Master of Orion is the original that started the series in 1993.
By the beginning of the 23rd century, ten races had emerged with the technology necessary to colonize deep space. For nearly a century, population growth on all planets had outstripped planetary resources, and soon all the races were forced to expand and discover new worlds to colonize. As history has proven time and time again, unrestrained expansion inevitably leads to war.
Even though each race is very different from the others, all have legends of a master race that once controlled the galaxy. It is said that the Masters left behind a world that contained marvelous secrets and wondrous technology, and protected it with a powerful Guardian. The loremasters call it Orion and it is written in legend that he who masters Orion masters the universe.
Master of Orion is a competitive game of interstellar conquest that combines exploration with conflict. You are cast as the immortal emperor who shapes the future of your race, as contact is made with the neighboring races. Your objective is simple: control a majority of the known galaxy and eliminate all who stand in the way.
As ruler you must ultimately decide the destiny of your race as you make decisions on how planetary resources are allocated, where star fleets will be deployed, which races to fight, and which races to ally with. You begin with control of your home planet, from which you can explore and colonize nearby star systems. Your first decisions will center around the rapid development of colonies into productive worlds, what types of technology to focus on, and which star systems to colonize. However, the true challenge begins when contact is made with other races, and complex strategies must be formulated to manage diplomacy, sabotage, espionage, trade, and interstellar combat.
A galaxy is randomly generated to play in. Four sizes are available, determining the number of star systems:
- Small – 24 stars. A quick game, and contact with other races is almost immediate. This is actually more difficult than playing in larger galaxies.
- Medium – 48 stars. Long enough to develop most technologies.
- Large – 70 star systems.
- Huge – 108 stars. For epic games with huge empires and massive star fleets.
Star systems need to be explored by a scout ship before a colony ship can be sent there. Ships travel freely between star systems (no fixed warp lanes as in Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars) but the distance they can travel is limited; they have to stay within fueling distance of one of your colonies. Scout ships have fuel reserves allowing them to travel further away to explore distant systems.
Each star system has (up to) one single colonizable planet. The planetary environments that can be encountered are:
- Terran planets are earth-like and can support the largest number of colonists.
- Jungle planets are young, undeveloped worlds reminiscent of the Age of Dinosaurs on earth.
- Ocean planets have very few land masses and are almost completely covered by water.
- Arid planets have only about one-quarter of their surface covered by water.
- Steppe planets have rugged terrains that are difficult to clear for a colony.
- Desert planets have very scarce water supplies and are plagued by violent dust storms.
- Minimal planets can barely support life with an oxygen-poor atmosphere and little water.
- Barren planets have no surface water supplies and little to no atmosphere.
- Tundra planets are basically huge balls of ice with sub-zero temperatures year-round.
- Dead planets have no water supplies or atmospheres whatsoever.
- Inferno planets are similar to Venus with excruciatingly hot environments.
- Toxic planets have corrosive atmospheres which destroy most types of equipment.
- Radiated planets are constantly bombarded by solar radiation.
Terraforming allows you to gradually improve a colonized planet's environment. In addition, planets can have special modifiers:
- Mineral Poor planets lack sufficient amounts of the heavy metals necessary for construction. Ship production, missile base construction, and new factory construction are halved. However, ecology and research are unaffected.
- Ultra Poor planets are the same as mineral poor planets, but production is reduced to one-third.
- Artifact planets have relics and devices left by ancient races. Your scouts may discover new technology there. Research spending at artifact colonies is also twice as effective.
- Mineral Rich planets have abundant supplies of heavy metals. Starship production, missile base production, and new factory construction are all doubled on mineral rich planets. Ecology and technology research is unaffected.
- Ultra Rich planets are the same as mineral rich planets except that production is tripled.
- Hostile planets have harsh environments that halve the normal population growth rate and require advanced technology to even land on.
- Fertile planets are easier to colonize than normal. Population growth is 1.5 times normal.
- Gaia planets are ecological paradises. Population growth is twice normal rate.
Colonies produce Billion Credits (BC) which must be invested in various ways. After spending the required amount on maintenance, treaty tributes, transport, spy wages for sabotage and espionage, and other such expenses, the leftover can be spread between five posts in each colony:
- Shipbuilding - the planet will produce starships or stargates, using the class design currently selected for this colony. The relocation option allows to send finished ships directly to a different planet; otherwise they will wait in orbit around the colony that built them.
- Planetary defenses - the colony will produce and maintain a planetary defense shield, missile bases, and upgrade them as force field and weapons technologies progress.
