Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, or SMAC.

The third, or fourth depending on when Call To Power was released, game in the style of Sid Meier's Civilization. You begin the game in control of one of seven factions, divided by ideology. Play proceeds as it usually does in the series, gaining money, new bases, and technologies, with several different winning conditions. I'd write more, but I don't have time for a full review.

The multiplayer is ridiculously buggy, and I get the impression that it went almost entirely untested. Whole units diappear, bases get skipped and fail to update, and units mysteriously do things that should require abilities they don't have (a speeder caturing a base from a transport comes to mind). However, while this is annoying, it seems to be equally buggy to all players, and so doesn't affect the balance in any direction.

Over spring break 2003, a large-scale multiplayer game occured in the lounge, with a spectacular tangle of power cords and network cables making passage all but impossible. The cast included (I think):

The game only proceeded through 100 turns of a possible 500; halfway through Cal acquired Brian's surrender, but after a misunderstanding near the end most of the planet had declared war on him.

Later that semester a game of similar scale was attempted by email, with a different permutation of the same cast, except AlexBobbs replacing Steph and Nick. In order: Southie, Brian, Jeff, Robin, Cal, Will, Alex.


Current Email Game Info:

Current Turn: It's dead, Jim.

How do you play an e-mail game of Alpha Centauri? If you play over e-mail instead of in the game, how do you determine random things such as the world map and the placement of the colony pods? Or is there some function of the game I haven't realized? There is a function from the Banana Nebula you haven't realized...

Spring break 2004 (aka Survivor: Planet): A smaller game occurs in the lounge, with only three players. In order of appearance:

Game commences with Vrable, Treehugger, Lal, and Morgan on one island, others elsewhere. (Erik, fill in details as desired.) Approximate timeline:


 BrianYoung (singing): "Why can't we be friends, why can't we be friends?"
 RichardGarfinkel: Because you fucking reamed me!

See also GameChallenge: Beat the game without controlling more than one base. (Commentary moved from that page --BrianYoung)

addendum to challenge: Do this (only one city) when its vs real people, not computer opponents. (Depending on the people, this could either be trivial or really frickin hard). Not in this crowd you don't. Yikes.

Another challenge states to not do any micromanagement of cities, i.e., let all your governors do the work.

More stupid challenges! Rationale: Now that we've seen there is a cap to the size of a base, what are the other hard limits? These are probably all doable, sadly...

Really Silly Challenges:

Because the different factions have distinctly different advantages and disadvantages, often times the play style of the factions are so completely different that players who can play one faction decently well won't be able to handle another. Certain players (or factions) will consider Free Market a lesson in suicide, while others will gleefully take up the massive penalties because it won't matter for them anyway. This section of the page was added with the idea that players would comment on either their play style, their preferred factions and why, or how they think the various factions should be played to be done optimally. Feel free to change what I've written if you play the faction as one of your primary styles, I'm certainly not the expert on most of these.

EvilSouthie: I tend to play Lal or Dierdre (Peacekeepers and Gaians), the first because the doubling of council votes combined with bonus talents is amazing, and the second because of the chance to capture mind worms in the early game. I can manage as Zakharov or as Morgan, and could probably fake Santiago, but I wouldn't even know where to start with the Hive or Believers (I'm an economy and tech whore). As Lal I tend to throw up a couple early cities and then rush for the Human Genome Project- once Democratic and Planned are up, golden age will give population booms, and once you spread out enough cities, your double council votes will allow you to command everything fairly well. Admittedly you then have to survive to the "elect planetary leader" tech, but you've got spies in every city and get an economic boost from all trade, plus the cities are still booming through the lower population levels. Generally a Pact with Zakharov is a must, but he's usually happy to do so. As Dierdre I tend to explore more, and put on Green as soon as possible. Other then the troops defending bases and airplanes once they're available, all my ground troops tend to be mind worms, and I'll usually be able to keep them alive enough to get them to Demon Boils by the time I'm done razing through other factions. In general I tend to prefer playing a more peaceful strategy, as I enjoy the management of bases and building of projects and such, but the computer doesn't tend to leave the player alone (especially when it comes to building bases that interfere with your base's reach, grrr...), and players tend to realize that they'll need to conquer me sooner or later, so I'll tend to strike back pretty hard, usually with allies.

NickJohnson: I play them all. Now, there are some strategies that are strictly better than others no matter who you're playing... and oftentimes you want to social engineer to compensate for your flaws rather than magnify them. I've found that Zarkarov and Morgan play fairly straightforward and don't mind becoming even more narrowly focused on what they do. With Miriam i often dislike going heavy tech-penalty longterm, though in shortterm the moral boost from fanatic is awesome. With Yang i often dont specialize politically, because it hurts. In the endgame, everyone wants to either go cybernetic or telepathic - there is rarely a reason to go Eudaemonic unless you're playing in character except perhaps with Morgan, who actually benefits quite a bit from it, or Yang, who loves the industry (+5 industry? Oh boy!). It also depends on which opposing factions are dominant. If you're mainly taking on Zarkarov with Miriam, tech screwing yourself is a poor idea unless you're in a position to go straight for a kill (and then we can all feel pity for Zarkarov). If you're primarily facing Santiago as Miriam, tech screwing yourself is necessary, and an alliance with Zarkarov a potentially lucrative deal for both of you. I think either Miriam or Yang are the hardest to play well.

