UPDATE 18.10.2015: I have updated the guide after some additional testing. Now that Rising Tide is out, it is time to explore new strategies. Here is one that I found particularly interesting: A Specialist Economy approach with the new AU trait. The Disclaimer: This is not the *fastest* way to win the game. If you want to do that, you'll need to go with a BE-release-like style city and TR spam (with either PolyStra or AF). This strategy is slower, but much less tedious because it relies on fewer cities. My best result so far was a T182 win without getting any of the OP artifact reward. Which means there is still room to get that timer down, I guess after some optimizations a good player should be able to finish games around turn 160-170. It shows that BE is actually getting close to make different strategies viable for a competetive game. This guide will focus on an approach with 5-7 cities and Purity Affinity, because Purity is probably the fastest win condition for tall empires and it's techs synergize well with the AU trait. If you want to go Harmony you need to spam out a lot more cities (and in that case, you can just go and play PolyStra anyway). Supremacy is probably also viable (even more so if you have decent production), but for some reason it felt somewhat less consistent and dynamic to me. The Setup: Sponsor: African Union (because of the specialist bonus. The extra growth isn't bad either, since we will be in positive health past the early game) Colonists: Artists (because the early culture will speed up our virtue acquisition and we won't have access to other early culture buildings) Spacecraft: Electromagnetic Sensor (because artifacts and expeditions are *really* powerful in this version) Cargo: Laboratory (because we want to expand fast and get our trade network up asap) Planet: Your choice! I prefer Terran maps (because the allow for coastal starts and have large continuous bodies of water) and the Frigid biome (because of the awesome aesthetic and the passive aliens) Planetfall: You won't have much choice with your initial landing spot, but there is already some important decision making involved. If want to use coastal cities you should drop at the coast. If you want to fully focus on land, stay away from coastal areas to deny the AI the chance to deploy their navies against you. In general ocean cities seem like the way to go, given the lower unhealth and extra culture and TR yields. Just take into account that ocean cities are quite weak during the early and mid game - an AI surprise attack with several melee boats can easily be the end of your colony. Technology: The initial tech orders looks like this: Ocean cities: Chemistry -> Genetics -> Biochemistry -> Physics -> Bionics -> Robotics -> Nanotechnology (with the free tech from the Institute) -> Engineering -> Computing Land cities: Chemistry -> Genetics -> Ecology -> Physics -> Bionics -> Robotics -> Nanotechnology (with the free tech from the Institute) -> Engineering -> Computing Mixed approach: Chemistry -> Genetics -> Physics -> Bionics -> Robotics -> Nanotechnology (with the free tech from the Institute) -> Engineering -> Computing These approaches unlock all essential buildings, improvements and resources to get you specialist economy going. With a fully upgraded AU trait you will get 15 science from each institute, which equals 7.5-5 academies. Considering that Academies take much longer to build now, you will have a small science advantage over the usual Academy spam during the mid game, despite taking longer to unlock Bionics. The tech choices after that depend mostly on your current situation. If you run a mixed strategy you might want to unlock "Biochemistry" for the Water Refinery and/or "Ecology" to unlock the Vivarium. If you need extra health (mostly for a land or mixed approach), you should grab "Genetic Design" for the Gene Garden. If you have access to a decent amount of Petroleum and Titanium you should focus on "Orbital Networks" to get LaserCom satellites up for extra science. Otherwise get "Biospheres" to increase your growth ratio. After that just focus on the techs that are necessary to win. "Transgenetics" is really good once you have filled up your Institutes and Nanopastures. With lots of Titanium tiles you should get "Fabrication", if you have lots of Floatstone flying around grab "Mechatronics" for the LEV Plant. Just pick any combination of these techs to reach Purity 15 and all is fine. Good techs for the end game are "Planetary Engineering" for the Borehole, "Astrodynamics" for the Skycrane, "Organics" for the Biofactory and either Bioengineering or Synergetics if you have high Supremacy or Harmony Affinity levels. Exploration: Use your initial scout to grab Sunken Vehicles or Crashed Satellites near your starting location. These have the best chances to give you production, which you can use to build more Explorers or speed to speed up your early game builds. Once you have kick started your economy you should focus on Progenitor Devices and Progenitor Ruins instead. Both have the chance for a free Affinity and Progenitor artifacts. Try to grab as many of them as you can, since Progenitor rewards are exceptionally good. You either want -30% tech cost, +50% Trade Route yields or +100% virtue acquisition. Virtues: We open with Prosperity to grab the free colonist and the extra expedition modules, and then we switch back to Industry and grab 10 virtues there to boost our production capacities. The rest is tossed into Knowledge to boost science and reduce tech costs. Example for the virtue order: Spoiler : Build Order: Capital: Old Earth Relic -> Trade Depot -> Trade Unit-> Recycler -> Colonist -> Laboratory -> Clinic -> Pharmalab Second City: Depot -> Trade Unit -> Recycler -> Colonist -> Old Earth Relic -> Clinic -> Laboratory -> Pharmalab Other Cities: Depot -> Recycler -> Old Earth Relic -> Clinic -> Pharmalab The important part is to fit in 1-3 Explorers while expanding. It's best to use the free production from an expedition