Base Facility: Perimeter Defense

“Having now established a secure perimeter, we have made ourselves relatively safe from enemy incursions. But against the seemingly random attacks by Planet’s native life only our array of warning sensors can help us, for the Mind Worms infiltrate through every crevice and chew through anything softer than plasmasteel.”

— Lady Deirdre Skye, “The Early Years”

Perimeter Defenses require Doctrine: Loyalty to build.  They are cheap in minerals and in energy maintenance and grant a large defensive bonus to any units stationed in the base.  Notably, each Hive base starts with Perimeter Defenses active, to reflect how the Hive builds each of their bases underground as a maze of twisting, easily defensible tunnels.

Because of that, one might have expected the quote to come from Chairman Yang.  But, instead, we are treated to a quote from Lady Deidre.  She dwells on the fact that fortifications do not avail human defenders against mind worms.  Because mind worms are terrifying.  Of course, that’s not how she puts it.  She practically worships the mind worms, even as she also seeks to understand them scientifically.  But anything that can burrow straight through concrete as easily as dirt is not to be trifled with.

From this quote, one can start to picture the Gaians early game strategy in the canon.  They established a broad sensor net to get early warning of encroaching worms.  Then, where the Morganites would passively remain in their bases, relying on the sensor bonus and hypnotic trances to fight off the worms, the Gaians would strike out and attempt to co-opt and redirect the worms away from their settlements.  This is the natural extension of their religious injunction to work with the Planet rather than against it to the military realm.

As modeled by the game, the Gaians’ strategy is probably superior most of the time.  That’s due to a few factors.  First, the psi attacker gets a significant bonus on land.  Second, when winning an attack against a stack of mind worms all occupying the same square, a successful attack kills them all.  Whereas if you hide behind your static defenses, each mind worm gets to attack.  This means that fewer mobile base defenders can protect more bases, as it is rare that lots of worms come on the exact same turn from different directions.

Finally, when defeating a mind worm boil on the attack, the attacking force gets a small amount of energy credits depending on the size of the boil.  In the early game, these credits are a very valuable reward for exploration.  They’re almost as valuable, in and of themselves, as salvaging the scattered supply pods from the crashed Unity.  Later in the game, this potential source of income isn’t a big deal to a faction like the Morganites.  But to the Gaians (who can’t run Free Market) or the chronically energy-poor Hive (who don’t really get any benefit from Free Market with their native Economy penalty), the so-called “farming” of mind worms by exploring fungus squares can be a significant boost.


8 thoughts on “Base Facility: Perimeter Defense

    1. Nick Stipanovich Post author

      I’ve listened to a couple of interviews he’s done with other designers. He sounds like a pretty great guy. But his approach wasn’t very systematic. As best as I can gather, this is what he did.

      1) Start with a Civ 2 clone.
      2) Reskin it with sci-fi themes, because you’re a total sci-fi nerd.
      3) Realize that it kind of sucked compared to Civ.
      4) Have the amazing insight to realize why it sucked: nobody really understood or cared about what was going on. That’s because people have some vague idea of real history, but they have no grounding for your new sci-fi world.
      5) Start coming up with leader characters to fill the void.
      6) Realize that you’re also a philosophy nerd and go all out on making these characters and their ideology.
      7) Once the ideologies and backstory came alive, let what comes out of that naturally affect the game mechanics.
      8) Keep playing the game and iterate on the above (gameplay->story->gameplay->story) until you have something awesome.
      9) Then, keep iterating because it’s the late ’90s golden age, and there’s nobody stopping you from making the most totally awesome thing you can.
      10) Make a couple of RTSes and then go work for Zynga because we can’t have nice things.


      1. ramblog

        Do you know how the RTSs were? I don’t think he’s with Zynga anymore so maybe there’s hope that we’ll get nice things again. Although, the point of your blog seems to be that he gave us the NICEST thing.


      2. Nick Stipanovich Post author

        It may not be the nicest thing. But it’s definitely something unique. And that’s the real tragedy, I think. Nobody took up the torch and did anything like this again. The expansion was pretty obviously an extension just for the sake of selling more product; it’s not really canon. And then, despite the positive critical reception and decent sales, not only wasn’t there a SMAC 2, there wasn’t even a cheap clone that tried to do the same thing.

        The closest thing I can think of to a successor is Planetfall, which tries to port SMAC to Civ 4. This is a noble effort, as SMAC forked from Civ 4 instead of Civ 2 would be even more amazing. But the guys that are doing it are tied to Civ 4 mechanics that don’t really make a lot of sense in the context of SMAC. They don’t have the freedom to let the story feed back into the mechanics in the same way that Reynolds did, and as such even porting all the assets from SMAC doesn’t recreate the magic.

        As for Reynolds’ other work, I hear Rise of Nations was pretty good. I never played it, myself. But it wasn’t trying to hit any of the same buttons as SMAC.


      3. Nick Stipanovich Post author

        It’s just a sci-fi skin of Civ 5. The developers explicitly disavowed SMAC when they made it. Since I prefer Civ 4 to Civ 5, I just played some more Civ 4 instead.


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