Video Game: Galactic Civilizations aka: Galactic Civilizations II
A 4X game from Stardock. First released in 2003, a remake of the vintage OS/2 series, with an expansion pack in 2004. Received a sequel in 2006, abbreviated Gal Civ 2, with its own expansions in 2007 and 2008.In the original, players took control of the Terran Alliance and faced up against five or seven enemy civilizations.In the sequel, the player could take control of any one of 10 civilizations, or make his own. This was increased to 12 in the first expansion pack.It is known for its advanced AI and its lack of intrusive Copy Protection.For a good series of after action reports, and to get a feel for the game, check out thesetwo articles by Tom Francis from PC Gamer.Galactic Civilizations III was revealed on Stardock's 20th anniversary. Announced new features include multiplayer, political intrigue, and more mod support.
There is also a random event in which your empire finds and accidentally activates some Precursor war robots, which go wild and start laying waste to your people. You can either destroy them and save your people, or sacrifice a portion of your population to examine their performance and improve your military power.
A random mega-event has one of the factions find and accidentally activate the Peacekeepers, who then start attacking everyone but the faction that found them. Their ships are powerful enough that only late-game factions can stand against them. If you happened to be the one who got the event, you can quickly find yourself at the top of the ladder, as all the enemy fleets get obliterated, leaving planets wide open to invasion and resourced for appropriation.
All Planets Are Earth-Like: Averted. Some planets are uninhabitable at all, starting with Dark Avatar some require special technologies to colonize due to special conditions like high gravity or toxic atmosphere, and each planet has a Planet Quality rating which affects how much you can build on it.
It's also worth mentioning that Earth itself is a fairly average planet, as are the other homeworlds, with a class of 10, with 26 being the highest possible class before Terraforming and modifiers.
Alpha Strike: Favored tactic of the Arceans and custom Super Warrior races as of Dark Avatar. Pack as much firepower as possible on to each ship and as many ships as possible (or as many as needed) into each fleet and try to eradicate your enemies in that first strike alpha before they can retaliate. Also the favored tactic of anyone in the original Dread Lords game, where attacker-gets-first-strike was the norm; this was changed in Dark Avatar where defenders get a guarunteed Counter Attack against anyone who is not a Super Warrior.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Drengin Empire, The Dominion of the Korx, and the Korath Clan are the undisputed examples of this for the major races in the sequel, with the Yor being a lesser example — they're still jerks but they're more pragmatically so. And bigger than them all are the Dread Lords. The Dark Yor and Snathi represent this for the minor races.
A Million Is a Statistic: Played very, very straight. If you take the Evil choice in an event that will kill millions or even hundreds of millions of your own people, you'd hardly notice the population drop at all! Replacing those losses takes so little time it's almost funny, especially for races with the Super Breeder ability.
The game measures most aspects in billions to begin with. Oddly, 1000 soldiers equal 1 billion of population, which makes every planetary invasion into a bloodbath that costs billions of lives.
Which begs the question how a transport ship can fit so many people to begin with.
Apocalypse How: Most planetary invasions are pretty much Planetary Disruption (at least) by default; the Terror Star superweapons go all the way to Stellar Annihilation, taking out entire star systems and reducing everything to asteroid fields.
To elaborate, planetary invasions can be done in a variety of ways, from conventional warfare to blowing up the core of the planet. Generally, the invasion can be made easier with tactics that, on the downside, will permanently reduce the quality of the planet if the invasion succeeds, though there are options that are simply more expensive and provide moderate boni without impacting the planet.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only play against 9 other major races and 8 minor races though more than 8 minor races can appear if the Fundamentalists, I-league, or Jagged Knife rebels from an evil, neutral, and/or good empire respectively.
Also, stars can only have a maximum of 5 planets orbiting around them, and planets can only have a maximum of 1 moon (or 0 moons if they're ringed planets) orbiting around them.
While there is no limit on ships, fleets have a limit on how many ships they contain (doesn't prevent you from stacking several fleets on top of each other though).
There are, however, some variant modes that allow you increased or unlimited logistics points.
Armor Is Useless: The sequel splits weapons and defenses into three categories. Each defense is only good against one type of weapon. This means that, while strong armor is essential against kinetic weapons, it provides very little protection (specifically, a square root of its normal rating) against energy and missile weapons. Those require their own counters.
This trope can still wind up being very subject, especially when the alleged Brilliance still seems accidental.
The focus leans away from tactics a bit, which helps the AI shine (see below).
Interestingly, all players can also increase their "diplomatic" rating. AIs with a better diplo rating with the human will demand better deals, and those with a lower diplo rating will give generous deals. This implies that first the AI goes through all its normal Machiavellian algorithms to determine what would be a fair deal for them, and then, after locking in what it's prepared to offer, adjusts that deal depending on their diplomatic standing compared to the civ they're trading with. This would fall apart a bit if the game was multiplayer.
If an AI fears your military or has been at war with you recently, they outright refuse to trade any weapon techs with you, suspecting you might plan to use these techs on them.
The AI will redesign its ships as appropriate to counter the most pressing threat, changing out weapons and defenses for ones specifically meant for that purpose. For example switching from beams to mass drivers if their enemy has strong shields or switching from armor to point defense if their enemy is using missiles.
