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Vel's Strat Guide - Version 2.0

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  • Vel's Strat Guide - Version 2.0

    Vel’s SMAC Guide
    (Version 2.0)
    By: Chris Hartpence (a.k.a. Velociryx)

    Introduction:
    I have been quite pleased by the reception the strategy guide has gotten since I first posted it on the Apolyton site. And since that time, it has grown and evolved, to the point where I thought that perhaps a revision was in order to keep the work in a fairly coherent form. To that end, here is my latest thinking on the game.

    The contents of the document have been expanded and re-organized. As much as possible, I have tried to tone down my rambling, and tighten up the document. I’ve also taken steps to streamline everything so that it makes a smooth progression. No more random jumping from one topic to the next. In fact, I have re-written the guide with one specific goal in mind. I would like a brand new player to be able to download and print this work out, load up the game, and go page by page through this work, playing and learning the ropes. To that end, the “new and improved” guide is divided into logical groupings which have been laid out like college courses, covering the following areas:

    Getting Started:
    Before you begin your next game…..
    The Factions, Discussed

    The Early Game:
    Expansion and Growth: A primer
    Terraforming: 101
    Defining Your Style
    Defining Your Focus
    Economic Theory, SMAC-Style: Comparative Turn Advantage
    Special Projects in the Early Game
    Barbarians at the Gate!
    A Look at Diplomacy
    A Primer on Combat

    The Middle Game:
    Expansion in the Middle Game
    More on Combat!
    Organizing your Offense/Defense
    Advanced Combat Tips & Strategies
    Advanced Terraforming Techniques
    The Supply Crawler: Your New Best Friend
    Developing Your Style
    Developing Your Focus
    Studying the Metagame

    The Late Game:
    Locking things down
    Final Notes\Odd Musings


    Some Opening Remarks:
    I love strategy games. Been playing them since I was ten, and I’d like to think that after 21 years at it I’ve learned a thing or two....maybe not, but I can hope!

    This strategy game in particular though, has captured my attention like few others, and it has enough complexity built into it to warrant a fair amount of truly deep analytical thought, which is why I began writing this article in the first place. By putting my own thoughts and theories about the game on paper, it helps me to focus and clarify, and thus further improves my game. One of the centerpieces of the article you’re about to dive into is the section on the economy, and there are two reasons for that. First, I feel that a lot of players overlook this vitally important aspect of the game in favor of pure conquest, and I wanted to spend some time illuminating it, and second, because I’m an Economist by education and training (specifically, the economies of developing nations), so my focus tends to just naturally be toward that end of things.
    Before You Get Started….

    It is vitally important that you understand just what kind of game you’re playing. I mean this on two different levels, and will take them one at a time. First and most basically, keep in mind the fact that Alpha Centauri is not a war game, but an empire-building game. War is, of course, a part of the process of creating an empire, but it is only a means to an end. This is not to say that you cannot enjoy the game if you treat it as a war game and nothing more. Many players do that, and they love the game. It is a perfectly valid approach to playing. In fact, there are factions which are specifically designed for this type of play-style. Bear in mind, however, that if you choose to play the game exclusively as a war game, you are denying yourself a significant and fascinating portion of the overall experience.

    The second thing I mean is that the game actually begins before your map screen comes up. Everything in Alpha Centauri is important, and if you want to excel at the game, then from the moment you begin setting up the parameters of your game world, you should be considering how they may impact your game.

    To that end, and in order to get your mind turning on the subject, we’ll examine each of the options you can select from:
    Planet Size: This will impact how much time you will have to develop in isolation before other factions begin to find you. If you want to mix it up from the start, shrink your world size. If you’re looking to explore the various “Builder” elements in the game, expand the world size.

    Oceans: Another factor that will impact how long it takes other factions to contact you. Oceans represent a pretty formidable obstacle. You’ve got to research two techs before you can even start building a boat, and then you must begin exploring the planet at the less-than-lightning-fast rate of three or four squares per turn. On the other hand, setting oceans to a minimum may well create a game where all the factions wind up starting on the same continent!

    Cloud Cover: A more subtle option. Impacts the amount of rainfall the planet receives. This, in turn, impacts the amount of green, nutrient rich squares the world contains. World with heavy rainfall are nutrient rich, allowing for easy growth and expansion. Worlds with minimal cloud cover are arid and dry, making each base a very big and important deal, especially in the early game. In a word: Rainy = Rapid Development. Aird = Slow Development.

    Native Life Forms: This will dramatically alter the flavor of your game, and it will do so in a number of ways. First, the higher the setting, the more fungus you will have to contend with, which will slow your development (as your scouts and colony pods will either have to spend several turns going through or around all the fungus, and your formers will need to spend several turns per square just clearing the fungus to make use of the underlying terrain. Second: More fungus = more chances to run into worms. This might be a good thing, if you’re geared for combat, or if you are the Gaians, with their inherent ability to capture worms. On the other hand, if you are Morgan, intent on running a Free Market Economy, this could have some pretty serious implications for your game. (Note: If you’re playing for score, then use Abundant Native Life forms, as you will receive a 25% bonus to your score).

    Optional Rules: Many of these are pretty self explanatory, and most do not need comment. However, there are a few….

    Blind or Directed Research: This is probably the most important choice you will make in the whole pre-game setup, as it will dramatically influence how you proceed from turn one. Blind research more or less leaves you in the hands of Fate. It makes for a very “realistic” game, but can also be immensely frustrating, if you suddenly find yourself neck deep in a war and have few if any combat-oriented techs. Directed research is the favored choice by the bulk of gamers, mostly for the control it gives over the game environment, but whichever you tend to favor, I strongly recommend trying the “other” choice out from time to time, just to give yourself a taste of some other perspective.

    Random Events on/off: These are mostly mild boons or minor irritants, but they can occasionally be really painful (Asteroid strike wipes out your biggest and best base, solar flares destroy all your Orbital Power Transmitters, etc)., so consider if you want to deal with that on top of the rival factions or not. Also, if you’re planning to try for an economic win, you will probably want to turn this off!

    Unity Pod Scattering: I like to refer to this as the “Easter Egg Hunt.” If you want to add a random element into the game, and generally make life a little easier for all players involved, then turn this option on. Otherwise, turn it off. You still may have a few pods, but they’ll be isolated to your starting position.

    TechStag: Turning this option on will have an enormous impact on your game! It will slow you down immensely. This, in combination with a huge, high water level planet can mean a hundred years or more of isolation before some other faction finds you. Think carefully before you activate this! If you are a fairly passive player, this may be for you, otherwise, you might find yourself very bored!

    Spoils of War: A huge benefit to war-mongers, as it means you can get away with almost totally ignoring infrastructure development, and focus exclusively on building up your army!

    Ironman: Disallows use of the autosave feature. No going back to undo mistakes. Also, increases your score by 100%.

    Do or Die: If you’re planning to win by conquest, this option could be your best friend.

    Aggressive Opponents: The AI factions are already pretty aggressive, and this makes them doubly so. If you’re going for a diplomatic win, you might want to leave this one off.

    The Factions, Discussed:

    Once you get your game world set up, you will want to take a moment to really think about what faction you want to play. I say this because, while all the factions are quite good, if you select a faction that does not mesh well with your personal gaming style, you will probably not have a very good time. Are you an avid war-monger from the get-go? If so, don’t play Morgan. And, speaking of play-styles, you will find three terms used throughout this guide, beginning here in the faction descriptions. Don’t worry too much about the specifics, as we’ll get to that later, but here’s a general set of definitions to give you the gist of it for the time being:

    Builder-Style: Focuses on infrastructural development over military concerns.

    Hybrid-Style: Attempts to strike a balance between infrastructural development and military concerns.

    Momentum-Style: Largely ignores infrastructural development, in favor of military concerns.

    Below is a listing and brief overview of the original seven (7) SMAC factions. The information contained in this section will serve as one of the primary building blocks for sections to follow (including the section on combat).

    The Original Seven:
    You know them, and whether you love them or hate them, you need to be aware of each faction’s inherent strengths and weaknesses so you’ll understand how to exploit the one you’re playing. It’s also a good idea to know what to expect from the faction who just dropped a scout rover off in your territory.


    The Lord’s Believers (Sister Miriam Godwinson):
    An odd faction (because it is exceedingly unbalanced....see below), but extremely powerful when played correctly. Sitting still with The Believers will get you killed very quickly. This group needs to be aggressive to survive, and they’re quite well-suited to that. As you might expect, they are at their most powerful when played Momentum-Style, where their +25% bonus when attacking and their +2 Support (big army) really shines through. The Believers’ main drawback is their lagging research capability, which is partially offset by having access to outstanding Probe Teams. Note that this is not a perfect solution, however. Research is a passive thing. You build a base and research just happens. To get anything out of your Probe Teams, you must take an active stance with them, sending them out regularly to infiltrate datalinks and steal that much-needed technology to keep your army up to date. Not that this will be any big deal for fans of the Lady Miriam....they’re used to moving lots of units around the map every turn.

    Also, one hidden advantage of The Believers is a good amount of cash. This is actually an outgrowth of the poor research problem (why put money into your labs if they’re not going to net you much of a benefit? You’re better off adding to your cash pool so you’ll have more funds to subvert enemy units and the like).

    I hope the fans of The Believers will forgive me for calling their faction an odd one, but when I clarify that statement, perhaps they will agree. If you imagine the three play-styles I mentioned earlier as being a continuum, with “Builder” on the extreme left and “Momentum” on the far right, then Miriam would be slammed all the way to the right. Play her pretty much any way but Momentum-Style, and you’re asking to get hammered.

    A Builder she is not. Building Network Nodes and other Lab-enhancing facilities is impractical because of your inherent research penalty (made even worse if/when you switch to Fundamentalism). Why build a facility with a “per-turn” upkeep fee when you can just zap your current opponent with a probe team? Besides that, huddling in your bases as Builders are wont to do negates your +25% attack bonus. Drop into “Hermit-Mode” with this faction, and you’re in for a tough game (Though it might make for an intriguing challenge sometime). She could be played as a Hybrid, but again, the primary function of Hybrid-Play is to give you sufficient infrastructure to do peace-time research, something Miriam just isn’t very good at.

    Game notes: Play Miriam fast and hard, but pick your battles carefully. In the field, you’re troops are very hard to beat, and when you switch to Fundy, you’ve effectively got your own little private “Hunter-Seeker Algorithm” running. A word of caution though: All these combat advantages can make you arrogant. Resist that! It’s the one thing that can really get you in trouble quickly. Against a single faction of comparable size, you should have little or no trouble smashing through their defenses, but you must take care to only fight one war at a time. Take on too many opponents at once and you’ll find yourself overextended and unable to crank out troops fast enough to support all your various campaigns. Also, you’ve got to remember that unless you find a rival faction in the very early part of the game, chances are good that your opponent will start with better technology than you. That being the case, your first skirmishes may or may not go your way, attack bonus or not.

    Once you find someone to smash, send feelers into their territory and find an easily accessible base, then start hitting them with probe teams to get up to their level of technology. Once you are at technological parity, you will almost certainly win the war with them (you can crank out the same types of units, plus you get the +25% bonus on your attacks). Just keep up the pressure and don’t lose your focus, and you will almost certainly be around for the end-game.

    The Hive (Chairman Sheng-Ji Yang):
    A particularly nasty faction for a number of reasons, and another excellent Momentum-Style group. Unlike Miriam, you can afford to sit still during periods of the game, and you’ve got tons of safe places to do it, as your group begins with your own personal “Citizen’s Defense Force” up and running, meaning that no matter where your troops go to rest and repair, they’ll have the benefits of your Perimeter Defense.

    Chairman Yang’s main strengths are impressive. Rapid population growth and excellent industrial production means that you can build colony pods quickly and expand rapidly (and relatively safely, thanks to your Perimeter Defenses), and if you had any money at all, this faction would be all but unbeatable, but this is the big equalizer. Where Miriam is lagging in research capability, you have a corresponding lag in Economy. Simply put, you’re strapped for cash, so you’re going to have to build everything you want (no rush building or buying much of anything). Also, without much energy, you’ve got limited research capability, which means you will need to make use of your Probe Teams nearly as much as Miriam.

    Game notes: Make early use of your industrial capacity. Thanks to rapid population growth and the +1 Industry bonus, you can expand very quickly, and if you get the “Command Nexus” project, coupled with your inherent Perimeter Defenses, you become dangerous indeed (and while we’re talking about it, if you happen to get the Planetary Transit System, the rest of the world is in a good bit of trouble). Even without the secret projects though, you will quickly find yourself with a sprawling empire very quickly (not much infrastructure development, but that’s no big deal for you), which can support an immense army. You may not have Miriam’s attack bonus or Santiago’s morale, but you can almost always count on having more troops, and with your greater numbers, you can simply overwhelm your opponents, whomever they might be.

    Like Miriam, it is important to test your enemy’s defenses before committing to full-scale war. Your lack of energy relative to the other factions really hampers your research efforts and makes it likely that in the early goings, you will have inferior technology. You can’t subvert enemy troops as a rule, because again, that takes money, but you can have your Probe Teams zap enemy bases and pull techs down that way. And, like Miriam, once you’ve reached technological parity with your enemy, you can smash him hard.

    With your enhanced Industrial output, it is not at all difficult for you to end the fight very quickly. Just amass so many troops and hit from so many different directions that your opponent can’t stop them all. And once you get a toehold in his territory, that is the kiss of death, as now he has to contend with your enhanced production capability right there on his turf.

    It is possible to play The Hive as a Builder or a Hybrid, but you will suffer from chronic energy problems, which means you won’t be as effective as some of the others. Still, if you find yourself with a bunch of allies and you’re feeling honorable, you can do the Hybrid thing well enough to get by until someone picks a fight.

    The Spartan Federation (Colonel Corazon Santiago):
    Perhaps the most balanced of the “Momentum” factions, the Spartans achieve a good balance between solid, well-trained troops and the ability to do something other than fight. If any of the Momentum Factions can easily make the switch to Hybrid (and possibly Builder) play, The Spartans are it.

    Their advantages make them magnificent fighters, either offensively or defensively, (effectively a Command Center at every base, further enhanced by actually building a Command Center), they can research at normal rates, and have a decent amount of energy (unlike Miriam and Yang, respectively). That doesn’t come free though, and they pay the price with a penalty to Industry. Where Yang can build things quickly, The Spartans are hampered by higher costs, which will slow their expansion in the early game.

    Game Notes: Slow and Steady. This may seem a contradiction to the Momentum style of play. What I mean by that is: Use the strengths of that style (as covered later), but take great care not to overextend yourself. Of all the Momentum factions, this is most dangerous for you. You have to be careful if you’re the Spartans. Control is the Key to the Kingdom for you. Yes, you’ve got a wonderful army (In fact, you’re the only faction in the game that can stare down the barrel of a Believer’s gun and smile calmly). But it can all come apart for you if you get reckless.

    As mentioned above, your expansion will be slower than average, thanks to your higher build costs (and it will be significantly slower than Yang’s), which means that each of your bases is a big deal. Yang can afford to lose a base or two. You cannot, so defend them carefully. The most successful Spartan players I have ever seen will expand slowly and carefully until they encounter another faction, and then attempt to make peace. If there is any resistance at all to the notion of peace, then (in the Spartan mindset), the faction is a potential threat and should be eliminated.

    When it comes to combat, the Believers will simply rush forward, relying on their factional attack bonus. The Hive will tend to simply use numbers to overrun, but in general, The Spartans do their damage with relatively few troops in the field (a good thing, since they take more time than usual to replace). Most people are frankly amazed when their bases begin falling to groups of two or three Spartans, where other factions might send in three to six.

    In times of peace, The Spartans can make the transition to Hybrid Play fairly well, though they will be hampered somewhat by their higher build costs. Still, once the infrastructure is in place, they do as well as the Peacekeepers or Gaians, with their better troops making up for the PK/Gaian special abilities.

    The Peace Keepers (Brother Pravin Lal):
    In a word, durability. The Peace Keepers are an exceedingly good faction for a number of reasons. You might not think so at first glance (after all, the only adjustment they’ve got to the Social Engineering table is a -1 on Efficiency, and what the Hell good is that?). Trust me, the Peace Keepers have more than enough of what it takes to overcome their one weakness.

    First and easiest to relate to is the double vote capacity. If you follow an average to brisk expansion policy, you can all but guarantee that you will be elected planetary governor, and once you are, you get Infiltrator access to all factions (as good as the Empath Guild, for free), and a big trade windfall. Not bad for doing what you would have been doing anyway.

    Second is the extra talent your bases attract per four citizens. This is like the Genome project on steroids, as it’s impact on your bases is relative to the size of the base (as opposed to being constant, in the case of the Genome). Control will rarely be a problem for you, and can generally be nixed with the simplest of base facilities (Rec. Commons, or nothing at all if you get the Virtual World & build a Network Node).

    Third, bigger bases. Do not discount the ability to exceed Hab-complex limits! Especially if you’re playing blind research, the extra time this gives you is extremely important!

    Finally, there are advantages to being, well....average. True, you don’t get the vaunted Spartan Morale Bonus, and you don’t get the Economic windfall of the Morgans, nor the Population and Industrial boost of Yang, but you don’t get any of their penalties, either, and the Efficiency problem can be overcome with base facilities. All in all, this puts you in a very strong position.

    Game notes: The Peacekeeprs can do everything fairly well, but they don’t really excel at anything. This is both a blessing and a curse. While they have no real weaknesses to exploit (ask anybody who’s tried just how hard it is to increase drone activity in a PK base), and essentially, your lack of a truly pronounced strength is a strength in its own right, in the form of flexibility. Pay special attention to anything regarding Hybrid play as you make your way through this guide, as it will likely hold doubly true for you. Flexibility can be a dangerous thing if you make bad choices as the PeaceKeepers. If a Spartan or Gaian Hybrid makes a bad choice and gets into trouble, they can fall back on their army (of excellent soldiers or mindworms), but the Peace Keepers only have “average” soldiery, and may find themselves hard pressed if they get involved in a conflict they’re not ready for.

    Still, there’s an enormous amount to be said for the sheer durability of Lal’s Peace Keepers, and no matter what the current game environment (war or peace), you will find that they will serve you well.

    Gaia’s Stepdaughters (Lady Deidre Skye):
    An absolutely fabulous faction, especially in the early game! Their minor faction negatives are more than offset by the ability to capture mindworms at game start, and their ability to draw resources from fungal squares. These two advantages simply cannot be overstated! The fungal-resources ability will save your formers time in the early game, allowing you to draw resources from squares in their natural state, and the mindworm capture ability gives you the perfect “pod-popping” unit!

    Game notes: Your very first objective should be to catch a Mindworm. Fortunately this is not difficult to do. Just start trolling around in fungus, and before long, one will appear. In every game I have ever played the Gaians, I’ve captured my first worm on the first try, so I suspect that’s a given, and as soon as you have your first worm, send him out hunting! Even if the pod in question unleashes more worms, they’ll ignore your little critter, and he can either go about his business or kill/capture the newly spawned worms. Either way, it’s a boon for you! Do the same thing as soon as you get a foil of some kind and you’re set for the rest of the game. The goodies you can uncover by being the first player out the gate to do some serious pod-popping can quickly put you in a position of power, and while you’re doing that, your empire is growing and expanding.

    Militarily, you’re a little weak, but the right base facilities can help offset this (and, if you’d rather fight defensively, add a Children’s Creche, and you’ll be on par with most of your adversaries). Energy and Lab production are good, and when coupled with the results of your massive pod-popping campaign, can easily put you on par with the “Builder” factions.

    If you are feeling aggressive, you can easily shift the Gaians into a Momentum stance, using the worm rush strategy to augment your otherwise pretty average soldiery. On the other hand, if you find yourself getting hordes of alien artifacts and such, you can kick into builder mode and reap the benefits.

    The Mindworm advantage tends to wear down over the course of the game (when the productive capacity of your bases is such that you can simply
    build what you need in a single turn, so why bother trying to catch them), so if you’re going to make use of it, then do it earlier, rather than later, and by late game, there aren’t many un-popped pods (both of these reasons, I suspect, are why the Gaians tend to fade in the late game if controlled by the computer), but the ability to draw resources from fungus squares increases over time, until fungus squares are ultimately the most productive in the entire game.

    The University of Planet (Prokor Sartory Zakarov):
    Your labs are your life. They are your only advantage in the game, and if you don’t use them well and wisely, you will find yourself in trouble very quickly. As such, you must focus the bulk of your efforts on increasing your energy output, as it is energy that drives your labs.