- Industry - the planet will build and operate factories, increasing its BC output. Factories however produce toxic wastes as a byproduct, which requires spending more money on cleaning them up, so focusing too much on industry is not necessarily cost-effective. Spending in excess of the colony population's ability to build and operate factories is added to the planetary reserves.
- Ecology - the colony will spend resources cleaning up toxic waste produced by its factories. Spending in excess of what's necessary for cleanup is used to terraform the planet's atmosphere and soil to improve its environment and eventually reach Gaia status. Spending in excess of the empire's terraforming capabilities is used to fund population increase in the colony.
- Technology - the colony will contribute to the empire's research effort.
The player can adjust the ratio between these five posts. Spending too little on defense, industry, or ecology can be detrimental to the colony, though spending too little on shipbuilding and technology can hinder the empire's efforts to achieve supremacy.
Each empire can manage a fleet of up to six ship classes at a time. Once this limit is reached, creating a new ship class requires decommissioning an existing class — and therefore scrapping all surviving ships of that class. This is important as ship classes cannot be updated as new technologies are discovered.
Colony ships are ship classes designed with a colony landing module. Increasingly hostile planet biomes require further evolutions of the landing modules, and therefore designing new colony ship classes. Terran, Jungle, Ocean, Arid, Steppe, Desert, and Minimal planets can be landed on with starting technology, but Barren, Tundra, Dead, Inferno, Toxic, and Radiated require increasing levels in Planetology.
Ship travels depends on two critical devices, their drives and their fuel cells. Improved fuel cells give a greater range (eventually unlimited), while improved drives give a greater speed (eventually nine times the speed of the starting drive).
There are six technologies in Master of Orion, each with a given level starting at one.
- Computer technology is used to develop battle computers, ECM jammers, deep space scanners, improved robotic controls, and the technology nullifier. Furthermore, your computer tech level improves your chances for success in espionage missions and sabotage operations.
- Construction technology not only reduces the base cost of building starships, missile bases, and factories, but it is also used to develop technology that will create improved materials for armor, reductions in the amount of waste produced by each factory, and automated repair units. Do not underestimate the value of construction technology. Without it, you will not be able to produce ships quickly and efficiently.
- Force Field technology is used to develop deflector shields, planetary defense shields, repulsor beams, stasis fields, lightning shields, and the cloaking device. One of the most effective ways of achieving military superiority is to develop force fields that are stronger than your rival’s weapon technology.
- Planetology focuses on technology related to the environmental improvements. Planetology develops advanced ecological restoration, terraforming to expand the size of a planet, controlled environmental units to land on hostile planets, biological weapons, advanced cloning techniques, and soil enrichment to increase population growth rates. Improved Planetology also makes your populations happier and more productive.
- Propulsion technology develops faster starship engines, increased ship ranges, inertial stabilizers, warp dissipators, subspace teleporters, pulsars, and high energy focus units. Propulsion technology is probably most important at the beginning of the game because without increased range you may not be able to reach any other planets to colonize.
- Weapons technology is used to develop advanced weaponry for your ships, missile bases, and ground troops.
The empire progresses in all six fields simultaneously; however the player can adjust how the research effort is spread. Some technology levels give a new device; for example Planetology 15 allows landing on toxic planets, while Weapons 41 gives access to zeon missiles, while others do not. However, all technology levels allow miniaturizing the devices provided by their technology, reducing the space they require in starships as well as their construction cost. This means that progressing past level 50 in a technology remains useful, even though no new devices are going to be found.
Master of Orion features ten races:
- The Alkaris – an avian race of superior pilots.
- The Bulrathis – a large bearlike race with superior ground troops.
- The Darlok – shape-changing spies.
- The Humans – outstanding diplomats and traders.
- The Klackons – productive insect workers.
- The Meklars – cybernetic masters of automated production.
- The Mrrshan – a catlike race with accurate gunners.
- The Psilons – brilliant researchers.
- The Sakkra – prolific lizards.
- The Silicoids – crystalline beings immune to hostile environments.
Up to six of them, including the race chosen by the player, can be present during a game.
The obvious way to win the game is by eliminating all other civilizations. The more interesting victory condition is by winning a two-thirds majority in the Orion Senate, meaning that two-thirds of the galactic population favors your civilization to rule the galaxy. The Orion Senate appears once two-thirds of the star systems have been colonized, and convenes every 25 years after that until a civilization is chosen or only one remains. Having a large empire and many allies help. However, if the High Council selects a different civilization, it is possible to reject their choice, starting a war of your empire against all.
- Master of Orion on Wikipedia