You need to understand quite a lot of basic material before going on to the more advanced aspects of race design, and this page presents the basics:
- How the race design screens work.
- The meanings of the race design options.
- Which are worth using.
- Which go well with which.
Race design starts with the "Select Race" screen. Since this page is about custom race design it assumes you choose the "custom" option.
Then you see a screen which is identical to the "Select Race" screen except that its title is "Select Race Picture". MOO II has only a fixed set of race pictures, which are used in various other screens, and you must choose one of these for your custom race. This has an important side effect in single-player games: whichever picture you choose, the corresponding pre-defined race will not appear as one of your opponents in the game.
Below is a display of the Race Design screen at a much larger scale than usual because there are so many features to understand.
Edit the box at the top to show the name of your empire ("SciFi Fan" in this example).
In the standard game you start race design with a budget of 10 "Picks" (race design points). Advantageous traits cost points; disadvantageous traits increase your budget, but you can't choose more than 10 Picks' worth of disadvantages. Some mods increase your race design budget and / or the maximum negative Picks (disadvantages) and / or the costs of specific traits.
The number to the right of each trait's name represents the number of Picks deducted from your budget if you select that option (or added to your budget if the number is negative). This number is shown in in square brackets in the trait descriptions below.
Highlighted traits are the ones you've already chosen - you can unselect them by clicking the buttons beside them. Grayed-out (or greened-out) traits are unavailable because you have insufficient Picks left or because they'd take you over the limit on negative Picks or because they're incompatible with traits you've chosen. Traits that are neither highlighted nor grayed out are available for you to select.
The "Picks" box shows how many Picks are left in your budget. The score box shows by how much the game will multiply your score at the end of the game if you use the current design - the fewer picks you use, the bigger the multiplier.
The "Clear" button (bottom left) resets all selections.
This section describes the costs and benefits of all traits as defined in the standard game - mods may have different values.
Genetic and empire-based traits
Some of the traits are part of the genetics of a race, and are retained even if another empire (hopefully yours) acquires a colony of another race by conquest, diplomacy or the surrender of another empire. Other traits depend on the empire, as if they are attributes of the government rather than the population; if a colony changes owner, the new owner's empire-based traits are applied.
Choosing some traits eliminates others
In addition to the budget limitations described above, choosing some traits makes others unavailable. The most obvious example is Lithovore (no food required), which makes all the Farming traits unavailable.
It's often said that in MOO II population is power (there's more about this later).
-50% Growth [-4]
Makes the populations of all your colonies grow at half speed. Biological research (Cloning Center, Microbiotics or Evolutionary Mutation) can nullify this trait in time, but in the beginning, the more people you have in a colony, the better as it improves every aspect of your colony - farming, production, research and money.
You absolutely must use the Population 1 housing colonies if you take this pick and want to remain competitive.
+50% Growth 
Makes the populations of all your colonies grow at 150% of normal speed. Whether this is a good choice depends on your other picks and your overall economic strategy; for example there are 3 technologies and 1 management technique that can increase your population growth quite nicely, so you may prefer to spend your Picks budget on other advantages. It's largely wasted if you don't also choose at least one trait that increases the maximum populations of your colonies (Subterranean, Tolerant, Aquatic).
There are usually better choices.
+100% Growth 
Makes the populations of all your colonies grow twice as fast as normal.
This one costs too many Picks to be worthwhile because the 3 point difference between +50% and +100% could get you another positive trait elsewhere. Also, there are 3 technologies and 1 management technique that can increase your population growth.
-1/2 Food [-3]
Decreases the production of all farmers by half a unit, i.e. from 2 to 1.5 per farmer, but it cannot make a farmer produce a negative amount of food. This trait can work with unification, cybernetic, or even aquatic to gain some points for another perk, though if you choose to hobble food production you'll need to research Soil Enrichment early, otherwise too much of your population is tied up in farming and not available for research or industrial production.
This trait cannot be combined with Lithovore.
+1 Food 
This trait increases the production of all farmers by one unit each, allowing more of your population to be devoted to production or science instead of farming. Soil Enrichment can be researched early and gives the same benefit. It has no effect on planets where farming is impossible (until terraforming), so an alternative could be to spend those 4 picks on Cybernetic, which reduces food consumption instead (n.b. Cybernetic can seriously eat into early-game production, see below). It provides a noticeable advantage in organic rich galaxies, but for only 1 pick more Aquatic not only boosts food-production but also population caps. It can also work for early-game rushers, or in high-mineral/low-organic galaxies where you are relying upon a Large Homeworld to supply the majority of food to a fledgling quickly-expanding empire.
By mid-game after widespread terraforming has been completed, the benefits of this perk will become negligible.
+2 Food 
This trait increases the production of all farmers by two units each. You can generally get better value for the 7 Picks elsewhere (e.g. Unification+Large Homeworld, Aquatic+Rich Homeworld, or plain old Democracy), especially as there are many midgame research options that increase food production. However, this pick does allow even Desert or Swamp planets to support large populations without being further terraformed, so for early expansion strategies it is not totally beyond consideration.
-1 Production [-3]
Decreases industrial production by 1 unit per worker. As usual: a worker cannot produce a negative amount; some technologies can negate this disadvantage. But in pre-warp starts you have to research even the most basic production-boosting technology (Automated Factories), and running at reduced production while you do this is a significant disadvantage. The main exception is if you have 1 or more traits that boost your money income (Democracy government, or +n Money). Avoid unless you have a money-boosting trait.
+1 Production 
Increases industrial production by 1 unit per worker. Its value very much depends on the other traits you choose and the galaxy you play in; for example, Unification will boost it to 1.5, and Cybernetic benefits heavily from anything that increases production. This trait is very important in Organic-rich, mineral-poor galaxies, and much less important in mineral-rich ones. In small galaxies where homeworlds are more important, you might be better off going with a large, rich homeworld.
+2 Production 
Increases industrial production by 2 unit per worker. In general, unless you are a lithovore race, Unification is a much better way to boost your production for 6 picks, since it also provides a food-production bonus and a spying bonus, and doesn't suffer morale penalties.
-1 Research [-3]
Decreases research by 1 unit per scientist. Technology is crucial in MOO II because a high-tech warship slaughters whole fleets of low-tech ships and high-tech colonies can outperform in every way those of lower-tech empires with specific racial advantages in production / farming / research. That said, this pick hits hardest in the early game: once you have Research Labs the overall effect will only be a -33% research reduction for each scientist (with Planetary Supercomputer this gets reduced further to a net -15% less than the normal research rate). Arguably not as bad as having a Feudal government (where the 50% research penalty applies against all research-improvement bonuses as well); your strategy will however need to be similar: expand fast, depend on labs early on and quickly rush-assimilate another culture to do your research for you. Thus this trait might work for early rushers or races with a spying bonus.
Choose this only if you find the highest difficulty too easy; never choose this against a human opponent (unless you've agreed on some unusual start-up conditions for the sheer fun of it). Research -1 WITH Feudal is for masochists only, but a viable example for SP could be a high-pop oriented race such as FeudSubTolLrgRes-1.
