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Free Drones: the most powerful faction?

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  • Indeed, and that's not what I'm saying. Bear in mind that I only brought up this issue to point out the strengths of the Morganite faction, which I don't think I'd need to explain to either you or Chaos Theory. What I am saying is that while the support penalty is indeed significant, it's made up for by Morgan's other advantages, namely the initial influx of credits and extra economy.


    • Yeah, basically I was agreeing with you and disagreeing with the concept that crawlers balance out good energy income.

      If you play any good FMer (and Morgan is the best one) and switch to 70% labs, then every new base you set up should generate at least 4 lab points (and on the top of that, Morgan is quite likely to get PTS when Zak is working on VW). Neither Free Drones nor Yang's hongweibings will NEVER make up for that by churching out crawlers and crawling river tiles.

      Actually, I would go so far as to saying that due to inefficiency, 1 EC does not even equal 1 lab point. While playing Sparta or Pirates you can score 300-500 EC over 15 turns, it doesn't mean you can "buy" research, nor even industry (I mean, you still have to wait quite a number of turns before those crawlers reach reasonable price; you'll quickly run out of 500 EC if you rushbuy stuff in its first turn of production).


      • I'd say the runaway production of compounded supply crawlers (set to crawl forests) would easily make up for missing the early projects due to insufficient tech. What holds back Yang and Domai is the time it takes to get to IA. Morgan, played well, might already have the PTS and enough crawlers to make up for Yang/Domai's industry boost. Yang/Domai might be able to make up for this in turn by having spent early minerals on extra expansion, but this is less productive on harsher maps.
        "Cutlery confused Stalin"
        -BBC news


        • Huh?

          Why whould anyone think the Free Drones are the best faction?

          I certainly see why one could consider them powerful... but the best?


          • In the hands of the AI the Drones are useless. In the hands of a player its easily the most powerful.
            You don't even notice the penalties.


            • Well that's certainly getting close to a record-breaking 8 year gravedig. Someone needs to gravedig some old USENET or ARPANET into the present.

              As for the Drones, the first and most immediate thing you'll have to deal with is tech. It is absolutely crippling in the early game. No Formers least 2120. You can pop out colony pods yeah, but there's nothing else to do other than explore and pop pods. Are you going be able to grow as fast as someone who got two nutrient bonus squares on their starting base and who either forested them (arid, or flat & moist) or put a farm + solar on them? Heck no. Your colony pods might be cheap, but you still have to grow at a rate that will match your production rate.

              Actually as a Sparta fan, I would be very much pleased to have landed in the vicinity of a Free Drone player. Even with my mediocre skills I'm confident I can pull out the impact rovers and get done with it. At least it would be easier than a Yang opponent.


              • Originally posted by Morgan Everett View Post
                Why whould anyone think the Free Drones are the best faction?
                Because they are.

                So good I stopped using them. You just probe, probe, probe your way to victory. Your production bonus means you can steal every SP out from under the AI or out produce them during a war. When I would play them, I would be pumping out military units and probe teams at an obscene rate while waiting for he AI to discover a new tech for me to probe. It's been years since I played, but the only problem I remember with them is that the early game was fairly tough and you could lose early on if the circumstances were bad.

                Originally posted by 551262 View Post
                Well that's certainly getting close to a record-breaking 8 year gravedig. Someone needs to gravedig some old USENET or ARPANET into the present.
                Someone just necro posted in a 10 year old thread a few days ago:

                Not that I am wholly against such things, it was kinda nice to see this ol' place is still going.
                "They’re lazy troublemakers, and they all carry weapons." - SMAC Manual, Page 59 Regarding Drones
                "Without music, life would be a mistake." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
                "If fascism came to America it would be on a program of Americanism." -- Huey Long
                "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same in any country." -- Hermann Goering


                • Been lurking these forums for ages, long-time player of SMAC and SMAX here... (since the original CD version came out)

                  I personally prefer to play with Tech Stagnation, so that may somewhat bias my perspective, but I believe Minerals are often worth about 2.5 EC each in the early game, not 2.

                  Why? Because, aside from the fact that EC's can't support units; that's about the conversion-factor when using them for Colony Pods, Formers, or military units after the first 1-2 rows are complete.

                  A little under/over 2.5 EC per mineral (depending on the total cost, and often this is a mix of the 2nd-last row costing more EC/mineral than the last row). And, for much of the early game, you're better off cranking out Formers, CP's, and Scout Patrols/Rovers for exploration/defense. So much so that facilities are often a pointless distraction, and next-to-worthless by comparison.

