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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Zinegata

General
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Oct 11, 2005
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  • Age of Wonders III
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Steel Division: Normandy 44
  • BATTLETECH
  • Surviving Mars
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Surviving Mars: Digital Deluxe Edition
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Surviving Mars: First Colony Edition
  • Prison Architect
  • Surviving Mars: First Colony Edition
  • Dungeonland
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
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  • Victoria 2
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Note: This guide is meant for players which have bought not only the base game but also all the expansions (which you should, it's a really good game). It therefore refers to some buildings that are available only in the expansions. If you have just the base / Space Race version of the game you can check my original guide here:

https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/foru...-primer-redux-updated-for-space-race.1133562/

This guide is also divided into a basic introduction section for first-time players, and an addendum filled with notes for advanced players. For Terraforming, head to the very last addendum of the guide.

=======

Beginner's Guide to Surviving Mars

Introduction & Key Concepts

Surviving Mars, despite the name, is NOT a "survival" game. Indeed most "survival" games are misleading because they are not really about survival - instead you simply collect more and more resources to build bigger and bigger things.

Surviving Mars is instead a management simulation - more specifically an engine-building game. You start with a pile of resources, which you convert into investments (e.g. power plants, mines, colonists) which produce more resources. Newly produced resources are then converted into more investments which expand the engine. Done consistently, this leads to a "virtuous cycle" wherein your produce more and more resources to the point you enter the state of permanent surplus. At this point, the sky is the limit with regards to what you can build and achieve (and thanks to the Green Planet expansion, this end objective should be to fully Terraform Mars into Earth-like conditions).

However, engine-building games are suceptible to something called "systems collapse". This can occur if your consumption of resources - particularly the maintenance of buildings - exceeds your production. If you are unprofitable for too long then a situation can occur called a "deadlock" - wherein you can no longer acquire/produce specific key resources to keep your system running, causing everything else to stop running and fall apart.

This is why - contrary to the advice of most Youtube Streamers - beginners should NOT aim for self-sufficiency to begin with. There are multiple types of resource and a shortage of any single type can lead to deadlock.

Instead, beginners should focus on the one resource in Surviving Mars which can fix any deadlock situation - namely money. Players keep forgetting that you can import additional resources from Earth - using either a supply pod or your rocket - in order to make up for any shortfall. With money you can buy food to feed your starving colonists, or arrange for a shipment of polymers to fix your broken battery. You don't have to worry about building a farm or polymer factory just as your colony is beginning to fall apart.

In short, success in Surviving Mars can be summed up with these two lines:

Do not aim to be self-sufficient.

Aim instead to be profitable.

Self-sufficiency may allow your colony to survive indefinitely, but without profit your colony cannot deal with emergencies or expand its operations.

====

Creating Your First Profitable Colony

With "profitability" always in mind, it's important to realize that Surviving Mars has three distinct phases:

1) Early game exploration - which is defined by the period BEFORE you land your first colonist, and your main priority is finding a good rare metal deposit.

2) Establishment of your first Dome - which is defined by creating your first "profitable" manned settlement as a proof-of-concept that produces a profit.

3) Expansion - which is basically replicating your early successes and / or exploring new ones.

This section will discuss these phases for first-time players, assuming relatively easy game settings (no special rules and few disasters). Note also that we will NOT discuss Terraforming yet. While you can start Terraforming immediately, it is not recommended until you have a more extensive industrial base.

====

Exploration:

One of the unique mechanics of Surviving Mars is the fact that you are NOT forced to start sending colonists immediately. You instead start off with an unmanned mission - consisting of various rovers and drones - who are supposed to explore the area and build your initial infrastructure. You can theoretically Terraform Mars or build up enormous stockpiles of basic goods before landing a single colonist.

That being said, the most consistently profitable "business" in the early game is selling rare metals to Earth. Some sponsor combinations may generate money in other ways that allow for more flexibility - Europe being a particular standout as they earn money from research - but all colonies can turn a profit via rare metal mining. Hence, your primary goal in the early exploration phase is to find a good rare metal source - preferably of "average" quality or better (as this affects how fast you can mine it).

In this regard, it is important to remember these key principles:

1) You are NOT required to build on the first "revealed" sector. You do not even have to land there. If the resource mix on the initial scanned site is poor (or it's isolated by mountains), you can land somewhere else. That said, it is highly recommended for first-time players to pick the "Astrogeologist" Commander Profile as it guarantees a rare metal deposit in your initial scanned sector. This allows you to start building immediately while you continuing your exploration (as you want to reveal more resources!).