+1 Research 
Increases research by 1 unit per scientist. As with the other "+1" traits, you need to consider the alternative and complementary traits. Artifacts world  increases research by 2 per scientist, but only on your home world; it can be very powerful if you use it to get key technologies early; for example if you get Planetary Supercomputer (a significant research booster) 10 turns before the opposition you probably have a permanent lead in technology. Democracy government (+1 research, +1 money; [7 Picks]) provides fast research and the money to buy things quickly after you discover how to make them.
+2 Research 
Increases research by 2 units per scientist. Despite its high cost, this may be better than +2 farming and +2 production because it enables you to research quickly the technologies to counter the disadvantages you will have to choose in order to balance your Picks budget. Even so, think carefully about this one; in particular, Artifacts world ( Picks) is a powerful and cheaper alternative.
Choosing the Subterranean trait instead will in the long run generate more research.
Example: With the +2 Research racial pick, each scientist generates 5 RP. Using a Research Lab boosts this to 6 RP/scientist plus 5 for the building itself. Adding a Planetary Supercomputer boosts this to 8 RP/scientist plus 10 for the building. Thus 10 scientists will generate 8x10 + 5 + 10 = 95 RP each turn. With the Subteranean racial pick, each scientist generates only 3 RP boosted to 4 RP (Lab) or 6 RP (Supercomputer), but your planet can support twice as many scientists. So 20 scientists generate 6x20 + 5 + 10 = 135 RP each turn.
-0.5 BC [-4]
Decreases every 1 BC your empire receives through taxes by 0.5 BC (i.e. it halves your taxable income from population for the whole game). Unfortunately, this penalty is fully multiplicative with morale/Spaceports/Democracy thus guaranteeing long-term penury. It should be noted that Trade Goods won't be affected by this trait, and can be used to supplement your income that way. Even so, you probably won't have much cash to hire good Leaders or rush-complete your production queue very often.
Nonetheless, this disadvantage might still be considered to boost your Picks budget, since spending income beyond what's needed to balance your budget is less efficient than direct farming/production/research. It is generally only a reasonable pick if you can rely on subsidiary income (i.e. trade treaties for a Charismatic race), have reduced expenses (i.e. Warlord), or have increased population (Subterranean).
Feudalism, -50% population growth, and the combination of -20 ship defense and -10 ground combat are all better ways to get 4 picks.
+0.5 BC 
Increases every 1 BC your empire receives through taxes by 0.5 BC, i.e. boosts your income by 50% for the whole game. This bonus is fully multiplicative with morale/Spaceports/Democracy (in contrast, the morale/Spaceports/Democracy bonuses are merely additive with each other). Usually too expensive - Democracy government (+1 research; +0.5 money; no morale penalty at new-born colonies; defensive spy penalty [7 Picks]) gives you a better shot at surviving the crucial early game. However, a DictSci1Cash0.5 (8 picks) will generate the same research but more money than a Democracy, without the defensive spy penalty.
Another time to pick extra cash is for creatives: they generally need more buildings than other races so as to gain the benefits from all their bonus techs, and hence they need more money for maintenance.
+1 BC 
Increases every 1 BC your empire receives through taxes by 1 BC, i.e. boosts your income by 100% for the whole game. Would seem far too expensive until you consider that building maintenance costs remain fixed while your adjusted income doubles (multiplied by benefits from Spaceport/Stock Exchange/Galactic Currency Exchange). So what this effectively means is that your actual cash flow per turn (ie. pocket money after expenses) will triple or quadruple from what you normally expect to see. More money means hiring better Leaders, buying improvements and starships sooner, supporting more spies, etc. Thus this trait can offer an interesting variation on a production-oriented strategy, and really pays off (mind the pun) when combined with high population races: DictSubCash1 (14 picks) or DictAquaCash1 (13 picks) being two possibilities.
Ship Defense (empire-based)
-20 Ship Defense [-2]
Reduces by 20% your warships' ability to avoid being hit by beam weapons (including the "machine gun" weapons Mass Driver and Gauss Cannon). A very common negative pick to balance the Picks budget since it doesn't affect missiles, which are the only threat to you in the early game. Later on, beam accuracy will be determined more by technology (and specifically by the enemy's choice of computers) than by racial traits.
Higher crew experience basically negates this penalty; thus you can use this trait to help pay for Warlord so as to get Warlord's other benefits for "free".
+25 Ship Defense [+3]
Increases by 25% your warships' ability to avoid being hit by beam weapons. Poor value because of the technologies described above. For the 3 Picks you could have +1 Science or Artifacts Homeworld, both of which get you these military techs faster. Most likely to be useful in small or crowded galaxies where early, low-tech combat is probable.
+50 Ship Defense [+7]
Increases by 50% your warships' ability to avoid being hit by beam weapons. Very poor value - it costs as many Picks as Democracy government, which gives you advantages in both civilian and military areas that last much longer (+50% research and income) - even in small or crowded galaxies where early, low-tech combat is probable.
Ship Attack (empire-based)
-20 Ship Attack [-2]
Reduces by 20% your warships' ability to hit enemy ships with beam weapons (including the "machine gun" weapons Mass Driver and Gauss Cannon). Poor value but not crippling - early in the game, you should be using missiles, so this won't matter at all. Later, technology can in principle make up for this; however, the Computer's tech tree is FULL of painful choices at each tech level involving targeting computers: Research Labs vs. Optronic Computer, Planetary Supercomputer or Holo Simulator vs. Positronic Computer, Autolab or Structural Analyzer vs. Cybertronic Computer. This is probably best combined with Creative.
Higher crew experience basically negates this penalty; thus you can use this trait to pay for Warlord so as to get Warlord's other benefits for "free".
+20 Ship Attack [+2]
Increases by 20% your warships' ability to hit with beam weapons. Can be good value if a blitz strategy is viable, in other words if your other race design choices support attacking as early as possible and the galaxy is small and/or crowded - otherwise your opponents probably use other traits to pull ahead in production and technology and you're losing.
+50 Ship Attack [+4]
Increases by 50% your warships' ability to hit with beam weapons. Poor value unless you're very confident about winning by a blitz - and probably fatal if the blitz fails or if it is never started because there's no one you can attack quickly - your opponents probably will be pulling ahead in production and technology. For four picks, you're nearly always better off going with Cybernetic or Warlord.
Ground Combat (empire-based)
-10 Ground Combat [-2]
Decreases your ground troops' effectiveness by 10%. A very common negative choice to balance your Picks budget, especially when combined with -10 spying and low-G homeworld, since ground combat skill is useless if you lose space battles; it's easily compensated for by research.
+10 Ground Combat [+2]
Increases your ground troops' effectiveness by 10%. Usually poor value since ground combat skill is easily countered by research, especially by creatives. It's best used if you aim to capture rather than destroy enemy ships to win space battles. Captured ships cannot be upgraded but if you scrap them there's a chance of gaining space combat technologies from them. The best freebie techs you can get this way are from scrapping captured Antaran ships, which can be easily done with dedicated Assault Shuttle carriers. Many multiplayer games are played with the "Antarans attack" game option off, so you never get the opportunity.
