I still don't understand their percieved weakness. A few observations.
Let's begin with the values of their Home System and thus what they enter the game with. The average combined values of all Home Systems is 5.8. Naalu strike slightly above average with a total value of 6. Yes, only 3 of those are Resources and several other races have 4 Resouces to begin with (and a select few more than that) but it is often offset by those being on the same planet, whereas the Naalu have them spread over two planets and can thus use both their 3 Resources and their 2 Influence in the same round, whereas the more Resource-heavy HS often have their Influence on the planet they need to exhaust for Resources. Barony is off the charts, of course, with their starting Resources of 6 (+ 1 Influence) in their Home system, but to be honest it is the one thing they have going for them, bearing in mind that they actually have to pay Trade Goods to access their main racial ability.
Several races start with only 3 Resources on their Home System with which to buy Technology or units, so I don't agree to the Naalu being particularly poorly off - especially as it is more than amply made up by the fact that their other home Planet with 2 Influence is basically a free Command Counter each round, or an extra secondary from a Strategy Card (for instance the Political or Assembly that allows them to refresh planets) giving them plenty of flexibility over the more heavy Resource starters such as L1Z1X, Muaat, etc. that have just one planet which is needed for its Resource and with no alternative Influence.
It's almost a science in itself to discuss the worth of different starting Technologies in TI3. True, the Naalu starts without any red techs - as does several other races - however they are equally close to both XRD Transporters and Cybernetics (and the Enviro Compensator would be needed anyway as it is important to allow the Naalu to spit out fighters faster). A combo that gives them one of the most potent weapons available in the game. One you either need to have researched all your way to Advanced Fighters or be the Sardakk N'Orr to get (and keep in mind that the Combat bonus of the N'Orr is there defining one-trick-pony, whereas it is only one of several racial perks of the Naalu): Fighters that hit on 7.
That's the same ratio as for a non-upgraded Cruiser, yet a Fighter only costs a 1/4 the price of the Cruiser and it is unencumbered by the Fleet Supply allowing for some terrifying stacking possibilities - the rule of numbers will be in your favour with the amount of dice you will be hurling. For most races Fighters are merely a buffer to be used as casulties for more valuable ships - not so for the Naalu. Their storm of fighters will tear you apart. There is only two ways to counter them. Getting the Automated Defense Turrets, but the problem is that to make use of that you need to bring a lot of Destroyers to a battle and while they rock in the Anti-Fighter Barrage, they really don't supply much afterwards in the combat itself and unless the Naalu's are your personal enemy it is a tech that is often overlooked for much more generally powerful alternative techs. The other option: the Friendly Fire Action Card - which you need bad luck to run into repeatedly.
Add the XRD Transporter Technology and eventually your racial Hybrid Crystal Drives (which allows for you to have 2 Carriers with 12 fighters hitting on 7 for the mere use of one Fleet Supply! Measured up against using that one spot for bringing a single Cruiser, Hylar-equipped or not) and I would stay far far away from you and your swarm of fighters.
Use your ability to dodge a combat now and then. Keep your enemies guessing whether you will engage or vanish in thin air. Move your fleet further forward into empty space between your planets and the enemies. That way you can always retreat easily to your own systems without leaving planets behind and unprotected. The enemy will have to engage you with enough of a fleet to take you out, yet if you just move out he is locked and might lack the fleet to make you the target of yet another attack as he already had to commit them once. True, it might cost you a Strategy Allocation to do a tactical retreat if the system you move to isn't already activated - but remember that it also costs your enemy a Command Counter (and even two once you get your Telepatic Mind Weapon, which makes for a toxic combo with your ability to remove yourself from combat). And more importantly it will over time make you less of a target to attacks as your enemies will realise that they will not be able to decidedly take you out in a space combat unless you yourself opt to take the fight (which also makes you a less interesting target for a number of space combat related Public Objectives). Players only have that many moves in a given game round, so effeciency is key, and attacking the Naalu is often ineffective and a potential waste of Command Counters. True you might also get bogged down by it as you have to activate the system you retreat to, however you always have the...
You always move first. True, sometimes it is an advantage to be able to sit back and have the benefit of others moving first, however you can get your enemies horrible off-balance by retreating and binding them in striking distance of a larger number of your ships, knowing that you will move first the round after you dragged them in and retreated.
Also, this one ability is one of the biggest tie-breakers around when you enter the end game. Objectives are claimed in order of Initiative. Every other single player around the table have to win a round before anyone else are able to - that or they have to not only pick their Strategy Card in the last round on grounds of what they need to get the last VPs but also for it to be low enough of a number for them to get to claim those objectives before other contenders. Those kinds of worries are beneath you - you will always be the first to claim objectives and in a close game (which many are) you have chronology fully on your side. Which is also why, not surprisingly, that one of the most frequent end game uses I've seen of the Action Cards that allow you to copy or steal another race's special ability, is of getting that exact ability from the Naalu in the last round - as it might be the only possible path to victory in a close game.
In short, don't get caught up in how the lesser races play the game. Get into the brain of the mind-reading Naalu and think out of the box to screw your enemies in ways they had never anticipated.
Damn it! Now I need to play the Naalu in my next game, revel in the flexibility, out-manouvering my enemies, and in bringing winged fighter doom to the galaxy!
Edited by Cremate, 28 January 2014 - 06:02 PM.