Artificial Stupidity: All the more odd for the high standard all the brilliance sets, but computer players do some really stupid things sometimes. In general, while it's good at strategic decisions, its tactical abilities are... not so impressive.
The Dread Lords are pretty heavily subject to this, going out of their way to destroy any starbase the player builds, no matter where. They can also pretty easily be lured into chasing after a fast unarmed ship (though their innate speed makes it hard to build such at early tech levels).
The AI seems to consider starbases as important targets in a war, but completely neglects their combat statistics, which can be absurdly high given proper investment. As such, you can have a well fortified starbase and watch wave after wave of ships attack it without even denting it.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The outcome of two victory conditions, either by researching an expensive and otherwise useless branch of the Tech Tree, or by holding on to one or several Ascension Crystals for a sufficiently long time.
The latter is specifically made more difficult by making the starbase built around the crystal non-upgradable, preventing you from turning it from a sitting duck into a fortress.
Asteroid Thicket: In the sequel: justified in the representation of asteroid fields on the galaxy map (what else would you use as a map symbol for an asteroid field?) - but not justified in the cutscene when you investigate your first anomaly.
Awesome, but Impractical: Terror Stars. Yes, they can blow up entire solar systems, but first you have to research them (which takes five different techs, each of which takes about a dozen turns if you set your entire economy to research), build them (which takes six Constructors and includes a 10 week waiting period between completion and actually being able to use it) and get them to the target (they move 1 parsec a turn and have no defensive weapons without using up even more valuable constructors). All in all, it's quicker and easier to just conquer people the traditional way.
OTOH, there are a lot of systems with no inhabitable planets, which would really be more useful if they were just asteroid fields for your space miners. When empires get rich and bored enough, and have constructors to burn, Terror Stars start looking like big mining charges.
At full strength, Terror stars have significant defense while producing influence. Sending a pack of them allows you to gradually take over the galaxy.
Only in the first game. In the second expansion to the sequel, Terror Stars are their own type of starbase that can't be upgraded with weapons, defenses, or any other types of modules specifically to avoid this, requiring you to have a powerful fleet on hand to protect them.
And end wars with one shot.
Building lots of fully equipped starbases will give you massive bonuses to your economy, industry, influence, military, and ascendance crystal mining, but believe me when I say that it will take you a looooong time (or a lot of planets constantly churning out constructors which presents its own problems) to fully equip so much as a single starbase much less multiple.
Barbarian Tribe: Space Pirates, who appear either through the destruction of civilizations who still have warships that they did not include in their surrender deal, or through a mega event wherein they appear out of nowhere with large fleets of inexplicably powerful warships. In both cases, they attack everyone not themselves endlessly, preying especially on freighters and starbases, until someone wipes them out.
Beam Spam: This what happens if you load up ships with lots of Beam Weapons. They start out with the mundane and ordinary laser weapons. But as you progress, you get bigger and better beam weapons to spam the enemy with. Eventually, it ends with the ships spamming with Doom Rays! Better yet, all beam weapons are designed with Beam Spam in mind!
Big Bad: The Dread Lords. The Drengins and Korath are less so.
Black and Grey Morality: The storyline of Dark Avatar. The Drengin want to enslave the galaxy, the Korath want to exterminate all non-Drengin life.
Boring, but Practical: Miniaturization. It doesn't improve weapons, but it makes every ship part including weapons smaller (to keep the numbers easy, it makes the ship "bigger", effectively the same thing), so more can be crammed on the same design. Actual bigger hulls have more hit points and can hold even more, but require more research to perfect and then take a lot longer to make.
The fact that it's Boring, but Practical is lampshaded by the 'news report' announcing that you've perfected a new level of miniaturization. While most other techs get breathless description and/or cheap jokes, the miniaturization ones have descriptions like, "You remember the last miniaturization breakthrough? Well, it's like that, but more so."
The same is true of defenses, life support systems, and sensors. Kanvium plating isn't anywhere near as cool as the next generation of railgun, but it's really useful if you want your ship to tear through the Drengin fleet rather than bounce off.
The Industrialist political party, which doesn't even merit its own description (it's referred to as "the opposite of the Technologists"), but will make your building one-fifth faster. All your building. With a solid investment in social production at the Stats screen, your infrastructure gets turbocharged.
Card-Carrying Villain: The evil races take so much joy in having piles of skulls. Especially since, if you're on their side, they will send you messages warning you about how the good races want to stop both you and them torturing people. How considerate.
Centrifugal Gravity: Many of the default Terran ships (in particular the colony ship) have rotating sections. The problems with spinning to provide gravity are addressed in the description for Artificial Gravity.
Character Alignment: An actual game mechanic. There is a Karma Meter for every civilization (1 is pure evil, 99 is pure good, 50 is neutral), and picking different sides gives different benefits.
The Terran Alliance is Neutral (50), with the humans valuing their personal benefit above all and acting in enlightened self-interest. They will make strong alliances and trade relations willingly, but only when they also gain from the protection of their allies or the profit garnered from trade.
The Yor Collective is Evil (25), with a hatred for all organic life driving them to exterminate other races when they can, or avoid them otherwise. They are however less inherently evil than the other evil races.