One of the problems of using commando raids/capture as a space combat strategy is that non-creative races will have to make painful tech choices to keep their advantage: Powered Armor vs Robo Miners, Anti-Grav Harness vs Gyro Destabilizer, Plasma Rifle vs. Plasma Cannon, Troop Pods vs. Battle Pods, and so on. So in many ways, Creatives will really be able to build up a distinct advantage in this area.
Another advantage for concentrating on high Ground Combat is so suppressing rebels on not-yet-fully-assimilated planets is much more likely to be successful. It might not seem much of an advantage, but knowing a captured planet stays captured without needing a watchdog garrison can be useful.
+20 Ground Combat [+4]
Increases your ground troops' effectiveness by 20%. Poor value for the reasons stated above. Will probably only pay off if you combine it with Heavy Gravity to use for a blitz invasion strategy early in the game. For four picks, you're nearly always better off going with Cybernetic or Warlord.
Spying in general is an obligation: If you don't do it, the others will spy on you or frame you. Passive spying protects your technology from theft, and aggressive spying in other empires forces them to be more defensive in their own spying operation. Played the right way, spying can offset negative research picks like Feudal. This is a premium way to stock up on otherwise inaccessible technologies. It enables building races which focus only on production. You think skipping farming is good? Skipping farming AND research is better! In research you do the basic necessities only, so nearly the entire population can go to production.
As you can quickly make new enemies you didn't want, it is best used against races you're at war with. When your spy bonuses are good enough, you can frame your enemy in front of several other races who will then also start a war against your enemy - you win twice over. (Note, this doesn't work with human players as they tend to check on the race screen who REALLY has placed the spies in their empire.)
The spy pick also is the only way available to stay ahead of the crowd - others will develop the same spying technologies that you have, nearly always leveling the playing field. That's different if this pick is chosen; the playing field is never level then.
-10 Spying [-3]
Decreases by 10% your spies' effectiveness both in espionage / sabotage missions against opponents and in defending your empire against opponents' attempts at espionage / sabotage. A fairly common negative choice to balance your Picks budget but must be used carefully. Not a severe disadvantage if you research espionage technologies quickly and/or use a government that has advantages in defensive espionage. Do not use if you choose Democracy, as it has a built-in -10 disadvantage in defensive spy operations; Democracy with the -10 Spying trait is at a 20% disadvantage and its opponents can steal its technologies as fast as it discovers them.
+10 Spying 
Increases by 10% your spies' effectiveness both in espionage/sabotage missions against opponents and in defending your empire against opponents' attempts at espionage/sabotage. Seldom a good choice for research races: technologies that boost spies' effectiveness (especially in defense) appear at several levels of the tech tree; espionage and sabotage make enemies quickly, and those enemies probably have advantages in production and/or research, so when they come knocking at your door, you're in real danger. To look at it another way, several 3-Pick choices boost research so you can quickly get technologies that boost spies' effectiveness, and these other traits have other civilian and/or military benefits. The production/blitz tactic: In galaxies smaller than huge, normally you can blitz your first enemy. For that you want to focus on production instead of research, so the spy pick is really helpful - after all, it helps translating production into technology and can even destroy enemy buildings, which is useful only in the beginning.
+20 Spying 
Increases by 20% your spies' effectiveness both in espionage/sabotage missions against opponents and in defending your empire against opponents' attempts at espionage/sabotage. A really bad choice, for the reasons stated above but more so. Even for a spy-based race, this one would be exaggerated - staying the equivalent of two tech levels ahead of the others is not necessary.
This is the most important group of traits, as each government type is a package of advantages and disadvantages. Each government type also has an advanced version that can be researched. Although the advanced versions cannot be chosen in the Race Design screen, this page describes them because you should understand the advanced version (your medium- to long-term future) before choosing your initial government type.
Advantages: spaceship production costs are ⅔ (67%) of normal.
Disadvantages: 50% less research per scientist; colonies without a Marine Barracks or Armor Barracks suffer a 20% morale penalty - in other words colonies don't get going properly until they have a Barracks and the actual building of the Barracks is slowed by the poor productivity (this can be circumvented by placing an outpost ship on the planet, and then colonizing the planet; this will convert the outpost to a barracks). If the empire's capitol is captured or destroyed, the whole empire suffers a 50% morale penalty, until a new Capitol is built.
Notes: the manual says that populations captured from a Feudal empire assimilate instantly, but the base version of MOO II does not behave this way and no patch (official or user-developed) has fixed this. This bug is fixed in the version distributed electronically through Atari's website (Windows, version 1.31).
Advanced version: Confederation. Advantages: spaceship production costs are reduced to ⅓ (33%) of normal; populations captured from a Confederation empire do not assimilate instantly (not an advantage, since Feudal populations actually do not assimilate instantly); assimilates populations captured from other empires at twice the normal rate.
Remaining disadvantages: It is not reflected in the manual, but the research penalty is lowered to 25% reduction per scientist; the penalties for lack of a Barracks or a Capitol remain the same.
Note: Although not discussed in the manual, experience shows that the Feudal and Confederation governments also obtain a 50% and 25% penalty to their research treaty amounts respectively.
Feudal's 50% reduction in research per scientist is usually crippling. However, with the right other racial traits and the right strategy, Feudalism can be even better than a dictatorship. Feudalism doesn't reduce the automated science produced by research labs, supercomputers, and autolabs, and it doesn't just reduce the construction cost of warships; it reduces the cost of ALL ships, including colony ships, which are a huge investment of resources in the early game. A feudal player with an average or advanced start, and preferably a production bonus and/or traits that make them better able to make use of tons of crappy planets (like subterranean, cybernetic, lithovore, or tolerant), can spam their local neighborhood with outpost ships and then colony ships, and make up for their science penalty through sheer numbers of research labs and scientists.
Many players feel that one of MoO2's balance and design flaws is that ship construction is too expensive, while scientific research in the late game is far too fast. As a result, many multiplayer games impose a rule that all players (or at least all human players) must be feudal.
This is the most common negative pick despite the research minus! Combine with telepathic and a spy bonus, you won't feel the lower research at all. Then this becomes an advantage that even gives you picks for free! Building ships cheaper is incredibly good especially at the beginning. The combination with telepathic also gives you the ability to never build transporters - so you can focus all your production on warships and blitz one or two neighbors before you even start to feel any disadvantage from the research negation. And if you don't find suitable enemies, building colony ships gets cheaper with this, too. In a worst-case scenario, your research has to be done in scout labs - sounds strange, but works well with this pick.
Combine it with Warlord: build a lot of cheap ships without battle pods, then refit to expensive ships with battle pods when you get Confederation.
Advantages: spies get a 10% advantage in defensive operations.
