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Advice for a SMAC Newbie?


Happy Yule!
Oct 13, 2001
Piedmont Triad, North Carolina
Hey y'all

Well, I was at Best Buy yesterday, and the urge to pick up a Computer Game in addition to The Joshua Tree by U2 struck me... so I looked around at the bargains (I almost never buy a game when it comes out -- Civ III is an exception :) )..and there was SMAC for $10. So I said, Why not?

So I printed out the instruction manual and have been reading through it. I also got a copy of Velociryx's strategy guide.

But I think I'm even more confused than I was before.

Is there any advice available to someone brand new to the game (but quite familiar with the Civ series)? I think my main problem is that I keep trying to mentally equate SMAC components with Civ components (Worms=Barbarians, Former=Worker, etc.) and that might not always be easy to do.

Of course, I'd probably be on better footing if I actually tried to play the game, but what fun would that be? :)
I'm actually planning on loading/patching the game tonight, but I don't think I'll have time to play.

Also, what Faction would you recommend for someone who dislikes fighting in Civ and usually goes for a Space Race victory? I'm thinking University of Planet, but since I don't have any experience in the game, I don't know how easy (or hard) they are to play.

Hey ChrTh,

When you do play your first game, try the Peacekeepers (fairly balanced). You can go either way w/ them. Of course they don't have the bonuses for military strengths, but you get a huge plus in the diplomatic arena. In fact, as Pravin Lal, a player gets double the votes for planetary governor.

Currently, I'm playing a lot of Civ3 , but I will definitely spend some time w/ SMAC again. Are you on a PC or a Mac? I ask because they are still selling the add-on (Alien Crossfire - SMAX) for Mac. It is definitely worth a purchase also. I'm sure you could find it for PC on ebay or some place else.

Like in Civ3, expand as quickly as you can. Those terraformers are awesome, play around with them and you can transform your faction into a powerhouse economically. The design workshop is the feature I loved the most. Designing units to combat or defend against particular faction's strengths and weakness.

There are many features in SMACx that I wish were in Civ3, such as the design workshop (or something similar), diplomatic options, and a surrender option for subjugated factions. Of course, every once in a while they'll turn on you - makes it interesting.

Got to go - enjoy!
The odd thing I found about SMAC is that if you don't like fighting, you're in for a tough time. I've almost always played either Morgan or the UN in SMAC - both are closer to my style of play and actual ideals. With this in mind, occasionally, I've played the Gaians as well.

Every SMAC game I ever played ended in a bloody and savage world war, brought about not by my actions, but by an FDR-like feeling in mid-game that I'd better help out my more liberal neighbors before there weren't any left. The result is my stepping in to help one ally, followed by a total war, with me bombing the crap out of enemy infrastructure as I frantically try to hold back the more totalitarian powers long enough to build up land forces for a counterattack. Over time - e.g. a night - the counteroffensive usually breaks through, and the nice part about SMAC is that victories are often obvious; once the defence line crumbles, it REALLY crumbles and advances at Patton speeds are possible until you own half the globe and can vote yourself a UN victory.

Unless I've lost - which is rare - every SMAC game I've ever played has ended like that. Exciting stuff, but it doesn't exactly sound like the calm space race you're looking for!


The unhappiness is cripling. Play as Lal. And don't try to relte the units because you can just change them to your likings. You cna make formers a hugely effective defensive unit if you want.

The following Social engineering choices are good for me.

Cant remember the name, but the sciency one.
Doent matter, cybernetic is good
All victory conditions are made easier by expansion and conquest of bases.
It is not impossible to play SMAC as a purely builder, but it certainly is very hard. One of the reasons for this are the faction ideologies. If you choose Green, Morgan will hate you. If you choose Free Market, Deirdre will hate you. Therefore, you have to be very keen on diplomacy to overcome those warlike aspects.

I have to back up what others said: play with the Peacekeepers, they are fairly balanced for a newbie, at least until you get used to the most subtle aspects of the game. Make a liberal use of the design workshop, building units with a high degree of specialization, in order to meet the various weaknesses and strenghts of the factions. Learn how to use crawlers; they can be your best friends in crucial moments.

And make sure you study Vel's guide; an awesome work, by all means.