The Drengin Empire is Evil (1), with the Drengins' economy so dependent on slavelings that they have, in their history, planned conquests tens of thousands of years in advance to get more.
The Altarian Republic is Good (99), being the zealous paladins of the galaxy, organizing the forces of good to combat evil. They also have a strong spiritual tradition, and are more idealistic than even the other good-aligned civilizations.
The Drath Legion is Good (75). Though they are inherently pretty nice guys, they are also highly passive-aggressive, and will use the manipulative skills they've honed over the history of their civilization to indirectly harm anyone who opposes them. Generally, this means getting everyone to attack the Altarians.
The Torian Confederation is Good (75). Also nice guys, but as a result of the strife they suffered through in their history, they have grown to become somewhat xenophobic.
The Arcean Empire is Neutral (50). They just don't care about anything not related to honor. They'll act for their personal benefit normally, like the Terrans, but will go out of their way to achieve honor and glory and/or avoid disrepute, regardless of the morality in doing so.
The Dominion of Korx is Evil (1). They are the ultimate Corrupt Corporate Executive, valuing immediate profit above all else, and are willing to sell anything and do anything if there's enough money attached to it, with no concern about the morality of their actions... and evil choices, i.e, outright selfishness, helps them achieve this objective.
The Iconian Refuge is Good (75), being the eldest and wisest of the younger races, once the pupils of the Arnor themselves, and now considering themselves the heirs to that long-gone civilization.
The Thalan Empire is Other (50). Seeing as they are a mysterious Hive Mind from the future, it's no surprise that their morality is... different.
The Krynn Consulate is Neutral (50). Another shade of Knight Templars, but more subversive than the Altarians, with their specialization being espionage. Also, while the Altarians seek to uphold the philosophy of Good in general, the Krynn seek to spread their own religion, called The Way, and eventually unite the entire galaxy under it.
The above, however, are all default alignments - if a human is controlling a civ, it can take any morality, no matter what it goes for by default.
Church Militant: The Krynn Consulate. Not terribly so, but they are willing to be, especially if a galactic war breaks out.
Civil Warcraft: What typically happens when the Fundamentalists, the I-League, or the Jagged Knife rebels against someone's rule and takes a noticeable chunk out of everyone's empires with them in the sequel. Technically the Drengin Empire vs Korath Clan conflict is this in Dark Avatar, but the Korath are somewhat altered in physical appearance (their features are more elongated and simian-like, and their flesh is far paler and they have glowing eyes) and have a somewhat altered tech tree (as of the Twilight expansion).
Comically Small Bribe: You can absolutely offer another race the interesting opportunity of giving you all of their ships, planets and tech for 1 bc. The AI *will* treat this as the deliberate insult it is. OTOH, while the AI is pretty damn good at managing its economy and using its money to the fullest, it hardly ever makes cash reserves (or blows them all the second a war starts anyway) which often leads AIs on the losing side of a war to sue the player for peace, please, they'll give you all they have ! Here, take these 5 bc !
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Can happen if you tell it to, but to the credit of the developers they put in a heck of an effort to make the AI as human-like as possible. After the Intelligent or Tough levels it stops getting smarter and just starts cheating with the resources to increasing degrees (according to the manual.)
There was a review of GC that felt that the AI was cheating in multiple games, going from on-the-ropes to Powerful Army Of Doom within a few turns. The developers ripped into the reviewer, digging into the reviewer's save-games and finding that the AI wasn't cheating, it just coincidentally discovered 2-3 major game-changing things each time. When the reviewer was asked to retract the accusation of cheating, the reviewer essentially said "The game doesn't cheat, it just has a nasty habit of making sure it looks like it."
Another effect under this heading is when coincidentally there's a mega-event that massively boosts another empire's influence, the turn before they build a Restaurant of Eternity and culturally conquer the entire map.
On the "Normal" level, you are the cheating bastard, as the AI's economy runs at 80%.
The Dread Lords have acess to ships more powerful than anything the player could hope to build, and their soldiers have such an insane advantage that 10 of them are a serious invasion force against planets defended by 8000-20000 soldiers. Do note that soldiers are measured in units of a million each so it's a little less silly than it would seem at first glance.
Conflict Ball: Seems to happen occasionally. Everything will be... okay in the galaxy. Trade is good, the economy is good, relations are wary between longtime enemies... Then someone says something and suddenly everyone declares war on everyone else.
The Drath, with their ability to persuade other races to go to war, and the Altarians, who can get others to fight in their defense, tend to be the biggest causes of this sort of thing. Other than that, there's the good old Bismarck special, where A attacks B because B attacked A's ally C, who attacked B's ally D because one of D's citizens killed C's leader. Its like Sarajevoin space.
Thanks to the actually pretty intelligent AI, if one civilization attacks another, everyone will attempt to capitalize on the moment. You don't need entangling alliances when you can clearly see that, with your neighbor occupied with a massive war on the other side of their territory, they don't have sufficient resources to protect the side closest to you. The AI will take advantage of this as often as possible, and it's extremely rare that war is only declared between two races.
"Good guys have gone to war with X. You're good, do you want to fight X too?" "... sure."
AI players almost always honor their alliances, which is largely responsible for this.