Disadvantages: colonies without a Marine Barracks or Armor Barracks suffer a 20% morale penalty - in other words colonies don't get going properly until they have a Barracks and the actual building of the Barracks is slowed by the poor productivity (this can be circumvented by placing an outpost ship on the planet, and then colonizing the planet; this will convert the outpost to a barracks). If the empire's capitol is captured or destroyed, the whole empire suffers a 35% morale penalty until a new Capitol is built.
Advanced version: Imperium. Advantages: no morale penalty for lack of a Barracks, 20% morale bonus when there is a Barracks; assimilates conquered populations twice as fast as normal; defensive spying bonus increased to 20%; increases command points by 50% (this includes everything - starting command points, command points from bases, leader bonuses, communication tech bonuses, and even the warlord bonus is increased).
Much better than Feudal, but most players prefer Democracy or Unification. This is because although Dictatorships have the option of getting very significant morale bonuses and extra CP that can match the bonuses of Democracy and Unification, Democracy and Unification have a much stronger head start, which can be fatal to Dictatorships in multiplayer, unless you get lucky and get Tanus the Revolutionary early in the game.
Advantages: 50% more research per scientist; 50% more income per taxpayer; assimilates conquered populations twice as fast as normal.
Disadvantages: spies get a 10% disadvantage in defensive operations; if the empire's Capitol is captured or destroyed, the whole empire suffers a 20% morale penalty, until a new Capitol is built.
Advanced version: Federation (do not confuse with Confederation, which is the advanced version of Feudalism). Advantages: 75% more research per scientist; 75% more income per taxpayer; assimilates conquered populations 4 times as fast as normal.
Remaining disadvantages: spies get a 10% disadvantage in defensive operations. If the empire's capitol is captured or destroyed, the whole empire suffers a 20% morale penalty until a new Capitol is built.
Note: Although not discussed in the manual, experience shows that the Democracy and Federation governments also obtain a +50% bonus (or 75% with Federation) to their research and trade treaty amounts.
Democracy's assimilation advantage is minor, since other governments can reduce their assimilation times by building on each conquered planet an Alien Management Center, which is fairly easy to research.
Most good research-oriented races are Democracies: the effect is increased if they are also Lithovores and therefore use no population on farming; the income advantages enable them to more often buy buildings, when they are at 50%. Democracies can also be the most dangerous blitzers: they get going slower than Feudalism because their ship production costs are normal - but Democracies' ships are more advanced, their faster researching of range and speed technologies gets their ships to distant targets faster, their money advantages allow them to run fleets in excess of their command points, and their rapid assimilation of conquered populations (even without Alien Management Center) turns conquests into strong points very quickly.
Advantages: +50% production per worker; +50% food per farmer; spies get a 15% advantage in defensive operations; there is no capitol and therefore there's no penalty for the loss of the capitol.
Disadvantages: assimilation of conquered populations takes 250% of the normal time (20 turns per head rather than 8).
Neutral: not affected by morale, either positively or negatively. The lack of morale bonuses is not a terribly huge loss except to Creative races, since morale techs would come at the cost of other, sometimes more important techs (esp. Planetary Supercomputer). The main advantage of not being affected by morale is that it means not having to build outpost ships for every planet that you want to colonize in order to avoid the penalty for not having a marine barracks.
Advanced version: Galactic Unification. Advantages: +100% production per worker; +100% food per farmer; assimilation of conquered populations reduced to 188% of the normal time (15 turns per head).
Note that Unification's assimilation disadvantage is reduced by the Alien Management Center technology.
Most good production-oriented races are Unification, and many players think it's the strongest government; its effects are increased if the race is also Tolerant and therefore "wastes" no production on pollution. Despite the high Picks cost (6 + 10 =16), the "UniTol" combination (Unification + Tolerant) is so strong that it is sometimes banned in online tournaments, and some mods aim to reduce the advantage of Unification and especially the UniTol combination. The great strength of this type of race is its ability to build an economy fast, especially to colonize fast. Its greatest weakness is rather slow early research (although it's still much better than Feudalism's); it can be vulnerable to early blitzes, usually by Democracies rather than Feudalisms; Unification, especially UniTol, can build ships as fast as a Feudalism but a Democracy can soon build much better ships and can usually buy them when half built if it's in hurry. Later in the game this type of production-oriented race can often out-research a research-oriented race, because it will have more colonies and therefore more research buildings.
Some of these are "genetic" and some are "empire-based", and 4 are traits of the home planet rather than of the species or empire.
These picks influence your race's homeworld's gravity, and thus, their gravity preferences.
Low-G World [-5] (genetic/homeworld)
Advantages: Removes the 25% penalty to farming/production/research on Low-G worlds. Disadvantages: 25% penalty on Normal-G planets (the penalty on High-G worlds remains at 50%); troops suffer a 10% penalty during ground combat.
The number one most popular negative pick. The combination of low-g homeworld, -10 spying, and -10 ground combat has been historically referred to as the "standard" minuses. This is for a couple of reasons: first, it provides as much of an advantage on low-G worlds as it provides a penalty on normal-g ones. Second, while low-g worlds are rarer and usually crappier than normal-g worlds, those huge ultra-rich gaia-class planets with gold deposits that you sometimes see guarded by space monsters will often be low-g. Third, the penalty for placing colonies on High-G worlds is the same regardless of whether your race is a Normal-G or Low-G race. Fourth, the ground combat penalty rarely matters, and fifth, gravity generators are a thing. The biggest problem with low-g is that, if you don't have some kind of production bonus, gravity penalties and other factors (cybernetic, mineral-poor, morale etc.) can combine to cripple production on new colonies on normal-g worlds. Stacking it with -10 ground combat can also make Antaran ships much harder to capture.
High-G World  (genetic/homeworld)
Advantages: the 50% penalty on High-G planets is removed; troops take 1 hit more than normal
before being slain in ground combat. Disadvantages: none (the penalty on Low-G planets remains at 25% despite the planet's menu showing it to be 50%).
Seldom worth the cost. Although the largest and the richest planets are High-G worlds (except those guarded by space monsters), all races can research Gravity Generator to eliminate the penalty, so you will have an advantage only if you have High-G planets close by in order to outproduce them, before everyone has the research and is able to colonize those planets without suffering a penalty.
This trait is used more for boarding strategies and ground invasions than for its removal of gravity penalties on high-G planets, especially if combined with Creative and/or Ground Combat +10/+20, thereby making your troops well-nigh invincible. Many casual players will take these traits, wait for Antarans to attack, capture and scrap their ships for technology, and then conquer the universe with stolen Antaran tech. Suppressing rebels on non-assimilated conquered planets will have very high success rates.
These picks primarily focus on improving the population capacities of planets, lessening the need to expand to colonize and populate multiple planets, and allowing greater concentration of population and infrastructure on a select few planets, saving on maintenance costs in the process.
