Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire (SMAX)
System: Windows (PC)
Authors: Red Phoenix and Chris Hartpence (aka Velociryx)
Contact: Red Phoenix - firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris (Vel) - email@example.com
Version: 1.0 (08/04/00)
This FAQ is Copyright 2000 Jim Chamberlin a.k.a. Red Phoenix.
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Version - 1.0 - Released.
If you need to contact me for any reason, you can email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to contact Chris (Vel),
you can get ahold of him at email@example.com.
Table of Contents
Changes in Alien Crossfire
- Expansion and Growth
- Supply Crawlers
- Defining your Style
- Defining your Focus
- Early Game Secret Projects
- Comparative Turn Advantage
- Getting Ready for the Bad Guys
- Single Player Diplomacy
- Multi- player Diplomacy
- A Primer on Combat
- Basic Combat (Single Player and Multi- Player notes included)
- Expansion in the Middle Game
- Terraforming in the Middle Game
- Supply Crawlers
- Developing your Style
- Developing your Focus
- Creating Economy of Scale
- More on Combat
- Studying the Meta- Game
- More Single Player and Multi- Player Notes
- Locking Things Down
Final Notes and Odd Musings
The early human exploration of Planet found many mysterious signs pointing to
a long- vanished alien race. The questions raised by these discoveries were
soon answered when two alien factions arrived on Planet a few years after the
crash-landing of the "Unity." Their true motives were vague, but it appeared
they had returned to Planet to settle the fate of Manifold Six (their name for
Planet) and the grand experiment in which they were involved. The Usurper
faction has been pushing for the Progenitor race to exploit the powers of the
Manifold, and essentially set themselves up as gods. The Caretakers see Planet
as a sentient being, whose death would result from Usurper policies. Two scout
ships arrived in the space above Manifold Six to settle the issue.
Unfortunately for both sides (but perhaps fortunately for the humans on
the two ships were evenly matched, and nearly destroyed each other. Survivors
of the two factions managed to jettison in escape pods down to Planet's
where they prepare for battle, and for the day on which they can contact their
respective factions and send in reinforcements. If that day ever comes, human
existence on Planet will be in grave jeopardy.
The human factions must choose whether to band together to fight the
off-worlders, or side with the aliens as a means to ultimate victory. The
picture is further complicated by the rise of new human factions preaching
radical philosophies, from the Drones who seek liberation of the working
to the strange Cybernetic faction unleashed by amoral University researchers.
[Taken from Alien Crossfire Game Manual]
[A full story about Alien Crossfire may be found in my Alien Crossfire Story
Changes in Alien Crossfire
So, what's changed since Alpha Centauri? A lot! We've got new everything, or
so it seems.
New kinds of worms:
Yep....three of them, to be specific. First, Sealurks. Watch out for these
guys....they're rather similar to IoD's, except they don't act as transports and
tend to be "lone wolf" units. I've not had much luck in catching them (none,
actually), so I can't say either way whether they're any good as an addition to
your naval forces.
Next, Fungal Towers: I've never captured these guys either, and frankly, I doubt
it's possible. They get morale upgrades depending on how much fungus they're
surrounded by, and tend to spawn worms fairly regularly.
Finally, spore launchers: Artillery for worms, and they are annoying!
Oftentimes, when and IoD comes to pay you a visit, the Spore Launcher will not
land on the shore, but remain on the Isle, and snipe at your terrain
enhancements, forcing you to build an empath foil to deal with the IoD in order
to get rid of the sniper. UGH! (Alternate plan: Build an artillery unit of your
own and duel with the sniper).
Seven new factions:
Five human, two alien. You'll find details on the new bunch a bit later in this
New techs, weapons, facilities, and secret projects:
'bout half a dozen new techs, spawning a variety of new weapons and abilities.
I'll not go into specifics here, as all of this is covered elsewhere in the
guide, but suffice it to say for the time being that there are a LOT of new
capabilities you can give your troopers, opening up whole new vistas as far as
exotic and special purpose troopers go! The new facilities are great as well,
giving you base-specific probe modifiers, missile defense systems, additional
defensive bonuses and ways of getting better still production out of sea
Project-wise, it's a mixed bag, with far and away the most useful (overpowered!)
project being the Cloudbase academy. One thing further, the Hunter-Seeker
Algorithm has been weakened so that it's not quite the final word protection
against probes that it once was. Nonetheless, it's still a crucial project to
snag, but again, more on that later.
Bug Fixes....LOTS of Bug Fixes: Most significantly, artillery now actually does
something in the game, and on Transcend level, the maintenance cost bug has been
fixed, meaning that Transcend level bases are only one third as profitable as
they used to be, but that is as it should be.
Before we get down into the guts of the guide, let me outline a few terms you'll
see cropping up repeatedly, and before I do that, let me say this: There are
probably as many different approaches to the game as there are players who love
the game, but these (often wildly varying) approaches can, in at least a general
sense, be grouped into three basic categories or "styles" of play. Understanding
what is meant by each play-style is essential to understanding the viewpoint
from which the rest of the guide is written.
Builder-Style: Builders don't care much for fighting, preferring to cloister
themselves off on some small to mid-sized continent, terraform, build
infrastructure, and research new technologies. The hallmarks of Builder style
play are: 1) Long delays in prototyping new weapons and defensive systems, in
favor of constructing infrastructure, 2) The preservation of as close to 100%
of industrial capacity as possible in order to speed the completion of the
abovementioned infrastructure (in short, this means minimizing support costs),
3) very aesthetically pleasing empires in general (let's face it,
Builder-Empires just look cool!), and 4) Strict adherence to industrial caps,
with regards to ecological damages (i.e. - Builders spend a LOT of time
terraforming, and they don't like to see their efforts undone by sudden fungal
blooms, so you will seldom find any, and certainly no significant eco-damage in
a Builder Empire). For the reason of preservation of Industrial Capacity alone,
"Biogenetics" is probably a Builder-Players most treasured tech, and many a
Builder player will micro-manage his/her bases down to the unit level,
upgrading ANY unit which is tying up support costs.
Hybrid-Style: The Hybrid's main watch-word is Flexibility. He's the guy who
wants to be ready for anything that might come up, and while he greatly admires
the Builder's stunning efficiency and sterling industry, he also knows that
somewhere out there on the map, and maybe closer than he thinks, are people who
would like nothing better than to take it all away from him. To that end, the
Hybrid player makes some "strategic sacrifices," developing a stout standing
army as early as techs permit it, and upgrading and honing them constantly.
Often, the Hybrid Player has half (or more) of his army on the prowl, looking
for pods, and looking for potential enemies of the state. Yes, he's interested
in developing an economy to rival his Builder counterparts, but not at the risk
of being blind-sided by some fast-moving attacker.
Momentum-Style: Fast and loose! The Momentum player's main goal is to expand
with lightening speed, get a horde of small bases (production centers) up and
running, and then use them to build a war machine that is second to none, and
while he's getting his production centers geared up, his scouts are on the
prowl, a sharp eye open for signs of anybody else. The moment he finds someone
else, the real show begins, and the Momentum player is banking on the fact that,
because he's so active, even if you have a technology edge, he'll be able to
probe his way to technological parity and smash you with his relatively large
standing force. Bases are seen as little more than barracks, and not much
attention is given to infrastructural builds, beyond that which absolutely
essential (i.e. - network nodes, to cash in artifacts found or stolen).
Early Game: Generally describes the game up until the time all those annoying
restrictions are lifted, and before you get the chance to start playing with the
more interesting unit types. Specifically then, the techs that provide the
boundary to the early game are: Resource-Wise: Gene Splicing, Ecological
Engineering, and Environmental Economics. Weapon wise: Lasers (Applied Physics)
and Impact (Non-linear Mathematics) will be most prevalent (with Missiles
falling at the outer edge of the early game, much as Enviro. Ec,
developmentally). Defensively, you've got Synthmetal (Industrial Base), and
Plasma (High Energy Chemistry) with some interesting variance provided by 3-res
and 3-pulse armor, and of course, all units will be powered with the old-style
Fission generators (weakest, and most expensive).
Implications of the early game:
1) Stuff is expensive to build. The old generators are not cheap, to put it
mildly, and that's bad news for you, because you're mineral production is
wretched, and while there are ways to improve that, none of them will happen
quickly, or without a fair amount of planning on your part.
2) Terrain squares are not very productive. Pre-restriction lifting, you're
faced with a limit of 2r (r being whatever resource you're harvesting) in each
category, for an absolute maximum of six resources per square (i.e. - Monolith,
2r for each of the three resource-types).
Taken together, that's a pretty punishing two-edged sword. Not only are you
having to pay more for your early game units in terms of time to build, but
you're also faced with terrain squares that have limited value.
There is some good news though, in the form of special resource squares. These
squares are not limited by the early game restrictions, and as such, they should
receive your immediate attention. If you find one that's located in an
unattractive base-building spot, that's no problem....the moment you get
industrial automation, send a supply crawler out that direction and start
taking advantage of the resource! (and more about this in particular on the
section on Terraforming!)
The Middle Game: The Middle Game is bounded on one side by the lifting of energy
restrictions, the acquisition of Missile techs (with Air Power coming soon
thereafter), and the discovery of Fusion Power and runs all the way to the
acquisition of Hab-Domes and is where the bulk of your game will be played out.
Terrain squares get more productive as more terraforming options become
available, your formers get a ton of new things to do, and your units (both
offensively and defensively) become vastly more dangerous.
The Late Game: From Hab-Domes on. Generally, single player games don't last very
long once you get here, and few multi-player games ever make it this far, so
don't expect to see much of the late game, unless you really enjoy playing
single player mode, and really like to take your time.
Notes on stylistic approaches:
So, you've thought it over a while and settled on a style that's "you." Good,
because you'll need a well-organized, well-considered plan to proceed from, and
that's the first step. Whatever your style, your next step will be to select
specific technologies from the Tech-Tree that "play into" whatever style you're
For Builders, this means a straight shot to Industrial Automation for the
acquisition of Supply Crawlers, and from there, moving right on into the liftin
of those previously mentioned restrictions. Builders then, live and die by the
following five techs: Centauri Ecology, Industrial Automation, Gene Splicing,
Ecological Engineering, and Environmental Economics. The goal of the Builder
Game is to reach Environmental Economics as quickly as possible and create such
a vast economy in terms of total outputs, relative to the opposition, that when
the combat techs arrive (and wise Builders will begin pursuing them the moment
they get Environmental Economics), their superior economic sub-structure will
enable them to out-produce and out-tech everyone else in the game.
For Hybrids, again, with flexibility being the watch-word, the key technologies
in the early game are: Centauri Ecology, Industrial Automation, Doctrine
Flexibility, Gene Splicing, and Ecological Engineering. This gives you several
of the key advantages of the Builder Player, but also gives you more options in
terms of exploration and response to incoming threats.
Momentum players will want the biggest bang for their buck, and they'll want
that as quickly as possible, so for them, the key technologies are: Centauri
Ecology, Industrial Automation, Doctrine Flexibility, Non-linear Math, and
Ecological Engineering.. They're willing to work around the mineral restrictions
to get a decent army in the field, and many of the factions this group favors
come with support bonuses, giving them a relatively large number of "free"
troops anyway. A perfect example of this would be Miriam Goodwinson's
"Believing" faction. With their +2 Support rating, each of their bases gets four
free units. Figure one former and one garrison, that still leaves her two
attackers per base that can go out hunting. Multiplied out over ten or twelve
bases, and it's no wonder she's so feared by the Builder crowd!
As you can see, while there are key differences between the various styles of
play, there are also some similarities between the three styles, and two techs
in particular popped up all three times. These are quite possible the most
critical techs in the entire game. Centauri Ecology, and Industrial Automation.
If you have them, and your opponent does not, you are in a VASTLY superior
One final stylistic note to point out is this: Do not make the mistake of
believing that Builders never fight and Momentum players never build
infrastructure! All players of note will shift and change their strategies based
on prevailing game conditions, and because of that, these "styles" mentioned are
more archetypes than anything. They point to the tendencies and pre-dispositions
of players toward one end of the spectrum or the other. The implication is not
that Builders can only build, and Momentum players can only crank out an endless
supply of troops. I don't know of anyone who plays that way, and even against an
average player, such a strategy would come apart rather quickly. Essentially
then, the stylistic approaches speak more to the timing than anything else.
For Builders, the key to the game is the rapid development of infrastructure.
They figure that the faster they can develop vast efficiencies, the better off
they will be, and those greater efficiencies will enable them to quickly catch
up militarily in the midgame.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Momentum gamers recognize how much damage
a few early game attackers can do, and seek to maximize that damage against
their opponents, forcing their rivals to divert resources to deal with threats
to hearth and home, while the Momentum player is free to build infrastructure
without such threats.
In the center are the Hybrids, who will strike opportunistically (and divert
some portion of their early game resources to be ready to do that), but are
unwilling to go full bore in that direction, lest they fall behind in
It is possible to play any of the 14 factions in any of the three broad styles
outlined (Builder, Hybrid, Momentum), but some are clearly more ideally suited
to one style than another. Below, you will find an outline of each of the
factions (strengths and weaknesses in game terms), along with play notes and
tested, workable strategy tips for playing each faction in any of the styles
The Original Seven:
At a Glance: Extra Commerce income, +1 Economy, -1 Support, smaller bases, more
cash at start
General Notes: Probably the most underrated faction of the original seven,
Morgan is terrific if played correctly, but a novice will probably have to work
a bit to get the faction humming. This is mainly due to the fact that Morgan's
playstyle is somewhat different from the others. If you're playing Morgan, then
you've got to make the most of your one big advantage, and that's money. Morgan
is the only faction in the early game that can go to war and still rake in the
big bucks. Just run wealth, live with the Morale hit, and you make +1 energy per
square, and get an industry bonus to boot! Many people regard Morgan is
incredibly weak because of the smaller base size thing, but nothing could be
further from the truth. Wealth is an integral part of almost any Morganite
strategy, and Wealth comes with Industrial Automation, which also gives you
Supply Crawlers, a terrific Morganite Secret Project, and Hab-complexes, which
allows Morgan's bases to grow to size 11 without stopping. More pervasive a
problem for the faction is the support hit, which tends to reduce the total size
of the army you can raise (at least until clean reactors), but again, this is
largely offset by the acquisition of supply crawlers via Industrial Automation.
Need more troops? Just build a new base and some more crawlers! Viola! Support
issue rendered moot. Now I grant you, most Morganite players will tend to keep
expanding a bit longer than the other factions to keep pace with overall
population numbers, but in truth, another 1-2 bases will generally put you at
parity, population wise. It's just not that big a deal, and remember, if you get
the Ascetic Virtues, you're small base problem all but disappears anyway, and
the Living Refinery undoes your support problem once and for all (though at the
point you get it, you've usually had clean reactors for quite some time).
Morgan, the Builder: This approach to the Morgan game takes his mercantile
nature to heart. You don't profit by killing off your customers, and Morganite-
Builders can make utterly obscene amounts of cash. The commerce bonus gives you
the kind of windfall normally reserved for the Planetary Governor (magnified
further still if you ARE the Planetary Governor), and by running Free-Market,
Wealth, and "doping" your citizens into a golden age, you not only achieve pop-
boom status (if you're running Dem too), but also get +5 Econ, which does
amazing things to the energy you get from your base squares! A Builder game,
Morgan style revolves around defending all your bases with trance scouts until
you get clean reactors, and catching up on all your prototyping/building a
defense force at that point. In the meantime, all the money you're making each
turn, combined with the industry bonus from wealth, enables you to rush-build
your infrastructure with a speed that will make the other factions green with
envy. It's all too easy to beat out even Domai's vaunted industrial capacity
with Morgan's cash. As much as possible, the Morganite Builder will want to run
Dem/Market/and either Wealth (while building and enjoying the benefits of many
pacts or treaties) or Knowledge if an extra bit of research boost and efficienc
is needed. If you need to go on the offensive, your SE settings of choice will
be Wealth/Green, with or without Democracy (mostly depending on if you have
clean reactors or not yet), and if you want to push your labs up to 100%, run
Dem, Green, Wealth (+4 efficiency), make your +1 energy per square, and dump it
all into your labs. In this manner, you can out-tech even Zak, despite his
Even if you've got your heart set on playing the Builder game, you need to be
prepared for war, but the good news is that you start with Synthmetal armor, and
will find yourself only a few steps from Silksteel once all the early game
resource restrictions are lifted (though in most case, getting to Biogenetics
first, for clean reactors, will serve you better). Still, Morganite defenses
revolve first and foremost around covert ops. If an opponent builds a base too
close to you for comfort, either buy it and burn it down, or stack so many clean
defenders in it that, regardless of your almost guaranteed lower morale, your
enemies will have a hard time taking it back, and when fighting a defensive
campaign, the presence of Children's Creche's everywhere will offset Wealth's
only minus, putting you in reasonably good shape.
Morgan, the Hybrid: Industrial Automation is all the more crucial for this style
of play, as some portion of your industrial capacity will be tied up in the
maintenance of a standing force, and if you have to make use of that force to
launch an attack, simply drop out of Market in preference for Green, keep wealth
unless you just really need the extra morale percentages, and use Wealth's
industry bonus and your inherent cash to replace lost troops at a faster clip
than your opponents can kill them. Morgan excels at the art of attrition
warfare. It does not matter if your first unit makes a kill, because one of the
four of five coming right behind surely will, and you'll wind up with a core
force of elites (survivors of the many battles) in the end! Remember, it applies
to all the factions to a degree, but even moreso with Morgan: You should never
actually build the kind of unit you want! Build laser scouts or rovers, and
selectively upgrade your way to the kind of force you need, and don't worry
about ignoring the weapons techs in the early game. If you're behind,
militarily, just make it a point to capture an enemy unit with whatever weapon
you're looking for, and you can start building them as well, even if you don't
yet have the tech for it!
All the basic fighting strategies for the Morgan-Momentum game work just as well
for the Hybrid game, and unlike most other factions playing a Hybrid scheme,
you're cash position will be so good, that you can almost always make offensive
use of your probes. Do so!
Morgan, the Conqueror: Again, put your eyes, mind and heart firmly on the goal
of acquiring Industrial Automation. Crawlers, coupled with the building of new
bases, will quickly put you in a position where you will be able to crank out as
many, if not more troops than your opponents!
Two basic ways you can go about this are: Beeline for the Command Nexus to
offset Wealth's Morale hit, and rake in the cash while beating your opponents
with average to slightly above average troops, or, forget the money, run Green
(still beelining for the Doctrine: Loyalty) and beat on them with better than
average troops. Either way works, but running Wealth opens up more options for
you with Morgan, enabling you to offset your average troops with regular and
very active offensive probe teams, subverting a base or two to establish a
foothold, and then pouring your troops into it (and, if you really want to get
mean, run Fundy Wealth, to make it harder for your opponents to run probe
actions against you). The Support problem is offset by an early emphasis on
crawler production at all bases to spike up mineral outputs, and troops can be
easily reinforced by rushing selective defensive structures in captured bases
and by upgrading scouts produced to best/best configurations. Remember, as
Morgan, you have a far easier time at paying for a war effort as you go, because
you can get that magical +1 energy per square and still fight before Punishment
Spheres. Everybody else has to either wait till higher up on the tech tree, or
save for the invasion in advance. Use that to your advantage and attack earlier,
rather than later. Also, make active use of your probe teams to subvert enemy
troops, adding them to your available force pool. Best of all, you can compare
morale levels, and make suicide attacks with the worst of the lot, keeping the
best for "sure kills" and consistently raise the morale of an elite core of you
army, which will soon have you fighting on "Morale Parity" with whatever enemy
you are attacking, even if they began with an advantage in that department.
About the only person you'll be hampered against in the early game is Miriam
running Fundy, as that will shut down your probe actions, but even then, with
your better research rates, you should be at a higher tech level when you begin
your attacks, and a series of swift, hard, unexpected blows (and who the heck
expects Morgan to come out fighting?!) will give you all the edge you need.
University of Planet:
At a Glance: More Drones, +2 Research, -2 Probe, Extra Starting Tech
General Notes: Zak is plagued by drone problems, making the acquisition of
either the HGP or the Virtual World of Paramount importance. Fortunately, since
you start with the pre-requisite to Planetary Networks, it is often quite easy
to grab the Virtual World. Probe actions are expensive for you, and it's
relatively cheap for your enemies to launch probe actions your way, so guard
against that, and make the Hunter-Seeker project a high priority, but in the
meantime, bulk up on defensive probes. You'll need them. Your main advantage is
your labs, and whichever way you decide to run your game, your inherent research
advantages will put you ahead of the pack quickly. Persistence and good planning
will keep you there. Remember, you're getting the benefits of a no-maintenance-
cost Network Node from the first turn you found a base. Everybody else has to
build their Net-Nodes, and pay maintenance costs for them, so build bases like
crazy! Not only does this keep your bases smaller (to a point, offsetting the
drone issue), but it also makes your colony pods VERY good investments for the
Zak, the Builder: This approach plays to your native facility. You're already a
step ahead of the game, and if you get the Virtual World, then you're two big
steps ahead of the game, as it totally negates your factional drone problems for
bases size 4-7 and gives you two free facilities at each base you build. That's
two less items on your infrastructural list, which makes building the rest that
much easier for you. If you're playing the builder game, your main goal after
restriction lifting should be to secure the Planetary Energy Grid to get yet
another free, and maintenance free facility. Then, each time you build a base,
about all you need to do is toss up a Tree Farm and a Creche, and you're ready
to boom! (Building the Research Hospital as the base grows each turn). Nobody
can build peacetime infrastructure faster than Zak, because the others don't
start with a free peacetime facility. Morgan comes close, but even his vaunted
money can't touch that. If you speed-build selected bases, you can turn those
over to the production of battle-capable prototypes far more quickly than other
builder factions, and be in a more classically "Hybrid" stance than most running
this type of game. The two things you need to be ever-watchful for though, are
covert attacks made to attempt to catch up to you, technologically, and, if you
do plan an invasion, you will need to save cash for it in advance, because when
you drop out of Market, most of your money dries up too (if you want to keep a
decent research rate while warring).
Zak, the Hybrid: This approach plays to your ability to rip through the early
game tech tree much more quickly than anybody else. You can be running
Planned/Wealth by the early twenties if you set your mind to it, and specialize
your bases out, with the fringe ones doing early war-tech prototyping, and your
inner core working on infrastructure. Best of all, you can get to Industrial
Automation that quickly, and still go back and pick up Mobility and Flexibility,
generally ahead of those who beeline straight for them (exception: The Spartans,
who are only one tech from Flex at game start). This means that you can get
probe foils in the water plenty early enough to send them out exploring, and
infiltrate most of your opponents' datalinks before they can even mount a good
probe defense, which a crucial play. Combat wise, again, thanks to your free
facility, you can pay comparatively less attention to your infrastructure and
focus more on the warring techs, again thanks to your free facility. You can
also let current game circumstances dictate exactly how your research edge is
used, magnifying your advantage depending on the prevailing climate of the game.
If you're isolated, fine. Drop to peace-time expansion till something develops,
but if you've got neighbors close at hand, you can carry the fight to them
Zak, the Conqueror: Simply put, while everybody else is spending time and energy
to get where you start from (i.e. - the building of Network Nodes), you can be
building fast attackers to take their bases! About the only group that can do
this as or more quickly than you are the Spartans, and that's only because of
where they begin on the tech tree. Theirs is a short term advantage in the sense
that, research-wise, there's no way they can keep up with you. Even a heavy
builder focus won't do it. This is a huge advantage, and if you put your mind
to researching nothing but combat techs, you can have enough impact rovers for
a good early game rush by the early to mid 30's! Except for the previously
mentioned exception, nobody can top that, and that kind of raw speed plays well
for a momentum game. If you find somebody on the continent with you, this is the
kind of speed that will win you the game, and, once you make a couple of early
kills to put you in a position of dominance, your faction is better suited than
most to rapidly shifting gears.
At a Glance: +2 Morale, +1 Police, Free Prototyping, -1 Industry
General Notes: You've got the all around best, most balanced fighting force in
the game. True, Miriam has an edge when attacking, but your bonus helps both
attack and defense, and the free rover at game start really helps you if pod
scattering is on, enabling you to pick up a larger than normal share of Unity
Pods, and more intangibly, enabling you to build your bases with a better
understanding of the map you're playing on (meaning simply that your bases will
tend to be better arranged on the map, thanks to a more complete understanding
of the continent as a whole....most people have to build their first few new
bases somewhat blindly if they want to expand quickly, but this is not the case
for you). Also, the Police bonus mitigates the effect of running Market, and
enables you to forestall (or, depending on SE choices) do away almost entirely
with drone control facilities, saving you time on infrastructure. The free
prototyping is not a huge advantage until later on in the game, as all early
protos can be completed with a single cashed in supply crawler anyway, but it's
still a marginal advantage, and should be exploited whenever the opportunity
presents itself. The industry hit hurts, but no more so than Morgan's support
drain, and you can get back to "normal" Industrial capacity by simply switching
to Planned. True, you take an efficiency hit, but that in turn can be undone by
building Children's Creche's, rendering your negatives easily dealt with and
gotten around. The Command Nexus is a very attractive project for you, and
you're pretty well suited to getting it, as it is only one tech away from you,
and grabbing it will give you hands down, the best troops in the game until the
advent of bio-enhancement centers, which will bring the rest up reasonably close
to your troopers. The Spartan's main strength though, lies in the fact that they
need not necessarily make use of their army to instill fear. Just the simple
knowledge that the Spartans are out there is oftentimes enough to give others
Santiago, the Builder: It takes you slightly longer to get your infrastructure
in place than the rest, but the police rating helps in that, again, you can
delay the building of drone control facilities, and once you DO get the
infrastructure built, it serves you just as well. In the meantime, you have
seasoned troops to defend your holdings with, a thing that cannot often be said
of other Builder factions. Because of this, and because it's common knowledge
that the Spartans can more than hold their own in a fight, you are uniquely
positioned to build in relative safety. Think of it as classic isolationism,
and most Momentum folk are looking for soft targets, something the Spartans have
never been accused of. Add to that the fact that most of your opponents will not
be expecting you to play the Builder's game, and that alone can often buy you
the time you need to get the bulk of your infrastructure in place. Once it is,
it's a simple enough proposition to take a look around the map and reassess your
current situation, and again, if somebody decides to play rough and tumble with
you, then they're just asking to get pasted.
Santiago, the Hybrid: Your starting tech makes you a natural at this. You're
only a single tech away from Doctrine: Flex, and only two away from running
Planned and getting probes. Taken together, that alone puts you in a strong
Hybrid stance (and if you get the Virtual World project, you will almost never
have a drone problem). Others need to build command centers just to get to where
your troops start, and because of that, most factions will think twice about
attacking you, and with even a single Monolith someplace in your territory, and
building a Command Center of your own, it's easy for you to put together a core
force of elite whatevers to attack or defend with. You have normal cash and
research rates, which means, thanks to a slightly lagging industry, that you
might be a bit behind the curve, tech wise, but a bit of luck with pods (which,
as mentioned, you have an advantage in getting) will easily balance that out,
and oftentimes, those pods render your industrial lag moot, as they "autofinish"
whatever you were building at the closest base to the pod you just popped. All
in all then, a Hybrid approach is very easy to play with Santiago.
Santiago, the Conqueror: This is probably the easiest way to run the Spartans,
and it is a no-brainer. You've already got rovers. It's a short hop to Impact
weapons, and a short hop from there to global conquest. All of the speed work I
have ever done on early transcendent victories has been with the Spartans, and
with good reason. Quite simply, nobody can put together a crack attack force of
high-morale impact rovers faster than Santiago. Zak might be able to get them
about as quickly, but they still won't be as well trained, and in battle, that
will be the telling difference, and in the early game, four rovers is about all
you need to utterly lay waste to an enemy empire (Yang not withstanding....
thanks to his perimeter defense network, but even then, a probe action against
the base in question can render his key defensive advantage useless). If you
want a fast and furious game, build four Impact rovers and send them hunting
while you build up your Empire. When they find someone, you'll be amazed at how
much damage and terror they can spread, and at nominal cost to you.
An important footnote here is that with Santiago, you can do reasonably well at
fighting sans Punishment Spheres under Market conditions, thanks to your police
At a Glance: +1 Planet, +2 Efficiency, -1 Police, -1 Morale, auto-capture first
worm, +1 Nutrient (fungus)
General Notes: The efficiency boon is terrific, and if you had a good way to
rake in the energy (Free Market), your faction would be almost unbeatable. As it
stands, about the only way you can do it is via Golden Ages, which, while
workable, is far from being as good, since the money invested in Psych detracts
from the total cash earned. Still, you've other important advantages that make
up for your lack of raw energy. Specifically, you are good at "channeling" what
energy you do get. Run either Dem or Green and you have a paradigm economy,
allowing you to run either 100% cash or labs and rake in a respectable amount.
Again, the drawback is that you can either have good income or good labs, but
only average both if you keep your allocation at 50/50. The trick then, is
knowing when to do which, and the approaches will vary (see below). Regardless
of your playstyle though, you have two other important advantages which will
serve you well. The first is the ability to draw resources from fungus squares.
This helps your early game immensely, and means you have to spend comparatively
less time terraforming (and you get Centauri Ecology at game start), to get your
bases productive. The second is the ability to catch mind worms, with the added
bonus that your first worm capture attempt is always successful. Goal number one
then, is to send your scout patrol out trolling for worms! When you find one and
catch it, you have the perfect pod-popping unit (assuming pod scattering is on),
because even if the pod in question unleashes more worms, they will ignore your
native life form, leaving it to you to either try to catch them and add them to
your force, or move on to the next pod. Repeat this process when you get
Doctrine: Flex and gun skimships, and you're pretty much set for the whole game,
as IoD's (Isles of the Deep) make tremendously good pod-poppers, scouts, and
transports....very versatile units!
Deirdre, the Builder: Forget the money. Beeline for Dem, and make the switch as
soon as you can, netting you a paradigm economy, and +4 growth (when you build
creches). At this point, you can slam your labs to 100% and keep pace with the
best researchers in the game. True, your income suffers, but you can ease back
from 100% periodically to save up more cash, and once you arrive at restriction
lifting techs, you can reverse that for a time, effectively turning labs off to
help you rush through infrastructure builds. Also, when you're ready to boom,
you merely add Planned to what you've already got and giant bases are yours!
Again, your research efforts are helped, if pod-scattering is on, by the
presence of your mindworms, and, since you cannot run Market, you will be
spending the whole game actively exploring, so if you find others who are
running Builder or Hybrid styles (and making regular use of Market), a few
probes into their territory with your mindworm force just might be sufficient to
scare them away for Market (to avoid fighting a losing battle with your worms).
Of course, this is an early game advantage, rendered much less effective once
Secrets of the Human Brain are discovered, but the implications are that, if you
spend a bit of time focused on catching 3-4 worms, you can keep your builder
stance and put together enough of a force to effectively worm rush someone. Your
troops aren't great, but Children's Creches are an excellent build for you, as
it helps with both troop morale and further enhances your Empire's efficiency.
Deirdre, the Hybrid: As with the Builder Game, capturing worms is important, and
even moreso for the Hybrid game. You will definitely want to make early use of
the worm rush if at all possible. Essentially, this is a denial strategy, added
to the usual Hybrid mix. The goal is not so much to succeed in taking out an
empire (though by all means, do so if you can), but to force them away from a
Market Stance and slow them down, enabling your 100% lab focus to blow past
them, tech wise (Note: The reason it is important to force your opponents away
from Market is simply that, Dem/Market at 70%, despite the inefficiency, can
out-tech Dem/Green at 100%). You'll probably be stuck using your probes
defensively, unless you pull back from your lab focus in advance to horde cash,
and again, with the Gaians, it is almost always more productive to run either
100% labs or 100% economy. To keep a 50/50 stance with this faction undoes one
of your chief advantages. The real trick to playing this faction is in knowing
when to run which setting, and that is determined by prevailing game conditions.
Hybrids will probably want to run both Dem and Green unless game conditions turn
nasty, in which case, the Hybrid player will likely drop Dem to go on more of a
war footing, again, relying heavily on Native life forms to offset your
otherwise less-than-remarkable troops.
Deirdre, the Conqueror: Go Native! Forget Dem. Beeline for Flex and Planetary
networks (Probes and boats), then to Green, catch as many worms as you can, run
Econ. at 100% and build lots of probes. The probes will make up for your lack of
research, infiltrate enemy datalinks, and augment your native attack force with
captured enemy troops caught alone and in the open. Plus, the worms don't care
what techs your opponents have and you're the best Psi-fighter in the game,
especially if you zero in on Market-loving Builders (who probably also have a
lot of nice techs you want). Again, the worm rush is vital to your success, so
do not delay in building up your native attack force and constantly be scouting
for opponents! And, once your attack force is on its way, focus on spreading
your empire, growing lots of small bases to offset Green's growth penalty (you
hardly feel it from size 1-2 bases)
The Lord's Believers:
At a Glance: +2 Support, +1 Probe, -2 Research, -1 Planet; 25% Attack Bonus
General Notes: A superb faction, helped greatly by the Support bonus. The
Believers get off to a slow start, but this need not be a crippling
disadvantage. One good thing about it is that your bases will be laid out bette
on your continent, as you will generally have more time to explore before you
can start expanding. The planet negative puts you at a slight disadvantage when
fighting the natives, unless you attack first, which more than negates your -10%
penalty, and the Support boon lets you field more units per base in any event.