    Game notes: As the University, you’ve got four manageable problems, and one HUGE advantage. First, your troops are utterly average. Nothing at all to write home about. But, with technology as your ace in the hole, that need not frighten you. Play that card correctly and your average troops will outgun anything your opponents can bring to bear on you. Your second problem is a chronic difficulty with drones. The solution to this is a steady program of expansion (which can almost turn your problem into an advantage). Expansion is good for you for two reasons. First, it partially solves the drone problem you’ve got as your population is kept in check by the creation of new colony pods. And second, every time you make a new base, you’re getting a network node for free in the bargain (and maybe a hologram theater!)....this is extremely efficient from a cost-per-facility-basis (for the price of one colony pod, you’re getting a new base, a network node, and possibly a hologram theater....I think you will be hard pressed to find a better value for your money anywhere in the game), not to mention the effect it will have on the number of research points you can generate. Your third problem is Probe Teams. They generally have a really easy time infiltrating your datalinks, which, as you might expect, is bad for you. This can be overcome by posting your own Probe Teams around, but that is far from a perfect solution. Finally, you’ve got a less tangible problem I like to refer to as “CRS” (Chronic Researcher’s Syndrome). What this means is that, yes, you’re getting a bunch of technological advances, but until you turn those advances into tangible things for your empire, they don’t do you any good, and they certainly won’t stop Chairman Yang’s forty-three Impact Rovers that just sauntered into your territory. As a University Player, you need to focus on turning your tech advances into things: base facilities, new weapons, and the like. Only then are you really getting the most out of your abilities.

    Since so many base facilities center around controlling drone problems or increasing Lab output (both of which should make a University Player salivate in Pavlovian style), this is an ideal faction for Builder-play, but some interesting variants crop up if you try the other styles.

    If you focus on increasing the overall energy output of your empire at all though, it is very easy for you to simply run away with the game, from a technological standpoint. You can do things that will make the other factions green with envy. Once you’ve infiltrated everybody’s datalinks and have rendered yourself immune to their Probe Team actions (you DID get the Hunter-Seeker, yes?), you can monitor the production queues of all enemy bases, and if they start making something you don’t care for, missile the base garrison to death and orbitally insert your own troops. Presto!

    <font size=1 face=Arial color=444444>[This message has been edited by Velociryx (edited October 17, 1999).]</font>
    The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

  • #2
    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.

    Finally,

    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)

    Terraforming 101:

    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.
    The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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    • #3
      Defining Your Style:

      If you’ve been following this guide page by page as you play out a game, then you’ve gotten quite a lot accomplished already. You’ve likely got a number of bases established, your formers have been quite busy, and you’ve about run out of basic infrastructure to build. At this point, you’re ready to take the next step.

      Earlier, I mentioned the three basic styles of play in SMAC, and now we’ll take a closer look at those basic styles to see what makes each of them tick:

      Speaking in broad terms, there are three types of play-style you can adopt in SMAC. Beneath each basic style, there are factions that are particularly well-suited to that style. This is not to say that a given faction cannot be played in any other style, but rather, to point out where each faction’s natural strengths lie. Of course you can play the Believers as a builder faction....just understand that if you do so, you are basically working against yourself (you are pursuing a strategy of minimizing your weaknesses, rather than maximizing your strengths). At any rate, the play-styles are as follows:

      Momentum-Play
      Builder-Play
      Hybrid-Play

      A bit of discussion about each is in order, so here goes:

      Momentum-Play:
      These are your war-gamers. They like to waste as little time as possible on base enhancements, preferring to hit fast and hard. They’ve generally got excellent military units and can crank them out fairly quickly. Their primary weapon (despite how terrifying it might seem to watch a horde of Impact Rovers appear on the horizon) is Momentum (thus the name....clever, huh? ;-) ). The goal of this style of play is to hit your opponents so hard and so fast that they simply cannot react or respond in kind. Each captured base adds to this momentum (facilities can be disbanded for quick cash, the overall productive capacity of the empire is enhanced, and surviving units gain experience, all of which makes the next conquest easier....repeat until you win the game). As mentioned earlier, there are factions which are particularly well-suited to this type of play style, and everybody knows who they are: Believers, Hive, Spartans. These three factions are nothing short of magnificent when played Momentum-Style. The disciplined and sturdy (not to mention well armed) Spartans, The howling hordes of Sister Miriam, and the Hive-Mind Juggernaught.

      Builder-Play:
      At the other extreme are your Empire-Builders. Hermits for the most part, they’d rather you just left them in peace the whole game so they can do their thing without your interference. These folks love base facilities, and the people who play them frequently spend more time fretting over just how to terraform that 1200M elevation rolling and rainy terrain square than they do pouring over the unit design options. For them, military considerations are secondary (at best), and a necessary evil, mostly because of the existence of the Momentum Players. Again, you know these guys: Morgan and the University.

      Hybrid Play:
      Somewhere in the middle are the players who try to do it all, and generally have some agenda which is larger than themselves. They know they have to balance their base-improving efforts with military (and often planetary) concerns, and set out to do just that in the most efficient way they can find. They’re not strangers to anyone: The Gaians and Peace Keepers.

      It is possible to find real world examples of all three “play-styles,” and these examples are informative. World War II Japan is a classic example of a “momentum-campaign.” Japan was a nation strapped for resources trying to conduct a war. Their initial invasion plans were drawn up not around areas of extreme strategic importance, but areas rich in resources, with a mind toward providing themselves the means to extend their campaign, and until very late in the war, it was working.

      Ancient Athens would be a good example of a Builder-Type society. They used their reputation as a center of enlightenment in Ancient Greece to expand their influence over a number of neighboring city-states, collecting tribute and growing all the more wealthy as they went along. There is no telling how long they would have been content to go on like that, but they were interrupted by another (“momentum-style”) city state with an entirely different agenda....Sparta.

      The Roman Empire would be a good example of a Hybrid style. Their expansion scheme ran similar to what momentum-players would feel comfortable with, but they were also quite good at infrastructure. One has only to go to Europe today and view the Aqueducts, Arenas, Theaters, and roadways still in existence to get an appreciation for the durability of all things Roman.

      Strengths and weaknesses of the various styles:
      Know thine enemy. That is the second rule of battle (“Know thyself” being the first). And to that end, we’ll take a quick look at what you can expect from the various styles of play you will encounter. Again, this is all “in general,” so do not expect that you will never find exceptions to this rule of thumb. Still, I think you will find these observations to hold true often enough to prove useful.

      Momentum:
      It’s main strength is raw speed. Hit your enemy before he has time to prepare and move on, and against an ill-prepared opponent, a momentum campaign can be utterly devastating. The war will be over almost before you’ve realized it has begun. If you want to win the game quickly, this is the absolute best way to do it.

      Logically enough, the main weakness of a momentum strategy is a lack of flexibility. Once you set your bases to full and rapid unit production to bowl your enemy over, it is very difficult to force yourself to change strategies, and most momentum players seem to have trouble adapting to radically different or unexpected situations....there are always exceptions of course, so you cannot rely on that absolutely, but in general, if you can delay the Momentum player’s advance long enough to “check” him, he’s as good as beaten (so long as you don’t lose focus!).
      How they perform:

      Momentum vs. Momentum: A bloodfest, no matter when they meet. This game will most likely be won or lost on the tactical level, depending on who is the best micromanager and field general.

      Momentum vs. Builder: Find him early, he’s dead. Find him mid-game, approach carefully. Find him late-game, make peace or kill him in one shot.

      Momentum vs. Hybrid: In the early game, you can generally overrun these types, but expect them to put up a good fight. By mid-game or later, you’re better off making friends as they’ll be more than able to fight you on equal terms. What they lack in seasoned troops, they’ll probably make up for technologically.

      Builder:
      The main strength of this play style is a well-developed infrastructure (Builders tend to win or lose their game on the tactical level as well, but their victories will tend to come more from their formers than from their military units). Count on all the factors of production being greater in every “builder” base than in a comparably sized “momentum” base. A well developed infrastructure means greater efficiencies, and that means more rapid production (war materials, research data, or what-have-you). Builder-type cities are paragons of efficiency. A medium-sized or larger empire with a well-developed infrastructure is extremely hard to damage. It is a many-headed Hydra from legend. Cut off one head, and two more spring up to take it’s place. Unlike opponents of other play styles, you cannot accept that a “Builder-Player” is out of the game until his last base is gone. If and when a Builder player strikes at you, expect it to be a game-ender. They generally don’t move unless they know they will win. If you see a builder army approaching, you’re likely doomed and don’t know it yet.

      The main weakness of the Builder Playing style is the exact opposite of Momentum’s greatest strength (which is why Momentum players run over Builders if they meet in the early game). Building an infrastructure up from nothing takes time, and until that infrastructure is in place, you are going to be vulnerable. (In a word.....slow).

      How they perform:

      Builder vs. Builder: Probably not much contact at all. The game will most likely be a micromanagement race to see who is more efficient at managing the factors of production. Maybe an occasional skirmish or probe team action, but chances are good that they’ll be content to leave each other alone.

      Builder vs. Hybrid: More intense contact. Builders generally like to have the Hybrids as friends as they can trade technology with them and still receive a measure of protection from the other, more war-mongering factions. They’ll generally only enter into battle with these factions with the greatest of reluctance, and then the main goal will likely be to force a truce. The success or failure of that will depend on the stage of the game, with time favoring the builder.

      Builder vs. Momentum: Again, time is on the builder’s side. Meet a Momentum player early and you are virtually fried. Once you get up and running good though, you have little to fear unless hit with a truly massive invasion force all at once.

      Hybrid:
      Attempts to walk a fine line between the two extremes, and as such, this style of play is by far the most difficult. The main strength of the Hybrid player are manifold, but their main weakness can be crippling.

      The Hybrid’s main strength is flexibility. The ability to change directions on a dime is huge, charging off like a momentum player if the situation demands it, and switching into heavy research mode during times of peace. Also, the two SMAC factions best suited to they Hybrid approach have other strengths as well (The Gaian’s and their natural ability to capture mind worms and make use of fungus squares, and the PeaceKeeper’s “double vote” ability).

      Sadly, the same flexibility which can be such a blessing to the Hybrid player, can also be his undoing. Making bad choices about what strategy to pursue and when can kill a Hybrid player very quickly. In general, Hybrid players tend to win or lose at a much more strategic level than Builders or Momentum players as the choices they make will carry implications for their empire over the course of 10-30 (or more!) turns at a stretch. Being adept at reading the ebb and flow of a game is of critical importance to a Hybrid player, as game events are the guiding force of the choices you make.

      Consider what you have read here as it relates to the individual factions, and the faction you have chosen for yourself in particular. Try and generally categorize yourself into one of the three play styles and then ask yourself why you’re in that particular group. Study the reasons for your choice, and verify that they are the best choice for you, given the faction your are playing. Make adjustments as needed, and consider how you might play some of the other factions in future games, going back to review the factions themselves if needs be. Even if this information has not changed your opinion (for better or worse) about any faction in particular, it has undoubtedly gotten your mind turning on the intricacies of the game, and that’s a very good thing, because it will serve as a further building block for things yet to come.

      Defining Your Focus:

      At this point (specifically, at the point when you find yourself with Industrial Automation, the ability to change to Wealth on the SE table, and the ability to create Supply Crawlers), there are few things you could do which will have a greater impact on your game than this. Simply put, you are ready to do this. If you delay, you will find yourself floundering. If you act decisively, you will find yourself leaping far ahead of the pack. Also keep in mind that the things touched on here will come back to visit you again later in the section called “Studying the Metagame.” This is the foundation of the Metagame.

      We’ll talk a great deal more about Supply Crawlers later on, but for now, just realize that the Supply Crawler is the unit which makes it possible to define your focus. They have a ton of other uses besides, but you’ve got to grow into those uses. When you first get the ability to make them, using them to define your focus is the very best move you can make. To define your focus, you simply have your bases begin making supply crawlers whenever the opportunity presents itself. You move the crawlers out to a resource square that is not currently being utilized, and you begin harvesting one of the FOP’s from that square for the base that it is assigned to. Whatever factor of production you spend the greatest amount of overall effort harvesting, that is your focus.

      SMAC is all about efficiency. The more efficient you are at managing the factors of production, the better off you will be. There are three factors of production to manage in the framework of the game, and they must be managed over time (which makes up a “fourth,” albiet intangible factor).

      You have seen the three factors, and will be spending quite a lot of time with them in future sections, but for now, allow me to formally introduce them, and the three possible focuses you can select:

      Nutrient Focus

      Mineral Focus

      Energy Focus

      When you put these three possible focuses together with the three possible play styles, you get a much better sense for the type of game you will be playing. For the time being, we will take a look at the focuses themselves, independent of your particular playing style.

      Nutrient focus: Your crawlers are out there harvesting lots of food. This has the advantage that your bases are growing much more rapidly than they normally would, and every time they grow, the number of squares each base works increases accordingly, however, this does not come without drawbacks. More citizens means more drones, and if you select this as your primary focus, you will need to devote some time to pumping up your psych allocation, or building police garrisons, or drone controlling facilities (or some combination of all three). Note that due to base-size limitations, this is probably the weakest of the three approaches, but it may have value in certain situations, and, it has the advantage that, once your bases are of maximum possible size, you can simply shift to a different focus. If you are isolated or at peace, and you cannot execute a “Population Boom” (covered later in this guide), then this is a pretty good approach to take as it will give you more citizens to work with, a good number of specialists, and force you to spend time learning to cope with the unruly elements of your Empire.

      Much more interesting, however, are the choices of Mineral or Energy as your primary focus.

      Mineral Focus: Your crawlers are out there harvesting lots of minerals for each of your bases. This does a number of things for you: First, it increases the number of troops you can field per base. Eventually, no matter what your support rating, the troops you create will begin to cost you an upkeep cost, amounting to one mineral per unit, after a certain point (determined by that aforementioned Support rating). Second, more minerals allows you to build things in your production queue more quickly (troops, facilities, or what have you). This is vitally important if you wish to put an infrastructure together quickly, and one of the reasons it is such a strong, viable focus. Thirdly, it can give you a decent income in the sense that if you do not need anything from a given base, you can set that base to stockpiling energy, and reap the monetary benefits of that base’s enhanced mineral output.

      It is not, however, without its drawbacks. Namely, it suffers from something of a lack of flexibility. That is to say, mineral production is tied to each particular base independently. If you want to boost mineral production at a given base, you must build an additional crawler, and send it out to a new location to harvest minerals. If you set up a given base to harvest minerals to be your primary troop training center because of its favorable strategic location, and the strategic situation changes, your base may suddenly be not nearly as useful to you for the purpose you designed it. Then, you will need to begin prepping a new base for that same role, which of course, takes time. Therefore, a mineral focus works best when you are able to control the gaming environment, and if at any point you lose control of the game environment, you will find yourself scrambling to re-allocate your production.

      Energy Focus: Your crawlers are out harvesting lots of energy. Again, this has a number of effects: First, both per turn income and research rates increase. Both of these are energy driven, and you attack two problems at once with this approach. Second, it provides a great deal of fluidity, in the sense that your income is not tied to a particular base, but may be “spent” anywhere you like, and you can shift it from base to base as the situation warrants. This gives you the maximum amount of flexibility possible, enabling you to shift as the game shifts. Finally, it allows you to select bases on an individual basis and “rush-build” whatever that base is currently building in order to finish it quickly, leading to very rapid infrastructure development in selected bases.

      It too, however, has drawbacks. First and foremost, an energy focus is at the expense of minerals, meaning that each of your bases will be able to support a relatively smaller number of troops, and that facility builds (unless you rush them) will be comparatively slower than at bases with a mineral focus. Secondly, an energy focus surrenders initiative to those with a mineral focus. With an energy focus, you are essentially saying that you are willing to simply react to changing game conditions rather than attempting to control them, and will rely on your income’s greater flexibility to be able to successfully react. It is the tradeoff you make for faster research times.

      Let me stress again that by defining your focus into one of these three areas, that certainly does not mean that you cannot or will not build crawlers that will harvest things outside your focus, it is merely a statement of where the majority of your resource harvesting efforts are being directed, so think carefully before committing yourself to one of the three. It is a tedious process to change once you begin (especially when you get a great number of Supply Crawlers out and working for you), and your focus will have a great amount of impact on how your game continues to develop.

      Once you settle on a focus, however, it is time to take a closer look at the next stepping stone along the path to victory, and that would be your Empire’s economy.
      The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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      • #4
        Economic Theory - SMAC Style: - Creating Comparative Turn Advantage

        Having already said that you can play the game without paying much attention at all to your economy, the question above is a fair one, and to answer it, I would say this: At the very heart and soul of Empire is the Economy. It supersedes the army, and even technological research and innovation. Do not misunderstand me on this. The production of war materials and research are vitally important to your survival and eventual dominance, but an Empire’s ability to produce quantities of either is driven by the force and stability of that Empire’s Economy. You must understand that players who use a strictly militaristic focus are playing the game from the previously discussed “Momentum” standpoint. Their key hope is that their program of relentless assault can end the game before some Builder or Hybrid player can build up a strong enough economy to stand against them.

        Never forget these three facts:

        1) Your Economy is the most versatile tool you have. In times of crisis, you can configure it to crank out massive amounts of cash to fund your war effort (or whatever), and in times of peace you can ratchet your research up through the roof.

        2) Contrast that to military units, which are actually only useful in three very specific situations: If you are attacked, if you launch an attack, or if you can make your opponent believe you are about to launch an attack (i.e. feint) (see below on creating turn advantage). Otherwise, they simply take up space on the board. They represent a certain amount of “potential energy.” That is to say, the potential to cause harm to another Empire or to defend your holdings.

        3) Technological advances are likewise “potential energy.” By themselves they do nothing for you. You have to actually build something to get anything useful out of them (a new prototype, base facility, secret project....something).

        Factors of Production on Chiron:
        You’ve already been introduced to them, and here they are again, this time, with a slightly different treatment:

        Nutrients: Enables your population to expand.

        Minerals: Allows you to build stuff.

        Energy: Drives your research efforts and puts cash in your pocket.

        In order to build a healthy economy, attention must be paid to all three.

        Your economy is driven by the function of the passage of Time acting against the three factors of production listed above. It’s like plate tectonics, with time on one side and your productive factors on the other. You can vary your economy’s effectiveness versus Time (bigger or smaller “quakes” = speeding up or slowing down) by adjusting your three factors of production.

        Basic Economic Theory:
        The basics of Economic Theory are intuitive, but are outlined below:

        Makin’ Big Cities: Maximize Nutrient output over time. Note that without controls on growth (i.e., sufficient mineral production to produce anti-drone facilities), your base will suffer chronic rioting.

        Makin’ Productive Cities: Maximize Mineral output over time. Lets you build stuff very quickly. Too much mineral production leads to eco-damage, which in turn, leads to worm rape....something you don’t want to see. ;-)

        Makin’ Bill Gates Cities (Lots of Tech and Cash): Maximize energy output over time. Generates money and research points very quickly, but comes with the ill-effect that it takes a long time to build all the base facilities you need to get to this point (i.e., it will take even longer if you don’t balance this with mineral production).

        Intermediate Economic theory:
        As I said above, basic management of the factors of productive is intuitive (if you want the base to grow, give them lots of food....how hard is that?), but since it is clear that taking any of the factors of production to their extreme is probably detrimental in some way (to say nothing of the inefficiency it creates), it becomes obvious that some balance needs to be struck. He who has a clearer understanding of when to focus on which of the factors of production will almost always be able to create a stronger economy than he who is content to let the computer make production decisions.

        Early game Economics: Energy production is basically unimportant in the early game. You are starting from scratch. You have nothing. No infrastructure at all. What you need is a good balance of Nutrients (to grow your population pretty rapidly), and minerals (to build your first, most basic facilities fairly quickly). Only when that has been accomplished should you begin to worry much over energy production or enhancement. For this reason, planting forests is probably the most important early-game terrain enhancing you can do. Due to mineral and energy restrictions, early forests will produce as much as early mines (and mines take 6-8 turns to build). Two forests (which tend to expand on their own), or one mine? You don’t have to be a student of economics to see which is more efficient, and efficiency is the name of the game (and this provides something in the way of a specific explanation of the terraforming choices mentioned earlier in this guide).

        Once you get your most essential base facilities constructed you should probably shift into a more balanced mineral/nutrient mix (still not paying terribly much attention to energy) in order to facilitate population growth, while using your selected “focus” to heighten each base’s per turn output of one of the factors of production in particular. Here though, certain base facilities can make this more efficient (don’t kick up your nutrient harvesting until you finish your children’s creche, otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels). Also, monitor your growth constantly as your bases creep up on their maximum size, and adjust your nutrient output accordingly. You don’t want any wasted effort if you can help it. Wasted effort and resource is an opportunity for your opponent to close the gap on you and possibly overtake you.

