Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri - UN Peacekeepers 5CC

During the population boom, labs had to be paused at 0% to run psych instead, but then I came to my next choice of technologies.

First is a look at the current situation, highlighting the techs I already have up through the population-boom requirements, and the targets I want next. Which are the usual picks, Industrial Automation for Wealth and crawlers, and the restriction-lifting ecological techs. This is a good opportunity to illustrate the missing-tech mechanic in detail and my approach to it. I start with this tech choices spreadsheet to see which ones will be unavailable at which steps.

Step 1 2 3 4 5 6
Industrial Base X X
Industrial Economics X X
Industrial Automation X X
Gene Splicing X X
Ecological Engineering X X
Environmental Economics X X

The visualization in my head looks like this. The timeline proceeds left to right. I see the holes for what will be unavailable when, and route an optimal path around them.

Step 1 2 3 4 5 6
Industrial Base A B C --- ---
Industrial Economics --- A B C ---
Industrial Automation -A- B C ---
Gene Splicing C -B- A ---
Ecological Engineering --- --- A B C
Environmental Economics --- --- A B C

I would most like to follow the path designated by letter A here, directly to Industrial Automation first, but that won't be possible as it will be unavailable on the third step from now. My next preference would be path B, to go to Industrial Economics first (for Free Market) then divert to Gene Splicing, but that also doesn't work as Gene Splicing will also be unavailable at the third step.

The best solution is path C, which is to interleave between the two prerequisite chains. Industrial Base first, then Gene Splicing, then fill that problematic third slot with Industrial Economics, and then I can finish the rest of my plan. So there's finally an illustration of how it goes when I plan out complicated beelines, like to Biomachinery in the Hive and Morgan games.

This also shows how there are some beelines that are easier than others, thanks to how the grouping falls out among the technologies. Ind Eco - Ind Auto is notably a problem area: notice that of the possible slots to research Ind Eco, there's a 50/50 shot that Ind Auto will be unavailable immediately following. (Look diagonally down-right from each cell to follow how I'm describing this.) Conversely, look at the breeze along the ecological techs: in every slot after Gene Splicing can be researched, Eco Eng is always available, and then the same for Env Eco as well. I see this phenomenon come up repeatedly on the same beelines; one notoriously hard segment later in the tree is Fusion Power - Organic Superlube - Advanced Spaceflight, where each of those successive techs always seems to fall in the hole immediately after its prerequisite.

Ind Base and Gene Splicing could have gone in either order, but Ind Base came first for the synthmetal armor. I really wanted one such defender towards the University, and to have the armor prototyped to be able to upgrade police units to it if necessary.

Next topic: the University dished out my own medicine from the Morgan game: they settled two bases that each stole bonus tiles from me! I'm going to have to get rid of those eventually, though don't have the juice just yet.

That shot also shows the next item being constructed in my bases, Hologram Theaters. I can't remember the last time I ever built any of those. They come after and worse (costlier) than recreation commons. If you're expanding horizontally like you should, you don't need any more drone control than police and projects (HGP) and maybe rec commons, and by the time your bases grow you'll get the theaters from the Virtual World. But with only 5 bases, it was cheaper to just build the theaters than the secret project. And I wanted the theaters now, not after network nodes.

The theaters were what I needed to finish the population boom up to the max size 9. Besides the two drone control, they also give a +50% multiplier to psych. So I restarted the golden ages for two turns, which even needed only 50% psych slider. I always get really satisfied and want to show it when I see drone control coming out exactly perfectly. Here each size-9 base did it with the Peacekeepers' free talents (you get three at size 9; two go into converting a single citizen from drone to content to talent), four worth of facilities, and one police unit.

Although this situation actually lasted only a couple turns, until I reached and adopted Free Market. Then without police, I had to go with 10% psych slider. But the hologram theaters were still crucial, thanks to how SMAC does the math for multiplier facilities: +50% actually rounds up in your favor. A base could get just 1 psych from the slider, which the theater multiplies to 1.5, which rounds up to 2 and makes one talent. In fact, a little while later after some boreholes for more energy, I found myself wishing I could run an increment of just 5% psych slider.

UN HQ also started the Weather Paradigm presently. Yes, actually building a secret project rather than instantly with crawlers. Because I hadn't gotten to Industrial Automation yet to enable them. But there was a notification about Gaia starting the Weather Paradigm and I had to make sure to win it. I would then research Ind Auto about halfway through the project and complete the second half of it with crawlers from nearby bases.

And here's a look a few turns later, showing some supply crawlers and borehole drilling once I got those techs. This is the date at which the Hive game finished their first population boom, getting the bases to around size 6 and a total of 50 labs production. These Peacekeepers are now at 93 labs. So I did ramp up to a faster start by booming vertically -- although most of that differential is thanks to Free Market that the Hive can't usefully use.

A fun oddity: Eco-damage fungus popped on this tile while my formers were constructing a borehole. That didn't interrupt them, they continued and finished it -- but any new former trying to join the job would have the borehole command denied. The borehole then coexisted on the tile with the fungus, giving the borehole's yield. (You can later intentionally put boreholes in fungus, once you discover Centauri Psi, about ⅔ through the tech tree.)

As a prologue to the next chapter, check out this unit the University is parading around. 5-2-1 Gatling Infantry. I have no way to deal with that at all. Definitely no defender to stand up to it, and I also don't even have a 2-power laser weapon to counterattack it. And besides the unit itself, the gatling weapon means they have Superconductor at least four techs ahead of me. I can only count on the University continuing to be unaware of just how much they could wreck me right now. Just need more time...

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