A largely interesting game produced by none other than...you guessed it, a man named Sid Meier. I really can't say much for the individuals who are talking about the game's antecedents however I can tell you of my impressions and maybe some more full details because there is little in here for anyone who dosn't have the game (like I didn't until a little while ago).
The genre is what is termed turn based strategy which means that there are two main definiting factors in the game play which may/may not interest most people. A strategy game is basically a game in which the people involved are utilizing some form of military tactics usually to do something.
The second part is the turned based part. This basically means that the game will not just go as fast as possible or really have any adjustable speed. In fact speed is irrevelent to the game because you can think as long as possible for your turn to occur. There is however one drawback to the whole thing: namely speed and patience. Speed becuase if you have to control increasingly large numbers of units (individually controlled "men" or "people" depending on what sex they happen to be or maybe robots).
Any rate the main groups are as follows and a bit about them:
Basically extreme environmentalists who take a passive response to industrial technology and who wish to preserve the Alpha Centaurian planet from encraochment. Her faction can control the creation and employment of mind worms, a form of native fauna that can attack and instill fear into the individuals whom they attack. The usual result is that the worms will want to bore into the skull cavity of the people who they attack and drive them to eventual death.
The main thing that I would like to point out about her is that for the most part she is ideologically opposed to people like the Morgan Industries faction and such but from what I can tell this is only theoretical from the (customizable even) rules that I was playing under.
The Human Hive
A repressive regime run by a brutal tyrant. This guy really never learned the game that fascism shouldn't have proprogated. He believes in force and repression to achieve efficiency and is a brutal utilitarian. However more politically inclined than Morgan he really is more evil in terms of his applications of his philosophy.
The Hive is also vastly efficient in terms of their ability to handle things like produciton of raw power and goods. They will be able (on average) to churn out a great deal of troops and supplies if they are attacked or require so.
The University of Planet
An intellectual faction which sounds (at least in the story) to be run by a massively powerful university dean of some sort. Really an intellectual at heart he is more of a researcher and what would be called a neural faction for most.
I could make an easy cheap shot (he's the kind of man Bill Gates would like to be if he was only more efficient and trusted but that would be too easy) but for the most part I have found that Morgan (don't ask me for his first name I would most likely misspell it it should be in some of the other writeups) is usually a good initial ally because of his willingness to usually share information and to quickly make pacts.
His whole civilization is basically a business enterprise which is most likely a horizontal monopoly for his people. He is able to specialize in various forms of production which aims to duplicate and of course improve upon designs and decisions of earth's system.
However I have to point out that eventually he started to stab me in the back durring packs of brotherhood (more close alliances in which military units can move over territory and use bases to attack common enemies and stay in effect until you rescind them) when he started to send probe teams (spies which specialize in techniques of invasive surveilance and espionage) into my territory. Eventually I was able to do a "secret project" (basically a massive specialized method of learning which cannot be traded like most of the discoveries and is longlasting) which foiles enemy probe teams.
The Spartan Federation
I've played as them and personally I really like them. They are self-proclaimed survivalists. They are able to make something out of nothing. They also do not incur costs to build prototypes of various things. They also later invent both air powwer and "space flight" again (although space flitght seems to be limited to things like the Germans did with offensive rockets and such like the V2).
I really chose them because they sounded like the most commited to survive and thrive.
The Lord's Believers
Ok I know I am also a little biased but has anyone played Final Fantasy X? Remember the Church of Yevon? She looks like one of the leaders.
Basically Sister Miram is a religious person who seems to have taken various forms of scientific principles and created a wierd mix of science, religion, and philosophy.
The Peacekeeping Forces
The peacekeeper's faction lead by a man named Brother Lal. Now I know what most of you are thinking. This guy looks like the twin brother of a certain Saudi Arabian international notriety who happend to convince some of his vapid copatriots into moving 747s into an office complex in New York City, New York USA but you have to try to keep most of that out of your mind (I tried at first and I would have been in fact the Peacekeepers just for their humanitarian leanings but I decided on the Spartans) when you deal with him.
Lal is in fact what could be called the representative of the United Nations presence on this mission (the mission having been started by the UN to promote unity and the like. Unfortunately Lal seems to be a hipocrite because all of the factions including The Hive invoke some UN dictum of lack of witholding information.
All in all the best people I think because of these various factors (which I can't say are totally balanced with everything would be the Spartans because of:
Lack of ideology which can get them into trouble.
A pioneering can do attitude that is reflected in their abilities to do various things like stand much.
Lack of cost to create prototypes.
Flexibility to change any of their perameters from an initial body politic into any structure they desire.