        Early Game, Faction By Faction:
        (General ideas on what to do after you’ve reached “critical mass”)

        Believers: Recycling Tanks, Rec. Commons, and Energy Banks (when you get the techs for all this stuff) are really about all you need before Hab-Complexes. Depending on your strategy you can either build Hologram Theaters in size 6-7 bases or allocate 30-40% to Psych and forget the Theaters (you’re probably not gonna put much effort into research anyway), so you can afford to dump some money into Psych), or, you can forego any of these once you get the ability to make police units, and simply solve your drone problems that way.

        Unlike most other factions, you can delay building Command Centers and still fight an even battle with the folks who have them (though a selective one here and there might be a good thing, enabling you to crank out an “elite core” to enhance your already amazing military apparatus. You also don’t really need a perim defense, as your best defensive strategies tend to be counter-attacks or pre-emptive strikes.

        Hive: You might need to focus less on mineral production and more on energy production to even be able to afford many base facilities. Take care not to focus too heavily on energy (or at least not at the expense of minerals) lest you erode the advantage your +1 Industry bonus nets you. Any facility that has no upkeep cost is good for you! Unfortunately (fortunately?), you don’t need Perim. Defenses, ‘cause you have them already, and the only other “freebie” is the Recycling Tanks (which helps you even more than the others, thanks to your +1 Industry), and as such, it should be at the top of your list! After that, plan your builds carefully, checking your base’s energy production against a given facility’s upkeep. Morgan never has to worry about that kind of thing, but you do. Command centers everywhere would be great, but you’d probably be better off going for the command nexus project (which gives them to you free) than trying to support one at every base.

        Spartans: Recycling Tanks are a must, to help offset that -1 Industry, and after that your builds will depend on your current situation. Spartans don’t mind police, which can delay the necessity of anti-drone facilities. If you’re not close to anybody who wants to fight, focus on energy and lab-enhancing stuff. The earlier you get them built the better, especially since they’re more expensive for you. If you ARE close to potential enemies, go for Command centers before Perimeter defenses. For the Spartans (and in fact, for all of the Momentum players), the best defense is a good offense.

        Peace Keepers: After the requisite Recycling Tanks, go for the Children’s’ Creche. Your bases can get to size 9 before you need a Hab-Complex anyway, and the efficiency kick will offset your faction’s only disadvantage, plus give you a boost in garrison morale (making your average troops able to fight defensively and be on par with any Momentum player who might find you). Perim. Defenses are free and should be incorporated into your strategy if you’re close to hostiles, otherwise drift toward energy and lab enhancing goodies.

        Gaians: Guess what’s first? If you said anything other than Recycling Tanks, smack yourself! After that, your options are wide open, and dependent on your proximity to hostiles. If you’re near weak opponents, build a Command Center to give your average troops a boost and charge! (Average troops augmented by mindworms!). If you’re near strong enemies, drop to the defensive, with Children’s Creche and Perim. Defense, using Mind worms in harassment and delaying roles, and if you’re not near anybody, go for energy and lab enhancing facilities per the PeaceKeepers.

        University: Recycling tanks are first, but not by much. Recreation commons almost has to be second, and then you’ll need an Energy bank to help pay maintenance. After that, go for any lab-enhancing facility (Research Hosp. Is the next one you’ll have available) you can get your hands on, and defensive improvements as you can (keeping an eye on your drone situation and ready to drop a Hologram Theater (or use police units if not running Market) if needs be).

        Morgan: If I said Recycling Tanks, would you be surprised? Followed closely by the Energy Bank (to enhance your cash and make it easier to rush-build everything else), Recreation Commons, and Network Node. If you’re not close to anybody, then don’t even bother with offensive/defensive builds, focusing entirely on infrastructure. This will put you on par or better than the University, and should see you taking the tech lead in short order.

        Early Game - Facility by Facility:
        This is to simply give you a different perspective on the infrastructure theme. This list focuses more on which style you have adopted, rather than which faction you are playing:

        Energy Bank: High Priority for Builders, Medium for Hybrids, Low for Momentum players. Builders will want this one as it will help with rush building all the other facilities. If I am at peace, this is what I build right after the basic infrastructure is in place.

        Children's Creche: If you plan to keep the bulk of troops home, if you're running Planned or Wealth, or if you are fighting a defensive war, this should be High on your list, otherwise, make it Medium.

        Any and all Research-Enhancing facility should be high on your list unless you are the Believers!!!!

        Perim Defense: Medium Importance in fringe bases, Low importance in interior bases, but you'll wish you had one if a base without one gets attacked.

        Command Centers: Hybrid Players: High Importance. Momentum Players: Medium Importance. Builders: Low importance.

        Naval Yards: Low importance. Navy is exceedingly weak in SMAC

        Aerospace complex: Builder Players: High importance. Hybrid Players: Medium Importance. Momentum Players: Medium Importance.

        Anti-Drone facilities: Only important if you're having drone problems.

        And that's about it for the early/midgame (pre treefarm) facilities


        Mid Game Economics (a look ahead): Energy begins to become important and nutrients become secondary. Even with a purely nutrient focus, your bases will still take a long time to grow, and by the mid-game, you’ve got other things to worry about (like jacking your tech advances down to four turns or less), so you might as well just accept that it’ll be a while before your bases grow, and focus on more immediate and pressing concerns. Pick a strategy, stick with it, and give it time to bear itself out, building what facilities are needed to enhance your overall strategy. (Gaians will probably want Bio-Labs to build better mind worms, Hive will definitely want Robotic Assembly plants, everybody will probably be gunning for Tree Farms). The key to mid-game development is to build on your successes in the early game and enhance them with builds in the mid-game, and increase your energy output as you can. At this point too, facilities which reduce eco-damage are very important, because the last thing you want to run into is a massive worm-rape when you’ve got your forces pressing hard into enemy territory someplace. One ill-timed attack like that can really set you back.

        Late Game Economics (a look further ahead): By the late game, it’s generally too late to make radical changes to your strategy (which is why the “Future Society” entries on the SE table really cannot be considered when formulating your factional strategy--they come too late in the game for that, and by the time you get them, you already have a pretty good idea what your standing in the game will be....they are more designed to enhance and build on what you’ve already done). Like the mid-game, your purpose here is to build on your previous successes, but in the late game you get a bigger suite of tools to do this (Future society choices, more exotic facilities, etc.) This brings to light a good point: More often than not, you will win or lose the game based on the choices you make over the first hundred turns or so. You are almost always more effective by focusing on your successes in the early game and building them, using them to launch you toward whichever victory condition is closest at hand....just run like hell for it! (keeping your eye on a second victory condition, just in case somebody bloodies your nose).

        Advanced Economic Theory:
        Advanced Economic Theory is all about creating Turn and Resource Advantage. What you will learn below will help you understand how to use your Empire’s economy as a weapon against your opponents, and as an incredibly flexible tool for you and your allies, boosting your cash and research abilities to nearly unbelievable heights.

        Turn Advantage: Building stuff more quickly than your opponents (rush-building). Because your bases can only work on one thing at a time, the quicker you can finish each thing, relative to your opponents, the greater advantage you will gain over them.

        Resource Advantage: Having more nutrients, minerals, and energy than your opponents. This is primarily done by making intelligent terraforming choices, and optimizing the outputs of the various factors of production for each of your bases, dependent on your current needs and goals.

        Winning with your Economy:
        If you want to use your economy as a weapon, then you must do more than intuitively understand the three factors of production, you must master and control them. You must make them sing, and if you do, your economy will hum like you have never seen, and might have never thought possible.

        The key to using your economy as a weapon is to create a turn (or Time) advantage. The bigger the turn advantage you can create over your opponent, the easier it will be to defeat him. As you begin to take the steps necessary in creating Turn Advantage, you may find yourself wondering if what you are doing is having any impact on the game at large, but trust me, your doubts will be washed away when your Shard Garrisons are defending against his Missile Marines. Then you will understand and fully appreciate what turn advantage has done for you.

        As previously stated, Time is the engine that powers all the economies of Chiron. It is the catalyst, and the ultimate “limited resource,” and he who makes the most efficient use of time will almost always win the game. There are several very specific things you can do to create turn advantage for yourself, and they are outlined below:
        The essential element of creating Turn Advantage is energy, for it is energy which allows for rush-building, which is the chief way you create turn advantage. The second way you create Turn Advantage is to build new bases. If you have more bases than your opponent, you can accomplish more things more quickly than he. Even if you only have one or two more bases, over time, the difference can be devastating.
        Expansion and Rush-building. Those are your tools.

        The first, best thing you can do for yourself is to always, always, always rush-build your formers and Recycling Tanks (unless you’re already cranking them out in one turn, of course). The reason for this is as simple as it is elegant: The game is about resource management. Because of that, Formers are the most important units in the game. They can turn a completely average land square into an amazingly productive piece of property, which in turn gives you more resources to work with. In the case of Recycling Tanks, consider what you are doing: Essentially you are turning your base into a “Former” for the duration of the build time of the Tanks, and the end result in a +1/+1/+1 enhancement to the base terrain square.

        Let us say, for sake of comparison that you and a computer opponent have both just founded a base with exactly the same amount of productive capacity (built on the same kind of land, and working the same kind of land). The square your citizens are working is currently generating 1-1(food/mineral). It will take you both 5 turns (about the average for a size 1 base) to build the former you’re working on, but you have the cash to rush-build it, so you do. Watch what happens:

        Turn 1- You issue the rush-build order. Opponent starts building his former.
        Turn 2 - You move your former into position, and start working on your Recycling Tanks (20 turns to build). Opponent gets his former in four turns.
        Turn 3- Former begins to cultivate a forest (3 to go). Rec. Tanks in 19. Opponent gets former in three turns.
        Turn 4 - Former continues forestry mission (2 to go). Rec Tanks in 18. Opponent former in 2.
        Turn 5 - Former continues forming (1 to go). Rec Tanks in 17. Opponent former next turn.
        Turn 6 - Former is done! You get +1 Mineral and +1 energy from that square. Rec. Tanks is now to be completed in 12 turns! Opponent moves former into position and begins constructing Rec. Tanks (in 20 turns)
        Turn 7 - Your former moves again - RT in 11 - Opponent forest in 3 turns. RT in 19
        Turn 8 - Forest #2 in 3 turns - RT in 10 - Opponent forest in 2. RT in 19
        Turn 9 - Forest #2 in 2 turns - RT in 9 - Opponent forest in 1. RT in 18
        Turn 10 - Forest #2 in 1 turn - RT in 8 - Opponent forest done! RT in 12
        Turn 11 - Forest #2 done! - RT in 6 (rush build for 60) - Opponent moves former - RT in 11
        Turn 12 - You get +1/+1/+1 for the tanks. Your former moves again - Begin work on Rec. Commons. - Opponent starts work on 2nd forest square (RT in 10)

        Okay, let’s take a look at what just happened here: You spent 25 energy credits (the average cost of rush building a former from a new base), and later spent another 60 to finish your recycling tanks early. Effectively, you used cash (85 energy credits, in this example) to speed up your economy relative to your opponent’s, and here’s what you got for your money:

        You created a four turn former advantage over your opponent (you got four free turns of former activity that your opponent did not get, which translates into +4 minerals and +4 Energy)

        You created a total of 10 turns of base turn advantage, netting you +10 Nutrients/+10 Minerals/+10 Energy over your opponent.

        For a grand total of +14 energy/+10 Nutrients/+14 Energy. That’s only a total of 38 (valuing them all at the same rate for simplicity), and you spent 85, so you may be wondering where the advantage is in that, but if you are looking at it in that way, you are missing the point. It’s called Turn Advantage because it give you extra turns of production at the base in question. Turns that your opponent’s base does not get. This is a good thing for you (assuming you are able to leverage that turn advantage to do something to further the ends of your own empire or something nasty to the detriment of your opponent) and correspondingly bad for your foe. The mineral, nutrient, and energy savings are only a bonus, the primary advantage is that your base is now freed up to begin work on other things, and his base is and will be tied up for next ten turns cranking out the stuff you’re already done with. And how much did this wind up costing you? Again, valuing all the factors of production equally: You spent 85 credits, got 38 back, which means that your net cost for the turn advantage was 46, or 4.6 (round to 5) energy credits per turn’s worth of advantage you got. If 5 bucks a turn isn’t a bargain, I don’t know what is.

        Now that you have a ten turn base advantage, the question is: What are you going to do with it? There are a number of directions you could take your advantage, in order to magnify it:

        1) Research - Begin working on a network node or somesuch, and rush-build when it gets cheap enough for your liking. Every turn you have a network node and your opponent, that’s x number of research points you get over and above your opponent.

        2) Cash - Do the above with an energy bank to magnify your cash advantage over your opponent.

        3) Control - If your base is verging on growing to a point where Drones will be a problem, you can head that off by rush-building an anti-drone facility thus keeping your base more productive relative to your opponent’s base.

        4) Turn - If you want to magnify your raw turn advantage, rather than focus in on some specific factor in your economy, you can do that by forcing your opponent to change his mind about what he is doing (and by forcing him to change his mind, he may lose minerals, and in any case will be slowed down)

        Going back to our previous example: You finished your Recycling Tanks a full ten turns earlier than your opponent, and after taking a look at your options, you decide that it’s in your best interest to build a couple of those spiffy plasma rovers you finished prototyping not long ago. Each will take you four turns to crank out, so you set about doing it.

        By the time your first one is done, your opponent is six turns from finishing his rec. Tanks and you decide to see if you can spook him, so your rover drives over toward his base.

        Now the ball is in your opponent’s court: If his base is lightly defended, he just might switch his production to a Plasma Rover of his own. If he does, then you’ve just magnified your turn advantage over him, because he probably lost a few minerals to make the switch, and besides that, when he does get back to building his Recycling Tanks, he’ll be starting from scratch, and in the meantime your base is getting +1/+1/+1 over his base every turn. That is how you use your economy as a weapon.
        You never attacked him. Your troops never drew or fired. There was no loss of life. No battle. But you just won an important victory.

        The lesson learned here: A given base can only work on one thing at a time. The primary way to create turn advantage over your opponent is to rush-build things, especially formers (so they can start improving your land more quickly) and base facilities which will provide you with a calculable benefit (i.e., you can say to yourself: If I finish this quickly, it will allow my base to begin working on something else, and net me +4 energy (or whatever) per turn).

        Once you have a turn advantage, the you can magnify it by either running through another rushed facility (furthering your control, energy, or research edge relative to your opponent), or to throw your opponent off balance via feint (if you actually attack then it becomes a skirmish, a separate issue from the Economic Turn Advantage). You can do this by creating a military unit and sending it toward one of his bases or otherwise “bluffing” him into thinking that you are doing something he will not like. Depending on his situation, he may abandon his current project in order to respond to your perceived threat.

        You might not yet be convinced that turn advantage is all that big a deal. After all, the gain in energy, minerals, and nutrients is relatively small, and if you don’t have anything in particular you need to work on next, you may not believe turn advantage is all that important, and if that’s the case, I’ll volunteer to play you absolutely anytime you want!

        Seriously, if you multiply your turn advantage energy/mineral/nutrient gain out over the total number of bases you have, the numbers begin to look more impressive, and if you multiply the number of “free” turns you gain in this way out over the number of bases you’re doing this in, you’ll quickly realize that you now have a large “window” of opportunity you can exploit in any number of ways, with your opponent being unable to respond (or, as mentioned above, if he does respond, then it will be at the expense of the projects he is currently working on, which will further enhance your turn advantage), and suddenly the benefits of turn advantage begin to crystallize.

        Practice, practice, practice:
        The fastest way to get better at the whole “Turn Advantage” concept is to put this article down and go play a Hotseat game against yourself. Study the time differences in various approaches. You will very quickly get better at determining exactly when to execute the rush order, and how to customize the general principles to your particular style of play. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, and your personal style, no matter what it is, has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and when properly meshed with the principles you’ve read about in here, it will create for you a stronger, better playing style.

        Resource Advantage:
        Terraforming is essentially a game within a game, and can be as simple or as complex as you’d care to make it. I will not devote much time to this subject, because there are too many variables and too many differing opinions on what to do and how to do it when it comes to terraforming, so I will simply say this: Find a set of “rules of thumb” that work for you, and stick with them until such time as someone comes along who is capable of proving to you that they have a better way.

        Rules of thumb that I use in my games:

        Rocky terrain is a bad thing: I will leave some in strategic places for the defensive bonus, but I nearly always level it out and plant a forest if I’m looking for mineral production from a square. As you might imagine, I make little use of mines. If I’m going to build a mine, I’d rather have a borehole.

        Forests are a good source of minerals: True, they don’t net you as much as a mine, but what of that? They give you both nutrients and energy, making forest squares very well balanced. Almost always a good choice in my book.

        Sea bases = Rapid growth and lots of energy. If you’re looking to boost your research, expand into the sea and build LOTS of tidal harnesses. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much your energy production spikes up.

        Minimize your use of mining stations for sea colonies. A better choice is to supply crawl your minerals from a mainland borehole, and focus your sea squares on energy and food production.

        At elevations of 3000 meters or so, solar panels become VERY good energy producers.
        The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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        • #5
          Special Projects in the Early Game:

          Secret projects: The best two are the Genome and Virtual World. Anything that makes you have to worry less about drones is a VERY good thing, and these two should be quite high on your list.

          A pretty darn close second though, would be the Weather Paradigm, because of the time savings in terraforming.

          After that, I'm partial to the Command Center, because it gives you a facility at each base for free that normally comes with a per turn upkeep.

          Merchant Exchange is cool, but if you're gonna lose one, lose that one. The benefits, when considered against the rest of the empire, just aren't all that significant.

          Barbarians at the Gate!:

          Eventually, whether you are playing a single, or multiplayer game, you can rely on the fact that your rivals will come calling. If you’re involved in a multiplayer game, you can expect your opponents to be vastly more cunning and cagey than the AI ever thought about being, and there are far too many nuances on multiplayer games to cover them here (though that may well be a topic of future discussion), so for the moment, we will limit our exploration of the visitors you may get to the computer opposition, and to that end, here are a few things you should be mindful of:

          A Primer on Diplomacy:

          Builders desire peace. The AI desires war. In almost every single player game you play, you will find yourself at odds with every faction at least once. The reason for this is simple: The factions were designed around a set of strong and conflicting ideologies. The number seven was not chosen at random, I do not believe. Five is regarded as optimal group size, but seven is optimal for game theory purposes, and the factions (their ideologies defined by a total of three major variables - Politics, Values, Economy) interact with each other to set up a matrix, where you cannot help but be diametric to at least two other factions at any point in the game.

          To illustrate that point, let's take a quick look under the hood at each of the factions to see what makes them tick. Of course, you WILL run games where you see behavior that runs counter to this (I assume there is a measure of variability built into the parameters which govern the actions of the various computer controlled groups), but this is an excellent overview of the norm:

          The Believers: Are pre-disposed to run Fundy. Any faction they meet who does not run Fundy will get the old "Your (insert government type here) is Godless and wretched..." message, and she'll be belligerent toward you more often than not. Also, the group is not allowed to take Knowledge as a value, so any group running knowledge will be automatically viewed with suspicion. In fact, the only way to truly get on her good side is to run Fundy yourself, which will, by the way, put you at odds with every other faction in the game.

          The Hive: Pre-disposed to run Police State (Go figure), and only has one diametric, but it's a kicker....Democracy.....probably the most popular choice among the builder crowd. Run Democracy, and there's simply no avoiding making this faction mad. The only real way to get on this faction's good side is to put yourself in a Police State, and even then, I'd not trust Yang any farther than I could throw the Unity Core.....

          The Spartans: Pre-disposed toward Power. Aversion to Wealth and Knowledge. If you run either of these, she won't get along well with you. Wealth, and she'll regard you as weak, Knowledge and she'll say you're "cooking up" some dark and evil secret in your labs. If you run Power as a social choice, this lady will respect you almost as a matter of course.

          Morgan: Run Green or Planned, he's a jerk. Run Market (which he's pre-disposed to in the game), he's a happy camper. Frankly, he could care less if you're a Police state or a Democracy....and of all the faction leaders, he's least upset by Fundy (other than Miriam of course).

          Lal: He'll be VERY uncooperative if you're a police state or Fundy, and tend to get along with you if you're running Democracy (and that is, unsurprisingly, what he is pre-disposed to).