                  Formers, in particular, are under-utilized: especially if you manage to snag the WP with some AA's and insta-builds...

                  The thing about Formers is they provide delayed gratification, so most players underrate them. But, for the cost of a single Rec Tank, you can build 2 Formers. Which, after 16 turns, can build 8 farms/forests or with WP a couple boreholes on flat or arid Mineral resources (rolling/rainy Minerals are usually better off with a Farm/Mine, for 5 Mins/2 Nuts at a much lower terraforming cost than a Borehole- which is 8 Mins/2 Energy, but takes almost twice as long, meaning you're giving up about 2 other Farms or Forests for the Borehole... Rolling/Moist tiles can be made Rainy with an adjacent Condenser/Farm...) That provides MUCH (with Forests, easily 4-5x higher yields for 2x the cost) higher ROI than the 1/1/1 provided by a Rec Tank (for, in a worst-case scenario of no free units left with the Free Drones prior to Planned or Wealth, or both Planned/Wealth for most factions, about 8 rows of Mineral cost over 16 turns...)

                  So, Former-spam makes a lot of sense so long as you have undeveloped land and enough workers to utilize it, which is especially the case if you're spamming CP's (smaller bases means fewer Nuts/pop are needed), building enough Farms/Condensors to fuel rapid pop-growth, and utilizing Nerve-Stapling to its fullest to basically ignore Drone problems from bureaucracy and pop-growth (in a PBEM, or before contact with AI players: who this should lead you to actively avoid early contact with if possible until you have such an enormous turn-lead you can afford to lay off the staples- as repeated Nerve Stapling will lead to them auto-declaring in patched SMAX...)

                  Utilizing these strategies, it's easily possible to have 30-40 CP's and bases (many CP's not yet settled by that point) before turn 60 in a Tech Stagnation game on a huge map with tight base-spacing... (why it's better to cram more bases into a tight area, rather than have fewer bases spread further apart, and to found the closer bases first unless there are rival factions or special resources, is a topic for another day...) donething which Former-spam greatly helps you along to by building the Farms/Forests to keep the CP's coming, the Roads to aid in forming/pod-setting, and the Mines/Solars or Boreholes/Condesors (with WP) to build up a tiny bit around Mineral/Nutrient/Energy resources (in order of importance, on Tech Stagnation- Energy becomes far more important without it though...)

                  Building out usually beats building up, and if you go hard-core enough on CP spam, you can even run 100% Econ for a while with some factions at little/no penalty, as the penalties for over-doing Econ round DOWN and seem to skip your first few Energy (meaning that at bases producing 3-4 or less Energy after Inefficiency, it's often not uncommon to suffer no losses from going 100% Econ. Labs penalties are applied more harshly though, so going 100% Labs is rarely optimal...) These EC's should then ideally be pumped into rushing CP's and Formers (which I basically build nothing but for the first 40-50 turns when REX'ing with Tech Stagnation) for even faster expansion. The larger your economy is, the greater the benefits will be in absolute terms for each tech when you eventually do start teching up... (I will often grab 2-3 techs, including Centauri Ecology and Planetary Networks, then start exclusively going 100% Econ until at least 2150 in Tech Stagnation, for instance...)

                  Many SP's (I'm looking at you, Merchant Exchange) are simply too expensive to be worthwhile until at least the mid-game, by which point some other fool will likely have gobbled them up. Recc Commons and Holo Theaters are next-to-worthless when you can just Nerve-Staple your early Drones... Rec Tanks and Peri Defenses are just too expensive for the benefit they provide compared to just rush-building more CP's/Formers/Scouts most of the early-game...

                  Anyways, having highlighted something of my, err unusual economic strategy most of the time, some of my favorite factions, those I believe to be most powerful, shouldn't come as much of a surprise...

                  Tech Stagnation:

                  #1 Free Drones (Industry bonuses are awesome, research is less important on Tech Stagnation- and occurs more slowly anyhow, allowing more time to leverage faster industrial growth into greater Labs production due to larger populations and better terraforming years down the line... As others have said, though, the Drones don't really shine until the mid-game: once the long-term benefits of the ICS/REX'ing and Former-spam they excel at really start kicking in, and their ability to adopt Knowledge values allows them to really out-tech the Believers...)

                  #2 Believers (Support basically equates to extra Minerals when you're spamming Formers and CP's- translating into rates of industrial growth that can actually *exceed* those of the Free Drones until they reach both Planned economics and Police State politics. Research penalties hurt less on Tech Stagnation than in normal games, and the military bonus is nice...)

