Treatise on Morale

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Originally from the The SMAC Academy, by Maniac.


Superior training and superior weaponry have, when taken together, a geometric effect on overall military strength. Well-trained, well-equipped troops can stand up to many more times their lesser brethren than linear arithmetic would seem to indicate.
-- Col. Corazon Santiago, "Spartan Battle Manual"

Seeing the confusion there sometimes exists about morale, I thought a summary of what affects morale would be useful.

Keep in mind this is pretty much a work in progress. Morale is a rather complex phenomenon, so probably there are many little things and oddities I left out, or phenomena I explained the wrong way. If you notice something missing or wrong, please don't hesitate and tell us all!

To begin with, here is an oversight of the different morale levels:

  • Very Green (+)
  • Green
  • Disciplined
  • Hardened
  • Veteran
  • Commando
  • Elite

Disciplined is the standard morale level where there are no battle modifiers. Each extra morale level above Disciplined gives a 12.5% battle bonus. This means +12.5% for Hardened to +50% for Elite. Each extra morale level under Disciplined gives a -12.5% battle penalty.

When a unit is built without any morale modifiers affecting it, it starts with green morale.

Two peculiarities should be noted here.

a. Note the (+) I put after 'Very Green". I've noticed that, even when you're for example running -4 Morale SESocial Engineering , it's impossible to have 'Very Green' morale tout court. It's always at the very least Very Green (+).
b. For most units, when they have elite morale, they gain an extra movement point.

A word about (+)'s

For some units you will see there are one or more (+)'s behind their morale level. What is the meaning of those? Unfortunately there is no consistent rule for their effect. For instance, the (+) after Very Green morale level means a permanent +12.5% defence bonus in battle, both in and outside bases. On the other side the (+)'s received as a consequence of a positive SE Morale have a more limited effect. They only provide a +12.5% bonus when a unit is defending from attack inside a base. In the open the (+)'s have no effect whatsoever. Also 'Elite (+)' gives no extra bonus beyond 'Elites +50%.

And when we start talking about (+)'s received as a consequence of Children's Creches, there is little logic at all anymore to be detected behind the (+)'s. But Children's Creches are an issue we will discuss later.

Now what factors all influence the morale level of units?

1) Morale Social Engineering Factor

2) Morale Enhancing Base Facilities

3) Monolith Upgrading

4) Prototyping

5) High Morale Special Ability

6) Drone Riots

7) Battle Upgrades

8) Headquarters

9) Children's Creches

Morale Social Engineering Factors

From alphax.txt:


-4, -3 Morale; + modifiers halved

-3, -2 Morale; + modifiers halved

-2, -1 Morale; + modifiers halved

-1, -1 Morale

0, Normal Morale

1, +1 Morale

2, +1 Morale (+2 on defence)

3, +2 Morale! (+3 on defence)

4, +3 Morale!!

Something that is often overlooked is that a positive or negative Social Engineering Morale does not equal an equivalent increase or decrease in morale levels. For example +2 SE Morale gives disciplined (+) troops, and not hardened troops.

The "+ modifiers halved" for -2 SE Morale and below halves the morale level bonus one gets for units built in bases with morale enhancing facilities.

The extra defence bonus for +2 and +3 SE Morale only has effect when defending in bases. Also the bonus caps off at +50%: Commando (++) or Elite (+) units don't get a 67% defence bonus.

Morale Enhancing Base Facilities

The morale enhancing base facilities are as following:

  • Command Center: +2 Morale levels for land units built in a base with this facility
  • Naval Yard: +2 Morale levels for naval units
  • Aerospace Complex: +2 Morale levels for air units
  • Bioenhancement Center: +2 Morale levels for all units

Keep in mind that the bonus effects of these facilities are halved for units built while running -2 SE Morale or lower.

Monolith Upgrading

When a land or naval combat unit for the first time moves on a square with a monolith in it, it has the option to upgrade and get a bonus of one morale level.

I haven't tested this, but I've read that every time a unit upgrades on a monolith, the monolith has one chance on thirty-two (1/32) of disappearing.


A unit prototype gets a bonus of one morale level.

High Morale Special Ability

A unit with the 'high morale' special ability gets a bonus of one morale level. There are two things to keep in mind:

a. When a unit built with the high morale special ability is upgraded to another design without that ability, the morale bonus still stays.
b. When a unit built without the high morale special ability is upgraded to another design with high morale, it does not get a morale bonus.

So it's the moment of building that counts.

Drone Riots

A unit homed to a base under drone riots gets a (-) morale modifier. What the exact effects of this (-) are, I have not systematically researched yet. It doesn't seem to be a simple -12.5% battle penalty though. I've had instances where units got a -12.5% battle penalty, no effect at all, or even a +12.5% battle bonus. Though those strange observations may also be a consequence of factors I wasn't aware of yet at that time, e.g. the weird Children's Chreches, which I will discuss in point 8.

