Over the weekend, I finally played Alpha Centauri.

I have seriously meant to play this game for over ten years. At one point (two desktops upgrades ago), I had it installed on my PC and never so much as launched it. But this weekend, The Stars Were Right.

My first game I played on the smallest map, at the lowest difficulty, as the Morganites. Jumping into it as I did, I really had no idea what to expect in terms of . . . well, anything really. The first faction I encountered were the Believers.

They wanted to ally, and I was like, “okay, cool.”

Diplomacy in SMAC is much better than I’ve grown used to from erm, other titles. It was cool swapping tech and stuff with the other factions. It was also nice that my first diplomatic encounter wasn’t immediately hostile.

I got sick of that in Master of Magic. Merlin was always a jerk to me.

Soon after that, I encountered the University and the Gaians. I allied with both of them, though the University was eliminated in the first few hundred turns by . . . the Spartans, I think. Or the Hive. I don’t remember exactly.

I have to attribute a lot of my early success to the fact I began alone on a smallish island. Not unlike my very first game in Master of Magic.

I was able to build and explore, largely unrestricted for dozens of turns before my first encounters with other factions. Long enough to determine some of the basic differences in building, exploring, and colonizing in SMAC.

The map required some . . . adjustment. Also, the turn-skipping. It seems as though multiple turns will pass until a unit needs orders. But I’m not sure because I can’t find a reference to it anywhere in the game’s options or documentation.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the game to me is the Social Engineering. It’s remarkable how versatile this system is, how effective it is at differentiating the factions, and also — to informing diplomatic relationships.

Of all the systems in the game, this is the one I’m looking the most forward to analyzing. I’m already trying to pry it apart and figure it out.