Faction advice: Lal / Peacekeepers- Get your population up, however you can, and attempt to get somebody to have all the faction frequencies as soon as possible (if you get the Empath Guild, all the better). Once you're planetary governor (you should be, unless something odd happened to stunt your growth), take advantage of your trade bonus and extra spies. Diplomatic victory should be fairly easy as long as you're making sure to be pacted with at least one, preferably two people, and keeping your vendettas to a minimum. If you're playing against humans and diplomatic victory seems unlikely, playing the Switzerland strategy is still not horrible. If you're obviously not going to threaten people (playing the Peacekeeper philosophy), people will usually leave you alone to deal with other more active players, and you can enjoy the benefits of multiple trade treaties while everybody else squabbles with each other.

Morgan- Morgan's main strategy consists of getting to the point where he can survive going Free Market. This generally involves having no military troops outside of bases, and a decent fleet of formers to fix up any fungus problems that might pop up. Morgan benefits hugely from treaties and pacts- generally Morgan will be getting twice, if not more, times the value the partner will be getting. If you're feeling brave, put on Wealth as well. Since your bases will end up being relatively small, focus your base placement and terraforming prospects on areas that have three or four really good squares. Having an ocean base in the late game strictly for tidal flats will be a great boost to your economy, and you should be able to buy most of your enhancements straight up, including secret projects. Economic victory against the computer is usually not very hard, as they tend to spend themselves out, especially if they're fighting each other in a war. 6000 credits or so or whatever it'll take is usually not all that bad to get when you're getting +300 a turn. Just be careful, economic victory takes 20 turns to resolve and you'll need to survive that long. It's usually easier to just buy your way to one or two uber-powerful bases (since you'll be able to keep up on the base production when the tech rush of the late game happens) and sprint to transcendence (which will cost 25,000 or so credits to hurry, but is possible and has been done). If a war breaks out, Free Market is likely not going to be useful, since you won't be able to attack without clean reactors. You'll still get the +1 energy every square from Wealth, though, so you can play with the other social agendas if necessary. Morgan tends to enjoy loaning money or selling technology to both sides of a war while sitting neutral himself, however.

Zakharov / University- Virtual World and Hunter Seeker Algorithm are both must-haves. Any of the +Talent specials or Telepathic Matrix once you get there are also really spiffy. Your job as Zakharov is to beat everybody to any of the various "I got this tech with a head start, thus I win." techs, such as Air Power. Grabbing the various Secrets techs will make this all the easier, and if you get a few good trading partners that you can trust, giving them the occasional higher tech in exchange for lower techs can help you out in keeping both a tech advantage and having your friends happy with you. Of course, you should be trading the same higher tech with each of the other factions as well, so if you're good at it you can get 3 or 4 lower techs for just one higher. Being the first faction to get your lab output to the point where you get techs every two turns is vital and also quite doable. Spread out so the bonus network nodes help you out more, and grab as many alien tech objects as you can.

Dierdre / Gaians- Dierdre is one of the more balanced factions with respect to diplomacy. You can play her as either a peace or a war faction. If a peace faction, she's going to manage to have a huge Efficiency bonus and so be able to focus social choices on growth. Most mind worm troops will end up being Independent so not require minerals or cause drones from poor Support or Police, and psi combat means that she won't care if she's behind in combat tech until the bonus to psi combat abilities start cropping up in the mid-game. She's one of the hardest factions to take out early, since she should be able to capture a mind worm or two by the time she runs into anybody. Because of the Independent mind worms, if she's left alone by everybody she's likely to end up with a huge army by the end, especially if she went Green and was specifically looking for mind worms to capture.

Miriam / Believers- Kill whoever you meet first. Take their stuff. Winning an early war will give you twice the breathing room and base of operations when you move to middle game.

Santiago / Spartans- Kill whoever you meet first. Take their stuff. Winning an early war will give you twice the breathing room and base of operations when you move to middle game.

Yang / Hive- You are a wall. Ignore people who complain about your bases being in their way, and just build more of them. Build a couple defensive troops per base with your high industry, and laugh with amusement as people try to do anything about it.

No matter who you're playing, if the map is larger than about Standard, population is everything. The computer players slow down their expansion after a certain point, so if you can carpet the planet in bases, you'll have quite the easy time. More bases means more economy and tech income, and more minerals to turn to weapons when the other factions inevitably hate you. And of course, once things get far from your headquarters, efficiency will be your best friend - I've played games where switching to Free Market from Green would have given me a net loss of energy. --BrianYoung

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