Also, your attack bonus allows you to work your way to "Trans-elite" troopers,
giving you an extra point of movement, and a 25% attack bonus above and beyond
what everybody else gets too. Also, the ability to switch to Fundy and render
your bases and units immune to subversion is a HUGE advantage! Oh, and remember,
Miriam is the only faction in the game that can run Dem and still build a new
base with free minerals! (The key advantage here being that you can have
comparatively more bases before you start getting drone warnings due to size). A
word of warning with this faction: If you are attacked by a psi-force, get as
far away from Market as you can. In fact, it would be far and away in your best
interest to run green when faced with such an attack, cos if you ARE caught by
the worms while running Market, even with trance or empath-assisted troopers,
there's almost no way you can win, especially if those worms are being
controlled by Cha'Dawn or Deirdre.
Miriam, the Builder: This might seem like a contradiction in terms, considering
the slow start with research and the twenty percent higher tech costs, but in
truth, you can offset both of these things with relative ease. Once you get
Centauri Ecology, the boost in support enables you to crank out an obscene
number of formers, very quickly moving to terraform the entire continent, and
making all your bases that much more productive. Not to mention the fact that,
as with the Spartans, most people will be content to leave you be if you play a
Builder game, and odds are, they're just breathing a sigh of relief that you're
not attacking them! If you ARE attacked however, your best chance at defending
is with an active stance, using pre-emptive strikes to take advantage of your
native 25% attack bonus and running Fundy to prevent subversion. Research wise,
even when you're running Fundy, Network Nodes everywhere gives you a net gain
of +10% to your research rates. Not nearly the boost it gives others, but then,
you'll only be running Fundy if there's trouble brewing, otherwise, you're
better served by some other SE choice (Dem springs immediately to mind here).
You're cash is good (ability to run Market), your troops are good, and you can
offset the research hit by a program of steady builds and active probe teams to
keep up until your infrastructure is in place. The Miriam Builder game is by far
the most active of the lot, as she must make early and regular use of probes to
keep pace until the infrastructure is in place, but it's quite easily pulled
Also note here, that when you play the Builder's game with Miriam, you will want
to be very careful and specific about when you run Fundy. True, it gives you
almost total immunity to enemy probe actions, but it utterly kills your
research, regardless of your infrastructure, so use it only when pressed, or
when pressing an attack against someone else.
Miriam, the Hybrid: Miriam's Builder game is so active that there really aren't
many differences between it and the Hybrid game, except that, where the Builder
will focus mostly on early game formers, the Hybrid Player will take a few of
those "free unit" slots and use them for the building of Prototypes, sending
them out hunting in much the same way that the Deirdre Hybrid player uses her
native life forms.
Miriam, the Conqueror: Again, like the Spartans, this one's a no-brainer. Race
for Flex and Planetary Networks, switch to Fundy, save your money, find an
opponent, infiltrate, probe them to death to get their tech, steal a base and
upgrade all the garrisons to best/best, using pre-emptive strikes to defeat the
forces sent against you (and continue to subvert them all the while). Build
cheap scouts or recon rovers every turn, upgrading them to whatever is needed
(remembering that the newly captured base will get a larger than normal share
of "free" units), and keep punching your opponent. In the field, with even tech,
your forces are VERY hard to beat, especially if you're running fundy, as they
cannot use probe trickery against you, and you get a morale boost too!
The Human Hive:
At a Glance: Immune to inefficiency, +1 Growth, +1 Industry, -2 Economy, Perim.
General Notes: If not for the lack of energy, this faction would be all but
unstoppable, and as it is, they are far and away the most powerful AI faction,
coming out on top of the AI heap in almost every simulation I have ever run.
Their Growth and Industry bonuses make for rapid expansion, and their
inefficiency immunity makes a massive empire with few to no drawbacks a real
possibility. This, combined with their inherent "Citizen's Defense Force" makes
them a tough faction to match, and if they happen to also get the Command Nexus
(not difficult to imagine, since they start with its requisite tech) and
Planetary Transit System (also not too much of a stretch, with active probe
teams), then the rest of the world stands a good chance of being doomed.
An important note about Yang: The immunity to inefficiency ability allows you to
run SE settings which would utterly ruin any other faction in the game. Quite
simply, you may freely ignore negative modifiers to efficiency!
Yang, the Builder: First, absolutely no one will be expecting you to play Yang
as a Builder, so this will work very much to your advantage, but consider: You
can switch over to Police State with impunity, enabling you to control your
drones without the need to build any drone control facilities at all, and the
addition of a Children's Creche at each base goes a long way in capturing what
energy you do generate. Add to that the ability to run Planned (again, without
penalty), and you get a faction with a huge industry bonus and no drone problems
whatsoever. If you work heavily with forests, your income won't be bad, although
you will never even begin to approach the energy levels of the real "Research
Factions" in the game, forcing you to look for other alternatives. Fortunately,
there are some very good ones, and you get them at the same time you get the
ability to run Planned, namely: Librarians. While you're waiting for Industrial
Automation, you can be whipping out Network Nodes and expanding like mad, and
once you have the ability to create crawlers, it's easy (again, with your
prodigious Industry bonus) to crank out enough crawlers to give each base some
minerals to work with, and feed the entire population, and once you do that,
every citizen you have can be converted to a Librarian, giving you perfectly
efficient research capabilities, magnified by your already built network nodes.
Now consider that if you take the time to build the Command Nexus, you
essentially wipe out the penalties for also running Wealth (adding a bit more to
your energy reserves, and giving you yet another boost in Industry). The only
person in the game who can out-build you is Domai, and he has to contend with
less-well defended bases, efficiency problems, AND a research penalty, which
more than offsets his additional +1 bonus to Industry. In short, although it
might not appear so at first glance, the good Chairman makes an astonishing
builder, and that capability, coupled with an active stance with probes will
quickly see you on par with every other Builder in the game, should you choose
to run the game this way.
Yang, the Hybrid: Again, this approach utilizes Yang's Industrial Might, and is
not terribly different from Yang, the Builder, actually, except that a certain
set of bases will be geared up specifically for the purpose of providing an
offensive punch to the empire, whereas the pure Builder approach will not do so
until and unless threats begin appearing on the horizon. The Yang-Hybrid model
enables you to maintain an active attack/trolling force while keeping a fairly
brisk research rate, and the ability to drop into full "Builder Mode" if you
determine that your potential enemies are very far away. On the other hand, it's
easy (gotta love that Industry) to kick into high gear and get ready to fight,
and very quickly, you can find yourself with an army numbering so many units
that you can simply sweep the opposition off the map.
Yang, the Conqueror: Once more, your Industry and Police are the key factors to
the Conquest game. The goal here is to simply skip over any real Infrastructural
builds and focus on rapid colonization, followed by a buildup of troops that no
one else in the game can match prior to the arrival of clean reactors. Even
Miriam, with her support bonus simply cannot keep up with a fully geared-for-war
Yang. So what if she's got better troops, you can replace your losses almost
half again as quickly as she can replace hers, and her Probe Immunity is nearly
meaningless to you. You likely won't have the cash to do much subversion anyway,
and you can simply keep building units until you overwhelm her. Same with the
only other truly good fighters in the game, the Spartans, except in their case,
it's even easier to overwhelm them, because they have Industrial problems of
their own, and the moment you achieve your first conquest on an enemy's soil,
that is the kiss of death, as that faction must now deal with your enhanced
Industrial output right there on their turf. Simply put, if they do not or
cannot re-capture the base immediately, they're doomed.
At a Glance: -1 Efficiency, Extra Votes, Extra Talents, Hab limit restrictions
eased (bigger bases)
General Notes: You might not look so hot on the SE table compared to the others,
but that doesn't mean you're a pushover. Not by any stretch. Your advantages
make you a force to be reckoned with in any game. Consider a fairly normal
expansion paradigm. Even if you only do an "average" expansion, you're virtually
guaranteed the Govornorship, giving you a healthy Commerce bonus (extra energy
to help offset the -1 Efficiency), and Infiltration of all factions (as good as
the Empath Guild, for free). Add to that the fact that your extra talents and
larger bases (giving Lal the ability to execute a Pop-Boom with little control
infrastructure in place), and what you end up with is a faction that is quite
far from being average.
Lal, the Builder: Democracy completely negates your singular negative, and is
two thirds of what you need for a population boom. Add Planned and Wealth to
that mix, and snag either of the early game drone control projects (Genome or
Virtual World), and you can boom to size 9 with ease. The ability to do this
earlier than almost any faction will give you a huge advantage in population, at
which time, you can switch to Market, and out-tech even drone-plagued Zak. And
once you get crawlers and Hab-complexes, you can boom all the way to size 16
with near-impunity, giving you such an edge in population that you'll be hard-
pressed to lose the game. Yes, your troops are only average, but your greater
population enables you to have more of everything: More research (despite the
efficiency hit), more minerals, and more troops, and with the right facilities,
your bases can quickly become very tough nuts to crack.
Lal, the Hybrid: One of Lal's main strengths is his sheer "averageness." True,
you lack the Industrial Might of Domai or Yang, the Morale and Prototype bonuses
of Santiago, the cash of Morgan, and the Research boon of Zak, but you're also
not saddled with their liabilities, and your one disadvantage is easily offset
by the simplest of base facilities. All of this puts you in the position of
great flexibility, enabling you to shift gears much more readily than any of the
other problem-plagued factions. Your one "banned" SE choice (Police State) would
be something you would never need to run in any event, thanks to your extra
talents (which, by the way, is like the Genome Project on steroids, as its
impact on your bases is relative to the size of your bases....not static, as is
the case with the Genome, and you get it for free!). All in all, you couldn't
ask for a better Hybrid faction than this! Beware, however: That sheer
flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse, and in a Lal-Hybrid game, you
need to become adept at reading the ebb and flow of the game, and make the right
choices at the right times (knowing WHEN to shift into a war footing and when to
pursue relentless research is vital to you.....if the other factions make a
mistake, they can play to their inherent advantages....cash, morale, or
whathaveyou, but all of your advantages are contingent on you making the right
decisions at the right time, and a misstep can set you back very badly, as you
have nothing really to fall back on). --Still, with practice at reading the
game, Lal can be one of the very best, most well-rounded factions in the game.
Lal, the Conqueror: At first glance, with your efficiency problems and average
troops, you might think Lal ill-suited to conducting a conquest war, but again,
his sheer flexibility (and, assuming you got the Governorship, his
auto-infiltration of all factions) serves him will in this capacity too. Even
fairly large, newly captured bases seldom have drone problems, as your "Talent"
bonus kicks in as soon as you occupy the base, often completely negating the
drones created via conquest. That, combined with a lack of any pronounced
weakness which can be exploited by your enemies, makes you a wily and tenacious
faction on the battlefield. To that end, however, you will only be as wily and
tenacious as your own personal skill in battle allows, again, because your
faction has no native combat advantages, meaning that you will have to engineer
any and all advantages yourself (through a steady program of militaristic
builds, and smart use of your standing army). Learn to do that well, and you
will find Lal to be a doggedly determined fighter.
New Kids on the Block: The SMAX Seven:
At a Glance: +2 Efficiency, +2 Research, -1 Growth, Spoils of War, no penalties
for Cybernetic SE choice.
Game Notes: -1 Growth is a pretty huge penalty for a landward faction, but it
does not even compare with the benefits this faction has. The efficiency (and
ability to run Market), combined with the research bonus makes this group a
powerhouse by any definition, but when you add in the tech-steal ability, what
you get is a faction that can stand up to any of the original seven, and then
some! Their aversion is one you'd not run anyway (Fundy), so essentially what
you get is Deirdre's efficiency, Zak's research, and none of their crippling
disabilities (Dee's lack of cash via market, and Zak's drones). That puts the
faction in a position to do amazing things. So what if you have to build your
own network nodes….with techsteal, active probes, and your inherent research
bonus, getting and keeping the tech lead will not be difficult for this faction,
growth penalty or no. The "no penalties for Cybernetic" thing is of little
consequence, as by the time you are able to make that switch, the game is pretty
well won or lost. Still, it's an interesting footnote that you don't need the
Network Backbone to get around Cybernetic's negatives when playing this faction.
Aki-Zeta, the Builder: Played this way, you take advantage of your Techsteal
ability by NOT taking advantage of it. Nobody will WANT to attack you for fear
of your being able to rip down a base and steal their proprietary research, so
if you're content to play nice, they'll probably be content to let you, and you
can make good on your threat anytime you like….just go for Non-linear math
pretty early on (that being about the only deviation from the more
builder-oriented techs), and you can make good on the implied threat….since you
start with Applied Physics, you're only one step away, which is great for you….
As the consciousness, of course, you want to get those lab-enhancing facilities
built as quickly as possible to further enhance your native +2 research bonus,
but that will mean building at least some energy banks and the like to help pay
maintenance, so if you pursue the Builder path, then do it with a vengeance.
One thing that will help your Builder game is the growth penalty. Bases won't be
springing up to size in an uncontrolled fashion, and in general, you will have
plenty of time to get your Rec. Commons' in place before it becomes an issue.
Aki-Zeta, the Hybrid: Impact weapons, Mobility, and Flex, and you're armed and
doubly dangerous, as each one of your troopers is as good as a probe team too,
if he's the one who moves into an enemy base. That, combined with your ability
to do something other than fight (+2 Research) and do it efficiently, makes you
a terrific choice for Hybrid style. Since you'll probably keep a standing army
at the ready as soon as you get the techs to put something decent together (and
you'll get those techs at a pretty good clip, thanks to your inherent
strengths), you'll be in a much better position than your Builder cousins to
make good on the threat of ripping down their defenses and stealing their techs
(an ability which, by the way, lets you selectively ignore certain tech paths,
knowing full-well that when you get in a war, you'll be netting those techs
anyway). Simply put, you will be hard pressed to find a better Hybrid faction
in the game.
Aki-Zeta, the Conqueror: Again, your techsteal ability is pivotal to your entire
game. In this case, ignore the juicy Builder techs entirely….you'll get them
anyway when you tear down their bases. Just get a core group of mobile, heavily
gunned attackers and make everybody else pay. Even without focusing on Net Nodes
right away, you will still out tech everybody but Zak in the game, which means
you can have your prototype Impact Rover rolling off the assembly lines before
most folks have their prototype Synth-garrisons in place, and the math is very
much on your side.
At a Glance: -1 Efficiency, -1 Growth, terraform deep sea squares (w/tech),
marine detachment (w/tech), +1 mineral/square (shelf only), sea pod and former
already prototyped, free naval yard (w/tech).
Game Notes: Your advantages grow over time as more techs are discovered, but
even with what you have at the outset, the faction is a powerhouse by any
definition. First consider that you begin the game in total isolation. No one
can attack you at all until they get Doctrine: Flex, and build a fleet. Even
then, all of the important advantages are yours in terms of sea-battling, and
that only becomes more true as the game wears on. Next, is your inefficiency.
Just as with Lal, this is easily overcome via the simplest of base facilities,
and is not much to lose sleep over, and the Growth penalty….I feel certain that
was put in place to prevent the faction from simply running away with the game.
Sea bases are notoriously good at cranking out food, and when you get a few
kelpfarms in place, you will be able to grow like a proverbial weed in spite of
the –1 growth. In fact, you'll have such surpluses that you will barely notice
it. The only thing that hurts a bit is the inability to execute an "easy"
pop-boom, but again, if the Pirates could do that too, they'd simply run away
with the game every time.
+1 Mineral per square means that your early game mining platforms can keep you
on-par and then some with your landlocked cousins, and again, you've got an easy
75 years of pretty much competition-free expansion….probably a hundred or more
before someone mounts a serious offensive.
Marine Detachment ability is huge too, enabling you to capture enemy ships and
upgrade accordingly (you'll want to cover the newly captured and weakened ships
with interceptors to protect them from sniping while vulnerable, but remember,
once you get them back to base, they'll be recovered in a single turn, thanks to
your naval yards everywhere). You can also capture transports loaded with troops
(effectively making the Marine Detachment like a probe team that can avoid
It's true, before the advent of fusion power, you will pay a premium for your
formers and colony pods, but on the plus side, each base you build comes with a
built in pressure dome, so even with fission reactors, they're a bargain for
what you're getting.
Svensgaard, the Builder:
Make use of your early game privacy to establish a ring of bases around an
uninhabited large island or small continent, then send colony pods and formers
to the mainland with a vengeance. This mixed approach will give you such a
strong core empire, protected by equally strong coastal bases, who gain the
benefits of all the coastal boreholes you built. After that, strike off the
beaten path and start building deep sea bases that are worthless if taken from
you. Thanks to mid-game techs, deep sea bases are good for you, and if you focus
on kelp and tidal harnesses (using your highly developed core bases as cash
cows), you can easily rush whatever infrastructure you need at the relatively
mineral poor deep sea bases—it's important to set realistic goals here: Ten
minerals at a deep sea base isn't too bad, and certainly sets you up well for
rushing….not to mention the fact that in the late-mid game and beyond, you start
to get Orbital Mining Stations, Robotic Assembly Plants and the like, which can
turn even your modest sea bases into industrial powerhouses, enabling you to
strike from unexpected directions if pressed.
Svensgaard, the Hybrid: This faction is a Hybrid player's dream, and there's
absolutely no reason why you should not be in the driver's seat, diplomacy wise.
You can find and infiltrate all the other factions before they make contact with
each other, and with a steadily growing global naval presence, you can
oftentimes dictate when or IF your various rivals will meet each other at all,
simply sinking their fledgling navies as they come out of port. This kind of
control over the ebb and flow of the game is key to influencing the Metagame
(more on that concept later) for all the players, and for this reason alone, I'd
say that if any faction came close to being unbalanced, this is it.
Svensgaard, the Conqueror: Conquesting is easy for Svensgaard, since you start
with two of the key techs you need to go hunting. Get a good weapon (Impact),
and you don't even need the rovers…in fact, if you wait till you get Doctrine:
Initiative (an early-mid game tech, at best), your infantry units actually
become more effective than rovers, given that a transport full of assault
marines can sweep in on any coastal base from five squares out and taking the
base with complete surprise, and remaining entirely out of sensor range till the
moment of the attack….this, combined with your inherent ability to capture
transports filled with enemy troopers (at times, effectively doubling the size
of your attack force), makes you deadly indeed. Pay close attention to the
section on Naval Power….you'll be making heavy use of it.
Yes, air power may well be at the top of the food chain battle-wise, but 99
times in a hundred, initial contact with a faction not on your starting
continent will be made in the water. Never forget that, and never underestimate
the power inherent in being the first faction in the water to pop sea pods!
At a Glance: +2 Industry, -2 Research, fewer drones, % chance that rioting bases
will join you, Aversion Green
Game Notes: "The Mouse that Roared," would be an excellent descriptor for this
faction….their puny research capabilities and punishingly slow start might seem
to make them not worth playing, but that sweet industry bonus will more than
make up for it in the end.
Simply put, while you may have a lagging research capability, there's nothing
whatsoever to prevent you from making hordes of cash (Market), and that influx
of energy, coupled with an Industrial capacity that no one else in the game can
touch (Yang can come close, but still can't match you, and he has no money
anyway), will quickly see you ratcheting up the power chart, and the speed with
which you can crank out lab-enhancers and such will quickly undo your measly 20%
penalty to research.
Miriam is drawn to Fundy…it plays well with her other abilities and makes her a
wretched researcher, but that is not the case with you, and in the absence of
choosing Fundy to render your bases and units immune to covert actions, the
efficiencies of Democracy become much more attractive in peacetime, with Police
State in times of crisis (coupled with your inherently fewer drones to begin
Minerals drive the early game, and he who can build the most stuff the fastest
will win. Nobody builds stuff faster than the Drones. Nobody.
Domai, the Builder: Building stuff quickly is what you guys do! All you need is
Planetary Networks, and Doctrine Flex if you start by yourself, and you're off
and running. Infiltrate, steal tech in the early game to give you the tools you
need, and then use that amazing infrastructure to build everything with
lightening speed. By the time you get your Treefarms in place, you'll have to
remind yourself that you have a research penalty, things will be rolling along
so well for you, and if you're pressed by an attack, it's easy to build a stout
army very quickly with cash + your native industry. Domai must be fairly active
(at least in the early game) as a Builder though, much in the same vein as
Miriam's Builder game. Probes are about the only way you can reach those much
needed early game techs in reasonable time, so use them!
Domai, the Hybrid: Essentially, you make use of some of that incredible
industrial advantage by "blunting" it slightly. In the early game, a high
industry rating is nearly the same as a high support rating, enabling you to
carry more units per base, cutting down your minerals available, but still
building things reasonably quickly. What this means is that you'll be able to
keep pace, build-wise, and support a big enough army/exploration force that no
one will want to press you. The Research penalty truly IS a penalty in the early
game, and you won't have a lot to do for the first ten years, but after that,
and once you've found someone to trade with or steal techs from, you'll soon
find yourself with a lot of new capabilities. One of the coolest features of the
Drones is the ability to snag rioting bases from other factions, and this opens
up whole new vistas for you and your probes, enabling you to get a toehold on
continents by enciting drone riots and simply moving in, without firing a shot.
Domai, the Conqueror: Big Industry = Big Army. Probe. Techsteal. Build more
stuff, more quickly. Drones win. Game. (And with the Drones, it really is that
At a Glance: +2 Probe, -1 Police, 25% cheaper probe actions, free covert ops
center (with tech), Techshare3, Aversion Power
Game Notes: A faction not given much consideration, in general, because unlike
the others, they lack a well-founded ideological base, however, a closer look
reveals that this group plays borrows heavily from Lal's Peacekeepers, Morgan,
and the Nautilus Pirates in terms of playstyle….admittedly without any of their
advantages, but that's okay, as they've got numerous advantages of their own.
Roze's singular negative is practically meaningless, while her other abilities
are quite useful. +2 Probe effectively gives every unit you have the
"Polymorphic Encryption" enhancement (for free!), further enhanced by actually
giving that ability to your units if you feel the need to. Essentially this
makes it almost ruinously expensive to steal bases or units away from you,
enabling you to leave your units single stacked far more often than your
opposition (which is great from a combat perspective). That, combined with your
own, correspondingly cheaper probe actions puts you firmly in the driver's seat
where Covert Ops are concerned. Add that to your sharetech3 ability (gives you
the same effect as the Planetary Datalinks for free!), and what you have is a
faction that is quite capable of defending itself from a variety of attacks, and
able to zero in on specific areas of the tech tree, relying on the fact that
your sharetech3 will enable you to pick up new technological advances from areas
outside of what you are pursuing as those techs are traded and passed around the
other factions. In fact, to make the most of your sharetech ability, you should
play this group as a synthesis of Morgan, Lal, and Svensgaard. Seeing that the
other factions are in contact with each other is very important to you, as it
increases the likelihood of techs being traded around, which gives you direct
benefits (and, if no one seems willing to trade tech with you in the game,
you've got your probe teams to get them anyway!).
Your only SE aversion is power, and that's one that doesn't really work well
with this group in any case, so even if you could pick it, odds are good that
you wouldn't. You're not hampered by a lack of energy, or any research or drone
penalties, and that, combined with your probes, will very quickly put you in a
position of dominance.
Morgan must rely on his additional cash windfall to subvert enemy troops that
land, but you (with your cheaper cover ops rates) can accomplish the same ends
with less money, putting you in the same or better position as Morgan,
Combatively, your troops are only average, but with your probe teams, it is
entirely possible to stay in Free Market for the entire game and simply steal
your opponents' bases one at a time, buying them out from under him, and
stealing enemy troops as they drive up to try and get the base back.
Later in the game, the presence of a Covert Ops Center in each base, you've
effectively got a +4 Probe rating, rendering you immune to probe actions a la
Miriam, without any of her disadvantages! (Effectively giving you your own
private "Hunter-Seeker Algorithm!")
Roze, the Builder: Regardless of your style of play, Probe Teams will play
heavily into your overall strategy, and the Builder's game is no exception. As
you've read before though, anybody who relies heavily on Probe Teams (Domai,
Miriam, Yang, Cha'Dawn, and You especially), must play a fairly active Builder's
game. Thus, your goal in the DataAngel Builder game is to mind your own
business, building probes anytime you get a few free turns in a base's build
queue, sending out the probe foils to go find the others, and keeping the rover
and infantry based ones milling about your empire (or sneaking across a rival's
border, if you've got company on your continent). If the badguys come calling,
a little bit of cash will net you with a bigger army, a weaker opponent, and
fewer worries. Also, if one of your neighbors decides to continue to raise a
fuss, drive a few probe foils over to his infrastructure poor (and thus,
relatively inexpensive) bases and simply buy his empire away from him one piece
at a time.
Roze, the Hybrid: Played this way, it's all about getting out and meeting
people. Your favored SE settings will tend to put you in good standing with both
Lal and Morgan (and sometimes, with fickle Sven), and these are the more
commerce-oriented factions, generally eager to trade and make treaties, so go
out, meet interesting people from exotic, far-off lands, and infiltrate them,
relying on your Builderesque approach to warfare. With Roze, you can run your
entire exploration effort via probe teams and transport foils, which means you
can stick to Market in all but the more dire circumstances.
Roze, the Conqueror: Run a brief, early period of Market to get yourself built
up to a position of power, making use of Market's energy boon to give you the
important early game mobility and combat techs relatively quickly, then,
construct a medium-sized force, augmented with money and probes and go hunting!
If you come across a base that looks like it might be a tough fight, fine. Buy
it, add the garrison to your strike force, and keep moving. It is entirely
possible for you to buy even a base with a number of secret projects in it on
the cheap, something even Morgan is hard-pressed to do at times!
Cult of Planet:
At a Glance: +2 Planet, -1 Industry, -1 Economy, Brood Pit at each base (with
tech), Worms are counted twice for police duty, Aversion Wealth
Game Notes: Widely considered to be the weakest faction in the game, the Cult is
still quite fun to play! Their planet bonus and lack of industrial might and
cash makes it imperative that you play to this group's natural strengths, and
that means going native with a vengeance! The Cult "Out-Greens" even Deirdre,
able to catch more worms, more quickly. This in turn (if you have pod-scattering
on) enables you to go pod-popping early on, which increases your chance of
catching still more worms and that can very rapidly put you in a position to
launch an early-game worm rush.
The vast majority of the factions in the game have no trouble with getting to +1
Energy per square, which means they'll have no trouble out-teching you. Because
of this, and because of your native strengths, you must play to the metagame and
become the spoiler. Specifically, this means doing everything you can to enhance
the power of your native life, attacking rivals who are running Market in order
to deny them access to their much-cherished money. Simply put, you can win the
battle and the war by taking the fight to a Marketeer. If they drop out of
Market to fight you, you win by forcing them away from their principle source of
money and tech (exception: Morgan!), and if not, you will run over them, given
their –3 Planet Rating!
Cha'Dawn, the Builder: It's not that you don't build well….you do okay at that,
at least as well as the Spartans, but the trouble is, without some serious
crawlers to augment your lagging energy production, lab-enhancers just aren't
going to benefit you as much as some of the other factions. This is not to say
that you should avoid them, only to point out that you will need to augment your
infrastructure with a bit of an energy kick in order to get yourself up to
something near parity with your Market-loving rivals (and, set up this way, when
you succeed in driving your rivals away from Market, you will actually be
out-producing them!) Nonetheless, pure Builder Style is a difficult game for
Cha'Dawn, as you MUST be active if you hope to exploit your position relative to
Marketeers. Also, as with the other technologically lagging factions, you must
take an active stance with your Probe Teams, though, like Yang, you will seldom
be in a cash-rich enough of a position to make use of many of the covert ops
requiring you to spend credits. Still, as a means of keeping tech parity, Probe
Teams should play an integral part of your strategy.
Cha'Dawn, the Hybrid: Much more natural a style with this faction. In times of
peace, you can devote yourself to the creating of fungal barriers and fungal
farms, and building up your mineral and energy position via crawlers (both of
which will help you offset your starting negatives), all the while, searching
out your rival factions. Once you find someone, infiltrate, and as soon as you
see them making a switch to Market, hammer them hard with your captured worm
Cha'Dawn, the Conqueror: Sleek and fast, and….pure native! This is actually one
of the simplest ways of playing the game, and I find it personally very
satisfying. It is a vastly different game than I normally play, and as a change
of pace, it is wonderfully refreshing.
The first thing you need to do is catch a worm. Just send your scout out to play
in the fungus, and before long, you'll be all set.
Next goal, send your worm out to pop some serious pods, and try to catch another
worm. Essentially, this means more playing in the fungus for you (and all the
while, your bases are slowly but steadily working on colony pods to continue
your expansion). Once you've got two worms, you're really rolling, because now
the first can continue the pod-popping crusade (which will go far in keeping you
in the ball-park, tech-wise), and the other can begin some serious worm farming
(getting three chances per turn, unlike your scout's one) to stir up some native
life. At this point, you're in prime position to get ready to do a big worm rush
(and it generally only takes 4-6 worms in the early game).
If you're alone on your continent, then your next two overriding goals ought to
be Planetary Networks (for probes) and Doctrine Flex (for transports) so you can
go make some greedy Marketeer pay!
At a Glance: Recycling Center at each base, +1 Planet, +25% Defensive bonus,
"Space Survey," Directed Research, Deep Radar for all units
Game Notes: Overpowered in human hands, almost to the point of making the game
tedious. It's a cakewalk. Nobody will have much luck in attacking, you begin
with a recycling tanks at every base, which means that you don't have to worry
as much about terraforming, and farms are not really needed much at all until
the midgame. All in all, you have a vastly simplified game, with more techs at
game start, and an almost unbelievably strong defensive position.
H'minee, the Builder: This group was designed for the Builder game. You can
play the part of the turtle, and do quite well. A program of rapid expansion
will see you filling up the continent quickly (possibly switching to battle mode
if you see that you're not alone, and sweeping them off the map before they can
build to any significance), then, just become a hermit. Terraform to your
heart's content and use your impressive tech lead (and it will be impressive) to
hammer the daylights out of anybody who wants to spoil your fun!
H'minee, the Hybrid: Also easy to do. With your tech lead in the beginning,
augmented by automatic Recycling tanks at all bases, your research will be top
notch. That alone will make the Hybrid game easy, because you will be able to
field better troops than most, if not all of your opponents. That, coupled with
the fact that your 25% defensive bonus kicks in from the moment you take over a
base makes it unlikely that the opposition will be able to root you out, once
you get a foothold.
H'minee, the Conqueror: Again, fairly easy to do, but, with H'minee, you're
probably better off simply subverting human bases to avoid population flight,
and again, captured garrisons will gain that additional 25% defensive bonus from
the moment you take control of the base.
At a Glance: Recycling Center at each base, +1 Growth, +1 Morale, +25% Offensive
bonus, "Space Survey," Directed Research, Deep Radar for all units, aversions –
Game Notes: Again, an almost impossibly easy game, no matter what level of play
you select. You get all the advantages of Miriam's attackers, with none of her
disadvantages, a morale boost besides that, a free recycling tanks at each base
(which, as per the Caretakers, dramatically speeds up your game), and three
techs at game start. You would have to try hard NOT to win the game with these
guys! With normal research rates, your tech will be as good, if not better than
everybody around you (especially since you are guaranteed of one extra energy
per base – Tanks – and three techs at game start), and with your attack bonuses
you are, simply put, a terror.
Marr, the Builder: Sure, you can do this well, but why? Of course, if you're
just looking to play the Builder's game with the ultimate "big stick," then this
faction will do the job for you. No one will WANT to attack you, figuring that
if you're content to Build, in most cases, they'll be content to let you (at
least you're not attacking them!)
Marr, the Hybrid: A cakewalk. Again, in times of peace, nobody will even breathe
hard in your direction for fear of provoking you, and you can focus on
infrastructure, and, if the time comes to attack….well, your faction was born
and bred for it!
Marr, the Conqueror: You could do this with your eyes closed! Just follow the
human-faction momentum paradigms with a vengeance and you will beat them at
their own game every time. Probe teams and foils first, then sweep in for the
kill, and you have a leg up again, thanks to the free Rec. Tanks at the outset!
Expansion and Growth
The Early Game: Expansion and Growth - A Primer:
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
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 Advantage:
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 (i.e.., 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
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
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
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
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 main 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 develops, (and on local
geography)that could be anything from a minor irritation to a crippling
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's the formula from the datalinks to determine
what the threshold would be, depending on your map size and level of play:
BaseLimit = (8 - Difficulty) * (4 + Efficiency) * MapRoot / 2
Difficulty = Player's difficulty level (0 - 5)
Efficiency = Social Engineering Efficiency rating.
MapRoot = Sq. Root of # Map Squares / Sq. Root of 3200.
Go above whatever number you get when you turn the crank on this formula, and
you get drones. Therefore, the idea here is to grow your empire in "spurts."
Let's assume you're on a standard planet, and running a "Planned" economy (good
early game choice). 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
set up your Nth base (6 in this example, and just under your first expansion
warning) build a Rec. Tanks & a Rec. Commons (not necessarily in that order....
you might want to reverse it if you are an early-game Marketeer), and then start
cranking out pods again….you next goal being some number of bases equal to
1-expansion warning #2 (under Market, given the example above, your new target
would be 16 bases).
Once you get there, 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 bases. 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 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 almost entirely negate the negatives of
running both of these SE choices!
