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Vel's Strat Guide - Version 2.0

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  • Velociryx
    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 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 is not really large enough to have a set "playing style." That is to say that any of these early game strategies can be pursued by equally well, regardless of the play style you eventually wish to fall into (Builder, Momentum, or Hybrid).

    Early Game Paradigm #1: Monster Terraforming Avantage

    Unless you're running democracy, each new base you found gets 10 free minerals. This means you can get your token scout patrol guard for that base for free the turn after you build the base in question. It also means you can add 25 energy credits to it (before considering industry bonuses or penalties), and get a former the turn after the base build, and THEN start work on your scout patrol. Depending on what you do with your former at that point (and to that end, if you’re going to uses this approach, pay very close attention to the Basic Terraforming section on the pages that follow), you can net yourself a powerful advantage indeed. The simple fact is this: you are competing in time with one or more opposing factions. The faster you can get your formers out and improving things relative to your opponents, the better off you will be, as it will give you the opportunity to make use of those improved production squares while your opponent is not, netting you a mineral, energy, and/or nutrient advantage over your opponent for each and every turn you are able to maintain that advantage.

    Keep doing that with every base you found, and over the course of the game this will net you a HUGE advantage, as each base’s former will gain somewhere between 6-10 turns of terraforming activity over and above what your opponent is getting. That’s six to ten turns per former you have out terraforming. To give that advantage some kind of tangible reference point, make the blanket assumption that an improved (terraformed) piece of real estate will net you 2 FOP’s (factors of production – energy, nutrient, or mineral) over and above what a non-improved land square will net you. Multiply that by 6-10 (from above – the number of “free” terraforming turns you can expect to get over and above your opponent, and we will assume ten, for simplicity’s sake), and further multiply that by the number of bases (formers, specifically) you’ve got. Whatever number you get is a fairly good estimate of the total advantage you’ve netted yourself (ie., If you have ten bases, each with a rushed former, your estimated advantage using the formula above would be (2*10) * 10 = 200 FOP’s. If you consider that a Trance Scout Patrol costs you 10 FOP’s (10 minerals, specifically), you begin to put the advantage in perspective. Of course, not all 200 of your FOP’s will be in the form of minerals. Likely, they will be a mixed bag of all three, but that’s okay too, because what it really means is that, relative to your opponent, your bases will produce more minerals more quickly, give you more money, and grow faster (which will enable you to make even MORE bases!). Keep this theory in mind for later, when we get to the economy section….we will build on it significantly.

    For the moment, simply understand that taking this approach will help you grow your empire more quickly than the norm, and it will also give you a viable intra-base infrastructure more quickly than your opposition can put together. Intra-base infrastructures consists of things like roads, bunkers, airfields, and sensor arrays.

    The beauty of this approach is that if you want to get a veritable HORDE of bases up and running quickly (sans infrastructure, but that will come later), then this is bar none, the best way to go about it. Build your formers first, and while your base is working on it's token scout patrol, you can be terraforming as mentioned above, and finish your first square at about the same time your scout is done....then get to work on those colony pods!

    The only infrastructure you will want to focus on with this style is Rec. Commons (and only then if it looks like your base will grow to size three before you could complete another colony pod at that base). The rest of your infrastructure will come after you've reached critical mass, or covered your entire continent in bases, whichever you choose.

    The number of your bases will grow exponentially, and you'll fill up the continent VERY quickly! (And, even though they will all be small, this will give you an ENORMOUS pool of resources to work with. You can visually divide up your empire in regions, and pick a certain base in each region for rapid development via rush building, to give each region a strong point). The exponential growth can be seen thusly: You begin with two bases, build two pods to get four....everybody builds pods (after the former/scout thing), and you've got eight before you know it.....16....32.....repeat as needed.

    Main weakness of this style: If you get unlucky, and the worms come calling in the few turns it takes to build the scout patrol after your former is out and working, you lose the base. It's an exceedingly fast style, but not without risk.

    Early Game paradigm #2: Security Over Speed:

    The basic assumption here is that, the world is a dangerous place, and you'd better be prepared for that. To that end, the build order is similar, but the timing is fundamentally different.