Aquatic  (genetic/homeworld)
A complex package whose benefits apply only on "wet" planets: Tundra is as good for an Aquatic race as Terran is for other races (+1 increase in farming, habitable area increases from 25% to 80%, so maximum population is increased by more than 3 times); Swamp becomes effectively Terran (no increase in farming; habitable area increases from 40% to 80% doubling maximum population); Ocean becomes effectively Gaia (+1 increase in farming, habitable area increases from 25% to 100% increasing the maximum population 4 times); Terran becomes effectively Gaia (+1 increase in farming, habitable area from 80% to 100%, a 25% increase in maximum population).
Usually not worth it except in certain galaxy sizes and ages. Obviously, Aquatic strongly benefits from organic rich galaxies, and is heavily punished by mineral rich ones. The most immediate advantage of Aquatic is that your home planet is effectively Gaia-class, which, like other racial traits that benefit your homeworld, has more of an effect in smaller galaxies and during the earliest stages of the game. In most galaxy sizes and ages, however, that earliest stage is followed by a stage where most of your new construction and population growth are happening on other worlds, and chances are that these will include maybe 1 tundra or swamp planet and a bunch of radiated, barren, or desert hellholes. Aquatic is dead weight during this phase, and aquatic races will fall behind or be conquered by their more environmentally adaptable (unification, cybernetic, lithovore, tolerant etc.) neighbors. If they survive, they can eventually get terraforming and begin the long, slow process of trying to catch up. Gaia Transformation is obviously worthless to Aquatic races.
Subterranean  (genetic)
This gives a huge increase in the maximum population capacity of your colonies. Unlike Aquatic, which only provides bonus population for a few select climates, or tolerant, which provides is affected by both size and climate, Subterranean keys off of size alone - from +2 on Tiny planets to +10 on Huge planets. Subterranean also provides a 10% ground combat bonus when defending a colony.
Less of a gamble than Aquatic, but you have to play carefully to turn the extra population into an asset, since Subterranean provides no farming advantage and is a relatively expensive pick. Combines well with cybernetic or lithovore, which make your large populations easier to feed on planets where farming is impossible. For races that are subterranean but not lithovores, hydroponic farms and terraforming are critically important.
Combining Subterranean with Aquatic solves the pop and food problems early in the game.
These picks change some of the stats of your homeworld, usually for short-term benefits in the early game of an average or pre-warp start.
Large Home World 
Increases the size of your homeworld from medium to large, and subsequently its maximum population capacity by one-third.
A good way to spend that last Pick remaining in your budget but don't choose it at the expense of other ways to increase maximum population capacities.
Rich Home World 
Increases the mineral richness of your homeworld from Abundant to Rich, increasing industrial production from 3 to 5 per worker.
A good use for your last 2 Picks but don't choose it at the expense of other ways to increase production (e.g. the Unitol combination).
Poor Home World [-1]
Avoid this if you can, as it significantly slows down your early colonization - production per worker is reduced from 3 to 2, and all construction projects will need 50% more time to be completed. Granted this could be made up for by colonizing a nearby mineral-rich world, IF you can find one easily enough.
Artifacts World 
Increases research on your homeworld from 3 to 5 per scientist; that's a 67% increase.
Possibly better than +1 Science, but Democracy is better if you can afford it. Artifacts World is often better than +1 Science (also 3 Picks) because in the early game most of your scientists are on your homeworld, except perhaps for Unitol and other extreme production-oriented races. Don't choose either at the expense of Democracy, which benefits all colonies with scientists and allows you to move people from industry to research because its higher tax revenue enables you to buy things when half-built.
These picks are geared towards reducing food consumption (as an alternative towards increasing food output), though they usually accomplish this by substituting food consumption for mineral consumption, reducing the need for farmers, but also introducing a need for miners to keep the population fed.
Cybernetic  (genetic)
Each population unit consumes 0.5 food and 0.5 production; ships are completely repaired after combat; ships' structure and armor are repaired at 10% per turn during combat; ships' systems (engines, weapons, targeting devices, etc.) are repaired by 5% per turn during combat. You can't be both Cybernetic and a Lithovore.
One of the best uses, if not the best use, of 4 picks. On an average planet, each worker will produce 3 pickaxes but farming won't even be possible, and if it is, each farmer will produce only 1 food. Additionally, technologies that increase production are both more common and more powerful than those that produce food; for an example, compare the output of an Automated Factory to that of a Hydroponic Farm. Therefore, the ability to eat production instead of food is a godsend and will greatly accelerate both your early research and early production and colonization. Cybernetic doubles the number of colonists that can be supported on a hydroponic farm before food needs to be shipped in from offworld or colonists need to be assigned to farming, and for colonies that import their food, it halves the number of freighters that you need. A colony experiencing a food shortage will only lose half as many people per turn due to starvation. Meanwhile, the self-repair can single-handedly win protracted battles and turn the tide of a war. Heavy Armor and Reinforced Hull triple the efficacy of self-repair, and it stacks with Automated Repair units. A ship from a cybernetic race featuring all 3 of these systems will be extremely hard to kill.
There are a couple of catches, though. For one, all consumption is rounded up to the nearest whole number; two, freighters cannot transport production. Newly founded colonies that suffer from morale or gravity penalties, and/or are built on poor or ultra-poor worlds, will often see 100% of their production being eaten, resulting in your first automated factory taking 10,000 turns to build until either the population increases by 1 or you plop down the 240 bc to buy the factory. Newly founded colonies will also starve in the absence of freighters because your first population cannot farm and mine at the same time; however, population growth will still be positive (just very, very low) because starvation penalties are halved. Cybernetic players with OCD can frequently be seen moving colonists around between colonies in a system just to ensure that all colonies have an even number of colonists, to prevent food waste due to rounding. Finally, terraforming makes reduced food consumption practically irrelevant on all but the most inhospitable planets; the benefits of cybernetic are almost exclusively early-game. Overall, cybernetic works best with races that have a production bonus, like unification or +2 prod, and with racial traits that radically increase your population caps on planets where farming is impossible (subterranean and tolerant), since it makes those planets much easier to feed. It also works best in mineral-rich galaxies, obviously.
It depends on what planets you get. If you unfortunately got a lot of ultra-poor or low-gravity planets, you have to buy automated factory with 240bc, which is a lot in early game.
Lithovore  (genetic)
Lithovores eat rocks instead of food, so don't need to farm to support themselves (but can farm to generate income or to support non-Lithovore captured colonists). You can't be both Cybernetic and a Lithovore. You also can't research technologies that boost food production (with one fairly late-game exception), which means you have to be careful how you manage non-Lithovore captured colonists.
Best in mineral-rich galaxies and in the early game before everyone has terraforming. Frequently used in research builds that combine it with Democracy and either +1 science or Artifacts homeworld. Generally not good to combine with anything that boosts food production, like aquatic or unification. Most production races are unification, so very few of them are lithovores. Works extremely well with anything that raises the population caps on planets where farming is impossible (sub + tolerant), since it eliminates the need for farming.
These picks influence diplomacy, such as how well other (AI) empires will like you, or even whether or not you could trade with other empires.
