Hints for winning on Talent or higher (my thoughts plus yours)

Jarek Noschese

Prince Gordon
May 5, 2019
Hancock Point, Maine
Faction Rankings and Reasoning...

Tier 1: either Progenitor nation (it doesn't matter how much Fungal Towers and Spore Launchers bother you. Wiping out the last of mankind is otherwise too easy, since you have the advantage from the start.)

Tier 2: any human Crossfire faction (as I mentioned, Alien Crossfire is very well designed and you must, plainly and simply, figure out other ways to win.)

Tier 3: Morgans, University and Peacekeepers

University: your aversion (Fundamentalism) has a crushing science penalty anyway, and the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm negates the defensive PROBE hit.

Peacekeepers: Police State's SUPPORT AND POLICE bonuses are rarely (if ever) worth the EFFICIENCY hit [and who needs them with extra Talents?]

Morgans: while the Planned Economy's GROWTH and INDUSTRY bonuses are nice, there are ways to get them without the EFFICIENCY hit.

Tier 4: Believers, Hive and Gaia's Stepdaughters

Believers: no other faction can be Democratic without destroying SUPPORT. While it seems herculean, getting Centauri Ecology lets you terraform the empire without a hitch, bringing your economy and industry up to speed with the other nations, especially once you get the almighty Supply Crawlers.

Gaia's Stepdaughters: despite no Free Market, Green lets you spam Mind Worms, most effective on the pesky Morgans and Believers. Democracy is the way to go for early GROWTH. And with +4 EFFICIENCY, you can go full Labs or Economy without a hitch, increasing flexibility.

Hive: no negative EFFICIENCY in Social Engineering especially makes up for the lack of Democracy for a conquest-minded player. With those Supply Crawlers, the game becomes nigh impossible to lose, no matter what your game plan, map size, map or game settings or Difficulty.

Tier 5: Spartans (until Fusion or Quantum Reactor, their manufacturing is UGH. Still, better economy than the Hive and better Labs than the Believers!)
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General strategies...

IMPORTANT!: I'm getting this out of the way now. Once the Progenitors can build Subspace Generators unabated, your odds of losing (if you're playing as them) are virtually zero. Don't "just ask" me about it. If you're doing so, please STOP IT.

Minor note: Cooperative Victory counts for all noted strategies below (although having a permanent Pact Sibling is extremely unlikely.)

Hybrid, any human faction: one would (likely) expect the gathering of resources for the Diplomatic, Financial or Scientific Victories. Still, victory Via World Domination is doable with the proper resources and management thereof. As the Spartans, having The Ascetic Virtues and being a Police State lets you run Free Market with -2 EFFICIENCY (tolerable but still bad) and -1 POLICE (Nerve Staple's an atrocity anyway).
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For me, it's Gaians = University > Morganites > Peacekeepers = Hive > Believers > Spartans.

Gaians on top might be controversial because they struggle to get to +2 Economy. The inability to use Free Market is a very real drawback, but softened because it would negate many of their natural advantages on top of the usual concessions. Farming mind worms with Nutrient crawlers is fiddly, but helps both economy and military. The Efficiency bonus makes it rewarding to run at or near 100% labs/economy with appropriate policies - e.g. Fundamentalism/Green/Wealth for economy, expansion and espionage, Democratic/Planned/Knowledge for research and booming.

University is noticably better on Transcend than on lower levels, because there's only one content citizen to be turned into a drone when its happiness penalty is applied. New bases are more productive immediately, a free (including upkeep) Network Node is quite valuable. Planetary Transit System and Virtual World fully pacify a size-3 base, allowing for serious snowballing. The free tech is a gift that keeps giving, because it does not inflate tech costs. It's the most economically powerful faction with easy access to the important SE break points (+2 Economy, +4 Efficiency, +6 Growth).

Morganites need to ICS hard to be at their best, as it lets them play around most of their problems (population limit, inability to boom easily, support issues), and they can stack considerable income to the home tile to make it pay for itself even if development lags. Eventually, they might want to transition to Green/Wealth to get that desirable +2 economy for increased tile yields, without the drawbacks of Free Market.

Peacekeepers can feel very different depending on the difficulty level. At lower levels, they might feel encouraged to build up rather than out. On Transcend, they expand more easily because their bases don't need a garrison at size 2. Their bonuses are geared towards "do more with less" rather than "push your advantage to dominate", and they have access to almost the full toolbox.

The Hive is actively discouraged to push for the big break points: No easy access to increased tile yields or population booms, positive efficiency throws one of their primary advantages away. However, Police/Planned without crippling inefficiency makes them incredibly solid - strong production, with possible hammer savings for drone suppression. If we can extract gold from the AI (there are quite a few tricks there), we spend it more efficiently thanks to all the Industry bonuses.