Battle Upgrades

When a unit wins a battle, there is a certain chance this unit will receive a morale upgrade of one level. The probability of such a battle upgrade seems to differ depending on the current morale of the unit. Very green and green units will always get a morale boost after winning a battle. After that, the odds seem to decrease the higher the unit morale becomes. I have not done sufficient testing on this yet, but as a temporary hypothesis I’d say the chance for an upgrade after winning a battle, are:

  • 1/1 for very green and green units
  • 1/2 for disciplined units
  • 1/3 for hardened units
  • 1/4 for veteran units
  • 1/5 for commando units

One possible tip, knowing this, is, instead of first moving a unit on a monolith and then sending it off to whatever destination you want, is first letting it fight several battles until it becomes 'commando', and then use a monolith to obtain that last difficult morale boost. This is of course risky, as you can never be sure a unit will be able cross the path of a monolith when you want it to.


The manual says a unit defending in a Headquarters get one bonus morale level. I have not been able to replicate any such effect.

Children's Creches

A Children’s Creche (CC) has a double effect on morale.

On the one side it gives a morale bonus to units, built in a base with a CC, of a faction running a negative SE Morale. This bonus counts on every location.

On the other side a Children’s Creche gives a battle bonus to units on the base square of a base with a CC. This is (supposed to be) represented in the form of (+)’s. Unfortunately the (+)’s are in some cases a bad indication of the actual battle modifiers given.

A summary of the effects of the CC are as follows:

For any unit built in a base with Children’s Creche, no matter their location:

  • 0 SE Morale or higher: no difference.
  • -3 to -1 SE Morale: +1 morale level
  • -4 SE Morale: +2 morale levels

For units on a base square, the base having a Children’s Creche:

When the unit is defending:

  • 0 SE Morale or higher: +12.5% (+) battle bonus
  • -1 & -2 SE Morale or higher: +25% (++) battle bonus
  • -3 SE Morale: +37.5% (+++) battle bonus
  • -4 SE Morale: +50% (++++) battle bonus

The total defence bonus (the sum of the morale level bonus and the (+) bonuses) is capped off at +50%.

When the unit is attacking:

  • +4 SE Morale: -37% battle penalty
  • +3 SE Morale: -25% battle penalty
  • +2 SE Morale: -12.5% battle penalty
  • +1 SE Morale: no difference
  • 0 SE Morale: +12.5% battle bonus
  • -1 SE Morale: +25% battle bonus
  • -2 SE Morale: +25% battle bonus
  • -3 SE Morale: +37.5% battle bonus
  • -4 SE Morale: +50% battle bonus

If one would want to find some system in this, the following could work:

For positive SE Morale: base morale level + 12.5% (the intended CC effect according to the datalinks) – a certain # of +12.5% bonuses equal to the #of SE Morale (Not intended AFAIK)

For negative SE Morale: -1 and -2 both give the same bonus. So a formula could be like this:

Battle modifier: base morale level + 12.5% + a # of +12.5% bonuses equal to the morale levels you lose because of negative SE Morale.

For attacks there is no limit at all for the battle bonus.

Don’t take the (+)’s behind your unit morale as an indication of the battle modifier it will receive. It is a good indication for when your unit is defending, but, when you have positive SE Morale, the actual battle effect is totally different.


As you can see, Firaxis seriously ****ed up this base facility. Because of it, as long as you have Creches it is often better to have a negative SE Morale than a positive or neutral SE Morale. It makes running Wealth not a problem at all. Indeed, even recommendable when you’re fighting a defensive war.

This can lead to weird situations. To give an example, you could build a unit while running +4 SE Morale in a base with a Crèche, Command Center and Bioenhancement Center. This unit is elite. When defending in a base, it has a +50% battle bonus (capped off). But when it attacks from the base square, it only has a +12.5% battle bonus, because of the -37.5% battle penalty Firaxis (I presume) as a mistake or lack of play-testing added to the CC effects.

Now imagine you switch to -4 SE Morale. The unit is still veteran. After all, the -3 morale levels of -4 SE Morale is largely compensated by the +2 morale levels from the Children’s Creche. Added to that comes four (+)’s when being in a CC base square. So when fighting it will have a defence bonus of +50% (same as eight morale levels higher) and an attack bonus of +75%, which is 67.5% higher than the unit fighting under +4 SE Morale.

As a conclusion, these are some obvious tips for factions with positive SE Morale to counter chreches:

1. Avoid attacking from inside bases. It would actually be in your advantage to move one tile out of a base, attack, and then move back into the base if possible.
2. Never let units end their turn next to an enemy base with a Children's Creche.
3. Perhaps if one can spare the resources, sending some probes along to destroy Creches in bases one plans to attack could be a good solution.