Corralled Cosmos: Until humanity developed the hypderdrive, the space-faring races were largely confined to a handful of systems connected by jump gates.
Crippling Overspecialisation: Ships are generally built focusing on one kind of weapon and defense, due to the difficulty of researching multiple kinds of weaponry/defense systems without becoming a Master of None. Setting up your ships to exploit this is workable, at least for a while.
Making up for this is the tendency for a mix of weapons to be more effective, but it's still only worth it later in the game; early on, it's good to focus, keeping in mind the weapons and defenses of the most threatening civs, which in turn brings about the importance of espionage.
Darkest Hour: The storyline of Gal Civ II's expansion packs Dark Avatar and Twilight of the Arnor can be seen as the galaxy's darkest hour, not only has most of the galaxy been enslaved by the Drengin but the Korath are planning to annihilate all non-Drengin life at the behest of the Dread Lords who weren't truly defeated at the end of the core game's campaign. The only forces left in the galaxy that can fight the Dread Lords are the Drengin Empire whose forces are too preoccupied by the Korath clan's rebellion to fight the Dread Lords directly, and the remnants of the Terran fleet which remained a factor only because they stumbled across the last of the Arnor who provided them with his race's superior technology and warships.
Deadpan Snarker: The GNN's tongue is planted very firmly in its cheek when it's describing whatever technology you just researched. For example when you complete the space defense research it will say something to the effect of; "Space is a very hostile place, the vacuum can kill you if you're not protected, which is very rude. But even if you are protected by a hollowed out piece of metal you may bump into other people in hollowed out pieces of metal who may not like you."
Building one for the first time in a game also treats you to a brief FMV with the description advising you to "watch out for that exhaust pipe".
Easy Logistics: One branch of the Tech Tree, Logistics, allows the player to field bigger fleets and more starbases.
Mind you, the larger fleets only applies with regards to unitary task groups; you can field 200 or more battleships without ever learning about more advanced logistics. Likewise, starbases become more expensive to build once you start exceeding your logistics stat.
Somewhat averted with trade; there are actual freighters that automatically ping-pong between the two planets involved, and they're generally defenseless in times of war. Their income also fluctates depending on where they are on the route.
Easy-Mode Mockery: The game is very easy when the artificial intelligence is low, but you will be notified when you, for example, start building an invasion fleet next to their planet. This was mainly because print game journalists often play games on easy settings to work through them more quickly, and Stardock was concerned that because the AI was nerfed on those difficulties, reviewers might unjustly pan their AI players.
Enemy Civil War: The typical result of the Fundamentalist minor race (good), the I-league minor race (neutral), and/or the Jagged Knife minor race (evil) forming due to a random event and making their territory by taking a substantial fraction out of the planets of the players that will probably be bigger than any single major race's empire at the time of their rebellion, though they (the rebels) will be very spread out. The Drengin-Korath war is basically this from the viewpoint of the other races.
Even Evil Has Standards: The Drengin are quite horrified when they discover that the faction that broke away from them, the Korath Clan, wants to outright exterminate all other forms of life instead of simply enslaving them. Coming from a species that makes massive use of slaves (even for research, in the case of the "Slaveling Imagination Center") and considers chopping up and eating someone's spouse in front of them to be hilarious, this is saying something.
But it does leave you in a bit of a lurch when the rest of the galaxy goes ape and declares war on each other, which seems to happen at least once per game. Being evil increases the likelihood that the goody-two-shoes alliances will declare war on you and you, being evil, won't have many friends.
Evil Pays Better: Literally. The Evil option in random colonization events gives you the best bonuses while the good option will give you penalties or nothing most of the time (Neutral, of course, is somewhere in the middle). Though in a few cases the evil option will have a small cost, typically the lives of some of your people, but population is incredibly easy to replace in the game.
However, when it comes time to choose a definitive alignment for your civilization via the Xeno Ethics technology, Neutral is the clear winner in terms of advantages bestowed. Also, some civilizations like the Altarians and Drath in the Twilight of the Arnor expansion gain better technologies through Good than they would with other alignments, and don't have to take the Good choice in random events since their Karma Meter is already set to that alignment.
Evil vs. Evil: The Korath Clan vs The Drengin Empire. One wants to kill pretty much all non-Drengin or Dread Lord forms of sapient life, the other merely wants to keep all non-Drengin forms of sapient life as slaves, pets, and zoo attractions. However, the Drengin Empire is portrayed in a more positive light and it's made clear that they're the ones that you should be rooting for.
Evil races are far more willing to attack others of the same alignment if they think the civ in question is getting too powerful.
Expy: The standard Resource Mining Station sure looks like Terek Nor, if the central hub was replaced with a huge geometric crystal.
The Terran Alliance's flagship, which is intended for scouting, surveying anomalies and generally going where no man has gone before, is a dead ringer for the Starship Enterprise.
Galactic Conqueror: The outcome of achieving the military victory setting. Also what the Drengin Empire wants to become.
Game-Breaking Bug: If it's not the last game you install, GC2 goes and sulks in a corner of your hard drive, refusing to work at all. It loads, then immediately crashes to desktop.
Game Mod: Lots of them, especially because they are so easy to make.