2) You don't have to bring orbital scanners to find "better" spots. It is generally cheaper (and better long-term) to land and build Sensor Towers. Your initial rocket should bring in some electronics and build a sensor tower (plus a small solar panel to power it) on your initial landing spot to scan the surrounding area.

3) Your rocket, after landing, needs to be refueled. Otherwise it will stay on Mars and be unable to export rare metal for you. Fortunately, setting up a refueling system is really easy using prefabricated buildings - just remember to bring a Moisture Farm and a Fuel Refinery on your first trip. Build them beside your rocket, then build some solar panels, and your rocket will be refueled in a few days. You should setup this refueling system right from the outset since it's independent from any on-site resources beside metal for Solar panels.

Note: Solar panels only work in the daytime, so you should also build a Concrete Extractor (requiring machine parts) and bring in some Polymers so you can add a battery that will allow the whole system to work both day and night. You need about 7 Solar Power panels and 1 battery for your three initial buildings (with some power to spare). See the "Planning for Power" section for more details. You also want to start stockpiling concrete anyway to build Domes, and to build a rocket pad that makes everything tidier.

4) Though the "exploration" phase will typically be over after a few Sols, you should continue building sensor towers as outlined in Step 2 until you have fully scanned the map; as your primary source of metal in the early game are surface deposits (revealed by scanning) which are collected by your Transport Rover. They also allow you to plan better for the expansion phase - e.g. by discovering where there are more rare metal or water deposits. Scanning the map also reveals anomalies - which can be scanned using an Explorer Rover for research bonuses and more technology.

Given this, my ideal initial rocket cargo setup would be the following:

1. Moisture Farm Prefab - for Refueling the Rocket
2. Fuel Refinery Refab - for Refueling the Rocket
4. Transport Rover - to collect Metal for Solar Panels and other buildings
5. RC Rover - to control drones and build sensor towers in other sectors
6. Exploration Rover - to scan anomalies
7. 5 Machine Parts - to build a Concrete Extractor
8. 5 Electronics - to build sensor towers
9. 5 Polymers - to build a battery

Except for SpaceY all sponsors should be able to fit this in their initial rocket; but if you forget anything don't worry - just send a resupply pod with whatever you are missing. Also any additional space in your initial rocket should be filled up using drones - as more drones helps reduce their workload and speeds up construction.

Your First Dome:

First, the math: A small deposit of just 300 rare metal, selling at $20M (the minimum), would generate $6000M once fully consumed. This exceeds the initial funding of all the "hard" difficulty sponsors, thus giving you enough cash to build even more Domes while reusing most of your initial investments (e.g. fueling depots, and no-maintenance drones + rovers).

It is in fact "okay" to import stuff like machine parts and polymers early on to fulfill your maintenance needs, and food is so cheap that having hydrophonics is really unnecessary. Just make sure your supply of parts or food will not dry up before the arrival of the next resupply rocket, and make sure you don't over-order. In an emergency, use resupply pods as they ignore disasters and reach Mars faster than the rocket.

In terms of actually building the Domes, it pays to remember that most Domes require cement, metal, and polymers to build - plus generally more cement and other stuff to build the structures inside of it. Hence from a cash perspective Domes are actually "cheap" - as only the Polymers and the machine parts for the concrete extractor are bought in from Earth. Therefore as a general principle players should always think in terms of building more Domes whenever they feel that they've run out of living space (See Housing Myths for more advanced details).

Finally, your initial Dome should be a MicroDome - as it does not require Polymers while giving you a very efficient initial setup. Some players may complain and feel that a MicroDome is too limiting in terms of space, but note the following:

- You can power your MicroDome and all of its work buildings by just adding six more Solar Panels and another battery (import more poylmers as necessary).
- You can very easily supply the MicroDome with Oxygen from a single Moxie. Indeed it is highly recommended that you build an Oxygen tank and only run the Moxie during the daytime - relying on tanked Oxygen at night.
- You can supply your MicroDome with water using your original Moisture Farm as you only need 0.5 water/hour. Simply turn off the Fuel Refinery for the afternoon and evening shift, and add a water tank to store up water during this time. Note though that this will considerably slow down your refueling progress - but this is a temporary problem because an early research upgrade can increase the Moisture Farm to 1.5 water production which allows you to resume full-scale fuel production.

