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Alpha Centauri

Cheats & hints
Alpha Centauri mac game graphics

Difficulity is easily adjustable by map size. It can be whatever you want it to be as long as it is under 256 x 256, because at that size the game starts getting rummy; the game itself recommends maps no larger than 64 x 128 (Huge Map).

If you are a Pacifist in nature (don't like fighting the AI, or other players) you will probably want a large planet, say 120 x 110 or larger. A warlord player would benefit a lot more from a small planet.

If you want to maximize your score at the end of the game do not choose "Rare"; on the native life, as it will cut your score by 25%.

In the Rules section, the best option to choose is "First Look" which allows you to build your first colony, rather than starting with one prebuilt. And don't ever do "accelerated start", since it gives every player a free Project and that means you lose out on 6 great projects!

Also if you are a Pacifist make sure that there are no spoils of war so that the other more agressive factions don't steal your hard earned tech. Conversely if you are one of those agressive factions you probably want that on.

Finally the option of Unity Survey will help out with exploration since you will be able to see the land mass - not what's there, just the basic shape of the land.

Here are the precise benefits and costs of each faction:


Gaians
The Gaian lack of Morale and Police means that you will have to build improvements aimed at preventing drone riots, like Holo Theatres, etc. Overall they make a decent Faction.
  • Centauri Ecology (tech)
  • +2 Efficiency (social Eng.)
  • -1 Morale
  • +1 Planet Ecology -1 Police
  • +1 Fungal Nutrients
  • Cannot do Free Market (social Eng.)


Hive
The Hive has a lot going for it, except Economy. Which means that mid to late in the game, the Hive will have chronic money problems.
  • Loyalty (tech)
  • Perimeter Defense in all bases
  • -2 Economy
  • +1 Growth
  • +1 Industry
  • Cannot do Democracy


Believers
The Believers have too many research drawbacks to make them a contender without serious tech swiping by probe teams. Also they don't even start research for 10 turns, another serious drawback making it easy to get behind and get beaten by smarter societies.
  • Social Psych (tech) Cannot do Knowledge
  • +25% attack strength
  • NO Research until 2110 (!!)
  • +1 Probe
  • -2 Research
  • +2 Support
  • -1 Planet


Morgan
Morgan, in my opinion, is a case where the costs far exceed the benefits, especially the Hab complexes at pop. 4, that slows growth. And those 100 energies won't last for all that long. The Extra Commerce Benefit is the best one here, however it only is active if you have Peace Treaties and / or Pacts with other Factions
  • Industrial Base (tech)
  • Hab complexes needed at pop. 4
  • 100 energy
  • Cannot do Planned Economics
  • +1 Economy
  • -1 Support
  • Extra Commerce (from pacts,etc)


Spartan
A fairly well balanced faction is geared for military expansion, but would do better with extra support. The cost on industry hurts your expansion as well since it takes extra time to build all of your crack troops.
  • Doctrine: Mobility (tech)
  • Cannot do Wealth
  • No extra cost for Prototypes
  • -1 Industry
  • +2 Morale
  • +1 Police


Peacekeepers
A good choice for the Pacifist out there (hence the name), has only one serious drawback, the -1 Efficiency, but that can be altered in Social Engineering. The best thing about this faction is the double votes, which will allow you to easily become the Planetary Governor.
  • Biogenetics (tech)
  • Cannot do Police State
  • +1 talent for every 4 people
  • -1 Efficiency
  • Exceed Pop. limits by 2
  • Double votes for Gov., etc.


University
Starts out with major flaws (+1 Drone, and -2 Probe) but if you can get a few projects (Hunter Seeker Algorithim and the Virtual World) then those flaws evaporate, leaving the best Faction.
  • Information Networks (tech)
  • Cannot do Fundamentalist
  • 1 free tech (random)
  • +1 Drone for every 4 people
  • Network Node in all bases
  • -2 Probe
  • +2 Research

Building Bases

In the beginning you want an area with little ocean, lots of rain, and rolling, with little to no xenofungus or forest.