Glass Cannon: Ships built with the all-weapons-no-defenses philosophy. These are the mainstay choice for late-game highest-tech ships, since even the best defenses cannot protect your ships effectively against fleets of extremely heavily armed dreadnoughts focusing fire on them. They also work extremely well when used by Super Warrior races who can take out some or all of the opposition before the enemy gets a chance to attack. Conversely, such ships tend to struggle when used against Super Warrior opponents.
Dread Lord ships may have massive attack and respectable defense (in the same category) but have fairly little health.
The Spectres bow to no-one, plea for no quarter. Engraved on the seal at the base of a mile-high statue of their leader, Paul Davies, Mutilator of Worldsblood, are the words "Bring it the fuck on." In Latin.
Gunboat Diplomacy: The other races don't like you having a big army — but if you've got a bigger army than them you can expect them to be very polite to you.
Strangely, only existing military forces will cause this attitude. Having the technology to design superior ships to those of your opponents, the industry to produce large numbers of these ships, and the economy to fund this war fleet doesn't get factored — if you have no standing forces, you're still considered to be 'weak' in their eyes. There's even a special planetary construction you can create which ties into this, massively inflating the perceived combat value of any ships orbiting that particular world; it's possible to significantly boost your civilization's perceived military strength and make yourself out to be a threat in this way with a "paper army."
Mind you, having a big military presence will only maintain the status quo. If anything (and we're talking anything, from the discovery of a powerful artifact to a weird wave of energy that increases everyone's fertility) changes the status quo, there's a chance that those you've cowed into submission will re-evaluate their position and decide to come out with guns blazing.
Some races will actually only respect you if you have at least some military forces, but not too much compared to their own.
Hard-Coded Hostility: Pirates are heavily armed ships that attack ships, particularly freighters, of all civilizations. Sometimes they randomly appear, sometimes a fleet of them shows up after a breakout from a galactic prison, and when an evil or neutral civilization is defeated many of their remaining ships become pirates.
GalCiv2 also introduces the Dread Lords, Abusive Precursors who get let out of their can in the campaign or a random event in sandbox games, and then proceed to attempt to wipe out all other life in the galaxy. And unlike pirates they invade planets as well.
Hostile Terraforming: The Korath Clan in 2 prefer to eliminate a planet's entire biosphere. They can then colonize the resulted toxic world.
It is mentioned in the descriptions of some of the technologies unique to the Altarians that they are not the same species as the humans, but that they *are* more genetically similar to humans than they are to any of the other species on Altaria. To the highly religious (but in a good way because their religion is all sunshine and rainbows) Altarians this is no accident and that their gods have reunited them with their long lost brothers. To the Humans, who are much less religious, this is one of the greatest mysteries of the universe. Most of the other races who care either way agree with the humans.
Also, the Dread Lords, in their brief appearance in the intro of the original game.
Humans Are Bastards: In the backstory, the Drengin convinced a race called the Xendar to go to war with the Terran Alliance. Humans exterminated every last one of the Xendar...according to the official histories, just as the Drengin intended. In reality, humans merely fought the Xendar to their homeworld; the Drengin, fearful that humans would find out about their involvement and turn their attention to them, nuked the whole Xendar homeworld as a preemptive measure.
If the rumor is correct, a group of humans with Dread Lord tech is going to be the Big Bad of Galactic Civilizations III. The subversion still hits, as this is after humans were nearly rendered extinct due to rampaging Drengin, and these guys are simply acting on survival instinct now.
Humans Are Diplomats: This is how most races see humans, and their Super Ability is Super Diplomat. However...
Humans Are Leaders: The Terran Alliance is in charge of the coalition against the Dread Lords in Gal Civ II and the union they forge with the Iconians and the Krynn (also against the Dread Lords) towards the end of the expansion pack Twilight of the Arnor.
Humans Are Warriors: While humanity's hat appears to be diplomacy, they have been killing each other for over nine thousand years, and they have gotten very good at this. The Drengin are the only aliens who realize this, and it terrifies them.
Humanoid Aliens: The majority of the races, both minor and major in the game are this.
Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Overall; Cakewalk, Easy, Simple, Beginner, Normal, Challenging, Tough, Painful, Crippling, Masochistic, Obscene or Suicidal, which is a function of the intelligence of the AI races, each of which can be set to Fool, Dunce, Beginner, Sub-Normal, Normal, Bright, Intelligent, Gifted, Genius, Incredible, Godlike or Ultimate.
Tough and Intelligent are actually the only fair difficulty levels, this is the difficulty where the AI makes full use of its programing and has no bonuses or penalties to their economy. At lower difficulties, the AI is less intelligent and it has penalties to its economy, while at any setting higher than intelligent it gains bonuses to its economy. You can, however, customize the AI to have a "fair" game with a dumber AI.
Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Found a Precursor artifact? Research bonus! Or a free ship! Precursor ruins on your newly-colonized planet? Extra productivity!
You can also literally import alien phlebotinum, by buying technology or ships from other races via the diplomacy screen. Or export your own phlebotinum for fast cash.
In rare scenarios if the Dread Lords are present, and you are not at war with them and are able to contact them, trading stuff for their massively advanced phlebotinum can give you a terrific boost in tech levels.
