Game play example #5: Mirror Universe

by Brad Wardell (Designer)



Remember those Star Trek episodes where one of the characters ends up in a mirror universe? Everyone that you're used to seeing as a good guy is evil and vice versa. Can that be done in GalCiv? The answer is yes.

In this game, I decided I would play as a good guy but with a twist -- I would change the default alignment settings for each player to being the opposite. The Drengin would be good. The Altarians evil. The Yor, normally evil would now be good and so forth.  My goal was to try to go for cultural domination of the galaxy. A goal that would involve putting virtually all my technology and industrial resources not towards the military but towards culture. To work I would need to avoid getting into wars, make sure I had powerful friends while I quietly took over the galaxy by building a series of star bases that had stores, culture exchange centers, etc. on them to magnify my culture.

This is also the first game play example that makes use of the GalCiv BonusPak. The BonusPak is something we developed after we went to manufacturing as a freebie expansion pack type thing to thank users for purchasing the game.

Here's how my adventure went...

First thing I decided to do is create a civilization that had higher morale than normal. With 30 abilities to choose from, it's very tough to pick which ones to focus on. But my strategy would require that I spend a lot of time in debt which tends to hurt morale so this way I could offset that.

When set up, I had picked the "Pacifists". Their bonuses would increase my natural influence and diplomacy in the galaxy which I would need to avoid war.

Here's where I set the various players to being the opposite alignment than usual. But I did something else, I set the intelligence levels to be different on some races. Whereas some are "Intelligent" which is quite tough, the Yor are set to only be bright. This would have serious repercussions later on.

And off I go...

By playing as a good guy, I would win the favor of the good civilizations. They would be less likely to go to war with me (in theory). Plus, as a backup plan, I could ally myself with the good guys.

Again, as I land on planets I come across various unique things. There are a lot of these and some are less likely to come up than others.

Ah the evil Altarians. Bit of an attitude change. Only thing they're missing is a mustache.

Okay, time to try out the built in MP3 player in the BonusPak. The music in GalCiv is outstanding. But I've heard it for 18 months now. So I am loading up a playlist.

Ah evil Torians. Not so cuddly now. Now they're interested in eating my skin!

And the Yor. No longer interested in converting me into bone flecked jam, now they are happy to report that they exist to provide "pleasure".

The benefits of high influence, I am able to get my way in the United Planets.

Evil Altarians. Bastards.

The Drengin and Altarians spend a lot of time at war with one another. The Altarians are pretty tough because they got a really good start. I have a sensor drone broadcasting live images from the front. Lots of action.

Time to get some basic defense. Even the best diplomat can't be completely undefended.

The Altarians come after me. It is so weird hearing the Altarians speaking this way. Of course, I also tell him where he can go..

Now I'm setting up my governors. I don't have that many planets but I have certain basics I want them all to build and I don't want to have to mess around with them manually.

I'm not exactly a power house but my diplomacy ability is strong enough to keep me out of trouble still.

The Altarians keep trying to intimidate me. They fail. Though actually I am a bit worried. So what I end up doing is using my considerable wealth to purchase ships from other races. In GalCiv, you can buy pretty much anything. And ships are one of them. So I use my diplomatic skills to acquire enough military might to keep me safe.

The down side of doing that is that it makes me go broke. Which in turn causes me to lose the election which in turn makes me lose my political abilities! I lose not just my +20% to influence, but I take a -20% penalty. In effect, my influence is nearly halved!

The Arceans are fairly neutral. But they're worried about the Altarians as well.

But the media seems fixated on the Drengin. With the Drengin and Altarians battling it out, it could go either way. It's very close.

Meanwhile, several of my worlds start inching towards defecting. My influence is so low that my people start to lose faith. A new election is only a few months away so I do what any politician would do, I lower taxes to increase my approval rating.

And it works!

The dying Torians. Not much left now but a few crumbling old buildings. And the owners of them left and formed the Torian Imperium.

The Drengin have been busy. They've allied themselves with the Yor which brought them into the war against the Altarians. The evil Altarians lost the evil Torians and are now alone. Things don't look too well for the Altarians now.

Battleships arrive.

I start focusing on social programs. Not just because they make my people happy (though I learn bitterly at the end that social programs, gone too far, can bankrupt a civilization) but to generally build up infrastructure for later on.

The Arceans are ticking me off. I know I had planned not to go to war but these lamers are too uppity. Who do they think they are? Trapped in the corner, they'd be nothing if it weren't for my money.

The Arceans just have the worst diplomacy. Everyone is ticked off at them but no one is going to war with them yet.

They come back again and try to intimidate them. Last straw.

I'm not strong enough to take on the Arceans. But I know someone who is. A certain someone who depends on me for a third of their revenue...

Heh Heh.

Crap. The other side of the coin. The Altarians and Drengin are at war again and I get dragged in. So now my fate is hitched to that of the good Drengin Empire.

And the Yor, friends of the Drengin and therefore friends of mine help me out but don't get involved directly. The ships are critical though -- 4 Dreadnoughts, and a half dozen cruisers.

Okay, I admit, I'm a little bit lame. The Altarians are down for the count but I really can't deal with them right now. The Drengin won't care about this as long as they don't need my help.

I capture an Arcean planet and steal their technology.

The Arceans though manage to find a powerful starship. Will it be enough?

Yes and no. Humans at strategy games tend to make peace so that they can rearm and repeat. The aliens in GalCiv will do this too. If they can. Of course, the Drengin are still all over them. I just love seeing the aliens grovel though.

Mmmm. More trade routes. Now I can work on the Yor. They will ally with me, or they'll be culturally assimilated...

Meanwhile... I build up to attack them. The Arceans, though not as intelligent as the other civilizations, recognize this and point out their unhappiness. But they're too weak now to do anything about it.