As you gain more technologies you will be able to harness the resources of the fungus better, and there are very good improvements for forests and oceans which make almost the entire planet livable.

A "rolling" area is one where there are a few rocks, but not very many. This gives that square some mineral resources while not compromising its nutrient resources.

Whether a square is rolling or rocky depends partly on Erosive forces, strong has more rolling, weak has more rocky. You want to build your base on a rolling square, as this will maximize the mineral production in the base (at a max of 12 squares, compared to 9 if you build on a blank square).

Also note that rockiness increases with elevation, therefore mountains have more rocks, even on areas that normally would be devoid of any rocks.

So you would build your base on the B there. Of course this is a simple model, but the idea here holds true for almost anywhere on the map, all you have to do is account for ocean and various bonuses on the map. It should also be noted that this not 100% accurate, you will find a few rocky areas out of place.

Also note that if you build on a flat area with no mineral resources, your base square will produce 1 mineral anyway.

You cannot build a base on a Rocky square. So to change a "Rocky" area to a "Rolling" area, use the '_' command to "Terraform Level".

If you see a small amount of black around a resource on the base map (either a mineral, nutrient, or energy) that means that you lack something to get the full potential of that square, either a road or a technology. Remember that the faction with the most bases tends to win, so build as many bases as fast as possible.

Improving your Base

You will want to farm and build solar collectors on all "Rolling" squares. If the area is too dry, you have several options to increase moisture.

One, is to build a Condensor (consider carefully where to put these, I usually put them on a "flat" square), drill to the Aquifer to create a new river, or Raise the terrain into a mountain (one side becomes more wet, the other more dry).

Next I will build forests on all the "flat" squares, or any square that seems too arid to support a good farm. Also, build sensors on these forests to increase your defenses. Sensors must be within 2 squares of the defending unit to help them.

Exploration

Exploring is obviously very important in Alpha Centauri. First off, rovers are the best exporers, this seems pretty obvious. Also sending them in duos helps out if you ever run into resistance, like Mind Worms.

It is generally a good idea to save your game before getting Unity Pods, as the results could be unexpected and bad. One idea of what to do with exploration units is to find a good site for a base, then hold them there until you get a unit out there.

This gives you some defense for a new base without having to build extra units (since you use existing units).

One of my favorite things to do with Exploration Units happens when you find another Faction, preferably one you don't like. What I would do then is to "Monkey Wrench" their bases.

First find a base with a nearby Monolith, or Bunker, and use that as your homebase. Then destroy their mines on the rocky squares (you get the defense bonus on rocky areas), and work your way to solar collectors and farms. If you are lucky you won't get destroyed for a few turns giving your army time to mobilize and attack.

What to build and when to build it

  1. Get at least 2 military units in each base. This is more important than it was in Civ2, because of Psi attacks even your best units can be destroyed.

    As soon as you get the right technology, you will want to design a "Non-Lethal" defender unit to increase your policing powers. That way one unit acts as two police.

  2. Build a Former to work exclusively on this base. You can set the former to auto, but remember that the AI strategy is not always your best strategy. (as soon as you get Doctrine: Mobility redesign your formers to be Rover Formers)

  3. Build a new colony pod (if you are at least 2 populatrion) to expand your empire! (Again, once you get Doctrine: Mobility start building Rover Colony Pods, this helps you expand your Faction quicker)

  4. Build Recycling Tanks (this is moot for Sea Bases, since they start with a version of these) to increase the resources on the base square.

  5. Build a Children's Creche (ok this comes later in the game, but it is very useful once you get it!), this increases Growth, and increases Efficiency.

    After that build based on what you need. If you are fighting a war, build units, if your production is low, build a factory, need new technologies then build labs, etc.
The approximate cost to hurry anything is about 2 energy for each square left to be built on the improvement. The exception to this is when you are just starting production on something where it will cost quite a bit more.