Summary of Planned/Wealth with Children's Creches in all bases:
(Faction-Specific bonuses notwithstanding):
+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)
A quick note on Base-Placement: I know that many people love coastal bases, but
in MP games, I'd recommend not having terribly many of them, and the ones you DO
have had better be guarded heavily! In SP games, it's not that big a deal,
because the AI won't launch many truly cunning attacks against you, but every
coastal base you have is an invitation for the Marines, so limit your exposure!
Best of all would be to build 1-3 coastal bases in a relatively protected bay
area (if you get one) so you can more easily control the access to your bases on
the coast (by maintaining an active naval presence in the bay), or if you land
by the poles, build your coastal bases on the most remote "side" of your
starting content. All other bases should be at least one, and preferably two
spaces back from the coast to prevent probe foil infiltration attempts, naval
bombards of your bases, and surprise Marine attacks! With all the spiffy
sea-square enhancements available in SMAX, it's very tempting to build as many
of your bases coastally as you can, but this is a lure you should resist! If you
want to build coastal bases, wait until your formers can create a land bridge
and block off a sizable chunk of ocean (creating your own private inland sea),
and build them there! Specialize your coastal bases out to the nearly exclusive
production of naval units and early game probe foils, supporting and defending
them via your inland, and less vulnerable bases.
Terraforming is an artform, and the more efficient you become at making use of
your formers, the better your game will be.
In the early game, your terraforming activities should revolve around three
1) Aiding Growth
2) Optomizing special resource squares
3) Terraforming to boost mineral outputs
And I'll spell out some particulars about them each below to get your mind
wrapped around the subject.
Aiding growth falls into two categories, and both are important. First and most
important is to see that you have a square inside your newly founded base's
production radius that produces at least two nutrients (note that a nutrient
special resource square might give you more than two). The reasoning behind this
is simple: If your goal is to continue your expansion from this base, then
you'll want to build a colony pod relatively quickly, which means you'll need a
good base of food to grow from, and, given the early game restrictions, two is
about as good as it gets. And even if you're not planning to use the base as a
springboard for future expansion, it's still not a bad idea to have your former
build a farm for at least long enough to speed that base from size one to two.
To that end, if you have a nutrient resource on a rolling or rocky terrain
square, or a rainy square of any variety, then you don't need to do anything at
all, and that will speed things up for you (something to keep in mind when
you're looking around the map trying to decide where to colonize next).
The second thing your formers can do to aid growth, not quite as important as
the first, but certainly helpful, is to "prep" the future base site by building
a sensor array on the base square (giving you a permanent 25% defensive bonus
that cannot be stripped away via artillery or other sniping), and constructing
a network of roads to the base site, enabling your colony pod to arrive at the
site more quickly, and giving you a few extra turns of production.
The essence of the game is one of pitting your economic system against that of
your opponents (be they human or AI), and one of the keys to winning that kind
of game is raw speed. Tiny advantages (a quicker base-build here, an extra turn
or two of Former activity there), can, over the course of the game, combine to
create a huge advantage over your opponent (but more on that later!)
The next thing your Formers should be paying attention to are your special
resource squares. Whatever they are, they represent your chance to get around
those cursed resource restrictions in the early game, and if you don't take
advantage of them as quickly as possible, then you're not getting as much as
you should be out of your territory, and it shouldn't come as a great shock
when somebody blows past you on the power chart.
Special Resource squares are so important to the early game that they often
dictate where you build your bases, but they need not define your base layout
completely. The moment you get crawlers (Industrial Automation) the exact
location of the resource becomes of lesser importance in the sense that now that
resource is available to any base you have.
Not all resource squares were created equally though, and some will hold more
value than others. Examples of this include: Nutrients on rainy tiles (netting
you up to five nutrients!), Energy resources on rivers (great place to found
your HQ base), and Mineral resources on rocky terrain (7 minerals with a mine
and road!) are all things to be watchful of, and will greatly impact your game.
The main thing though, is to flow with the game in whatever direction in takes
you. Did you get a nutrient bonus on a rainy square? If so, that one base can be
used to drive much of your expansion because it will grow so fast, freeing up
your other bases to develop their crawler suites earlier than anticipated. Did
you wind up with a mineral resource on rocky terrain? If so, try to arrange two
or three bases around it so they can share it. They can take turns making use of
the heightened production to rapidly develop, and, the base(s) in question will
be able to support a larger than normal number of formers, which will greatly
speed your continental terraforming. Or, rarest of all, did you stumble across
that holy grail of research, an energy resource on a river? Build or move your
HQ there and rip through the early-game tech tree like nobody's business!
(How-To Notes: Terraforming Wizardry: Two important tricks here that, if used
frequently, will put you far ahead of the pack: First, whenever possible,
operate your formers in teams. While it is true that you won't save any time
terraforming the continent as a whole in this manner, it is also true that you
will finish terraforming specific squares much more quickly, and from the
perspective of any particular base you look at, that's what is most important.
To that end, when moving your formers as a group, use leapfrog techniques to get
them working as quickly as possible (having the leading element(s) of the
former team create roads so that the laggards can move into position and
terraform (plus, you can always selectively delete roads later). Second, never
let the computer automatically move your units! It sacrifices speed and
efficiency. A perfect example of this is as follows: Let's say you've got a
colony pod en route to a new base site. Your formers have pre-worked the area,
and you've got a sensor and a road built on the base site. Your pod is two
squares from the build site, but no roads have been constructed. As luck (or
cunning planning) would have it, both squares that the pod will be passing
through are flat, and both have a former on them. If the computer moves for you,
you can be all but assured that the pod will move first, and you'll lose at
least one turn getting your next base built, but if you have your two formers
move first, and set them to build roads, the roads will be finished just prior
to the colony pod's moves, enabling netting you an extra turn or two of
production from your new base. Done consistently over the course of an entire
game, the effects are vast and far-reaching.)
Supply crawlers are one of two keys to unlocking the explosive productive powers
of your early-game bases (the other key being formers). You see, your formers
can terraform terrain squares at a significantly faster clip than your bases can
grow, and in not terribly many turns, you will find your starting bases at size
2-3, with 6-7 terraformed squares surrounding them. Unless you do something with
those terrain squares, the efforts of your formers will be wasted until the base
nearest the terraforming you've been doing grows again! This need not be the
case once you get supply crawlers. Simply put, supply crawlers enable you to
"harvest" one type of resource from whatever square they're on. Consider the
implications of that for a moment, and tie it in with some other things you know
about the game already.
Nutrients: More food = faster base growth, and if that's your goal, then
harvesting food from some rainy squares will see your pool of surplus food
growing rapidly, causing your population to spike! (Note, however, that with the
ability of most factions to execute a Population Boom with relative ease--and
more on that later--focusing on nutrient crawling in the early game is
considered by many to be a relatively weak approach to crawlers, but again, it
depends on your game...there are specific times when it is necessary or
Minerals: A size one base can support a mineral suite far higher than the 3-4 it
starts with before you start getting eco damage, and since you are beginning
with nothing at all....having to build the infrastructure in your fledgling
bases piece at a time, it can fairly be said that minerals "drive" the early
game. With this being the case, one very good use of your early game crawlers
would be to enhance each base's mineral outputs up to the point where you start
seeing eco-damage (and when you do see eco damage, unless you want to provoke
the worms, stop harvesting with one crawler and re-check for eco-damages. When
you get it back to zero, you're in the "optimal zone" for mineral production at
Energy: Early game techs are cheap in terms of the raw number of research points
it takes to reach the next tech. Your HQ base never loses energy to
inefficiency, therefore, if you can get crawlers from your HQ base to go out and
grab some energy for you, that means more cash and faster research, both of
which are good things for you.
Exactly what percentage of your crawlers you allocate to the harvesting of
which of the various factors of production is a matter of personal preference.
There really is no one "right" answer....only that if you're not using crawlers
to enhance the outputs of your bases, and your opponent is, don't be surprised
if he winds up far ahead of you by the mid game.
Defining your Style
In the early game, survival is the only issue at hand, and there is little to no
difference in overall playing style. All factions, regardless of how they will
eventually develop have the same basic starting needs, and so initial styles ar
quite similar, though expansion paradigms used may bring about some variation,
but as the game grinds on, the stylistic differences begin to make themselves
apparent, both in terms of technologies pursued, and in terms of build order
choices. Whatever style you chose to pursue, the sooner you can begin to play
into the strengths of your chosen style, the stronger your game will be. Please
do not take the information below as the "final word" on early game beelines.
Your style is whatever you wish it to be, and is defined on whatever
tech-beeline you happen to prefer. These are mentioned only as a starting place,
and because they have been tested repeatedly by me, and I know them to be both
powerful and reliable. Nonetheless, they only represent a starting point.
Something to get you thinking on the subject, adding, deleting, and changing as
you see fit until you come up with an approach that is perfect for your own
unique style of play.
But as to techs, and my views on the various styles of play:
Momentum folks will want to get the "top-end" early game warfare techs as soon
as possible. Specifically, the most important things in this type of game are
Planetary Networks (probe teams), Doctrine: Mobility (rovers), and Nonlinear
Math (Impact). With these three techs, you can put together a fearsome early
game force and send it out hunting. Your goal here is to attempt to find one or
more enemies to smash before someone discovers Intellectual Integrity, or you'll
have a significantly harder time making the attacks work (a perim defense will
really mess up your day).
For Hybrids, you need at least Applied Physics (banking on the fact that most
momentum rover rushes consist of 4-1-2's, giving you a 2:1 advantage with lasers
on the counter attack) & High Energy Chemistry for some good early prototypes,
paired with Doctrine Flexibility to increase your options, and then toward more
Builders, run straight for Industrial Automation, switch to Market as soon as
possible, and then move straight for the restriction lifting techs. Nothing else
matters but getting to no restrictions with all possible speed.
Defining your Focus
There are three factors of production in SMAC/X, and collectively, they produce
a total of six economic outputs: The inputs are: Nutrients, Minerals, and
Energy, and their corresponding outputs are: Population, Infrastructure, Units,
Cash, Research, and Psych. All Empires will have all of these things, of course,
but by focusing your empire like a lens down on one of them selectively, and
shifting that focus around when appropriate, you can create a situation of
How do you go about defining your focus then? Some examples are below:
Vel's standard early game focus: Minerals (my personal thanks to the honorable
Jimmytrick for showing me the light): The Path to Power:
Minerals drive the early game, much as energy drives the late game, and he who
can produce the most stuff the fastest will be in the stronger position. To that
end, supply crawlers should be a vital component to your strategy, regardless of
Consider: Each of your early game, size two and three bases (with an average
production of 6-8) can have far greater mineral outputs (upwards of 20) than
their population normally would allow and not suffer any eco damage for it. And
in the absence of any drawbacks, it makes sense to bulk up each base's mineral
production to as high a level as it will support and still not give you any
eco-damage. This is very efficient in that, regardless of your playing style, it
enables you to do more things more quickly than you would otherwise be able to.
In my mind, the early focus on minerals gives me the tools needed to grow into a
more advanced focus later (energy), by enabling me to develop an infrastructure
with amazing speed.
Pravin's Pride: Explosive Growth:
So named for the leader of the PK's, cos nobody can "Boom" like Lal. The goal
here is to build the minimum infrastructure needed for the execution of a
Population Boom, and then blasting your population up to pre-habcomplex limits,
building infrastructure with ever-increasing speed as you grow. In this case,
crawlers are used for minerals when they are produced, and switched to food
crawling on an "as-needed" basis to keep the base growing. This leaves you with
a burgeoning population, but lagging infrastructurally, which makes your bases
more prone to riots until infrastructure can catch up with the sudden flood of
(How-To Note: Executing a Pop-Boom: Pop-Booming is such a powerful tool that if
you're not using it and you're opponent is, you have almost no hope of winning
against him. In a nutshell, what you're doing is setting up conditions where
your base will grow every turn until you either run out of food or reach
whatever hab-limit you have, and doing it across your empire is not hard at all.
The only thing you really need is some extra food and a +6 Growth rate. The
simplest way to get extra food is with a few extra supply crawlers out
harvesting. The easiest way to get to +6 Growth is to run Planned/Democracy,
and build a Children's Creche at each base, however, the SE restrictions faced
by some factions make this an impossibility, and in that case, there's another
way to go about it, but it takes a little more work. Golden Ages (bases size 4
or greater) produce both +2 Economy and +2 Growth, and all it takes is Psych
Investment. You can do it empire-wide by building Children's Creche's everywhere
and running whatever SE settings you can to boost growth, and then allocating
enough into your Psych percentage (SE table) to throw all your bases into golden
ages, or, you can do it individually by crawling energy to the bases you want or
need to grow rapidly, "doping" them into a golden age. Regardless of how you go
about it, it's something you should practice till you can do it in your sleep,
'cos nothing's better than 6-10 turns of Booming, followed by a switch back to
Market for more cash and tech more quickly than you would have ever thought
Cash Cows: Again, this approach calls for an initial mineral approach, and then
an eye toward building cash-enhancing facilities first (Energy Bank, Tree Farm,
and Creche), and using your ever-increasing supply of cash to help rush build
with greater and greater speed, quickly leaving you in a position of power.
Crawlers can be switched out from minerals to energy harvesting in key bases
(i.e. – the one you Built the ME in would be a terrific choice for this), which
will only further strengthen your cash position, and, when the time is right,
you can switch over to some efficient SE setting, slam your labs to 100% and
rake in the techs.
Perpetual Golden Ages: This approach relies on a balanced mineral/nutrient
crawler scheme to create specialists to throw a base into a golden age, and
gain the benefits of +1 energy per square, regardless of SE choices, effectively
giving you the benefits of Market, with none of the restrictions. It's amazingly
powerful, but takes some serious micro-management.
Specialist Approach (my humble thanks to Ogie, Daniel, and all the folk at
Apolyton who have worked diligently on this approach….it is astonishingly
effective!): Actually, this can be an outgrowth of any of the above approaches,
as it is impossible to do in the early game. The essence of the strategy
involves growing a base to at least size five and using crawlers to feed the
populace such that the entire base can be converted to specialists of the best
variety available, netting you lab points or cash that are not subject to
I'm quite sure there are a few others, but that covers the major categories.
Remember too, that it is quite possible, and in fact, often desirable to have
your bases be somewhat specialized. This manifests itself most obviously by
local geography. It just makes a certain amount of intuitive sense to use that
base you just built beside the borehole cluster to be the one to do the bulk of
your prototyping, former and crawler building, cos it can do it so quickly.
Likewise, a base surrounded by Nutrient Resource Squares (or in the jungle)
would be a fantastic choice for an early game, "All Librarian" base, netting you
a huge amount of research, regardless of how far it was from home. Again, the
phrase "work with the game, not against it," comes to my mind. Work with and
make the most of whatever the map gives you. Build on and improve that
relentlessly and you will do well.
So, how does one go about deciding on and "defining" a focus? Exactly one supply
crawler at a time, and make no mistake about it, it will take time. Time and
resources to optimize each base to suit the needs of the style you've selected
for yourself. Take that time, get your bases humming like well-oiled parts in
the machine that is your empire, and they will not disappoint you. Your goal
though, should be to practice honing your game skills to accomplish the
flowering of your particular style in the shortest possible timeframe (and more
on this in the section on "Creating Comparative Turn Advantage").
Early Game Secret Projects
A number of truly powerful Secret Projects become available amazingly early on
in the game, and we'll take a brief look at each of them in turn. Evaluate them
against your favored strategy and see which of them fit best with your game.
When you have a list of projects that are "essential" to your strategy, pursue
them with a vengeance in your games! Understand though (especially in MP games)
that you might not get all of the projects you'd like, so the important thing
here is not to overcommit. That is to say, if there are currently 6 Secret
Projects available to you, don't start working on all six at once! If you do,
and someone beats you to a project, you are stuck with two options, neither of
them very good. You can either opt to change the production in your base, losing
half of the accumulated minerals you had built up toward that project, or you
can have that base continue to build, with plans to switch over to a new project
as soon as you get a tech that grants you one. The problem here though, is if
you do that, you effectively tie that base up for a number of turns where no
further developmental work can be accomplished at that base....not a good thing
at all. So, take your project work in small slices, and try to only start a
project when you are reasonably sure you can finish it ahead of everyone else.
And now, the projects themselves:
The Weather Paradigm (Centauri Ecology): Cuts terraforming times in half, and
gives you access to all of the advanced terraforming techniques immediately upon
completion. This project will help you enormously no matter what faction you
play! The ability to begin construction of Condensers and Boreholes inside the
first hundred turns of play is....simply too huge to pass on! No matter what
your style or faction of choice, this project should be very high on your list,
and in MP games, whomever gets it will be far ahead of every other player in
that game from the moment resource restrictions begin to come off.
The Human Genome Project (Biogenetics): Another fantastic early game project!
Talents are so vital to drone control, and this puts an extra talent at each
base. If you favor Domai or Lal, with their fewer drones or higher number of
talents, this project alone will enable you to forego the building of drone
control facilities almost to the middle game, and if you're playing a
drone-sensitive faction like Zak's researchers, the project will go a long way
in undoing your chronic drone problems. Other factions will benefit greatly from
it as well, though some may want it purely as part of a denial strategy (I'm
specifically thinking Yang and Santiago here, who can easily control all their
drones via police), still, no matter what the reasonings behind it, the fact is,
this is a project that will be quite high on a number of people's lists!
The Virtual World (Planetary Networks): Any project that gives you a free
facility which would normally require an upkeep cost if you had to actually
build the facility it gives is automatically an important project, and even if
drone control is not high on your list of concerns, building network nodes
probably is, so why not have those net nodes serve two purposes, rather than
just one? All in all, this is one of the most powerful early game projects
around, both in terms of money saved by not having to build infrastructure, and
in terms of control all the way through to the mid-game.
The Command Nexus (Doctrine: Loyalty) : Another project that provides free
facilities, this too, will be highly sought after by a number of players,
regardless of style. Builders will likely spend long periods of time running
Wealth, and the presence of this project will enable them to perfectly counter
Wealth's singular negative. Also, Builders will want this project badly as part
of a denial strategy against Momentum players, forcing the Momentum gang to take
the time to build Command Centers if they want those morale upgrades. Momentum
and Hybrid folk will also count this as a high priority, for obvious reasons.
Their standing forces become 25% more lethal with its completion. More bang for
The Maritime Control Center (Doctrine: Initiative) Comes a bit later in the
early game, and is another project that provides free facilities. It's
importance is directly tied to two things: What other factions are in the game
(if the Pirates are playing, then you need this!), and how important a strong
Naval presence is to your game. If Naval power is relatively unimportant to you,
then skip this project, but note that whoever builds it will have ships with two
(2) extra movement points, making Marine strikes of coastal bases that much
harder to spot!
The Empath Guild (Centauri Empathy): From a defensive perspective, the most
important element of the game is to take what steps you can to ensure that your
datalinks are not infiltrated, and this project grants infiltration access to
whomever completes it, making it easily one of the most despised projects in the
game. I have seen coalitions formed solely on the bases of eliminating the
player who builds this project, which speaks volumes about the scope of its
power. Build it if at all possible, just to deny anyone else access to it, and,
if it appears later that someone will take it from you, don't hesitate to burn
the base to the ground to prevent it from falling into enemy hands! It really is
The Merchant Exchange (Industrial Base): A good project, but not a great
project. For certain factions, it can be a godsend (Yang, Deirdre, and Cha'Dawn
especially) but for others, it's almost a waste of time until energy
restrictions come off (Example: Morgan: Running wealth gives him +1 energy per
square anyway, and with a maximum of 2r pre-restriction lifting, a good portion
of the power of the ME will be lost in the early game). Combine that with the
fact that its impact is limited to one base, and you have a project which is
useful in the early game, extremely useful in the middle game, but non-critical
at any point.
Planetary Energy Grid (Adaptave Economic Systems): Even if you never plan to
stockpile energy at any of your bases, the fact that it gives you a cash
enhancing facility for free (no maintenance cost) at every base is an enormous
boon. This project is everything that the Merchant Exchange is not, and is much
more valuable because of it.
The Neural Amplifier (Neural Grafting): Another project that comes later on in
the early game, and one of the best defensive projects in the entire game.
Essentially, this gives every unit you ever build the equivalent of "Trance"
ability, and can be further enhanced by actually building "Trance" units. For
Marketeers, this one is highly prized, and for players pursuing a heavy Native
strategy, it's equally highly prized as part of a denial strategy. Non-native
based Momentum players (and some Hybrids) will generally consider this project
of only secondary importance and will seldom pursue it with much vigor.
Citizen's Defense Force (Intellectual Integrity): If Perimeter Defenses had an
upkeep cost, this project would rank right up there with the others that
provided free facilities, but since Perim. Defense works are free (no
maintenance cost), the value of this project is somewhat reduced. Still, it does
save you time, especially if you have a large number of exposed bases, and so is
fairly important, but non-critical, though you might expect a Momentum player to
run for it as part of a denial strategy.
Planetary Transit System (Industrial Automation): Even if you have no immediate
plans to expand, this project is a must have from a denial standpoint! If you
don't snag it, someone could quite easily "Borg" their way to dominance!
Xenoempathy Dome (Centauri Meditation): Anyone who plans on pursuing a "Native"
strategy, or anyone who is completely hemmed in by fungus in the early game
really, really, REALLY needs this project, otherwise, skip it for something more
Planetary Datalinks (Cyberethics): Seldom even built in MP games, unless it's a
free-for all with six players. Good one to deny the AI though.
(How-To Note: Rapidly Building Secret Projects: The very best way to rapidly
complete a secret project is to have all the bases in the immediate vicinity of
the "Project Base" build crawlers and have them start harvesting minerals. In
all likelihood, you will begin to run some eco-damage, but don't worry, it won't
be for long! Remember that each crawler you have costs you a base of 30
minerals. Remember too, that most of the early game project cost between 200-300
minerals, which means that for a paltry ten crawlers (less than that, in
practice), you can complete any of the early game projects! Your goal here is to
keep building crawlers at an ever increasing rate until you have enough to send
them all to the "Project Base" and finish the project. Alternately, you could
simply set your nearby bases to building crawlers and shuffle them into the
Project base upon completion, but this is slightly less efficient, although the
upshot is that you don't have to worry with eco-damage creating fungal blooms
and the potential for worm-rape. Also note that, if you have the cash, you can
get significantly more "bang for your buck" by spending some cash to upgrade the
crawler to a more expensive variant, because when you cash the crawler in toward
the Secret Project, you will get its full mineral value....note however that
crawler-upgrading is regarded as a cheat in many circles, so check beforehand t
make sure that's acceptable, and if not, just use "regular" crawlers as
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
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
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). Of course, in the same breath, do not
discount the value of mines and boreholes. Your spare formers should be working
on both of these terrain enhancements as soon as you are able, planning for the
day when the mineral restrictions come off, and enabling you to instantly shift
your supply crawlers around to take advantage of new efficiencies brought about
by your increasing tech-level.
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 - 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, as every faction in the game can be adopted to any of
the principle styles of play:
Recycling Tanks: High importance for any style, as the Recycling Tanks
represents one of only three options for enhancing the productivity of the base
square (the other options being: tweaking your SE settings to increase your
Economy rating, or increasing your Psych allocation to throw your base into a
Golden Age, again, increasing your Economy rating). Note!: The Morganites do
very well indeed, with their superior cash position, to rush these first, and if
you are a big fan of the faction, you would be well served in trading out your
initial former build for the tanks! (Thanks and kudos to Enigma for eloquently
making the point!)
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, my crawlers are in place, and I am not yet
able to build Treefarms, this is what I build next.
Children's Creche: If you're running Wealth (which hurts Morale), or any SE
choice which hurts efficiency, this should be High on your list, otherwise, make
Any and all Research-Enhancing facility should be high on your list!!!
(Believers can get away with making these facilities Medium in priority).
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 & Momentum Players: The first Command Center is of High
Importance. After that, Medium. Builders: Low importance.
Naval Yards: Dependent on how large a factor naval superiority plays in your
overall plan. If it's not a big part of your game, Low importance. Otherwise,
Medium to High, again, depending on how strong a presence your strategy requires
you to have.
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
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
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
(How-To Note: Creating Turn Advantage:
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
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
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
2) Cash - Do the above with an energy bank to magnify your cash advantage over
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 impact
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 or Infantry garrison 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.
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
Rules of thumb that I use in my games:
Rocky terrain: If not on a slope, and inside a base's production radius, make a
borehole, if anything else, make it a mine and send a crawler to the site as
soon as feasible.
Forests are a good source of minerals, and a good terraforming option in
general: True, they don't net you as much as a mine once restrictions come off,
but on the other hand, they give you both nutrients and energy, making forest
squares very well balanced. Add to that the fact that they are eco-friendly and
expand on their own, and they're 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. If you don't have any land like that, and if you've got some spare
formers and cash, raise your land!
Getting Ready for the Bad Guys
As mentioned previously, the early game era is defined at the upper end by
missile techs, with the bulk of these turns being played out with Laser and
Impact weapons dominating the stage. Defensively, we see a great many scout
patrols, and some distribution (fairly even, actually) of Synthmetal and Plasma
troopers. About the only "other" factors to consider with regards to early game
combat are: Morale differences, the presence or absence of sensors and monoliths
in the area local to the battlefield, perimeter defenses, altitude, and terrain.
All of these things will be discussed in turn, and in time.
For the moment, however, consider the implications of the military.
Your military represents a significant mineral investment which amounts to
potential energy. By itself, the military does nothing at all, except soak up
resources, in the form of ever-spiraling support costs (or, if you're playing a
faction with a support bonus, the cost is expressed in terms of the number of
turns NOT spend building additional bases of infrastructure). Keep building up
units, and eventually, you will paralyze your empire.
This is not to say that a military presence is unimportant, merely to point out
that the army's usefulness is limited to three specific circumstances:
1) To cause harm to an enemy and his infrastructure.
2) To prevent an enemy from doing the same to you and yours.
3) To disrupt an enemy's plans.
Beyond the ability to do those three things, combat units are just taking up
space on the board, and until you have occasion to use them, they are costing
you a premium in both resources and time.
The fastest way to ensure that your troops pay for themselves is to go beat up
on somebody. Oftentimes, your attack forces will pay for themselves with the
very first unit they destroy, but this alone is not sufficient reason to go to
war. After all, SMAC is a relatively poor war game, lacking in some of the most
fundamental elements that have been mainstays of wargame in the past (things
like increasing support costs due to distance, unit facing and varying levels of
fatigue and fortification, an unrealistic maintenance and support scheme, and
the absence of a whole host of other elements make SMAC an average war game, at
best). It is, however, an excellent Empire Building game, and war is a part of
that process, so if you're at all serious about the game, then you had better
spend some time thinking about war and the eventuality that you will be involved
in one (and probably more than one).
To that end, the sections that follow will get you ready to deal diplomatically
where possible, and if not, to fight offensively or defensively, AI or Human,
depending on what you find yourself up against in a game.
Single Player Diplomacy
Builders desire peace. I focus specifically on Builders here (and to a lesser
extent, on Hybrids), because for Momentum players, the only real diplomatic
option that matters is a submissive pact, and while useful, there's not much to
be said about that, so, suffice it to say that Builders (and Hybrids) 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
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
Deirdre: Predisposed toward Green. Run Green as well, and she'll play nice. Run
Market or Planned, and she will despise you.
Cha'Dawn: Not surprisingly, he's(?) pre-disposed to Green, per Deirdre. Be nice
to planet, he'll love you, but run Wealth (and to a lesser extent Market or
Planned), and he'll go ape.
Aki-Zeta: Generally a pretty easy AI to get along with. Avoid Fundy, and she
seems more-or-less okay. Run knowledge, and you get extra points!
Roze: As an anarchist, she's not much into police or power. Run either of those
and she'll have a fit! Run a Democracy and you'll soothe her feathers.
Domai: Doesn't care for Knowledge or Green, but he seems okay with about
Svensgaard: Much like Santiago. He'll love you for power, get ticked at Wealth
H'minee: No particular aversions, but if you're human or Marr, she'll get in
your face....oh wait, that amounts to everybody!
Marr: Aversion is Democracy, but if you're human or H'minee, he'll...oh, I
already used that line....::chuckle::
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
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
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" (i.e.., 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)
Cha'Dawn - Threats
Aki-Zeta - Technology
Roze - Technology or "Name your price"
Domai - Technology or Threats
Svensgaard - "Name your price"
Aliens - Technology
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
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.
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 (waiting til a period of sunspot activity will ensure that you
won't get caught!), but, depending on the point in the game, and the
effectiveness of your probe teams, that is not even close to being a perfect
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…..
Here are 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 (i.e.., 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
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 (and a strategy drawn
directly from one of the SP movies, by the way!). 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.
Multi- player Diplomacy
The sky is, quite literally the limit here, and there is no way that one single
document can tell you what to expect, so I'll not even make the attempt. What I
will say is this:
The two primary types of games you'll see in an MP game are "Pre-Selected Teams"
and "Free-For-Alls." In pre-selected teams, there's not as much truly intriguing
diplomacy, because the pacts are set at game start, and it's an "us-against-
them" game from turn one. In Free-For-All games though, there's no telling what
you'll find. You may get an early alliance with a faction that, in a single
player game, would NEVER ally with you, and that alliance might be fruitful for
the entire course of the game, however, human opponents are wily, and you must
always be on your guard against treachery. If you display weakness (or even
perceived weakness) in the face of a human opponent in an MP game, you're just
asking for trouble.
Diplomatic actions tend to be just as fluid in MP games as they are in SP, but
they are not bounded by anything other than the skills and wants of the
participants in a game. I've played games where I was given techs as an
incentive simply NOT to get involved in a conflict. Sometimes, I kept my
I've made force total agreements, settlement direction pacts (agreeing NOT to
colonize in a certain direction or on a certain area of map coordinates in
exchange for the same consideration).
Literally, anything you can imagine can be put on the table and an agreement
crafted around it, but again, always remember that your ability to make such
agreements "stick" is directly proportional to the number of guns your opponent
believes you can bring to bear on the situation if the agreement is not kept.
Essentially then, the art of MP diplomacy is the art of illusion. It does not
matter what the true state of affairs is, and that is a commonly held viewpoint
of people new to the MP environment (myself included). The only thing that
matters is what the players in the game BELIEVE the situation to be. If you are
weak, but project strength (and, in the absence of infiltration, no one calls
you on it), then you will be treated as though you are strong. On the other
hand, if you are strong, but the perception is that you are ineffective at
projecting your power, that strength may not hold much water. To that end, it
falls to you to practice exuding an aura of strength at all times (unless--and
there are cases when this is desirable!--it plays into your plans to feign
weakness toward some specific purpose). The essence of diplomatic relations in
MP are simply these elements:
1) Make your opponents believe you are dealing from a position of strength (even
if it's not true)
2) Find out what your rivals want, and find ways of giving it to them....for a
price, of course.
3) Determine how important your rivals hold their desires. The more important
they consider them to their overall plans, the higher premium you can charge to
meet those desires.
4) Goodwill goes far. On occasion (but not so often that it begins to degrade
your position), it is desirable to simply give some small boon to a potential
ally. They will not forget.
5) Diplomacy is about human interaction. If you've got a reputation as a
backstabber, like it or not, memories last longer than a single game, and you
may find yourself stacking the deck against you in later games by running
roughshod over allies in the game you're currently involved in.
Metagame notes for MP Games:
MP Diplomacy is dynamic, and much of the wheeling and dealing will likely take
place outside the gaming environment, generally in e-mail exchanges between
parties that have met on the map, and are therefore allowed to communicate
freely under game rules. Often, if three or more parties are involved in
negotiations, you may find yourself being invited to a chat room (or ICQ-ing)
someplace to hammer out some type of collaborative plan or agreement. If and
when this occurs, it is always a good idea to agree beforehand to log the
meeting, so that everyone has a record of what was said and what was agreed
to....saves arguments later. Plus, if you see someone violating some part of the
agreement, you can take action against them!
There is no way anyone can "teach you" the Metagame....it's more a feeling. You
can talk around the subject, but it never seems to cut to the core. The best way
to learn it is to simply immerse yourself in the stream and feel the currents of
the game flowing over you. Instead of merely listening to what is being said at
such meetings, try to read between the lines. See what's not being said.
Determine WHY certain things are being said. Discern the reasons that certain
parties want certain things. Do that, and you will be in a much stronger
position in the game, able to predict what your rivals may do when suddenly
denied that which they have worked hard for, or how much they might be willing
to give you in exchange for meeting their desires.
Good luck, and I'll see you in the truce tent!
A Primer on Combat
The Mechanics of Battle:
Before we move into more advanced combat discussion, it is important that you
have an intimate understanding of the forces and factors involved in determining
your success or failure in battle. A quick look at the tech tree quickly reveals
a 2:1 ratio of attack to defense favors, favoring the attacker across the board,
making the prospect of fighting a defensive based war appear daunting indeed,
but those numbers by themselves do not tell the whole story, and there are any
number of ways you can help even things out. Read this section closely and
consider how to tie these concepts into your overall game, and then pour over
the notes on the various early game military units. Even if you're the most
pacifistic of Builders, the fact of the matter is that you need to spend some
serious time in the Design Workshop to get familiar with your options, and with
what you'll likely be facing.
