Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri & Alien Crossfire > The Theory of Everything

Roads: The Key to Efficient Terraforming

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Earthmichael:
Many people only build roads where they actually need to travel, not realizing the importance of roads to terraforming in general.

Most people build 1 speed formers, due to the high cost of 2 speed formers.  So a former needs to waste a turn entering a square to be terraformed, and then start terraforming next turn.

This is where roads enter the picture.  Even if a former has moved 2 squares along a road, the 1/3 movement point left is enough to get a full turn of terraforming done.

So my strategy is to send some advance terraformer units building roads.  You can even build a couple of the expensive 2 speed formers for this, since they are dedicated road-building terraformers.

Then I create packs of terraformers that follow the roads, doing whatever terraforming I want.  For example, I may have 4 terraformers that are going around planting forests.  As long as they are moving on road, at most 2 squares from their previous location, they can build a forest EVERY TURN!

You want to be careful about plotting the route of your terraforming groups, to make sure that they can be productive every turn.  If you do this, you will have a tremendous terraforming advantage over the players who only build roads as actual highways.  You can have packs of formers productive every turn, while their formers packs have a one turn gap between terraforming each square, as each former spends a turn moving into the next square to terraform.

There is an exploit that can help terraformers (that do not use the road strategy I have outlined) be a little more effective.  But this exploit is banned by most players, and is explicitly banned for games hosted by this site.  See number 10 at
http://alphacentauri2.info/index.php?topic=1519.msg4448#msg4448

The good news is that you can be MORE efficient than this exploit using the road strategy, and that this exploit will not work when using the road strategy.  (You can test this for yourself.  Move 4 terraformers 1 or 2 spaces down a road.  Build a forest.  Now try to reactivate any of the 4 terraformers.  They will not reactivate; the exploit will not work.)  Which only makes sense: if you move 1 or 2 spaces down a road and then terraform every turn, you are getting the maximum possible value out of your terraformers.  No exploit will allow you to do better than that, and you can know that you are getting the most effective use of your terraformers, period, and feel good that you are doing it with a perfectly legal strategy!

Yitzi:
An important note: This is only worth it when you have at least 3 formers terraforming any given square (it breaks even at 2).  In fact, spreading out your formers makes for an even more efficient terraforming strategy, albeit one that gives returns a tiny bit later in the earliest stages.

Earthmichael:
If you are going to build a road at all, I think it is best done before terraforming (except remove fungus or terraform level).  For example, if you plant a forest first, I believe building a road takes more time than it would on just open ground.

There are many reasons one might have to revisit a square.  It could be that fungus has overtaken.  Or that your needs have changed, and a forest needs to give way to some other development.  Or you may need to send military units to deal with a worm boil, or an enemy invasion.  Or it may be time to improve the road to a tube.  In an case, having the road makes it faster to deal with any of these things, since the unit can move and begin the improvement (or attack) on the same turn.

I also tend to deal with terraformers in packs that can generally complete the desire terraforming in 1 or 2 turns.  It makes the management of their tasks a lot simpler and faster for me, and is much more effective than automating the formers.  So if I am building forests, I generally use a pack of 4, less with WP, of course.

Yitzi:

--- Quote from: Earthmichael on February 01, 2013, 03:54:15 PM ---If you are going to build a road at all, I think it is best done before terraforming (except remove fungus or terraform level).  For example, if you plant a forest first, I believe building a road takes more time than it would on just open ground.
--- End quote ---

Yes in the case of planting forests (not sure about fungus), otherwise I don't think it matters unless you're using at least 2 formers on the square.


--- Quote ---There are many reasons one might have to revisit a square.  It could be that fungus has overtaken.  Or that your needs have changed, and a forest needs to give way to some other development.  Or you may need to send military units to deal with a worm boil, or an enemy invasion.  Or it may be time to improve the road to a tube.  In an case, having the road makes it faster to deal with any of these things, since the unit can move and begin the improvement (or attack) on the same turn.
--- End quote ---

And on how many squares will any of those things happen?  If it's substantially less than the number of squares in your entire territory (I'd guess it probably is), then it probably isn't worth having more than a normal road network.  (Also, remember that worm boils and enemies can use roads too; if you build roads everywhere they can generally get where they want easily, but if you have only a network going through cities you'll have a substantial mobility advantage in your territory.)


--- Quote ---I also tend to deal with terraformers in packs that can generally complete the desire terraforming in 1 or 2 turns.  It makes the management of their tasks a lot simpler and faster for me, and is much more effective than automating the formers.  So if I am building forests, I generally use a pack of 4, less with WP, of course.

--- End quote ---

It does, however, add substantially to the cost of terraforming; in the case of forests, you end up spending 6 former-turns (1 to move the road-builder, a second to build the road, and 4 to build the forest) instead of 5, a 20% increase.

Earthmichael:

--- Quote ---It does, however, add substantially to the cost of terraforming; in the case of forests, you end up spending 6 former-turns (1 to move the road-builder, a second to build the road, and 4 to build the forest) instead of 5, a 20% increase
--- End quote ---

But, I get the road built, which I want anyway.  If I wait to build the road later, I will need to move a former back onto the square, costing an extra trun, and it will take longer to build the road after the forest has been planted.

I also get the value of getting the forest 3 turns sooner than I would otherwise get it.  That is 1/2/1, or at least 0/2/0 (with a crawler), for three turns, just because I built the road and could use a former pack.  And it is much less realtime consumed by me to play the game this way, which is an important consideration since I typically have at least 4 games going at the same time.

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