A way around that is to do a small hurry one turn (25 energy) and then the next turn buy the whole thing.

Secret Projects

Ideally you want to build every secret project, but you will likely have to prioritize.

Also realize that some projects are redundant, such as the Hive and the Citizen's Defense Force, they don't need it at all!

Extraordinarily useful projects

  • The Hunter Seeker Algorithim - other factions can no longer use probe teams against your bases, which means that they can't sabotage you or steal your technologies, while you are free to do it to them.

  • Citizens Defense Force - creates a perimeter defense in every base, which doubles your base defense.

  • Cloning Vats - puts all of your bases into a permanent state of population boom (where each base will grow every turn) as long as you have enough nutrients and hab facilities (and habitation domes).

    Even better are the other side effects, the Power and Thought Control social engineering choices lose their negative effects! There is one serious complication to this, and that is, since your bases "grow" each turn that they have food, you may quickly find yourself having perpetual Drone Riots.

  • Network Backbone - +1 research for every point of commerce this base gets and another +1 for every network node on the planet. That alone wouldn't be enough to recommend it but, it also has the effect of removing the negative effects from Cybernetic!

  • Planetary Transit Network - triples the size of new bases built (3), and 1 less drone for bases 3 and smaller. Allows your empire to grow a lot quicker, but can cause those new cities to starve because they start out with more people than the area can support.

  • The Self Aware Colony - halves the maintenance cost of facilities, and if you can have police, adds 1 police to every city. Will give you ever so much money to cut costs by 50%!

  • Supercollider - research at this base is doubled.

  • Telepathic Matrix - Drones never riot. Plus probe teams receive a +2 morale bonus. No drone riots is a very nice thing to have, since you don't have to do preventative measures to stop drone riots.

  • Theory of Everything - labs output doubled.

  • Universal Translator - 2 free techs, plus you can send any number of alien artifacts here.


Useful projects:

  • Clinical Immortality - adds 1 talent to every base, which although nice you can get more through use of Psych, also doubles your vote for Governor and Supreme Leader, which is a far better effect than its primary one.

    Why is it only mildly useful? Because you don't get it until late in the game!

  • Command Nexus - puts a Command Center in every base, which gives you 2 morale upgrades, as well as fixes units quicker.

  • Cyborg Factory - puts in a Bioenhancement Center in each base, which gives you 2 morale upgrades for every unit built there and 1 lifespan bonus on all creatures (that makes them larger).

  • The Living Refinery - +2 Support in Social Engineering. This is nice because it effectively removes the negative effects of Democracy, or if you want you can get the extra support.

  • The Longevity Vaccine - this one's effects vary depending on your Social Engineering. If your economics are Planned then you get 2 less drones per base, if they are Simple or Green you get 1 less drone.

    For a free market you get +50% economy. The less drone things make this one a winner, especially as you go through the transition of growing into larger cities (without Psych bonuses).

  • Maritime Control Center - +2 sea movement, and counts as a naval yard in all bases. A must have for anyone who wants to build a navy, this will give you almost instant naval superiority.

  • Merchant Exchange - +1 energy in every square. If this worked on every base instead of just the one it is built in it would be Extraordinary.

  • The Pholus Mutagen - reduces Eco Damage, and gives you a +1 lifespan bonus to Aliens that you breed, and also gives you the alien benefits of Xenofungus.

  • Space Elevator - Doubles Economy in this base, and doubles minerals in bases building Satellites (effectively halving the time it takes to build those), also units with Drop Pods can land anywhere on the planet and Aerospace Restrictions on Satellites is dropped.

    The best thing here is the Drop Pods thing, but that is only useful if you are at war with someone.

  • The Virtual World - Network Nodes also count as Hologram Theatres, so you won't have to build those. (and if you are University then you get that instantly since all of your bases start with Network Nodes)

  • Weather Paradigm - increases terraform speed by 50% and allows construction of condensors, boreholes, and echelon mirrors even without the tech to do so. Very nice for an early Project, this should be the first one that you build.