Believers also have an economic penalty to overcome. Unlike the Hive, they have access to all the fun toys and then some. Their best bet is probably to trade in their Support bonus with Democratic, which enables excellent expansion and a solid economy considering we retain some Probe and offensive bonuses - but even that may not fully compensate for a slow and often awkward start. If we want to go full luddite, Deirdre arguably does this better - native fauna and high Efficiency go a long way, and Miriam as a natural ally is refreshing.

Spartans get a fair, possibly advantageous, deal on shiny frontline units - and overpay for everything else. We can try to use our Police bonus for economic gain by pretending it meaningfully softens the drawbacks of Free Market, with or without Police State... but that's probably delusional.
I have rediscovered this game and it is destroying my life. Anyway, here are my current thoughts, specifically for playing with Thinker Mod and the original factions. I welcome disagreement:

Faction Ranking:
Hive > Believers > Gaians > Peacekeepers > Spartans > University > Morganites

I think carpeting the map with bases spaced CxxC is the strongest strategy in this game; +1 drone somewhere for every base after the efficiency limit isn't that bad and the base square being worked for free is quite strong. So, broadly speaking the ranking is based on who is the best at spamming those colony pods and then stealing other people's bases. Specific rationale is as follows:
  • Hive: Planned economy and police state with no drawbacks; free perimeter defense. -2 eco really sucks early but this debuff becomes less relevant as the game progresses, seeing as it only impacts the base tile and doesn't scale with anything. Think of how many formers you can build with those support and industry bonuses...
  • Believers: Probe teams are extraordinarly strong; you can cover up for your tech weakness by means of theft, especially if you manage to find Zach early. Very strong faction if you take an active approach, you have to go all-in on being a predator.
  • Gaians: The ability to capture mindworms early gives you a nice early game boost, +2 efficiency means you can get away with planned + police without getting the dreaded -4 efficiency penalty. As efficiency only reduces energy output; you can periodically check how much energy you're losing and switch social engineering choices one you have a lot of wealthy bases getting burned by the penalty.
  • Peacekeepers: Being able to get away with delaying hab complex and public order buildings is really nice. -1 efficiency kind of sucks but it could be worse. Double votes!!!
  • Spartans: I think they're a little underrated (even though I rate them below average myself, lol), yeah that industry penalty hurts. However, they do get scout rovers right away (although so can Zach with his free starting tech), which helps them pick up colony pods faster partially offset the eco weakness. I think the Spartans are a weaker version of Miriam's strategy.
  • University: I know what you're thinking: "Are you crazy?!?! How can you rate free network nodes this low?!?!?" This might partially be a personal preference thing, but I feel that the probe penalty forces you to turtle until you can get Hunter-Seeker Algorithm. If you go on the offensive, at least with Thinker Mod, an otherwise weaker opponent can significantly slow you down with those accursed probe teams. Why don't I want to turtle? Because chances are you're going to run into some yee-haw like Santaigo or Miriam that decides you've gotta go; in my opinion offense is the best defence, because if you're turtling you have to be ready to be attacked from any angle, while if you're attacking you already know where the battle is going to be because you picked the scene yourself. I don't like being forced to play passively early.
  • Morganites: Start really strong then crash straight into a brick wall. +1 economy is great but it doesn't make up for -1 support and having to build hab complexes early. I feel like you have to adopt an extreme playstyle and even then at best you merely match the other factions.
The usual rules apply for submitting finished games and strategies used to beat them.

1. NO Scenario Editor, no exceptions!

2. No Faction Editor/Firaxians Faction

3. Legal game copies

4. No changing your game's "rules" files

5. (Recommended normally, required for High Score runs) Iron Man

6. (Recommended) No Progenitors

7. (Optional) Average or Abundant Native Life Forms and Activity

8. (Optional) One City Challenge
Here is a Transcend level game on Iron Man with the University that I played over the last 4 days. I won on turn 2329 with 4706 score at 470%.
I had 8 bases by about turn 2140, then built up my capital to size 7 and the other bases to size 3. I secured each base with a 1-1t-1 garrison, a (4)-1-1 heavy artillery unit and a Probe. These get upgraded throughout the game. Next I continued to expand to 14 bases and the capital to size 14. The capital concentrates on Labs and the other bases on Economy. I was on an island with Morgan, so I created a base and gifted it to him to get a Treaty of Friendship and eventually a Pact. Going tall rather than wide is a very good strategy as your bases are close together and easy to reinforce. The other factions eventually were at war with me, however the Hive was the only threat. I focused on military techs and ignored Secret Projects like Hunter-Seeker and Planet Trans. My probes were never challenged and the new bases grew from size 1 to 14 pretty quick. With satellites and Democracy-Planned-Children's Creche my bases boomed to size 14 and the capital got over size 30. I only took one enemy base, an ocean base from Sparta near my shore and gifted this to Morgan as well. I added one more base in late game to guard a choke point. If turtling means constantly improving your defenses until you are invincible, then that is what I did. This works really well.


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