“Our scientists now use fractal theory to “teach” the molecules to assume, or resume, a particular form. Substances of amazing strength become simple once the formulae are properly computed.”
— Col. Corazon Santiago, “The Council of War”
Nanometallurgy is classified in the game as an eighth-tier exploration technology. It depends on Probability Mechanics and Doctrine: Initiative, the latter of which is interesting because it is so many tiers below. And all it does is to unlock a few really cool options for unit abilities.
First, a faction can now add the Deep Pressure Hull ability onto a ship. This turns that ship into a submarine. The ship becomes invisible to enemy units when it is out on the open ocean. Combat still happens if an enemy tries to move into the square occupied by the sub, but the enemy won’t see it coming until they blunder into it.
Second, the Carrier Deck can be added to a ship with a transport module. This allows the transport to serve as a mobile airbase, just as one would probably expect a carrier to be able to do. I believe this also enables ships to base and launch missiles, since missiles count as air units along with ‘copters and needlejets.
And, third, any unit with a transport module can be equipped with a Repair Bay. This allows the transport to repair any ground units that are currently being transported. Normally, units that are out in the open can rest and gain a little health, but when they are being transported they don’t count as idle.
The neat thing about these powers is that they can be mixed and matched to some extent in the unit designer. So, if the player so desires, he can make a fleet of undetectable, deadly submarine/carrier combinations. Or a speedy submarine transport that heals its commando squads between missions.
It’s no wonder that Colonel Santiago is so excited about the implications of this new technology. Although it is quite interesting to contemplate the fact that it seems to require such advanced technology to match feats that were comparatively rather trivial on Earth. It’s true that operating a carrier would bring with it some new challenges on Planet. For instance, since the crew can’t breathe on the surface, either there must be some really cool way to get the planes on and off the carrier, or everyone has to be wearing complicated breathers at all times. Perhaps this is why it requires the second-level forcefield technology as one of its prerequisites.
But, on net, I think that these problems should be soluble in a way that doesn’t require sci-fi nano-scale manipulation of the already-futuristic silksteel. Carriers and submarines are each at least a century old by now in real life, after all. And this technology usually comes too late on the tree to actually matter, given all the other even-more-amazing ways to crush one’s enemies that show up by the time a player could possibly deploy his new carrier fleet.
Were I to tweak this, I would make the tech that unlocks these powers a sixth-tier tech instead. The most straightforward implementation would be another doctrine technology that combines Doctrine: Air Power and Doctrine: Initiative. The idea being ships plus airplanes equal carriers. Seems to make sense. Then the carriers would come early enough to matter in many more games.
This would leave open the question as to what to do with this current technology. It’s a pretty cool quote, after all, and it occupies a place on the tech tree that makes a good deal of sense. So it’s a good idea to have the Nanometallurgy technology right where it is.
Therefore, my recommendation would be to keep the Repair Bay here and buff it some to make it more worthy of a full tech’s investment. Maybe it would heal more HP per turn? Then have the new tech (Doctrine: Carrier?) feed into Nanometallurgy as the prerequisite instead of Doctrine: Initiative, which would now be implied.
Honestly, though, it really doesn’t matter all that much. Most players wouldn’t even notice the change. Just like in the main Civilization line of games, carriers and submarines are mostly toys that the player gets to have fun with in that period between when the game is largely decided and when it actually comes to a conclusion.