Note: Buildings must be upgraded individually, and upgrades usually cost some resources. In this case you need to pay a few polymers to increase your water production to 1.5 after research. It is NOT applied automatically.

In short, the MicroDome can be supported with a very minimal amount of additional infrastructure, which in turn means very low maintenance cost for more profit. While it is certainly possible to start big, I recommend against this for first-time players so that they learn to be efficient and discplined. Don't build more than you actually need, because all those extra buildings simply eat up more maintenance and lower your profits.

The MicroDome in fact is exactly big enough to let you operate one mine and one research lab - giving you not only money but a significant research boost. Just note the following:

1) You should initially build ONE basic living quarters to fill a big triangle, and a bunch of services to fill out a second big triangle. This is because you are not allowed to send more colonists until 10 days after the initial settlers unless a child is born in your colony before then. Having only residences + services increases the chance of a birth occuring. Make sure to open all shifts of your service buildings to maximize comfort at this stage. Also, obviously, most of your initial colonists should be Geologists, Scientists, or Medics - but do not stress yourself if you lack the right number of specialists. An unspecialized workforce is better than none at all (see Labor Myths for details)

2) Your service triangle should consist of three medium and one small building. The three medium buildings should be an Infirmary, a Diner, and a Grocer. The small building should be a park of some sort. This "service slice" will be replicated throughout your colony - with an average of one service slice for 30-60 residents and only some minor variation (generally this means replacing the Grocer with a better store).

3) When the birth happens you can then "fill out" the colony and build a second living quarter on the other big slice. In addition you can then build the rare metal extractor on the deposit and a lab on your remaining medium slot.

4) With 28 living spaces and a fully populated colony you should theoretically be able to man all the buildings in your colony for the two day time shifts, plus a few more to hold children. You thus have a nice, reasonably happy colony that regularly produces money (from rare metal exports) and research!

Expansion:

Now that you are making money, you have the freedom to expand and diversify your colony. Just remember to remain within the virtuous cycle of ever-increasing profit, and not fall into the trap of deficits which can result in deadlock or even collapse. Here are some final ideas to guide your expansion.

1) Specialize your domes - each should only have one or two different kinds of primary worker. Your original Geologist/Scientist combo is fine. A pure agricultural Dome full of only Boatanists is even better. Managing specialized Domes is easy if you simply make a Dome "prefer" a specific set of specialists. For instance your first mining colony should be made to prefer Geologists and Scientists. That said specialized Domes should NOT reject other specialists - because you might not have enough specialists of the right type to fill out all your slots. See Labor Myths for more details.

2) Agriculture Domes are best delayed until you have farms, as Hydrophonics and Fungus tend to eat up power and other valuable resources in addition to being less productive than farms. Agri Domes also need quite a bit of water, so they should be built near a water source. That said, a single basic Agri Dome with just 3 farms (plus 2 living quarters and a service slice) can easily feed a hundred colonists, and with improved crops of various types it may push closer to 200. Later in the game, the water consumption issue all but vanishes with the addition of a water reclamation spire; at which point they stop really needing the water source and can rely on Moisture Farms again. For reference, it takes 0.2 food to feed a colonist each day.

3) A science-focused Dome will generally produce more research than your starting sponsor rate, but labs requires electronics for maintenance which are the most expensive type of import. On the other hand, you can simply spend money outright to get research through Outsource. Long-term Science Domes are generally desirable and should be built, just make sure you can support them and do consider just Outsourcing in the meantime. Unfortunately a previously available "business model" - wherein money is generated by researching patents - has been nerfed so building a lot of science Domes to make money is less viable, but it's still possible.

4) Manufacturing Domes can produce multiple types of advanced resources - because they're all reliant on Engineer specialists. That said, electronics factories tend to require much more manpower than machine parts or polymers, so it may be better to leave them in a separate Dome due to manpower concerns.

Indeed, I suspect a lot of the manpower issues lies with how people try to cram all three types of factory in a single Dome - resulting in too much labor demand and not enough workers. Likewise, small factories tend to be much less efficient than big ones - so wait until you have big factories before starting production. Obviously, your supply of raw materials should also exceed your manufacturing capability - there's no point in being able to produce 10 machine parts per day if your metals production is only 3!