The two principles you need to be focusing on here are:
Know Thine Enemy
Two phrases you've undoubtedly heard before, but here's what is meant and
implied by them:
Know Thyself: What is it that you wish to accomplish, either offensively or
defensively? What are your real goals? If you can't answer the question, don't
even attempt an attack or a defense, because your efforts will lack direction
and focus, and you will be easily defeated. Make a list of specific goals, and
plan your attack/defense strategies to meet them. (Example: I know my opponent
is using a Rover-Heavy force, so I want all of my frontier bases to have no less
than 3 ECM garrisons, and I'd like to have blocking units set up to stall his
advance for at least two turns, until I can assess the size of the force and
respond accordingly). You see how much more informative that answer is than a
generic: "I want to defend all bases."? That's the kind of thinking you need to
be doing. (Attack Example: My opponent has built a string of three coastal bases
on the eastern side of his continent, giving me easy approach to them.
Infiltration reports reveal that each base has three best/best garrisons and two
probes. I have four cruiser transports at the ready, and now must focus on
building Missile Marines to launch an assault, with an eye toward capturing all
three on the same turn).
Know Thine Enemy: What does he want? Why does he think you are a good target to
attack? If you can answer those questions, you may be able to change his mind.
What kind of force is he using? Can I design a defensive counter to that? If so,
what will it take in terms of mineral investment? Again, those are the kinds of
questions that win games.
The Multiplicative Value of Bases:
While it's true that weapon strengths (given comparable tech levels) are twice
as good as armor strengths, the existence of the base itself, and enhancements
built at the base go a long way in evening the score. The most fearsome weapon
of the early game is the Impact Rover. Armed with nerve gas pods, this little
attacker packs a major punch for minimal investment (baseline value = 6, as much
as 8 if the Rover in question is an Elite....that's impressive indeed).
Defensively, you have High Energy Chemistry, giving you Plasma Armor, with a
defense factor of 3 (baseline). Your base itself provides you an inherent 25%
defensive bonus, and if you've built your base on a sensor array, that gives you
an additional 25% bonus that your opponent can't do anything about. The presence
of an ECM garrison in your bases will give you another 50% bonus vs. his elite
attack rover, and a perimeter defense will grant you yet another 100% bonus, for
a total of 250% (before the morale of your defender is taken into account),
turning your 3-defense plasma garrison into a 7.5. Figuring at least disciplined
troops, and you are at par with a nerve gas, elite attack rover (something your
opponent likely will not have an abundant supply of).
Thus, if your opponent attacks you with anything less than an elite X-Impact
rover in a properly defended base, he has little chance of trading blows with
you, 1:1 (it will take at least two attack rovers to kill one of your
garrisons). Now, if you arrange to have advance warning that your opponent is
approaching, you can upgrade your 3-4 probe teams to Plasma (and possibly ECM)
variants to augment your garrison at the base threatened, and be sitting in a
very strong defensive position. Note here, that outside the base, your Plasma
garrisons don't stand much of a chance, as even optimal placement will still not
provide them with sufficient defense to survive an attack from such a unit.
Even if you force your opponent to attack from a lower altitude (+12.5% for
you), sit on rocky or forested terrain (+50%), within three spaces of your
sensor (+25%), and again, arm the garrison with ECM (+50%), and assume at least
hardened (+12.5%) morale, giving you a total of 150% in bonuses) the defending
unit won't really stand a chance against an X-Impact rover, as his attack factor
will remain unchanged at 8, while the best you can hope for is a total modifier
of 150% (giving you 4.5) In that case, the rover will be at about half strength,
and unable to move again, which, best case, will at least enable you to subvert
the unit, and it will stall the enemy's advance toward your base itself.
The lesson here: Do not expect that you will win many defensive engagements with
your opponent if he catches your units outside their base. You won't. What you
will do though, is stall your opponent's advance and weaken his forces before
they can even reach your base, buying you time to ready further defenses, and
remember, time is very much on your side. An early game "large" attack force
will usually not contain more than ten or twelve units, counting artillery
support and probes, and if, by sacrificing a few well-placed field units, you
can stall the advance of his attack group, you buy yourself time to move spare
garrisons to the embattled base, armor unarmored defenders (canaries with
teeth), and ready additional probe teams.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your opponent is not the only one who can
take advantage of attack strengths, and in almost all cases, your opponent's
attack force will be lightly armored or totally unarmored, meaning that if you
can but hold the base for a single turn against his attack, you will have a
chance to counter-punch, knocking out his weakened defenders, (except for the
last one, which, if you have the energy, you can subvert), and in that way, very
quickly be rid of the attacker's army. Note too, that you have one very
important advantage on defense, and that is, if you to ponent kills a garrison,
the other garrisons in the base take no collateral damage. Most often, your
opponent's attack force will be in a single square and stacked (usually on a
road), so when you start hitting back, every unit you kill will damage all the
others in the stack, and, since your opponent is on your turf, about the only
advantages he will have will be terrain ones, which won't help much if his
attack force has no armor.
In later sections, you will find more information on stalling your enemy's
advance through your empire, buying time, and counter-punching for maximum
effect. For now, it is enough to get your mind turning on the principles of
battle itself. The mathematics that drive it, and to know that, as a defender,
your lot is not as hopeless as it might initially seem. Just remember that the
more turns you can stall the attacker's advance and hold onto your embattled
base, the less likely your opponent will be to take it at all. Each turn tips
the scales further in your favor, so if you're fighting defensively, it behooves
you to become a master at delaying tactics.
If your opponent uses Infantry to assault your base, he'll get an additional 25%
bonus on the attack, but such attacks are harder to set up. Unless the units are
elites, he'll have to either park just outside your base for a turn (giving you
the opportunity to strike first), or begin the attack from one square away
(meaning that he'll be at a 33% disadvantage, which more than compensates for
the 25% bonus he got by using infantry in the first place). Either way, infantry
attackers are easier to deal with than rovers (which can begin from three
squares out, and still hit for full strength), though you do lose your ECM bonus
if fighting an infantry based force.
If you have probes in your bases (and you'd better), then you will also want to
have at least one unit of Artillery at each base (preferably on a rover chassis,
to enable you to move them around easily), since one of the most common ways of
weakening enemy probe teams is via shelling in advance of the probe attack. With
an artillery unit standing by, the shelling never occurs, and the two "field
guns" simply duel each other, which again, buys you time.
When planning your defense, serious thought needs to be given to your standard
base layout. If your bases are five squares apart (optimally spaced), then you
will want to utilize a "Rover-Defense" model, enabling your spare garrisons to
move from base to base in a single turn. Infantry Defense is impractical with
your bases so far apart, as your forces will be vulnerable for the turn they
spend between the bases, and, you will not be able to reinforce an embattled
base in a single turn.
With bases spaced three (or less) apart, your defensive options increase (in
addition to becoming easier), and you will be able to use a mix of Infantry and
Rover garrisons, which in turn, will enable you to get anywhere from 4-6
additional defenders at a battle site in a single turn. This, combined with the
presence of the previously mentioned "canaries with teeth" will most often more
than match your opponent's attack force, making it difficult, if not impossible
for the attack to succeed.
Turning the Tables: Looking at things from the attacker's point of view:
Before you launched the attack, it is assumed that you successfully infiltrated
the enemy's datalinks, and therefore, know what you are getting into, and since
that is the case, it makes sense to assume that you have designed your attack
force accordingly (taking into account the possibility of additional defenders
being built during the time it takes for your attack force to arrive at the base
you have targeted for capture or destruction, and before you commit your troops
to battle, it is always wise to take another look to see what your opponent has
waiting for you.
As the attacker, your very best friend though, is the element of surprise.
Knowing that your troops have no ready way to receive reinforcements, and
knowing too, that your initial attack force will likely be dead long before said
reinforcements could arrive anyway, your goal is to establish a stronghold
quickly (i.e. - in a single turn) and to hit your opponent totally unaware,
therefore, it is paramount that you keep a close eye on the base you have
selected as your target, and watch for changes. If you don't think you can take
the base with your current force, hole them up somewhere and build additional
troops to add to the attack force before starting the attack run and giving away
your intent. Better still, send a smaller, secondary attack force to make a
demonstration against some other part of the empire, or subvert a small base on
the opposite side of the empire in an attempt to divert your enemy's attention
away from your true objective, and when his attention is diverted, drive in fast
and hard, and take the base before the defender has time to do any of that fancy
If you have a few units with left over moves, and if your goal is to hold the
base, then send one or more of them out in the direction that the expected
counterstrike will come from to stall the advance of the counter-strike force
and give you time to rest your units and build more. If it doesn't look like you
can hold the base, then sell off the most expensive facility your opponent has
there, and burn the base to the ground, then withdraw your force to a less
accessible part of the continent. You're still a threat, in the sense that
you're on your opponent's soil with significant force, and that alone will
likely throw him off balance (in addition to the fact that you've already "won"
in the sense that you have denied him one of his production centers). Over time,
such attacks will give your opponent a "death by a thousand cuts." No single
victory is decisive, but over time, you will steadily whittle him down, and ruin
his carefully constructed infrastructure.
Ground Pounders N Garrisons:
Infantry units form the core of most of the armies on Chiron. They are
relatively inexpensive to build, capable defenders, they can be configured to
make good counter-punchers, and in some cases (specifically in the cases of
Elites and Marines), they are superb units for making base assaults. Because of
that, it's important to take a look at your various early game options.
Defensive Possibilities for early game infantry:
Depending on how you climb up the tech-tree, it is entirely possible to get
Neural Grafting in the early game, and if you do, this will greatly expand your
options where garrisons are concerned, because it will enable you to creatively
mix and match defensive options, which will allow each of the garrisons you have
to fill a number of roles, but before you can focus on what types of garrisons
you want to build, it's important to know what your options are. Of course, that
is largely driven by just how many techs you have, so not all of these options
may be available to you right away, but all the ones listed below are easily
obtainable in the early game:
Synthmetal Armor: Better than nothing, but not great by any reckoning. Unless
you are under early fire from a rival faction, you're best bet is to prototype a
single combat unit with this (to get the Morale upgrade), and then spend some
cash to upgrade that higher-morale unit to some more useful configuration.
Synthmetal is normally relegated to units which normally do not come with armor
(probes, formers, and crawlers), to enable them to gain combatant bonuses--and
to negate the 50% non-combatant penalty--and Morale upgrades for surviving
Plasma Armor: The best defense money and minerals can buy in the early game, and
the technology which the vast majority of your defensive strategy will be based.
With a baseline defense of three (3), further impacted by the presence of
defensive builds (Perim. Defenses, and Sensors, primarily), a Plasma-Garrison
will serve you well. Also considering that Laser weapons are the same price as
none at all, and considering that most attackers prefer lightly or unarmored
units (relying more on speed than the ability to hang in a fight), a 2-1-3
Garrison will give you the ability to survive a hard hit, and then hit back when
it's your turn (giving you a 2:1 advantage against that unarmored Impact Rover).
Pulse Armor: More expensive, but also providing an additional 25% bonus against
Rovers, which are the favored attack unit in the early game (they don't call it
a "Rover Rush" for nothing!). Good to keep a few of these guys around if you're
expecting trouble, but better still to keep a sharp eye out, and selectively
upgrade your "regular" Plasma Boys on an "as-needed" basis.
Resonance Armor: Like Pulse Armor, above, it's also more expensive than
"regular" Plasma Armor, but provides an added 25% defensive bonus against Psi-
Attackers. If you're under fire from a "Planet Heavy" faction (Caretakers,
Gaians, or Cult), or if the native worms are paying you repeated visits,
Resonance Armored garrisons (especially when combined with Trance ability), will
enable you to stand well against them, even if you're running a Free Market
ECM: A wonderful defensive ability to give your garrisons, as it grants you a
50% defensive bonus against those cursed Rovers! Of course, the key here is that
the ECM bonus gets stronger as your armor factor increases (An ECM Synthmetal
Garrison would defend with a baseline of 3 against a Rover of any type, while an
ECM Plasma garrison would defend at 4.5). Also a wonderful offensive tool, as a
Rover under fire from an Infantry unit armed with ECM will not be able to
withdraw from the battle!
Trained: Two free Morale upgrades, amounting to a 25% increase in capability!
Non-Lethal Methods: Depends on what kinds of Social Choices you're running.
Under Market, this won't do anything for you, but under Planned, each garrison
with this ability counts double for purposes of Drone Control.
Deep Radar: The ability to "see" out to two spaces is primarily useful for units
serving in a scouting role. In base squares (especially in bass built on top of
a sensor array), it's a redundant ability.
Polymorphic Encryption: Doubles the cost to subvert the unit. By extension, if
the unit is inside a base, it increases the costs of subverting the base.
Something to keep in mind if your last probe team just died.....
Nerve Gas: Adds a big 50% to your attack value! No defensive bonuses here, but
if you are attacking a base with an X-unit, and you kill the defender, the base
loses population quickly, making this a menace indeed!
Trance: Gives you an additional 50% bonus against Psi-Attackers
Empath: Good for counter-punching units which will be fighting worms. Empath
ability has no effect whatsoever in a purely defensive role, however. If you
make these guys, you need to be attacking with them!
Amphibious Pods (Marines): Enables Infantry units to attack from sea squares.
Essentially, this enables troops ferried in via a transport to attack from the
ship to the base. Under these conditions, Infantry attackers are actually
superior to Rovers for base-assaults, as Infantry get an additional 25% bonus
when assaulting a base, and the Infantry's ability to attack is in no way
affected by the movement of the Transport that brought him to the battle. This
means that your Transport Foil (movement of three), can begin his Attack Run
from three squares out (outside the sight range of even a coastal sensor array),
and strike at the base, effectively giving Marines a greater range than Rovers,
except where the Rover is moving along a totally uncontested road. Head to the
"Naval Superiority" section to learn more about setting up Marine-Based
attacks!). Amphibious pods also provide a defensive capability in the sense that
infantry units with pods stationed in coastal or sea bases can actually launch
attacks against enemy ships which are adjacent to them, making them good
Bombardment: In a word: Artillery. This enables you to "snipe" at enemy troops
before they actually get near your base. If you can stall your opponent's army
two squares out (with a sacrificial unit), you can attack and weaken those
lightly or unarmored units, inflicting light to significant damage, depending on
what type of terrain you catch the units in.
As you can see, these various options can be combined to create garrisons which
are either fairly generic (and capable of being upgraded to a specific
configuration when you know what you will be facing), or, money permitting (and
especially if you get Neural Grafting in the early game), you can create 2-3
defenders in your fringe bases which will almost entirely shut down specific
types of attacks. Just imagine the difficult time your opponent would have
assaulting your base if it contained three garrisons, each configured with
Resonance Armor, High Morale, and ECM capabilities. That, combined with the
presence of a Command Center, Children's Creche, Sensor, and Perimeter defense
(and a few probe teams to prevent the base from simply being stolen, or your
defenses ripped out), would make the base nigh invulnerable to all but the most
overwhelming of attacks. Furthermore, Neural Grafting enables you to begin work
on the "Neural Amplifier" Secret Project, and, when completed, that will give
all your units a 50% defensive bonus against Psi-attackers, rendering your bases
nearly immune to attacks by native life.
(How-To Note: Designing cost effective garrisons: The goal here is to avoid
having to actually build these high powered garrisons. Far and away a better
choice is to build an inexpensive unit and use cash to upgrade him to something
more useful the following turn. To that end, it is important to note that a
Trance-Scout patrol costs you exactly the same amount as a "regular" scout, and
gives you significantly more defensive capability for your ten minerals (before
industrial bonuses or penalties are considered). For that matter, since Laser
weapons are the same price as none at all, you can cheaply build a 2-1t-1 scout
for cheap, and upgrade him from there to whatever configuration suits your needs
of the moment).
Of course, Infantry need not be relegated to defensive or counter-punching
roles, and (especially in the case of Marines), your Infantry can be configured
into a potent attacker in his own right.
From a purely "Mineral" standpoint, it is often cheaper to build one defensive
unit and one offensive unit, and this is frequently the route taken by those on
the attack (and why the bulk of their attack force has little or no armor. Sure,
they will bring along a few stout defenders, but by and large, their attackers
will be all guns and no shields). For Builders and Hybrids though, more
interested in defending hearth and home, the equation is a bit more complex than
that. Support costs are also an issue, and because of the presence of support
costs, if you're looking to defend your bases and be able to hit back hard, it
is quite often in your best interest to make each one of your units able to fill
any number of roles. Thus, if you've got the resources to pull it off, try to
arrange at least one unit in each of your frontier bases to have a "best/best"
configuration. That is to say, the best armor and the best weapon that money can
buy. This will enable that single unit (and that single mineral's worth of
support cost) to fulfill a variety of roles. Plus, when you find yourself on the
attack, your well-rounded troopers will serve you well, enabling the unit that
takes an enemy base to sit back and absorb the next turn's counter assault, if
one is forthcoming.
Play in the Design workshop, and, as you get more tech, design a variety of
units that you think you may someday need. Better to do all that when you're at
peace than have to rush through it when a mixed force of Rovers, Infantry and
MindWorms show up on your doorstep demanding attention!
As you progress your way up the tech-tree, you will find yourself able to grow
your own mindworms (beginning with the standard variety, later adding spore
launchers and IoDs, and finally Locusts. All the native life forms are more
expensive to build than their non-native counterparts, and you're generally
better off improving your Planet rating and trying to catch a few, as opposed to
paying the build cost. Nonetheless, there are times (especially depending on
your faction of choice and where you are in the tech-race) when building worms
is the way to go! (How-to Notes: Deciding when to use worms: A very simple rule
of thumb to plan by: If you're ahead in tech, use it, if not, go native! Add to
that basic consideration the SE choices of your opponent. If your opponent is
running Market, worms will be a boon to your attack force!)
Rovers make up the backbone of most strike forces. They are fast and
maneuverable, and anything that can be done with infantry, can be done with
their more expensive cousins, rovers.
Where Infantry excel at striking at bases (with their 25% additional bonus),
Rovers excel at striking hapless units out in the open, getting a whopping 50%
bonus on the attack there, so long as they're not in rocky or forested terrain.
The Attack Rover's main strength though, lies in its ability to begin an attack
run on a road, relatively far from the target base, and still strike for full
power, thus, when launching an attack, taking the enemy by surprise (before he
can selectively take out roads and impede your progress) is of paramount
importance, and if you do, you can often strike the base before the defender has
a chance to do anything tricky. Rovers enable you to exert a measure of
influence and control over the enemy's own infrastructure, denying him selected
squares, controlling choke points, and having sufficient moves to go around
attempted blocks (if those blocks have not yet been fully established...if they
have, well, read the section on Zones of Control for ways around that!)
All in all, if you're planning to launch an attack, you will find the added
speed of Rovers will serve you well in a variety of circumstances.
Naval Power in the Early Game:
Early game Naval Power falls into two distinct categories: Pre-Doctrine
Initiative, and Post-Doctrine Initiative. Both are important, if Naval
Superiority plays a role in your game strategy, but Navies in the Post-
Initiative world are vastly more dangerous! Still, both eras of Naval Power will
be given a close examination.
Ships of the Line:
One of my favorite "Pen and Paper games" is Starfleet Battles, and I have found
that much of the knowledge I picked up from years spent playing that game,
transferred nicely to SMAC and SMAX, thus, I have adopted the ship designators
from that game to here, and you will find them below. I mention this simply to
provide a frame of reference, and provide some common definitions and shorthand
for terms you'll run across later in this document.
Frigate (FF): Defensive craft, built on a foil chassis. Good for scouting and
providing cover for probe foils in the pre-air power world. Usually has max
armor and gun or laser as a weapon, and whatever defensive special abilities are
available. Commonly seen in an escort role (as per probe foil cover, above).
Destroyer (DD): All guns, minimal shields (go with whatever shielding level will
not raise your cost). Also built on a foil hull, these craft are the ones that
do the bulk of the sea battling in the early game.
Heavy Destroyer (HDD): The best money can buy. Max armor, best weapon, a
menacing ship, frequently found as the flagship of early game fleets. Later
replace by Battleships (see below) or other "capitol ships."
Light Cruiser (CL): Built on a cruiser chassis, this craft fills many of the
same functions of a frigate, but with more speed and maneuverability. Generally,
Light Cruisers will be outfitted with middle of the road armor and weapons, so
they can be mass-produced cheaply, and upgraded to other configurations as
needed (in the early game, this will almost universally be Synthmetal/Laser
Cruiser (CA): The mainstay of fleets in the post-initiative worlds. Taking
advantage of relatively low armor costs for ships, these fellows generally have
the best shielding and weapons that money can buy, but skimp on special
abilities. They're the workhorses of the post-initiative fleet.
Battleships (and specialty cruisers):
(BB – Battleship Designation)
(CC – Command Cruiser Designation)
(HCA – Heavy Cruiser Designation)
Utilizing best/best configurations, and mixing in a variety of special
abilities, these ships are top of the line, and before the advent of airpower,
they are the fastest, most maneuverable, most powerful units on Planet (arguably
even besting the greatly feared IoD!).
Light Transport (TL): Designed on the old-style foil hull, these boats are slow
and don't hold much in the way of cargo, but are useful for exploration,
recovery of unity pods, commercial shipping concerns (transporting colonists and
terraformers), and, en masse, useful for launching assaults (although they are
limited to two (2) cargo spaces.
Heavy Transport (TH): Pretty much as above, except the units are outfitted with
best/trance, to give them a greater chance of surviving to reach their objective
if their escort ships come to a bad end.
Destroyer Transport (TDD): A transport based around the cruiser hull, and
generally running unarmored, or lightly armored at best (standard Destroyer
doctrine), the TDD is faster and able to haul more cargo, making it much better
suited for the launching of assaults against coastal bases. Also, this
configuration is ideal for the mass-transit of large amounts of civilian
equipment from island to island, enabling you to ferry across a colony pod,
former, base guard, and supply crawler all at once.
Cruiser Transport (TCA): Again, based on the cruiser hull, but outfitted with
the best defensive measures money and tech can give them, this is the classic
"heavy assault" cruiser, taken into the hottest of hot spots (with support), and
fully capable of performing independent, clandestine, small-scale operations
with a detachment of Marines.
Isles of the Deep (IoD): The hands-down most versatile, attack-capable unit in
the game, IoD's are extraordinary! They can attack well, defend well, and serve
as a transport! They're more maneuverable than the foil-based ships (especially
considering their ability to move freely through fungus), and can heal "in the
field" (again, fungus), rather than being tied to trying to limp back to a base
to effect repairs. If you don't have at least one in your early game navy, then
you need to switch to Green and send one of your FF's to go play in the fungus
till you catch one!
Navies in the "Pre-Initiative" world:
During this time-frame, the principle purpose of your navy to expand your
knowledge of the world around you. Exploration and defense is significantly more
important than the ability to launch an attack, so your most common foil based
ships will be probe teams and trance frigates (enabling them to stand a
reasonably good chance of surviving an IoD attack). If you've started on a small
landmass, or have pod-scattering turned on, you'll likely see a number of heavy
transports in the water as people race to pop those sea pods!
Because of the versatility and usefulness of IoD's, one of your primary early-
navy missions should be to arrange for the capture of one. Generally, this means
switching to Green and sending one of your FF's to go play in the fungus until
you find one, then go for a capture, and when you do capture one, he'll likely
serve for quite some time as the flagship of your fleet, being the best all-
around unit you've got.
Naval engagements during this point of the game will be mostly confined to light
skirmishes as people unroll more and more of the map. Assault-wise, with foil-
based transports and no marines, your best bet will be to make use of rovers, as
they will be able to unload and still attack on the same turn, though you will
likely need at least two transports worth of Rovers to mount a significant
threat, and more than that, depending on your objectives (but see the section on
combat to learn more about setting up attacks and such).
Navies in the "Post-Initiative" world:
Once you get to Doctrine: Initiative, things begin to get a lot more
interesting, navy-wise. First and most importantly, you get the new Cruiser
Hull, which gives you ships with more movement (and in the case of transports,
more cargo space). Second, and nearly as important, you get a wonderful Secret
Project, which, when built will give you Naval Yards in every base (effectively
adding 25% to the attack strength of your units), and giving them two additional
points of movement. If navy plays even a modest role in your overall strategy,
then this is a project you don't want to miss out on!
Finally, and nearly as important as the first two, you get Marines, and the
ability to launch infantry strikes at coastal bases from distances well outside
of sensor range. This is important because, unless your opponent is actively
searching for you, you will oftentimes be able to slip up to the base and
overwhelm it with your Marines before he even knows the attack is coming (which
of course, hearkens back to the earlier mentioning that the element of surprise
is the key advantage of the attacker).
(How-To Note: Taking an enemy base with a Marine Strike!: Pretty simple really,
but here's how to set it up: Infiltrate, and determine the number of defenders
at the target base. Bring a number of Marines along equal to the number of
defenders +2 (in case things get dicey). Position your TCA in such a location
that is off the beaten path, shipping wise (so your opponent likely won't
stumble into your task force during his turn), and a number of spaces distant
from the base so that you can move the transport into the base once you capture
it--note however, that sometimes, this is impossible to set up, and if it is,
then plan to leave the transport just outside the base until the next turn (if
it lives that long). On your next turn, move the escort ships up to the base and
fire an initial volley to soften up the defenders, then move in with any probe
teams you might have brought along to strip out any Multiplicative enhancements
that will make taking the base more difficult--note here, if you think you can
win without doing this, then by all means, leave them in place, as it will make
your own defense an easier proposition--finally, move the transport up and start
hammering the garrisons. With luck, you will have planned correctly, and have 1-
2 Marines to take the base with, and with a bit further luck, you'll have one
final transport move to get the ship inside to relative safety!)
Marine assaults are very difficult to defend against, and once one player has
Doctrine: Initiative, only constant and diligent patrolling will keep the
coastal bases safe, as there is no way that a defender can build enough
garrisons in all his coastal bases to prevent you from sweeping in and
overwhelming one (or more) of them. Your opponent is, of course, welcome to try,
but it's a battle he simply cannot win, so long as you have infiltrated his
Fleet-wise, things get a lot more interesting as well, because by this point in
the game, a good portion of the world has been explored, and people are
beginning to consolidate their positions. Mostly, this means bigger fleets, more
ships, and more versatility. Once again, spend some serious time in the Design
workshop, putting together units as described above in different configurations.
A flexible, well-balanced fleet plying the waters off your coast will give you
the ability to protect your coastal bases, while posing a synergistic collection
of ships operating as a fleet will
From now until the advent of air power, your navy will give you power and
flexibility unmatched by any other military unit in the game, and even when
needlejets and choppers establish their dominance, naval units can combine their
flexibility with these new tools to create a power unmatched by air dominance
(How-To Note: Rapid Prototyping: Again, the trusty supply crawler is your best
friend. When you have a new weapon or armor to prototype, I almost always
recommend doing the prototype on a Rover Chassis, as this will give you a well-
trained, mobile attacker/defender when you upgrade him to best/best, and again,
when the Prototyping base starts work on the new weapon or defensive system,
have a crawler standing by from a nearby base to "cash in" at full mineral value
to speed the completion of the prototype. That way, you can begin upgrading your
forces the very next turn!)
Covert-Ops (or: Fun with Probe Teams):
Probe Teams are terrific little units. Almost as versatile and useful as Formers
and Crawlers, actually, and, as the first "clean" units you get in the game,
learning to use them well and wisely is of prime importance.
Flavors of Probes:
Outlined below, you'll find a laundry list of some of the various types of Probe
Teams I use in my own games, with notes on how to implement their use, and why
they're used in the first place. Read, absorb, and then figure a way to mesh the
thoughts here with your existing game style. I promise you it will strengthen
The "Data-Guardian:" This is a probe built on an Infantry chassis, whose role is
entirely defensive in nature. His sole purpose for existing is to prevent an
enemy faction from coming over and making off with your state secrets (techs).
For adequate defense, you need two probes, good defense is three, and
outstanding defense is four or more, as this will enable you to stand against
all but the most determined covert assaults, and, compared with the Probe Foils
or Rover-Based Probes your opponent will likely be using, he's cheap too! The
most common use of defensive probes is to simply leave them in the base. That
way, before any techs (or bases) can be stolen, your opponent must wade through
your probe teams.
There are times, however, when you will find it desirable to (at least
temporarily) move your defensive probes from their bases, the most common of
these being any time your enemy leaves a single, unstacked troop in range of the
probe. If you've got the money for it, go out and subvert the trooper, adding it
to your force total. Remember that the attacker only brought so many units with
him, and the more units you can steal away, the more quickly his attack loses
steam. Data-Guardians should also receive a full range of upgrade options to
make them more multi-functional.
Is your opponent approaching with 0-0-2 (speeder-based) probes? If so, why not
upgrade all your defensive probes in the area to ECM variants, giving you a 50%
bonus in the upcoming fight? Is your opponent hitting your base with artillery
(either land or sea-based) to weaken your unarmored defenders, and make
successful probing more likely? Then give your Data-Guardians light armor to
mitigate the damage.
Did he approach with an overwhelming number of attackers? If so, give your
probes both ECM and Max Armor (as he's likely got at least some Rovers in the
mix), and bulk up your garrisons in the short term that way! (Two important Game
notes!: An armored probe team does NOT count as a garrison unit for purposes of
drone control! Also, other probe teams ignore any armor value your probe teams
have, making the usefulness of armor on probes somewhat limited, but in a pinch,
they'll serve you well! Imagine losing an impact rover to a silksteel probe! How
The "Vagabond-Class" Probe: Is the standard, rover-based, offensive Probe. Good
for use as a "clean" explorer for those running Market and wishing to maintain
full use of their industrial capacity, and an essential addition to any attack
force. The three keys to making a successful probe foray are: Objective, Mass,
and Support, and each of these are explained below:
Objective: Before you set out to probe, know your objective! If this is your
first visit to the enemy base, then it is of paramount importance to infiltrate
his datalinks! Nothing is more important than this, even if you are far behind
in techs! And, now that you know where your opponent IS, it's fairly easy to
send more probes to that location. Once you have infiltrated, the specific
objective of your probe action will be determined by the type of raid being
made. If it is a purely covert operation, then most likely the next most
important mission will be to grab techs and the enemy world map. After that, it
will be on a case-by-case basis, but such things as draining energy reserves and
disrupting production queues (especially at a base where your opponent is
working on a Secret Project or expensive new prototype) are attractive options.
If your probe teams are part of an invasion force, then you will want to take
stock of the enemy's Multiplicative defense factors (Aerospace Complexes,
Perimeter Defenses, and so forth), and knock out as many of them as you can, to
give your attack units an edge in combat against the base.
Mass: Once you find an opponent, don't make a "casual" probe raid. Hit him fast
and furious. You now know (thanks to infiltration), exactly which bases have
probes, and how many (and of what type). Thus, it is easy to design a probe
force of sufficient size for each base you plan to hit, and be virtually
guaranteed of success. And, again thanks to infiltration, you know precisely how
many techs ahead of you your opponent is (if any), so don't just hit him for one
tech! Plan to hit him in numerous bases on the same turn, with an eye toward
getting ALL his tech that you are lacking and his complete world map to boot!
Yes, this could conceivably take a fair number of probes, but the time spent
building them will be more than made up by the tech and information windfall you
(How-To Notes: Executing a stellar Probe-Action: Mass numbers of probes can
support each other, by simply hitting the base one after another until all the
enemy probes have been eliminated, and, if you've counted correctly, you'll
still have one probe left to get into that base and grab some techs or what-
have-you, but probes-supporting-probes is not always the most efficient way to
go. If your probes are part of a land attack group, bring along a few units of
artillery to snipe the base in advance of your probes going in. If your opponent
has not armored his probes, then the artillery will damage his units, making
your probe teams' job easier. If he has, and if you have enough arty with you,
some damage will still be sustained, and by sending your probes in first, to
eliminate his extra "armored" defenders, it will make the job of your regular
attack force easier. If attacking from the sea, bring along one of your FF's to
bombard the base (and provide a measure of protection for your probe-foils) to
soften up the enemy probe teams before sending yours in!)
The "Hunter-Class" Probe: Built on a Foil chassis, this is a "swing" unit, often
found serving in both offensive and defensive capacities (defensively, this is a
great way to subvert rogue attack ships intent on shelling your terrain
enhancements and roads out of existence, while offensively, it enables you to
reach out and touch an enemy faction on another continent with relative ease.
Note, however, that mass-probe operations with foil-based probes will be much
more mineral intensive investments for the aggressor than for the defender (who
is likely building Infantry-based probes at a much cheaper rate than your foil
probes), but in this kind of warfare, it's the information that is the prize,
not the mineral cost. All of the attack options available to the Vagabond probe
team apply equally well to the offensively used Hunter probe.
The "Seeker-Class" Probe: Built on the Cruiser chassis, this provides you with
greater mobility, enabling you to strike from further off the coast, thus
increasing your chances for avoiding detection. Most often, these are found in
offensive roles and are quite expensive to build until fusion reactors, so in
general, their use is limited to operations against far-off bases with no probe
defenses, though occasionally variants (and sometimes armored variants) will
accompany Cruiser task forces (able to keep up with them) to provide support and
to weaken enemy fleets via subversion.
Basic Combat (Single Player and Multi- player notes Included)
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
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.
Attack and Defense in the early game:
Prior to clean reactors, the size of your army is directly related to two key
factors: First, your support rating. The bigger it is, the bigger your army. And
second, your total mineral outputs. Because of these factors, attack forces (and
base garrisons) tend to be relatively fewer in number during this stage of the
game (which is why early game attack forces seldom number above 10-12).
Now, the exact number of attackers or garrisons you will have at your disposal
will vary depending on your situation, but here are some general guidelines to
Builders: Preservation of a large portion of your industrial capacity is vital
to the rapid completion of your infrastructure. To that end, you will want
relatively few garrisons, relying instead on "token forces" (usually one at each
base), prototypes, and early game "clean" units such as crawlers and probe teams
which can be armored if needed to help bolster defense at beleaguered bases.