                  #3 Hive (Industry is nice, but the lack of Efficiency penalties from Planned or Police State are the real kicker, and mean you should run both from early on in Tech Stagnation to fuel your Former/CP spam...)

                  #4 Peacekeepers (Beelining Ethical Calc and Planetary Networks for Democracy/Planned and pop-booming after some initial expansion is a VERY powerful strategy with the PK's: does mean you have to be slightly more careful about Nerve-Stapling though, as stapled bases can't GA...)

                  Standard Tech-Rates:

                  #1 Peacekeepers (I'm not kidding you: the PK's actually REX/ICS very well due to their Talent bonus offsetting Bureaucracy Drones for a long time, allowing them to avoid needing to Nerve-Staple their bases- pissing off other factions and thus preventing tech trades- and can build and tech up very effectively as well. Against humans, the PK's are also the only faction with a snowball's chance in a blast furnace of attaining a Diplomatic victory- which provides them with strategic flexibility others lack... And when it comes time to pop-boom up to size 14/16 bases using GA's, the PK's do that better than any other faction as well... The slow research of the Drones/Believers and low Energy production of the Hive are all much stronger hinderances at standard tech-rates, due to the much greater ROI on Labs...)

                  #2 Hive (sheer REX'ing/ICS can often overcome the Econ penalty to a large degree, although investment in Forests/Solars are definitely required... The Peri Defs also help against early rushes, and worms*- allowing more resources to be focused on growth instead of defense)

                  * If a Mindworm boil attacks an undefended base, the first thing that will happen is any Peri Defense or Pressure Dome (including ones from Citizen's Defense Force- which will NOT regenerate on their own) will be lost instead of a pop. Only THEN will further waves of worms proceed to start eating population- meaning Hive can actually forego Trance-Defenders or Sensors and Empaths on their bases most of the time, and focus on more mobile, offensive field forces (aided by a good road/sensor-network from Former-spam) to detect and neutralize enemy player invasions well before they reach Hive bases, with perimetered bases to fall back on as a last resort... (holing up in bases is usually a losing proposition in warfare anyways- your enemy will just ravage the countryside and starve/bombard you out with artillery, eliminating your ability to replace losses in the meantime...)

                  #3 Free Drones/Believers (the enormous Industry or Support advantages of these factions are invaluable for acquiring a strong economic lead... Econ should still be prioritized over Labs, and of course Probe teams to help avoid falling too far behind in tech... I haven't played these factions enough WITHOUT Tech Stagnation to say which is better... Police State/Planned is also not something players should be afraid of, and can be enormously helpful for the Free Drones with Former/CP spam, with the Industry/Growth and Support bonuses sometimes outweighing the inability to tech except using Librarians- at least for a short window in the early game- though later on you probably want to run Dem/FM or spam Probe teams to catch up in tech...)

                  #4 Morganites (the Econ bonus and 100 starting EC's are very nice, and actually help make the Morganites one of the best facs at ICS/REX'ing in the early game. But the requirement to build expensive Hab Complexes to build up even a little greatly slows down their continued ICS, their inability to run Planned makes it hard to pop-boom without both GA's and Creches, and their Support penalty and inability to run Planned combined with a lower pop-cap make it costly to war, as they are usually forced to switch to Green economics for conquest: which is why I place them behind PK's, Hive, and Drones/Believers despite their very considerable overall strength in the hands of a clever player...)

                  Most people won't agree with me- but I feel most players drastically underestimate the value of ICS and Nerve-Stapling, especially when playing factions not traditionally associated with them (such as the PK's, although I've been known to refrain from stapling as the PK's in solo play for roleplay reasons, and still sustain some very impressive economic and population growth...) But as for the most powerful faction on the game being the Free Drones- I agree, but ONLY when playing on Tech Stagnation... (the Hive and PK's can both out-grow them in standard games, due to the ability to quickly attain optimal early-game SE choices for each and the lack of a Research penalty, as well as the Hive's defenses allowing them to focus fewer resources on defense...)
                  Last edited by Northstar1989; September 9, 2018, 20:22.


                  • In my SMACX AI Growth mod, the power of all the factions has been rebalanced and reconsidered. The Free Drones can now go to size 4 before becoming unhappy. Their INDUSTRY bonus is only +1 though. Nobody else in the game gets an INDUSTRY bonus, it's now unique to them. Their research penalty has been removed. Yes they are powerful, but everyone else got changed around as well. I don't think they are any more powerful than my other factions.

                    I've made 20 releases and done lots of playtesting. This is no amateur effort, it's professional grade game design. Much more fine tuning than the original game did. Feel free to try.