Morgan Industries (CEO Nwabudike Morgan):
Another odd (read: Unbalanced) faction, and quite possibly the most underrated of the bunch, the Morganites are structurally diametric to the Lord’s Believers (where the Believers are really well designed to play Momentum style, the Morganites are likewise well designed for Builder Style, and both factions have a harder than average time getting out of their primary style). As a group, the Morganites are plagued by one minor disability and one really nasty one, but are blessed in more ways than imaginable with the lifeblood of the game.....energy. As an economist, this faction was my early favorite, and probably still is, overall, though I must say there are certain features I admire about all of the groups.
Game Notes: Your minor disability is the fact that your bases are stuck at size four (4) until you get the technology to build Hab-Complexes. That’s easy to get around. A program of thin, rapid expansion will completely negate your “small city syndrome.” Much more pervasive though, is the problem you have with support. This alone is what keeps you from playing too much like a Hybrid or Momentum player, at least until Clean reactors (mid-game).
Face it, until you have Clean Reactors, you’re not going to have a big army, and all of the social choices you are tempted to make only worsen your support problems. You’ll almost certainly be tempted toward Democracy (once you get Hab-Complexes), which only magnifies your support problem, and your other tempting social choice in the early game actually worsens your military problems in the form of low morale (Wealth). Taken together, these are not ingredients which make you a military powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination.
Having said that, you might be wondering what good they are, and my answer would be simple. Money. Specifically, one energy per square. That is the holy grail, and you can get to it much more easily than any other faction in the game (everybody else has to run Market, but you can do it with Wealth alone). Of course, a lot of new players take one look at Market’s penalties and wonder what good it is, but think it through: +1 energy per square, times the number of bases you have, times their size-class, and that’s BEFORE you take into account energy banks and other economy-enhancing facilities. That’s not a one-time bonus, either. That’s the amount of extra cash you’re getting every turn. I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor and get over the shock, and then we’ll continue.
In short, you can very easily make obscene amounts of cash (not to mention the fact that Wealth gives you a +1 Industry rating). What this means for you is that you can very quickly afford to do absolutely anything. Why worry about making much of an army when you can keep a couple Probe Teams scattered around your empire and simply subvert the would-be invasion force? Sure, keep a core group around, some sturdy garrison types, but the rest of the army is entirely optional for you, and when you DO subvert enemy troops, compare them to the ones you’re using for garrison duty. If yours are better, disband his to speed up whatever secret project you’re working on. If his are better, keep them and disband your obsolete troops.
The majority of the base facilities you can build do one of three things: Control your drones, boost your labs, or boost your cash. All three of these things are important to you, so Morgan almost always draws Builder types. Every once in a while, someone comes along to play Morgan as a Hybrid, but he’s a merchant at heart, and merchants do not profit by killing their customers, so of all the factions, Morgan tends to be the most steadfastly peaceful.
Not to say they can’t fight, mind you. There is nothing more humiliating than unleashing a big attack force only to have it subverted out from under you and then turned back in your face! And the Morganites have enough money to fight a very long attrition war. They don’t need great troops, because they can crank an endless supply of average ones. Kill one, and two more appear. Sooner or later, you’ll either give up the fight or be crushed by the weight of them.
One hidden disadvantage of the Morganites, though, is that all that money tends to breed complacency when it comes to building military units, and also, there is a risk that you will become haughty and assume you are untouchable. Avoid this! About the time you think that, the guy with the Hunter-Seeker algorithm (or, just as bad, Sister Miriam) will come looking to pick a fight with you!
One final note: Morgan is a LOUSY choice if you want to play Momentum style. The support costs limit the size of your army, and your troops are only average to start with.....if you want to play Momentum style, find a different faction unless you’re just looking for a way to challenge yourself.
And those, in a nutshell, are the factions that make up the game. Think about which one(s) mesh the best with your personal style and play them relentlessly until you feel you’ve perfected your style with that group, and then move on to another. Within each faction, you will find a staggering number of nuiances, which will translate into an almost limitless number of game variations to play out!
The Early Game:
You’ve got your planet the way you want it, picked out a faction that fits “you” pretty well, and now you’re looking at the map. Not that there’s much to see just yet, amounting to all of about ten squares, but….it’s a beginning., and at this point, the game is fairly intuitive. Obviously, you need to found some bases and start building stuff in order to advance the game, but once you get the ball rolling, and your research efforts start to generate a few technological breakthroughs, you will very quickly find yourself with a staggering array of different things to build, and this has a tendency to throw off the novice player. What to build and when? A very good question indeed, and hopefully this section will help to shed some light on things.