to rush these items within one turn. Otherwise you can squeeze them in while your new cities are building Depots (and a new Trade Unit would just sit around). Get Trade Units in time to use new TR slots asap and spam your colonist early to establish cities as quickly as possible. Also make sure to build enough Workers before you finish Bionics. In total you should aim for 5 (land-only approach), 6 (mixed approach) or 7 (ocean approach) cities early on. With an ocean approach you can in theory expand even further, but I'd recommend to not exceed 10 cities, since stabilizing health is quite important for AU. An example how things should look around T50: Spoiler : Once you have constructed all basic buildings and your Trade Network is set up, switch your capital to Food Conversion and your other cities to Science Conversion. The plan is to get your cities to size 10 asap to get the extra Trade Routes and being able to fill the Scientist slots of your other buildings. If you have ocean cities, you might want to move them once after the basic buildings are done to grab some workable tiles (energy is best saved to unlock buildings in the capital). In general all cities should have the following buildings before switching to conversion: Depot, Recycler, Old Earth Relic, Clinic, Pharmalab, Laboratory, Cytonursery (only with a full-land approach), Water Refinery OR Vivarium (if you unlock their techs), Institute, Nanopasture, Thorium Reactor Cytonursery, Dry Dock and Network are advisable, but keep in mind that they require 30-40 turns to pay back their investment, so it is okay to skip them if it is already way past T100. The Institute has top priority as soon as Bionics is researched. Don't rush buy it, though, or you may trigger the Free Tech quest before you have researched "Robotics". The Nanopasture is also quite powerful, since it grants you a 10% food boost and 2 scientist slots. If you can, buy it in your capital to make use of your 25% cost reduction perk from Industry. Trade Routes: Use your first trade routes to boost outpost development and Depot construction of your outposts. Send the capital one to your second city and the one from the second city to all new outposts to boost their growth. If a powerful station drops nearby use your first capital route for it (as soon as the TR to your second city has expired). All newly founded cities should send their TR to the capital asap. Once you reach 10 pop in the capital send the new TR to any available station OR stop auto-renewing one of the internal TR to your capital and instead send from your capital to the city. Once your other cities reach pop 10 you can either spread them out evenly among the remaining cities OR focus all new Trade Routes at another city. The latter has the advantage that you can set this city to Food Conversion while you construct other things in your capital, which prevents disrupting the food income of the other empire. Regarding Food Conversion: It affects the yield delta of trade routes, so by setting your capital to food conversion you can effectively feed all connected cities (we are talking about an extra 15-20 food per TR). This means all your other cities can instantly start using Scientist specialists and still grow at a quick pace. Traits: Your trait order is Cooperative I-III -> Ambitious I-III -> Umoja (the AU trait) I-III The military trait is up to you, if you even select one at all (might actually be better to save the capital to invest it in agreements or buildings for the capital). AU has an easy time to acquire the required PC, mostly because the AI *loves* your trait agreements. Almost everyone will ask you for Pioneering Spirit and Social Safety Net, so you will get a lot of extra points early on. That allows you to max out all three traits by the time you finish Bionics. The most important agreement you want is Student Aid (specialists consume no food), but sadly the AI seems to be a bit hesitant (at least on higher difficulty levels) to pick that trait. Thankfully it doesn't scale with relation level, so just don't need good relation to unlock its full potential. Other good agreements are Hutamas extra TR for the capital, reduced TR pop threshold and everything that boosts health, science and energy. Improvements: Use your free worker to improve resources and hills around the capital. Build farms when you have nothing better to do. Make sure that you build at least 8 more workers before you finish Bionics and use them to spam Biowells everywhere (If you plan on focusing your 2nd TRs in one city, give it priority instead). Biowells take much longer to build than farms, but the extra food and health is a great boon for your specialist economy - and unlike farms, you don't have to invest into additional techs (you can, however grab "Alien Genetics" to get an extra culture from Biowells!). Once you have stabilized your health start spamming Manufactories around your capital. You need every last point of production to finish the Exodus Gate asap and the extra Hammers will increase production yield from the connected Trade Routes, resulting in slightly improved conversion. Late Game: Once your Exodus Gate is up you should focus on securing the Earthling Settlements. A neat change from RT is that they can now settle on coastal waters, so you have a lot more options for your settlement areas. Send settlers to the most distant spots first and settle the last ones as close to the Gate as possible. If things went well and you got a good artifact reward and some free Affinity levels, you should be able to finish the game around T160-170. If you weren't quite that lucky, it might take up to T190 to win. Example for a not so lucky game: Spoiler : Again, it is not the fastest strategy out there, but it shows how close BE/RT is to have strategic diversity within the factions. I guess all we need is a bit of a TR and Conversion nerf - and suddenly different approaches become viable. Hope that guide helped you - enjoy building a new Utopia for humanity!