A bug in the AI (at least on lower levels) applies this behavior to races you had research or economic treaties with as well. If you go to war with them for whatever reason, they will refuse to negotiate peace with you and all the other races won't trust you as a result, with text directly relating to "making peace only to reload and try again."
Karma Meter: Slides between 1 (Evil) and 99 (Good)), with 50 being Neutral. It is affected through your decisions during random events which occur when you colonize some planets or throughout the course of the game. In Galactic Civilizations II, you can make a permanent choice of alignment after researching Xeno Ethics, though you'll have to pay for it if your Karma Meter doesn't agree with your choice. After that, you can avail various bonuses granted by your alignment, and further random events will be auto-resolved on the basis of your permanent alignment.
Killer Rabbit: Possibly the only race to match the Korath in absolute baby-eating evil are the Snathi, a minor race who have an uncanny resemblance to an Earth species known as 'squirrel'.
La Résistance: In the sequel this is present in the form of The Jagged Knife (Evil rebels) for Good Empires, the I-League (Neutral rebels) for Neutral Empires, and the Fundamentalists (Good rebels) for Evil Empires. Unlike most minor races they will have more than a single planet due to taking a sizeable chunk of the empire they rebel from, and in the cases of especially large empire the rebels can hold more territory than some of the major players. They invariably become a major problem for the empire they rebelled from and provide the game's version of Civil War. Also how the Torian Confederacy got its start. The scattered remains of the Terran Alliance and the Altarians become this in Dark Avatar due to the Drengin Empire conquering the majority of both factions and the Solar System being sealed away from the rest of the universe. The Altarians' faction name even changes from the Altarian Republic to the Altarian Resistance.
To help you get an idea, realize that the end of the weapons tech tree has a black hole generator as a hardpoint, and that the computer just loves to stack the strongest weapons on by the ton to the point of having a DOZEN of those things equipped...
Of course, it then can only afford one or two of said ships because of the maintenance costs for the hundreds of long obsolete warships it never seems to retire. A side that builds just one of those ships will often sweep the entire armadas of factions that the stats say are vastly more powerful.
Living Ship: The Dread Lords use these. The Iconians can research technologies to do it, but their ships still look mechanical in-game.
Lost Technology: Precursor artifacts. The whole campaign mode story is set off because the Drengin and the Terrans just had to go poking some Arnor technology.
Luck Stat: Luck is one of the abilities you can buy in the second game. It increases the probability of getting an helpful random event, as well as the minimum damage done in a ship fight.
Macross Missile Massacre: The effect of loading your warships with missile weapons. The missiles in this game are equipped with mini-hyperdrives, and while they start out as conventional explosives (and not nukes), the warhead technology advances through various incrasingly powerful Antimatter and Phlebotinum torpedoes to culminate, finally, in the Black Hole Eruptor missile.
Massive Race Selection: About 14, when you count the various expansions. And that's before you start making your own.
Mighty Glacier: The Arceans, with their Super Warrior ability combined with tough ships and larger fleets from their racial bonuses (in hitpoints and fleet logistics, respectively), are very good at space combat. However, in Twilight of the Arnor, they also recieve a racial speed penalty and completely lack advanced engine technologies (replacing them with weaker planet-based 'Navigation Centers'), and, while not having engines frees up even more shipboard space for weaponry, they end up getting slower in relation to the other races over time. Hence, they play this trope straight.
Can also apply to any customly-designed ship. This is especially useful for ships designed to defend planets from spore ships and invasions.
More Dakka: Stacking Mass Driver weapons by the dozen onto ships will turn them into machine guns!
Non-Entity General: Or national leader, in this case. The game will use the name you have typed in for your character in the conversations, and you can even choose an image for your leader, but otherwise you're pretty much just "Emperor."
No Points for Neutrality: Averted. There are Good, Neutral and Evil alignments, each with their own bonuses. Neutrals don't get diplomacy penalties with anyone like the good and evil races do against each other. They also get massive trade bonuses, the best scientific building in the game and instantaneously maxed out planet quality, making Neutral the best choice for non-militaristic races (except for those that get better techs for sticking with their usual choice, and even then it may be a toss-up).
No Sell: The Galactic Privateer structure makes your freighters invulnerable when they're shuttling between your homeworld and their destination. Literally, invulnerable. Enormous pirate battlecruisers and Drengin swarm-fleets come out of nowhere, scream down towards the tiny freighter that doesn't even have weapons, and come to a dead halt. You can almost imagine the pirate captain turning to his subordinates and demanding to know why their guns aren't working.
United Planet Laws may also protect freighters, but only for a limited time.
Research the right defenses and cram enough of them on a ship and watch every shot the enemy fires result in 0 damage, at least until the AI switches up their weapons, which they will.
Omnicidal Maniac: The Dread Lords and the Korath Clan, oh so very much. The Dark Yor and the Snathi too, but they're played for laughs and have no serious chance at succeeding.
There are many resources that can be built for bonuses, but once one civ builds it, they have a monopoly, and can trade it to as many other civs as they want if they so choose; otherwise there is no way for the other civs to get it.
One World Order: Subverted; if your population shoots up suddenly, the "news" will note this has to be from various non-affiliated members of your race applying for citizenship. Because a planet's population doubling in two weeks would be silly, see?