Expansion and Growth:
With all of two colony pods and a scout patrol, it’s a little early yet to be thinking in stylistic terms. Right now, survival is the priority, and ensuring your survival means having a good number of bases to work with. Regardless of what kind of game you're playing, you're not going to get very far without a solid foundation. Having said that, getting your empire up to a "critical mass" with regards to overall number of bases is vitally important.
Opinions vary and differ about what exact number this "critical mass" is, but you could almost universally ballpark it in the 10-15 range.
So, what's the best way to get to that number of bases in a hurry? Well, there is no one "best way," but there are a number of pretty interesting approaches, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. (Again: Remember that during this phase of the game, your Empire is embryonic....it is not really large enough to have a set "playing style." That is to say that any of these early game strategies can be pursued by equally well, regardless of the play style you eventually wish to fall into (Builder, Momentum, or Hybrid).
Early Game Paradigm #1: Monster Terraforming Avantage
Unless you're running democracy, each new base you found gets 10 free minerals. This means you can get your token scout patrol guard for that base for free the turn after you build the base in question. It also means you can add 25 energy credits to it (before considering industry bonuses or penalties), and get a former the turn after the base build, and THEN start work on your scout patrol. Depending on what you do with your former at that point (and to that end, if you’re going to uses this approach, pay very close attention to the Basic Terraforming section on the pages that follow), you can net yourself a powerful advantage indeed. The simple fact is this: you are competing in time with one or more opposing factions. The faster you can get your formers out and improving things relative to your opponents, the better off you will be, as it will give you the opportunity to make use of those improved production squares while your opponent is not, netting you a mineral, energy, and/or nutrient advantage over your opponent for each and every turn you are able to maintain that advantage.
Keep doing that with every base you found, and over the course of the game this will net you a HUGE advantage, as each base’s former will gain somewhere between 6-10 turns of terraforming activity over and above what your opponent is getting. That’s six to ten turns per former you have out terraforming. To give that advantage some kind of tangible reference point, make the blanket assumption that an improved (terraformed) piece of real estate will net you 2 FOP’s (factors of production – energy, nutrient, or mineral) over and above what a non-improved land square will net you. Multiply that by 6-10 (from above – the number of “free” terraforming turns you can expect to get over and above your opponent, and we will assume ten, for simplicity’s sake), and further multiply that by the number of bases (formers, specifically) you’ve got. Whatever number you get is a fairly good estimate of the total advantage you’ve netted yourself (ie., If you have ten bases, each with a rushed former, your estimated advantage using the formula above would be (2*10) * 10 = 200 FOP’s. If you consider that a Trance Scout Patrol costs you 10 FOP’s (10 minerals, specifically), you begin to put the advantage in perspective. Of course, not all 200 of your FOP’s will be in the form of minerals. Likely, they will be a mixed bag of all three, but that’s okay too, because what it really means is that, relative to your opponent, your bases will produce more minerals more quickly, give you more money, and grow faster (which will enable you to make even MORE bases!). Keep this theory in mind for later, when we get to the economy section….we will build on it significantly.
For the moment, simply understand that taking this approach will help you grow your empire more quickly than the norm, and it will also give you a viable intra-base infrastructure more quickly than your opposition can put together. Intra-base infrastructures consists of things like roads, bunkers, airfields, and sensor arrays.
The beauty of this approach is that if you want to get a veritable HORDE of bases up and running quickly (sans infrastructure, but that will come later), then this is bar none, the best way to go about it. Build your formers first, and while your base is working on it's token scout patrol, you can be terraforming as mentioned above, and finish your first square at about the same time your scout is done....then get to work on those colony pods!
The only infrastructure you will want to focus on with this style is Rec. Commons (and only then if it looks like your base will grow to size three before you could complete another colony pod at that base). The rest of your infrastructure will come after you've reached critical mass, or covered your entire continent in bases, whichever you choose.
The number of your bases will grow exponentially, and you'll fill up the continent VERY quickly! (And, even though they will all be small, this will give you an ENORMOUS pool of resources to work with. You can visually divide up your empire in regions, and pick a certain base in each region for rapid development via rush building, to give each region a strong point). The exponential growth can be seen thusly: You begin with two bases, build two pods to get four....everybody builds pods (after the former/scout thing), and you've got eight before you know it.....16....32.....repeat as needed.