Finally, there are no spires which enhance industrial production, so you should consider Domes without spires but extra space to house industry. The Barrel Dome in particular is a great pick for an industrial center.

5) Have a specialized Dome for training specialists once you unlock the university. Make sure the university always works all shifts. Set it to prefer non-specialized adults and REJECT any specialists. That way non-specialists go into the university Dome and are kicked out as soon as they get skills. Name it after some famous real-world university town like say Heidelberg. That's part of the fun of the game.

6) Eventually your Domes will become "clogged" by Seniors and children, who do not contribute to the work force but prevent vital factories from being manned. At this point, a "retirement" Dome and a "children's" Dome might be in order.

However, unlike "specialized" Domes which prefer certain specialists, you must do the reverse: To create a Senior's Dome, you must select all other Domes and have them REJECT Seniors. The retirement Dome then prefers Seniors but does not disallow other age groups (except maybe children).

This is because seniors will not automatically migrate to the "retirement" dome unless their parent dome rejects them. Meanwhile, you still want the retirement dome to have a few working-age people (to man the services).

Apply the same logic to create a children's Dome, albeit the children's Dome should be full of nurseries and include schools and playgrounds to educate the next generation of Martians; similar to the university Dome.

7) Rely more on single-resource depot than universal ones, as this allows you to more easily set transfer routes between Domes using your RC Transports. If you do use universal depots then make sure to disable resources that are not needed in that Dome (e.g. fuel in a spot where the rocket never lands). Shuttle technology is also something to beeline for if you're having difficult micromanaging everything, though RC Transports remain the best and most efficient method of bulk transport.

Anyway, that's all for the beginner's guide. Good luck, commanders!

===

Addendum for Advanced Players

Addendum 1: General FAQ and Notes on some Game Features

1) Landscaping

Definitely use landscaping to flatten the ground and give yourself more building space, and use landscaping to build ramps across cliffs instead of building tunnels. Landscaping mostly takes time, whereas a structure like a tunnel requires resources. Tunnels also cause some pathfinding issues for your rovers.

2) Sponsor / Commander Notes and Advice

IMM - I actually don't recommend this for beginners, because you start with such an embarassment of riches that you can end up over-spending without becoming profitable. I would instead pick IMM for experienced players who want a very fast start - e.g. one where they setup multiple domes on the first few sols, or those who want to start terraforming immediately.

America - the better first choice for beginners, as you get periodic income which can bail you out of a deadlock if you've spent yourself down to zero money. Malls are a mediocre service building however - they fulfill a lot of needs, but require a lot of staff and their comfort rating is not that high.

Blue Sun - a great choice for new players who are familiar with setting up mining Domes, as this sponsor earns more from rare metal mining and can spend this cash to resolve labour shortages. The Corporate Office should be avoided early - it just doesn't generate enough money for the manpower required. It is instead a lategame building that opens up a Dystopian Corporate future where you can rake in unlimited cash from your workers via endless paperwork.

China - the population bonus fades once you have enough people on Mars to produce a surplus of children, but they do have an excellent Rover (arguably the best in the game) which produces 30 power! You won't need to build Solar Panels for the most part - simply buy another RC Rover which you needed anyway for drone control. The Tai-Chi park is also underrated as it has a significant comfort boost.

India - people greatly underestimate the amount of resources you can save with India's bonus, not to mention the faster build time (since most of the "build time" is largely taken up by transporting resources to the site).

SpaceY - having a lot of rockets is honestly not that great, albeit that combined with half-priced Earth imports can allow you to setup a lot of infrastructure quickly; albeit you have a small applicant pool and thus can't really fully utilize a lot of infrastructure. My advice would be to focus on tourism - your rockets are faster and can carry as many tourists - plus tourists help make babies to fill up your infrastructure.

Europe - a research powerhouse, whose first MicroDome should be a pure research center that combines an internal Research Lab and an external Low-G Lab. Lack of early mining money isn't an issue because you gain money from research. My personal favorite.

Russia - I'll be blunt - challenge sponsors aren't really that challenging, they just make the game slower than it normally is. The rare metal drill even side-steps the early money problems, letting you drill as much rare metal as you want given enough time without the need for any colonist or maintenance.

Paradox - a really slow start due to the refueling penalty and low applicants, and only a potentially stronger end due to more breakthroughs. It is also supposedly the most difficult sponsor, but see my note on Russia. Play Paradox if you really care about difficulty percentage numbers (which will really impress no one at this point) or if you want a lot of breakthroughs.