This is also why armoring your formers is important as soon as you have the
money and time to do so. You need the formers to perform terrain enhancing
builds for you, so why not have them pull a bit of double duty? By armoring them
up, you create a backbone of units which can serve several purposes at once.
Terraforming in times of peace, and helping with base defense if you are
attacked, which will buy you time to build "proper" defenders.
Also note that for Builders, since money is generally no object, most, if not
all of the garrisons in your frontier bases can easily be outfitted with
best/best configurations (making your garrisons able counter-punchers), but in
general, unless you've just got cash coming out of your ears, it is wise to
leave your spare troops in the interior as common trance scouts and empath
rovers until you see the badguys approaching, and then, after analyzing the
force, you can upgrade to whatever will provide the best defense against that
attack force, and move them into position. Of course, to make that work, it
means you will have to rely on a network of "clean units" (usually probe foils)
to constantly patrol the various approaches to your holdings. If you don't feel
like doing that, then upgrade everybody you can to best/best, and simply bulk up
your exposed bases, but this is generally viewed as too static a posture, and
opens the door for attack.
Hybrids: With flexibility again creeping into the conversation, you probably
want to preserve a healthy chunk of your industrial output, but not at the
expense of the Builders, who sometimes flagrantly ignore defensive concerns for
the sake of rapidly developing that all-important infrastructure. Commit no more
than one third of your total mineral outputs to the construction of attack and
defense forces. For most mineral heavy bases (figure 15 minerals as a baseline),
this means you can support five units after you eat through your "free" slots,
and still have ten minerals per turn for building. That's not bad, and even if
you're running Democracy, you will still be able to field a significant number
of troops. Unlike the Builder stance, you will probably want your entire force
ready to go at a moment's notice, which means that, rather than having a group
of Trance Scouts sitting in the safe zone, you'll upgrade your troops as you get
them, and assign them where you suspect attacks are likely. The forces not
relegated to passive defense will be out trolling for the enemy, or perhaps
carrying the fight to him via small scale task forces (escorted transports,
loaded with rovers).
Momentum: Jack up your support rating to as high as you can get it, and build
troops until you eat up all your free slots. Then, designate about a quarter to
a third of your "paid" slots for transports, formers and the like. This will
give you, hands down, the largest armies on Chiron in the early game, and should
enable you to dictate terms to your rivals whomever and wherever they are.
Delegate some minimal portion of this to provide for your own defense, and send
the balance of them out hunting. Remember that, at this point in the game,
minimal defense is about all that will be needed against a Hybrid attacker, and
Builders won't be predisposed to hit you unless you make trouble for them first,
so at this point in the game, your biggest concern is finding other Momentum
players and hitting them before they can hit you. Knock another Momentum player
out of the game, and absorb his empire into your own, and you create Economies
of scale simply by having more bases than anybody else.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
Additional Combat Notes specific to the MP Environment:
The essential elements of warring in SP work for MP, with a few key differences:
First and most importantly, your opponent will not have perfect knowledge of
where all your units are. Likewise, you won't know where all your opponent's
units are, so you need to be MUCH more on your guard for surprise attacks, or
attacks from unexpected directions. It's standard practice for human opponents
to relieve pressure on a given area by opening up a new theater of action on a
new front. You either respond to it or get flanked. AI's will never do this.
When they attack, they attack clumsily, and in linear fashion. Your human
opponents generally will not, unless they are very new to the game, and even
then, they'll learn quickly. Be ready for that.
Expect your opponent to do strange things to try to throw you off balance.
Sometimes, those strange things are colossal failures, and they actually wind up
making your job easier, but sometimes not, and if not, write down the things
that worked on you, and try using them yourself! It's one of the very best ways
Remember too, that the amount of damage military units can cause in terms of
lost production and infrastructure are all out of proportion to how many
minerals they cost. Essentially then, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Never
forget that, and do not take even a scout patrol wandering through your
territory lightly. It can be upgraded in an instant and strike! (something else
the AI will never do).
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 Middle 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
One of the centerpieces to strategy in the Middle-Game is getting yourself ready
to execute a population boom (mentioned earlier), and a bit more should be said
about that, 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. Used to be true, but no longer in the SMAX
universe, thanks to a timely bug fix! 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. They can, but it takes a bit more work
to set up.
By the Middle-Game, and sometimes before, you are ready to execute a population
boom, and of course, the sooner you do it, the stronger you will be. The
mechanics were spelled out in detail earlier, but if you're not sure you
remember, I'll mention them again here: All you really need to "Boom" is at
least +2 extra nutrients at each base and a +6 Growth. For most factions, +6
Growth is as easy to come by as building Children's Crиche's everywhere, and
running Planned/Dem, but if you're playing one of the factions that cannot run
one of those Social Choices, then you'll have to rely on Psych Allocation to
throw your bases into Golden Ages and pick up your final +2 Growth that
way.(click here to see the more detailed notes)
Infrastructurally, there are two principle ways to get enough food to sustain
the boom. The easiest way is to build Treefarms (and Hybrid Forests, as your
bases get larger). They provide you with Psych, energy, and ecology bonuses
anyway, so they're always good investments, and they make your forest squares
more productive (each forest providing you an additional nutrient, post Tree-
Farm). Another possibility though, would be to simply crawl enough food in to
support the growth.
There are also two primary ways you can structure your booms, Single Phase and
Dual Stage. Both work well, and it mostly depends on what level of
infrastructural development you've managed to get to before you're ready to
execute the boom.
In single stage booming, before you start, you want to have your Hab-Complexes
already in place, spending the boom-turns building drone control and Psych-
enhancing facilities to keep the exploding population well-mannered. With hab-
complexes in place, you simply boom all your bases up to maximum size (14
baseline, bigger for Lal and the guy who gets the Ascetic Virtues project,
smaller for Morgan) in one shot, then drop back into whatever SE configuration
you want to take full advantage of the significantly larger population.
Specifically, in a single stage boom, you want all essential infrastructure in
place at the outset, save for Hybrids, which you will build as you spring up to
For a two stage boom, you want to grow your bases to max. pre-hab complex size,
then pause to build additional infrastructure, starting again when you get
everything but Hybrids built, then proceeding on to maximum size. Note that a
two stage boom does not work for Morgan, as most of his bases will BE at size
for (his max, before hab-complexes) relatively quickly anyway. Personally, I
prefer a two stage boom, because I can execute stage one of it fairly early in
the game, to get a jump in population, going for the second stage as soon as I
can rush sufficient infrastructure in place to support the growth.
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, as this will, in all likelihood, be
when you can position yourself to be ready to do it. Powerful as it is, there
are just too many other things that need doing in the early portions of the game
(getting new bases set up, building enough of an infrastructure to support the
larger population, etc.) to worry about growing a handful of bases to maximum
size, and a boom too early, can actually work against you (example: If you boom
while you're still in your initial stages of expansion--a thing which would be
hard to set up in the first place--yes, your bases get big, but when you stop
booming and continue to build colony pods, your bigger bases won't recover lost
population points as quickly, eroding much of the advantage you gained via the
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!
Expansion in the Middle Game:
More Expansion Paradigms:
Many of these ideas share things in common with what you've read in the earlier
section, but the presence of an established core of bases in your heartland
enables you to do things you were simply unable to do earlier, so there are a
few new ideas tossed in here to reflect that. 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
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
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
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 (Thin Expansion with a vengeance!): 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
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.
Terraforming in the Middle Game
Advanced Terraforming Techniques:
Once your formers have tended to the basic needs of the bases you have up and
running, there is yet more to do. As you advance up the technology tree, more
and more terraforming options become available (and if you managed to beat
everyone else to the Weather Paradigm, then a great number of advanced
terraforming options become available to you quite early on). Now is the time to
take advantage of those new capabilities, because again, you're in a race
against time with the other players, and the quicker you get started on
optimization of each terrain square on your continent, the quicker you'll pull
impossibly ahead of your rivals, no matter who they are.
To that end, it's time to revisit the terrain squares you've already done some
work on. Got some nutrient specials? You probably forested them in the early
goings, and, pre-restriction lifting, that was more than good enough, but now
that you've come further up the tech tree, a condenser/farm would probably serve
you better in a square like that, and it would certainly enable you to toss a
crawler on that square an net yourself a LOT of food from that square alone!
(easily enough to feed five units of population, between that an your base
square). High elevation energy resources? Might want to consider a solar
collector there, and another crawler. Rocky areas you've been ignoring? If
they're on level terrain, and inside your base radius, that's a good candidate
for a borehole. Otherwise, it's a fine choice for a mine.
Note here: Boreholes are very efficient producers of resources, as they will net
you a whopping 12 resources (mineral and energy), but only if you use workers on
them! Half of a borehole's productivity is wasted if you use crawlers there! Not
to say you'll never want or need to, but in general, boreholes are best left to
the workers, and "single resource" squares (mines, solar panels,
farm/condensers) left to the crawlers. In that way, you net yourself the most
gain possible for each worker and crawler you have out harvesting. So,
optomizing the squares you're already working should be high on the priority
list for your busy formers.
After that, look to defense. Find ways of protecting the time you've invested.
This means building (and occupying!) bunkers in key areas, making airfields to
consolidate your aircraft in key areas, where they are capable of supporting
multiple bases, tidying up your road network, placing a few extra sensor arrays
to act as early warning systems (allowing units near them to "see" two squares,
and aiding them in defense), and sometimes planting fungal barriers to hide a
few units in as a nasty surprise for a would-be adversary, to slow his advance
down certain paths, or to "channel" enemy forces to a certain location.
Once all that is done, your formers STILL aren't finished, as now it's 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 task will keep your
formers busy for years!
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 when you're in the thick of the game, sometimes it's easy to lose
sight of that. Take your time, and make sure you don't!
At this point too (if you're not already doing so), you should really consider
operating your formers in teams (go back to the first section on terraforming
and re-read the notes on "Gang-Forming," it'll help you here. The main reason
this is good for you now is that you increase the speed with which an individual
terrain square becomes "ready" to be worked, and if your base is cranking out a
crawler to come to that square and start harvesting, it's important that your
formers be finished when the crawler arrives. By operating in teams, you can
ensure that happens.
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!
Flavors of Formers (Designing the right model for the job)
Far and away the biggest terraforming bang for your buck comes from the
standard, infantry-based, fission former, and in truth, the bulk of your
terraforming will be done by these guys, but as the game grinds on, there are a
number of alternate configurations I have found useful, and will outline some of
the ones I use frequently here, along with some notes on why I consider them
Rover-Formers: Generally, I wait until I get Fusion reactors to build these
guys, and having a few tossed into your mix can do wonders for you! First,
they're fast, and able to scoot around your existing infrastructure like
nobody's business. That's key, because by the midgame, your former teams are
generally operating quite some distance from your core bases (which is where
your newly made formers will likely be coming from). At this point, if you were
to simply build another infantry based former, it might take him 8-10 turns
simply to arrive at the site of the terraforming, and that's usually
unacceptably long. The solution then, is to build a faster former, and get him
out working for you!
Vel's Peace Frogs (so named because, one evening while playing and sucking down
tequila, I came to the conclusion that, given their greenish color and squat
appearance, they kinda looked like....well....frogs....or it could have just
been the tequila and my imagination): Give a former Synthmetal armor and trance
and suddenly you've got a "combat unit" in game terms. Doing this (and giving
them a fusion reactor upgrade while you're at it) gives you a unit that is at
least 120% better in a fight--with a reactor upgrade--, and at least 170% better
in a fight vs. psi-attackers. Add to that the fact that the former now gains
Morale upgrades for surviving battles, and it's easy to see why this is a good
upgrade! Not to mention, if you've got a beleaguered base, tossing a few of
these "roving defenders" into the base just might be the thing that lets you
hang on for that badly needed turn!
Vel's "Super-Frogs": If they didn't get a Fusion upgrade before, they definitely
do now, along with super-former ability, silksteel armor (or better if I can
afford it!), and clean reactors! This enables my lowly formers to stand toe to
toe with missile troopers and win, and it'll tear the heart out of a chaos
trooper....the attacker will almost always win, but he won't be in any kind of
fighting shape afterwards, especially if I place my unit right (high ground,
terrain and sensor bonus, sometimes a bunker bonus too!), and sometimes I get
lucky! How embarrassing for the bad guys, to get all torn up by a drunken former
Fungus Busters!: These guys (usually built on Rover Chassis) get Anti-Fungal
Tanks and Superforming ability, meaning that they can clear fungus in 1-2 turns!
(base of six, halved to three by the tanks, and halved again by the superforming
ability to 1.5)
Super Sea Drivers: Super formers (armored and clean) on a Cruiser Hull. Designed
to work hotspots and sometimes accompany my fleets to do nasty things to the
landmass of the enemy.....
A note here about the use of sea crawlers:
The sea is a vast resource for both nutrients and energy. Often largely untapped
because of the vulnerability of sea formers and crawlers, and the vulnerability
of coastal bases themselves. If you plan to make sea forming a part of your
overall strategy (and it's so efficient that you really should), then you will
probably want to begin as soon as you get your initial infrastructure I place in
your core bases. Speed is of the essence here, however, because as soon as rival
factions begin making contact (especially in MP games), your sea formers are at
risk every turn they remain in the water. The best bet then, is to build one per
coastal base (and if you have followed my earlier advice, then you'll not have
terribly many of those), and have them terraform toward each other. When they
meet, begin operating them in teams to more rapidly complete the terraforming of
particular squares, and, at the first sign of trouble, haul them back into base,
or run toward active fleet elements which are probably lurking nearby.
A strong long-term goal where sea formers are concerned is to use your land-
based formers to create an inland sea, moving the sea formers into it just prior
to the completion of it. Once established, you will have a relatively safe area
from which to harvest huge amounts of nutrients and energy, and it is quite
possible to feed the entire empire from the foodstores of the inland sea alone!
Or, if you have been blessed with rainy terrain and an abundance of resource
specials, then focus on tidal harnesses in your inland sea and crawl in vast
amounts of energy. If you do this from your HQ base, or from bases quite near
it, you will quickly be in a position to get multiple techs per turn, based
solely on the strength of your seaward "energy park," and from a time-to-
terraform standpoint, it takes significantly less time to put into place than
does a land-based energy park (less money too....it gets expensive raising land
to 3000+ meters!)
If rivals begin sniping at your sea formers before the inland sea is completed,
and if you do not have clean reactors, you are generally better off moving the
surviving formers back to bases and disbanding them to help speed whatever
builds you are currently working on (saving support costs), with a plan to
rebuild them later.
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: Coastal Crawlers rock! It's entirely possible to ring my entire
continent in crawlers harvesting minerals from coastal squares, forcing enemy
landing parties to have to fight just to get a toehold! (Oh, and did I mention
that as soon as I get clean reactors, there are most always two units there, one
being a AAA Garrison, and a bunker!) Makes it almost not worth the effort,
knowing that you'll likely lose at least one, and have two more damaged
attackers, just to land, but then, that's what I'm shooting for! Of course, all
that takes TIME to set up, but once it is, most attackers will simply look
elsewhere. Of course, an alternative option would be to drop in, but with bases
3-apart, blanketing the continent, and Aero-Complexes at every one of them,
there are no squares that drop troops are ABLE to drop into....the defense
network is just too tight.
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.....
I tend to play my games from a middle-game 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
crawler 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 (and you will....you
always will), 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. DO
NOT second guess yourself. Make a decision and ram it down the throats of your
collected opposition. (If it turns out to be wrong, I promise that you won't do
it again!) 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 (i.e., 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 crawlers 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 mines as you can (and boreholes harvested by your workers) 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
Creating Economy of Scale
Actually, if you've followed the advice in the Guide up to this point, then
you've already created Economies of Scale, and this is just a little blurb to
point that fact out to you. Economies of Scale is "the prize." It is your reward
to yourself for all the hard work you've been neck deep in since the beginning
of the game. Take a look back at the road you've been traveling, and see how far
You began with two colony pods and a scout, and you've wrangled that into an
Empire, in every sense of the word. You have been fast, efficient, and diligent,
in both the building of your infrastructure, and in the maintenance and
improvement of your defenses. You've taken an active stance in world affairs,
getting out there in one way or another (even if it was just with probe foils),
exploring the map, recovering Unity Pods, finding (and Infiltrating!!) rival
factions, talking, wheeling, dealing, and otherwise flexing the steadily
developing muscles of your Empire.
Sure, there have been growing pains along the way. Skirmishes, and perhaps even
HOT skirmishes or limited wars, but you've survived those, learned from them,
and have all the essential elements in place. Your bases are hugely productive
and efficient. Your army is top of the line. In short, you are ready to dictate
terms to the rest of the Planet. If Diplomatic dealings are more in keeping with
your personal style, you can now bargain with almost anyone from a position of
solid, steady strength. If your main interest is warfare, you can now strike out
fast and hard, and more importantly, you can keep the pressure up as long as you
need to, something that those with lesser developed nations cannot do, nor can
they stand long against those who can.
It's been a long, oftentimes risky road to get to this point, but now it's time
to reap the benefits of your efforts.
Sometimes, you can play the statesman. Dealing from a position of vast strength
and stability, it may be possible to bend others to your will simply by making
prudent "suggestions." Often though, others will be envious of your position,
and will have nothing to do with your diplomatic overtures, and if that is the
case, so be it. At this point, the prospect of warfare should NOT be a thing
that scares you, and to that end, you'll want to pay very close attention to the
next section, because no matter how peace-loving you are at heart, there will be
others who will not keep the peace. Now is the time to take the fight to them.
More on Combat
New and Improved Ground Pounders and Garrisons
One of the key differences between the early and middle game is the overall size
of the battles that will occur. In the early game, a large attack force is, at
best 10-12 units, but by the middle game, this will often be considered nothing
more than a sharp skirmish. Especially with the advent of clean reactors, it
will take an ever-increasing number of troops in the field to pose a significant
threat to an enemy, and because of that, strike forces can often double or
triple in size! Do not confine yourself to designing small or medium sized
attack forces in the middle game! It will only get you into trouble, and you'll
find yourself losing the strike force you so carefully put together!
Also remember that, with the arrival of Magtubes, taking and HOLDING an enemy
base becomes a daunting task indeed. Unless you sever all routes into and out of
the base when you take it, your rival will be able to speed attacker from all
parts of his empire to the site of the battle and take the base back with
overwhelming force if he wishes. Therefore, in the middlegame, unless you over-
staff your attack forces by a considerable margin, you might be better off to
take the enemy base, sell the most expensive facility and then simply burn it to
In the middle game, you get a staggering array of new offensive and defensive
options available to you, and on the whole, your forces become much more
specialized and deadly. I'll not attempt to cover all the various options, as
there is no firm way to tell for certain when various options will become
available. This is simply due to the fact that, by the middle game, the advances
and capabilities you have available to you at any given point are directly
related to the path up the tech tree you have chosen. Some players might get
"Blink Displacement" in the middle game, while others won't see it until right
near the end. However, the most commonly occurring, and most frequently used
options will be covered here:
AAA Tracking: The mainstay of the middle-game. This is the ability that keeps
the nasty needlejets and choppers from running roughshod over your defenses. Put
one or two of these guys in each base (and even more in border bases) and your
enemies will think twice about risking their aircraft.
Clean Reactors: The favorite ability of Builders everywhere (everybody,
actually, but Builders especially), this is the holy grail....the ability which
allows you to field a near-infinite sized army, and probably one of the most
unbalanced abilities in the entire game. The ability to create military units
which do not require support costs is HUGE.
Sophorific Gas Pods: Reduces any troops hit with the gas by two morale levels
(effectively reducing them by 25% in overall effectiveness). This is a great
ability, and perfect for your first strikers and counterpunchers!
Dissociative Wave: Eliminates special abilities! Absolutely awesome!
Blink Displacement: Allows attacking units to ignore infrastructural
enhancements and the Multiplicative effects that come with them!
Armed with these abilities, and a stunning variety of new armor types
(silksteel, photon wall, probability, and R8 being the most commonly seen armor
types in the middle game) and weapons (gatling, missile, chaos, fusion, tachyon,
and shard), plus the addition of at least two new reactor types in the middle-
game (Fusion and Quantum), your troopers see a staggering array of power and
potential, and in general, they get cheaper to build!
The same basic principles that worked with early-game unit design work now, but
with so many more options, you will likely spend an increasing amount of time in
the Design Workshop pouring over options. The most important thing is to stay
focused, and try to avoid designing too many different unit types! Just design
what you need, or what you think you will need, based on studying the
infiltrator data of your rival factions. Take a look at what forces they have in
the field, and design your attackers and defenders accordingly, and remember,
it's generally best to begin by building a cheap "shell unit" and upgrading to
what you need! This will enable you to build large numbers of troops quickly and
configure then on an as-needed basis! Also remember that, if you're going to do
it that way, you'll want to keep your relatively defenseless scouts in protected
areas of your Empire so some hotshot chopper pilot doesn't come along and toast
a dozen of your cheaply built troops before you get the chance to upgrade them!
Rovers and Hovertanks
With the discovery of Hovertanks, Rovers become pretty much obsolete, but if
you've done some early-game fighting, you've likely got a core group of Rovers
with really good morale, and it's in your best interest to keep them up to date
with the best in technology, but from an overall versatility standpoint,
Hovertanks are far superior, as they get an extra point of movement, and can
move across any type of terrain for a cost of only one movement point. In rugged
terrain, this can triple the maneuverability of your fast attackers, which is
crucial when making attack runs.
Other than that key difference though, anything that works for your garrisons,
will work for your Rovers and Tanks, so keep the same mindset when designing
your mobile defenders and battle groups!
Needlejets and Choppers
Death From Above! Warfare in SMAC has four distinct phases, and air power
represents the most deadly of the lot. Phase one is in the earliest stages in
the game, when almost everybody is confined to infantry units. Skirmishes during
this phase of the game will be slow, tedious affairs, as you probably won't even
have much infrastructure in place yet.
The advent of Rovers expands the field dramatically (and gives the Spartans an
early leg-up in battling, since they begin the game with Rovers!), as mobility
increases, with firepower increasing in tandem with that greater mobility.
Phase three is the rise in supremacy of naval units and Marines, rendering
Attack Rovers less useful, but certainly not obsolete, and finally, air power,
the terror of Chiron.
Against a technologically inferior opponent, the presence of needlejets and
choppers can quickly reduce that rival Empire to nothing. Your jets get a 100%
increase in attack advantage, and can simply sweep the enemy garrisons away,
enabling you to send in a simple Recon Rover to take the now-empty bases. With
MMI and Choppers, this is even easier to do, thanks to the Multiplicative attack
value of choppers. The ability to fly up to a base, attack half a dozen times,
and head home is enormous, and if you get this tech before you opponent gets the
corresponding defensive techs (Air Power to build Aerospace Complexes, and
Advanced Military Algorithms to build AAA garrisons), you can count the game won
in 10-20 turns, tops.
As per Rovers and Tanks, anything the Infantry units can do, Needlejets and
Choppers can do with a vengeance. You don't have to get fancy with these units,
and you don't generally have to worry about armor, since your aircraft will
seldom be spending much time outside the base (and if they do, more often than
not, they defend with their weapon value, not their armor value), so just put on
the biggest gun you can afford and start blasting!
(How-To Note: Designing good Aircraft: Most people naysay the idea of using
armor on Needlejets, and in the SMAC world, it is true that armor costs were
unusually high for jets and choppers, but in the SMACX world, that is no longer
the case. Given that, and given the damage that unarmored units are prone to
take via artillery strikes, I find it useful to put synth-armor on the majority
of aircraft I plan to send into hot zones. In this way, I provide a measure of
protection for them while they're in the base for nominal cost. I consider it
cheap insurance, but, in the same breath I will say that human opponents tend to
use less artillery than the AI, so use your own judgment here. You can win a
great many games simply by tossing a big gun on a Needlejet or Chopper chassis!)
The same basic probing principles work here, but a quick note with regards to
your probe teams: It is vitally important that you upgrade the reactor types of
your probes! If you don't, your defensive position is severely degraded in the
face of enemy probes with better reactors! Don't make the mistake of overlooking
your probes when you are doing force upgrades!
More advanced Naval capabilities
You get two important advances for your navy in the middle-game. Exactly when
you get them will, of course, be determined by the path you choose when making
your way up the tech-tree, but both are quite powerful, and will dramatically
enhance your position in certain situations!
Subs (UU): Worthless against the AI, because they know where your units are
anyway, but against a Human opponent, nothing could be finer! A Submersible
transport does not even need an escort to slip in and cause havoc, which opens
up whole new realms of possibilities, and enables you to get sneakier than ever!
Imagine sending off a large (and very visible) task force of ships covering a
transport or two toward one end of an enemy's Empire, all the while, and
completely unseen, the three submersible transports you built and loaded to the
gills with Marines are steadily, stealthily making their way toward other key
points of the Enemy's empire!
The Aircraft Carrier:(CV) This is the game-ender. The perfect synthesis between
air power and naval supremacy, and with a balanced task force led by a Carrier,
you can conduct extended operations (especially if the carrier and transport(s)
accompanying it have repair bays), and effortlessly project your power to any
corner of the globe.
(How-To Note: Designing an Advanced Attack Fleet: Fleet composition varies from
game to game and purpose to purpose of course, but if you want to put together a
fleet that can meet a variety of threats and provide you with enormous
versatility, here's a composition that will serve you very well indeed: Begin
with one capital ship (Battleship, Command Cruiser, or Aircraft Carrier), two
"flank ships" in some or other cruiser configuration, two destroyer class
vessels, and four frigates. Add to that 2-3 probe vessels of whatever
configuration you desire, and a pair of transports, loaded with clean scout
marines. If possible (and against human opponents) augment this with a few subs
taking up flanking and slightly forward positions around your core fleet. With
14-17 ships in the fleet, yes, it's big, but with clean reactors, that's not a
problem, and the sheer power of a fleet like this will put you in a position to
dominate your opponents at sea, no matter who they are! And, if you can
construct 2-3 such task forces, you can be virtually guaranteed of naval
dominance! (Personally, I like having four such task forces....two to guard my
holdings, and two more "detachable fleets" to send out to conduct training
exercises near hotspots).
Missiles and such:
Many people consider missiles to be weapons of last resort. They're "one shot"
weapons that can serve you well in certain situations, and net you very little
Specifically, the best use of missiles is against an incoming enemy transport,
but transports will seldom be coming in alone (unless controlled by the AI),
which means you'll need several missiles to knock out all the elements in the
approaching fleet. Considering the cost of missiles, that is impractical.
Generally you only want to use them when you know you will be knocking out more
minerals' worth of production than it cost you to build the missile, and because
of that, if you spot an enemy fleet approaching, covering a transport, your best
bet is generally to send a chopper out to tear through the defensive elements of
the fleet, interceptors to be rid of any and all air cover the fleet might have,
and then use the missile to send all the Marines to Davy Jones' Worm-Locker.
Generally, missiles are poorly used against well-defended bases, as it is
entirely possible for a stout AAA defender to withstand six or more missile
attacks before being destroyed. In this case, you lose an inordinate amount of
minerals for only minimal gain. If you find a relatively new, underdeveloped
base, certainly, let the missiles fly, but against most mid-game bases
(especially with Flechette Defense Systems and the like), it is a waste of your
productive capacity even to try it.
The Planet Buster: Ahhhhh heaven! The ability to be rid of an enemy production
center, lock, stock, and barrel. These are weapons of awesome power and even
more awesome cost! Mostly, they're best used in a deterrent mode (just like real
life), to prevent your opponent from being rid of your bases (since he knows you
will simply do the same). Remember that Planet Busters are built on an
"aircraft" chassis, which means you can build airfields at various points around
your Empire and effectively create "Missile Silos" (heavily guarded, of course),
to prevent an opponent from nuking a base just to be rid of your own Planet-
(How-To Note: Getting and keeping a stockpile of PB's: Thanks to the extremely
high cost of the Planet Buster, many players consider them impractical builds,
even with an extremely high mineral count at your bases, but there is a way to
quickly and fairly easily build up your arsenal. It takes a bit of timing, but
is well worth the effort. Simply do this, when you are ready to build your
nukes: Determine what number you want to have at the ready (as a rule of thumb,
I go with six), and begin six prototypes of PB's, sending supply crawlers from
nearby bases to speed the prototyping process along. As you near the halfway
mark in the completion of your PB Prototypes, divert all crawlers to one single
base and rapidly complete the prototype. When you do, the next turn, the price
on your remaining PB's in production will drop (since they no longer carry the
proto-penalty), and you will have all six of your PB's ready to move to silos).
Note too, that your PB deterrent degrades considerably with the advent of
Orbital Defense Pods (ODP's), so if you're going to use them, do it before your
opponent can launch his defensive satellites, as they are FAR cheaper to build
than your Planet Busters, making the weapons undoubtedly useful, but only for a
specific window of time, unless you can keep him from building ODP's at all (by
building more of them yourself).
The Space Race:
This brings us to a fascinating, but often overlooked element of the middle
game. Controlling the orbital belt of Chiron.
Satellites are wonderful ways of bringing in extra resources, made even more
wonderful thanks to the Cloudbase Academy project, which enables all of your
bases to take full advantage of the satellite you have in operation, and a great
many players rely heavily on the nutrient production that Hydro Sats bring down
to keep their populace fed, as this goes far in enabling them to set up most, if
not all of their bases as "Specialist Bases." Knowing this, and knowing that
ODP's can be used to knock out enemy satellites, in addition to protecting your
bases from Planet Buster attacks, the war in space can be an exciting one
The fact is, Satellites can be enormously beneficial to your empire, creating a
huge windfall of resources for even the smallest of bases (and that windfall
increases as the base grows!). However these new capabilities also leave you
open to new risks, specifically in the form of ODP's which enable your opponent
to trash your satellites and degrade your position, so if you plan to make use
of satellites, then you'd better also plan to defend them! To that end though,
the first person in space can generally dictate terms to those who come later,
but only if you keep a constant watch on the number of satellites being launched
by your rivals.
Secret Projects in the Middle Game:
There are a TON of these, and I'll give each a brief mention, just to be
The Supercollider (Applied Relativity): If you're middle game is not energy
based, then it should be. Research and technology are so vital to the middle
game, and a project like this....one that doubles lab outputs at a given
base....how can you NOT start drooling over the prospect! No matter what your
faction or pre-disposition, build it before someone else does!
The Ascetic Virtues (Planetary Economics): Handy for everyone, of course, but
Lal gets a real booster out of it, enabling him to get obscenely large bases
well before Hab-Domes. For Morgan, it's a kicker too, all but eliminating his
small base problem. The Spartans too, benefit greatly, as it enhances their
existing police rating. Everybody else benefits, but not as much as these three.
Longevity Vaccine (Bioengineering): The clean reactor tech also gives you a cash
cow. If you have the Merchant Exchange someplace, toss this onto the pile as
well, and you'll have a base that can single-handedly pay for the infrastructure
at a lot of your bases. If not, it's fairly useful, but certainly not critical,
though for Zak (when he's not running Market) the drone control is nice.
Hunter-Seeker Algorithm (Pre-sentient Algorithms): Even in the SMAX world, where
the power of this project has been weakened, it should still be considered
critical to every player in the game. Even those factions who have probe-
immunity will want it from a purely denial standpoint, making this one of the
most sought after secret projects out there.
The Pholus Mutagen (Centauri Genetics): Unless you're one of the "Native"
factions (and to a lesser extent, Morgan), this one's only marginally useful,
though the ecology bonus will help you jack your mineral counts up slightly
higher, but once you hit somewhere around 40, you really don't need that. Still,
if you're playing Gaian, Cult, or Morgan, I'd put it fairly high on the list,
and if you're playing against one of them, you'll want to pick it up just so
The Cyborg Factory (Mind-Machine Interface): In the SMAX world, MMI is probably
the most desired tech in the game. Not only does it give you choppers and
thinkers, but it also gives you TWO secret projects! Awesome ones at that! Bio-
enhancement centers are expensive from an upkeep standpoint, and they improve
morale of ALL your units, making this project a must have, no matter who you
The Cloudbase Academy (Mind-Machine Interface): If you want to get and keep air-
superiority, GET THIS PROJECT! If you plan to make use of satellites in your
game, GET THIS PROJECT! If someone else gets this project, GET THAT BASE! If you
can't do that, nuke it. It's that important. Note though, that if you get this
project, people WILL gang up on you, and if they don't, you almost can't help
but win. Not only do you get two extra points of movement for all your aircraft,
but you get a morale boost, make it harder for people to use drop teams on you,
and your satellites automatically have their maximum impact at all your bases.
Simply too good to pass on.
The Theory of Everything (Unified Field Theory): Another lab-doubler, and every
bit as important as the one that comes before it. Get it. You need it. Trust me.
The Dream-Twister (The Will To Power): Even if you have no intention of making
use of Psi attackers, you need this project so that the Worm lovers don't come
over and pay you an unwelcome visit. About the only time you don't need this one
is if you have the Neural Amplifier, but even then, it might be good to pick it
up for denial. Also, if you're into Navy at all, grab this one! Your IoD's
(which are already awesome) will be all but unbeatable!
The Universal Translator (Homo Superior): Did somebody say free techs?! If you
don't go for this one, you erode your tech position, allowing others to catch
up, and if you're behind in tech, and happen to get to Homo-Superior first
(thanks to your path up the tech-tree), this may be just the thing that enables
you to catch up!