And then I strike.  Good by Arceans...

By now my goodness has changed the interface of GalCiv to reflect my benevolence.. I am also building a lot of missiles (new unit in the BonusPak). Missiles are cheap but you have to be careful, they give you the illusion of power. Like real missiles, they are one shot deals.

The cultural domination starts to work. Influence is a tricky thing. One undocumented thing about it that I need to add to the GalCiv encyclopedia is that your influence is also affected by your overall popularity with other faces.  It's kind of intuitive but it isn't explicitly documented. If everyone hates you, your influence on them will be much less. Now, in this scenario, with only friends left, my influence is very high.

Taking a look at my new planet. Mmm propaganda.

So close, if I can get the Yor to ally with me, game over. Cultural Conquest would be a lot more work. So I'm going to try to get the Yor to like me enough to ally with me. Not an easy task.

So here's the problem. The Yor only get 9% of their income from me. If I'm going to become an ally, that needs to change. I need to trade with them. But I've used up all my trade routes already.

A new minor race shows up. They're pretty deviant I hear..

So now it's time to switch production. Now, I could go to all my planets and do this manually. Or I can do it through the use of governors -- everyone that's building a Dreadnought will now build a constructor instead. One click.

Next step, where are my trade routes? Ideally I want a trade route that is a straight line so that I can build star bases. Here's the deal, in GalCiv, when you make a trade route with your freighter, a trade ship travels back and forth. The money you get each turn depends on how far along on that route. But you can also increase that amount by having star bases in the sectors those trade ships travel. Not just any star base but ones with trade centers and such added to them. If you do this enough, you can greatly increase your trade revenue. So this is what I plan to do: Build a straight line of star bases between Earth and the Yor home world where the trade ships travel and add tons of trade modifying modules to them. This will increase my trade with the Yor and make them more likely to want to be an ally.

Early on the process, my total trade is 582.

So I start adding trade posts and other modules to my star bases along that trade route.

I also use a captured Arcean sensor drone to keep an eye on that Jarkians and Drengin.

Trade per turn now up to 796. And I reached Star Federation so my economy is even stronger than before.

Up to 20% of their income. Relations are now improving.

But I do want to get to higher level weaponry so I research Organic armor.

My plan has an unexpected snag. The galaxy has entered an economic boom. This is normally good but the result is that my trade, as a percent, is significantly lowered. Combine that with the Yor's huge military buid up and things look bleak.

But you know what? Starbases have a dual role. They can also be used to magnify culture. Now, this is a bit of a gambit. But because my star bases are already built up with economic enhancements, I might be able to sneak cultural improvements onto them without the Yor noticing. One must be subtle. If the starbases were purely culturally oriented, then that would be pretty blatant. So let's see how that goes. Plus, the Yor are set to "bright" and not "intelligent" so they're not quite as smart as the Drengin.

So far so good..

Earth is looking good.

Arrgh. Space monster. But I have missiles near by so I wipe him out easily.

Now we'll let Nike and McDonalds and Disney do the conquering for me.

Day 2...

Here's where I left off.

I'm pretty close to winning via a variety of ways.

I shift-Drag to select a bunch of units and send them over to be near the Yor, just in case. Not in their sectors mind you, just nearer.

Look at that fleet. I don't want to have to battle that. Can I conquer the Yor non-violently?


The Yor are not amused. They see through my plan. But it is too late. Even though I am forced to hand over that star base, the cultural inertia is too far in my favor now.

Here's why: The loss of those planets has caused the Yor to go bankrupt. They have too many expenses and while they have tried to downsize their military, it's just too late. They have too many leases and expenses and such built up throughout the game to adjust to the loss of so many worlds so quickly. All without firing a single shot.

The Independent League shows up as the Drengin and Yor and myself being to face money problems from all those social programs.

So close...


Here it comes! Only 9 months left and I win.

The last gasp of dying regimes.

VICTORY! I only had to destroy 35 ships throughout the entire 2 day game. It was a very close thing and quite a challenge. It takes a lot of diplomatic juggling to do so. It also required some good geography, I was able to trade with races unmolested and the extra 2 United Planets given trade routes put me to the maximum 10 trade routes which I used to good effect.

Submitting my score to the Metaverse.

Yay, I'm in the top ten. But look at those bastards. Yea, you know who you are! Gamma team indeed! They all banded together to create their own empire. That's why they have their own symbol. In GalCiv, you have both individual rankings and empire rankings (think "clans"). My empire "Arnor" is lonely now but you just wait! :)

There's my profile. Your hall of fame is kept track of on the web. That way, let's say you play GalCiv on your laptop as well as on a second machine. You can have a single global high score list to see how you're doing. Plus, I've won my first medal for being in the top 10. GalCiv tracks I think the top 5,000 players. Might be higher than that (might be top 10,000). Right now it's pretty easy to be in the top 10. And I'm still ranked an ensign for now.


Often times one plays strategy games and the only realistic way to win is through conquest. But there are other paths available in GalCiv. They require skill but they're also a lot of fun. It also requires some tactical knowledge such as figuring out where to send those freighters and then positioning your starbases in the right way. And it takes real strategic planning. I was only 6% of the way through the technologies in GalCiv when I won. Two days. In GalCiv, you're not meant really to get all the techs. You pick which path you want to take. I chose the path of cultural dominator and went for it. It was high risk though. The Yor had overlord battle technology which in essence meant that they could easily have conquered me. So why didn't they? Because I was allied with the Drengin. And while the Drengin were allied with the Yor as well, they wouldn't have necessarily, or even likely sided with them because the Drengin needed my trade.

So there you have it. Visit us at if you want to learn more about the game.