I played a game yesterday after not really touching BE since before the patches, so it's possible this has been fixed and I just screwed it up, but one thing that bugs the hell out of me is that spying feels like a system that was put in to be "real", as in something you could legitimately focus a branch of your civilization on, but is then hobbled by poor balance. Again this could just be player error at this point, but my understanding of the system is something like this: 1. Rushing spying seems difficult. This is one area where I'm sure i'm doing a whole lot wrong (i'm still not certain where all the spy quests are), but given the position of those that I do know i've yet to find a good path to "maxing spying" or balancing it out. 2. The early skills are balanced strangely. I've ended multiple games pre patch (and yesterdays) by ignoring my energy economy and just relying on siphon energy. I has -200 a turn but was floating 3000+ at times. Compare this to "maybe steal a tech" or "maybe get some science" and i feel it's not even close. For that much energy I can just buy cities and science buildings for more gain that I'll likely see from those skills. Of course dedicating myself to an energy economy also yields better returns, but I don't think the science/tech returns are good enough that I can "ignore science" and just rely on my spy yields, whereas I can absolutely do minimal energy management and still be fine thanks to spying payouts. Oh establish network gets points for being what it should be an actually feeling like more than a formality(although more on that later). 3. The mid/late skills are also a mess. Recruit defenders is a great option in my eyes. This one skill allows you to do a heavy science focus for a spy build and get away with fewer cities spending time building/buying military as the stuff you steal seems to be related to your tech level vs theirs (although the units will be of their affinity if they are at the point where it's giving them unique units?). Hack satellites is something i've never ever used, but that's basically because it's waay too difficult for something so niche, and the AI is abominable when it comes to the orbital layer (I invaded an enemy territory riddled with laser sats, and only realized this 3 turns after I took most of their cities because they never once used them...) 4. The actual late skills all suck terribly? First because there's a building that can be built to just flat out stop you from ever being able to get above 3 intrigue, and it's not even unique or that hard to get. If you flat out rush spying you can get a few coups in, but i've never gotten a dirty bomb or a sabotage hit off when it mattered simply because having 11 affinity points takes so long that they'll all have the "3 intruige max" building by then. Siege worm is a special kind of bad in that it basically only exists for killing weak players in a fun way, as even if they ignored the intrigue and you got it off, many civ's can easily defend the attack, and supporting the worms is of questionable value (i've never felt they tipped a fight I couldn't have already won. 5. Intrigue builds awkwardly. I forgot to test, but pre patches spamming establish network built intrigue faster than anything else by miles. Even if that's been fixed the complete lack of any real weighting on the intrigue amounts promotes spamming lower level and more successful operations. Even then I tend to struggle to get above a 4 vs the AI, and that's when I rush (although poorly). So it's more than possible I just suck, in which case i'd love for someone to help me flesh out a good spymaster strat. If not, given that RT is changing the diplogame so heavily I'd love to know if they've mentioned any future changes to covert ops.