Main weakness of this style: If you get unlucky, and the worms come calling in the few turns it takes to build the scout patrol after your former is out and working, you lose the base. It's an exceedingly fast style, but not without risk.
Early Game paradigm #2: Security Over Speed:
The basic assumption here is that, the world is a dangerous place, and you'd better be prepared for that. To that end, the build order is similar, but the timing is fundamentally different.
1) Build your two bases. Keep your freebie scout patrol in one of them.
2) The base containing the freebie scout starts working on a former first (and then builds a scout of its own). The empty base builds a scout first and then a former ((Stylistic Note!!: If you compare these two styles in play, you will see that the first style nets you about 8-10 turns of additional former operation, but does so at the expense of leaving the bases vulnerable for approximately 4 turns)).
Terraform as mentioned in the next few pages, and the next build your bases will do will be another scout (which will eventually perform escort duty). In the meantime, your freebie scout is now available for exploration, and the bases are secure.
After the second scout is built, they can accompany the formers if they want to do some exploring, or hang around in the bases until the colony pods are done.
When the pod is done, the "extra" scout moves to the new site with the pod, so that from the get-go, the new base is protected (and you can change ownership of the scout to the new base by using Ctrl-H, when the scout is in the base square). The new base then builds a former/scout/pod and repeats the process.
Main weaknesses: Overall, this is a good deal slower than the first method, both in terms of how quickly you get the pods cranked out, and in terms of how much terraforming you get done, but the trade-off is safety. If you're on a landmass with company, or are worried about worms, this is probably your best bet.
Expansion Paradigm #3: Specialized Base Expansion
This is great for people on small landmasses and for Marketeers. It's also great for multiplayer games at it increases your overall flexibility (at the expense of speed of colonization)
The initial scheme runs pretty similar to #2 (above), keeping your freebie scout at home for a few turns until you build base guards, then, the focus turns immediately to Rec. Tanks (for the additional +1/+1/+1 kick per turn. Then build a pod, then a rec. common, and then back over to any one of the following: more pods, guards, prototypes, or secret projects (depending on your needs at the moment).
The big strength of this paradigm is the fact that your bases will be exceedingly stable. You will only rarely experience riots, because your infrastructural development will be kept pretty well in time with your base's growth cycles. This style also facilitates an early switch to Market, and that's a HUGE boon! However, it is not without its drawbacks.
The drawback here is a lack of speed. All that focus on base facilities means a slower rate of expansion. Yes, you will have stable, profitable bases, but you will also have fewer production centers. Depending on how your game developes, (and on local geography)that could be anything from a minor irrtation to a crippling disability.
Expansion Paradigm #4: A Focus on factors of Efficiency.
This focuses on the specific points in the game when extra drones are created by the growth of your empire. Here are the threshold points you need to remember:
Huge Planet: 11 Bases
Large Planet: 9 Bases
Standard Planet: 6 Bases
Small Planet: 5 Bases
Tiny Planet: 3 Bases
Go above any of these numbers on the planet of size 'x' and you get drones. Therefore, the idea here is to grow your empire in "spurts." Let's assume you're on a standard planet. Your first goal then, is to get yourself to six bases as quickly as you can. Use the methodologies in Paradigm #1 to do this.
Once you are up to six bases, build a Rec. Tanks & a Rec. Commons, and then switch to Market and start cranking out pods again….you next goal being twelve (12) bases.
Once you get to twelve, stop again, and build the Rec. Tanks and Rec. Commons at your newest bases, while your original bases go to work on more advanced facilities, then move to the next “tier,” of eighteen (18). Repeat until you have filled up the continent.
The advantage here is that you solve the extra drone problem due to size, you blend speedy expansion with infrastructure builds, and you do it in relative safety. The drawback though, once again, is raw speed. This is still not as fast an approach as paradigm 1, but it is probably the most balanced of the lot.
A quick note about SE choices in the Early game: You will find both Planned and Wealth hard to beat in the early game, and both of them together are powerful indeed!
Both Planned and Wealth confer a +1 Industry, with Wealth adding an Economy kick, and Planned giving you a Growth bonus, and the good news is that a single facility (the Children’s Creche) can overcome the disadvantages of both of these SE choices!