The Network Backbone (Digital Sentience): For the money, it's not as good as it
should be, because its value is too much tied to world size, which in turn,
helps determine overall number of bases. Nonetheless, because it helps research,
it should be fairly high on your list. Cyborgs don't need it, because they're
already immune to the negatives of Cybernetic society, but it's still nice for
the research kick.
The Nano-Factory (Industrial Nanorobotics): Anybody who has a standing army of
any size at all (and you'd better, by this point in the game) will want this
project! Not only does it dramatically lower your upgrade costs, but it also
(and more importantly in my opinion) allows your forces to fully recover in the
field. You just can't get any better than that!
The Living Refinery (Advanced Spaceflight): At this point in the game, support
is usually only an issue if you're running Thought Control, and even then, with
Clean Reactors it's not that big a deal. Nonetheless, clean reactors are
expensive, and if you're running SE choices that lend you support anyway, this
is a good way to be able to build large numbers of "non-clean" troops (which
means that the ability slot formerly occupied by "clean" can be filled in with
something else. For that reason alone it's quite handy, and if you're playing
Miriam, mark it down as a must-have!
The Cloning Vats (Biomachinery): I can't think of a single reason not to build
this project, except perhaps for the fact that it will make you the target of
envy and, in all probability attack, but hey....enjoy it while you got it!
The Self-Aware Colony (Self-Aware Machines): The influx of cash you get when
your maintenance costs are halved makes this project one of the fastest to pay
for itself. If you're going for the economic win, this is crucial, and it's
pretty important in general, because by this stage of the game, you've got a LOT
of maintenance every turn. A good investment, no matter how you slice it.
Clinical Immortality (Matter Ediation): Talents = Drone control, and at this
point in the game, you've probably got a sprawling empire and this is just the
thing! It's certainly not crucial (not even for Zak, by this stage), but very
nice to have if you can free up a base for it.
The Space Elevator (Super Tensile Solids): If you're planning to make heavy use
of Satellites to enhance your factors of production, or if you entered the space
race late and want to play catch up, this project will be a huge boon!
Otherwise, even as a denial project, it's only average.
The Singularity Inductor (Controlled Singularity): Comes too late in the game to
really be useful. By this point, you've got more mineral production than you
need anyway. This is an average project, at best, and too expensive for the
relatively short lifespan it has.
The Bulk Matter Transmitter (Matter Transmission): Another pricey, average value
project. Yes, it's handy, but it's usefulness is limited, both in the fact that
it only provides 2 minerals for each base, and by the lateness of its arrival in
the game. One thing though, if you've got a high number of bases, it'll pay for
itself pretty fast.
The Telepathic Matrix (Eudaimonia): Most people stopped having drone problems a
long time ago, and this project comes too late to really be of outstanding
benefit for the money, but it DOES cut down on the need to micromanage your
bases. The probe bonus is an utterly useless feature of this project, as by this
point, your probes are elite anyway. They can't GET any higher. Average, at
best, but handy if you're tired of micromanagement.
Manifold Harmonics (Secrets of the Manifolds): This project makes fungus the
best terrain in the game. Unfortunately, if you're like most players, you've
just spent the entire game minimizing the amount of fungus in your empire. It's
a good project, don't get me wrong, but unless you're playing one of the Native-
lovers, it's not a GREAT project.
Net-Hack Terminus (Self-Aware Machines): Again, the probe bonus comes too late
in the game to do you much good, as you really have to try hard NOT to have
elite probes, but if you missed the HSA, this one's not bad to get.
The Art of War:
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:
It cannot be stressed enough that the advent of Clean Reactors has a huge impact
on battlefield mathematics. Simply put, there are going to be a LOT more guys in
the field than there were previously, and you need to take that into account.
In the early game, it might have been possible to catch 4-5 worms, or build a 4-
pack of Impact rovers and pretty much demolish someone's empire. That is no
longer the case, and if you think it is, you're in for a rude surprise, as even
newly founded bases will generally have enough offensive/defensive punch in them
to turn your attack force of 4 into just so much fertilizer.
Having said that, let me also add that this will not magically, nor instantly
happen, and this paragraph is specifically for Momentum gamers. By the middle-
game, a Builder is almost finished with infrastructure at all his bases.
Certainly he's got Creches and Treefarms everywhere, with the rest of it falling
into place quickly. If you're going to hit him, do it now, because once he's
finished with his infrastructure, he'll be raking in several hundred credit per
turn, and able to crank out clean laser infantry and recon rovers in a single
turn at almost every base, upgrading them from there. This then, represents the
last window of opportunity you have to hit a Builder with a relatively small
force and have any hope of succeeding. If you can't, or don't, then pull back
and build up yourself. Remember that you have the edge in terms of size, but the
moment the Builder player turns his attention to the building of his military,
he'll almost always have you in terms of technology and overall quality. The
point though is, the Builder is pretty much starting from scratch building his
military apparatus, and none (or very few) of his troops will be battle-tested.
An attack now, before the burgeoning military apparatus is in place could very
easily net you a number of wonderfully well-developed bases, making the early
stages of the middle game the most dangerous time of all for the Builder. He'll
be working fast to improve his defenses, so don't delay!
If infiltration was extremely important in the early game, it is vitally so at
this stage. You definitely DON'T want to go around starting trouble until you
have a clear idea of what you will be going up against, so if you have an
opponent you have not yet infiltrated, stop! Don't do a single thing until you
infiltrate those datalinks and see what he's got waiting for you. If you attack
blind, you're just asking to get thrashed. Worse, your opponent will likely
track you back to your homeland and give you a firsthand lesson on the proper
way to do it!
It's also interesting to note that by this point in the game, the various
playstyles begin to blur and merge together, as Builders begin to focus on
militaristic concerns, and Momentum players (if they are unable to launch that
final attack into a Builder's heartland) begin to draw back in the face of the
ever-increasing sizes of Builder and Hybrid armies. Essentially, everybody who
survived to the middle game begins to play the same way, each relying on early
game successes to propel them through to the end. Who will win? Will it be the
Momentum guy who went out and doubled the size of his empire by running over a
rival Momentum player, or found a Builder early and punished him for his lack of
defense? The Hybrid who is a good deal ahead with regards to infrastructure, but
still needs to play a bit of catch up where the army is concerned, or the
Builder, who has a sterling infrastructure, but is probably still far behind in
terms of military? Hard to tell, but it'll all get sorted out in the middle
Defense in the Middle Game:
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
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.
With clean reactors, it is both possible and easy to cover all of your defensive
bets, but that alone is not enough. It is never a good idea to have only one
unit protecting a base from a specific type of attack (at least not if the base
is in an exposed area), and this is one area where early-game styles will
continue to influence mid-game thinking (even though the various styles are
beginning to blur together). The numbers below are just benchmarks, and
certainly not set in stone, but they'll give you some reckoning of what you can
expect, or the kinds of defenses you can shoot for.
Builders will be primarily interested in protecting their investment. They've
put a lot of time and effort into each base, and don't really have any interest
in giving it all away, so even their innermost bases will sport stout defenses.
Expect to see no less than 4 strong garrisons with overlapping defense
functionalities at non-exposed bases (an example of this might well be: 6-<3r>-
1, 6<3p>-1, 4-<4t>-1, 4-4-1(ECM)), plus an artillery unit (6)-2-2, a counter-
punching rover (6-<4>-2), and one or more aircraft (interceptor and/or chopper)
(<6>-2-18) & (6-2-12). That, combined with sensors, inherent base defenses,
possibly perim. defenses (for the later addition of tachyon fields), crиches,
morale enhancers like command centers and aero-complexes, soon-to-be-added
geosynchronous survey pods, and the like makes for a tough nut to crack indeed,
and you can expect that exposed bases will have no less than double that in
short order, if they don't already.
The good news for everybody else is that the Builder will be so pre-occupied
with perfecting his own defenses that he'll still be content to let everybody
else alone unless you go start trouble with him, and with that kind of force
sitting around (multiply those numbers out by 12-15 bases and hold onto your
jaw), he's probably NOT the guy you want to start trouble with unless you can
take out a large percentage of his force in a single shot.
Hybrids will cut a few defensive corners to put more attackers in the field more
readily, and a good rule of thumb here would be 2-3 garrisons in non-exposed
bases (similarly configured to the above), a counter-punching rover, and 1-2
aircraft, again, as mentioned above. Artillery at non-exposed bases would
probably be considered not worth the investment, and either skipped, or built
and moved to fringe bases, and once that was set up, the Hybrid would likely set
about building a comparably sized force to send on the prowl.
Momentum players would keep true to their "attack-to-defend" doctrine, knowing
that most Builders won't attack them anyway, and few Hybrids either, so long as
they maintain initiative and keep a threatening force in the field, so Momentum
base defenses will be a token garrison, whatever police units are on-scene to
help control drones, and any newly built troops that have not yet been assigned
to attack groups and are still lurking on the homefront. Defenses for a Momentum
player are very much measured by the size and character of the force they are
currently fielding. If it is strong, then few opponents will be capable of
defending against it and launching a strike against the Momentum player's
homeland anyway. In essence then, Momentum gamers drive the defensive needs of
everyone else in the game, a fact you should never forget! The mid-game and
beyond may well belong to the Builder in terms of economies of scale and overall
efficiency, but the it is the Momentum player who's in the driver's seat when it
comes to determining how much of that sterling industry must be set aside for
the continual production of military units!
Drone problems created by continual expansion, and the logistics of defending an
utterly huge Empire both work together to somewhat limit the sheer size of your
holdings. At some point, it's just not worth the added investment to build yet
another base, and this is truly the essence of the Builder's game....focusing on
getting the most that you can out of the bases you have, maximizing their
outputs with cunning terraforming, good crawler use, and the minimization of
drones, however all of this investment needs protecting if you mean to keep it,
and, once the needs of the bases themselves have been met, this becomes the
cornerstone of defensive doctrine. Protecting vertical investments (or, from the
attacker's point of view, sniping at vertical investment).
The goal of every defender is, simply put, to make yourself as uninviting a
target as possible. Do not leave crawlers or formers unescorted. In the post-
clean-reactor world, there is simply no excuse for it, and it will only make you
appear sloppy or weak before the enemy, which may well invite attack. Project
strength at all times, even when you think no one is watching. Very likely,
someone is, and you just don't know it yet!
To that end, if you are content to stay on the defensive, or if you have a high
degree of vertical investment (especially true of Builders, and to a lesser
extent, Hybrids), then the bulk of your efforts in the middle-game should be a
focus on building your army. You want troops everywhere, and I mean everywhere!
Supply crawlers need to be covered (and double stacked with) AAA garrisons, and
when your formers get around to it, build bunkers and sensors nearby too!
Put guys in bunkers along the coast to give your opponent few, if any landing
options, and where you DO leave landing options, plant "fungal funnels" and hide
a few hard hitters inside (along with the occasional probe team).
If you're a diehard Marketeer, set up a single punished base, and build tons of
Penetrators and Choppers (mentioned above), make them all clean (of course) and
re-home them to the Punished Base....no more discontentment due to drones! Same
with the navy if you're a Marketeer. Set up a punished coastal or sea base and
re-home your entire navy to there. Keep an active stance and maintain vigilant
There is no one "right way" to go about setting up the defense of vertical
investment, however. That will vary from game to game, and oftentimes, from
moment to moment. About the only thing you can do here is study the map, look at
possible approach routes to your empire, and plan from there, keep in mind too,
that the wider you can cast your defensive net, the harder it will be for an
enemy to land on your shores at all, so if there are some small, as yet unused
islands surrounding your homeland, send formers over (with cover, of course) to
build airstrips, bunkers, and sensors, and build yet more troops to hold those
positions. This is especially valuable when you have a smallish island
containing a monolith, as it will enable you to repair damaged troops after a
fight, although, if you aren't that fortunate, then a rover with a repair bay
works in a pinch (though you'll only be able to repair one unit at a time).
Finally, once you think you've got all of your defensive bets covered, take
another look around your holdings and see if there are places you may be able to
set up Zoc-Blocks to stall a potential enemy advance (and more on the
particulars of that in the Zoc section later!)
Attacking in the Middle Game:
Stout as the defenses can get, the fact is, defenders often overlook something,
and it is the job of the attacker to show them in decidedly less-than-subtle
ways what it is that they overlooked. To that end, after you infiltrate, study
your opponents. See who's doing what. Is someone lagging? Not paying enough
attention to defense? If so, that represents a potential opening for you.
Keep in mind though, that at this point, it will probably be quite difficult to
take and hold a base, so your real objective here will be to simply hurt the
enemy by denying him one of his production centers. Especially in MP games,
outright conquesting comes early on. The survivors in the middle game are
generally pretty evenly matched, and actually conquering another faction is a
hard thing to do unless you are significantly larger, or have help, so
diplomatic concerns become crucial.
If you are determined to attack someone, the first thing you need to do is to
isolate that player diplomatically if at all possible. Limit the amount of help
he can expect to get from other players in the game. You might be able to do
this by cutting a deal, and/or offering to divide up your target's Empire with
another player in exchange for assistance or at least non-interference, but
beware! Once the attack begins, your opponent will likely be doing the same
The second thing is decide exactly what your objectives will be, and stick to
those objectives. Do not get so caught up in the battle that you wind up
overextending yourself and losing your attack force, but in the same breath,
don't let a golden opportunity slip through your fingers. As the attacker, you
have the initiative, and frequently, you have the element of surprise. Use both
of those things to overwhelm you opponent at key points in his Empire, hold onto
that territory if you can, and make further strikes from there. If at any time
it appears that you cannot keep what you have taken, simply burn the base down
and kill him slowly. Better that than letting him retake the base.
Also, as mentioned in the "Defensive" segment of this portion of the document,
since "occupation attacks" are increasingly difficult to arrange, you might want
to satisfy yourself with degradation attacks, i.e., attacks on that
aforementioned vertical investment. Builders leave themselves open by virtue of
having a TON of units outside of bases (crawlers and the units they have
covering them), and regardless of built in special abilities, those units simply
do not have as many Multiplicative factors as units in bases, making them easier
targets. By sniping continually at a rival's vertical investment, you create a
constant drain on his resource pool as he struggles to maintain it via
replacement. This is good for you, as it keep him too busy to launch a counter-
As to the exact size, composition, and nature of your attack force, there's no
way to give a "blanket" answer to that, as it will be entirely driven by what
defenses you have set against you. The best way to ensure your success though,
is to attack with more troops than you think you will need. As a rule of thumb,
always take in at least one more Needlejet or Chopper and two more ground
pounders than you think you'll need to accomplish your objectives. If you have
an easier time than expected, then you've got a significant force on the enemy's
turf for further operations, and if you run into trouble, you'll be glad you
brought along the extra troops!
(How-To Note: Giving a Builder a Hearttack!: One really amusing thing you can do
to your friendly neighborhood Builder (and this actually works on anybody, but
Builders tend to be REALLY anal about their terraforming) is to lob tectonic and
fungal payload missiles at him to muck up his much-cherished terraforming. It's
expensive, and it most likely won't net you any long-term gain, but it will keep
the Builder hopping--kinda like in those old Westerns where the villain rides
into town, heads for the bar, and invariably draws his six-shooter and fires at
some poor guy's feet, forcing him to dance--, and therefore too busy to even
think about you. It also might provide the opening for an attack, especially if
you see that he stops building troops to get more formers in the field....)
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
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
*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
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
*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 fourteen factions in the game 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:
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)
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
Strengths: Likely to have the best tech-level in the game (GREAT research)
Weaknesses: Probe vulnerability
Strengths: Tied for the best Psi-force on Chiron (with The Cult of Planet)
Weaknesses: likely to lag in techs (can't run Market, can't get +1 energy per
square until late game)
Strengths: Strongest attackers on Chiron & Superb Probe Teams. If running Fundy,
immune to subversion.
Weaknesses: Lousy Tech means initial skirmishes (pre-probe ops) will likely be
lost, regardless of fanatic bonus
Strengths: Baseline. Peacekeeper troops have no notable strengths or weaknesses.
I suspect they were the baseline faction
Weaknesses: (see above)
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)
The Cult of Planet
Strengths: Tied with the Gaians for the best Psi-force on Chiron
Weaknesses: Lag in tech and replacement times (industry and econ penalty) - this
will also limit probe actions
Strengths: Good research will likely mean better firepower, techsteal ability
when capturing a base.
Weaknesses: Lower than average growth rate and difficulty booming may mean
smaller industrial base.
Strengths: Units are expensive to subvert (and invulnerable with the right
tech). Thanks to sharetech ability, weapons tech will be at least par, if not
Weaknesses: Over-reliance on probe teams may lead to a smaller than average
Strengths: Mammoth industrial capacity equals lighting quick troop replacement
Weaknesses: Lagging tech means inferior firepower, at least in the opening
stages of battle.
Strengths: Kings of the sea! Unmatched naval power thanks to faction-specific
Weaknesses: Sea bases are more difficult to defend, able to be taken by a larger
variety of craft and chassis types.
Strengths: Inherent defensive bonus and probable tech edge. Bases are largely
useless if captured.
Weaknesses: None notable.
Strengths: Inherent attack advantage (per Believers), and probable tech edge.
Bases are largely useless if captured.
Weaknesses: None notable.
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
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. Use your
ease of getting to +1 Energy per square (Wealth) to your advantage and adopt
Native strategies to force your rivals away from Market economies, giving you a
significant energy lead.
The University: Strength through superior firepower.
The Gaians: Strength through little squggily worms - use a prevalence of Native
attackers to force your opponents away from Market economies to equalize energy
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.
The Cult of Planet: The same basic strategies that work for the Gaians work for
you. Use them! Guerrilla tactics are your best friend, and your ace in the hole!
Cybernetic Consciousness: Use your techsteal ability to rip through the tech-
tree and terrorize all neighboring factions. Of all the factions, you are the
Data Angels: The underrun is your best friend. Arguably, you are even better at
this than Morgan.
Drones: Forget troop losses. You can overwhelm with sheer numbers even better
than Yang. Do it.
Pirates: Sea Power of any kind is magnified in your hands. If anybody is foolish
enough to build coastal bases in your vicinity, take them from him. Keep
everybody else's navies bottled up.
Caretakers: Expand relentlessly, and "defend" your way to victory!
Usurpers: Attack relentlessly, per the Believers, except that while they're
wasting minerals building probes, your tech parity or supremacy will enable you
to focus on building a bigger, better army.
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: Probe vulnerability and Chronic drone problems make University
bases cheap to buy. 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
The Spartans: Use attrition. Likely, you will be replacing your troops a good
bit faster than he'll be replacing his.
The Cult of Planet: He's got no money, and he can't replace lost troops quickly.
A drawn out fight is NOT something this faction wants to see. Crush him with
that, and drain away what money he has with your probes!
Cybernetic Consciousness: Lower growth rate and a tougher time booming may leave
this faction with less industrial capacity (or capacity which is enhanced via
crawlers). Hit their mineral-harvesting crawlers, and outproduce them,
smothering them with numbers.
Data Angels: Polymorphic Encrypt your troops to make them more expensive for her
to buy. And in the same vein, give her some middle of the road targets to buy.
Stuff that's maybe a generation old. Good enough to be a threat (making it
likely she'll buy it out from under you), but also fairly easy to kill when she
does. Keep her money tied up that way, and hit her relentlessly. Odds are good
that she's got a smaller starting force than you.
Drones: Another low-tech faction. Keep your bases probe-guarded, deny him access
to your research, and keep the guns blazing. Industry or not, you can kill (and
subvert) them faster than he can make them.
Pirates: Thanks to the high vulnerability of sea bases (pre-Tachyon field), it
should be no problem for you to achieve local air superiority, blow his navy out
of the water, and waltz into his bases.
Caretakers: Gas 'em!
Usurpers: See above, coupled with subversion whenever possible. Good morale
troops are always valuable, no matter how green and ugly they are!
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
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
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
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
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.
(How-To Note: Executing a Battle Plan: Specifically, we'll discuss executing a
battle plan against a base, a one-turn siege, actually, and I leave it to you to
use the principles here to figure out the optimal ways to execute the other
types of attacks mentioned above. Once you've selected your target, once you've
infiltrated the datalinks, and once you've determined what your objectives are,
the very next thing you should do is determine exactly how you plan to get your
forces where they need to be. Will you make drop troops, or rely on transport
tactics? Or, will you use tectonic missiles to create an instant land bridge and
simply walk across? Whatever your answer to that question is, it will determine
how you proceed.
Once you have the "delivery method" worked out, you'll need to design your
actual attack force. Odds are, conditions will change between the time you begin
moving the force forward and the time they actually arrive at the scene, and
since you have no way of knowing exactly how much conditions will change, you
will need to estimate. A good rule of thumb is to bring 25% more troops than you
think you will need, but troops are not the only consideration here. Does the
base have a lot of Multiplicative effects? If so, you'll need probe teams to
strip them out, and make besieging the base easier, which means you'll also need
at least one unit of artillery (and at least two if the base you're planning to
move against has artillery of its own). Are there any defenders at the base with
really nasty special abilities? (and there probably are!). Are there any holes
in the base's defensive structure that can be exploited (i.e. - did he fail to
include Trance or Empath garrisons?) If so, plan at least some elements of your
attack force around that, with an eye toward hitting with those elements first,
to eliminate his best defenders.
The next question you need to prepare an answer for is: What do I plan to do
after the battle? If you plan to try and keep the base in question, then you'll
need to have some cash handy to rapidly re-build the infrastructure your probe
teams got rid of, and in fact, if you're planning to stay, you'd better bring
along a few extra probe teams to move in and occupy the base with your troops,
to prevent an easy buy-back). Also, you'll want to move a few units out side the
base to sever roads and mag tubes, to make it harder for the enemy to respond to
the attack. If you're not planning to stay, then it doesn't matter. Sell of the
most expensive facility at the place and burn it down.
When attacking, the order of the units is crucial! The first units in should be
your artillery to soften up any unarmored defenders at the base. Second, send in
your probes! Third, send in the attackers you designed around any weakspots in
the defender's garrison force. You want to do this because, in all likelihood,
you'll strip out his AAA defenders first, which opens the door for the Fourth
element in the attack, sending in your choppers! Once the base has been stripped
of it's Aero-complex, and after the last AAA defender is dead, the choppers will
make short work of whatever's left. Just don't get carried away! Make sure you
leave one move for the Chopper so he can join your forces in the base. Fifth,
after the base is empty, move the rest of your forces inside, proceeding as
planned above with regards to what your goals are for that base. And that's it!
With luck, your planning has paid off, you took the defender by surprise, and
walked in pretty-as-you-please!).
Zones of Control:
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
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
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
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.
(How-To Note: Getting around a Zoc-Block: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
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.
Studying the Meta- Game
SMAC is a complex and multi-faceted 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
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
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.
More Notes on the Meta Game:
Another aspect of the Meta-game is finding ways to take wisdom drawn from other
areas and apply it to the game situation at hand, and with that in mind, here
are some things designed to get your brain churning in that direction:
The Stage Magician's Secret: Big Moves can be used to cover Small Moves:
Keep your objectives incrementally small, and, when you set about achieving
them, do so in a very quiet way. To enhance your chances of success in your
endeavors, rely on diversion (Big Move). Send a large force out openly to
threaten an area far-removed from your true objective. Force your opponent to
spend time and resources to meet that perceived threat (and, if it is not
responded to, it's easy enough to make the perceived threat a very real one). In
the meantime, send a much smaller, tailor-made force out in secret toward that
which is your true objective. In MP, this is one of the very best ways to take
opponents by storm, and by complete surprise. Do it well and consistently, and
they'll swear you are a but a ghost on the battlefield, there and gone before
they knew what happened.
Use Odd Bits of Philosophy or Misc. Phrases you've heard:
This is a great way to help shape strategy, for example: "....and lo, the birds
of the sky and beasts of the sky shall be as my army...." is the perfect
summation for a classic Gaian or Cult strategy to catch worms and release them
in some Marketeer's territory to cause trouble without "actually" attacking. And
to that end, read everything! Everything you can get your hands on! Soak the
whole Universe up like a big sponge and channel what you have learned down
different avenues (a thing which works as well in SMAC/X as it does in life!).
Borrow from other games you play:
When I was in college, I used to play Axis & Allies (a game with quite a few
similarities to SMAC/X, by the way) with an almost religious fervor. In fact,
over the course of a summer, we held a tournament on campus. One hundred game
spread. My record was 98-0-2. Both of the "draw" games were fought against the
same person, and after three days of not getting anywhere against each other, we
finally just threw in the towel. After that summer, I couldn't get anybody to
play with me, even by offering them double their starting money....
As each game progressed, those watching would be in shock, and constantly I
would hear phrases like: "But....how are you winning?! You've got a couple guys
here....a couple more over there, but you're not DOING anything!" Which I took
as the highest compliment I could be given, because the truth of the matter was,
I was doing quite a lot, but that told me in no uncertain terms that my game was
utterly without form, and that speaks directly back to Master Sun Tzu's words:
"....if it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it, nor the
wise make plans against it."
It was true two-thousand-odd years ago, and it remains true today. Wise words.
I also used to play Magic: The Gathering all the time. Still have my cards, but
haven't touched them much lately....too much other stuff to do I guess. But I
DID play in one tournament, and had the good fortune of running through it
undefeated. It was a sealed-deck thing, with a thirty minute trading period.
I wandered around the room for about fifteen of my thirty minutes, just
watching. Seeing what kinds of cards people were trading for, and then went the
opposite direction from the herd. Everybody was ditching their reds and greens,
so I picked up tons of them on the cheap, and put together a mean little
red/green creature heavy (with direct damage in support), deck that sported a
trio of Stormbinds as a final kicker.
After the tourney, everybody was curious to see the deck, and they couldn't
believe that the guy who went undefeated used a handful of common cards (the
Stormbinds were the only rares in the deck) that nobody thought were very
"good." That was a fine moment indeed, and it speaks to an important point in
SMAC. If everybody else is moving off in more-or-less the same direction, find
a new direction and see where it takes you. Don't be content to stick with tried
and true strategies just because "everybody is doing it." Maybe everybody is
wrong. Maybe you can prove it to them.
Perhaps though, the game that taught me the most about doing freaky, unexpected
things was Starfleet Battles. God how I love that game, and as my former
opponents can tell you, if nothing else, it can be fairly said that our games
were always colorful. I was the guy who would do oddball stuff like, begin an
assault against a starbase with all my ships entering the map in reverse (with
a plan to execute a snap-turn the moment we reached overload-range and blow the
base off the map....which worked, by the way!), or, set up an entire PF flotilla
as deathriders, remote control them for several turns, driving them all over the
map and eventually luring several ships away from the primary objective (a civvi
base station, in that case), and then flying in fast and hard to crash them
into the base....BOOM! Crazy stuff like that. Things to catch the opponent off
guard, or distract, or just plain make him scratch his head and wonder what the
heck I'm up to. Best of all, it's not always necessary to have a "master plan"
in mind when you do weird stuff like that. Just do it and see what happens. If
your opponent ignores your bizarre move, so be it, but there may yet be a way to
make it pay, and, if it draws his attention, then figure out a way (on the fly)
of using it against him.
I could ramble on for about ten more pages about the Metagame, and ways of
bringing ideas from outside sources into your overall "bag of tricks" (and in
fact, I did, and then, to save some space, edited much of it back out!), but I
think that's enough examples from different viewpoints to get you thinking about
things in your own life that might prove useful in game terms. Odd bits of
wisdom you've picked up from here and there. It's useful stuff, I promise.
More Single Player and Multi- Player Notes
If you have absorbed every word of this guide, then the AI should present no
real challenge to you anymore, even on the hardest levels. You have achieve the
pinnacle of your playing strength then, unless you move onto something else.
Namely, mixing it up with wily human opponents. Not to say that SP games will no
longer be enjoyable....I still find myself playing SP regularly, if only to test
out some new idea or another, but the real enjoyment from here on, will come
from testing your mettle against those crazy, illogical, hard-to-predict humans,
and don't be afraid of that! It is my sincere hope that, armed with your own
thinking about the game, and supplemented by what you have read here, you are
more than ready to take to the field against even the very best human opponents
If and when you do find yourself in a game with a human opponent who has the
reputation for being heads-and-shoulders-above-the-rest good, watch him. Pay
attention to everything. Study and learn. See not only HOW he does certain
things, but WHY. Once you make contact, ask questions. If you're not involved in
a war, odds are good, you'll get answers. Real, practical, game-mechanics-driven
answers that will improve your own game. And if you are at war with that player,
do your best, and if you lose, study the save files later to figure out why. How
did he beat you? Learn the answers to those questions, and apply them to your
next game. If you do, you'll find yourself with a reputation of your own quite
soon, and you'll notice that others are beginning to ask YOU questions! That's
when you know you're getting somewhere....
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 saber-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.
The Early Game
In the early game, don't waste industry on well-armed or armored military
units; instead, keep about 100 energy credits on hand and garrison cities with
cheap Rovers (hand weapons / no armor) or Scouts (before Doctrine: Mobility).
Since worms are almost always your only concern for the first 40 turns or so,
more-expensive units are useless anyway.
When suddenly faced with a conventional force, you can upgrade 1 unit at the
cost of its turn, or upgrade them all in the Workshop and they all still get to
take their turns.
The risk is in prototyping -- if you haven't prototyped, say, Impact weapons,
and a conventional force suddenly lands next to your capital, you won't have
time to build the prototype and upgrade. When and how often to prototype is your
job to figure out.
By G. Derrick Jones
There is a slight problem with using Needlejets as interceptors -they can then
get shot down too. Besides they can only take down one enemy each turn and they
are expensive. The best and cheapest method to defend your skies is to create
rovers with a decent weapon (tachyon, chaos, even missiles - doesn't have to be
the best), air superiority and no armour. By the time the air war heats up all
of your cities should be connected with mag-tubes. Leaving a couple of anti-air
rovers in your bases will not only keep them safe and hidden but enable them to
zip out and defend any of your cities that gets attacked. When an anemy flies
in, race out, shoot it down and nip back to safety in a far away city. If you
have an elite then you can take down two in one go. The enemy will have a hard
time getting rid of your little menaces. Needlejets are expensive and rovers
are cheap. Although his (no offense to any girl players) bombers may do some
damage, in the long run he will realise that it's a far to costly way to wage
war and divert to some other strategy. Cruisers can be used at sea if necessary.
And I am by no means saying don't build interceptors at all, they can still be
useful. If you can use a rover then do so first.
Mobility is a key when launching an attack. To have some strong mobile units,
stick a big gun, medium armor, drop pods and a blink displacer on a hovertank.
With the space elevator, they are almost unbeatable. Land on sensor arrays and
instead of moving, destroy it. Land all the others on forests or rocky squares,
which grant a +50% defense bonus. Whe you attack next turn, the only bonuses the
defenders can get are from tachyon fields, which the computer rarely builds.
Secret Projects and Science
To gain huge lab outputs from a base, make sure you build the Merchant Exchange,
Supercollider, Theory of Everything and the Network Backbone. Try and place
this city near the Pholus Ridge or Uranium Flats, even the Geothermal Shallows
and make it your capital to get rid of inefficiency. Surround it with Forests
if you have a hybrid forest there and are on low terrain, or solar collectors.
Gain additional energy from supply crawlers. Give it an Aerospace Complex to get
maximum energy from orbital power transmitters. Make sure that you are stocked
up on the lab enhancing improvements and build network nodes in all your other
cities to help the network backbone. This super science city should be able to
get a tech every other turn by itself if done properly.
This and That
* Manipulate build queue -- often the game won't allow to build something until
another structure has been built. For example the pleasure dome can't be built
until you have the recreation commons. However, you can put the recreation
commons in the build queue, add the pleasure dome after it, and then delete the
recreation commons from the build queue. Then the pleasure dome can be built
first (yeah I know, limited usefulness).
* Free support off pact brother -- build up a little base in a corner near your
own bases, and give the little base to a pact brother, then send all of your
own units there, open the city screen and change the unit's ownership. Nobody
ends up supporting the unit. Not only that, but those units can now be freely
sent out of the city for battle duty, and they won't create unhappiness since
they don't belong to any of your cities.
* Free support + Ascend to transcendence -- build and save up heaps of military
units, sending them to a pact brother city to get the free support as necessary.
When the transcendence project becomes available, you can scrap your units in
the base that's building the secret project, meaning that you effectively
started to build the project as soon as you started building up the units.
* Catching up in the race to transcend - if you're falling behind in industrial
capability compared to a competitor building the transcendence secret project,
it is better to catch up by building units and sending them to be scrapped,
rather than stockpiling energy and then buying partial production. When you
build and scrap, the industry input from other bases is basically halved (as
well as a bit of wastage depending on the build schedule). However when you
stockpile energy, you lose 3 quarters of it when you try to rush the secret
project because it costs 4 credits to buy each unit f a secret project.
Therefore it is twice as economical to build and scrap than it is to stockpile
and buy. (Q: when you stockpile you get 1 production = 1 energy don't you? If it
was 2 production = 1 energy then you'd lose 7 eighths of the input rather than 3
* Plasma Hoverboats (2-3-4) rule the water world -- On a world which is
predominantly water, the plasma hoverboat rule because they are so cheap (same
low price as a plasma sentinel) yet can bombard the enemy's terrain improvements
every bit as well as a stronger ship. They are also great naval city defenders.