The game also notes that only the tax-paying population is accounted for.
This means that, as you raise your tax rate, you will find that, at some point, you will get less revenue than before, as many citizens simply can't afford to pay taxes at the rate you set. Your overall population count will also be lower for the above-mentioned reason.
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: One of the minor races in the game are described as being about one meter tall, very spunky and enthuasiastic, and quite skilled with technology. In other words they're quite blatantly gnomes in space in terms of personality. However, this minor race is one of the strongest in the game with a ton of racial bonuses and will build a pretty substantial fleet. Like most minor races however, they'll be swept away by the mid game in most cases because minor races never expand.
Pacifist Run: Completely doable, although you still need to build a decent fleet or absolutely everyone will see you as a pushover and attack.
At least one victory condition works in the favor of someone attempting a pacifist run. You can win just by getting into an alliance with every major race in the game. If you have some races that are allied with you and people they don't like open fire on you, you can just call in your allies and let them get their hands dirty for you.
The first After-Action Report linked at the top of this article actually ended with a technological victory, which does not require any offensive action. The guy was literally turtling from the moment he realized he had no chance in hell of winning any important offensive battles. Incidentally, one AI race actually denied the other two AI races a Diplomatic Victory (Ally with all major races, have no wars active) by singlehandedly calling a full cease-fire on all wars... then starting another war up with the player.
There's also the Influence Victory option which can be pacifistic, where instead of bombing the shit out of your neighbors with superior firepower, you "win hearts and minds" with your pop culture and/or propaganda.
If you have researched a lot of influence tech, you can culturally conquer enemy planets pretty easily by building an influence starbase in the enemy system and quickly upgrading its influence modules. Then wait a few dozen turns for the planetary population to rebel. The only way to counter this is with your own influence starbase or a super project that makes a planet immune to such things.
With Twilight of the Arnor, there's another pacifist victory condition: Ascension Victory, which requires you to build a starbase to exploit a special resource known as an Ascension Crystal. It's effectively time-based (although having more than one under your control does speed up the process). That being said, it also paints a big target on your faction, since if all of said starbases are destroyed, the counter resets.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Arcean Empire. They're neutral in their alignment, but due to this they typically side with the good factions. Since they are on average twelve feet tall and very physically powerful, this isn't really a surprise.
Random Event: Lots, from ethical dilemmas that pop up when you colonize some worlds, to "mega" events that can save or wreck your entire empire.
It's apparently not entirely random — the AI picks whichever option is going to make the galaxy descend into batshit insanity. Like giving everyone an extra thousand or so bc per week just when it looks like the galaxy is about to go nuts and declare war on everyone.
If the galaxy is largely at peace, an assassination event can trigger an unavoidable war between two factions. Then the other AI will jump on the opportunity presented.
On the other end of the spectrum, it will sometimes institute a 5-parsec/turn speed limit in the middle of a war on the biggest maps, instantly making military conquest infeasible.
Reinforce Field: According to the tech descriptions, these are mandatory in order to hold the largest ship classes together and ensure they don't tear themselves apart when maneuvering.
Reinventing the Wheel: The tech tree gets reset every time you complete a mission in the campaign; it's possible (if you don't get bored first) to research everything up to and including Doom Rays in the first mission, but you'll still only have Lasers I in the second. Thankfully, though, each mission starts out with a more-advanced set of technologies already researched.
Subverted in the sequel: the Drath Legion are actually pretty nice guys note rating a 75 out 99 on the Karma Meter (99 being pure good and 0 being pure evil). However, they are Chessmasters who will manipulate other factions into starting wars with one another. Also, if you're expecting long snouted theropod/lizard/crocodile people you're going to be disappointed; the Drath have long but fairly thick necks that end in a pretty flat face and resemble sauropods such as Camarosaurus far more than they do theropods like Tyrannosaurus.
Completely averted, weapons technology is much more important than in many turn based strategy games like the Civilization series. No matter how many you have, Basic Laser will never top Black Hole Gun.
Played straight in a non-gameplay sense with mass drivers, which is as simple as shooting small metal balls really really fast. Only good old fashioned armor (made of futuristic alloys) can properly defend against it.
Rouge Angles of Satin: The second game is marred by somewhat erratic proof reading, leading to stuff like the Terrans sending the message "I hope you're hear for trade".
Regardless how advanced your fleet is, a sprawling pirate fleet can blast it to bits unless you create a max size fleet specifically made to counter pirates' technology. It gets ridiculous.
The Mega events in the Dark Avatar expansion can often make this go both ways, especially with the super-virus and rogue Precursor ships event.
The Pirate and Peacekeeper mega-event fleets are made powerful enough to defeat the galactic average tech level and tech types at the time when they spawn. If your fleets are far enough above the average or use a different weapon/defense type than that of the majority, you can still fight and defeat them sometimes. Though if you're still losing ships, it's generally a better policy to retire your fleet, let the invaders beat the tar out of everyone else, and then send fast troop transports on a blockade run to take those now-defenseless enemy planets.
Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Subverted and played straight. Subverted in the case of the Altarians, who are highly religious, but their religion is extremely benign, resulting in a peace loving society with short work hours and a (formerly) four day school week. Played straight in the case of the Krynn Consulate who are much, much more zealous about spreading their beliefs which they call "The Way", though they still lean towards neutrality, so they probably try peaceful conversion before resorting to more...medieval methods.
