Academician Prokhor Zakharov
At a Glance:
- +2 Research
- -2 Probe
- More Drones
- First tech research is free.
- Free Network Nodes at every base.
Zakharov is plagued by drone problems, making the acquisition of either the Human Genome Project or the Virtual World of paramount importance. Fortunately, since you start with the pre-requisite to Planetary Networks, it is often quite easy to grab the Virtual World. Probe actions are expensive for you, and it's relatively cheap for your enemies to launch probe actions your way, so guard against that, and make the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm a high priority, but in the meantime, bulk up on defensive probes. You'll need them. Your main advantage is your labs, and whichever way you decide to run your game, your inherent research advantages will put you ahead of the pack quickly. Persistence and good planning will keep you there. Remember, you're getting the benefits of a no-maintenance-cost Network Node from the first turn you found a base. Everybody else has to build their Network Nodes, and pay maintenance costs for them, so build bases like crazy! Not only does this keep your bases smaller (to a point, offsetting the drone issue), but it also makes your colony pods very good investments for the minerals spent!
Zakharov, the Builder
This approach plays to your native facility. You're already a step ahead of the game, and if you get the Virtual World, then you're two big steps ahead of the game, as it totally negates your factional drone problems for bases size 4-7 and gives you two free facilities at each base you build. That's two less items on your infrastructural list, which makes building the rest that much easier for you. If you're playing the builder game, your main goal after restriction lifting should be to secure the Planetary Energy Grid to get yet another free, and maintenance free facility. Then, each time you build a base, about all you need to do is toss up a Tree Farm and a Creche, and you're ready to boom! (Building the Research Hospital as the base grows each turn). Nobody can build peacetime infrastructure faster than Zakharov, because the others don't start with a free peacetime facility. Morgan comes close, but even his vaunted money can't touch that. If you speed-build selected bases, you can turn those over to the production of battle-capable prototypes far more quickly than other builder factions, and be in a more classically "Hybrid" stance than most running this type of game. The two things you need to be ever-watchful for though, are covert attacks made to attempt to catch up to you, technologically, and, if you do plan an invasion, you will need to save cash for it in advance, because when you drop out of Market, most of your money dries up too (if you want to keep a decent research rate while warring).
Zakharov, the Hybrid
This approach plays to your ability to rip through the early game tech tree much more quickly than anybody else. You can be running Planned/Wealth by the early twenties if you set your mind to it, and specialize your bases out, with the fringe ones doing early war-tech prototyping, and your inner core working on infrastructure. Best of all, you can get to Industrial Automation that quickly, and still go back and pick up Mobility and Flexibility, generally ahead of those who beeline straight for them (exception: The Spartans, who are only one tech from Doctrine: Flexibility at game start). This means that you can get probe foils in the water plenty early enough to send them out exploring, and infiltrate most of your opponents' datalinks before they can even mount a good probe defense, which a crucial play. Combat wise, again, thanks to your free facility, you can pay comparatively less attention to your infrastructure and focus more on the warring techs, again thanks to your free facility. You can also let current game circumstances dictate exactly how your research edge is used, magnifying your advantage depending on the prevailing climate of the game. If you're isolated, fine. Drop to peace-time expansion until something develops, but if you've got neighbors close at hand, you can carry the fight to them rather quickly.
Zakharov, the Conqueror
Simply put, while everybody else is spending time and energy to get where you start from (i.e., the building of Network Nodes), you can be building fast attackers to take their bases! About the only group that can do this as or more quickly than you are the Spartans, and that's only because of where they begin on the tech tree. Theirs is a short term advantage in the sense that, research-wise, there's no way they can keep up with you. Even a heavy builder focus won't do it. This is a huge advantage, and if you put your mind to researching nothing but combat techs, you can have enough impact rovers for a good early game rush by the early to mid 30's! Except for the previously mentioned exception, nobody can top that, and that kind of raw speed plays well for a momentum game. If you find somebody on the continent with you, this is the kind of speed that will win you the game, and, once you make a couple of early kills to put you in a position of dominance, your faction is better suited than most to rapidly shifting gears.