Alpha Centauri is a pretty old pair of games as such things go, the height of a bygone era in gaming, but it's also a game in which having the same leading figures for centuries is not merely an abstraction as in Civilisation. These guys canonically live...in one form or another..for centuries right up until the end. At one point a new young protege of the viewpoint character is introduced and she'll almost certainly be over a century old by that point. So as I shake my stick at you kids with your RTS's and FPS's I have to accept that this is a geezer of a game starring some very badass grandpa and grannys you should not mess with.
Now the Planetary Pack, which I have, contained both Sid Meir's Alpha Centauri and Sid Meir's Alien Crossfire, the less than commercially successful expansion pack/sequel. There was nothing particularly wrong with Alien Crossfire. It added some neat elements while retaining all the good stuff from Alpha Centauri's game play. But it just wasn't a big enough upgrade that an Alpha Centauri fan felt he had to get it.
But since we have it, we will be using Alien Crossfire, with a mix of factions from both games. This isn't such good news for the original factions. Sequel Escalation means that the Alien Crossfire factions have better starting advantages than their predecessors. Out of 14 possible factions (including the 2 alien factions), 7 will actually be in the game.
Our options for play are:
Peacekeepers: The Peacekeepers are the faction that holds most closely to the original United Nations charter for the colony. They have a reputation for being a "weak" faction, but this reputation is based on lower difficulty levels. At the highest ones they show their true strength. Their priorities are democracy and egalitarian civil liberties, but their weakness is that their government tends to be rather committee driven and inefficient. Their strength is that their people riot less often, and they have an edge in planetary elections as the "legitimate successor to the United Nations". Their goal is to achieve a political victory uniting the planet under their leadership.
Morgan Industries: Morgan Industries are a corporation founded by the man whose Earthside interests constructed the starship that brought everyone here. Their priority is making a profit and their strength is that they have an edge in doing so. Their goal is to "corner the energy market", taking over the planet financially. Their biggest problem is that the free market strategies that make the most money for most of the game leave them struggling with political instability and anger the native life. Their goal is hardest of all the victories to achieve, so they frequently settle for a political or scientific victory.
Spartan Federation: The Spartans are the faction that believes in military excellence. They have a reputation for being the strongest faction, but this reputation is based on their performance at lower difficulty levels where their troop quality bonus lets them carry out blitz attacks early in the game. At higher levels, that doesn't work out so well for them. Still, their strength is that they can field troops of superior quality, and they win the exploration race at the start of the game with their rovers. Their weakness is a production penalty that can leave them outnumbered and underdeveloped. Their goal is to dominate the planet militarily.
The Believers: The Believers are the faction that worship the Creator of the universe and want everyone else to do it as well. They aren't precisely Christian, but they are more Christian than anything else. Like the Spartans, they can dominate lower level games with rover rushes. Unlike the Spartans, they have advantages that serve them extremely well at higher levels of the game. Their strengths are an offensive bonus that makes their troops enormously effective taking on fortified bases, and the ability to make their bases and probes immune to subversion by cranking up the fanaticism. Their weakness is a technological research penalty, but that can be countered by their excellent espionage. Their goal is to dominate the planet militarily or politically. Makes no difference to them.
The University of Planet: The University are the faction that believes nothing should stand in the way of Science! Their priority is technological advancement. Their weakness is that no limits really means no limits. Their poor and uneducated people can be rather disgruntled about being used as guinea pigs. Their strength, of course, is the bonus to technological development and they strive for a scientific victory.
The Hive: The Hive are the unequivocal villains of the game. Their agenda is to unite the world in a totalitarian state where everyone knows their meritocratic place and obedience is absolute. Their strength is their ability to run a socialist police state in an economically viable manner and crush all opposition with an iron fist. Their weakness is that while their state is economically viable, they tend to find themselves short of funds to accelerate development. They seek dominance by any and all means.
The Nautilus: The Nautilus are a sea borne culture who regard all the oceans as their territory, and any land dweller who ventures there as fit prey for their pirates. Their strength is a set of oceanic bonuses that make them nearly unbeatable at sea. Their weaknesses are that the land contains more readily available mineral resources and they lack any particular bonuses there, and that it takes them longer to build their oceanic bases. Still it is rare for the Nautilus to be finally militarily defeated. They seek a military victory.
The Free Drones: Having overthrown their former masters they now dedicate themselves to industry and freedom...if a kind of freedom where you'd better not slack off. Otherwise your co-workers will correct your laziness with a sound beating. Their strength is a big production bonus that makes it easy for them to dominate on land. Their weakness is a general lack of actual money. They seek a "scientific" victory, although they'd probably think of it an industrious victory.
The Cybernetic Consciousness: The Cyborgs seek to become one with the machines and leave their biological frailties behind. Or possibly they are machines out to control humanity depending on how you look it. Their strengths are a bigger research bonus even than the University, plus the ability to run a very large empire with a minimum of waste. Their weakness is a trifling reluctance to engage in biological reproduction, which isn't a very bad thing at high difficulty levels, where rapid population growth leads to unrest.
The Gaians, the Planet Cult and the alien factions will not be options for play. The Gaians because they are the annoying Sues of this universe. So nice and right about everything it makes me sick. The Cult are like their evil twins. As for the Aliens, they are so handicapped in interaction with human factions in each other that it just would't be very interesting to blog them. Other than that I am open to suggestions. Note that three Crossfire factions at the end are very powerful and in the hands of a human player are liable to slap around the world fairly easily.
Apart from that the settings I intend to use are:
Transcendent Difficulty (Because anything less is just being a wimp). On Transcendent difficulty all of the NPC factions have a production bonus to make things challenging and the only way to win is with intelligent use of combined arms doctrine.
And in the interest of verisimilitude I won't be setting precise technological goals. Cultures really can't produce technological breakthroughs to order.