuming they’d be single-use like in Civ5, but I cleared 3 spots with one before he went poof.

In the early game, your cities can’t bombard incoming attackers until you build some walls.  After you build walls, most damage goes to them 1st before the city and most units have a damage penalty vs walls, so they’re a quite powerful thing to have.  Siege Towers let you ignore walls.  Battering Rams remove your damage penalty vs walls.  And once you get catapults they do damage bonus vs walls, but they take time to get into position and can’t fire on a turn where they move, so… IMO, build a siege tower for every 3rd melee and link it and then cities are pretty easy to take since they just ignore the walls.  Eventually this stops being a thing in the later game though and once cities are automatically defended you can’t even build walls anymore.  I’m not quite sure when it happened.  You can do classic, medieval, and renaissance walls, so I’m assuming it stopped being a thing once I hit modern or atomic era.

In the late game you can combine units into “formations.”  Basically it powers up the initial unit by a pretty substantial amount.  Another nice bonus is that when you combine 2 units the higher promotion/experience level stays, so your early game units that you managed to keep alive and get promoted and upgraded can get upgraded yet again by combining other freshly built units into them.  You can combine a max of 3 units in this way once you gain the full ability.  You can also build them in the maxed out formation as well, though this obviously takes longer than building a single unit.

When you upgrade a unit it immediately goes to whatever is the current one, without needing intermediate steps if you left off for a long time.  Or if you never got iron and couldn’t upgrade to swordsman, you can still skip to musketman – assuming you have niter 😉

For city-states you pretty much want to try to get 6 envoys to each for maximum bonuses.  And after that if you can be suzerain and thus get their resources, that’s cool too, but it seems like the biggest thing it to have at least 1 envoy with all of them, 6 if possible for max bonus, and suzerain is nice, but not too big a deal.  On a larger map you simply won’t be able to get enough envoys to be suzerain of all of them anyway, unlike in Civ5 where you could just buy their loyalty very easily.


Happy gaming out there!

[Civ6] Civilization 6 1st Impressions

1st impression is:  It’s different.  VERY different.  But just enough the same, so it’s all just fine.


The main view

Sure you start with a settler and build your city, then you start building things and researching things and so on but…. Culture is now its own tech tree and as you unlock benefits you have to slot them in to your government to actually use them — no more “you unlocked this so you get it’s benefit at all times.”  Nope — you put it in to your limited benefit slots for as long as you want/need it.  Want 50% settler speed?  Slot it in, then once the settlers are built, replace it with something else.  Cultural “technologies” also unlock certain units, districts, buildings, and government types (more benefit slots!) so you definitely won’t want to neglect development of this tree.

A nice thing is that effects seem to all be for the complete civilization, not just the capital city.  Wonders also so far seem to affect your whole civ, not just the city where they were built.  They also take up a tile, so you really won’t want to try to build every wonder in your capital either, so it appears that unlike the other Civ games it won’t be “super-duper-mega-awesome capital city and then everything else” but perhaps a bit more parity in city strengths.  Settlers get shown red highlighted tiles where they can’t set up, so that’s a nice Quality of Life change.


The Hanging Gardens used to give a garden improvement and 5 food to the city where it was built. Now it gives a 15% growth bonus to your whole Civ instead.

Movement is less forgiving now.  It used to be that if you had even a portion of a movement point left you could move 1 more tile, no matter the tile’s cost.  No more!  If you don’t have enough movement points to enter a tile then you have to just wait until next turn when you do.  Scouts no longer have 1 movement point per tile period, but they get 3 movement and as they level up can gain the ability to ignore certain terrain.  Another nice QoL change is that you can now link a combat unit to a non-combat unit to protect it while moving them as a single unit.  I haven’t tried doing this with a trader yet to protect trade routes, but it’s pretty nice for settlers and Great Generals.

“Workers” are now “Builders” and are consumable units.  Build one and it gets 3 actions and then it’s expended and time to build another one.  The Pyramids wonder gives your builders a 4th action, and I think I saw it say that certain cultural policies can also add actions, but don’t quote me on that.  Workers do NOT build roads anymore — that function has been offloaded to Traders.  They build the road as they establish their trade route.  Unless you’re Rome, in which case roads just automatically get built so long as your cities are within trade range (15 tiles at the start).  Roads (so far, I’m still only in Classical Era) remove terrain penalties, but don’t give movement bonuses.  Perhaps in later eras that will change, but I’m not there yet to see it.

Then there’s the new mechanic that you don’t just build any city building in your city that you want, because improvements are often locked to a specific type of district, so if you want to build a Library then you need to build a campus district, or if you want to build a Barracks then you need to build a military district.  Theaters go in entertainment districts, temples and shrines go in the holy site district, and so on.  And of course each district built takes up a tile, so that’s less space for you to farm or mine, so in the early days before your borders are fully expanded it looks like building districts willy-nilly may not be the way to go.  Add in that anything that might have been on the tile like a farm or a mine will be removed and you just “wasted” a builder action too, and who wants to do that?

City-states I’ve barely just scratched.  It appears that you gain a certain amount of influence with them each turn based on trade and proximity and once you reach a certain threshold you can send an “envoy” to them which improves your actual standing.  Keep sending envoys and eventually you can become the “suzerain” of the place and then it behaves as an Ally would in Civ5.  So it seems from the tooltips, anyway.

I haven’t done any fighting yet, (well, other than killing 1 barbarian when the tutorial makes you do it, but that just doesn’t count) so no idea how that works.  It appears to be largely the same as in Civ5, though some units actually are support units.  The tooltip on the siege tower said that it allows adjacent melee units to ignore city walls, battering rams say that adjacent melee units don’t get a penalty for attacking a city.  Stuff like that.  It still looks like a combined arms approach will be the way to go, as always.

There’s also a couple of “background mechanics” that I’m not sure how they works.  There’s a “housing” stat that governs how large your cities can grow and certain things like Granaries say that they increase your housing.  And India’s tooltip said that Farms add housing for them.  In the tutorial I was constantly being told my cities couldn’t grow due to lack of housing, but I also didn’t see any way to increase it either.

Amenities seemed to be similar.  Apparently Amenities are the measure of a city’s happiness, becuz I was getting told that my citizens were going to revolt if I didn’t get more Amenities for them.  But again…. how?  Stuff to look up, it seems…..

Overall it’s a nice change.  It’s definitely more complex than before, but not so much that it feels overwhelming or like I’ll be having to micromanage 800 things as my civ grows either.  I’ll keep updating as I get farther along and learn more about the systems.

Happy gaming out there!