* Inland sea - the best bases are usually ones next to water because of the
excellent food and energy income from water tiles, while forests and occasional
boreholes on just a couple of land tiles will make up for production. The only
problem with this is that coastal cities can be attacked by enemy ships. So what
do you do? build on an inland sea. None nearby? Then create one. Get a mid sized
island, populate it, then get a bunch of formers and proceed to build a thin
"ring" of land just a couple of tiles off the coast of the entire island. If the
enemy tries to take a foothold on the outer land ring, you can send your entire
navy from your core bases to wipe them out without worrying about being attacked
from a different direction. I doubt the AI will ever figure out it needs to
lower the land to turn your land ring into sea (but in that case you can just
build it right back, or go out there and destroy their sea formers enmass). Most
likely the AI will just build a small land bridge towards one part of your
protective ring, which means you have them controlled at a chokepoint. If you
build air defense units all around the protective ring you might even stop the
enemy being able to scout you, so they'd not be able to find out what you have
in the "core".
By Marty Party
War, Aliens, and Terraforming
First thing you do before even making the game is crank the alien abundancy to
abundant. This gives you more mind worms to try and control, if you fail to
control them it will give more energy or increase the morale of your mind worms.
This will also give you a bonus to your Alpha Centauri score. Another side
effect to this is the act the aliens slow down and harrass the other
To keep your planet ecology in balance terraform the surrounding terrain into
forests. Build Tree Farms and Hybird Forests as soon as posible if you do
otherwise you might get your population stagnated. Once those improvements are
built the bonuses will raise the nutrients and population fairly fast. Once the
fungus starts growing and tearing up the forest let it, go build improvements on
the fungus if able to.
All the forests do two thing. It keeps your ecology in balance better and
sometimes the aliens leave you alone. The second thing is it makes it harder for
enemy units to get to your cities because most units can only move through one
square of forest. To make the second part work you only want to make roads or
mag tubes in a straight line to your other cities. The amount of roads and mag
tubes you have affects your cities ecology rating.
Also forget technology units until you are forced to use them. If you build the
biology labs and secret projects that increase life cycles or morale this will
allow you to pick the governments styles that have a morale penalty. Or if you
want pick all the government styles that give a morale bonus.
By Elvis Fett
Diplomacy and War
When you have a chance to force your opponent to surrender, do so. For example,
if you're playing the Spartans, forcing the University faction to surrender and
allowing them to expand and do their research will free up your own resources.
You can then churn out a large invasion force and choose social patterns suited
for invasion and still keep up with the technology race by bullying the
surrendered University faction into giving you all their research knowledge.
Surrendered factions and their benefits:
1) Hive - Keep them in check
2) Believers - Warmongers, use them against all your enemies
3) University - Knowledge, pure knowledge
4) Morganites - Cold hard cash
5) Gaians - Will provide you with necessary means to rear "pets" for invasion
6) Spartans - Use their large invasion force against your toughest foes
7) U.N. - Their votes count double. Useful when you need the extra votes in a
Besides the above benefits, surrendered factions cannot take offence when you
choose social patterns that contradict their own beliefs. For example, if the
Hive have surrendered to you, you do not have to worry about them complaining
when you choose a Fundamental or a Democratic political structure.
Surrendered factions will, however, still declare vendetta on you if you commit
a major atrocity like using the Planet Buster.
Remember that you want to keep the factions alive. If they grow too big and
powerful, either force them to fight against other factions or deceitfully set
your pact brothers/sisters against each other.
Surrendered factions count as a conquered factions towards a conquest victory.
I usually play an Ascendence game, building as many bases as possible, getting
as many techs and SP's as possible, and maintaining Pacts and Treaties with most
of the other factions. I keep my reputation clean (Noble or Faithful) to keep
from being back-stabbed by an ally. I usually wage a war of conquest in mid-game
(Tachyon or Shard weapons) to take over a neighbor and keep expanding. And then
I sit back.
Once I have Graviton or Singularity weapons, I clean up and take over all but
one other faction. And the key to doing this is COMBINED ARMS. I use Hovertanks
with Grav pods (5 moves when Elite), Drop Squads with lots of armor, and
Because Copters can attack once for each movement point, they can really do a
lot of damage. Each Copter can take out all of a base's defenders, no problem.
Once the Copters have done their work, send in Hovertanks or Drop Squads to
secure the bases, and then land the Copters in your newly-acquired bases to
refuel. And repeat.
By using combined arms like this, you can sweep through your opponents quickly
and efficiently. They won't have much time to either mount a counter-offensive
or adapt to your troops.
And once you control 95% of Planet, you can really crank that score up.
Once I have the "Non-Lethal Methods" unit ability (x2 Police), I always design
a "Police Sentinel" unit. You can keep a few of these ready for drone hotspots,
as needed. Also, you can upgrade old garrison units to the Police version at
Keep in mind that Transcendent techs are worth MUCH more than regular techs when
it comes to your final score. Even though you get a bonus for winning the game
earlier, I think it's much better to take your time.
By the end of the game, I usually have 100+ bases, with an average size of at
least 20. Once you have the Cloning Vats, the Space Elevator, and plenty of Sky
Hydroponics Labs, your population will skyrocket. High population equates to
high Econ and high Lab output, so you'll have plenty of credits and plenty of
techs rolling in.
While you "lose" 2 points for every extra turn, you more than make up for it
with more citizens and more transcendent tech.
I've been refining my COMBINED ARMS strategy, with devastating results. When
it's time to kick butt, I build a couple of Copters with the biggest guns
available, and a bunch of hovertanks with the best armor available. The Copter
is now officially my favorite unit. After they wipe out the opposition, I send
in the hovertanks for defense.
Never overlook the benefits of carriers. With a cruiser chassis and good power
plant, they can carry 12 units. Equip the carrier deck on a transport, add in
some armor for safety, and load it up with 12 Copters. Sail the carrier right
next to an enemy city, and you have the potential for 144 separate attacks (12
Copters x 12 moves each, assuming fusion reactor). As the reactor improves in
the Copter, so does its lethality--more attacks per turn. Airdrop in some
defenders and reap the rewards.
Use of Formers and Supply Crawlers for Defense
In the event that you have opponents attacking you with needle jets, try this
strategy: create formers or supply crawlers with armor either medium strength
or strongest armor type you can produce and position them along your borders
where they will most likely be attacked. The AI will most likely, and many human
players will, attack the crawlers or formers. The Former often times will
survive and the opposing needlejet will be destroyed. However, if you lose the
former or crawler, well too bad, but you damage the needlejet some, and will
make it easy to counter attack with a cheaply produced SAM unit. I suggest you
make the cheapest units possible that have 2 moves and position them
strategically for a counter attack. Do not bother to make SAM units with the
highest attack values. An attack value of say 2, 3 or 4 is sufficient and very
inexpensive toward the middle-end game because most of the attacking needlejets
will have no armor at all. One other note: If you use the design workshop screen
I often find that you can choose a medium attack weapon and it will cost the
same as a weapon of the least strength. Finally don't forget that you can use
the former or supply crawler as a defender in a base under attack. When opposing
troops march toward your cities, reign in your armored units as extra defenders.
By John Doe
New Colonies, New Methods!
I have found two units to be extremely usefully in expansion of terriotory:
Drop Colony Pod: This is your basic colony pod with drop jets(See the uses) It
really comes in handy if you get The Space Elevator Secret Project which allows
for dropping units to any point on the map.
Hover Terraformer: This is a combe of the terraform tool and the hover chassi
(not the hover tank, though it might work havent tried it).. then the usaul
terraform special abilities(double removal and terraform rates) and you highest
engine and sheilding if you want. How is this useful, you ask. With those flying
colony pods these can get to them fast, do to there ~16 square movement
regardless of terran, and help the colony get going.
This is my favorite strategy. It is a conquering strategy based around building
up your defenses quickly (armor, perimeter defenses, etc,) and "sleeping"
behind them. Then once your defenses are build up enough, (usually after
Probability Mechanics, with level 6 armor and Tachyon Fields,) release an army
of high-powered minions. Yang is best for this strategy by far. Morgan works
well also. Miriam works well, but I hate wasting her faction's attack bonus.
Santiago and Zakharov are fair at best, while Dierdre and Lal stink at this
You'll want to avoid combat at first. Research Industrial Base, then go for High
Energy Chemistry. Go for Doctrine: Loyalty next, followed by Intellectual
Integrity, (for the Citizens' Defense Force.) Even if you are playing Yang,
you'll need these later, so it's your choice whether to go for them or wait till
Now for the big armor. Go for Silksteel , Photon/Wave Mechanics, and Probability
Mechanics. Build a Tachyon Field, then start researching weaponry and attacking
people, and winning.
Since you aren't going to be researching things like Centauri Ecology and
Biogenetics, it's manditory that you trade for these, just be careful what you
By K. Sharp
Cuban Missile Crisis
Make planet busters and quickly hand them over to your allies who are in war
with other factions. They'll use them and your reputation will not suffer!
Skiguy500's Favorite Units
Empath Plasma Sentinels: 1e-3t-1
good at getting rid of those pesky mindworms and can take almost any other
attack on (can be a scout rover)
Trance Plasma Sentinels: 1p-3t-1
can take on those mindworms and can take on the drones (Trance,Police)
AAA Recon Rover: 2aaa-1-2
being cheap to build makes it easy to "Mass-Produce" these Needlejet defenders
Police Recon Rover: 2p-1-2
easy to make, it's a police car!
Secure Recon Rover: 2-1-2
one of the best rovers or weapons that are cheap to make and can take out Miriam
and her probe teams
Tachyon Tank: 12-8-3
Any one of these can take out anything that gets in it's way. these are on my
front lines against Yang or the Spartans. They may be a little expensive but if
you can get these things out there and Elite, then you can seriously pound their
Destroyer Transport: 1-5-6 Carrier/Repair
These thing you can send out to become moble air bases.(you can take out the
repair bay and put in a clean reactor if you want a good air transport that can
support itself, works best with singularity engine)
Navy Seals: 10-6-1 Amphibious
Can go from water base tio land with out need of transport, that is if it is a
coastal base, and can take on allot of pressure from most of the other weapons
Mindworms: these babies can take out a whole base and then take out a whole
another. Works best as locusts of chiron
Singularity Copter: 24-3-8
These things are great for base hopping. they can attack using their singularity
lasers as much as 16 times per turn (Think 2x16=32, 32 attacks per turn, with
Drop Supply: 1-1-1 Supply/Drop
These things are cheap to bulid and can reach far off islands that are rich in
resources and dont need support.
Drop Colony Pod: 1-1-1 CPod/Drop
This can reach those islands intent for those explorers tring to get key areas
for airbases and naval bases
Gravship Formers: 1-2-8 Super/Fungicidal
These are the best formers that you can make, the can terraform both sea and
land and have no range that is affected by fuel
These are some units that I found either good or extraordinary none the less.
My basic Unit for garrison is a Police Probability garrison. (1p-6t-1) they can
take out any attack. i also build the special garrison with AAA or SAM or
Secure, what ever is needed. I know that I couldn't get them all in but I will
try to find more as I go so tell me if you find any good garrison units or any
others and I will relay them to others so that they can get the picture. These
uints are things that I tried to make different so that they would be used by
many people. Feel free to try different types of weapons on each thing.(I know
that the recon rover is so 2200s but they are really cheap, and I kinda like the
name.)I will try to keep all the people who actually read this and think I am
weird know that i am only trying to help their game out.
Hiding fungus is the best way to win a war. If you find yourself struggling to
survive constant attacks on your terratory hide your best and brightest
infantry in the fungus. Your opponent will go straight for your outlying bases
'cos tey won't see you, and they'll avoid the fungus to reach your bases
quicker, so your zone of control won't give the game away. When they've gone
past come up behind and whoop their asses. However, make sure your infantry are
elite, because those two squares in one turn will be a real boost. Also if
you're the defender they'll need to be good to defeat the opponents. The
xenoempathy dome is also quite essential, since you'll want to reach your enemy
quick before they get to your base.
The xenoempathy dome is also essential for quick sneak attacks on your enemy.
They won't see your troops who are stealthily racing towards their vulnerable
bases. This tactic is invaluable for eliminating sensor arrays and capturing
strongpoints like barracks. The final winning strategy runs like this:
- get the xenoempathy dome (very important)
- Send one or two fast elite infantry units through the fungus between you and
your target base
- before they exit the fungus start bringing up the rest of your invasion force
- while the bulk of your army is on its way get your fast elite infantry to
reach that damned sensor and destroy it.
- Quickly get to that nearby bunker. If there isn't one (there usually is
though) return to the fungus
- The rest of your forces should be leaving the fungus now. Here comes the easy
bit- simply push all your forces forward to the base. Without the sensor the
defenders will be easy prey to those elite infantry, and should they succumb
you've got plenty more in reserve. The shear speed at which your army appears
infront of the enemy base will mean that reinforcements will not arrive in time
for you to have conquered the base.
This tactic will defeat even the strongest bases. Thank you Sun Tzu.
If you keep finding your units are not strong enough, even with superior
weaponry then try this: be the spartans (+2 morale), build the command nexus
project (+1) and the cyborg factory project (+1). Now go to the social
engineering screen and use Fundamentalism with Knowledge. The two will cancel
out but leave you +1 morale. Thats five morale-boosters!Now you will often find
yourself producing commando or elite units straight off. With this you can
produce a small yet cheap and well-trained army. A bit like the british army of
the 19th century that conquered a good third of the world then...
Now I'm a Believer!
I used a strategy for AC awhile back that I thought was good. I couldn't beat
the Believers with the limited units I had, so I terraformed a bunch of channels
through their territory. It took awhile, but I was able to divide their forces
and win. The computer is not very good at moving units across water to reinforce
other areas (atleast it didn't seem to do that with me). So, you only have to
deal with half of an empire instead of all of it.
Also, if you sink their bases, you can use boats to conquer a city.
By Chad R. Collins
Always maintain a standing army...not necessarily a big one, just enough for
Don't automate every terraformer. Have at least one off auto at each base, and
then two on auto. Auto formers don't always do what's needed.
Extreme terraforming (raising and lowering terrain) can be VERY profitable.
Rather than putting pods on a transport, build the Weather Paradigm and raise a
bridge to the new continent. If you're extremely strong, you can influence the
importance of naval power by restricting boat range with artificial ithmuses.
When a single continent stretches around the globe, it cuts the oceans into two
parts, which can be good if you want isolation.
Don't build your cities too far apart; let them overlap a little. I know it
looks ugly on the city layout, but you can deal with it. You don't need to make
size 63 cities everywhere- they just take too long to get to that size even with
the Cloning Vats. City population is counted different in SMAC than in CivII,
where you wanted the city to be as big as possible. In SMAC, each number is
10,000 people and only goes up by 10,000 when population is added. The same
land area will still support the same number of people. Rather than 12 size 31
cities than six size 62 cities in the same area. This is especially important
in the very beginning of the game, more cities means more military units
produced per turn. You're going to need the extra military to battle for a big
enough chunk of land to grow on to make it into the middle and end game.
So far I finished with four factions at Transcend level: Gaians, The Hive,
Morgans, and the UoP.
The strategy for each faction is quite straight forward.
For Gaians, I used Police State/Green/Knowledge combo and built tons of
mindworms. Starting in 2230, I pounded everyone into submission by 2303. Now I
can persue any of the victory conditions.
As The Hive, I just built base facilities and units en masse. By 2257, all major
oppositions are defeated, leaving the tedious task of mopping up.
Morgan is probably the easiest faction to play. Switch to Police/Free
Market/Wealth early and you can conquer the world with probe teams. However,
you need conventional units to overwhelm the Gaians because of their high
efficiency rating and mindworms.
If you play UoP, use the Police State/Free Market/Knowledge combo to
outresearch everyone else. Then build up your military as soon as you
discovered Air Power. You can achieve a quick conquest. Don't forget to build
Hunter-Seeker Algorithm to protect you from probing.
If you find someone blocking your expansion, destroy them as quickly as you can.
But, don't eradicate them too soon, because they will get a chance to start
somewhere else, and this is a long game.
Infiltrate the datalinks of all factions. This will give you the individual base
Always attack enemy bases with the most mobile offensive units (copters,
needlejets, rovers...), this will take away the enemy's offensive capabilities,
giving you time to recover your worn-out units and to build defenses.
If you mount an attack against a more powerful enemy, raid them first. That
means you will conduct wars on enemy teritory, wreck their infrastructure,
pillaging energy reserves, and take away Secret Projects.
Don't always go for conquest victories. A good way to achieve victory is to go
for a diplomatic victory. The key to this is eradicating factions that you know
won't vote. This includes: Believers, Hive, and maybe Peacekeepers (unless you
have the Empath Guild Secret Project, which is strongly recommended for this
type of victory). The best race to be is the University, because you will
become the personal techno slave of every faction. Research as fast as you can.
Colonize quickly. Eradicate the enemy factions when they only have a few cities
(allowing Mirian to grow is NOT an option). Give everyone tech gifts to keep
them placated (especially the Spartans; renew your pact with them every 25
years with a "give all tech" gift. When you've been assured that 3/4 of the
vote are for Supreme Leader, chance it.
Never underestimate the power of conventional missiles. A few may not seem to
do much and may not even seem to be worth while building. I never thought they
were. So, I tried lots of missiles just to be different. Man, was that nasty!
Send 20-30 missiles at a time at an enemy, and it's amazing how fast the mighty
can fall. Once the defenders are gone, just walk right in and take control of
their city. No more slugging it out for years to take over a single base. For
sea bases, kill the defenders with missiles and just fly in a graveship- easier
than pie. I did this to Yang in my present game, and took out 95 of his military
in one turn, (he still had a dozen and a half sea bases left scattered across
Planet). Half of his cities are in revolt (big cities w/ no police)- so he can't
create new units there until he stops the revolts, and the other half are too
small to build a unit any time soon- by the time those cities do, I'll have
another 20-30 cigars to jam down Yang's throat, and graveships knocking on the
door. Actually, it seems a little unfair that there is nothing he can do about
it anymore, so much for fighting fair.
Starting- if you find the Monsoon Jungle while exploring, focus your
colonization efforts there. Your bases can grow really fast and then you get
The Borehold Cluster is good to grab if you can find it. It is a good area to
build Special Projects.
I don't like to build many sea bases. They take more resources to build and are
harder to get units in and out (unless you are only using drop pods).
Unit design- make sure to design your own AAA garrison unit. The default choices
don't include a cheap AAA unit.
Another good unit to design is a probe team with drop pods, especially if you
build the Space Elevator. It's great to drop in and disrupt/subvert a few key
bases (like those with Secret Projects you want to capture).
Land vs Sea- I find it easier to terraform a land bridge to a new continent
than to build a fleet, if you keep up with your mag tube building you can
redeploy your whole force in one turn.
All Secret Projects are good, but I think that Weather Paradigm is the one you
want to build first if you have a choice (try to build four first base next to
a mineral resource and use it to build your first Secret Project).
Tactics- use fungus to approach enemy bases if you are springing a surprise
attack. Destroy sensory arrays with air units in advance of assaulting nearby
bases (defenders get 25 from nearby sensors). Use the "V" command to switch to
view mode and see if a unit in the open is ECM or AAA before deciding which
units to attack first. Capture as many bases in one puch as possible (3-5) and
then go for blood truce if you find yourself over-extended by the assault. If
not, keep attacking in following turns.
In a word: Infrastructure.
This comes in two flavors: Infrastructure external to your base, in the form of
a road network (and later Mag Tubes) that makes sense and facilitates troop
movement within your borders, and terrain enhancements which increase the
productivity of each square your people are working.
In the case of terrain enhancements, the goal is to figure out what type of
improvement will net you the greatest benefit, given your current level of
technology, and let that determine how the squre is developed. I agree with the
"Forests Everywhere" approach, but not for the early game. You simply don't have
the technology or access to the base facilities to make full use of the forests,
so there are often better choices available, but (and this will keep your
formers busy), as new techs/facilities become available, you should begin to
replace your other enhancements with forests.
Enhancements internal to your bases are, well....facilities. Some of the most
important basic facilities are those with no upkeep costs, such as the Recycling
Tanks and Permieter Defenses, and these should be built at every base you have
(but most people don't have to be convinced of that). After that, you should not
just blindly build a facility because it is available, rather, you should look
not at individual bases, but at the empire as a whole, and devise a system of
specialization for certain regions (groups of bases) within your territory.
An Empire with a solid, stable infrastructure can carry on a successful war
effort for a far longer time, and with far fewer adverse effects than an empire
which has let the development of its infrastructure lag, plus, your
well-developed territory is quite easy to defend.
Added to that, would be simply to Know Your Faction!! That seems obvious, but
it's amazing to me to watch people's play styles develop, and discover that
they're attempting to force a faction to do something they're just not natively
very good at. Not that it's impossible to do (I've played The Bel ievers on
"Thinker" level, and was getting Techs every four turns (have yet to try that
on Transcend)....but....the effort involved in getting to that point was
obscene. Play to your faction's natural strengths and devise your strategy
around minimizing the impact of your negatives and you will almost always do
Where units are concerned, if you're serious about winning the game, take the
time to look at unit construction. Yes, you can roll over your enemy with a
horde of Shard Rovers or what-have-you, but a well-prepared enemy will eat you
alive if you try something so basic as that. Design and build a variety of units
with overlapping functions and use them to create a force which can deal with
any threat it encounters in a variety of ways. Then, if your opponent throws you
a curve, chances are good you'll be able to cope with it.
Finally: Always remember that it is your right and duty to blatantly ignore or
ruthlessly violate any principle or strategy you read here or anyplace else,
and take all accumulated wisdom with a grain of salt....in the end, the only
real test is battle, and the only trials that produce a lasting impression are
those by fire....
As always, the key to winning the game is early expansion. Use early transports
to move your colony pods. If you find a unity transport, immediately upgrade
it(you'll get 1 move & 1 cargo capacity at least). If you have mindworms, use
them to escort your colony pod & former thru the fungus to their destination
(wild worms won't attack your worms), and to escort artifacts back to your
cities. Build toward your enemies to cut off their expansion. If you find the
monsoon jungle, colonize it ASAP! Forest everything even if you don't have tree
farms, you'll still get 1 food from the squares. Forest squares with nutrient
bonuses from the beginning. When you do get tree farms, forest everything in
those cities(with the possible exceptions of rolling/rainy & rocky minerals).
Later (as mentioned by Imran) use air units as colony pods. Heliocopter pods
have an even farther range than fighters.
When building a city, 1st put down a sensor array on the spot you will settle.
This will give you a +25% bonus to defense that cannot be destroyed unless the
city is. Aerospace complexes add 100% defense vs. air attacks, so build them
once the enemy has air units. Build 1e-1-1 x2 empathy police (a cop who feels
for you as he clubs you?), a cheap unit that works great for unrest and to
attack worms. They are cheapest with fission reactors, so don't plan on using
them to defend against other factions. Build them in new cities & newly
conquered cities. Another good combo is the AAA/ECM infantry. Learn what
combinations of armor/weapons/specials are cheapest yet still effective.
Terraforming is key to winning; therefore the Weather Paradigm is a must-have
project. It will greatly increase your terraforming speed & allow you options
normally unavailable until later. Use them!
No matter what faction you play, you can create a powerful army early. Command
centers & bioenhancement centers are not the only things capable of modifying
the morale of your army. Monoliths obviously, but also children's creches IN
THE CITY T HAT SUPPORTS THE UNIT will add 1 to the unit morale. Other
structures have the same effect (ones that affect pysche, I believe. Research
hospitals?). So a unit built in a city with a command center, sent to a
monolith, and supported by a city with a children's creche will receive 4 morale
upgrades. Even the Gaians can build veteran troops from the get-go. The
Spartans could build elite infantry from the start.
I play mainly as Zakharov, and act like the Mafia with a research grant. While
pod-popping, the free nodes are invaluable.
Of course, build early and often. Fortify your frontier towns and let your
inner core of cities work on prototypes and Projects. Buddy up to Dierdre and
Morgan. Your early goal should be to become Planetary Guv and you'll need their
votes. Plus trading for Gaian tech gives a nice advantage. If Yang, Miriam or
Santiago are nearby, crush them early. If they all are, get Yang first. His
growth rate usually has him in the running for Guv, and Santiago can be relied
on to attack anyone. Have a treaty with her, kill Yang and let her beat on her
neighbors for you.
Don't be afraid to beat up Lal, either. No one else can stand his namby-pamby
UN. Don't be afraid of stabbing Miriam, Santiago or Yang in the back if needed.
This is a Looooong game and your reputation can recuperate.
Miriam can be taken anytime into mid-game. She defends lightly. Santiago
overextends herself via conquest and her cities are easy to bribe. So are her
units, so if she's driving on you, a few well placed shekels can gain you some
Once you're guv and the more belligerent neighbors are cowed, consolidate,
research and expand. Now is a good time to build a sea colony or two while
letting the others forget your past transgressions.
It's now time to guage your strength and choose your mode of victory.
Don't worry about taking territory. Slash and burn.
When you feel strong enough, whack Lal if he's within your reach.
Assuming that all the totalitarians are no longer a threat, plan for a big
showdown with Morgan. His resources are the only thing that challenge your
Kill Gaia last.
Kill Morgan, Kill Morgan, Kill Morgan! (or start as Morgan). Make peace with
everone else. Make money.
Kill Miriam, Santiago and Yang. Kiss up to two of the other three.
Win with 3 of only 4 votes.
Strike allian ces as necessary, whack anyone who gets too big. This may be when
you want to take Dierdre and the Gaians for a ride.
Remember...your goal is to Capo di Tutti Capi, not to be loved. Play
If you don't take care to expand quickly right from the start, you'll get
yourself in trouble later. Having just a couple of big and well-developed bases
won't cut it - you'll be outdone by anyone who's got more bases to work with in
doing just about everything.
Expand, expand, expand, therefore. Don't stop until you start getting the
efficiency warnings; maybe not even then - go on until you're sure you're by
far the biggest faction.
At the start, use the scout to explore. Don't worry about leaving your home
base undefended - you can gamble on the restart if something should happen.
If you don't already have one, build a colony pod - but make sure that the
build time is longer than the base's growth time. If it isn't, build another
scout after all, to defend the base.
Get formers as soon as you can - always one per base. Have them build roads
first, then forests.
Make sure every second item you build is a colony pod, though!
Your first improvement should either be the tanks (if drones are not a problem
yet) or the rec comm (if they are).
After that, nodes - also for cashing in the artifacts as you find them while
pod popping all the time.
Keep pod popping! You may lose (a lot) of units to worms (less if you"re Gaian
and can convert a few), but the free techs and the artifacts and the bonuses
Never use artifacts to further wonders, if you can avoid it. Link them to your
nodes, and get the tech.
Conquer tactics - as Gaian, go for the mindworm rush. Collect as many worms as
you can, gather them, and go for the nearest rival. Get them to go Corleone on
you first by demanding withdrawal, or threatening to crush them if they don't
surrender a nice fat base.
If not Gaian, it pays to go for tech advance and get to air units before the
others. Choppers can chew up a base or two per turn, ground forces or drop units
can come in after.
Accept total surrender when offered, but then demand they give up all their
bases but one. If they won't, cancel the pact and go have war again.
Don't strive for individual base expansion too much - keep it down by building
pods, a lot of size-sevens can stay very effective for a long time with
relatively little drone trouble.
Special Projects: Human Genome is an early boon, for the extra talent in every
base. Later, feed SPs in small bases with supply crawlers from big bases; that
way you can spread your SPs around in case of Planet Buster trouble later on.
Build all the science wonders in one base, though (cumulative effect).
Try and keep a building rhythm of improvement / unit / improvement / unit / etc.
Units can be pods, formers, crawlers, spies, orbitals, as well as combat units.
Never stop terraforming, never forget new bases might be useful (if only as PB
I have seen too many people say that they are able to get 1 or 2 of the 200 cost
secret projects, 1 or 2 of the 300 cost secret projects, etc.
I play on Librarian because I am just not ready for the higher levels, I usually
miss getting only 1 or 2 of the 200 cost secret projects and I get all but 1 or
2 of the entire list of the rest of the secret projects. The way I do this is to
capitalize on the incredible strength of Supply Crawlers. I play UofP so I start
with a free Tech. I always choose the tech that allows Terraformers. That way,
I can set my build order to be scout, Former, colony pod, former, colony pod,...
I then go for Secrets of Alpha Centauri (getting the required techs for that
along the way, of course!) for the free tech and the required Trance special
ability. I then go for the industrial techs so that I can switch to Free Market
and Wealth. Since I am now raking in money and science hand over fist, I can
concentrate on my industry. I don't improve my production by putting my workers
on mines. Instead, I build supply crawlers and sit them on mines. With Supply
crawlers, a city can be producing 15-20 minerals per turn and still only be
size 3. This is important because large cities are less productive (you get a
free worker for your base square) more unhappy (as UoP on Librarian, I get 0
drones at size 3 and 2 drones at size 4) and generally a pain to work with.
Instead, grow like mad. You will have more territory and you will be much more
productive. Using Supply Crawlers means that you can have high production cities
that are still manageable. Now, go build those secret projects!
For Social Engineering, the combo I use most often is democracy, green
economics, knowledge, and then cybernetic. This gives you a remarkable advantage
on planets with lots of fungus and life forms, giving you a mindworm capture
rate of 75% if I remember correctly. This will also basically have the Gaians
eating out of your hand due to your 'love for planet' although you probably
terraform like mad. The Hive and Morgans will be mortal enemies under this
social arrangement, and often stronger than you starting out. It is best you
learn how to compromise, knowing when to say when, but also when to give in and
The University's strength is obvious: knowledge. When done right, you can have
Tachyon bolts and photon armor when other factiions are still using particle
impactors and plasma steel armor. Using your technological advantage is
critical. You can also use knowledge brokering as leverage for diplomacy.
As with all factions, you MUST expand and expand like crazy if you wish to
survive. Your only hope of winning is to become as massive as possible,
generating large cash flow and quick research. A large faction size is also
good for supporting large numbers of units without causing rioting. You
absolutely must grow if you hope to survive. If you stay small, you will easily
be overwhelmed by factions like the Hive and Spartans, who can produce large
quantities of units fairly cheaply. They will overwhelme you with shear numbers
unless you can fight back with superior units.
As far as secret projects go, all are good, but some are just better: Citizens
Defense Force, Command Nexus, Maritime Control Center, among others are good
choices. My personaly opinion is don't waste your time on the Ascetic Virtues
because it just isn't worth wasting the production time on it. You will want to
build any wonders that give you base improvements, for a couple of reasons:1.
You don't have to build those improvements in your city. 2. Reduced maintenance
costs. 3. And of course the benefits of the improvments.
Not sure if he's off the scene now so here goes (some strategies may've been
reported by other people already):
* Manipulate build queue -- often the game won't allow to build something until
another structure has been built. For example the pleasure dome can't be built
until you have the recreation commons. However, you can put the recreation
commons in the build queue, add the pleasure dome after it, and then delete the
recreation commons from the build queue. Then the pleasure dome can be built
first (yeah I know, limited usefulness).
* Free support off pact brother -- build up a little base in a corner near your
own bases, and give the little base to a pact brother, then send all of your own
units there, open the city screen and change the unit's ownership. Nobody ends
up supporting the unit. Not only that, but those units can now be freely sent
out of the city for battle duty, and they won't create unhappiness since they
don't belong to any of your cities.
* Free support + Ascend to transcendence -- build and save up heaps of military
units, sending them to a pact brother city to get the free support as necessary.
When the transcendence project becomes available, you can scrap your units in
the base that's building the secret project, meaning that you effectively
started to build the project as soon as you started building up the units.
* Catching up in the race to transcend - if you're falling behind in industrial
capability compared to a competitor building the transcendence secret project,
it is better to catch up by building units and sending them to be scrapped,
rather than stockpiling energy and then buying partial production. When you
build and scrap, the industry input from other bases is basically halved (as
well as a bit of wastage depending on the build schedule). However when you
stockpile energy, you lose 3 quarters of it when you try to rush the secret
project because it costs 4 credits to buy each unit of a secret project.
Therefore it is twice as economical to build and scrap than it is to stockpile
and buy. (Q: when you stockpile you get 1 production = 1 energy don't you? If it
was 2 production = 1 energy then you'd lose 7 eighths of the input rather than 3
* Plasma Hoverboats (2-3-4) rule the water world -- On a world which is
predominantly water, the plasma hoverboat rule because they are so cheap (same
low price as a plasma sentinel) yet can bombard the enemy's terrain improvements
every bit as well as a stronger ship. They are also great naval city defenders.
* Inland sea - the best bases are usually ones next to water because of the
excellent food and energy income from water tiles, while forests and occasional
boreholes on just a couple of land tiles will make up for production. The only
problem with this is that coastal cities can be attacked by enemy ships. So what
do you do? build on an inland sea. None nearby? Then create one. Get a mid sized
island, populate it, then get a bunch of formers and proceed to build a thin
"ring" of land just a couple of tiles off the coast of the entire island. If the
enemy tries to take a foothold on the outer land ring, you can send your entire
navy from your core bases to wipe them out without worrying about being attacked
from a different direction. I doubt the AI will ever figure out it needs to
lower the land to turn your land ring into sea (but in that case you can just
build it right back, or go out there and destroy their sea formers enmass). Most
likely the AI will just build a small land bridge towards one part of your
protective ring, which means you have them controlled at a chokepoint. If you
build air defense units all around the protective ring you might even stop the
enemy being able to scout you, so they'd not be able to find out what you have
in the "core".