Repulsive [-6] (empire-based)
AI races are more likely to be hostile. You get a poorer choice of Colony Leaders and Ship Leaders, usually at higher cost, and fewer opportunities to hire leaders. The only Diplomatic options you have are "Declare War" and "Surrender" (no trade or research treaties; no opportunities for extortion/blackmail). It takes 50% longer to assimilate captured colonists. You can't be both Charismatic and Repulsive.
But this can be the best negative trait! At the higher difficulty levels AI players are hostile anyway, and diplomacy is usually forbidden in death matches involving more than 2 human players, to prevent collusion. Repulsive's assimilation disadvantage is eliminated by the Alien Management Center technology. For a few minor sacrifices you get an extra 6 Picks to spend on becoming a great power. Oderint dum metuant (an ancient Roman saying: let them hate, so long as they fear). It is one of the two most common negative picks, the other being Low-G Homeworld.
On the other hand, Repulsive can be devastating in multi-player games with other humans. Assuming treaties are not forbidden, your opponents gain wealth and research from other empires, while you cannot. Furthermore, with this trait selected they have no reason to be friends with you, thus potentially forcing them to ally with another against you. Additionally, it is easy to convince any computer players to declare war on you since they have no prior relations, which can result in a 5-front war. A multiple-front war, no matter how great your species is, can easily destroy the most powerful empire.
Charismatic  (empire-based)
The opposite of Repulsive.
Seldom worth 3 Picks for the same reasons that make Repulsive good value. Although again, if playing against a mix of human and computer opponents, a Charismatic species can open up additional fronts against their enemies, buying you at the least, time, and at the most, a total victory. In single-player games, being charismatic can lead to a swift victory through galactic vote.
In general, being charismatic is mostly useful for getting better leaders and techs through leaders: Having an autolab (Mentox) and terraforming (Chug) early on can turn many games around.
These picks influence which technologies you get to pick from when researching into a certain field (such as choosing between Hydroponic Farms and Biospheres, or even getting to choose at all, from the Astro Biology field for example).
Uncreative [-4] (empire-based)
Non-creative races have to choose 1 technology but Uncreative races don't get to choose; the game software makes random selections for them. Incompatible with Creative.
Avoid this like the plague except in single-player games where you want a real challenge. Human opponents will quickly work out the technologies you're missing and exploit these weaknesses ruthlessly - if the lack of critical technologies doesn't cripple you anyway. Against AI's, uncreative is quite easy in combination with charismatic but most challenging in combination with repulsive, as tech-trading is an essential key to success.
Creative  (empire-based)
When you research 1 tech at a given level, you get all the techs at that level - usually 2 or 3 for the price of one (there are about 6 levels where this does not apply, out of about 80). Incompatible with Uncreative.
The most controversial and 2-edged option in all of MOO II race design. Beginners may use this for a few games to learn the effects of all the technologies. Very difficult to use against good human opponents. Because the cost in Picks is so high, a Creative race has to forgo many early-game advantages in both research and production; so its early colonization and research are slow. But a Creative race that reaches the mid-game unscathed can be deadly. As the mid-game progresses Creative can rival Unitol in production per worker and Demolith in research per head of population; the secret is that Creative races get the morale technologies that Unification can't use, and Demolith usually forgoes, in order to get research boosters or better space combat gear, which Creative also gets at no extra cost.
The downside is revealed by the words "rival UniTol in production per worker and DemoLith in research per head of population": Creatives usually have small populations at the transition from early to middle game and must very quickly chop down their opponents or expand by conquest once they have just a handful of decent warships; otherwise the larger economies of their opponents will grind them down in a war of attrition.
Yet some players regard Creative as "primarily a war pick", because ships designed by a good Creative player can often beat 2-3 times as many non-Creative ships that have 1 or 2 grades better armor and weapons; once again the secret sauce is techs that non-Creatives usually have to forgo, in this case special systems that give a huge boost to the combat effectiveness of Creatives' ships (in good Creative ship designs the whole is much more than the sum of the parts). Not surprisingly in online games experienced players gang up on any Creatives without needing any diplomatic collusion.
In the game's early days, Creative was seen as an underpriced special ability (It was singled out in PC Gamer magazine's 1997 strategy guide.) Consequently, the cost of Creative was increased from 6 to 8 picks in version 1.3 of the game.
The following picks are loosely tied together for their miscellaneous benefits towards the empire's economy.
Tolerant  (genetic)
No pollution penalty. The portion of the planet that is considered "habitable" increases by 25 percentage points, up to the maximum of whatever a gaia-class planet (without Advanced City planning, biospheres, etc.) can hold. For Terran worlds, which are already 80% habitable, only an increase of 20 percentage points is possible, and gaia-class planets, which are already 100% habitable, see no benefit at all. Note: Tolerant races' empires cannot research pollution control techs; this can be a problem for conquered colonies with non-Tolerant populations, and for colonies with Natives (who are sensitive to pollution).
Very important for production-oriented races, despite the high cost in Picks; of little use to other races. Research-oriented races can discover pollution control techs quickly enough; blitz races need to get a decisive advantage before production-oriented or research-oriented races get up to speed. Subterranean provides slightly more of a population boost; for toxic, radiated, barren, desert, tundra, or ocean planets, the population caps for a Tolerant race are tiny 3 (2.5 rounded up), small 5, medium 8 (7.5 rounded up), large 10, huge 13 (12.5 rounded up), while Subterranean gets 3 tiny, 7 small, 10 medium, 13 large, 16 huge. Also, as mentioned earlier, tolerant races gain no increased population on gaia planets, whereas subterranean races do. In general, traits that reduce food consumption (cybernetic/lithovore) combine well with traits that increase population caps on worlds where farming is impossible (sub/tolerant). Tolerant can be combined with Subterranean to produce truly insane population sizes.
Fantastic Traders  (empire based)
50% extra money income from trade treaties. Double the usual income from surplus food production (1 BC instead of 0.5 BC per unit of food). Double income from producing Trade Goods (1 BC per unit of trade goods produced instead of 0.5 BC).
Generally not worth 4 picks if you aren't flagrantly abusing the "credit cheat". The benefits look good in percentage terms, but less impressive in actual BCs (cash) generated. Looking at it the other way, you should usually minimize surplus food production (transfer your least productive farmers to research or production), and having to produce trade goods is usually a sign that you've mismanaged your economy. Four picks are better spent elsewhere.
The following picks below are those that were organized as such that they couldn't all fit neatly into some other sub-categories, though most deal with how they perform at warfare.
Telepathic  (empire based)
Cruiser or larger class ships can mind-control enemy colonies from the Orbital Combat Selection window (that has the Bombard/Invade/Stellar converter options) instantly assimilating the population (unless the colony belongs to a Telepathic race or has a telepathic leader); ships captured in combat can be used immediately, instead of having to wait for the end of the battle; 25% bonus in diplomacy (aliens will like you and be more inclined to accept your proposals); 10% bonus in both offensive and defensive spying.