Average projects:

  • Bulk Matter Transmitter - adds 2 minerals to every base, nice but when your bases get large the additional 2 is almost inconsequential. Dream Twister - adds 50% to Psi attacks. Whee. Neural Amplifier - adds 50% to Psi defense. Whee.

    This one is probably better than the Dream Twister, as you will always get attacked by some form of Psi attack.

  • Empath Guild - adds 50% to governor and supreme leader votes, as well as giving you an infiltrator in all factions and contact to all factions. Nice but not necessary in the end of the game.

  • Nano Factory - fixes units completely outside of a base (before they can only heal up to 20% damaged), and reduces upgrade costs.

  • The Planetary Datalinks - gives you any tech discovered by 3 other factions If you need this you are too far behind in tech!

  • The Singularity Inductor - counts as a Quantum Converter in every base, and reduces Eco Damage. Not as useful as you might think, but still a nice thing to have.

  • Xenoempathy Dome - treats Fungus as road, and removing and planting fungus is now quicker. The best part of this is the Fungus as a road part, which can dramatically speed up war parties, and exploration.


Almost worthless projects:

  • Human Genome Project - 1 extra talent in each base. Again this isn't necessary because Psych does more.

  • Transcendant Projects - Voice of the Planet leads to Ascent to Transcendance, which ends the game with the "Best" ending.

Diplomacy

There are 3 keys to being the good diplomat:

  1. Don't give anything away that you don't have to. This includes not only your technology - if better - your money, or anything else of value. This is especially true towards inferior factions, don't give them anything.

  2. If you are in an inferior position - weak military, inferior tech - then always do what they tell you to do at least half the time.

    If they ask for tech, and you don't give it, then they ask for money, you probably better give them something to keep 'em happy.

  3. If you want something from them, try to get on their good side first. For example, if you want someone's vote in a council meeting, first butter them up with a good bribe.

    Then either that turn or next talk to them again and ask for their vote, and give them another good bribe there. You will have established a small history of good will with them, and they might just agree to your proposal.
Other factions tend to like / dislike you based on your Social Engineering choices. Therefore, Deidre won't like you if you are "Planned", but will like you more if you are "Green". So if you need to avert disaster with a more powerful Faction, try some quick Social Engineering!

Always get into treaties with everyone, this makes good business sense, as you get a commerce bonus from treaties (even more for Pacts). Pacts are like super treaties, they have more benefits (you can move into their territory, and heal in their bases), but requires more work to maintain.

For example, your ally gets into a war with someone you have a treaty with. They want you to go to war, you say no, they want some tech to help out, you say no. They will get mad, but will eventually ask again, and if you keep doing this (sometimes it doesn't take all that long) they will break the pact, and often won't even sign a treaty with you.

You have to give your allies something, else they see no reason to be allied with you!

So who do you want to sign a treaty with? That depends on 2 things: Who you are (which faction), and what have you done in Social Engineering? For example, the University and the Believers don't like each other from the start, so don't try to force a relationship between them.

Here's a list of who likes who (using a + sign) and who dislikes who (with a - sign). Also listed is which social engineering they are likely to respond positively towards.

FactionOthersSoc. Eng.
BelieversUniversity-Support
GaiansPeacekeepers+, Morganites-, Hive- Green, Democracy
HiveSpartans+, Gaians- Police
MorganitesHive-, Gaians- Free Market
PeacekeepersGaians+ Democracy
SpartansHive+ Police
UniversityBelievers- Research


Never get into too many wars. This is only if you don't plan to win via military force. The only time you should get into a war is if that faction is directly interfering with your faction.

Don't seek wars out on the other side of the planet simply because you think you can easily win. And don't try to get your allies into a war, because they might not end the war when you do.

