hide results

    Terraforming Guide by GSmedstad

    Updated: 03/08/99 | Printable Version | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide

    SMAC: Terraforming Guide
    From: Gus Smedstad <gus@nwcomputing.com>
    Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 19:10:07 -0800
    Here's my thoughts on terraforming.  Reprint as you wish, so long as you
    give me credit :).
    Early in the game, your options for terraforming a square are farm /
    mine, farm / solar collector, or forest.  If the square is rocky, you
    have the additional choice of mine / road, or you can level it to
    "rolling" to get the other choices.
    Solar collectors are highly variable.  Early in the game, they often
    produce as little as 1 energy each.  However, later it's quite easy for
    them to produce 3, if the elevation is 1000+ meters and you have a
    mirror adjacent.  Even lowland collectors can produce 3 if you have two
    mirrors adjacent.  For purposes of discussion, I'll assume they produce
    1-2 each.
    Like Civilization, the key concept in land use in Alpha Centauri is
    food.  Most squares produce just enough food to support one worker, and
    many squares produce less.  Every borehole, mine, or forest you work
    costs you some of your surplus food.
    Before you discover Gene Splicing, the food shortage is even more
    severe, since the city square is the only source of surplus food when
    other squares have a cap of 2 nutrients.
    Generally, then, you must work squares which produce 2 food each, enough
    to break even.  For much of the game, the normal square you work will be
    a moist, rolling square with a farm and a solar collector.  That
    produces 2 food, 1 mineral, and 1-2 energy.  Rainy, rolling squares are
    even better, but not common.
    By "spending" some of your surplus food, you can work squares which
    produce more than 1 mineral and 1 to 2 energy each.  For a cost of two
    food and 2 workers, you can work:
    1 borehole and 1 moist, rolling square with solar collectors, 7 minerals
    and 7-8 energy
    2 forests, 4 minerals and 2 energy
    1 rocky mine with road and 1 moist, rolling square with solar
    collectors, 4 minerals and 1-2 energy
    2 moist or arid rolling squares with mines, 4 minerals
    Boreholes are the clear winner, but they aren't available until you get
    Ecological Engineering.  They also have placement restrictions, so you
    can only build a limited number of them.
    Forests are the next obvious choice.  They're also very easy to create,
    just 4 turns compared to 10 for a farm / solar combination, or 12 for a
    farm / mine combination.  They're superior to rocky mines, unless you
    have to give up a moist, rolling square which produces 3+ energy.
    That's highly unlikely, so clearly you can ignore mines if forest
    squares are available.
    Once you have Gene Splicing, you can get 3 food from rainy squares and
    sea squares with kelp.  Without spending food, two workers can use:
    1 sea with tidal generator and 1 forest, 2 minerals and 4 energy
    1 rainy, rolling square with solar collectors and 1 forest, 3 minerals
    and 2-3 energy
    1 rainy, flat square with solar collectors and 1 forest, 2 minerals and
    2-4 energy
    2 moist, rolling squares with solar collectors, 2 minerals and 2-4
    2 rainy, rolling squares with mines, 4 minerals
    2 seas with mines, 2 minerals
    Working a sea square plus a forest gives you a slight edge in energy
    over working normal squares.  This is probably your first choice, once
    you can build and afford sea formers.
    Working a rainy, rolling square and a forest gives you a slight edge in
    minerals over normal squares.
    Working a rainy, flat square is generally a break-even proposition,
    unless you use the extra food to work a borehole.  It requires less time
    to create, however.  Two normal squares take 20 turns for a former to
    create, and this combination takes 14 turns.
    Working rainy rolling squares with mines gives you a moderate edge in
    minerals, but sacrifices 2-3 energy for the extra mineral.  Not
    Mining sea squares is also a poor choice, but may be the only source of
    minerals for a sea base, or for a land base which has run out of land
    squares.  Once you have Advanced Ecological Engineering, this becomes 4
    minerals, but is still a relatively poor choice.
    In addition to the basic terraforming options, there are mirrors,
    condensers, and aquifers.
    Mirrors are fairly easy to figure out.  Whenever you intend to build a
    solar collector, and there is already a collector adjacent, build a
    mirror.  It takes more time, but you'll get an extra energy point.
    Condensers prevent you from gaining any extra minerals or energy from a
    square, beyond the basic 1 point for rocky or rolling terrain.  For this
    reason, you should place them in a square you don't intend to use for a
    long time, generally a flat, arid square that isn't suitable for a
    borehole.  A square that isn't in any city's radius is even better.
    If your city has enough moist, rolling squares, the benefits of a
    condenser are somewhat small.  You'll build it so you can use more
    forests, and get more minerals, without halting growth.  You should put
    off building one until you've built improvements on all the squares the
    city is using.  Do build one once you have a former free if your squares
    aren't already rainy.
    If your city stops growing because its nearby squares are all arid, a
    condenser becomes a high priority.  However, if sea squares are
    available, kelp is a better solution to food shortages than a condenser.
    Aquifers basically add energy to your squares.  You can be guaranteed +1
    energy in the square you start, but the other squares are somewhat
    random.  Deciding on when to drill an aquifier depends on how likely you
    think it is the new river will flow through squares you're using.
    Now you know what to build.  So what should you build first?
    In decreasing order of time efficiency, your former can build:
                                                  Minerals  Energy
    Improvements                        Time      per turn  per turn
    Forest                                4  turns 0.25     0.25
    Borehole                              24 turns 0.20     0.25
    Kelp + tidal harness                  8  turns          0.37
    Farm + mirror, 3 adjacent collectors  16 turns          0.25
    Farm + mirror, 2 adjacent collectors  16 turns          0.22
    Farm + solar collector (1km)          10 turns          0.20
    Aquifer, adds to 3 squares            18 turns          0.16
    Farm + mirror, 1 adjacent collector   16 turns          0.12
    Condenser + 3 newly usable forests    24 turns 0.12
    Level + farm + collector, rocky (1km) 18 turns          0.11
    Aquifer, adds to 2 squares            18 turns          0.11
    Condenser + 2 newly usable forests    20 turns 0.10
    Farm + solar collector (sea level)    10 turns          0.10
    Kelp + mining platform                12 turns 0.08
    Level + farm + collector, rocky (0km) 18 turns          0.05
    Condenser + 1 newly usable forest     18 turns 0.05
    Aquifer, adds to 1 square             18 turns          0.05
    (apologies if the chart doesn't format correctly for you).
    Using the time chart as a guide, then, your first priority should be
    planting enough forests so that all of your workers are earning 2
    minerals and 1 energy.  Plant arid and moist flat squares.  Plant arid,
    rolling squares if you don't think you'll build a condenser soon.
    Next, build boreholes, if your city can afford to spend the food to work
    Next, build farms and solar collectors on the moist and rainy rolling
    squares.  Building them adjacent (so you can build mirrors) is more
    important than building at high altitudes.  Build mirrors as you go.
    Level rocky squares last, if you have to, in order to build farms and
    Next, build condensers so you can use more forests, or to allow your
    city to grow if food is tight.
    Finally, add new rivers via "drill to aquifer" to add more energy
    output.  Season to taste. :)
    Eventually, your city will probably build a tree farm.  Once you have
    one of these, it's probably worth replacing collectors that are
    producing 1-2 energy with forests.  If the city builds a Hybrid Forest,
    you should probably replace all of your collectors with forests.
    - Gus
      AI programmer and general handyman on Heroes III
      New World Computing
      Time wasted on SMAC analysis is my own, not New World's.