Last Ark - a more interesting challenge sponsor. After you get past the early problems - no research, low funding, and only a single rocket - you get a doubled birthrate bonus which really lets your colony grow rapidly without having to rely on Earth. A great pick for various self-imposed challenges, like say an isolationist colony which refuses to sell rare metals to Earth.

Brazil - the passage penalty isn't really a big deal to make it a central mechanic for a sponsor, but the extra money for colonists does make Brazil the most profitable tourist sponsor.

Japan - the real challenge for Japan is the tiny applicant pool, which is so low that it becomes a different experience compared to other sponsors. Once you get past it though it's a fairly ordinary game.

Commanders:

Astrogeologist - recommended for first-time players to guarantee a rare metal deposit, a poor overall choice otherwise. It doesn't bring enough to the table.

City Mayor - another good beginner choice for extra money and a discount to buildings.

Inventor - a quality of life pick. Drone Hubs are very convenient but cost too much power and maintenance normally. This lets you rely on Drone Hubs without paying power or maintenace costs.

Oligarch - a very poor pick that is unfortunately overvalued because a lot of beginners keep trying to fit everything in their existing domes instead of building more. Arcologies are in fact a poor building - they cost almost as much as a whole new dome both in terms of construction and maintenance!

Hydroengineer - a thematic pick that has less value than Astrogeologist because water is easy to get using Moisture Farms.

Doctor - a good pick for increasing population and making your workforce more productive as a whole, but there are better picks.

Psychologist - a worse Doctor. Sanity really isn't a big issue.

Politician - the additional money isn't really worth giving up on some other, better picks.

Futurist - for difficulty percentage chasers only. The bonus is minimal and the technology is very easy to research.

Ecologist - the better Doctor. Hanging Gardens are the best way to boost comfort and thus birthrate, and getting these early is a significant boost. That said you have to build and maintain Hanging Gardens, so the Doctor is still a valid option as his tech is no-maintenance.

Rocket Scientist - another quality of life pick. If you plan to have a lot of spread out colonies early, then you want the Shuttle Hub tech unlocked early.

3) Mysteries

Mysteries are fun in that they give a bit of a narrative twist to each game, so I won't spoil them.

That said - If you're stuck in a mystery, click on one of the Mystery's unique objects on the map. They often let you do things to it (see your options screen) which allows you to progress.

Alternatively, just wait. Mysteries sometimes just require a few days of wait time before progressing.

4) Connections

You don't really need them and I highly suggest to ignore them in your initial playthrough. The game was originally designed without connections and it can still be played without them as long as you are disciplined with regards to specializing your Domes. Use them once you've mastered specializing Domes, not before.

As a background: They were included because players kept clamouring for a big interconnected colony, and because many players misunderstood how Comfort works (see Comfort Myths for details). In reality interconnected colonies were not very efficient with or without connections, and having access to the Casino in the adjacent colony did not make colonists noticeably less miserable.

If you really want to use connections in an efficient way, then I recommend that you continue to specialize Domes. However, instead of a specialized dome that contains both housing and workplaces, you should split them into two separate Domes - one consisting entirely of housing, and the second (likely smaller Dome) filled with workplaces. For example, have a Dome full of housing for Botanists, and then connect that to a Dome full of farms.

The reason for this is because of spire limitations - most Domes can only have one. With this setup you can add a Hanging Gardens to the housing spire and make all your Botanists happy, while your farming work Dome can have a Water Reclamation spire and be really efficient.

Of course, dual-spire Domes largely negate this advantage, which really shows how connections are a luxury for creating interconnected communities AFTER you become rich and profitable, not a tool to make yourself profitable to begin with.

5) Which Domes to use?

The best Domes are ironically the ones that require no research to build.

The Micro Dome in particular is the best way to build a Dome faster than anyone else and is very low-cost to maintain. They make ideal outposts (specifically science or mining) which can be connected later to bigger Domes using passages.

The Barrel Dome is the best Dome for an industrial center because there are no spires that boost industrial production (polymers/machine parts/electronics) in the first place, so you get a lot more space for less cost.

The Basic Dome remains a pretty good Dome because it is the cheapest Dome that can support a spire - and it will be your workhorse for most of the game.

That said, a lategame Megadome is more efficient in terms of spires that confer a Dome-wide ability. For instance, why build four Hanging Gardens for four basic spires when one Megadome can affect as many residences with just one Hanging Gardens?

