“Proper care and education for our children remains a cornerstone of our entire colonization effort. Children not only shape our future; they determine in many ways our present. Men and women work harder knowing their children are safe and close at hand. And never forget that, with children present, parents will defend their home to the death.”
— Col. Corazon Santiago, “Planet: A Survivalist’s Guide”
Children’s Creches are fairly inexpensive early game buildings that require the Ethical Calculus technology to construct. They have several salutary effects that the game’s UI doesn’t do a very good job of exposing, but that are together collectively pretty important. Intriguingly, they map closely to the benefits the Democracy social engineering choice provides on a collective level.
First, the base gets an efficiency bonus. This means that the faction’s efficiency modifier is treated as higher than it otherwise would be for the purposes of determining energy loss and additional drones. But it does not have any effect on the faction’s global efficiency score. This is a pretty big deal. Once the base gets big and prosperous enough, this energy savings (since it comes from raw energy before it is processed into energy credits, Labs, or Psych spending) can yield more than a straight multiplier building.
Second, the base gets a growth bonus. Just like efficiency, the base is treated as being higher on the growth social engineering scale than the faction it’s in. Normally, a base has to gather enough nutrients to fill up a box, where the rows are determined by the current size of the base and columns are determined by the base’s effective growth level in the social engineering screen. So shrinking this box directly improves the number of turns it takes to get the next citizen point.
But the fact that this bonus comes from a base facility instead of from the social engineering table is critical. That’s because at an exceptionally high growth level, bases will enter what is called a “population boom”. In this status, the base will grow one size every turn as long as there is a nutrient surplus. This is much, much faster than the normal rate. So much so that pretty much all skilled human play revolves around planning for and then executing population booms.
Most factions can achieve this status through running Democracy + Planned + Children’s Creches everywhere. The Hive, who can’t use Democracy, do not have a large enough inherent growth bonus to hit pop boom status with just Planned and creches. And the Morganites, who cannot use Planned, can’t get there naturally either.
This game would be badly broken if two of the seven factions were ideologically barred from executing population booms. However, there is a final growth-enhancing mechanic that both of these factions can use to get the missing growth bonus: golden ages. When a base has no drones and half or more of the population are Talents (or happy citizens), the base enters a golden age. In this mode, the base gets a bonus to growth and to energy production, which is enough for both Morgan and Yang’s factions to boom, too.
The third benefit creches provide is perhaps more surprising. As Colonel Santiago describes at the end of the quote that goes along with the facility, soldiers fighting in defense of a base with a Children’s Creche get a substantial morale bonus. Since it is a morale bonus and not a fortification bonus, it applies in both regular and psi combat.
Finally, it’s worth briefly noting just how thoroughly the Spartan’s militarism permeates their worldview. This quote shows that when Santiago looks at a bunch of kids playing in preschool, she isn’t only imagining the warriors they’ll become. She’s also planning on the ferocity she can inspire from her soldiers if she puts the preschool on the front lines. Which is an effect that is simultaneously true to life, surprising, and would only be modeled in SMAC.