          Zak: Run Knowledge, you get brownie points, run wealth, you lose them with this character.

          Deirdre: Predisposed toward Green. Run Green as well, and she’ll play nice. Run Market or Planned, and she will despise you.

          So, when the game begins, those factors (everyone's SE settings in relation to everyone else's) make up one of the key components in determining how everybody gets along with everybody else.

          Another key component is strength of arms, relative to the other factions. The gist of the game is this. In general, the #2 guy and #1 guy are designed NOT to get along. #3 guy plays 1 & 2 against each other, and 4-7 go on a hunt for allies of convenience, essentially forming "blocks" of nations around the two strongest.

          Of course, alliances will not be made (or at least not kept for very long) with factions who are at odds with the faction's core ideology, which complicates this picture somewhat. And then there is the factor of past treatment. If you have dealt fairly and non-threateningly with the faction in question in the past, even if you are at odds with them ideologically, you can eek out at least a few brownie points.

          So.....if all of that has you COMPLETELY bewildered, let me summarize briefly. The AI's "Diplomacy engine" seems to be built around three main factors: First, a set of tensions created by the interactions of social choices on the SE table. Second, a comparison of strength, relative to the faction(s) they are contacting, and third, small consideration for how they have been treated in the past (also, there is a random element tossed into the mix, representing their "mood")

          In the early game, when you are encountering a faction for the first time, likely they will be pretty friendly because you don't have the techs to make any SE choices they would object to. Take advantage of this, and make treaties early with people you know you will eventually have SE conflicts with! At least you can buy yourself some time with them and get some commerce income from them.

          Note too, that every contact you make with a faction adds to this "web" which is spun out as the game develops....every interaction colors all future interactions....I don't have a specific formula on this, but it's undoubtedly "point-based" (ie., if your "rating" with a given faction falls below X number of points, then the group will declare war....running an SE choice they're in favor of nets you so many points, running one they're opposed to causes you to lose a certain number, violating their borders probably has an impact, etc..)

          At any rate, those are the basics of the AI’s Diplomacy Engine as I understand it. Precisely how you use the information will depend on your playing style and the situation of the moment, but here are a handful of things to get you thinking in terms the AI’s Diplo-Engine:

          1) Before you talk to a given faction (assuming you are initiating contact), take a look at your SE settings and then consider then in relation to the other faction's defaults, and do a mental comparison of your overall power in relation to theirs. These two items will give you a pretty good image of what the conversation will be like before you even accept the call.

          2) Certain factions respond better to certain inducements. An outline of this is below, but note that you might be called out to back up a threat you make, so use this list as a guide only….if Yang is a gazillion times bigger than you, don’t threaten to crush him like a bug!

          Yang – Threats
          Santiago – Threats
          Lal – Good will and friendship
          Morgan “Name your price”
          Gaians – Good will and friendship
          Miriam – Technology (surprisingly?)
          Zak – Technology (not surprisingly)

          3) Take care not to contact factions too often. Even if you’re pacted, this seems to strain the relationship. In game terms, this mostly means navigating around AI units you see in the field. Unless you’re at war with a faction, if you see a unit of theirs coming, steer well clear.

          4) Don’t ignore a faction when the call you unless you are MUCH more powerful than they are….this seems to reeeeeeally tick them off.

          5) If a faction you have something in common with offers you a pact against a faction you know you are at odds with presently, or will be in the future, think very carefully about accepting it. That is an attractive offer, and difficult to pass on, especially if you play Builder style. Consider: If you’re playing Builder, you’re most natural allies in the game will be Morgan, Zak, or Lal….all three pretty good builders themselves. An early-game pact with them against, say, Yang, could be the start of a relationship that will last you for a good long while….perhaps not the entire game, but certainly long enough to be profitable.

          When the Heathens Come Calling:
          Generally, they’ll want to trade technology, and so long as they tech they’re asking for is not one of the key ones (air power, fusion, enviro econ) go for it….that’s one less tech you have to mess with researching, and chances are good that you can make better use of the technology than your computer opponents. Whether you give in to any other demands they make will depend mostly on your situation at the moment, but, in general, until I am secure in my defense, I will give in to any reasonable demand.

          Violating Borders:
          A VERY common complaint where the AI factions are concerned is the fact that they love to send units trolling around in your territory. Sadly, there is no good way to deal with this, unless the faction owning the units is an ally. In that case, demanding a withdrawal will work about 85% of the time. If the faction in question has a truce with you and you demand a withdrawal, unless you are overwhelmingly more powerful, you will wind up in a Vendetta with that faction. About the only other alternative is to use probe teams to secretly buy the units off, but, depending on the point in the game, and the effectiveness of your probe teams, that is not even close to being a perfect solution.

          The Diplomatic Meta-Game:
          Much more development needs to be done in this area, because, at present it is too easy to take undue advantage of the AI, and I suspect that this is the reason not much work has been done in this area from a strategic standpoint, but, if there is one area that would add an entirely new dimension to the game, then this is it.

          As it stands now, you can have quite a bit of fun playing the Meta-Game without doing anything that would be considered a “cheat,” and it is certainly well worth practicing, as there will come a day when the AI will be good enough to make this aspect a true challenge….might as well practice while you can….

          To play the Meta-Game, essentially you set yourself up as a “bridge faction,” sharing a thing in common with two other factions, and brokering a long lasting peace or three-way pact between you and these other two. It takes a bit of practice, but consider this:
          Let’s say you’re playing Lal and you want to practice your metagame. Your natural allies are Morgan and Zak, so you switch to Dem/Market/Knowledge……which ticks Santiago and Deirdre off at you, and both eventually wind up declaring war. You’ve traded with Morgan in the past, so when you come calling again with a pact offer after the war starts, offering some cash as an inducement, he will more than likely agree to your proposal. Jointly, you and Morgan start pounding on Santiago and Deirdre, and eventually fight them to a truce. Using this newfound strength as leverage, and offering some particularly juicy tech trades should put you in good shape to wrangle a pact out of Zak…..now the trick is to play the instrument of diplomacy long enough to KEEP your pact brothers to the end of the game…..

          Unethical Stuff:
          Here’s a couple things that many, if not most people regard as taking unfair advantage of the AI or of the game mechanics in general. Fun stuff to play around with, but don’t be surprised if you get called on the carpet for doing it in a Multiplayer game:

          Trading a cheese-ball size one base of yours to your pact sister’s size 14 base with nine secret projects…..and the AI falls for this every time. You can pact/trade your way to the best bases in the game in VERY short order if you do this…..of course, it’s not a terribly challenging way to play, but it’s amusing enough to sit through once or twice….

          Switching your SE settings just before you talk to the AI (to gain a few extra “brownie points,”) and then getting a refund on your money by switching back the same turn. Has the advantage of making it pretty easy to net good treaties for yourself, but again, in Multiplayer, don’t be surprised if people cry foul.

          Ethical (?) Stuff (at least from a game standpoint!):
          Here’s a couple of interesting ways to make use of the Metagame that you might not have thought of…..just a teaser to get your brain churning on the subject….and besides, I don’t wanna give away ALL my secrets!

          Instigating controlled wars: The setup works like this: Let’s say your target is Yang. Make a pact with….whomever….somebody Yang would likely have a beef with (Lal’s a good choice, thanks to his democracy), and then, in your contacts with Lal, urge him to begin attacking Yang….offering money, some limited techs, or whathaveyou. The idea is to get Yang’s forces off balance fighting Lal, and give yourself an umbrella of time in which to build your own army up in, and then strike him from some new and unexpected direction when you are ready.

          Doom to the trusting: This is a fun way to play, and it gets exponentially harder after your first betrayal. Basically, it is the controlled war theory in reverse. You WANT a wicked reputation by game end. Make friends with whomever you wish to destroy. Pact with them (even if it means running SE settings you don’t like for a while), lead them into dangerous waters (ie., get them to start a fight with one of your supposed enemies), and when they begin the attack in earnest, play the role of the turncoat, switch your SE settings to mirror the faction your former ally is fighting and offer to help…..now you’ve got him wedged…..doom.

          Worm Rape/Rescue: Make a ton of worms and turn them loose in a rival’s territory, and contact him after he loses a base or three to the relentless assault. If you’ve got a truce with the faction (and esp. if they are fighting somebody else), you’ll be amazed at how much nicer they are!

          Worm Rape/Attack: A good pre-cursor to a war effort. You want to fight somebody, but you don’t want to make the first move. Build your army and have it waiting in the wings for the opportunity, and once your force is ready, amuse yourself by raising, sending in, and freeing wave after wave of wild worms……a good way to fight an attrition battle while preserving your “standing” force….and an especially good delaying tactic/holding pattern.
          The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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          • #6
            A Primer on Combat- Making War SMAC-Style:

            First understand that there are only two types of warfare you can possibly enter into: An offensive action, or a defensive action. Beneath those two types of warfare are a number of “tools” you can make use of, and I’ll cover the basics below:

            The Basics:
            So, you went and picked a fight with somebody? Or, someone decided to pick a fight with you? That’s okay, and it’s all part of the game, but like anything else in SMAC, if you’re going to fight, you’re better off having a plan of action, and it is my hope that this section will give you just that.

            The first and most important thing to discern when preparing for war is: Who is my enemy? In most cases, that’s a pretty obvious thing, but sometimes it can be trickier than you might first realize. True, your immediate enemy is the guy who just dropped half a dozen missile rovers in your territory, but you have to ask yourself: Did he do it because I made him mad, or did somebody else put him up to it?

            Before you can coordinate a worthy defense, you need to know the answer to that question. If you got framed for someone else’s probe team action, you might be able to end the fight with a bribe and get back to doing whatever you were doing before you got interrupted. Then again, maybe not.

            The second most important thing you need to determine is: How many enemies am I fighting? Nothing is worse than being forced to fight a war on multiple fronts, or take on several different opponents at the same time, so if you are suddenly confronted by a new and powerful adversary and you’re neck deep in another war which is taking up large amounts of your Empire’s resources, then sue for peace somewhere, or see to it you bring the war you’re already in to a very rapid conclusion, so you can focus on the new problem that just got tossed in your lap.
            Specifics: Fighting a Defensive War:
            The overriding purpose of fighting a defensive action is to preserve your bases and make sure they do not fall into enemy hands. Builders, you’ll want to read this. The best way to fight a defensive war is to be ready for it at any moment. This means prototyping regularly and often. It means making sure that all your bases have garrisons with the best available armor (and AAA capability, as soon as you get it). It means making sure that your frontier bases have at least twice the garrison strength of the bases in your interior, and it means making damned sure you’ve got a core of attack-capable troops (probably the guys you still have hanging around from weapons prototyping). It would also be helpful if you had some artillery units handy, so as to shell damaged units until your attackers can get in to finish them off.

            To fight a defensive war, about all you need is up to date garrisons, a small standing army, and some probe teams. If you have those things, your opponent will need a truly large force to successfully invade.

            When faced with an attacking army, here’s what you do:
            Look at how your enemy is approaching. Try to figure out which bases are most threatened, and consolidate your defenses there.

            Move probe teams up to take advantage of any misstep by your opponent. If you can find a single unit in a square and subvert it, you’ve just made yourself stronger and your opponent weaker, and time is on your side. Your opponent has to bring reinforcements in from some distance, while yours are arriving right at the scene of the battle.

            Upgrade any formers you have in the area to armored variants and use them to mess up his Zones of Control. This will stall his advance, and armored formers in the forest or on rocky terrain are very hard to take out.

            Fight from your bases as much as possible, or, barring that, make sure your best attack-troops can end their turns back inside a base so as to decrease their exposure.

            Defend any Monoliths close to the battleground with the best garrison forces you can get there, to deny your opponent that resource to heal damaged troops.

            Use armored formers and crawlers to envelope or cut off a part of the enemy’s army. Once it’s isolated, you can deal with the smaller elements of the force one at a time, smashing one while the other tries to get through and rescue it. This will take pressure off of your bases and give them more time to crank out units.

            Attrition is your friend, when you are fighting a defensive action. Your reinforcements are close at hand, and it’s likely that his are not. Grind your opponent down slowly. Make every square he advances into a very expensive proposition. If you make the advance expensive enough, he’ll either give up and go home, or you’ll wipe out the entire army. Either way, he’ll likely find someone less-prepared to pick on, which is exactly what you want.

            If it appears likely that you cannot hold a base, then burn it down. Adopt a scorched earth policy and retreat back to the next line of your bases. Leave your opponent nothing to work with. You can rebuild later, once the threat is gone.

            Take note of the composition of your enemy’s army: Is he using lots of artillery? If so, crank out the best attack rovers (no armor) you can get to the field quickly, and wipe them out. Is he using lots of rovers? Great! Upgrade your garrisons to Comm-Jammers and laugh at him as he tries in vain to take your bases. Is he infantry-heavy? Again, build fast-attack rovers and meet him in the field. (This is the main reason that Momentum Players get beaten. They tend to focus on very narrow army construction....most often, they make LOTS of rovers with little to no armor and the best weapons they can afford. That’s okay, but the first time they take their all-rover force into a prepared opponent’s territory will be the last they see of their much cherished army.)

            Destroy anything that might be of value if it seems likely that your opponent will take a given position. Deny him access to your bunkers, sensor arrays, and even forests. Again, once he is gone, you can rebuild all that.

            If your enemy brings a colony pod with him, do everything you can to take it out before he builds a base. If it’s too late to prevent that, try and slip an armored probe team in to subvert it, or, use a foil probe team, as the base will often be coastal, and therefore vulnerable to that.

            Build one or two transports and drop off some sturdy defenders (and one or two decent attackers) behind your enemy. This will give him something else to focus on besides the bases you’re trying to defend, and, if he doesn’t focus on them, it will give you a new direction from which to strike. Either way, it will help your cause.
            Put probe teams in all your bases, and more than one in your exposed bases. Count on your opponent trying to infiltrate you, and if he does, he’ll have to contend with one or more probe teams first. Do not make that an easy thing for him, and if you have technological superiority, you will want to preserve that at all costs. Probe teams can do that for you.

            One final note about fighting a defensive war is this: Best of all is if you can stop your opponent before he even lands his troops. To that end, when you get missile techs, build a few and put them on your borders in “patrol mode.” Any unfriendly ships come toward your territory, the missiles will take them out, saving you a whole lot of time and trouble.
            Fighting an Offensive War:
            If you want to take the fight to your opponent, there are several things you can do to make your life easier. First, and by far most important, is to infiltrate his datalinks (assuming you’re not planetary governor). You need to know what kind of defenses your opponent has at the ready, and what’s in his production queues. Information is the most powerful weapon you have.

            When preparing to fight, you need to make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small. Select one, maybe two objectives and bring sufficient force to secure those objectives.

            The most important thing you will need in order to fight an extended action on someone else’s soil (outside of an army, of course) is a base of operation. That could be a coastal monolith, or perhaps an isolated base. Either way, before you proceed with a general invasion, you will want to make sure you have a place to bring your battered forces to get them combat ready again.

            Your best bet is to subvert one of your opponent’s small border outposts and use that as your staging point. You take the base without fighting, you preserve that base’s garrison, and you give yourself a staging ground.

            Second best is to bring a colony pod with you when you land the attack force. Just be sure your army contains some covert operatives, so your newly founded base does not get subverted out from under you!

            Last, would be to make use of a Monolith in the area as your staging ground. If you can take one easily, it gives you a place to repair your units quickly, but it still does not solve the reinforcement problem if things get dicey. Still, it’s better than nothing, and if it’s what you have to work with, then it’s what you have to work with.

            Construct a well-balanced attack force. Mix it up to confuse your opponent. Don’t rely exclusively on infantry or rovers, because there’s an easy counter to that. A mixed force is significantly harder to defend against.

            Make sure you have enough cash to support the war. Nothing is worse than going off to fight only to find out you can’t support your army with covert ops because you’re strapped for cash. You must balance your rush building program with saving cash if you know you will be going to war soon, because it’s an expensive proposition. You need funds to rush build garrison troops in conquered bases, and rebuild infrastructure (especially anti-drone facilities). You’ll also need funds for troop subversions and such, so make sure you have the bankroll to support your war effort (I’d recommend at least 1500 energy credits per base on your “hit list.”)

            Create a diversion. If your plan is to take two coastal bases on the eastern side of your enemy’s empire, then start your war by subverting a base on the western side to get his army off balance (or, land some troops on the western side to start making trouble). If you’re really devious, create a number of diversions so that your opponent will pull himself apart trying to deal with the various threats you’ve created (additionally, the more diversions you set up, the more difficult it will be for your opponent to discern your true objective).

            Make use of artillery to take out sensor arrays and to hammer beleaguered defenders in the base you’re after. Never give your enemy the chance to rest his troops.
            If your goal is conquest, do as little damage to the infrastructure as you can get away with. If your goal is to simply hurt your opponent for some larger purpose (i.e., an ally of yours is on the way with the real invasion force), then do as much damage as you can before your forces get whacked.

            If you’re not at technological parity, use your probe teams to get you there. If you already are, use them (your probe teams) to stall his production or destroy infrastructure. Anything to give you an edge.

            The quicker you can secure your objectives, the better off you will be. You don’t have a ready supply of reinforcements (unless you’ve planned very far ahead), and even if you do, your opponent can get reinforcements more quickly than you can, so win your initial battles quickly, then drop to a defensive stance to protect your newly acquired holdings. Once you are entrenched on your opponent’s land, you are MUCH harder to deal with than if you’re simply a marauding force.

            Never miss an opportunity to subvert enemy troops, formers, crawlers, or whathaveyou. Every unit you subvert can be put to some kind of use (even if all you do is upgrade the former to an armored variant and use it to make sure your units are at least double-stacked).

            To Psi, or not to Psi?:
            Lots of people love the mindworms, and I have to admit, I’m a pretty big fan of them, but there’s a time and a place for their use.

            Specifically, if you know your opponent has a negative planet rating (which you can keep track of after you’ve infiltrated his datalinks), by all means, bring out the worms. Likewise, if you are weaker in technology than your opponent, switch to Green and go with a worm-force. But, if you have technological superiority, you’re probably better off making use of it than using native life forms. Still, adding a few worms to your attack force (for balance sake) is probably not a bad idea, just don’t go overboard unless you know it will net you a big advantage (like if your opponent is fighting on the defensive and maintaining his Market Economy, or again, if you’re down in the tech race).
            Blind or Directed Research:
            I generally play blind research, but lately I’ve been doing some speed challenge work, and playing with directed research. There have been a number of questions about the quickest paths to given technologies, and I thought it might be a useful section to include in the guide, so here goes:

            Beelines:
            Builders, if you want to get Treefarms up and running quickly, here’s what you need:
            Biogenetics
            Centauri Ecology
            Industrial Base
            Social Psych
            Ethical Calculus
            Industrial Economics
            Gene Splicing
            Ecological Engineering
            Environmental Economics

            WarMongers, here are the beelines to the most popular early game weapons:
            Impact Weapons:
            Applied Physics
            Information Networks
            Nonlinear Mathematics

            Missile Weapons:
            Applied Physics
            Biogenetics
            Industrial Base
            Social Psych
            Ethical Calculus
            High Energy Chemistry
            Gene Splicing
            Synthetic Fossil Fuels

            The Chaos Gun:
            Applied Physics
            Doctrine: Mobility
            Information Networks
            Social Psych
            Doctrine: Loyalty
            Ethical Calculus
            Nonlinear Mathematics
            Planetary Networks
            Intellectual Integrity
            Cyberethics
            Superstring Theory

            Fusion Power (Fusion Reactors and Labs)
            Applied Physics
            Doctrine: Mobility
            Industrial Base
            Information Networks
            Social Psych
            Doctrine: Flexibility
            Doctrine: Loyalty
            Ethical Calculus
            Planetary Networks
            Polymorphic Software
            Intellectual Integrity
            Optical Computers
            Advanced Military Algorithms
            Cyberethics
            Superconductor
            Pre-sentient Algorithms
            Fusion Power

            NeedleJets:
            Applied Physics
            Biogenetics
            Doctrine: Mobility
            Industrial Base
            Social Psych
            Doctrine: Flexibility
            Ethical Calculus
            High Energy Chemistry
            Gene Splicing
            Synthetic Fossil Fuels
            Doctrine: Air Power

            Comm-Jamming Ability:
            Applied Physics
            Industrial Base
            Information Networks
            High Energy Chemistry
            Polymorphic Software
            Advanced Subatomic Theory

            AAA Tracking:
            Applied Physics
            Doctrine: Mobility
            Industrial Base
            Information Networks
            Doctrine: Flexibility
            Polymorphic Software
            Optical Computers
            Advanced Military Algorithms

            Silksteel Alloys (Defense of 4)
            Applied Physics
            Industrial Base
            Information Networks
            High Energy Chemistry
            Industrial Economics
            Planetary Networks
            Polymorphic Software
            Advanced Subatomic Theory
            Industrial Automation
            Silksteel Alloys

            and finally, for the curious,
            Threshold of Transcendence:
            Applied Physics
            Biogenetics
            Centauri Ecology
            Doctrine: Mobility
            Industrial Base
            Information Networks
            Social Psych
            Doctrine: Flexibility
            Doctrine: Loyalty
            Ethical Calculus
            High Energy Chemistry
            Industrial Economics
            Nonlinear Mathematics
            Planetary Networks
            Polymorphic Software
            Secrets of the Human Brain
            Advanced Subatomic Theory
            Centauri Empathy
            Gene Splicing
            Industrial Automation
            Intellectual Integrity
            Optical Computers
            Advanced Military Algorithms
            Cyberethics
            Doctrine: Initiative
            Ecological Engineering
            Neural Grafting
            Silksteel Alloys
            Superconductor
            Synthetic Fossil Fuels
            Applied Relativity
            Bio-Engineering
            Centauri Meditation
            Doctrine: Air Power
            Environmental Economics
            Pre-Sentient Algorithms
            Superstring Theory
            Fusion Power
            Mind/Machine Interface
            Monopole Magnets
            Orbital Spaceflight
            Photon Wave Mechanics
            Planetary Economics
            Retroviral Engineering
            Advanced Ecological Engineering
            Biomachinary
            Centauri Genetics
            Organic Superlubricant
            Probability Mechanics
            Unified Field Theory
            Advanced Spaceflight
            Centauri Psi
            Homo Superior
            Nanometallurgy
            Nanominiturization
            Industiral Nanorobotics
            Matter Compression
            The Will To Power
            Digital Sentience
            Secrets of Creation
            Super Tensile Solids
            Self Aware Machines
            Sentient Econometrics
            Eudaimonia
            Matter Editation
            Secrets of Alpha Centauri
            Matter Transmission
            Temporal Mechanics
            Threshold of Transcendence
            The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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            • #7
              The Middle Game:

              This is the heart and soul of Alpha Centauri, and if you’ve run a good, strong opening gambit, you will be well prepared to reap the benefits of it in the mid-game, but don’t dispair. If you suffered some unexpected setbacks in the early game, there is yet time to put things right and rescue the game. Just understand that if you have not built a solid foundation by now, the road ahead will be tougher for you, relatively speaking.

