Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri - The Lord's Believers

My midgame tech goals were now different than any other games in this series. Instead of the Cloning Vats or fusion power or orbital satellites, I decided to beeline to the two labs-doubler secret projects. I don't know for sure if that was the best or fastest way to go, but if there is any time to try that it's certainly when I've already built the HQ into a strong energy park.

Cyan indicates what I had researched up through restriction lifting, and green shows my planned beeline to Applied Relativity and Unified Field Theory. Gray boxes are techs that were already researched by one of my neighbors somewhere. I was particularly excited about the University just about to finish Superconductor, which could skip a lot of prerequisites in that direction.

I set my own research to High Energy Chemistry, because that was the tech in the prerequisite chain that nobody else had or was researching. Unfortunately, now nobody was willing to trade me any techs; even Lal's amazing generosity had cooled into a tense standoff. I'd have to get all those the hard way with probes. I started by sending a wave of several into University territory.

Same as in the U.N. game, the probes also delivered the way to deal with the vendetta in response. I got a unit with an advanced weapon for a dumbfoundingly cheap bribe. I could reverse-engineer that into building new impact rover units which would hold off any threat. I also bribed the second impact infantry also in this picture, although one downside was they each got homed to nearby bases of mine to cause trouble with pacifism drones in Free Market. Anyway, then the probes got into position to steal techs a turn later, and got exactly the target I wanted in Superconductor.

After researching High Energy Chemistry myself, I had to set my own research to Polymorphic Software as the only possibility available on the desired prerequisite lines. I deliberately stopped just short of researching that on one turn, to give myself a chance to steal it first (if that happens, your progress carries over to the next tech you select.) Now I also sent two probes at the Peacekeepers to my east, who had several possibilites to steal. The two probes came up with... Doctrine Loyalty and Centauri Empathy. Not great, but we can make do. I did end up finishing Polymorphic Software myself, then set my own research to Adv Subatomic Theory which I knew was in the clear with nobody else researching it for potential acquisition.

A few turns later, I got more steals: now Intellectual Integrity from the Peacekeepers, and then also Nonlinear Mathematics and later Optical Computers from the University. Both factions declared vendetta on me in response, but I was more than ready to handle those fights.

Yup, now I'm finally doing what the Believers are supposed to do. Believer strategy guides tend to start with "build impact rovers" and end at "hit with impact rovers." Took me a while to get around to it, but now we'll launch some of our mighty holy crusades.

Although I didn't really want to go conquering the University. Their bases were far away, like 12 to 20 tiles from my core. I'd never extend my energy park out that far. And the bases had no terraforming improvements (University still lacked Centauri Ecology!) and I'd never have time to catch up on that. Remember my time frame for victory in these games has been 110 to 120 turns; I'm already looking at only about 40 turns remaining from this point. It'll take a quarter of that just for the first forest at each base. Finally, I hoped (although it didn't happen) the University might still manage to research another tech for me sometime in the future. So I signed truce and treaty with Zakharov when he would speak, about ten turns later.

I did decide to get rid of the Hive, who was a useless appendage with two bases and no techs between me and the University. I goaded him into vendetta by stealing energy with a probe, and easily whacked his bases. The Believers' attack bonus actually played pretty importantly here, giving my 4-power impact rovers the advantage against 2-armor defenders behind a +100% perimeter defense. The Hive did turn out to have one more base farther away, so wasn't eliminated.

Next I took the fight to the Peacekeepers on my other side. That base on the volcano actually managed to build the Planetary Transit System. Capturing it was fun, but wouldn't really do much for me; the effect of boosting smaller bases to size 3 only triggers on building it not capturing it, and I didn't have any plans (or room) to build any new bases from here.

It took four turns for my rovers to get through his few bases over here, which was enough damage to make Lal surrender. I took it, in order to have a voting lapdog in the Council, particularly for one important one coming up very soon. But then check this out:

What?! I just broke you into submission and you have the nerve to nickel and dime me about bank fees?! In THAT case:

I decided to see how far you can push your status as the master of a submissive pact. I demanded Lal hand over the next of his two remaining bases. This was a nice score! It's well developed with lots of terraforming in place already, and I could get it up to speed pretty quickly indeed.

But those wars were only the prelude. Now comes the real show.

Gaia to my north was a monster rival. Despite all my population booming and tech lead, she was still within half of me on the faction dominance graph. Gaia had landed at the edge of a big Monsoon Jungle and rapidly filled it, with a half-dozen bases at size 10 with strong infrastructure and terraforming. (You can't see the terraforming in this shot because my map data was old, but it was visible by clicking on each base for infiltration.)

I was really wondering whether to ever go conquer that. The commerce from our treaty was likely to outweigh any gains I'd make from conquering and rebuilding on my own. But then Deirdre forced the situation. She called me up for an ordinary conversation, with the usual demands for money and to join in fighting Sparta. I refused and she declared the vendetta.

The timing was completely perfect for me, just as I finished up fighting the Hive and Peacekeepers and had repositioned my rovers up this way for this possible fight. I was more than ready, so here we go. That shot shows my first conquest, of Gaia's Landing itself.

Here's a look halfway through. This wasn't the instantaneous conquest I did in the Hive and other games; this was a drawn-out slog through the battlefield trenches the bloody way. I had no overwhelming advantage in weaponry or reactor or air power. Although I had Superconductor for 5-power gatling weapons, I did it all with impact units instead; gatling rovers cost 10 more minerals which I couldn't really afford to build. Probe teams didn't help either; the cost to bribe any of those huge size-10 bases was over 1000 credits.

I built three impact artillery units to go along with the rovers, important to chip down the defenders a bit. But even so, I still lost on average one rover per base that had a perimeter defense; the Gaians had several sensor arrays that counteracted the Believers' attack bonus. I slowly and methodically conquered one base per turn with the stack of units shown there, pausing multiple times to repair.

So over a total of about ten turns, I crushed all the way through Gaia leaving her with one base, then accepted her submission as well.

A fun detail: this base has Empath and Doctor specialists side-by-side, which isn't supposed to be possible, the first replaces the second on discovering Centauri Meditation tech. Gaia had that, and even though I didn't, the empath specialist came with the conquered base and stayed that way as long as I didn't click to change it! There was no real consequence as I shortly stole Meditation from Gaia anyway, but this was an amusing detail.

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