Telepathic is a very strong 6 pick, especially if you are going for an aggressive blitz strategy. The mind-control ability ALONE is easily worth the 6 picks. Mind control (i.e. assimilating enemy planets without the need of ground troops) enables a player to gain a solid foothold in enemy territory if the player wins the space battle (which may prove difficult against opponents with superior research and/or production). Not needing transports saves TIME and RESOURCES, since it significantly speeds up down-time between conquests (don't need to keep building/sending newly-built transports on long journeys to the front lines, during which they remove precious points from your command reserve), and increases effective RANGE since transports never get extended fuel tanks (when combined with Stealthy Ships, being Telepathic additionally brings SURPRISE, since transports can never cloak). Additionally there is a strong chain effect with any victory, as 100% auto-assimilation dramatically strengthens your current position and local production resources.
All the other benefits can be gained by research, so 6 Picks' worth of research and/or production advantages is better in a long game, especially if packaged with other benefits like Unification() or Democracy (). BUT if the blitz succeeds, you may be able to quickly annex a fully-populated enemy empire into your own AND turn the assimilated alien's research/production skills on captured planets to your own advantage, thereby covering your own weaknesses.
Lucky  (empire based)
Gets good random events more often, and not the bad ones. Antarans are three times less likely to attack a Lucky empire.
Inexpensive but worthless. A Lucky empire gets lucky about once per 50 turns, usually in not very spectacular ways. And even on the highest difficulty level the Antarans don't appear until about turn 120, by which time you should have the military tech to kill their small raiding fleets (1 frigate initially!) with ease. And multi-player games are often set up with "Antarans attack" switched off so no one can win by attacking Antares.
Omniscient  (empire-based)
Can see all systems, planets and colonies (including actual and maximum populations, stationary defenses and space monsters). Can see all ships and where they are going, even if the ships are cloaked or their owners have the Stealthy Ships trait.
Most useful in the early game. Omniscient races get to see everything everywhere all the time (total strategic awareness). Plus they get to examine the Racial picks of "No Contact" alien races on turn 1, and they know where those races are and what they are doing. And they know where the best planets and trading partners are from the get-go, so can tailor their colonizing/diplomacy strategy to grab them sooner. However, as the game develops, satisfactory monitoring of nearby systems, planets, and colonies can also be achieved by sending small scout ships from time to time and having decent scanner tech.
Being able to see cloaked ships is a significant benefit, and one which cannot be achieved by research or scouting (exception: late-game Evolutionary Mutation grants 4 more picks). Stealth Field is a fairly low-level tech. But your opponents may never use stealth tech (or more likely, if you are omniscient they most certainly won't bother!). For 3 Picks you could have +1 Science or an Artifacts Homeworld, so the long-term research boost might prove more useful than guarding against a potentially non-existent stealth threat. In any case Stealth only works for warships, not for Troop/Colony/Outpost ships (i.e. its surprise effect works best for raids rather than invasions, unless combined with Telepathic!). So if you have well-defended worlds outside enemy range, stealth fleets might pose less of a nuisance anyways.
Stealthy Ships 
Warships are invisible on the main map (but not Troop Transports, Colony Ships or Outpost Ships) - non-Omniscient opponents can only see them when they arrive in colonized systems.
Omniscient fully negates this (and costs fewer picks). Also Stealth Field is a fairly low-level researchable tech that grants the same benefits, though it takes up hull space. Can be effective for early-game raiding against Human opponents, but best used when combined with Telepathic so your stealthy attack fleets can surprise and mind-control enemy planets without needing any tell-tale troop transports.
Ships move 2 parsecs per turn faster between systems. Can build ships before researching any FTL (faster-than-light) drives. Ships have a +4 increase in combat speed, giving tactical flexibility as well as increasing their beam defense. Not affected by "Hyperspace Flux" random events.
Excellent pick for blitz strategies especially when combined with the Telepathic ability. It allows you to travel between star systems more quickly, since it is effectively the equivalent of starting out with Ion Drives from the get-go. In early space battles, the extra combat speed is useful for both ships and their fighters (but does not affect missiles). If you research Fighter Bays, this allows you to build ships earlier since carrier ships are cheaper than missile boats, and fighters have the added benefit of being unaffected by an eventual ECM Jammer that might appear on enemies' Star Bases.
If a Hyperspace Flux happens and you are not Trans-Dimensional you might get surprised by a nearby Trans-Dimensional opponent destroying and/or conquering your colonies while your fleet cannot react!
Races with the warlord special ability can support larger fleets as each colony (whether it has a starbase or not) provides 2 extra command points. All warship crews are one experience level higher than normal: they begin as Regular Crews and max out at Ultra Elite, while normal crews begin as Green Crew and max out at Elite. The improved skill of ship crews is slightly weaker than the +25 Ship Defense and +20 Ship Attack together, but that combination costs 5 Picks. Legendary officers and leaders in the service of warlords can reach the maximum attainable skill level (6). Furthermore, Marine and Armor Barracks can support twice the normal number of ground troops.
Nice choice for rush strategies, as the extra command points allow you to sustain a larger fleet, that can grow in size with each subsequent conquest. Useful for non Telepaths that need transport ships. The increase in command points is significant in the early game, when empires don't have enough star bases (which would normally be painfully-slow to build, and expensive to buy, on colonies that lacked the kind of strong industrial output required to build colony ships in a timely fashion), command point techs (like Tachyon Communications), or the finances to support a large fleet. Lots of small ships are cheaper to produce and provide more firepower than a few large ships at the same tech level, but they consume more command points compared to a few large ships, so warlords can more easily afford to use the early firepower advantage that lots of small ships can quickly provide.
Rushing works well in galaxies where there are vulnerable colonies nearby, and there's no single totally-out-of-range empire building up an economic and technological lead. If a rush fails or there are no vulnerable colonies within range (being out of range when using Deuterium Fuel Cells + Extended Fuel Tanks is pretty unlikely), the 4 Picks would have been better spent elsewhere.
Warlord is a good pick after the Evolutionary Mutation research, since it requires exactly 4 picks and the extra command points and experience bonuses would allow a bigger and more powerful fleet, while research or production bonuses would not make as much of a difference as in the early game, because of the research/production boosting tech you already have (i.e. +1 research when a scientist normally makes 3 is 33% more, +1 research when a scientist makes 10 is just 10% more).
- Race Traits: +50 Ship Defense, Artifacts Homeworld
- Government: Dictatorship
The Alkari are a truly godawful race, with nothing going for them except their artifacts homeworld. They'll often get out to an early lead, but then get stompity-stomped by a race that doesn't have to dedicate half its population to farming. None of their racial traits are genetic, so if you conquer them, exterminate them and replace them with a race that doesn't suck, like the Silicoids.
Race Traits - High-Gravity World, +10 Ground Combat, Ship Attack +20
Government - Dictatorship
Good at ground combat and boarding enemy ships. Unfortunately, those don't count for crap in most games, so Bulrathis usually get stompity-stomped. Their ability to function without penalty on high-G planets would make them suitable for shipping to high-G planets if you conquer them; however, it's usually best to just exterminate them and build gravity generators.
