I completed my second full match in Alpha Centauri Sunday night.

It was actually my fourth match but only the second I played through to the end. I recall aborting one match less than a hundred turns in ’cause I got into a land war with the Spartans as the Morganites — the other, I played until I got bored.

This weekend, I played my first match as a faction other than Morgan — the University. Wow, what a difference those starting bonuses can make.

So, first thing I noticed was how awesome it was not to have the initial cap on population set to four. That alone made an enormous difference.

The research bonus meant that I leaned even more heavily on technology than I did before. I still need to figure out what some of those “lab” bonuses actually do, because I’m pretty sure I can improve my game by not maxing out every city.

Until I figure out all the nitty-gritty, I like to play the “benevolent dictator,” and just upgrade all my cities to be as happy and prosperous as possible.

After all, I’ve read the Evil Overlord List.”

When the match began, I landed in the center of a sizable continent with the Gaians to my northwest and the Believers to my southeast.

I made peace with both of them right away so I could collect commerce bonuses, and also ’cause I lost my capital to a feral mind worm blitz.

It was a good lesson in objectivity — I learned that I could get by for 10+ turns without a capital. I don’t remember exactly how long I waited to rebuild it.

I’m also not sure how I did it. Maybe I found a bug?

Since I wasn’t playing as the Morganites, whose general strategy hates military and police (lousy Support, Morale, and Police scores), I was actually able to build up assault and garrison forces to protect my colonies.

I eventually settled into Democracy plus Green economy in pursuit of Knowledge until I developed that wonder which grants immunity to probe teams — then I switched my ideal from Knowledge to Power. Social engineering, yay!

Playing at difficulty, um, “2?” I developed most of the continent before either the Gaians or Believers grabbed much. I pushed the boundaries by building colonies right on the borders where fungus stopped the AI colonizing.

The first faction I came into conflict with was the Spartans — which has been the case almost every match. I allied with the Morganites, and the Spartans wiped Morgan off the board less than 10 turns later.

To “avenge” my allies, I landed a bunch of speeders on the Spartan’s lightly-defended side and gobbled up basically all of their smaller colonies up to — and including — their capital, before I accepted their offer of a truce.

The next faction that gave me trouble was the Hive. Which also seems typical.

I think the Hive had run afoul my Gaian allies, so I accepted a proposed vendetta against the Hive. I developed air superiority really early in the game, so I started bombing the coastal colony closest to me.

Shortly after I landed some newly-minted speeders and seized the colony, the Hive offered a Truce in exchange for their city back — so I took it.

The Spartans had been antagonistic allies at best, so as soon as the Gaians offered a joint vendetta against the Spartans — and the Spartans refused my calls for peace — I “betrayed” them and took all but three of their colonies.

That’s what you get for not answering the phone, Santiago.

At that point, the Spartans “surrendered” to me. I let them stay in the game in exchange for a Brotherhood pact (because commerce, duh!), and they actually managed to pull a fair score by the end of the game. (Good for them!)

The Believers hated me by then, so I antagonized them until they declared vendetta against me. After taking all their sea bases and all but two of their land colonies, I tried to convince them to Brotherhood up, but they refused so long as I was allied with Spartans+Gaians+Peacekeepers. So I ended their side.

Then the Hive started getting on my case.

Using air superiority alone, I started eroding the Hive’s numerically-superior military until I built up the naval forces necessary to seize their sea-bases.

Let me tell you, figuring out all the troop-transport technology is a nightmare. Especially making air-based landings. You basically need a foothold on land — which is hard to do when you can’t seize colonies from the air.

It means every assault over seas has to include landings.

I did finally figure out how to do air-drops with drop pods though!

When I had conquered enough of the Hive to obtain the population to force a Diplomatic victory (I’d tried before and gotten 2/3 but not 3/4), I was about four turns from ending the game. Solar activity knocked out comms.

So, with nothing to do for 10-20 years, I just continued pumping out Clean (support-less) needlejets and speeders, and absorbed a dozen Hive cities.

I ended the Hive shortly before comms were restored — I like to imagine Yang being captured while screaming “your call cannot be completed as dialed.”

A few turns before I ended the game in a Diplomatic victory, I adopted a Cybernetic future society. I’d been considering trying out “Thought Control” for a long time before that, but it would have been bad for my big military.

The Peacekeepers were the only surviving faction that voted against me — but at that point I had 500+ votes to their