So, if you have Children’s Creche’s in all your bases, you’re looking at nothing but positives for running Planned/Wealth, and your bonuses (before you even consider faction-specific bonuses) amount to:
+2 Industry (20% discount on all builds)
+1 Economy (+1 Energy per base)
+4 Growth (40% faster growth in all your bases, half coming from Planned, and half coming from the Children’s Creches themselves)
Now that you’ve got a few different ideas to play with regarding how to pursue expansion, it’s time to take a closer look at the very best, most versatile unit in the entire game: Meet “The Former.”
Take a look at the good ol’ Former. Get to know him very well indeed. Smart use of this little unit will be instrumental in winning the bulk of your games, and even in the mid and late game (after most of the really important terraforming has already been done), you will find this unit to be surprisingly useful, and always valuable.
The biggest thing to remember about terraforming in the early game is that you are under some pretty tight restrictions until you reach certain key technologies. Effectively, no square (unless it contains a resource bonus) can produce more than two FOP’s, regardless of type. Nutrient restrictions are the first to be relaxed, then mineral, and last, energy.
Because of these relatively tight restrictions, and because of game mechanics (ie., each citizen requires 2 units of food), growing big bases in the early game just isn’t very practical. In truth, getting big bases in the early game really isn’t al that important. There will be time for that later. The most important thing to consider about early game bases is getting a base from size one to size two, and then being able to build a colony pod or basic piece of infrastructre fairly quickly (decent minerals).
To that end, the Monolith is the very best friend you’ve got in the early game. The square gives you two of each, minerals, nutrients, and energy, plus it will net your fledgling scouts a much needed morale boost to help battle the worms. There’s no such thing as too many monoliths in your territory!
Not far behind the monolith are rolling and rainy squares. These little guys give you two nutrients and a mineral. Not bad, and it will help you grow quite nicely, no terraforming at all needed. Later, a farm/solar collector can be added to the square to heighten its natural advantages, and these squares are even nicer if they happen to have a river running through them as well, as that will give you an energy kick, on top of the food!
In third place would be any square containing a forest. A forest generates (regardless of the underlying terrain) 1 nutrient, 2 minerals, and 1 energy. Plant a forest in any resource bonus square and you’ve got a productive square indeed! Just as monoliths and rolling/rainy squares are instrumental in getting size one bases up to size two bases as quickly as possible, a couple of forest squares in each base’s production radius are instrumental in providing the base enough mineral output to build more pods or early game infrastructure fairly quickly.
Of course, I am unfairly biased. I am very fond of forests, both for their efficiency and for their impact on eco-damage (which you won’t have to worry about until much later in the game). But because I am so partial to forests, here’s what I would recommend to any new player when your former is built at a given base:
a)Scope out an area of flat terrain just outside your base, move the former there and build a road. Exception to this rule: If there is a mineral or energy resources square in the production radius of the base, and that resource is NOT on a rocky terrain square, proceed to that square, build your road, then drop a forest.
b) The road finishes in one turn on flat terrain. Start work on a forest (3 turns to complete, in a flat terrain square)
c) When the forest is completed, take a peek at the production radius of the base in question. If there is a nutrient resource square in the base's production radius, move there and road + forest it. These two squares will provide you all the raw materials you need to keep that base productive for the opening gambit (and besides that, the forests will likely expand a bit on their own).
d) If there is no nutrient resources square, find the highest rolling/rainy or rolling/moist elevation square in the base-production radius and build a road/farm/solar collector there (if the square is rainy, then the farm won’t give you any immediate benefit, but will be in place for when those nutrient restrictions are lifted) This will be the base's main square to springboard it from size one to size two for pod building.
Once the former has done his two-square duty, he's off to do other stuff. How you use the extra time you have with him is up to you, but here are some pretty solid suggestions:
#1) (My personal favorite): Scope out some places you want to build new bases, and operate your formers in teams. One former builds a road out toward the new site, and the other moves ahead to plop a sensor array down on the build location.
#2): Make a road network which connects all your existing bases to facilitate defense
#3): Don't let the former leave its base of origin at all....leave it nearby to finish terraforming all squares in the production radius of the base. That way, if the base is attacked, the former can scamper back inside base, get an armor upgrade, and help defend it.
Considering the heavy restrictions you are under in the very early game, that’s about all you need to get started, terraforming wise. If you follow a smart schedule of terraforming, providing each of your bases with a good mix of forests and farms in rainy squares (where available), they will server you well as the game progresses, new technologies are discovered, and those restrictions begin to come off. The productivity of those squares will grow in time with your empire, and you will find yourself well positioned to step into the much more advanced Mid-game.