Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri - Morgan Industries

Although this looks iconic for Morgan, I have to stress what's really going on here: this is the best way to play Morgan, but that doesn't mean Morgan playing this way is good. This is abuse of the Planetary Transit System, not of Morgan Industries. What is doing most of the economic work is Free Market plus Wealth, not Morgan's faction rating. Morgan's extra economy level is contributing only about a quarter of the productivity; 54 bases means 108 extra units of energy or labs, minus some inefficiency losses, and also minus what Morgan loses to his support penalty. Any faction with the PTS can do most of this. Gaia or Hive would get less economy without Free Market, but they are also the two factions that can best use the industry bonus of Planned, by offsetting or ignoring its inefficiency.

The area I haven't talked about yet is research. The first half of this game was about brutally abusing the Planetary Transit System. That required nothing else besides Industrial Automation. After that, I was actually pretty wide open on possible research directions.

First I'll start with what I'm not doing. I decided not to follow the usual path of the restriction-lifting techs and boreholes. I feel like I do that every time and this is the best chance to try something else instead. Morgan is the faction least suited for that plan: the limits on habitation and pop-booming discourage multiplier facilities, which in turn discourages boreholes since they won't get multiplied. And the support penalty weighs hard on fielding the formers. The borehole path might still be strongest even for Morgan, but let's try another direction and see what happens.

Then in playing around with the spreadsheet that calculates the missing techs, I found a direct beeline to something interesting: Bio-Engineering. It would need only six techs beyond my position after Industrial Automation and a few early trades, which could all be acquired in order with none missing.

Bio-Engineering enables clean reactors (free mineral support for that unit.) All the guides severely lecture you to build a clean military with that, but I'll give the reality as I pointed out in the Hive game. Clean reactors don't go on military units; their likelihood of dying can't justify the extra cost, and they want combat-oriented special abilities instead. Clean reactors go on police and formers, which last long enough to pay back the premium. Finally, Bio-Engineering is also on the way to Biomachinery for the Cloning Vats.

Earlier, I even got the first-researcher bonus for Secrets of the Human Brain, after going 60% science slider for one turn to get just enough labs. I could see from our pact status that Gaia was researching it, but in a timeframe of 12 turns that I could beat. I rarely get this bonus; SotHB doesn't do anything itself and other beelines are more important, but for once I did here. The freebie was Ethical Calculus, not because it's important in and of itself (I'm not building creches and can't afford the support penalty of Democratic) but just as a needed prerequisite.

I reached Bio-Engineering in year 2152, and had most bases start building clean formers, as shown in the top picture on this page. This is no miracle bullet, the payback horizon still takes 10 turns. But I think I got here early enough with a long enough time horizon for this to be worth doing for positive value, particularly considering this is plugging Morgan's greatest weakness in mineral support. Each base did build one cheap non-clean former first to use the one free support slot.

I had intended to beeline Biomachinery next for the Cloning Vats. But that inadvertent steal of Doctrine Loyalty from Lal made me take a small diversion.

With Doctrine Loyalty as the needed prerequisite, I could go for Intellectual Integrity and Centauri Empathy as the next two techs. These would add up to a productive and powerful overhaul of my faction's approach and SE. Intellectual Integrity allows double-police units. Centauri Empathy allows Green economics.

As I wrote in the beginning, Morgan's real power is avoiding Free Market and its drawbacks. Morgan is the only faction who can have +2 Economy while using police and offensive units. Every base up to size 3 could handle drones with the PTS itself plus one police unit (which was even clean.) Now I could finally get rid of that 30% psych slider I'd been running for a long time.

Changing to Green economics gave up +4 energy per base that Free Market was yielding. But this change broke slightly better than even overall, a net positive from the saved psych and inefficiency. And the efficiency of Green also let me tilt the overall output more toward the labs slider. We didn't care about the growth penalty of Green with all the population coming from the PTS now and Cloning Vats later.