              By now, you will likely have made contact (and perhaps repeated contact) with most of the other factions, and your initial bases are all up and humming along quite nicely. Now you’re probably itching to expand again, either by conquest, or by building more colony pods to finish filling up your continent. Either way, the stronger your early game was, the easier you will find things now.

              Expansion in the Mid Game:

              You can certainly choose to go back to the section on expansion in the early game and simply use those ideas to continue expansion across the continent. The expansion paradigms listed there are all quite strong, and any of them would serve you well. Keep in mind though, at this point, you are likely to encounter a rising drone problem as your expansion efforts continue, and this will only worsen with each additional base you build. Not that it should stop you from doing so, but it is something to be mindful of as you continue to increase your Empire’s holdings.

              One of the centerpieces to strategy in the Middle-Game is getting yourself ready to execute a population boom, and a bit should be said about that right up front, because it is such a powerful thing to do. It will, over the course of 7-10 turns of game play, take you from being an average power, to rocketing ahead of everyone else on the chart.

              Myth: Not everyone can Pop-Boom. People point to Yang (who cannot use Democracy) and Morgan (who cannot use Planned) and declare them weaker factions because they cannot execute a pop-boom. I have played both, and successfully run Pop-Booms with both, so I am here to tell you that it can be done, and fairly easily, at that.

              What is it, and where do I sign up?:

              As to what it is, the answer is simple: Game mechanics dictate that a base will grow every turn (provided that nutrient output is sufficient) if your SE growth rate is +6. So, to do a Pop-Boom, all you have to do is engineer a setting where your growth rate is +6. For most factions, that’s easy. Run Democracy, Planned, and make sure all your bases have Children’s Creches in them, and....Poof! Giant bases, in a matter of turns!

              For the two factions mentioned above (Yang and Morgan), it’s a little harder, but still possible. Simply make sure all of your Children’s Creches are in place, run either Planned or Democracy, and jack your Psych Allocation up through the roof until all your bases are in a Golden Age. Once there, sit back for a few turns (checking your Psych Allocation from time to time to make sure you’ve got nothing but happy bases), and watch them grow like weeds.

              The main strength of the Population Boom is that it can triple, or quadruple your Empire’s population in VERY short order, suddenly making you capable of doing things you never even dreamed of, and that is why it is mentioned here, as the very first point of the Middle-Game.

              One common strategy is to Boom all your initial bases to maximum size, then crank out another slew of bases, get them built up to the point that they can handle the influx, and then Boom again. Do that, and you will find yourself with an absolutely gigantic empire!

              More Expansion Paradigms:

              Many of these ideas share things in common with what you’ve read in the earlier section, and there are a few new ideas tossed in as well. Browse them over, select one that is to your liking, and that meshes well with your particular playing style, and run with it! You will soon find yourself with bases from coast to coast (if you’re alone on your continent - if you’re not, you might want to skip this section and read more on making war, as that will likely be what you are facing).

              Bear in mind that expansion is not necessary to win the game. You need but check out the results in the OCC Hall of Fame to discover that it is quite possible to Transcend on the hardest possible settings with a single, size seven base, but expansion DOES give you more flexibility and options, and it is the natural inclination of a thriving empire to expand, so most likely you will be doing just that. When you do, your expansion will work better for you if you go into it with a plan, rather than take a haphazard approach.

              There are a number of perfectly valid expansion strategies in the game, and the list below is by no means exhaustive. These are, however, the ones I’ve seen most commonly employed. I’ll list them out, and make notes about each one. Here goes:

              Thin Expansion: This policy is very closely related to “Expansion Paradigm #1” listed in the early game section. It basically says: “Now that I am up and running good, I want as many bases as I can get, and I want them as quickly as possible.” Likely, if you are going with a thin-expansion scheme, you are foregoing the building of scout patrols to escort your colony pods, and just focusing on the pods themselves. A sometimes risky move, true, but, the advantage to it is the fact that you can get a great number of bases established in relatively short order, and set them all about the task of building a viable infrastructure. A purely thin expansion program will have you building your newest bases four squares apart from each other. Yes, there will be some overlap, but how often is it that you actually make use of all 20 of a base’s productive squares anyway? Thin expansion trades a little bit of late-game productivity for the speedy construction of new bases.

              Thin Expansion works best for Builders and Hybrid players. A momentum player will lose too much time in building mass numbers of colony pods. Besides, from the mindset of a momentum player, why build a new base when you can conquer one that’s already up and running? A very good point, if you’re playing the game that way.

              The Rover Defense Model: This plan (which may or may not be incorporated into a thin-expansion scheme) says that you want all your newer bases spaced exactly five squares apart, to facilitate their defense with Rovers serving as garrisons. This also works out quite nicely, as there will be no overlap between bases, meaning that eventually (sometime in the Late Game), each base will be able to make use of all 20 squares of production. Keep in mind, however, that rovers are significantly more expensive than Infantry, and pursuing this model will make your garrisons much more expensive. Still, if you are running a classic Builder Game, the added expense won’t really be that noticeable.

              The Yang Model: So named because the AI generally plays Yang in this very fashion. It runs similar to the Rover Defense Model, but the bases are stacked even more closely together: Specifically, three spaces apart. This has a number of Mid-Game advantages, and only one (relatively minor) Late-Game drawback. There is significant overlap in all your bases (as with the Thin Model, above), but again, how often is it that you actually make use of all your squares of production anyway? And, this model has the advantage of allowing you to make use of the “Rover Defense” thinking with much more cost-effective Infantry units. Under this approach, none of your units ever need end their turn outside the safety of a base, unless you are scouting, or moving to make a pre-emptive strike. One other very strong selling point to this style is that you get so many bases up and running on your starting continent that you become very hard to damage. When you’re running the “Yang Model,” it’s simply not going to hurt you much if you happen to lose a single base, and if that base is taken over by an opponent, he will find keeping the base (which is undoubtedly surrounded by a good number of your other bases) a very difficult proposition.

              The Optimize First Model: This says that before you build any additional colony pods, you want to make all the improvements you can in the bases you already have. This is a classic builder scheme. Expand slowly, but make each base a wonder. It probably means that you won’t be expanding until well into the Middle Game, so even builders tend only to use this approach if they find themselves alone on a relatively small landmass.

              Thick Expansion: The opposite of thin expansion (go figure), this approach says that the building of colony pods is important, but of equal importance is seeing that it gets to wherever it’s going, and making sure that you can rapidly create an infrastructure for the new base when you get it there. Likely, this means building an escort for the pod (which becomes the garrison, once the base is set up, saving the new base time), a former (so terraforming can begin immediately, if not before the base is established), and perhaps one or two supply crawlers to enhance the output of the new base’s production (generally mineral production, but I’ve seen nutrient production enhanced as well). This has the advantage of making use of your existing bases’ strong infrastructure to build the stuff that a fledgling base would have to spend a number of turns working on before it could even start it’s infrastructural development, saving the new bases time, but it is slower than a “Thin Expansion” plan, as it ties up your bigger bases building more units.

              More on Combat:
              Organizing your offense/defense on Chiron:
              (A more in-depth look at attack and defense schemes)

              There are at least some would-be generals out there who are itching to get started causing trouble, but they're not quite sure how to make sure they've got their bases covered when it comes to defense, and they're not 100% comfortable with the notion of designing an adequate attack force. It is my hope that this section will help. This is by no means the only way to go about it, and I am quite sure that there will be some major disagreement in the particulars laid out here, but that's okay too, I have found that these principles work very well for me. Not to say they're the only way to run a war, but I have tested them exhaustively, and I know they will serve you well, so here goes:

              When planning the defenses of your empire, there are really only four things you need to take into consideration. If you are attacked, you will either be attacked by:
              Infantry
              Rovers
              Worms
              Stuff from the sky (missiles, choppers, and needlejets, planet busters)
              Sea bases also need to worry about attacks by ship, but for purposes of examining sea bases, we'll treat ship assaults of them like infantry attacks.

              And of course, any base may come under fire by artillery (which cannot kill any of your units, except in the case of an artillery duel), but it CAN prevent your units from healing up.

              When planning the defense of your empire, the very first thing you need to take a look at is: What play-style am I running? Momentum players will likely want to minimize base defenses so they can put more units in the field. Hybrid players will probably want to have units that are both armored AND have good weapons so they can switch gears when the need (or opportunity) arises, and Builders will want to cover all their defensive bases, and they can afford to do this, as their attack force will likely be quite small.....at least until later in the game.

              Momentum-Style Base Defense:
              These guys generally use the "attack to defend" approach (and the Believers are the very best of all at this), which further develops the Momentum theme that the best defense is a good offense. In general terms, base defenses will be sparse, consisting of one or two units (probably a mixed bag, one infantry and one rover or older needlejet, depending on the timeframe of the game and the available technology). Momentum players tend to recycle their units with obsolete technology by upgrading the units with the highest morale to newer technology, and pushing the rest back to their bases to "trade up" to better base defense (disbanding the original scout patrols or what have you to help build newer, meaner units). For the most part, Momentum players cannot afford to continually upgrade their entire army, because they do not have sufficient infrastructural development to bring in the kind of cash it would take, but this "recycling scheme" is a pretty fair substitute.

              Despite the fact that each base tends to have only light defenses, the presence of such a mixed bag of forces can create quite a potent set of defenders. Interceptors, old or not, have sufficient range that several can be brought up to beleaguered areas in a very short time. And Momentum bases tend to be pretty close together, facilitating the Rover Defense Model, which means that every base which has a speeder assigned to it (generally every third base or so), then several speeders could be in the embattled base in just a turn or two.

              Here's a pretty standard Momentum-Defensive Net Layout:
              1 Infantry unit per base (armor and weapon depending on when you check)
              1 Speeder per 3 bases (armor and weapon varies)
              1 Interceptor per 4 bases (armor and weapon varies)

              One final note about Momentum-Style defense is this: Attack to Defend strategies tend to work better than "sitting still" strategies because of your lack of infrastructure. Likely, you've not invested in Children's Creches, Perimeter Defenses, or Tachyon Fields, so you won't get the benefits of those structures.

              Summary: One or two of your older units (pulled off of the front line) per base. Note that this is an average, and you certainly don't need to keep two units in every base. If you feel your interior bases are secure, by all means, just leave one unit in those bases and shuffle the rest toward the periphery of your empire. You'll likely have a mixed bag of infantry, rovers, and needlejets making up your defense, and your best bet is to strike your enemy before he strikes you.

              Hybrid-Style Defense:
              Since there is no way to tell in advance what situations might develop, you must attempt to strike a balance between meeting your defensive needs, and being able to put together a good attack army fairly quickly. Since it would be far too expensive to create ironclad defenses everywhere AND build a massive invasion army, your forces should be designed for both roles. This has the advantage of greater flexibility (which the Hybrid Play-Style is famous for anyway), but it means that your army will likely be more expensive on a "per unit" basis than your opponent's force. Something to be mindful of when you start taking losses. Your troops will likely take longer to replace, and you probably won't have as many to begin with, so you need to conduct your war with care and forethought.

              The Hybrid's opponents will be Momentum players for the most part, and maybe other Hybrids (Builders seldom attack until late game, so you generally need not worry about them....don't let your guard down, but don't fret too much over it), and Momentum players LOVE Speeders. Since you know that, Comjamming troops should be VERY high on your list.

              When determining what level of armor to provide to my garrison forces, my rule of thumb is this: If I'm playing Hybrid style, I like to have one AAA Garrison with the very best armor available and "hand weapons" only. After I've got Neural Grafting, I will generally give this defender Trance ability to cover two of my defensive bets with that one unit.

              My secondary base defender will generally be another infantry, with one generation obsolete armor and the best weapon I have available. This unit generally comes equipped with commjamming ability (and, post-Neural Grafting), he gets AAA capability as well. This is my "detachable" unit. The one I pull out of the base when I want to go start trouble.

              Also, for every two bases I have, I'll create a rover with one less than the best armor, and the best, or second best weapon I can afford. Generally I'll make these guys AAA/Clean and use them to augment my base defense or add them to my attack force when I'm ready to rock and roll.

              For every three bases I have, I'll drop in an Interceptor, generally going with no armor and the best or second best weapons I can afford. I'll also drop in one Artillery unit per three bases or so (again, going with light or no armor) Using this as a general guide, if I've got fifteen bases by the time I decide to go mix things up a bit, my "offensive force pool" consists of something like:

              15 Infantry units
              7-8 Rovers
              5 Interceptors
              5 Field Guns

              That is sufficient force to do all sorts of nasty things to someone, but more on that when we actually get to offense....for the moment, take a look at the defensive capability this army has. Defensively, I've got:

              30 Infantry Units
              7-8 Rovers
              5 Interceptors
              5 Field Guns

              And more than half my force is mobile....able to move to embattled areas and support my threatened bases.

              If I'm playing Hybrid style, then it's a given that I've got a good infrastructure in place. My defenders have the benefits of Perimeter Defenses and Children's Creches, at the very least (and probably selective Command Centers, and other defenses as well, depending on the technology available). All my bases are connected by roads, and I've got good, clean lines and multiple routes to each base in the event that some of my roads are destroyed by attacking units. At this point, a Momentum Player will be hard pressed to do a whole lot to me, and will probably find somebody less well-prepared to pick on....of course, if he insists on starting trouble, I'm more than happy to finish the fight he starts.

              One final note about Hybrid Defense: Because you've got a good, solid infrastructure, you can count on having a pretty good income coming in every turn. This will allow for selective upgrades to better armor for your key defenders, and it will allow for the selective use of armored formers and crawlers in defensive roles, which will add to your defensive force pool, and complicate your enemy's attack. Keep in mind though, that this must be balanced against the need to keep some money available to subvert enemy troops. If your opponent's force is particularly large and threatening, there is no better way to quickly equalize things than to subvert a portion of his army and use it against him.

              Summary: Hybrid players who construct their defense scheme to be consistent with their greatest strength (flexibility) will find themselves with a vast number of options available to them at any given point in the game. Depending on your opponent, you can structure your defense to be aggressive ("attack to defend") or passive (let them come to you)....whichever will net you the greater advantage against that particular opponent. (note that the defensive scheme I outlined above works out to about 2.5 defenders per base, as compared with about 1.5 units per base for Momentum players)

              Builder Defense:
              Builders have two important defensive advantages: They have the best infrastructure in the game, and they have cash coming out of their ears. This makes assaulting a Builder faction in anything other than the very early game a dangerous proposition indeed.
              As a Builder, you can afford to lavishly defend all your bases, since your core attack group will likely be quite small, and I'd recommend doing it to the hilt. If you get attacked by a Momentum Player, you'll need it, and, when you decide to take the fight to your enemy, you can scale down your base defenses and have a truly massive army.

              General scheme:
              I usually only give each of my "Builder Defenders" one special ability and reserve the other one to be "Clean" as soon as I get the tech for it. This means that, in general, each of my bases has quite a number of defenders, and I don't skimp at all if I'm in a Builder game. There's no point in skimping....I've got plenty of money.

              Each Base is ultimately responsible for maintaining the following troops (and not necessarily in the base of origin):

              1 Trance/AAA Defender (Infantry) (best armor, hand weapon)
              1 Commjammer/Clean Defender (Infantry) (best armor, best weapon)

              Every other base is responsible for either:
              1 Rover or (best armor, second best weapon)
              1 Field Gun (Rover Chassis) (best weapon, second or third best armor)

              Every third base is responsible for either:
              1 Interceptor (second or third best armor, best weapon)
              1 Penetrator (as above)
              1 Chopper (as above)

              Every base is responsible for maintaining at least two missiles.

              Of course, it's important to know WHEN to build your units, too. I will generally run my Builder Defense in two phases: Pre-Hybrid Forest and Post-Hybrid Forest. In pre-hybrid forest times, I run my bases with one infantry defender (best armor and hand weapons, giving him AAA/Trance as soon as they become available). Every base also gets the benefits of a probe team, and, if I can support the additional unit without eating into base productivity too much (ie, I like to keep my bases churning out at least six minerals per turn), I'll add either a second infantry (best armor and best weapon) or Rover (best armor, second best weapon) to my force pool. Pre-Hybrid forests, my plan is to rely heavily on the selective armoring of the formers I have out in operation to support my defenders (and this can easily give me 2.5-3 units per base, counting formers for defense. Also, again, pre-hybrid forest, my probe teams take a very active stance. The general scheme is this:

              If a single attacker comes up to the base, he gets subverted. If they're double stacked, the rover hits the stack to kill one unit, and the other one gets subverted. If they're triple (or more) stacked, I attack as I can, wait for developments and bring up reinforcements.

              Post Hybrid forests, my bases are growing so rapidly, and have so many minerals that support costs cease to become much of an issue, and I generally run the entire scheme outlined above. Counting missiles, this gives me an average of six defenders per base (after Hybrid forests), and 2-3 before Hybrid forests are in place. This makes a Builder Player a very tough customer indeed, as all of the bases are interlocking, providing an almost fool proof defensive network. It takes a determined attacker indeed to crack those kinds of defenses.

              A breakdown of the defensive schemes by playing style:
              Momentum style: 1-1.5 units per base
              Hybrid style: 2.5 units per base
              Builder style (early) 3 units per base (including formers)
              Builder style (mid) 6 units per base (excluding formers)

              Taking the offensive (or, being offensive in general):

              If you want to start a war, here's what I recommend: Again, the first thing you need to ask yourself is: What is my play style? A very close second is: Have I (or can I) infiltrate this opponent's datalinks? If you have, you will fight a very different sort of war than if you have not or cannot infiltrate his datalinks (and that is why the question is so important).

              Some notes on infiltrating datalinks:

              The reason this is so important is because once you've infiltrated your opponent, you have perfect knowledge of his defenses, even to the point of knowing what he's currently working on in every base, and if he's making use of his build queues. This is such a powerful advantage that if you cannot infiltrate your opponent, you might be wise to simply leave that faction alone until it's just the two of you (unless you KNOW you have technological superiority, then run over them just as quickly as possible).
              Making war, broken out by Play-Styles:

              Momentum-Style: Fast and loose. Crank out the best units you can (best weapon, light or no armor), in a mixture of infantry and rover combinations, and turn them loose! As new chassis types become available, sprinkle them into the mix as well.