Rather, your lategame setup should consist only of Megadomes, Basic Domes, Barrel Domes, and Micro Domes. Megadomes will get spires that confer Dome-wide abilities (e.g Hanging Gardens, Network Node). Basic Domes get spires that have a limited capacity (e.g. Sanitorium) but you want a lot of. Barrel Domes focus on industry (which has no spire that confers bonuses) because they are more efficient in terms of maintenance, while Micro Domes are also efficient maintenance-wise and can be used as outposts. The Barrel and Microdomes could also be used to just house industrial production buildings, so that you can save all of the space in your Hanging Gardens Megadome for housing and keeping them happy.

Do not be afraid to demolish buildings and reconfigure Domes at this late stage because you get a refund on some of your construction costs.

Finally, if you get the two-spire Domes, use them. They are pretty strong even if they aren't the most efficient space/maintenance-wise.

6) Rules to make the gamer "harder"

Frankly, don't bother because most of them simply drag the game out rather than increasing the risk of failure. Trying a 1100% challenge is basically a regular game but with long periods of waiting while you slowly research / wait for babies / wait for disasters to pass/ run a small profit. Instead go with what seem like interesting combinations or self-imposed challenges. There is no "win" condition.

7) Planetary anomalies and events

These are not ground-breaking except when it blows up your only rocket or it gives you another rocket. Plus they are random so you cannot really plan around them.

That said it does mean you should have a rocket on Mars to explore anomalies; and you should send the rocket on an expedition from the main screen (not the planetary view) so that your drones only load the 15 fuel needed for a short expedition.

8) Trade

Trade can be really, really good if your rivals offer resources that you need that you're producing in abundance. Like Planetary Anomalies have a spare rocket ready or build a trade pad. Food is the best resource to trade away later in the game, as you can basically produce it for "free" with a good farming setup.

9) Workshops

They really exist only to make your people happy and consume resources for extremely rich colonies. They are for successful players who want to show off.

10) Ranches

They are not really very efficient for generating food and they make your Vegans miserable. That said, making Vegans miserable may be the whole point aside from the novelty of animals on Mars.

Addendum 2: Alternate Business Models

What if you don't want to be a rare metal miner? Is there really no way to make a profitable colony without resorting to rare metal mining?

The answer, unfortunately, remains "no" despite all the game's changes and additions. Rare metal mining remains the most profitable and consistent early "business model". This is even in combination with some sponsor powers and unique buildings in the expansion.

That said, there are a number of things that you can do in combination in order to stay afloat in the early game - albeit juggling to keep multiple balls in the air still tends to be a more difficult act than rare metal mining alone. But if you really want to cut your teeth into a more complicated early start, consider the following:

1) Research Dome First. This approach is most viable with Europe as a sponsor as you get money every time you research any technology, but there are enough money-generating technologies that allow you to get by as long as you hold yourself to a tight budget (more on that in the next section).

2) Be very frugal. Really, if you can keep your colony costs very low then you can live with very little income. The MicroDome example in the Basic Guide should demonstrate how you can do this.

3) Fly in tourists for your MarsBnB. Each tourist gives you $10M upon landing, leaves automatically on the first rocket to arrive after 5 sols, and generates two new tourist applicants when they reach home alive - no matter how miserable they were during their stay. This means that each open living space in your colony can potentially be "rented out" for $2M per Sol.

This approach is particularly strong for Brazil, as their regular colonists also pay out $10M upon landing (and the sponsor bonus is on top of the usual tourist payout), but also works very well for sponsors with small applicant pools like Japan or Paradox because you will often have extra living space in your colony regardless and the tourists help produce more babies to overcome the initial population issue.

Just remember however that tourists do NOT work in your buildings, hence you still need a regular non-tourist workforce to actually get stuff done. Also, makes sure you have enough food - albeit tourists do still bring 1 food with them which is enough to feed them through 5 Sols unless they are gluttons.

4) Chase after Sponsor Goals that give money. This of course depends on the sponsor, but the extra funding they give is often a godsend for an early colony.

5) Be Russia, use your automated rare metal mining rover, and be patient. Yes, it's not efficient because you lose half of the rare metals in the deposit - but it's essentially "free" money and you probably won't miss one or two rare metal deposits in the end anyway.