    1) Build your two bases. Keep your freebie scout patrol in one of them.
    2) The base containing the freebie scout starts working on a former first (and then builds a scout of its own). The empty base builds a scout first and then a former ((Stylistic Note!!: If you compare these two styles in play, you will see that the first style nets you about 8-10 turns of additional former operation, but does so at the expense of leaving the bases vulnerable for approximately 4 turns)).

    Terraform as mentioned in the next few pages, and the next build your bases will do will be another scout (which will eventually perform escort duty). In the meantime, your freebie scout is now available for exploration, and the bases are secure.

    After the second scout is built, they can accompany the formers if they want to do some exploring, or hang around in the bases until the colony pods are done.

    When the pod is done, the "extra" scout moves to the new site with the pod, so that from the get-go, the new base is protected (and you can change ownership of the scout to the new base by using Ctrl-H, when the scout is in the base square). The new base then builds a former/scout/pod and repeats the process.

    Main weaknesses: Overall, this is a good deal slower than the first method, both in terms of how quickly you get the pods cranked out, and in terms of how much terraforming you get done, but the trade-off is safety. If you're on a landmass with company, or are worried about worms, this is probably your best bet.

    Expansion Paradigm #3: Specialized Base Expansion

    This is great for people on small landmasses and for Marketeers. It's also great for multiplayer games at it increases your overall flexibility (at the expense of speed of colonization)

    The initial scheme runs pretty similar to #2 (above), keeping your freebie scout at home for a few turns until you build base guards, then, the focus turns immediately to Rec. Tanks (for the additional +1/+1/+1 kick per turn. Then build a pod, then a rec. common, and then back over to any one of the following: more pods, guards, prototypes, or secret projects (depending on your needs at the moment).

    The big strength of this paradigm is the fact that your bases will be exceedingly stable. You will only rarely experience riots, because your infrastructural development will be kept pretty well in time with your base's growth cycles. This style also facilitates an early switch to Market, and that's a HUGE boon! However, it is not without its drawbacks.

    The drawback here is a lack of speed. All that focus on base facilities means a slower rate of expansion. Yes, you will have stable, profitable bases, but you will also have fewer production centers. Depending on how your game developes, (and on local geography)that could be anything from a minor irrtation to a crippling disability.


    Expansion Paradigm #4: A Focus on factors of Efficiency.
    This focuses on the specific points in the game when extra drones are created by the growth of your empire. Here are the threshold points you need to remember:

    Huge Planet: 11 Bases
    Large Planet: 9 Bases
    Standard Planet: 6 Bases
    Small Planet: 5 Bases
    Tiny Planet: 3 Bases

    Go above any of these numbers on the planet of size 'x' and you get drones. Therefore, the idea here is to grow your empire in "spurts." Let's assume you're on a standard planet. Your first goal then, is to get yourself to six bases as quickly as you can. Use the methodologies in Paradigm #1 to do this.

    Once you are up to six bases, build a Rec. Tanks & a Rec. Commons, and then switch to Market and start cranking out pods again….you next goal being twelve (12) bases.

    Once you get to twelve, stop again, and build the Rec. Tanks and Rec. Commons at your newest bases, while your original bases go to work on more advanced facilities, then move to the next “tier,” of eighteen (18). Repeat until you have filled up the continent.

    The advantage here is that you solve the extra drone problem due to size, you blend speedy expansion with infrastructure builds, and you do it in relative safety. The drawback though, once again, is raw speed. This is still not as fast an approach as paradigm 1, but it is probably the most balanced of the lot.

    A quick note about SE choices in the Early game: You will find both Planned and Wealth hard to beat in the early game, and both of them together are powerful indeed!

    Both Planned and Wealth confer a +1 Industry, with Wealth adding an Economy kick, and Planned giving you a Growth bonus, and the good news is that a single facility (the Children’s Creche) can overcome the disadvantages of both of these SE choices!

    So, if you have Children’s Creche’s in all your bases, you’re looking at nothing but positives for running Planned/Wealth, and your bonuses (before you even consider faction-specific bonuses) amount to:
    +2 Industry (20% discount on all builds)
    +1 Economy (+1 Energy per base)
    +4 Growth (40% faster growth in all your bases, half coming from Planned, and half coming from the Children’s Creches themselves)

    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.

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  • Velociryx
    started a topic Vel's Strat Guide - Version 2.0

    Vel's Strat Guide - Version 2.0

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

    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!

    [This message has been edited by Velociryx (edited October 17, 1999).]