Other than that, have fun! :cool:
Thanks for the advice. I understand about the military aspect; I've already adjusted my Civ game to reflect the necessity of military action in Civ 3, so I am prepared to eventually take action--once I get the hang of it.

I played last night for about an hour. I'm playing the Peacekeepers, and I think I'm in the lead at this point. (At least, that's what the graph says). I have 4 Alien Artifacts, and I've gotten one hooked up (didn't realize you could only have one at each location, so now I'm working on getting Network Nodes going, and I think I'll work on Virtual World.

I'm still more or less going through the motions though. I don't know enough about the Techs do make intelligent choices (although I've started studying Dave Gager's excellent Tech Tree), but I'm starting to get an inkling. My forest is growing nicely too :)

One question though: I can't call a Council. I have 5 Commlinks set up, and I was told that the Spartans were destroyed pretty early in the game. Do Factions come back? Do I need to reach a certain Tech before I can call a Council? I think my math is right: 5+1+1=7, right?

I also have Brotherhood Pacts with everybody...that's good, right? I'm guessing they can still break it, huh?

Also, I have no clue regarding the Social Engineering aspect. Maybe after I got a grip on the Tech I'll look at that next.

And how hard is it to win via Transcedence? And is anyone else a little taken aback by the notion that humans need it? ;)

Thanks again. I'll keep y'all updated how it's going. I still need to patch, but my internet connection was done last night, so I wasn't able to do so.
Humans should transcend. We are a fairly worthless species, it would be nice to evolve into something better...

Anyway, if your going for a Transcendance victory, make sure you have a city with uber production. And also have large amounts of defending units because Mind Worm's are going to be erupting all over the place. Chances are your territory is going to get changed into fungus too, so having the improve fungus techs helps too.
Originally posted by ChrTh
One question though: I can't call a Council. I have 5 Commlinks set up, and I was told that the Spartans were destroyed pretty early in the game. Do Factions come back? Do I need to reach a certain Tech before I can call a Council? I think my math is right: 5+1+1=7, right?
Unless you went for custom optional rules and checked "do not restart eliminated faction" each faction gets a restart "escaped using the landing pod" after its first elimination.
Ah, thanks Lefty. I'll continue pursuit of the Spartans :)

(Actually, I have one HUGE tactical advantage in the game so far: I'm the only Faction with a ship! I got it from a Goody Hut, er, I mean, a Unity Pod :) )
Thoses unity foils are psspore units but better that nothing. They carried 1 less unit and are one speed slower than self built foils. After I get anyting better, I usually scrap the unity foil in a base for minerals.
Ok, a couple questions:

Do I really need Pressure Domes? Should I have had my ocean-bordering cities build one of them instead of Recycling Center?

Also, what Wonders of the World, er, Secret Projects, are worth getting? (Especially in terms of the early game)

EDIT: Btw, didn't have a chance to play last night (sick), but my cable modem is working again, so I'll download the 4.0 tonight and play some more.

If y'all want me to keep posting my progress, I'll be glad to do it. If you get bored with it, let me know and I'll shut up :)
do not build presuure dome unless you are planning to raise sea levels or commint massive eco damage.
(1) Pressure Domes? Yes, definitely. In fact, build these instead of Recycling Centers in all cities (per Vel's advice). Also, in late game when global warming begins melting ice caps or the council votes to launch a solar mirror, you'll want a Pressure Dome in all coastal and low-lying cities.

(2) The Weather Paradigm is crucial to getting a production edge over the other factions. You can build certain improvements (such as thermal boreholes) before you get the tech to build them. If you've got Vel's guide, read about turn-advantage. Once you understand this, you'll become pretty powerful. Depending on your level of difficulty will determine how easily you can get the SPs, but if you utilize supply crawlers, you might could nab several SPs. Gosh, I've forgotten two of those first four. Get Virtual World also.

Yes, keep posting. This is bringing back memories as Yang "convincing" my fellow factions to join the Hive. Hmmm, and subjugating Deirdre and Santiago. :)
I tried numerous times yesterday to reply so lets see if this one actually goes thru'


Welcome to the best Civ-style game made to date bar none (IMHO)

Before I get into a discussion of game mechanics/strats and tactics, it sounds as if you like a builderish type of routine. With that inmind I highly recommend either of the two builderish factions but if I were to make a single recommendation for factionto use I would say University. Although you've been warned about drone issues with UoP, you'll need to learn drone management sooner or later and you might as well learn ASAP. UoP (again IMHO) is the strongest faction available as it is flexible, has tremendous built in builder strengths vis-a-vis free facilities and research bonus and can pop boom easily.