              A note to momentum players: I know you will want to make an all-rover force for greater maneuverability, and you'll likely win a good number of games that way, but trust me, the first time you meet a well-prepared opponent, you will change your mind, as you watch every one of your elite rovers burn and die at the hands of a relatively few sturdy garrisons and support troops. Take the time to build a balanced force, and use that to attack with. At least that way, you won't be taken down by one of the "easy counters."

              Make use of mindworms! Chances are good that at certain points in any given war, you'll be at a technological disadvantage, and worms are the big equalizer, so use the hell out of them!

              One of the best investments you can make when you're off on enemy soil is to subvert one of his formers. You can armor it up, and use it to make bunkers and such for yourself, which could be the very thing that turns the tide of battle in your favor!
              If you take my advice and go with a balanced force composition, then take care not to mess up the enemy's infrastructure too badly. You need roads intact to move your infantry through his territory quickly, so don't bust them up, and if your opponent has busted up the roads, this makes capturing one or more of his formers even more important!

              Numbers - How many troops do I need?:
              Consider your objectives carefully. Think about what you want to accomplish in your invasion, and plan to bring more troops than you need to accomplish that objective (to compensate for the unexpected, and to prepare for the inevitable counterattack).
              Having said that, if you're a Momentum player, if you've infiltrated your opponent's datalinks, and if you're at or near technological parity (or have lots of worms at the ready), I would recommend 2 units over and above whatever your opponent is holding the base you want to take with. Repeat that same formula out over the number of bases on your "hit list," and you'll come up with the total number of units you will need for this particular invasion.

              If you are attacking blind (without the benefits of infiltration), then I would use six (6) units as a rule of thumb. Six units per base (not counting the probe team, which requires no support).

              Army composition:
              Here are some of the more effective unit types you can crank out for the attack, and this is a pretty typical force I'd take against a single base:
              1 AAA/ECM Infantry (best weapon, light armor)
              1 SAM/AAA Rover (best weapon, light or no armor)
              1 Probe Team
              1 Mindworm
              1 Artillery units on Rover Chassis (best weapon, second or third best armor) (might switch out for another infantry or attack rover, depending on my survey of the forces standing against me)
              1 Garrison unit (Infantry)(to hold the base once taken) (best armor, hand weapon) AAA/Trance
              *1 Needlejet or Chopper for support (optional, depending on defensive forces arrayed against you)

              Faction specific notes:

              Believers: I'd forget the air support and add another rover.

              Hive: Add one more to this total (you choose), just to make sure you've got the numerical advantage.

              Spartans: Take out the garrison unit and bulk up the armor on your lead infantry unit (more like a hybrid player).

              Of course, if your objective is larger than just a single base, then you begin to see the scope of planning required. You'll need the troops themselves, of course. You'll need enough transports to haul them across to the battle, and then you'll need escorts for the transports, at a minimum. All in all, making war is a VERY expensive proposition, but there aren't too many bases around that can hold out against a properly executed attack with the force outlined above.

              Taking them through their paces:
              The force outlined above against the typical defenses you would find at a Momentum Base: No contest. If you've done your approach correctly, your opponent has no idea which base you plan to hit, and you can take out the one or two defenders, probably with the rover alone.

              Against a Hybrid Base:
              A tougher fight, and you'll probably need to augment that basic force with some air cover. Start shelling the base early to keep the defenders worn down. Use your needlejet support to weaken or pick off defenders, and use the first of your "rover attacks" to kill, but use the second move to retreat and heal until you are sure the base can be taken.

              Against a Builder Base:
              Bring in a chopper for additional support and you should be fine. The multiple attacks of the chopper should nicely offset the Builder's relatively large number of defenders. If he's got stacks of AAA guys, then send in infantry and rovers. Infiltrating a Builder to determine exactly what kind of defenders he is using is vitally important, and plan your attacks around where he is weakest. If he's been slacking in making commjammers, hit him with your rovers every turn. If he's low on AAA guys, your chopper will make short work of him. If nothing else, bring out the worms. The only way to beat a builder is to find a weakness, no matter how small or insignificant, and exploit the hell out of it.

              The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

              Comment


              • #8
                The Hybrid General: Flexibility
                The Momentum Player needs to think in terms of expecting a counterstrike, and either heading that off or taking it on the chin, but your army is already geared to that, which takes at least one element out of the equation for you. From the get-go, you've been making your army a versatile tool, and each unit is an able attacker and a sturdy defender, which simplifies your planning when you go off to war. To that end, here's a pretty typical example of what a Hybrid attack force would look like, against a single base:

                1 AAA/ECM Infantry (second best armor/best weapon)
                1 AAA/Trance Infantry (as above)
                1 SAM/AAA or AAA/Clean Rover (second best armor/second best weapon)
                1 Probe Team
                1 Mindworm (might sub a second rover in, if I have the tech lead)
                1 Artillery unit (Rover Chassis) (Second or third best armor, best weapon)
                * 1 Air support unit (optional, depending on enemy force disposition)

                Faction specific notes:

                Peacekeepers: No notes. Adjust your forces per opponent.

                Gaians: Use your psi bonus! Take out one of the Infantry and sub a worm in his place!
                A quick comparison of the two forces (Momentum and Hybrid) will reveal that the Hybrids are better armored across the board, making the act of re-taking the base from a Hybrid player a pretty daunting task.

                Taking them through their paces:

                Against a Momentum Base: Again, their weak defenses will not be able to stand against you, and you should be able to take them out quickly and easily. The expected counterstrike will be easily dealt with too, as your troops have good armor. This can further be augmented by rushing a perim. defense in the base as soon as you occupy it.

                Against another Hybrid: Jack up all your weapons to best, to counter their massive amounts of armor. Scout the defenses, and if they have artillery, you might want to pack in two arty units. One to duel him with to eliminate his, and a second one to keep his troops weakened.

                Against a Builder: Again, study their defenses carefully and compose your force where they are weakest. Bring in 1-2 more units than you think you'll need.

                The Builder General:
                Chances are good that when you attack, if you attack anybody except another Builder, you'll have at least one generation's worth of technology over your opponents (as a rule of thumb, you can expect to be one generation ahead of a competent Hybrid, and two ahead of a competent Momentum, by the time you take to the field). This gives you all sorts of advantages, and makes conquesting a pretty easy thing.

                As a Builder, you have the cash to conduct the kinds of warfare that make the other factions green with envy. In fact, you need not mobilize the army at all. Instead of pulling out your army you can:

                * Missile your opponent to death, and use drop troops or orbitally inserted troops.

                * Build enough planet busters to knock out every one of his bases in the same turn (and expect to get worm-raped)

                * Conduct an entirely covert war. Subvert his bases, keep his energy reserves drained, and cackle that he cannot do the same.

                *Ensure that no one but you and your allies has orbital defense pods by building so many of them that you simply cannot countered, then use them to wipe out everybody else's satellite capability, period.

                Of course, if you like you can always take the more traditional approach, and if you do, your force might look something like this:

                1 AAA/ECM Infantry (best weapon, best armor)
                2 SAM/AAA Rover (best, 2nd best)
                1 Artillery unit (Rover chassis) (best, 2nd best)
                1 Probe Team
                1 Infantry (AAA/Clean) (best, best)
                1 Air Support Unit (best, 2nd or 3rd best)

                This will have you fighting at more than parity with your opponents, and you'll have plenty of money to subvert enemy units that get caught out alone. As mentioned before, when a Builder player moves in for the kill, you're likely dead already and don't realize it yet, so if the technological gap I mentioned previously is present, expect that a Builder who is on the attack will pretty much blow your doors off....the end game belongs to the Builder, hands down. If a Momentum player can't beat him by the early or mid game, chances are very good indeed that he won't beat him at all. Likewise, Hybrids can compete with Builders for longer, but time does favor the Builder, and if the Hybrid player waits too long, he may find himself in trouble.

                Money in wartime:
                I mentioned earlier in the strategy guide that I'd recommend somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 credits in your bankroll per base you plan to hit before you begin your attack, but I did not really outline why you'd need all that money, so I will do that now, for those of you who might be newer to the game:

                First and foremost, you should be on the lookout for any attempt to subvert enemy units! Subversion is one of the most powerful battle strategies you can implement. Consider: If you do battle with an enemy unit, you may or may not destroy it, but you will surely weaken your own forces (at least temporarily, until your unit is repaired), but if you subvert an enemy unit, you get stronger, while your opponent grows weaker. Keep that up, and you'll be so strong eventually, that your opponent cannot hope to stand against you. Of course subversion need not be on the individual unit level....if you can bring an entire base under your sway for a bit of cash, so much the better!

                Second, you need money if you intend to turn the base you just took over into a halfway productive center for you. Chances are good that when you move into a newly occupied base, there will be rioting. If you don't mind being a bad guy, you can just nerve staple them and have done with it, but I have never been happy with that solution. I LIKE being the good guy, so when I take over a base, generally the first thing I do is drop down a rec. commons to get the drone problem solved. It's expensive, sure, but the advantage is that I get the base healthy and productive very quickly, and then I've got a productive center right there on my enemy's soil, which is a very bad thing from his point of view. (If the battle was a very near thing, or if my troops are battered, I'll probably delay the Rec. Commons for a turn in favor of a Perim. Defense, but again, this depends on the situation at hand).

                Third, you need money to rush build replacement troops, get garrisons in newly conquered bases, and money to throw around in feint efforts or other things to try to throw your opponent off balance. (If you are worried that you might not be able to hold the base you just took for very long, for example, send a foil probe team to the other side of your opponent's holdings and subvert one of his fringe bases out from under him. Now he's got a choice to make, because chances are good he can't deal with both losses at the same time, and you'll be able to fortify your position around whichever one he decides to leave alone for a bit....either way, you win.)

                I must close this section by stressing again that the ideas outlined above are by no means the only way, or even the best way to conduct a war, but they work very well for me, and I win more games than I lose, so I believe that adds to the validity of the approaches outlined here. Still, the bottom line is: "do what works best for you." If these ideas don't mesh well with your current playing style, then feel free to ignore them. If nothing else though, keep them in your mind as possible things you might expect when you square off against someone in the PBEM arena.....you never know, it might be *me* over there in Morgan-Land.....
                The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Advanced Combat Tips and Strategies:
                  Combat is the epitome of chaos and unpredictability. When armies clash, even if differences in technology make it clear from the outset who the eventual victor will be, there is absolutely no accounting or predicting what will occur between here and there. If you think you can predict the subtle nuances, ebbs and flows of a combat situation with any degree of certainty at all, my recommendation would be to open up your own psychic hotline.

                  Having said that, let me stress from the beginning that this article will not even attempt to cover every conceivable combat situation you might find yourself in. Simply put, I’m not that good. Not even close. What I **DO** hope to accomplish with the writing of this article is to stretch your mind a bit. To perhaps change the way you look at both tactical and strategic situations and provide some tools for judging the overall effects of choices made by both you and your opponent. If these tools are applied correctly, then you need not worry if you encounter an unexpected situation in combat, as you will feel more than comfortable improvising your way out of it.

                  Early on in the Strategy Guide, we touched on the first two principles of battle are:

                  Know Thyself,
                  And
                  Know Thine Enemy

                  That is the foundation for what lies ahead, and you can rely on those principles with absolute certainty. If you do not know yourself, you have no way of assessing your own capabilities, and if you do not know your enemy, you have no way of understanding what you are up against. If you have neither of these, how can you hope to fight a war?

                  If you’re fairly new to the game of warfare, you might ask: “How exactly, do you “know yourself?”” Specifically, you should know things such as:

                  *How big is your army, including garrison forces?

                  *If you were to launch an attack right now, this turn, how many units would you have available, and what would they be?

                  *Do you have a means of getting your forces to an enemy’s homeland (transports, landbridge, psi-gates, drops, or some combination of all of the above)

                  *How many bases can you afford to commit to the war effort to replace lost troops?

                  *How long can you afford to fight a war?

                  *What is my level of technology, relative to my opponent?

                  *How many total bases do I have, relative to my opponent?

                  *What are you hoping to accomplish by entering into this war?

                  If you cannot answer at least these questions, then you’re probably not yet ready to fight, and if you DO fight, you will likely be fighting an uphill battle.

                  Likewise, initiates to the arts of war might ask “How exactly, do you know your enemy?” And I would say, specifically, you should know or do these things at a minimum:

                  *INFILTRATE YOUR OPPONENT!!! (Nothing is more important than this!)

                  *How many bases does my enemy have? Is it more bases than I have?

                  *How large of an army can my opponent bring to bear on me? If he is attacking, how will they be arriving (drop, psi-gate, transport, as above), if he is defending, how good is his infrastructure?

                  *How long can my opponent afford to fight a war?

                  *What is my opponent hoping to accomplish by going to war with me, or, how will my opponent likely react to my attack? (is he likely to hit back hard, or does he have a tendency to shrivel up and surrender quickly)

                  Again, if you can’t answer all of these questions at a minimum (and there are plenty of others), then you’re not ready yet.

                  Let’s take a quick look at the seven original factions and see where their battle strengths and weaknesses lie. This is fairly generic of course, but it is enough to get your mind turning on the subject:

                  The Hive
                  Strengths: LOTS of troops & quick replacement times (+1 growth and industry)
                  Weaknesses: Possible lagging research (lack of energy), and limited probe team actions (again, lack of energy)
                  The Morganites
                  Strengths: LOTS of probe actions (good money), likely to have technological superiority (good research)
                  Weaknesses: Small army (support problems), likely to have lower morale (probably running wealth)

                  The University
                  Strengths: Likely to have the best tech-level in the game (GREAT research)
                  Weaknesses: Probe vulnerability

                  The Gaians
                  Strengths: Best Psi-force on Chiron
                  Weaknesses: likely to lag in techs (can’t run Market, can’t get +1 energy per square until late game)

                  The Believers
                  Strengths: Strongest attackers on Chiron & Superb Probe Teams
                  Weaknesses: Lousy Tech means initial skirmishes (pre-probe ops) will likely be lost, regardless of fanatic bonus

                  The PeaceKeepers
                  Strengths: Baseline. Peacekeeper troops have no notable strengths or weaknesses. I suspect they were the baseline faction
                  Weaknesses: (see above)

                  The Spartans
                  Strengths: Magnificent fighters, either offensively or defensively. The best, most well-rounded fighting force in the whole game
                  Weaknesses: Harder to train replacements (industry penalty)

                  Building on those basic concepts, we find the first principle of victory:

                  Use your native strengths in battle

                  Thinking along those lines, it is easy to look down the list, and come up with some basic strategies with each faction, and they’d probably look a lot like this:

                  The Hive: Use superior numbers to overwhelm your opponent. Don’t give him time to do anything cute or subtle with his greater energy reserves.

                  The Morganites: Buy his empire out from under him, one piece at a time.

                  The University: Strength through superior firepower.

                  The Gaians: Strength through little squggily worms

                  The Believers: Attack relentlessly. Never let your opponent breathe, and allow any enemy base to escape the wrath of your hungry probe teams.

                  The Peacekeepers: Chuckle while your opponent tries to figure out how the hell to attack you, and chip away at him all the while, looking for the opening to drive the stake through his heart.

                  The Spartans: Meet your opponent in the field with care and cunning. Kill him and dance away before he can return the favor. Nobody can do that particular dance better than you.

                  Of course, there is another way of looking at the same equation, and that brings us to the second principle of victory:

                  Exploit the weaknesses of the enemy to defeat him.

                  On the surface, that seems easy enough, but you will find that it is far easier to say it than to do it.

                  Thinking in terms of the “second principle of victory,” it’s pretty easy to glance down the list, zero in on the weaknesses of the different factions, and devise a method of beating them. If you do that, you will likely wind up with a list that looks something like this (Keep in mind that, at this point, we’re still talking in pretty generic terms, and that these particular strategies are drawn from the notion of using each faction’s weaknesses against itself):

                  The Hive: Wear him out with Probe Teams. Drain what energy he has to keep him utterly helpless in that regard and eliminate what rush-build capability he has. Defend your bases with multiple probes to prevent him from stealing techs. Subvert his troops to even out the numbers and fight him with his own forces.

                  The Morganites: Use raw numbers to overrun the smaller Morganite army. Simply sweep them off the map.

                  The University: Subvert their bases whenever possible to get a foothold. Steal techs with your probe teams to get technological parity, then blast them off the map.

                  The Gaians: Probe-guard your bases to keep your techs safe and crush the Gaians with superior technology and money (something you will likely have in greater supply than they will)

                  The Believers: Kill ANY Probe-team you see, even if you have to leave a unit exposed to attack to do it. In a fight with your probes, they’ll win and grab tech, and if they do that, you lose.

                  The Peacekeepers: See how they’re being played. The troops themselves don’t have any real weaknesses to exploit, so you will have to wait on their commander to make a mistake, if you’re looking for something to take advantage of. In the absence of that, play to your own strengths, and hit him hard and often in the field.

                  The Spartans: Use attrition. Likely, you will be replacing your troops a good bit faster than he’ll be replacing his.

                  Taken together, these two lists should give you a pretty solid foundation upon which to build your attack and defense strategies. That’s not to say that you won’t ever encounter oddities, or things that won’t fit into these generalizations. You might find a Hive player who’s got money coming out of his ears, or a Morganite with a massive, clean, elite army, or….the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that the lists above are not, and were not meant to be ironclad, but I feel certain you will find that they hold true far more often than not, and they will serve you well as a beginning point to devising your battle strategies. If you study these lists diligently, and find ways of executing the ideas they contain, you will win a great many more games than you lose. You will, in short, be a very good, solid player.

                  You will not, however, be a great player.

                  In order to be a great player, you must strive to consistently achieve the third principle of victory:

                  Best and hardest of all, is to use the enemy’s own strengths as weapons against him.

                  If you can learn to do this consistently, you will be all but unbeatable, and in time, I will attempt to teach you what I know about it. I am certainly not saying that I’m the most qualified person for the job. I don’t even begin to know everything about strategy and tactics. In fact, the only thing I can point to on my “resume” that might make me even remotely qualified to talk about this particular subject is the fact that I win a good many more games than I lose. At any rate, it is my hope that you will be able to take what I know about the subject and incorporate it into your own unique playing style, and from that, come up with a solid, reliable set of battle principles that serve you well. But there are other things which must be discussed before we get to the specifics of the third principle of victory. It is enough for the moment that you are aware it is out there.

                  Before we start discussing exactly how to execute a battle plan (and eventually, how to use your enemy’s strengths against him), some common understanding of terminology seems in order. What follows is a list of specific, named tactics, and notes on how, when, and where to apply them. I have included a “Baker’s Dozen” of these strategies for your enjoyment. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands more, but part of the fun of practicing to be a good general is uncovering new strategies for yourself, and learning to blend their execution in perfectly with your particular style of play. Note that there are no “bad” tactics or styles of battle listed here. All of these are exceedingly powerful and have been time-tested and proven. It falls to each of us, students of battle, to learn the best times and situations to use these different approaches in, and when we arrive at an intimate understanding of how to best use these attacks, we approach that previously mentioned level of greatness.

                  Demonstration: A show of force against an enemy in the field. A demonstration can consist of any number of units, in any configuration. It is one of the mainstays of battle. The main uses of a demonstration are two-fold: First, to intercept an invading army before your infrastructure and bases come under fire, and second, to wear down enemy forces as a set-up for a future siege or another attack made by one of your allies.

                  Siege: An attack on an enemy base. Like a demonstration, a siege can consist of any number of units (but the numbers tend to be larger for sieges than for demonstrations for strategic reasons), and the units might be made up of any number of chassis-types and capabilities

                  Feint: A “fake” siege or demonstration. The point of a Feint is to make your opponent believe you are going to launch an attack someplace, draw a portion of his army toward the site of the perceived threat, and then hit him somewhere else, unexpectedly.

                  Overrun: A specific type of attack, aimed at pushing deeply into enemy territory. Where a demonstration tends to be rather akin to a parry in a duel, an overrun is a stab toward the soft underbelly of the enemy. It’s intention is to deny your enemy the use of specific terrain features that are inside his territory (a borehole, a valuable nutrient square, a monolith, or some landmark such as that, or, to isolate an enemy base and make it more vulnerable to a siege).