I have here detailed some salient points of my Gain strategy.
Gains have the best planet rating so use this to your advantage:pollute.But
don't build mines or condensers or farms, they merely make squares where enemy
units can move easily, build fungus and boreholes ONLY. This simplest if you get
the weather paradigm and begin borehole production early in the game, not more
than 1 former for 2 bases. Don't build your boreholes beside your base squares,
only fungus, to give your worms the advantage.Always station a mind worm on a
borehole.The first base facility you build should always be a biology lab: more
research more lifecycle. Go straight for the Centauri-techs & Secret projects as
they will allow your bases to produce more with fungus.Never trade these techs
as a matter of forcing high-science players to research them, something often
neglected till post Quantum. Be sure that no one gets the xenoempathy dome and
nulliffies your fungus advantages.Be SURE no one gets the neural-amplifier as
this is a major asset if gained and a major pain if lost.All research towards
neural grafting is my top priority until I have the amp secured which
effectivly defends against the spartan-elite-rush.Make sure you expand
frequently and remain democratic/green/wealth. Always build preserves and
things to give lifecycles. Once the Dream twister is secured send a plague of
demon-boil locusts to any near bases/pesky rival.If you are still alive this far
into the game your island should be a carpet of fungus and boreholes.I have
found many players die simply to the plague but if it seems to be a long game
Save up ALL your artifacts in a well protected inland base and build the
Universal translator.Trade tech with the other factions until you have roughly
all the tech up till discover level 10 then rocket ahead to acheive
transcendance when the world is sitting at digital sentience!
The Spartans are an interesting choice as a faction. Their morale starts at +2
in the society window and their prototypes cost the same as the regular unit.
The only problem with the Spartans is their -1 industry. A little social
engineering will take car of that. In the early came or when you're not at war
your social choices should be Fundamentalist, Green or Planned, and Knowledge.
Future society is not really that important until later in the game. By chosing
both Fundamentalist and Knowledge you cancel out the major benifits of both
along with your own -1 industry. Growth be high whenever you gain empty
territory. But in this time of expansion planet should be high too. Hence you
alternate between Planned and Green as needed. When you do go to war chosing
power instead of knowledge is okay if you think you can wipe out your opponent
with relative speed.
Now, on to military developement. When you start the game research Applied
Physics and then Centauri Ecology. Each of your bases hould build two scout
patrols, one scout rover, and one former. As you gain technological advantages
just upgrade the units that you have already built. (remember that with the
Spartans you don't have to prototype.) Be as aggressive as you can in the early
game. Laser and Impact rovers should be your staple military unit against your
opposition. Rovers are better than infantry because early in the game you need
their speed and flexibility. Armorless foils are not an uncommon choice on a
water orinted map either. Infantry should serve no other purpose than to
garrison your bases so upgrade both scout patrols as you reasearch new armor
Once you have established Sparta Command's garrison and terriforming units
begin to build the Command Nexus. You should be the first faction to build a
secret project unless another faction is feeling aggressive. Also build the
Merchant Exchange if you have the time since you'll need lots of energy to
upgrade your units.
Other secret projects should include the Cyborg Factory and the Cloning Vats.
If you encounter a faction with a greater number of military units and a well
established defensive network (usually Yang) try to make friends and limit their
expansion. When you have sufficient strength go in for the kill.
The overall goal of this strategy is to produce a large number of well trained,
fast, and technologically advanced units. Don't be affraid to give your rovers
armor if your having trouble researching Nanometalurgy.
One trouble area is the transition of your forces from primarily speeder to
primarily tank. Don't do it while your at war. Wait until you're not fighting
anybody and quietly begin to replace your rover's with tanks like this. Sent a
rover home and disband it. Build an armorless tank with a decent weapon from the
recycled rover. Upgrade it as soon as posible and circulate it into service. Do
not do this with more than two rovers at a time or you'll find yourself with
half the army you used to have and very little cash.
Another thing to beware is enemy airpower. If you move quickly enough you won't
need to worry. But if you start seeing needle jets come midgame: don't worry.
Design a radar with AAA and SAM special abilities and go after them. Try not to
over extend yourself though or you won't be able to support these anti-air
units. Speaking of support, as soon as you develope the clean reactor, use it.
Other special abilities to monopolize on should be deep radar and drop pods. The
Space Elevator can be useful in that respect but you really don't need it.
Tectonic missiles ensure that your continent remains above the sea level,
making it obsolete to employ sea formers to raise your terrain, and are very
useful in initiating global warming, since they are cheap and generate a huge
Fungal payloads can help spread the fingus at your continent. The fungal towers
should be easy to control. Furthermore, the Manifold Harmonics project can
extend your fungus production to gigantic levels.
Choppers are very versitile units. Not only can they travel long distances
without refueling, but they can also attack multiple times within one turn. One
good strategy for quickly taking over bases uses choppers. Build up a number of
these aircraft and give them your best weaponry and offensive special abilities,
and a few ground units as well. Attack the target base with your choppers, and
if your choppers are superior in strength, they can keep attacking the defenders
until there are none left. They simply move one of your ground units into the
base. This sort of attack can come as a surprise and overwhelm your opponent
when he can start producing defensive units that are effective against aircraft.
Therefore, use this strategy when your opponent does not have a force of
anti-air units and keep puching forwards once you have started the attack so as
not to let your enemy rebuild and upgrade.
Be sure to use the best terrain improvement for each square: farms in rainy
squares, forests in arid or moist, and mines in rocky.
I recommend to build at least two military units at each base to start off with.
After your military units are built, build some formers.
I recommend that you build recycling tanks and supply pods next. This will
increase efficiency and expansion.
If you want, build Mind Worms. However, you must build these nasty critters
early in the game. They won't be as useful later in the game, because the
factions will have sufficiently developed their Psi defenses.
Don't forget to build things like the Children's Creche, Biology Lab, and Hab
I recommend signing treaties or pacts with some or most of the other factions
for a short time, at least.
Don't forget that units can hide in the fungus.
Boreholes are very important in the production of resources at your bases. I
recommend having at least one borehole for every four bases.
Remember to scout for the landmarks. They will provide extra resources.
Build sensory arrays as you explore to watch for mind worms.
Send Supply Crawlers to retrieve far away resource deposits.
Naval Bases and Aerospace Complexes add to your faction's dominance and
Remember to build kelp farms, tidal harnesses, and mining platforms for bases
near an ocean.
You can defend your borders by planting a line of fungus and hiding units in it.
Remember to make some sensors near there as well. This will prevent the other
factions from doing the same.
If you're located on the western side of a long landmass that you share with
other factions, you must define the eastern edge of your territory by raising a
ridge line. You can settle the green exposure, while the barren, eastern
exposure will create a no- man's land that the enemy will be reluctant to
To invade a nearby landmass which isn't connected by land, consider raising a
land bridge. You can also use transport boats.
If your land is arid, build a condenser to make it more moist.
Build solar collectors adjacent to Echelon Mirrors in high elevation locations.
Forests are easy to produce and provide sufficient resources, so plant several
forests near your bases.
Upgrade your units in the field by pressing [Ctrl][U].
If possible, get the Weather Paradigm. You will be able to do the other types
of terraforming that requires Ecological Engineering, without actually having
You should upgrade to Mag Tubes when you get the Monopole Magnets Technology.
You will be able to move a little quicker. Unfortunately, the other factions can
still use them.
To soften up a unit prior to final attack, complete a bombarding run.
I have noticed that is another faction declares a vendetta upon you, and
they're not on the same continent, they won't attack you. Because they swore a
vendetta upon you, you do not have to attack them, if they don't attack you.
I noticed that not many people use diplomacy in this game. It is one of your
most useful tools. If you are playing single player, make your allies stop
vendettas as soon as possible. If the factions don't fight, they grow slowly;
on the other hand, if you allow one faction to assimilate two or three others,
they will become those strong powerhouses that take ages to destroy. Even in
Multiplayer, an inventive person can cause all sorts of havoc with the right
moves, especially with probe teams.
This strategy is best used early in the game, but not too early - when you are
the second or third most powerfu faction. It also helps to the the Spartans.
Try to make a pact of brotherhood with the most powerful faction, or if you are
the most powerful faction, your strongest rival. Them, somehow, get your pact
brother (or sister) to attract your next biggest rival. When he has been
eradicated, heal all of your damaged units in your pact brothers cities, and
keep them all in near his cities. Then break your pact and crush him swiftly
and mercilessly. After this, no one will probably trust you, but it doesn't
matter because from your conquests, you are probably superior in tech and
In Alien Crossfire, if you are the Cult (or Caretaker), it's a great idea to
use GREEN CYBERNETIC and employ mind worms only, because of special bonus
(PLANET * 10) in the attack. If you can get the Neural Amplifier and Dream
Twister (you get 50 to attack and 50 to defense), your mind worms become almost
unbeatable in attack. Mind worms are also easy to build, and you get them also
free, when you capture wild mind worms. Walk with the Planet!
If you are the Peacekeepers, and you have not acquired Eudamonia, the best
social engineering is: Fundamentalist, Simple, and Knowledge. This will end up
giving you all 0's and a single 1 in Economy. It pleases the UoP because of the
Fundamentalist, and it pleases the Gaians because of the 0 in Planet.
I think there are only two points that really matter: Growth and Research. It's
absolutely necessary to have large growth and research. So, first obtain the
democracy and planned economy (free market is terrible because of riots). It's
necessary also to acquire the Virtual World, Citizen Defense Firce, and in the
classic SMAC, the Hunter S. Algorithm.
If you have a big country, large output and fast research, are "musts" to win!
A small tip: Towards the beginning of the game, especialls as the Gaians, set
your planet rating high and get the Centauri secret projects. Then, get rid of
all of your sea improvements (I mean ALL), and plant sea fungus instead. If you
have lots of tech, it wil give you tons of resources. This is especially good
if you have SMACX, because the Manifold Harmonics makes fungus squares. If you
are Gaian/Cult, and have green ec and/or cybern. society, it gives you even more
resources. If you do this, you can spread fungus in your land as well, and it'll
give you more than farms, sc's, mines, etc. Enemies can't invade you, because
they get stuck in fingus. With sensors, pholus mutagen, and xenoempathy dome,
you can sneak up on them and wipe them out easily. Also, if they capture a city
w/o tech, it'll starve.
Use chains of transport foils to create temporary bridges so that the bridge is
one way with you holding the key. There is almost always a site where only two
squares separate your continent from that of your nearest enemy. Put two foils
in thse squares and let your armies march across. Then move one foild away to
close the bridge until you need it again. I tend to build roads or mag tubes to
my bridge site and let my armies flow across into enemy territory. Later in the
game, clean reactors, maritime control centers, and carrier decks make these
foils mobile bridge/airbases that are cheap to keep around and can move anywhere
else on the sea map quickly. Even later in the game, submarine transports could
be used to have a bdidge that can "disappear" without having to move. I have
found this srategy to definitely bolster my war efforts on some maps. It
obviously depends on the terrain and how the islands are spaced. On the map of
planet, it works great if you have started on the L-shaped continent to the left
and want to get to the central continent.
Hans van Pelt
The idea is to get your hands n as many alien artifacts as you possibly can and
taget your research for this, and ultimately the Universal Translator. This will
make you practically invincible, so you can teach those other pesky factions a
Target your research at knowledge, at Secrets of the Human Brain, to be exact.
This will speed up your research rate. Make your scout patrols check the terrain
for unity pods (and mind worms). Remember: you're after the alien artifacts.
Guard them back to one city carefully; don't let them wander the fungus alone!
After you've discovered Secrets of the Human Brain, go for Doctrine:
Flexability, which allows you to build boats, then for Doctrine: Initiative.
Don't waste too much time on any other, especially weapons or shielding
research. Use diplomacy to settle conflicts, even try to negotiate in conflicts
between other factions.
If you're not Gaian, build a lot of transports and offensive ships to escort
them. Put some scout patrols and rovers on the transports, and go get those sea
pods. Use the scouts and rovers to explore uninhabited islands. Move all the
alien artifacts you come across to the city where you do your piling up.
If you're Gaian, build only a few offensive ships (like gun foils), and have
them move about through sea fungus. Do it for some time, and you'll end up with
your own fleet of isles of the deep, some carrying mind worms. These are even
better than transports because they can defend themselves.
Don't link alien artifacts to network nodes unless you're desperate for new
techs (powerful faction attacks), but pile them up.
After having discovered Doctrine: Initiative, have one of your bases (you should
have size 10's or more by now) build the maritime control center project. Speed
it up if you have the cash. This project enables you to move your ships yp to
twice as fast. Continue to bring those artifacts in. Now focus your research on
Homo Superior. It will take a series of different discoveries, and quite a long
time before you get there, but when you have it, have one of your biggest bases,
preferrably close to the city where you are collecting your artifacts, build the
Universal Translator Project. Hurry it up if you can. The next neato project you
can focus on is the Hunter-seeker Algorithm, which will protect your techs
When you have the Universal Translator project and a nice collection of alien
artifacts (normal numbers are 15 to 25, but 30 is possible), you are all set for
hard times. Wait until you're in a pickle (vendetta with a multitude of other
factions), or try to maneuver yourself into one by clumsy diplomacy, but DON'T
do this when things are peaceful and quiet: Rush all collected alien artifacts
to the Universal Translator at once, and hook 'em up. This will give you a surge
in tech level. All of a sudden, you will have weapons, defenses, and unit
technologies way ahead of the other guys and gals.
Use your rediculous tech level to build many heavily armed choppers (about 20).
Also build some drop troops (2 to 5) and some fast ships (maybe you have some
left from your expedition forces?). Now target an enemy faction. Send your ships
there if they have any sea bases, and most important of all: get the choppers
there. Maybe you had planned for this, and you already have bases at flyable
intervals towards the enemy faction, maybe you'll need to build an aircraft
carrier (design workshop: if you design a transport vessel, one available
special ability is "carrier deck". Check that, and you will have designed an
aircraft carrier; Very hard to spot for the opposition).
Le's hope your victim doesn't have aerospace complexes, they make this tactic
pretty hard to carry out. Use the choppers to clear out big enemy cities.
Choppers can attack and destroy multiple targets iside one turn. Beware of fuel
limits, but if you're sure that a base is going to be captured within the same
turn, fire away until you have only one movement point left, and select another
chopper to pick up where the previous one left off. Use this tactic also if a
chopper is too banged up to continue with a next target: simply select another
chopper, you should have enough of 'em. When a base is empty, airdrop a drop
unit into it. Now all wounded and amost-out-of-fuel choppers may rest there too.
DON'T, however, skip the turn for the drop squad! Select another chopper and do
another city, reactivating the drop squad for that decisive airdrop.
It works the same on the sea. Clear those bases with choppers, take 'em with
boats. This way, you can sweep the enemy off his'her feet. Wipe 'em out before
they can say "planetbuster"! Yep, you can do 7, 8 bases in ONE turn EASY...
Select one small base and attack it last. While the attack is still in progress,
your opponent may come begging for mercy (the story about granting you all
their energy credits (0) and all their new techs (0 too)). Accept that is you
want to be known as "noble," otherwise KERSPLAT!
Next faction, please!?
When you have subdued all hostile factions, apply for the job of supreme leader.
You will have achieved diplomatic victory.
Expansion is definitely key to a quicker and easier victory. But if you're like
me, and you prefer small empires (9-12 cities) of well-developed cities, try
Play as the Cult, the Gaians, or the University. Build 9-12 cities in
fairly-close proximity. They can be VERY close together if at least half of
them are coastal (and can therefore expand into ocean shelves). Terraform all
the surrounding landscape as quickly as possible and build lots of facilities
and secret projects. Your cities will soon be the envy of the planet, pumping
out lots of energy reserves, psych and research points, and minerals.
While you're doing this, however, the other factions will be plastering the map
with their cities and building up arsenals. Your better-developed cities should
be keeping you ahead in the technology race, but you won't be in a position to
directly challenge these other large empires. And you WILL be attacked.
Fortunately, you have a relatively-small area to defend. A few defensive units
squatting on sensors (and maybe bunkers) can keep land units out, especially if
you have an island (the computer isn't very good at amphibious assaults). Air
units are more of a worry, but AAA seems to keep them away. Your biggest
problem is probably missiles, but if you can survive those . . .
Pick an enemy and take out all his terraforming. I mean ALL of it. If you're
geared for conventional warfare, use well-armored ships to bombard coastlines
and bombers to lay waste to the interior. Better yet, "go native" (be sure to
have built biology labs, centauri preserves, and the "centauri" projects to
boost life cycle bonuses). Once you get the Locusts of Chiron, you're on your
way to victory. The locusts can go anywhere on the map and don't have to refuel,
so even a few of them can decimate an enemy's continent.
Don't bother attacking cities (or units, unless they're guarding improvements
you want to destroy). Sit back and watch the enemy's empire starve. As his
cities shrink, paralysis sets in, because what little mineral production he has
left goes to supporting his bloated military.
Soon those cities will be ripe for the picking. But you're a "small empire"
player, so you want to take them over only long enough to destroy them (besides,
your military isn't capable of holding onto lots of cities beyond your borders).
Problem is, obliterating a base is an atrocity, which you may not want to
commit. However, nothing stops you from doing this: (1) take all workers off
production, and wait for the city to starve down to size 1; (2) build a colony
pod, abandon the base, then disband the pod. Bye-bye city. If you have ample
energy reserves (and you should), you can hasten this process by hurrying
production of pods. This is advisable where you might not be able to hold onto
the base long enough for it to die a slow death.
Alright, I'm probably the odd guy out here but...
I never play as the hive. To tell the truth I always thought of them as the
"badguys". Same with Santiago. Instead I usually go for the peaceful game
ending. But if you're going for that there are strategies too!
Each ending has a "best" faction you should go for it with.
If you want to corner the Global Energy Market play as Morgan and get as many
pacts as possible. Also build "energy farms" with long rows of echelon mirrors
and solar collectors in the following fashion:
Also be sure to build as many energy banks and secret projects as possible. And
if there is huge energy deposit far away from you send out upply transports to
go get it!
If you are going for transcendance use the University. Also build as many bases
as possible and turn the governor on in each of them and set it to: Discover.
Trade techs as much as possible and make pacts not vendettas that way you won't
waste time building your military instead of your knowledge. Set your social
engineering screen to democracy and knowledge. (note: this usually gets more
than a few people mad at you including: yang, lal, miriam, and santiago) Build
as many secret projects as possible and also DON'T HURRY ANYTHING UNLESS
ABSOLUTELY NECCESSARY! If you do the above thewn by the time you start building
"Ascent to Transcendance" you should be able to rush buy it.
If you are going to try and get elected supreme leader use Lal because he gets
x2 votes. Then build the "Empath Guild" secret project to get x2 votes again.
That means you will have x4 votes. Then build as many bases as you can (the
more voters you have the easier it will be) Then get elected planetary governor.
Next, go for supreme leader. You should be able to vote yourself in but if you
just want to be cautios you can bribe a few votes. ( n ote: I forgot to tell
you to make pacts. Your pact brothers and sisters will almost ALWAYS vote for
Play with the Gaians on a custom large/huge flat map with no cloud cover and
lots of oceans so you'll have an island on your own.
Build about 10 bases, protect them with a few defensive units and builc
children's creche in every single one.
Now switch to democracy and planned, and you will get a population boom
everywhere, while using only forest(with tree farms) and fungus squares for
food (yes, you should actually plant fungus). When your Bases have grown to a
strong size, build a few Boreholes to get minerals and keep on researching until
you have got fusion planet busters (yeah!). Fire about 10-15 Busters in all
directions at your enemies (even in transcend they should not have orbital pods
at this time) and ensure you are working the borehole squares and have a lot of
trance and empath garrisons.
The following ecological destruction will result in approximately 2000 metres
of sea-level rising, which means that there should be only sea bases by this
Keep the terrain around your bases ocean shelf so you can plant fungus squares
everywhere, and it should be easy to destroy the remeining factions, as the AI
is catastrophic in sea warfare and even in multiplayer you will have an
advandtage since no one can cultivate sea squares comparable to your fungus. If
you build Xenoempathy, it will even help to kee other ships out of your
territory while allowing yours to pass for 1 MP.
This strategy should work on all levels of difficulty, it has been tested under
thiner but transcend should be possible, too.
Tip: If you're going for an especially high score or if you want to train for
multiplayer, go for IRON MAN Settings, it will give you a 100 bonus.
My strategy works regardless of who I start as, though I prefer to start as
Gaia, UoP, or Hive.
My order of precedence at a base is:
1) Guard unit (high defense, trance (if avail), and police (if avail)). Updating
these is your highest priority. Designate this unit as a primary defender
(Ctrl-D), then Hold them (H).
2) An attack unit. Make this unit a high movement rate unit. Give it AAA (if
avail), and the BEST attack strength you've got, but keep the defense level at
1 (keeps the unit affordable). Station this unit with the L command.
3) Build a Former. Make this former the BASIC former. Upgrade it using funds to
a better armored super-former after it has been built.
4) Build Recycling Tanks.
5) Build another former.
Now at this point, I diverge depending on where the city is:
If this city is on a front:
*) Crank out Air, Sea, or Attack units. Make them CLEAN!! Crank them out
endlessly and station them near the front-line in some fungus. As soon as you
see an enemy, attack with the mongolian horde.
If this is a city to the rear:
1) Children's Creche.
2) Recreation Facility.
3) Energy Bank.
4) Network Node.
NEVER build the following unless someone has beaten you to the punch: Perimeter
defense (use the Citizens' defense), Hologram Theatres (use Virtual), etc.
Designate a few VERY well defended cities to be your SECRET PROJECT sites.
Rapidly produce quick moving rovers in the neighboring cities to move to these
project-building cities and sacrifice. This takes almost no time and rapidly
advances the production of your secret projects. The basic projects that are a
1) Weather Paradigm
2) Citizen's Defense
I usually go for most of them, as they all seem to have serious advantages to
If you are only interested in getting the highest score, then play with the
Gaians on the biggest possible map with abundant native life forms. It also has
to have the biggest landmass. Then build a lot of mindworms and dito
improvements (Biology Lab). Don't mind the secret projects, because the first
time you will meet an opponent, you will have more mindworms then there are
bricks in the Great Wall! For even more mindworms turn to green economics asap.
Then you will have enough mindworms to conquer every opponent with ease. I once
played like this and started with 2 recon speeders and that was all I build as
an attack force, because the rest was only captured mindworms. My bases could
only concentrate on building improvements and garrisons!
This the most Revolutionary strategy that will ever hit the scene. Basically
you start of by establishing 4 bases fairly close together linked by roads,
obviously being sure to fully exploit the terrain.Build a single scout vehicle
in each of your four cities. Then send a Seperate scout vehicle to find other
factions. Make a treaty with them And then a brotherhood pact, trading as much
technology as possible.All the while build up a huge military force on the sly.
Move in your forces to surround the capital and other cities of military
importance and then strike breaking all treaties and unleashing mass death and
destruction to your opponents granted through the element of surprise.Once you
have drained the putrid filth for what they have,feast on the soft goey
substance in their brain.The result liquid will send you insane,allowing you to
return all your troops to their home cities and destroy them all thus commiting
I dunno who reads these but it's kinda cool that i can post something. These are
only a few tricks that I use, and I know they work because I beat the shit out
of the game on transcend. The Hive is invincible. If you don't realize this
play some more. Conquer everyone as fast as you can. Go police state and
planned immediately (no negative consequences). Expand as much as possible also
Other little things -
If everyone hates the aliens then nuke the aliens, no one will care.
Build skimship and cruiser probe teams (use the workshop!!).
Free market is almost always the best. Especially if you have the Ascetic
Virtues (unless you're the Data Angels and then that won't help you)
Always trade tech unless it's really gonna fuck you up.
Finally, if you are playing correctly by 150 to 180 turns into the game
everyone should vendetta you unless you've made them your bitch. I haven't
tested this with the aliens in yet so that might change things. Normally I have
almost every wonder and so much power the comp always hates me.
Finally, if your morgan and you start next to the believers or aliens on any
decent skill level your normally fucked.
I play huge maps so the game doesn't end before anyone gets half way through the
This strategy is for those of you who want to beat the game on as high a level
as you can. i have ussed this strategy to beat the game on transcend. I played
as the spartans, and they would be best, but in the situation I will describe,
the hive, the believers, and even the gains could pull it off. Customize your
world for large landmasses, small map, lots of native life (especially if your
gaians) and no cloud cover. Don't panick when you se a map without any green on
it. Start by expanding as fast as possible. kill anything that gets in your way
(it actually helps to turn on the animosity option; that way they won't work
together). Don't accept anything less than wiping them out; you need the
realestate. take their bases and their tech, you need both. as soon as a base
has cranked out a colony pod or two, start build formers to make forests. Go
for only the basic improvements, you need tanks first, then creches and command
centers. if you feel you have a city that's already developed and you have the
resources to start a war without that city 9and that should be a neat trick on
transcend) build the command nexus and citizen's defense force. the only other
improvements you want will be naval yards and aerospace complexs, if you get
that far. set out in all directions, find the enemy, and take a base as fast as
possible. Consolidate quickly, buy units to defend those bases, keep moving with
your attck units. the longer you take, the harder it will b to kill your
enemies. kill yang and miriam asap, they are hard to wipe out the later it gets.
sea bases aren't as important, it takes to many resources to transport units.
The important thing is to get to your opponents quickly, if you haven't wiped
out a faction within the first 10-25 turns, start over, you won't win. Tech,
economy, population, and psych are all secondary to the war ef fort. every base
must be defended, new bases must be held, and you must explore for new ways to
reach your enemy. keep the pressure up, your population barely content (so keep
those bases small!), your bases connected by roads, your weapons cutting edge
(love the needlejet. good needlejet) and your wits about you, and you can have
the game rapt up in under a hundred turns. and just look at your score!
My strategy centers around economic, technological, and military powers. Early
in the game, I tend to make alliances with anyone who'll cooperate and gang up
on Yang, the Believers, or, in some cases, the Spartans. I've played everyone,
but the UN, the Gaians, and the Morganites are the best for this form of
strategy. The University tends to be too weak for military actions, ao what's
the point in advanced weapons? The UN is by far the best, as one can expand
quickly and grab tons of land. I tend to have NO overlap early in the game; I
fill in spaces later with tiny bases that stay tiny. My advantages come in
early Tech advancement, so while the other factions are destroying one-another
(my allies do the early fighting for me) I develope powerful weapons. I love
naval power and tend to concentrate on sea bases. The basic strategy here is
that the seas are all interconnected so one can go anywhere. I try to develope
air power early so I can strike out from centraly located sea bases and then
use drop-pod-equipped units (usually hovertanks) to take over with only a few
units. It takes me a few hundred turns to really crank up the power; other civs
grow and expand, ussually becoming the most powerful first. Meanwhile, I bide
my time and get the others to fight useless wars. At the right time, I emerge
from my isolation and conquer the most powerful faction first with lightning
fast strikes that roll over the enemy in one or two turns. I kind of go overkill
on the military at this point. I have hundreds of units all just tooling around.
This is when I get really tough. If anyone left crosses me the wrong way, I
invade mercilessly until they either sign a pact forever, or until they are
dead. I don't like killing factions; I tend to leave one isolated city with no
defenses surrounded by 20 or thirty units. More on this later!! Bye
I like to build 10-15 "core" bases during the early expansion phase. Site
selection isn't that big of a deal, but I do try to minimize overlap in order
to leave some buffer squares for supply crawlers between the cities. Terrain
can be a big factor in the early game so i find it's always a good idea to get
2-3 rocky mined per city, enough farms to ensure steady growth, and get forests
started early enough that they'll be good size when i'm ready for them. I
generally don't spend too much time on economy, but more on that later.
The first thing to do is find your neighbor and take him out, expanding right
into his territory in the process (if it's worthwhile). Once you have a few of
their bases, use them to fuel your war/expansion machine while your core bases
continue to grow/build SPs/research/etc. Some civs such as yang always seem to
pose a serious threat unless dealt with early. Once I have the continent to
myself, planetary governor is within reach. I use the intel this provides along
with the state of my armies to determine whether conquest is an option.
Meanwhile back at home, I'll have 2-4 bases always building SPs, with the other
cites alternating between facitlies, the occasional prototype, and supply
crawlers. Send the crawlers to your project bases and home them there (CTRL-H),
then send them out to some mine your formers have prepared in the wilderness
near a secure border to build even faster! Typically during this phase i'll have
a number of border cities pop 3-5 that are building units and expanding while
my core cities are pop 7-9. I like to stay democracy/planned/knowledge or wealth
if at all possible.
It may take a few games to get used to the tech tree (don't use blind research
unless you like a challenging, looong game), but once you are good enough to
survive the early catfights, do your fighting on the enemies' soil, and keep
your core bases kranking out SPs and new techs, you will roll over Planet with
Using the University, I can research tech so fast that none of the fractions
can catch up.
Select the free tech as Formers. Find good starting location with at least 2
mineral resouces. Build formers and start terraforming the surrounding to
increase your population.
Build 1 colony pod and then start to enhance your city.
Start to build mines.
Research as follows :
1) Recycling centres
2) Secrets of the Human Brain
3) Fundamentalism (change society to Planned)
4) Democracy (change to democracy)
With Democracy and Planned, you gain population explosion, so
by this time, you should be closed to completing the Virtual World and the Huma
Build armies to keep the people happy when necessary.
Use money to buy facilities like recycling centre.
The trick is to build the starting secret projects fast so that the other
factions cannot catch up.
Final Notes and 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
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
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 till 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 till 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 till 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.
Against the Cult: The same things that work against the Gaians work here as
well. Do it with a vengeance. Declare war on Chiron itself, ripping out fungus
everywhere you find it, and make their heavy reliance on psi-attackers work
against them with your own empath and trance troopers. Then see how strong the
Against the Cyborgs: Aki will be pre-disposed to first strike armies, on account
of the techsteal ability. Be faster. Beat her to the punch, and teach her a
sharp lesson about sending out troops with little or no armor. With luck, it'll
be a lesson she'll learn too late.
Against the Pirates: Let them build sea bases and naval units for you! Theirs
are awesome, and if you subvert, you get the free marine detachment too!
Against the Drones: With a few probe teams handy, you don't need to build an
army at all. Let the Drones do it for you!
Against the Data Angels: Like the Peacekeepers, there's little here to exploit,
so watch the player and wait for him to make a mistake!
Against the Aliens: Same as above: Subversion works to a degree on Marr, thanks
to his Morale, but a subverted Caretaker loses it's 25% defensive bonus, leaving
you in the position of having to watch for something you can use.
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
* 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
*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.
The topic has come up more than once in the boards I frequent: Why do we love
this game so much? It can be tedious, trying, nerve wracking, and it certainly
is not without its flaws! But here we are just the same, the faithful, the
diehards, staying up way too late at night, coming into work the next day with
eyes red and puffy, itching to hurry up and get through the day just so we can
sit back at our computers and repeat the whole process. Why? What is it about
this game anyway?
And when that topic comes up, you hear a lot of the same kind of answers. Cool
storyline. Good look and feel. Great movies and blurbs. Eerie graphics. Good all
around game. And I would completely agree with all of those things, but that
still doesn't quite answer the question to my satisfaction, so I did a lot of
thinking about that.
Partly, I play this game to death because it draws on two things that I hold
very dear in my daily life. Fiction (and especially Science-Fiction), and
Economics. Both are woven into the very fabric of the game, to the point that
becomes nearly impossible to tell where one stops and the other begins. As an
author, as an economist, I really, really like that.
In fact, I like it so much that I've actually used the scenario editor to creat
training modules for work at my previous job. Lessons on team-building and
cooperative effort. Lessons about matching skill sets with appropriate tasks,
and the like. I've also used the (admittedly clunky) scenario editor to create
economic modeling simulations to test various ideas out. Believe me, it's a lot
more entertaining than your "typical" economic modeling routines.
But that still doesn't quite answer the question.
No, the truth of the matter is that I cut my teeth on Sci-fi. Weeknights at 5pm,
channel 13 in a sleepy little town called Emporia Kansas. Star Trek. And those
childhood memories still bring back a smile.
How many summer afternoons did I spend lying on my back in a wheatfield, looking
up at the sky and wondering what the heck was really up there? Wondering what it
might be like to really GO there. To be a part of colonizing a whole new world?
Too many to count.
And later, as I grew older, those fantasies expanded to include wondering what
it would be like if I were in charge of such a massive undertaking. What would
I do? Would my ideas work at all, or (and I cringed at the subsequent thought),
would they fail miserably, prompting everyone with me to think I was a moron?
For me then, Alpha Centauri is more than "just a game." It is that, of course,
and quite a good one. But it's also a way of rekindling those childhood
fantasies of mine. A way of living the dream in some small way, and for that
chance, I offer my humble thanks to Sid and everybody else who had a hand in the
game's creation. Guys, you did well indeed.
Oh, I have no illusions. Even if a ship like The Unity were to be built in my
lifetime, what skills I have at this game would certainly help me none at all in
landing a seat on such a grand adventure, much less put me in a position of
authority, but it's a good dream....::grin::
I certainly hope you found the guide of value. And more than that, I sincerely
hope you enjoyed reading it, and this last little ramble inside my head, and on
that note, I just looked at the time. 4:44am. Too late to go to bed, so I think
I'll sign off now, save this, and post it to the forums to give everybody a look
at what I've been doing with my time.
And then, I think I'm gonna start a new game.....