Another ten turns after that, I decided I was finished planting the PTS-powered chain reaction of bases. I just ran out of room in every direction. It's possible to raise more land to keep going, but the limiting factor is terraformer time. Not just to raise the land directly, but also just to move the units. No matter how many formers you have, it consumes a turn to move into position on each tile of newly-raised unroaded land. And each new base would take ten-plus turns to build its complement of two or three formers and another ten-plus for them to build useful improvements. The time horizon for more expansion already seemed like it would be longer than to transcendence. Remember the Hive game went from Cloning Vats to transcendence in just 25 turns.

I needed to turn the corner and build upwards from here... but I wasn't really quite sure how. I've played ICS games before, but always exited with an economic or supreme leader victory, or just abandoned it unfinished. To get all the way to transcendence, I have to go upwards sometime. These bases were each producing up to 10 labs... which to reach the 10,000-lab heights of the Hive game would take a thousand bases. Even if I were to do that much micromanagement, it would take a hundred turns just to raise the land and walk formers across it.

That picture shows the approach I was now putting together. Yes, I'm building hab complexes everywhere, despite my frequent directive that that's wrong for Morgan. But that's the condensed novice version. The real advice regarding hab complexes (for all factions) is this: don't build them while you can expand horizontally, and don't build them if you lack the food or means to pop-boom up to the new capacity. But when you can so boom, do it. I was weaving the threads together in preparation: building condensors everywhere for food, and building the hab complexes themselves estimated to complete around when I would reach the Cloning Vats.

It turned out I somewhat misjudged the timing; many of the hab complexes would complete sooner than research to Biomachinery. So now I finally changed to Democratic politics. Now that I was done planting new bases and had built lots of clean formers, I judged I could live with the support penalty. The payoff was the total of +4 Efficiency, allowing the labs slider to go all the way to 100%, improving my labs production from 350 to 500 to get to Biomachinery that much faster. The growth bonus of Democratic also did help a little bit in the short run, growing some bases from size 2 to 3 with normal food ahead of the boom.

Meanwhile, I was conquering my hostile neighbors Miriam and Lal. The mechanics of that aren't interesting. I had about five impact rovers on each border, plus one artillery unit for a little extra punch in the tougher situations, which added up to more than enough force since the defenders only had 2-strength synthmetal armor and not 3-armor plasma yet.

Miriam capitulated into a submissive pact when I got a bit more than halfway through her bases. I took it, since then I could bring those rovers back to guard against aggression from Sparta. Lal also submitted once I captured his two mainland bases leaving him with one island.

I had expected to go after Sparta next. But very unexpectedly, Santiago contacted me asking to sign a treaty, and even offered to pay for it! That was enough to stay my hand for the moment, since I felt I could risk leaving the Spartan border undefended while I sent all the rovers towards Gaia instead.

I knew hostilities with Gaia were coming. While I beelined to Biomachinery, I watched Gaia research Ecological Engineering and Environmental Economics, the restriction-lifting techs that I was putting off. Presently my research completed my prerequisites (Mind/Machine Interface and Retroviral Engineering) and started Biomachinery. Once a research target is picked, it stays locked in without being disturbed by the missing-tech mechanic even if you then acquire other techs by trade or theft. So now I unleashed my waiting probe teams.

I stole the two techs as I had planned, in response to which Gaia predictably declared vendetta, in response to which I predictably swept ten rovers over the faction's entire land in one turn. Next turn, I took care of that sea base Garden of the Deep, by capturing it with a boat rushed from Gaia's Landing after sacrificing one needlejet (out of fuel) to kill the one defender. Worth it for the strategic value as an airbase and staging ground for possible combat against the University later. Gaia then expectedly surrendered too.

It would turn out that would be the last of the wars in this game. Sparta never declared on me, and I never got around to building new units to conquer them; the leftover impact rovers wouldn't be enough to beat Sparta's greater strength in morale and plasma armor and perimeter defenses. I wanted to conquer the University, and raised a land-bridge to facilitate that, but that also never quite seemed worthwhile. I would have wanted to capture their Virtual World, but that also became moot as I'll describe shortly, and the commerce income from their many bases seemed as good as conquering them for myself. Finally, faraway Yang remained my pactmate the whole game.

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