                  Roverrun: An overrun attack composed of a “Rover-Only” force. Unlike the overrun, which tends to emphasize a well-balanced attack force to kill the enemy and hold off any possible counter-attack, the Rover-Run’s goal is to wipe the enemy force out and use speed and maneuverability to avoid any possible counterstroke the enemy might have planned.

                  Underrun: An overrun with a small number of ground troops, supported by large numbers of probe teams. The goal of the underrun is to slip a small number of troops into enemy territory to cover the vulnerable probe teams and steal your way to the biggest force you can, using the subverted enemy troops to occupy enemy territory and putting the enemy in an interesting predicament. Does he attempt to steal the troops back and drain his energy reserves? Or, does he attack his own men, effectively working against himself? Either way, it is one of the hardest attacks to pull off, and also one of the most potentially devastating.
                  Rolling line: A subset of the siege or demonstration. The rolling-line technique involves relatively large numbers of units and implies an extended campaign. The idea of the rolling line is to have enough units to be able to attack enemy positions every turn, and at the same time, be able to pull your damaged units back to some safe zone to recover, then rotate them back to the front lines again. In this way, you could conceivably keep the attack running forever. It’s most practical use is in sieges of Hive bases, where the good chairman is likely to have upwards of thirty units in his most forward positions. You can take a base like that, but you’d better use a rolling line to do it, or he’ll attack you on his turn, and wipe you out completely.

                  Scorched Earth Retreat: A desperate defensive gambit. When you know you cannot win the day, and you cannot hold your positions, destroy EVERYTHING that might be even remotely useful to your enemy and pull back to a stronger position.

                  Scorched Earth Overrun: Similar in its execution to an overrun, but your objective here is not to occupy enemy territory. In this case, all you want to do is deny your enemy resources. Most often, this is used when your opponent is significantly larger than you are, and you are attempting to even things out (you know you are not strong enough to hold any bases that you might take, so you are not even going to try….you’re just out to hurt your enemy’s ability to produce war materials).

                  Drop and Chop: So named by Korn469, who is a fine gamer by any definition. The basic strategy calls for breaking the enemy’s empire up into zones, isolating those zones with drop troops, and attacking bases in each zone with a mixed force of choppers and your drop forces. It is a somewhat risky attack, in the sense that your drop troops take damage on landing, and you will generally use this to attack into the core of an enemy’s empire, but when executed correctly, it can be every bit as dazzling as a well-played Underrun.

                  Stonewall: A “Rolling-Line” in reverse. Your objective here is to hold the enemy at bay indefinitely by positioning your troops in such a way that troops on the front line can pull back to a safe zone to recover, and then come back to the front to continue the defense.

                  Nettle\Skirmish: A sneaky, limited form of a demonstration. Your main goal here is to prompt the enemy to do something drastic and rash. Generally, you only need a few units with good movement rates (needlejets, hovertanks, and rovers) to nettle your opponent, and the goal is to prompt him into action before he is truly ready. Annoy him so bad that he’ll come after you not fully prepared, and then you can smash him hard for his impatience.

                  Flank: The oldest trick in the book, and still popular because it can be devastating when done correctly. The flank is another subset of a demonstration, or rather, it is two demonstrations occurring at the same place, at the same time. The goal is to make your first demonstration against enemy forces to tie them down while your second demonstration force moves up from a different direction to seal off all chance of retreat (see the upcoming discussion on zone of control) Flanks are not used to simply hurt your enemy, they are used to crush his field army entirely. You should not be using flanking maneuvers if you want to leave any survivors, because you’ll be hard pressed to find any after a properly executed flank.

                  So that’s enough to get you started. I’ve kept the specifics of each attack intentionally vague, because there are so many variations on each one that you could literally write a book on each attack-type. And, as much as I enjoy writing, I think I’ll steer clear of all that.
                  The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    One final bit of discussion needs to occur at this point, and make no mistake: If you want to win and win consistently, if you want to do things with your army, and win battles that you really have no business winning, then you’d better learn how to do this, and learn well. I’m talking about Zones of Control. If you learn how to influence and control the battle by tinkering with Zones of Control, you will be able to fluster, frustrate, and frankly amaze your opponents. This is quite possibly the best way to unbalance a battle in your favor, and once you understand the concepts and what they can do for you, you’ll wonder how the Hell you ever got along without it.

                    Basic ZOC theory:
                    Each unit “exerts” a field of influence over the battlefield, amounting on one hex, all around the unit in question. Enemy units can enter into or leave your ZOC, but they cannot move through it. Consider that for a moment: Enemy units can enter into or leave your ZOC, but they cannot move through it.

                    The basic principles associated with using ZOC as a weapon against your opponent involves finding ways to cut off enemy troops, and make it impossible for them to get to safety. Once isolated, the troops can be killed or subverted with ease. That’s really all there is to it, but it’s a lot harder to implement than it is to talk about. Try it, and you’ll see what I mean. Note too, that there is one unit in the game that can freely ignore the ZOC restrictions. The Probe Team. This means, whether you are planning to use ZOC as a weapon, or trying your best to defend against it, The Probe Team will figure prominently into your thinking.

                    Intermediate ZOC Theory:
                    By itself, a single unit exerting it’s ZOC is rather interesting, but it can’t really do a lot for you. Things get complicated rather quickly though, when you start adding other units to the mix, and you can suddenly find yourself exerting influence over a significant portion of the map.

                    Intermediate ZOC theory focuses on a concept I call “Blocking” for lack of a better term, and Blocking comes in two flavors: Offensive Blocking, and Defensive Blocking. We’ll go over an example of each.

                    In the case of Offensive Blocking, you want to structure your attack thusly: Let’s say that you have your eye on a certain base in hostile territory. Your opponent has a worthy infrastructure, and can easily bring reinforcements to the base in question, once he realizes what you’re up to. You, of course, want to prevent this from happening, as it will be significantly harder to take the base if your enemy gets the chance to reinforce his position. To counter this threat, you structure your attack as you normally would for a base siege, but you include three extra units to serve as blockers. In this case, you include a trio of choppers to get in the way.

                    The plan here is not to use the choppers to attack, but to overfly the base in a loose-wedge formation (that is to say, a wedge formation with the units spaced one square apart as opposed to being right next to each other--which would be a “Tight Wedge”), planting themselves squarely in path that the reinforcements will have to take if they want to relieve the base. You want choppers for this because they can stay out for a few turns (unlike interceptors) and keep the block in place, and presumably, that will buy you enough time to take the base, giving your choppers a place to land before things get terminal, and look at what you have accomplished with these three units: You have isolated a portion of your enemy’s empire, and made it nearly impossible for him to hold the territory. With three units, you have cut a swath seven squares wide across his territory that he cannot get through....he’ll have to go around, and of course, by that time, it will be too late. That is the essence of the offensive block. Of course, it would take twice as many interceptors, but you could do the same thing, and keep the block up indefinitely, rotating three in and three out every turn to maintain the block as long as you needed to.

                    The Defensive Block is executed much the same way, but it’s main purpose is to stall an enemy advance. Essentially, you don’t want to attack any units unless you are certain of victory, but you DO want to throw units in the way to slow your opponent down. By blocking defensively, you give your opponent two very unattractive choices: He can either lose a turn’s worth of momentum in his attack by staying put, or he can attempt to move around your block, and potentially into less favorable terrain, or toward some trap you have laid for him.

                    Attackers are generally on a time-table, and time favors the defender (given the close proximity of reinforcements), and a well-placed Defensive Block can REALLY cause your enemy trouble. Not to mention, defensive blocks can quite often completely unravel a momentum player, especially those who are so unimaginative as to use an all rover force. It’s unlikely that the rovers will have SAM capabilities, so rotating three interceptors in and out can create a completely immovable wall that the force is utterly helpless against, which buys the defender time.
                    Blocking with odd-ball units:

                    Chances are good though, that you won’t just have half a dozen interceptors lying around with nothing to do when your local bad guy comes calling, so you’ll have to do some improvising. Now obviously, there is no way I can sit here and rattle off every possible scenario you might find yourself in, so you will have to experiment with the concept on your own and find a few things that you can get comfortable with, but if you’re a builder or hybrid player, you’ve got TONS of units lying about to practice with that can really surprise you with their sheer versatility. Namely, formers and crawlers (and momentum players can use obsolete garrison units).

                    There is NOTHING more humiliating to an attacker than to be hemmed in and have to waste time killing a slew of well-armored formers and crawlers, especially when those formers and crawlers actually start to take a few of the bad guys with them! And if you are attacked, don’t be the least bit shy about driving your formers and crawlers right up in his face. Of course, you want to be somewhat careful if he’s got probe teams with him, because you don’t want him to subvert your units, so you’ll want to double stack them whenever possible, but the point is, Builder-Players have LOTS of formers, and it is not at all inconceivable that you could very nearly surround an entire attacking army, or move in behind them to cut off any chance of retreat or reinforcements.

                    Blocking is a versatile tool in anybody’s little black book of strategies, and you would do well to keep practicing with it until you can do it in your sleep, because you can rely on the fact that sooner or later, you’re gonna have to face it, and if you’re not used to seeing it, you’ll die at the hands of a half-dozen crazed former teams....how embarrassing.....

                    Advanced ZOC trickery:
                    Where Intermediate ZOC theory focused on creating temporary blocks to allow you a specific strategic gain, Advanced ZOC theory falls into two distinct categories, and both are important. First, is the creation of permanent blocks, and second, is maneuvering AROUND blocks that have been set up in your way. This is where the Probe Team comes into play.

                    Permanent Blocks: The most obvious to the eye here is a “choke point.” A narrow strip of land that your opponent must use if he intends to come at you over land. If you have any terrain like this, you would be well advised to slap an armored crawler down that way to start harvesting some resource or another and get in the way. And, when you can get time to, drive an armored former down there to pay him a visit, and while he’s there, he can build a sensor array, and maybe even a bunker.....Now you’ve got a wicked (and relatively cheap) stacked defense group that will be pretty tough to root out.....a permanent block.

                    And, as the game progresses and your formers begin to finish up the continental terraform, don’t be content to just haul them back to base and put them on garrison support duty! There are several better alternatives than that! (like creating more permanent blocks!)

                    Take a look around your empire. Are there any really tasty terrain squares that you’d really hate to lose productivity from? If so, just park your armored former right on top of it, and....presto! Instant protection!

                    Or, take 4-6 formers as you finish with them, give them the latest and greatest armor upgrade, and create a “necklace” which runs through your empire. A ready-made block which will serve to slow an enemy advance down, should anybody ever decide to (or be able to) land on your fair shores. The more defensive stuff you can take care of up front, the less attractive a target you become to a would-be invader, because you’d better believe the attacker will be doing some research, and if he finds two possible opponents, one with all his defenses bristling and laid out, and one who looks soft.....well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which one he’ll likely choose to hit.
                    That is the real power behind permanent blocks. You want to advertise them loudly and proudly. It is a statement to your enemies, and it says very clearly: Yes, you might invade, but I am ready for you, and you will play hell advancing through my empire to hurt me, so be warned. More often than not, an attacker will heed that warning and leave you be.

                    The second concept to consider is maneuvering through or around a block. They’re stubborn things, but they’re not unbeatable, and what can be done, can be undone one way or another.

                    If you have the raw firepower at your disposal, simply blow the offending units out of your way and move on. Note that this still benefits your opponent slightly, as it took you at least some time (and probably damaged a few units) to do that. Better still though, would be to use probe teams to turn the block against the person who constructed it. Again, probe teams are unaffected by Zones of Control, which means they can freely move between enemy units. That’s a tremendous ability, and you should learn to make the most of it.

                    If you want to render a block useless, you’re going to have to exert your own ZOC in the area, and this can be done as follows:

                    Your army encounters a line of enemy troops intent on blocking. You duly stop for a moment, a few squares away and assess the situation (all the while, bringing up your cadre of Probe teams). The enemy’s units are double stacked, so you can’t use subversion to simply do away with the block, and you are reluctant to risk battle in the open because you want to preserve your firepower to take out the base you’re after, so.....

                    You move your leading elements up next to the blockers and wait. Then you bring a probe team up and move him one square further (moving through the enemy’s ZOC), then pause and bring up another military unit to stand with the Probe team. Stop him there and move the probe team forward again. Now you are one square behind the enemy unit and out the outer edge of his ZOC. Move another of your units up, again to stack with the probe team. Stop him there. You have now created a “bridge” across the enemy’s ZOC, and the rest of your army can move along this bridge unhindered. You have completely negated his attempt to slow you down, and you never fired a shot.
                    To the trained eye, this opens up all sorts of possibilities, both strategic and tactical. I leave it to each individual reader to study this section and draw your own conclusions as to the best uses of this information, but even with the simple examples given (and I’d need an active map to adequately explain more advanced concepts than these) you can see the power of using Zones of Control to influence the shape and direction of battle.
                    The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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                    • #11
                      Advanced Terraforming Techniques:

                      Once your formers have tended to the needs of the bases you have up and running, once all the squares inside the production radii of your bases have been optimized, and once you’ve got all the infrastructure you feel the need for in place (roads interconnecting your bases, sensor arrays, bunkers, strategic airfields, and such), it is time to unleash your formers on the rest of the continent.

                      Every square of land on your continent is a potential production center, even if it lies outside the radius of any base you have. If your citizens cannot reach it directly, you can optimize the square with your formers and toss a supply crawler out on it to make it start working for you, and that is the next thing that will keep your formers occupied.

                      At this point in the game too, most, if not all of the advanced terraforming options have become available, enabling you to create VERY productive squares of one type or another, and that is how you should approach the mid-game’s terraforming options.

                      Remember that only one supply crawler can work a given square, so take a look at the square you plan to develop and see what makes the most sense to go there. If it’s a rainy square, it will serve you better to put a farm down to increase nutrient output. If rocky, build a mine, etc. and so forth. Fairly intuitive stuff, but on top of that, you should pay a LOT of attention to the construction of boreholes. They will serve you well, whether your “focus” runs toward minerals or energy.

                      The main thing to remember about boreholes is that they represent a significant investment in time, and to speed the process of getting your boreholes operational as quickly as possible, it is a very good idea to put your formers on their construction in teams. The more formers you can have working on a borehole the better, as that means it will finish more quickly and you can begin harvesting from that square.

                      Keep in mind that so long as even one square on your continent has not been optimized, you are not getting the most you can out of the productive capacity of your continent.

                      A Former’s Work is never Done.....:

                      But, you say: I have terraformed my entire continent, and I’ve got supply crawlers everywhere that my bases can’t reach! What more could I possibly do?!

                      Formers can find ways to keep busy the entire game, actually, and here are some of the better uses you can make of them:

                      Mag Tubes: Come late in the middle game, in general, and they greatly ease your ability to defend your holdings. You should have no less than two different mag tube routes which reach to all parts of your empire (in case one of them is severed by a marauding enemy).

                      Tap to Aquifer: The ability to construct rivers inside the production radius of all your bases is enormous and will add another +1 energy per square to your coffers (in addition to adding another boost to your research times). This can be carried over to any squares outside the production radii of your bases upon which you have crawlers harvesting energy.

                      Expand the continent: A very good idea, once you’ve done about all you can do with your starting landmass. You simply raise more land (preferably in the general direction of the faction that has been giving you the most trouble). As the new land appears, have your formers optimize it, find a base that isn’t too busy, build another colony pod, and slowly grow your empire toward your enemy (migrating troops along that route if you feel the need to provide protection for your band of formers and colony pods. And remember, you don’t have to actually finish the land bridge until you’re good and ready!

                      The Supply Crawler: Your New Best Friend:

                      By now, you’ve probably got quite a number of supply crawlers floating about in your empire, adding to your base’s native ability to harvest nutrients, minerals, and/or energy. You have seen first hand the benefits of building them, and are probably quite a fan. It should not be difficult to convince you then, that Supply Crawlers are the second most useful unit in the entire game, but it has been my experience (from watching and playing against many of the members here in the War College), that supply crawlers don’t get utilized nearly as much as they should. This section then, provides some additional notes to get your mind turning on the subject of the Supply Crawler, in hopes of demonstrating a few uses for the sturdy little units that you might not have already thought of.

                      The number one best use of Supply Crawlers is obvious: To boost the nutrient, energy, or mineral production of a given base. Generally, I go for increasing energy output, and if you do so with a vengeance, multiplied out over several turns, you will find your energy reserves spiking up two or three hundred energy credits per turn.....multiplied out by your energy banks and such, they tend to pay for themselves VERY quickly.
                      Some notes here: Keep in mind that if you have a base with the Merchant Exchange in it, and that base builds a supply crawler, the unit will get the +1 energy bonus in the square he is harvesting from, making the ME base a VERY attractive one to build crawlers from. And, if the ME base also happens to be your Headquarters, then that base will not suffer any inefficiency, which means that you get to keep 100% of the energy harvested. This can set you up quite nicely to turn your HQ base into your primary research place (build the supercollider and theory of everything there, and you've got a positively EVIL amount of research. Add the network backbone, and the base can probably net you a tech all by itself every turn).

                      The second best use I have come up with (and this frustrates the HELL out of my opponents here at the college, though strangely, I have not seen them copying the idea) is to make an armored crawler, drop him down on a "choke point" (narrow strip of land leading to a rival's territory) to harvest energy from a forest (on a sensor array). Now you're getting 3 or more energy per turn, and keeping the bad guys at bay at the same time, and an armored crawler in the woods on a sensor array is a pretty tough cookie. Give him Trance ability to defend against worms, and he'll probably be there for a good long time.

                      Third thing: I generally build my initial boreholes coastally, and the reason for that is as follows: If I'm on a landmass by myself (and that's generally my favorite, being a builder at heart), then the only way that forces can even get to me easily is to land troops on my coast, which is impossible thanks to my ring of boreholes and crawlers. There's simply no way the invasion can even get started (unless they come at me early....it DOES take quite a while to crank that many crawlers out). True, the units could air drop in, but they take fifty percent damage on landing, and then be munched by my rover units, or subverted by my probe teams.

                      If the bad guys DO get through though, crawlers are excellent units for messing up the invasion force's zones of control, because in addition to doing that, they're also harvesting resources for you.

                      Another good idea would be to make the choice NOT to work the square in your base's production radius containing your sensor array, putting a cheap armored crawler on that square to draw resources for you. Protection from sniping.....

                      Building Notes:
                      I tend to play my games from an energy-focus standpoint, and find it very inefficient to ever have bases stockpiling energy, and once I've developed my bases as fully as I'd care to, rather than stockpile energy, I'll build crawlers. I maximize the use of the land I have to work with in that way, and, the former can be cashed in later to help build those expensive secret projects. Of course, with the energy focus I play, I tend to have enough cash on hand to simply buy whatever project I am working on, but the option to cash in an odd former or two is nice to have....

                      Developing Your Style:

                      It’s obviously too late in the game to change your faction, and you’ve already settled on a particular style of play for this venture, so shifting gears at this point would be a pretty expensive proposition, both in terms of money and time, so you’re much better off taking a close look at what you’ve already got in place, and seeing where you can take it from here.

                      Look closely at your empire. See where your strengths are and play to them. Magnify them. Do you have a big army, perhaps the biggest on Chiron? Take steps to increase it further still, but again, do not forget that having a big army does nothing for you in and of itself. You have to actually DO something with it in order to make it pay, so consider what you want to do with this big force you’ve got developed.

                      Are you getting technological advances in record time? Great! But there is probably a way you can get your advances even faster than you are currently. Look things over and see where you can improve yourself.

                      Also, at this point, you will want to pay close attention to your weaknesses. After all, your rivals are probably getting restless and actively probing all the other factions for weaknesses, so if you’ve got a few, take care to cover them, or minimize them as much as you can. Make yourself as uninviting a target as possible.

                      Bend and flow with the playing style you have chosen for yourself. Work with it, not against it. I cannot offer you too much in the way of specifics here, because each game will be unique in it’s ebbs and flows. All I can say is this: You have the framework and the foundation in place. If you work with your strengths and advantages, if you magnify them, while at least seeing to it that your weaknesses are not easily exploitable, you will find yourself in a strong position indeed, and that is the very essence of developing your style. Set yourself up in a position of dominance and security. Go back and re-read selected sections of this guide as applicable to your current game and situation and apply them to magnify your strengths and cover your weaknesses.

                      Play carefully, yes, but more importantly than even that, play decisively. Make a decision and ram it down the throats of your collected opposition. Dictate terms to them with your play style as much as you can. Even if you are playing the most passive of Builders, you will find yourself in a position to do this by selectively strengthening certain of your rivals with technological advantages, while keeping other rivals down by refusing them.

