In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (or SMAC), the Social Engineering screen is where you control the policies and aims of your faction’s endeavors. These boil down to the 10 social factors, rated on a simple numeric scale, and modified by faction profile, social engineering choices, and base improvements, including Secret Projects.
- Economy: commerce and treasury (energy unit currency).
Nonzero Economy provides a bonus/penalty to energy production at each base; high Economy will also provide bonus trade income.
- Efficiency: bureaucratic effectiveness, moderated by base size and distance from headquarters. Optimize for Efficiency when you have a large empire of widespread bases.
- Support: cost of unit maintenance. Affects whether bases provide "free" mineral production each turn.
- Morale: combat unit effectiveness.
- Police: effect of unit presence on citizen happiness. Affects whether nerve stapling is available.
- Growth: population growth rate. At +6 Growth, every base will grow one size, every turn, as if you had built the Cloning Vats Secret Project.
- Planet: harmony with Planet’s ecology. Affects resource production from fungus squares, mind worm capture capability, ecological damage from excessive mineral production, and combat strength of native units.
- Probe: effectiveness of probe teams and vulnerability to enemy probe teams.
- Industry: affects the cost to build facilities and units.
- Research: affects rate of technological advance.
The game offers choices among 4 social models, in each of 4 social arenas: Political, Economic, Values, and Society Type. Regardless of faction, only the simplest models in each social aspect are available at game start. When a requisite Tech advance is discovered, the attendant social model will be made available in the Social Engineering screen. The simple models (Frontier politics, Simple economy, Survival values, "None" society type) do not modify the Social Factors ratings. Other models are associated with profiles of modifiers to the Social Factors ratings. The following list notes the prerequisite Tech advance in parentheses:
- Frontier: no modifiers
- Police State (C2: Doctrine: Loyalty): +2 Support & Police, -2 Efficiency (net 0)
- Democratic (E2: Ethical Calculus): +2 Efficiency & Growth, -2 Support (net +2)
- Fundamentalist (D2: Secrets of the Human Brain): +2 Probe, +1 Morale, -2 Research (net +1)
- Simple: no modifiers
- Free Market (B2: Industrial Economics): +2 Economy, -3 Planet, -5 Police (net -6)
- Planned (D2: Planetary Networks): +2 Growth, +1 Industry, -2 Efficiency (net +1)
- Green (E3: Centauri Empathy): +2 Efficiency & Planet, -2 Growth (net +2)
- Survival: no modifiers
- Power (C4: Advanced Military Algorithms): +2 Support & Morale, -2 Industry (net +2)
- Knowledge (B4: Cyberethics): +2 Research, +1 Efficiency, -2 Probe (net +1)
- Wealth (B3: Industrial Automation): +1 Economy & Industry, -2 Morale (net 0)
- "None": no modifiers
- Cybernetic (D10: Digital Sentience): +2 Efficiency, Planet & Research; -2 Probe (net +4)
- Eudaimonic (E12: Eudaimonia): +2 Economy, Growth & Industry, -2 Morale (net +4)
- Thought Control (E9: The Will To Power): +2 Morale, Police & Probe, -3 Support (net +3)
Changing of social models incurs an "upheaval cost". At the lowest difficulty level, this fee is waived. At higher difficulty levels, the cost is an exponential variable, increasing with the number of models you change at one time. The manual advises to change no more than one model per turn to minimize the cost of implementing sweeping social change.
The Social Engineering screen also shows how your energy units (SMAC's currency) are being allocated between Economy, Psych, and Research. Setting the Economy slider high will help you accumulate more energy units in your treasury; a high Psych setting will result in less Drones and more Talents in each base's population; and allocating energy toward Research will increase the rate at which your faction discovers new Tech advances. Psych is not a real focus in low-difficulty games, but the threat of chronic drone riots should encourage you to pay some attention to Psych at higher difficulty levels.
Each faction in SMAC has a unique profile of strengths and weaknesses, reflecting a basic social philosophy. This profile shows, in part, as a set of adjustments to social factor ratings. Each faction has one "agenda" and one "aversion" choice, simulating (in)compatibility of the model with the faction’s social philosophy. Computer-controlled factions will tend to implement their respective agenda models, and the "aversion" model is always unavailable to the faction, whether human- or computer-controlled. Diplomacy with computer-controlled rival factions will be affected by your choices; in general, they will be tend to be more friendly if you implement their "agenda" choice, and more hostile if you use their "aversion" choice.
- Gaian (green): +2 Efficiency, +1 Planet, -1 Morale & Police.
Agenda: Green economics. Aversion: Free Market economics.
- Hive (blue): +1 Growth & Industry; -2 Economy.
Agenda: Police State politics. Aversion: Democracy politics.
- University (white): +2 Research, -2 Probe.
Agenda: Knowledge values. Aversion: Fundamentalist politics.
- Morganite (yellow): +1 Economy, -1 Support.
Agenda: Free Market economics. Aversion: Planned economics.
- Spartans (black): +2 Morale, +1 Police; -1 Industry.
Agenda: Power values. Aversion: Wealth values.
- Believing (orange): +1 Probe; -2 Research, -1 Planet.
Agenda: Fundamentalist politics. Aversion: Knowledge values.
- Peacekeepers (lilac): -1 Efficiency.
Agenda: Democracy politics. Aversion: Police State politics.
Considering all Social Factors equally, you may note that some factions have a decided dis/advantage: the Gaians get a net +1, while Believers get a net –2. Be aware that each faction gets additional game-mechanics considerations that mitigate the factional Social Factor modifier imbalances. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out what rivalries develop as factions discover the requisite advances for their "agenda" models.
Society models, faction modifiers, and world parameters (e.g. size or native life prevalence) all interplay to suggest a wide range of optimal strategy. Some maps demand aggressive Growth and attendant optimization for Efficiency, while others encourage optimization for Support, Morale, and Industry - a war machine. Choosing society models that meet the demands of the map, and offset or enhance your faction's modifiers, will go a long way toward your survival at the highest difficulty levels.