Finally make treaties with everyone possible, even if you eventually plan to go to war with someone, simply because you get commerce out of treaties (even more from pacts). And when you do finally go to war with someone, have them declare war on you by pissing them off. This keeps your integrity intact but takes theirs down.

Also don't be a Fence Sitter. Take stands, agree with your Pact Brother to attack that nasty other factions. If you try to avoid wars, you usually end out irritating everyone.

Planetary Council: If you build the Empath Guild, then immediately try to get yourself elected to Planetary Governor. This will allow you to veto any council initiative (say most everyone wants to cause global warming, you could stop it), and give you some extra commerce.

If you are the Peacekeepers this is even easier since they get 2x votes for governor. If you lose the vote, don't panic, just find another faction with a lot of votes, and shmooze them. Wait the 20 years (the allotted time to wait between council meetings) and get another vote. As technology increases there will be more options in the Council.

War

Obviously you can't avoid war forever, even if you want to. It is always better to attack a Mindworm than try to fend off its attack. This is because Psi attacks are always more powerful than defenses (3 to 2).

To improve your base defenses from Mindworms, always have 2 units in each base, and build Sensor Arrays near bases. Finally remove all fungus that is right next to your base.

If you are attacking with a Mindworm, then do so at any time regardless of your moves since Mindworms suffer no Attack penalties.

Note: If you have a Positive Planet score in Social Engineering, then you have a chance to Capture any mindworm not already controlled by a Faction. This is only done if You attack the mind worm.

Offense: The AI loves to build bunkers, and you should take advantage of this, since they rarely ever hold units in their own bunkers.

Take their bunkers with 2 or more units, one for defense, the other to launch missions. You could take over an entire faction using no more than 2 units, and their own bunker.

Defense: Obviously the best defense is a good offense. Do not build more bunkers than you can staff with units, since the AI could take those over easily (which is a good reason to not automate formers, since they like to build bunkers).

Here again Sensor Arrays can be useful since they add 25% to your defense, and let you see the units coming. If you see a powerful unit coming, it would probably be better to scramble a unit of your own to beat him first.

Always have the best units (defensively) in your bases. As soon as you get a new tech, update your defensive units, and upgrade your base defenses!

Sensor arrays are best built on forests near your bases. Why forests? Because the sensor arrays won't "build over" a forest, as they will other improvements (like solar collectors or mines).

Ending a War: The best way to end a war, naturally, is to win it. When you have broken an opponent - when they have lost more than 50% of their power - they will offer you a blood truce. Don't take it. Then they will try to give you money, again don't take it, and then they will break down and offer you everything they have of value.

This includes all of their money, research, and they will also swear a pact to you. You can decide for yourself whether this is desirable or not. I like it because they become a subsidiary of your empire. You can count on their votes in many elections in the Planetary Council as well.


Editing your game

All the stats and info in the game is readily editable in the main directory of the game. The Main Rules of the game is contained in the file Alpha.txt. Faction profiles are kept in these files: Believe.txt, Gaians.txt, Hive.txt, Morgan.txt, Peace.txt, Spartans.txt, Univ.txt.

Editing a faction is fairly easy. First you'll want to back up all the files. Then open up whichever faction you happen to want to be with e.g. BBedit.

You should see this: (fragment) #UNIV University of Planet, The Scientist, University, M, 1, Zakharov, M, 0, 0 TECH, InfNet, TECH, 1, SOCIAL, ++RESEARCH, SOCIAL, - PROBE, DRONE, 4, FACI Values, Knowledge, RESEARCH

The faction.txt contains a good description of everything in each faction file. A small warning before you give yourself every bonus in the game, don't add too many, as the game can only handle so much!

Once I tried to give myself the ultimate social situation and the game only accepted the first 2 that I had entered.

In game Scenario editing is activated by use of CTRL + K and by using the menus and the toolbars. To edit the land, click on a toolbar button, and then CTRL click on the area you want to put that item on.

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