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

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Game Guide (Gamespot)

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By Chris Jensen, Doug Radcliffe and Elliott Chin
Design by Ethan O'Brien
source: Gamespot - no longer available.
This guide:
* Details the basics of exploration, facility and unit construction, science and technology, and the military.
* Reveals the strategic possibilities of Alpha Centauri
* Offers advanced tactics for maximizing city growth,
* Provides the how-to for social, political, and economic, engineering
* Explains the values system so you maxamize every aspect of play - from terraforming to designing custom units
* Covers every faction, technology, base facility, secret project, and basic unit building block.
* Discusses multiplayer games, with both setup issues and multiplayer strategies.
* Shows you how to modify the Alpha Centauri rules, create cutsom factions, and make your own maps and scenarios.

As with all grand strategy games that challenge you to forge a world-spanning empire, in Alpha Centauri the road to victory is a long and arduous, but not without its benefits. In a game of such magnificent scope and depth, the journey is every bit as rewarding as the ending. And that journey can be as beguiling as the alien fauna that populates the harsh, new world of Alpha Centauri.

Your paths to world domination or technological superiority are many and varied. However, just in case you find the journey to be more daunting task than you surmised, and the goal a little beyond your grasp, we offer you a map to speed you on your journey.

Alpha Centauri begins with nothing but discord and strife between the new citizens of the planet. Your efforts will hopefully restore order and unity, with you at the head of this new empire. The path you take is up to you, but this guide will ensure you have no trouble getting there, no matter which path you choose to become the master of Alpha Centauri.

Part 1: Leadership Academy

Chapter 1: Exploration
All great adventures begin with exploration. Safely away from the mutiny on the U.N. Starship Unity, your faction arrives on Planet with little more than a colony pod and only a few squares of landscape visible to you. What lurks beyond your initial borders will remain a mystery until you venture forth like a modern-day Christopher Columbus and examine the world around you. Are you secluded on a small island? Did you happen to land on a large continent rich with resources? Are you surrounded by competing factions? You must answer many questions if you intend to be the supreme leader of Planet, and the act of exploration is your gateway to answering them.

First City
When Alpha Centauri begins, your colony pod will land on Planet in a random location, in turn creating your first city. It is from this initial starting point that your empire in the making will begin to branch out into unexplored territory. This initial location will have a tremendous impact in the early stages of the game.

Since your first city is founded in a random location, you may be at an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your immediate surroundings. For instance, if you see no water around you, you may be placed in the middle of a large continent somewhere, or the ocean could simply be just a few tiles away. Of primary importance are the abundance of resources within reach of your initial base; the more resources you have, the quicker your city will grow, the more research you can conduct, and the more units you can build, and so on. Lacking abundant resources at the outset of the game means your development will be stunted. What to do? Explore!

Scout Patrol
Now that the colony pod is safely on land and has been recycled into your first city, your initial plan of action should be to explore as much of the surrounding territory as possible. Fortunately, your new city comes with a prebuilt scout patrol, a unit with weak offensive and defensive abilities. The scout patrol is intended for exploration and not warfare - though it can hold its own against the occasional mind worm attack (mind worms are indigenous life forms on Planet that don't appreciate all these new visitors invading their home).

Build a few rovers early and explore the map as thoroughly and quickly as possible.

Scout Patrol Vision
Your initial scout patrol is capable of viewing terrain one map tile in every direction. Since it begins at your base no new territory will be visible, as a city is capable of viewing two tiles in every direction. However, once you pick a direction and move your scout patrol, new terrain will emerge, and the mystery of your location will slowly unfold.

The more scout patrols you have blanketing the area, the better. While you get one free patrol at the outset of the game, you should have your base manufacture at least two more so you can uncover hidden territory with much more speed.

What Am I Looking For?
You should be on the lookout for several things when moving your scout patrol:
* Resources for new cities
* Other faction leaders
* Supply pods and monoliths.

Let's take a look at each and see why it is important.

Resources for New Cities
You'll never get anywhere in Alpha Centauri if you don't branch out and create new cities. You can bet the competing factions are actively seeking out new territory, expanding their bases, and funneling every last resource into the creation of new military units and technological discoveries. At the outset of the game, you may be surrounded by factions that are staking their claim in territory perilously close to your base. You should uncover as much hidden terrain as possible as fast as you can, hopefully discovering new regions that would be suitable for a strong city.

City Sweetspots
Finding valuable locations for new cities is of primary importance. If a city lacks valuable resources, don't expect the city to evolve into a super power any time soon. Important elements for a city and its growth can be broken down into three categories:
* Nutrients
* Minerals
* Energy.

Manage the tiles around you efficiently so you get the most nutrients, minerals, and energy out of your surrounding city squares.

Nutrients are your food supply. Without nutrients, your city will not grow in population. Without population growth, the city will be at a loss for workers, and without workers you can't do very much, so having a food supply is critical.

Tiles that have grassy plains will produce more food than a hilly flatland, and tiles infested with xenofungus produce no food whatsoever unless the fungus is removed by terraforming. Having a city next to water is an excellent way to ensure future growth, as sea formers (units that can terraform water tiles) can plant kelp forests that are rich in nutrients. However, since sea formers are still a ways away in the early goings of the game, you should concentrate more on land tiles than water in the beginning of the game.

The greener a terrain tile is, the more rainfall it sustains. The more rain it receives, the more food it is capable of producing.