Though the Krynn are a bit of a toss-up, oddly. There is no indication that they canonically use torture or slavery (though they certainly can, with an evil-aligned player), and while they are willing to convert by the sword in some cases, they believe that if they can convert the galaxy to the Way, it will both trigger the ascension of the Krynn and result in the resurrection of all members of the Krynnic faith who have died, ever...so kind of a case of Utopia Justifies the Means. Also, there's the fact that theirs is the only world in the backstory with multiple native intelligent species where they all learned to live together, rather than killing each other off.
Creating a Galactic Empire that spans a dozen of planets inhabited by hundreds of billions of people takes about 3-5 years.
Also, the description of one of the hyperdrive technologies says "A trip of a million miles will feel like a light year" (Though, given the tone of the descriptions, this is certainly intentional).
Painfully averted on the larger maps, especially if there's been a speed limit law enforced.
The highly improbable population explosions you can end up having at least get a nod — the quarterly report will mention it's impossible for seven billion people to be born in one year... then point out the population is measure by taxpayers, so what you're seeing is colonized worlds having their better-established government doing better censuses.
Though it appears to trigger when a certain population growth for the quarter is exceeded, so sometimes it will call BS on a rather low percentile population growth (205 billion to 210 billion? people cant possibly be born at that rate!)
When you research technological victory, all your clocks show 42.
The Drengins' split into two different factions over the merits of enslaving versus exterminating their opponents parallels the Ur-Quan Doctrinal War in Star Control II. The fact that the rebel faction is called the Korath is probably a nod to this.
The Terran Alliance, in name, emblem and design philosophy, bears a notable resemblance to the Earth Alliance.
Building on the previous point, this is spelled out completely by the Destroyer template for the Terran Alliance. It's an Omega Destroyer from Babylon 5
Space Pirate: One of the Random Events will spawn huge amounts of pirate fleets across the map, attacking everything that isn't a planet or asteroid base. As an added bonus, their capital ships actually look like Age of Sail frigates and galleons.
If you're about to conquer a race, you'll most likely get a message from them saying that they decided to surrender to another opponent. The message makes it clear that they did this purely out of spite.
Hilariously played with in the first of the PC Gamer playthroughs. The AI's do seem to work together against the human player, but only because the human thoroughly insulted all of them. And even this turns out to be a ruse; the AIs are clearly planning and taking steps to undermine each other after the human is defeated (They apparently don't realize defeating him will end the game). Further, the human player actually has an AI empire surrender to him... because they were being beaten by another AI empire and surrendered to the human's non-allied faction out of spite.
Starfish Aliens: The Torians have large heads reminiscent of amphibians, and they have no irises on their eyes. The Iconians have heads that resemble cuttlefish or squids. The most alien race, the Thalans, look like insects - large segmented limbs, but they lack any visible mouth parts, and have six nostrils.
Superweapon Surprise: The player can do this. The computer often declares war based on standing forces, ignoring things like "huge technology advantage", "giant cash stockpiles allowing them to buy a fleet outright" or "allied with several races more powerful than me". All of this info is available to a human player through the Diplomacy system, so if you fall into it yourself you have no-one else to blame.
This very thing happened in the back-story, when an alien race attacked human systems. Humans went from having no defense fleet to totally wiping out the attacking race and back to peaceful in less than a year. This totally freaked the Drengin out (they were watching to gauge how powerful humans were), and they decided that humanity was the most dangerous species they had ever seen up to that point.
Technology Uplift: the Arceans gave humanity the blueprints to a Warp Gate, which suspiciously had no "off" switch, but instead humans combined it with their fusion technology (which the Arceans may have wanted to take by invading) to develop a ship-portable hyperdrive. They then gave hyperdrive and fusion to every sapient species they could contact, and then the game begins.
Tech Tree: A whole orchard of 'em, as of Twilight of the Arnor.
The Singularity: The technological victory is a hard singularity in which your entire civilization achieves godhood.
2-D Space: Kind of necessary, because moving ships and managing things in 3D would be a pain in the neck. Also, see Units Not To Scale below...
Worker Unit: Colony ships, freighters, constructors, space miners, and surveyors, in the sequel. Mind you that you can still put guns on them and make them blow up something, though it's generally pointless in case of colonizers and constructors, which get consumed upon usage. However, upgrading freighters to carry armament and defenses is a good way to prevent their destruction in case you don't have dedicated warfleets nearby to protect them. You can also pack them with sensors and hence make automated drones that will show you what is happening around the map as they do their trade runs.
Villain Protagonist: The eponymous Dark Avatar of the Drengin Empire, in the sequel's first expansion.
Zerg Rush: The AI is fond of swarm tactics, usually based around the idea that powerful gun + cheap, disposable body = a Glass Cannon that can be produced en masse. It can be devastating as hordes of little blighters charge around mugging your transports and doing a little light piracy on the side if they find a freighter, but if you can hold off the outbreak of hostilities for a while you can rush your way to Huge ships that will cut through fleets of fighter craft and frigates like a Korath sacrificial dagger through butter.