- Race Traits: Spying +2, Stealth Ships
- Government: Dictatorship
Another squishy race that must spend half of its population on farming, Darloks are uniquely horrible in that their racial traits require contact with other races in order to have any effect at all, and even then, they're some of the most useless traits in the game. Playing as the Darloks is basically indistinguishable from playing a race with no traits at all, except that if you win, you don't get your score doubled from having ten picks left over. Nonetheless, "no traits at all" is still better than the hand that the Elerians were dealt. If conquered, eradicate and replace.
- Race abilities: Telepathic, Omniscient, Ship Attack +20, Ship Defense +25
- Government: Feudalism
Easily the worst race in the game, despite having some of the most-abused traits (feudalism and telepathy). As a squishy race that must spend half of its population on farming, they don't have any abilities that would make early-game feudal colony-ship spam a viable strategy. Because they fall so far behind everyone else in the tech race, they can be counted on to never win any space battles, and therefore never have the chance to mind-control anyone, so their telepathy is worthless too. While playing the Darlocks was indistinguishable from playing a race with zero picks' worth of racial traits, Elerians outdo them by being indistinguishable from a race with -1 pick's worth of traits (+3 omni, -4 feudal). Since none of their traits are genetic, they don't even make good captured populations. If conquered, exterminate and replace.
- Race abilities: Taxes +1, Lucky, Fantastic Traders, Low Gravity
- Government: Dictatorship
Another squishy race that must spend half of its population on farming. Stacking financial bonuses and little else, Gnolams can buy buildings and technologies for a while to make up for how unforgivably horrible they are at doing anything themselves, but eventually someone decides that the best use for their shiny new plasma cannon is to shoot the Gnolams with it, not sell it to them.
- Race traits: Charismatic
- Government: Democracy
Another squishy race that must spend half of its population on farming. Surprisingly, humans can do pretty well for a squishy race, partially because their democracy gives them a decent technological edge against other squishies, partially because their democracy gives them money to buy buildings to make up for their lack of production, and partially because being charismatic makes it easy for them to convince AI races to not stomp them. None of their racials are genetic, though, so if you conquer them, wipe them out and repopulate their planets with a good race.
- Race traits: Agriculture +1, Industry +1, Large Homeworld and Uncreative
- Government: Unification
Klackons resemble giant, intelligent insects able to produce huge amounts of food and to build things very quickly. Their unification government significantly amplifies those bonuses. The large homeworld serves to feed numerous new colonies. However, their hive mind makes them uncreative. Like the Psilons, the Klackons are unusually dangerous in the hands of an AI, since the AI makes tech choices at random anyway, basically giving the Klackons 4 free picks' worth of racials. And the racials themselves are pretty good too: Unification is one of the most overpowered/underpriced traits in the game, and the +1 food and +1 prod play to its strengths.
Playing as Klackons is quite fun and often requires widely varying strategy, since the odds are you will lack key starting technologies. Playing on "Post Warp" can mitigate this somewhat. Beginning without Research labs or Automated Factories (or both) can be extremely challenging. Klackon players will need to steal or trade for technologies that they need, and may find themselves relying on technologies that they'd otherwise never use. If you conquer the Klackons, keep them; their +1 food and +1 production are genetic, but their lack of creativity isn't.
- Race Traits: Cybernetic, +2 Industry
- Government: Dictatorship
One of the stronger races, Meklars can survive very well on planets with hostile environments thanks to being cybernetic, and their whopping +2 production allows them to set up shop quickly on mineral-poor planets. Their primary weakness is that, in larger colonies, their +2 production is being eaten away by their cybernetic diet on one end and by pollution on the other, making them heavily dependent on pollution-control technologies. All their racial traits are genetic, so if you conquer them, keep them.
- Race Traits: Ship Attack +50, Rich Planet, Warlord
- Government: Dictatorship
Another squishy race that must spend half of its population on farming, and can sometimes get out to an early lead thanks to their homeworld before getting owned by one of the good races. If they're very lucky, they might be able to execute an early beam blitz in small galaxies. None of their traits are genetic, so if you conquer them, eradicate and replace.
- Race abilities: Research +2, Creative, Large Homeworld, Low Gravity
- Government: Dictatorship
Another squishy race that must spend half of its population on farming... but, among all such races, probably the best. Being Creative means they never miss out on any food-production techs, and their insane science bonuses mean that they get those techs quickly. Probably the best choice for beginners to become familiar with all game features, since they can look at and experiment with all available technologies and still have to worry about silly things like morale, food, pollution, and diplomacy. They're also one of the hardest races to beat when played by an AI, due to the fact that non-creative AI players make absurdly stupid and literally random tech choices (indistinguishable from Uncreative). Pretty much the only thing stopping the Psilons from curb-stomping the other AI players is that they're pacifists. Of their racial traits, both +2 science and low-G homeworld are genetic, so if you conquer them, you should probably ship them to low-G planets or something.
- Race abilities: Population growth +100%, Agriculture +1, Subterranean, Large Homeworld, Spying -1
- Government: Feudalism
The Sakkra are deceptively overpowered. Feudalism certainly doesn't slow down their tech progression; thanks to their increased food production, they can devote less of their population to farming and more to science; thanks to being subterranean, their planets can hold much bigger populations overall (meaning moar scientists); thanks to their growth rate, they can fill up those planets faster (meaning MOAR SCIENTISTS); and their homeworld, being Large, can hold EVEN MOAR SCIENTISTS. That extra population does more than just offset their feudal science penalty, though; it also means they have more workers, more tax money, more everything. Their increased food production also helps with early-game feudal colony ship spam. When controlled by an AI, the Sakkra almost invariably take the lead in population, buildings, and fleet size, making them probably the best of the stock races. Since their positive traits are nearly all genetic but their flaws aren't, they are among the best races to capture and ship to the rest of your empire.
- Race abilities: Lithovore, Tolerant, Pop. Growth -50%, Repulsive
- Government: Dictatorship
These living rocks have the ability to move and to reproduce. They can grow on any planet and produce no pollution. On the other hand they grow very slowly and cannot communicate with other races. One of their racial negatives, the population growth, can be very easily compensated for with housing, which the silicoids can crank out insane amounts of because they can devote 100% of their population to industry and produce no pollution. Easily one of the strongest races of the galaxy. Since they don't need to dick around with diplomacy, food, or pollution, they're one of the simplest races to play and easily the most noob-friendly. Since their positive racials are all genetic, but only some of their negative racials are, they're among the best races to conquer and resettle around the rest of your empire.
- Race traits: Aquatic and Trans-dimensional
- Government: Dictatorship
These creatures coming from an oceanic planet have a natural ability to detect shortcuts to locally fold interstellar space. They will often gain an early lead due to treating their homeworld as gaia-class. However, as they try to expand into a universe full of mostly dry and usually inhospitable planets, they will falter while the Meklars, Klackons, Silicoids, and Sakkra enjoy basking in the sun. Since their aquatic ability is genetic, they're not a terrible race to keep if conquered, though they're not great either.