Minerals are required for your city, so it can produce new units and create an infrastructure. Without minerals, your city can grow in population (if it has nutrients), but can't build anything, ultimately making it all but useless. Minerals are extracted from rocks, so the more rocks you see on a tile square, the more minerals it can produce. You can turn a mineral barren tile into a mineral producing one by building certain enhancements (like mines or forests) on the square. This is called terraforming and will be covered at length in Chapter 6.

Energy is used for research and supporting your labs. The more energy you produce, the faster you can evolve your city and empire with new technologies and base enhancements. The primary factor for determining a good energy tile is its elevation. The higher the tile, the more energy it will produce (especially when a solar collector is built there later in the game).

A tile will produce one energy unit for every 1,000 meters of height. Therefore, a tile at 3,000 meters will produce three energy units.

* Nutrients are produced in wet, grassy squares.
* Minerals are produced in rocky squares.
* Energy is produced at high elevations.

With this in mind, your scout patrol should be on the lookout for regions of terrain that offer these resources. If you're not strong in all three areas, the growth and functionality of your city will be stunted. On the other hand, the power of terraforming can make even the bleakest of situations more fruitful, but this is a time-consuming process and not something you should be engaged in at the early stages of the game.

Last, when creating a new city near these resources, make sure the city is within two squares of all three resources. A city only benefits from resources within that two tile radius. Everything else is beyond its reach. Remember this two tile radius when founding new cities so that you create cities that overlap and thus steal each other's resources.

Discovering Other Factions
As you move your patrol around your base, uncovering new terrain, you may come across a competing faction. This is either good news or bad news, depending on who the faction is and where it is located in relation to you. For instance, if you're pressed against the back end of a continent with nowhere to go but one direction, and there happens to be a competing faction in that direction, well, you've got problems. You're must either get along with that faction by signing a Pact or, alternatively, destroy the competing faction as soon as you possibly can.

If a faction is pressed up against yours, you'll both be fighting for limited space and borders. This isn't a good way to start the game, as you should be focusing on expansion and establishing several strong cities, not haggling with a neighbor that may or may not have your best interests at heart. It is for this reason that you should seriously consider channeling all your funds and resources into creating several military units and wiping out the competing faction as soon as possible. This may sound rather brutal, but it's better that you get them out of the way sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than the faction will begin to amass its own army of units.

There is a downside to wiping out a competing faction in the early portion of the game. For all you know, there may still be other factions within the vicinity, so if you present yourself as a ruthless warmonger early, don't be surprised if everyone else finds you untrustworthy and assumes a hostile stance towards you. Fortunately, attitudes can be smoothed over with some technological exchanges, so you can get yourself out of a nasty situation in the early stages as opposed to later when grudges are backed up by earth-scorching firepower. (Diplomacy is covered in Chapter 8.)

Competing factions are far friendlier at the beginning of the game than at later stages. With little in the way of military or technological might, they will seldom rush into a fight. Use this to your advantage by striking early and clearing the way for your expansion.

If, on the other hand, you want to resist the military alternative and instead go the friendly route, there are a few things you should take into account. While you may be on friendly terms with the opposition, that doesn't mean you can simply move your units through the faction's territory without ruffling a few feathers. More often than not, a faction will demand that you move your units out of his or her terrain or risk starting a conflict. The only way to get around this is by seeking a pact with the faction. A pact lets you freely move through the faction's territory without risk of conflict.

With all this in mind, an early military strike is still your best bet for future success. Having a neighbor is a risky prospect, and one that should be dealt with early and swiftly.

Make sure you leave at least one military unit in your city at all times. Not doing so could find your city easily taken over by a lowly mind worm or a sneaky enemy unit!

Unity Supply Pods
While your colony ship plummeted toward Planet, the Unity mothership dropped tons of supply pods across the surface of the planet. These cargo pods can be found on both land and water squares in random locations all over the world. They are important because they house all sorts of benefits - new units, powerups for the discovering unit, enhanced resources - that can give you an early boost. As you move your scout patrol across the landscape, you will see these pods just about everywhere. It is crucial to your future success that you move your patrol over as many supply pods as possible. Don't leave them sitting around uncovered, or a competing faction may come in and claim the pods for itself, potentially gaining new technologies beyond your reach.

Unity supply pods can bequeath you some very useful knowledge or gifts:

For the most part, supply pods are extremely useful. On the other hand, in rare instances, pods can sometimes be infested with mind worms that will attack the closest unit you have. In the early goings of the game, this can be quite risky. Fortunately, your average scout patrol can usually fend off at least a few attacks before being destroyed. The risk of uncovering a few mind worms, though, should not deter you from uncovering all the supply pods you can. More often than not, you'll find free resources and units. In some instances, you might even uncover a more valuable prize: an alien artifact.

Alien Artifacts
Alien artifacts are the most powerful item to be held within a supply pod. Unfortunately, their power can only be tapped by moving the artifact to a base that has a network node constructed. If no network node has been constructed, you can still bring the alien artifact to one of your bases and connect it to a node when you do finally build one.

You can only take one alien artifact to a particular base. If you happen to come across a second alien artifact, you must take it to a secondary base outfitted with a network node.

Simply put, an alien artifact contains a free technology that doesn't need to be researched. Once the artifact is connected to a node, the technology immediately becomes available to your faction, opening the gateway to bigger and better technologies, base enhancements, or units. When you consider that researching new technologies takes a considerable amount of time, the value of getting one for free (and immediately) should be obvious. What's more, gaining a technology in this way can quickly put you ahead of the competition. While they're waiting years and year to discover something, you've gained the ability in the blink of an eye.


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