                      Developing Your Focus:

                      To a degree, the lay of the land outside your bases production radii will determine how those squares are terraformed, but where the differences are minimal (ie, an arid square isn’t going to be terribly productive, no matter what you build on it), make the selection that will further the ends of whatever “focus” you have adopted for yourself. Every crawler you put out in the field harvesting will magnify your focus by that much more. It’s an incremental thing, and spread over all of your bases, so you will likely not fully realize just how big an impact they are having, but once you have a few dozen formers out there collecting resources for you, stop for a moment and take stock of exactly what they are netting you every turn. You will find that they are paying for themselves very quickly indeed, and every turn after they pay for themselves is pure profit for you, in one form or another!

                      Again, the trick to making the best use of your crawlers is to stick to your focus as much as possible. If you’ve opted for a mineral focus, then get busy making as many boreholes as you can and watch the mineral production at all your bases go through the roof! Same with energy, but that is a little easier to see as you can watch the total income of your empire climb steadily higher, rather than having to check the mineral output of each base. Either way, the trick is to not get complacent with it. Anytime one of your bases has a little free time, use it to crank out some more crawlers. Even if you don’t have any squares ready for them to work yet, you can keep them around for when you DO have some more squares ready, and in the meantime, if an emergency arises, remember that your crawlers can be “cashed in” for their full mineral value to help rush build something you find yourself in need of.
                      The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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                      • #12
                        Studying the Meta-Game:

                        SMAC is a complex and multi-fasceted game. You don’t have to play it that way, of course. You can simply treat it as a conquest game, get your bases stable, crank out a gazillion units and march all over the globe. If that’s your style, and that’s what you enjoy, by all means, have at it! But there can be a lot more to the game....it can become an almost philosophic exercise, actually, and that is where the study of the metagame comes into play.

                        The Meta-Game, and the study of it, is all about taking a subtle control of the gaming environment, and going back to the earlier discussion on becoming a great player, learning to use your opponent’s own strengths against him, the Meta-Game is the foundation for how you do that.

                        The crux of the matter is this: There is no single, absolutely unbeatable strategy you can pursue in the game. No one can say to you: If you do this, you will always win. It simply isn’t so. Every strategy has weak spots which can be exploited. Every strategy is beatable by some other strategy. Certain broad-based ideas come into fashion for a while, and seem all but unbeatable, and then some wily warrior figures out a way to beat that style consistently and it falls out of favor in preference for something else, and the cycle repeats.

                        The heart and soul of mastering the Meta-Game lies in your ability to read the ebb and flow of the game you are in. Determine who’s winning and why they are. Then go to work finding a way to beat not them per se, but the reason they’re winning. Beat the reason they’re winning, and you beat them by default.

                        Here’s a fairly simplistic example: Let us say that you are playing a game in which Lal has become the T-Rex of the SMAC universe. It’s mid-game, and already he’s got a veritable horde of soldiers marching all over the globe. If something is not done to stop him soon, you will be hard pressed to stand against him.

                        Fortunately, you had the good sense to infiltrate him early in the game (before he got the Hunter Seeker), so you can spy on him to your heart’s content. Also fortunate, you’ve just launched your first satellite, enabling you to see all of his bases.

                        You’re at peace with him now (a truce), but periodically, he comes calling demanding money and the occasional tech. His mood is seething, and you know it is just a matter of time until relations break down and he comes hunting for you. Probably, he’s just waiting until he finishes stomping on the other factions.

                        After browsing through his empire, you stumble on the strength of his current position. He’s playing Hybrid style (all of his bases having fairly good infrastructure), with a Mineral Focus. He does not yet have Clean Reactors, but will have them soon, and his coffers are full enough to upgrade a good chunk of his army to clean, which will free up a huge chunk of his Empire’s productive capacity. If you’re going to stop him, you must do so before this occurs.

                        The key to his strength, you discover, is the sheer number of crawlers he’s got out harvesting minerals for him, and the large number of boreholes his formers have been able to construct. In fact, if he lost the crawlers, and his bases suddenly had to support his entire army, his production would shrivel up to almost nothing (unless he wanted to disband a good portion of his standing force). This makes you smile, because it just so happens that you have a couple of sea bases near Lal’s coast, and a quick count reveals that from those bases, a needlejet could reach the majority of his crawlers......

                        You’ve just won your first “Meta-Victory.” Discovering the opponent’s strength (heightened mineral production), and using it against him (when he suddenly finds himself without that which he has planned his entire game around, his Empire essentially grinds to a halt).

                        That, my friends, is the power of studying the Meta-Game. If you were to take a linear approach to beating Lal in the scenario outlined above, you would simply meet his army in the field, and it would be a long, arduous fight which you may or may not win, but by studying the depths of the game and unlocking exactly how Lal was able to rise to such a position of power, you figured out a much easier way to best him than beating his formidable army.

                        And that kind of analysis works in any situation you can imagine. Study the board, study your opponents, and unlock the secrets to why they are doing certain things well, then devise a plan to beat that element of their game. Beat that which they have all their hopes pinned on, and you force them to restructure their game. This will cost them both time and money, giving you leverage to proceed with your own plans.

                        Learn to do this well, and you will rarely lose a game.

                        The Late-Game:

                        Long before you get here (and generally, the Late Game is defined by the arrival of Habitation Domes), you have either won or lost the game, so there is little you can do at this point to save yourself if you’re losing ground. You get some attractive “Future Society” choices on the SE table, but these additional advantages will likely not be enough to turn the tide for you if you find yourself slipping. Chances are very good though, if you have followed the suggestions laid out in this guide, that it will be all over but the cleanup.

                        If you are losing though, don’t dispair. Take a look at your game and try to identify where you went wrong. A loss is but an opportunity for improvement. Simply locate the specific things you did to allow yourself to get beaten and change those behaviors in your next game.

                        Locking Things Down:

                        Assuming you have not encountered any bizarre or unexpected problems though, chances are quite good that all that remains in the late game is the mop-up. Even if there are some big Empires out there sabre-rattling, the game is over and they don’t yet realize it.

                        If you’re playing Momentum-Style, now is when you want to end whatever war you’re involved in currently as fast as you can, and go pick a fight with the biggest Empire still in the game. Hammer him relentlessly until he’s dead or submits, and then take out the next biggest. Your army is likely composed of nothing but Elite troopers at this point, and you can simply overwhelm your opponents with wave after wave of troops.

                        Hybrid or Builder Players: If you can keep the peace, you will likely be well set up to run for a Transcendence victory, but if someone wants to pick a fight, now is the time to carry it to them. Do not be intimidated! The late game belongs to Builders (and Hybrids, to a lesser degree), so you will likely have all the important advantages on your side if you choose to fight, and these advantages, combined with the vast efficiency of your Empire, will be more than enough to end the fight very quickly indeed, and at this point too, your infrastructure will be sufficiently developed that you can literally fight the war with “one hand tied behind your back.” That is to say, at this stage in the game, you need not scrap your plans to go for a Transcendent victory if someone wants a fight. You will, more often than not, be able to use less than half your bases for cranking out war materials, leaving the other half to focus on continuing the buildup and preparation for Transcendence. This is the true strength of Builder style. It is the moment you have been playing toward for the whole game. Make the most of it.

                        Final Notes/Odd Musings:

                        One final thought as I sit here late at night and ponder. Scout-bombs. Most often, this is a desperation tactic, but it is a useful tool nonetheless. It’s somewhat limited in its scope, but consider this: If your opponent approaches you stacked en masse to avoid subversion, try sending out a 1-1-1, cheapo scout patrol and “detonate” him next to the stack. A very cheap way to cause collateral damage to all the units in the stack, and if the units in that stack are already damaged, you might get lucky and score one or more kills with your sacrificial unit. In any case, it’s a good reminder to your opponent that mass-stacking can be just as dangerous as leaving his units separate and subvertable.....

                        Trickery and Guile:
                        Here, at last, is the crux of the matter. The mechanics of battle are not a matter of debate. We KNOW, for example, that the base power of an Impact Weapon is 4. We KNOW that Synthsteel has a defense of 2. We can therefore conclude that if a 4-1-2 Rover meets a 1-2-1 Infantry out and about someplace, odds are very good that the rover will return home and the infantry unit will not. Most of the time, it happens that way, but sometimes not…..sometimes not…and that is where greatness lies.
                        This section of the article will attempt to teach you everything I know about winning supposedly un-winnable battles. This is horribly unconventional stuff, and I’m sure a lot of people will howl and refute it. A lot of people will read this and say or think to themselves: “Well, that’s cool, but **I’d** certainly never fall for it,” or something like that. I’m expecting that kind of reaction. I love that kind of reaction. And who knows, maybe they’re right. Maybe they really WOULDN’T fall for any of the stuff you’re about to read, but again, I can only say this: I win more often than I lose, and I can tell you that when you’re neck deep in a tense game, and if you are presented with an opportunity, and all your intelligence efforts tell you it’s okay to pursue it, even if every nerve ending in your body is screaming at you that it’s a trap, nine times in ten you’ll do it anyway. I’ve seen it happen too many times. People allow themselves to be lulled and deluded. People get complacent. They get comfortable. And they get beatable.

                        Here is a shopping list of specific things you will find me doing in my games to bewilder, confuse, confound, and generally irritate my opponents. I call it my “thing list” for lack of a better term. Enjoy, and may you constantly give your enemies the willies….

                        The First thing: Attitude is everything. Be confident, but don’t get cocky. Be sure of yourself and what you are doing. Be efficient. If you’re read every word in this guide up to this point, you should be getting pretty good at those things, and you have an excellent foundation to build upon.

                        The Second thing: Use “Messenger Units” frequently. Think about how this looks from a multiplayer standpoint: Suddenly, from out of the blue, here’s a morganite impact rover on my turf. How’d he get there without me noticing? Is he alone? And, even more unsettling than that, WHY is he there? Is he just passing through? Or does he represent the leading element of a massive invasion force? But wait! The Morganites are my allies! AND, last time I checked, he was running Market, so what the Hell…… You see how it goes. The unexpected arrival of forces (even a single unit) in a rival’s territory can make him start to second guess himself, and that’s all you need. Maybe that single unit trolling around and doing nothing in particular on the fringes of his territory will cause him to change the production in three or four of his bases. If so, what did that net you? Turn advantage! Also, you can force your opponent’s hand in this way. Maybe he was planning to attack you anyway. You’ll find out soon enough, because if so, he will not tolerate your units in his territory, and will move to do something about it. So be it.

                        The Third Thing: Allow your opponent to do a lot of the grunt work for you. Want a secret project, but you’re too busy building infrastructure and prototypes? Great! Keep an eye on exactly WHERE secret projects are being constructed. By mid-game, players will usually just start projects “wherever,” as bases finish up the latest facility they were working on. And frequently, that means that a border base will assigned to do secret project work. Wait til it’s finished, save your money, and subvert it! OUCH!

                        The Fourth Thing: If your opponent can do something better than you, let him, and then make him regret it later! Specifically (from Tokek’s game, not long ago): Yang captured one of Lady Dierdre’s bases and started making use of his nice industry bonus to crank out a lot of garrison units. My recommendation was to let him build up a bit, and then subvert the base back, on the thinking that Yang could build the units a lot faster than Deirdre could, and subverting the base after it was well-garrisoned would be worth several turns of turn advantage. This also works well with any faction that gets “free” base facilities. Why bother building colony pods when you can subvert Zak’s newly founded bases AND get a Network Node too! Not to mention, doing this will utterly terrify your opponents, as they wonder if this was just a “Nettle,” or if you’re up to something more ominous. This goes back to using your opponent’s strengths against him, and here’s a faction by faction outline of a few things you can do:

                        Against The Hive: Let the good chairman build sea bases for you. He generally LOVES to surround factions with sea bases, and they’re almost laughingly easy to subvert. So, let him use his industry and growth bonuses to your advantage!

                        Against The Morganites: Bully them! They make a lot of money, but under computer guidance, they’re wimps! Bully and badger them til you break the bank! If he get’s rowdy with probe teams, send him a little present in the form of about three dozen mediocre troops with polymorphic encryption and LET him subvert them. He’ll blow all his money grabbing your average troops, and then you can send in the real invasion force. Even the Morganites have their limits, and without any money, he’s a pushover. Alternately, keep taking the same base with your units and LET him steal it back. Repeat til he’s broke, and unable to cause you further grief. Morgan without money is like a tiger without teeth. Big cat, but not particularly threatening.

                        Against the Gaians: Their main strength is Psi combat, and their ability to cozy up to planet. Most obviously, build lots of trance and empath guys to even yourself out with them, but also, send armored formers into their territory and strip out their worm-farms. Likely, they’ll be relying heavily on those in the early game to augment their otherwise average troops, and that heavy reliance can easily be their undoing. Besides, in a lot of cases, a former in enemy territory is more threatening than a shard invader!

                        Against the Believers: She wants to attack first....ok. Let the wench. Bulk up your garrisons in embattled bases, use lots of ECM troops mixed with AAA guys, keep TONS of probe teams handy to counter her attempts at getting decent tech, rush perim defenses and tachyon fields wherever she attacks and THEN see how her vaunted 25% attack bonus fares. But, more often than not, she’ll attack anyway, and quickly be out of your hair.

                        Against the University: Ahhhhh technology. The pride and joy of the good Professor. But they don’t do him any good unless he can turn them into THINGS, so don’t let him. Feint him to death, and bleed his energy reserves per Morgan to keep him broke and unable to rush build. Keep him so busy wondering what you’re up to that, techs or no, he won’t be able to react. It’s very easy to paralyze this faction with an aggressive stance, and lots of nettles and feints. Even human players who favor the University tend to fall for this more often than you’d expect. It’s strange, and rather amusing at times.

                        Against the Spartans: Subversion. Their units are awesome! And wasn’t it nice of Santiago to deliver a whole bunch of them right to your door!

                        Against the Peacekeepers: Ahhhh, but here’s the crux of it. Nothing in the game mechanics to exploit, so you’ll have to study whoever is PLAYING the Peacekeeping forces and use the PLAYER’S strengths against him. Is he aggressive? Is he the consummate peace-keeper? You’ll have to get a bit creative here, but you’ll find the strengths and weaknesses of his style, and you’ll be able to use both of them against him.

                        The Fifth Thing: A small, but important thing. Don’t sit in a comfortable chair! Don’t allow yourself the luxury of comfort. It will relax your mind and take away from your focus. I play all my games in a straight-backed, wooden chair. Yes, I get stiff and sore, but it is an important reminder.

                        The Sixth Thing: Every ten turns or so, pretend that you are seeing the map for the very first time. Scroll all around the globe and look at things from that perspective. You’ll be amazed at how revealing that can be.

                        The Seventh Thing: Anything you can do, your opponent can do to, so don’t read too much into what you see. Look at it, acknowledge it, and don’t let it distract you in the least.

                        The Eight Thing: Huge, important thing. DO NOT THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! If you start thinking too much, you start second guessing yourself and then you get all confused. **Feel** the game, don’t think it. Every game has it’s own unique pulse and rhythm, and that is why I love it so much. It’s a completely different experience every time. Pour over the map and study everything. Feel the ebbs and flows in the undercurrents of the game. Very often, human players advertise their intentions LONG before they carry them out, and you can make people believe you are psychic when you are ready for their attack before they even put their army together! Paint the tapestry of your grand plan with a broad stroked brush, and let the details fill themselves in.

                        The Ninth Thing: Be impassive. Be patient. Never allow yourself to be goaded into action. Likely, somebody who’s read this or who has come to these conclusions independently is lurking out there, just beyond your field of vision waiting to pounce on your for being foolish.....disappoint him.

                        The Tenth Thing: Never accept a setback as a setback. FIND a way to turn it into an opportunity! Did the worms come and rape your newly formed base? Okay, take the opportunity to see if maybe you could have located it in a slightly more advantageous position. Take the time to build the sensor where you want the base to go, so when you put it back, it’s harder than ever to remove. Work with the flow of the game, not against it.

                        The Eleventh Thing: Devise your battle plans under the thinking that your opponent will fight the perfect battle. Of course he’ll make some mistakes, and when he does, it will make your conquest easier than you expected it would be.

                        The Twelfth Thing: If you are at peace, plan for the day you must fight. If you are at war, plan for the day you will finally be able to put your sword over the mantle and get back to building.

                        The Thirteenth and final Thing, that which brings us full circle, and brings this newest addition to the strategy guide to a close: Trust yourself, and at the same time, have nothing but the deepest respect for your opponents. A certain, healthy level of nervousness heightens the senses and makes you come alive. It is the thing which forces you to stretch yourself beyond what you might normally think you are capable of, but too much nervousness leads to fear, and fear/uncertainty leads to paralysis, which can only have one possible outcome: Defeat. Respect your opponent because only when you have a deep and abiding sense of respect for him and his abilities can you fully appreciate his position. And once you can fully understand and appreciate his position, you can walk in his shoes. See the world from his perspective. Do that, and you will very, very seldom lose.

                        So what’s next?
                        I could keep writing and adding to this guide book forever, but that wouldn’t do anybody much good, and eventually you’d get bored with it, so I’ll stop here and wish you the best of luck. I intend to get a lot of feedback on this little guide from a number of friends I’ve made on the forums, and may, after talking to them, add one or more sections to this thing.

                        Again, much luck to you, and I hope maybe I’ll run into you in a live game at some point! :-)

                        We have an informal wargaming group here in Columbia that we call the War College. We meet semi-regularly, and I’m the defacto president (I buy the chips & drinks) :-) Seriously, I’ve been playing War Games longer than the other members, so I generally wind up teaching them. Here are some of the lessons drawn from the War College. Not all of these are lessons drawn from SMAC, but all of them are applicable. Anyway, for my own amusement more than anything, I’ve put a list of strategies (both general and specific), and general principles that I enjoy making use of. Maybe you’ll find this a completely useless section, but maybe it will help. :-)

                        Velociryx’s Goodie Bag & Guiding Principles:

                        * Ruthlessly violate any strategy you have ever read. Never accept anything as inviolable law. Challenge it. Stress and stretch it.

                        * Be noble, even in the face of terrible adversity. Purity of spirit and clarity of purpose are enormous advantages.

                        * Be very, very good. Be quick and fast and smart. Practice and hone your skills constantly. Never accept that you are the best. Deny it. Convince yourself you are struggling to keep pace even if you consistently set the standard. The first time you rest on your laurels will be the time someone sneaks up to pull them out from under you.

                        * Thin Expansion Rocks!!! (Thin Expansion = Makin’ TONS of colony pods as quick as you can to get bases started, and worrying about building them up later)....helps create that badly needed Turn Advantage)

                        * Think Probe Teams, Damnit!

                        * Every turn, you need to be able to answer the following question: “How will I defend myself if I’m attacked right now?” If you can’t, then you are asking for trouble.

                        * Every turn, you need to be able to answer the following question: “What can I do this turn to help get me more technologies?” If you don’t have a ready answer, you probably won’t be in the lead, technologically.

                        * Never, ever, EVER give up. If your opponent is beating you, he’ll likely get careless, thinking he has nothing to worry about. Exploit that and steal the game from him.

                        * Take your opponents by surprise. Try something weird and unexpected. Even if it’s not the best idea in the world, the sheer strangeness of it might be the thing that catches your opponent off guard and disrupts his plan. Make a list of weird things that work and use them (sparingly) again. :-)

                        * If you are weaker than your opponent, use Mind Worms. If you are stronger, use Technology.

                        *Put 3-4 missiles “on alert” in your border bases. GREAT point defense!

                        *The best way not to be defeated in the field is not to have a cohesive army. Your opponent should NEVER be able to look at the map and determine when and where you plan to strike. It should come as a complete surprise or you’re not doing it right.

                        -=Velociryx=-

                        ****If you'd like to see the very latest in Vel's strategic discussions, and get a sneak peek at some of the material that will be included in the "SMAX" (3.0) version of the guide, check out his web site at: http:\\clik.to\renaissance


                        [This message has been edited by Velociryx (edited May 04, 2000).]
                        The list of published books grows. If you're curious to see what sort of stories I weave out, head to Amazon.com and do an author search for "Christopher Hartpence." Help support Candle'Bre, a game created by gamers FOR gamers. All proceeds from my published works go directly to the project.

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                        • #13
                          £$()*)%!

                          Forum leader, please delete!
                          [This message has been edited by Simpson (edited October 20, 1999).]

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                          • #14
                            £$()*)%!
                            Forum leader, please delete!
                            [This message has been edited by Simpson (edited October 20, 1999).]

                            Does not compute

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                            • #15
                              ^

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