This being said I'll lay out beginning expansion game strats for UoP and if your interested would be willing to do the same for other factions like Morgan or Peacekeepers.

In this I'll cover 4 distinct topics:

1) Base placement and early game t-forming
2) SE choices
3) Tech Beelines
4) Setting yourself up for the big Pop Boom

Finally I would recommend the following game set ups for builder style game

Large world
Average everything else
Difficulty (up to you but as you get comfortable Transcend will become a breeze)

Faction - UoP

Directed Research - This is the MOST critical game variable you'll set and is key for builders as you have critical tech beelines

I prefer look first as well but thats a matter of preference.
The rest of the game settings are up to you.
Hey Whattya Know it works!!

Ok now for some serious game play discussion using UoP.

Firstly don't be concerned about the whole drone thing it is easily manageable. Once you get he hang of it you'll be ahead of the game once you play other factions. UoP is so insanely powerful the whole extra drone issue and susceptibility to probe actions are minor nuisances that can be overcome.

OK Topic 1

Base Placement -

The most important thing in base placement and subsequent t-forming is having yourself a +2 nutrient square. Nothing else is as important as this initially.

Reason being is you are looking to increase your population to size 2 ASAP in order to allow colony pod productions. In the early game its all about pumping out pods ASAP.

So good spots to settle are: Anywhere that a monolith is within base radii, anywhere you can have a rainy rolling or worst case rainy plain square. Also don't forget about nut specials. You can't go wrong placing a base either on or near a nut special.

(Little hint: Specials and base squares are the only spots where Factors of Production limits are removed. Meaning a +2 nut special can allow 3 or more nuts prior to gene splicing tech. A base square can have energies of 8 or more, etc. Also the special only removes restricions for that particular resource type. Later on you'll be drooling once you see a rocky mineral site. Just meant to be mined and roaded and crawlered for big min output. I digress.)

Secondly look for other goodies such as rivers. Placing a base on a river is never a bad situation. It allows a natural road for pod movements. It contributes extra energy (kinna like in CIV2 with extra trade and movement). This can seriously help your early game tech builds.

Of the above features tho', I hihgly recommend monoliths.

Once you've got your first former you'll be looking to make a farm (in the event you have none of the above squares) on a rolling moist. After that you probbaly will be roading out to next base sites and foresting. I prefer base spacings of 3 squares on the diagonal when terrain permits. It allows a colony pod on a road to move in one turn and set down in the next. Any closer than that and I find myself too jammed up. Farther than that I feel is too wasteful in terms of land useage. (more on that if your interested)
Topic 2

SE Choices:

SE management is one of the most critical parts of the game.

You look at times to achieve some certain critical values namely:

+2 econ (or greater) - allows +1 energy per square
+6 growth - pop boom one pop point per turn like WLTPD
+4 eff - paradigm efficieny allows free allocations of energy to labs/econ without penalty

These to my mind are the big one for builders others are imprtant as well but these are kinna the basics for builders.

SE managment is kinna tied to tech beelines so let me firstly say you are going to beeline to important techs that allow certain SE choices. Think of it like beelining to Monarchy in Civ2. In this case your beeline is to Industrial Automation (allowing wealth and other goodies)

I tend not to spend any EC's in the early game in order to allow myself the opportunity to change to an advantageous SE choice ASAP.

Normaly conventional wisdom for all other factions except UoP the SE changes occur something like this.

First SE change is to planned
2nd is to planned/wealth
3rd is to FM/wealth or (optionally Demo/Planned/wealth)
others as the game situation dictates

For UoP tho' the research is so fast you should have discovered planned way before you have the EC's to make the change. Right around the time you discover Ind Auto (IA) you should just be getting enuff EC's to make your first change (at least thats how it is at transcend level).

Make the change ASAP TO WEALTH FIRST. After the change to wealth, this is also where I also depart from conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom normally is to go planned next. I however make the next switch as Free Market. At this point energy credits are flying in and I am rush buying rec tanks and rec commons. Once the population is drone stabilized I am building crawlers like no tommorrow. Every base is set to crawler production and set to harvesting minerals back to base. Once all bases have 15ish mins ea. its time to build any and all SP's.

At this point when I switch to FM, I normally have 6 bases established (no more as other will now cause bueracracy drones). When a base hits size 2 I am required to make one citizen a doctor. No sweat with the aforementioned +2 nut squares you have no issue. After you have a rec tanks at the base you'll likely set the one worker on a forest so that the base has a 4 min production value before crawlers.

Your probably asking why the switch to FM. Its all about capitalizing on energy production and fueling the early game research. +2 econ means practically nothing at this phase of the game as the energy restriction have yet to be lifted. But +3 or greater means massive energy at the base square.

If you choose to follow conventional wisdom tho' planned is not bad it gives you growth a garrison elimnates a drone so size 2 bases are drone free but require a doctor before size 3 (again at transcend). You lose a little tho' in terms of research speed but make up for it big time in terms of industry bonus.

I find tho' that the extra EC's from FM allow builds every bit as fast as planned as I rush build and have faster research as well.

Topic 3

Tech Beeline:

Industrial Auto is your Holy Grail. It gives you wealth as previously mentioned. It gives crawlers which are probably the most important unit in the game with the possible exception of formers and colony pods.

My tech beeline normally follows this route:

If I have +2 nutrient squares at the landing site it goes like this:

Free Tech - Industrial Base
Industrial Economy
Planetary Networks
Centauri Ecology - formers (Normally I can't get IA after Plan Nets)
Industrial Auto.

If you have any energy specials, a monolith, or bases on rivers you can get IA by 2114ish. By that time you should have 40 EC's bankrolled to make the first SE change to wealth. If not hopefully you've trolled some fungus and have killed a worm or two.

Failing to have a +2 nutrient special makes Centauri Ecology move to the head of the list. Thenit normally looks like

Free Tech - Cent Ecology
Ind Base
Ind Econ
Plan Nets
Social Psych - (IA doesn't normally show)
Ind Auto

THis normally means you haven't gotten to IA until 2119 ish.

YMMV depending on if you pop a nice pod. cash in any alien artifacts etc. (warning tho' early cash in can derail your tech beelin slowing you down if it's not in the beeline path)

After the IA beeline conventional wisdom says go for restrictionlifting techs. I can discuss that later if you are so inclined.
Setting yourself up for the big pop boom. Normally occurs after Planetary Economics is discovered.

This is another reason why I run FM/wealth.

I switch to Demo/FM/wealth and then rush buy as I need to aorund the vaious bases the following facilities

Childrens creche
Rec Commons
Tree Farms

Once these facilities are in place you switch to Demo/planned/wealth and viola you have an instant pop boom.

Allow growth up to hab complex limits. and begin next phase of growth.

IIRC, as you have SMAC and not SMAX the darn golden age feature never worked as it was supposed to so a Demo/FM/Wealth w/ GA doesn't give the pop boom even if you have all the above facilities.

Before this tho' you'll likely be going after Special Projects. So heres a tidbit. Crawlers are like caravans in CIV2, they cash in for full mineral value. Whats more you can upgrade them to best armor and some other bells and whistles like trance in order to bump up their equivalent min value. In essence doing this allows you to buy SP's with the scads of energy you have rolling in using FM/wealth.

Any of the beginning SP's are winners. Not a clinker inthe bunch. But of all of them you as UoP want desperately the Virtual World. This little SP turns your one huge negative into a non-issue and makes you instantly more powerful than any other faction when it comes to raw expansion power.

By the time I start Sp builds others have started. But since I have bases that are crawler powered and still pumping out crawlers for cash in, I can easily out muscle other for SP's. As a consequence I often forgoe going after the more expensive Virtual WOrld so I can make sure I get some of the cheaper ones first. SO normally look to get Weather Paradigm, Human Genome, then Virtual World, then Merchant Exchange, and then Planetary Transit. Again YMMV.

Once you have the SP's you want then look to build the above mentioned facilites in order to set up your pop boom.

Hope these tidbits help.

Again, welcome to the best CIV-style game made.

Hope you have fun,

Damn Ogie!

Thanks for the strat. I'll take a good long look at it before I get back in the game.
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