There are also two sponsors offering other possibilities for early money - namely Paradox and its Game Development building and Blue Sun's coporate offices - but I would suggest both of these are something of a trap option especially in the early game. Random money is very hard to plan around, while the Blue Sun building requires a huge workforce.

Ironically, Brazil can also theoretically convert waste rock into money via the building which turns waste rock into rare metal, but simply bringing in more people for $10M each is a more reliable early source of income; and you will need a lot of waste rock (meaning a fairly large colony) to maximize the converter anyway.

Addendum 3: Planning for Power (Solar, Battery, Wind, etc)

Many players seem to get confused by how solar and battery power works, which is frankly why a lot of players seem to swear by Sterlings despite being a poor early choice. Early imported Sterlings are frankly too expensive and relying on them is very often why colonies fail.

In reality, Solar + Battery is very simple once you realize these simple rules:

1) A battery can only discharge 20 power per hour. Connecting enough buildings to consume 25 power at night means that you will be 5 power short even if your battery was fully charged. Hence your nighttime power requirements should try to remain within these 20 power increments or be supplemented by wind (which never goes offline)

2) There are only 8 hours of nighttime. This means that your fully charged battery should actually have 40 power leftover even if fully utilized through the night (20 consumption x 8 hours = 160 power, versus the 200 total capacity). This means a fully charged battery will leave you with a margin of error in case of any recharging issues during the day (e.g. your solar panels were out of service for an hour due to maintenance). If you are really brave, you can also decide to charge up to just 160 power before every night instead of 200.

3) There are 16 hours of daylight, meaning you need 12.5 power per hour during the day to fully charge a battery. That translate to 3 large solar panels per battery, or better yet just 5 large solar panels per 2 batteries. For the “brave” option that charges up to 160 you only need 2 solar panels.

Being aware of these three principles, then your early game powergrid should consist of these four specific elements based on your colony's power needs. I suggest you keep organized on the map to help you figure out your power capability:

1) Daytime-only Power: Fields of Large Solar Panels to supply your daytime-only buildings. For instance if you are building a Machine Parts factory (50 power!) that you only run during the daytime (which you probably should!), then build 10 large solar panels to supply it.

2) Nighttime-only Power: As noted above, this is a combination of 3 large solar powers and 1 battery for 20 power/hour, or 5 large solar panels and 2 batteries for 40 power/hour. The panels will fully charge your batteries during the day so you can supply power during the night.

3) All-Sol Power: A combination of items 1 and 2. That means you need 7 large panels and 1 battery to supply 20 "all-sol" power/hour , or 13 large panels and 2 batteries for 40 power. Basically, add 4 solar panels (20 power/hour during the day) for every nighttime-only power unit of 20 power/hour.

4) Supplemental/Auxillary: Build Wind as an all-sol supplement if you don't need a full 20 power setup yet (eg. you need 25-30 power all-Sol, rather than 40), or are in a dust storm-prone map. Indeed in a disaster-prone map you should probably throw in a Wind Turbine every for every 20 power produced by solar + battery.

The above setup should lead to rather low maintenance using imported parts - basically you just pay some polymers and machine parts - and most of the maintenance is instead paid using metal which in the early game can be collected fairly easily on the surface using transport rovers.

That said, having huge metal maintenance and space devoted to solar panels is not ideal for the lategame, since by that point all surface metal will have been used up and you want space for other things. This is why lategame power systems are centered around triboelectric scrubbers - because scrubbers DO clean each other and basically reduce their maintenance to zero.

In this maintenance-less future, you should really only have wind, stirlings, and fusion covered by the scrubbers, because you want buildings with a high power-to-space ratio. Initially, wind should be your mainstay because of the low build cost and it can produce more power than solar for the same space, but once you have a steady supply of polymers and electronics Stirlings should be your mainstay as they produce much more power for less space. Fusion is potentially even more efficient from a space-saving perspective, but do note they require manpower.

Finally, note that you still need to have backup power production or storage in the lategame - because scrubbers only prevent maintenance and not disasters!

Addendum 4: Labor, Comfort, and Housing Myths

Labor Myths

A recurring criticism of Surviving Mars is that players can't seem to figure out how to manage their colonists. The problem is that many of these critics are over-complicating the issue and don't realize they are managing an entire colony, not catering to the whims of every single colonist.

In this regard, it is important to realize that good colonist management revolves around a set of much simpler factors:

1) It is not your job to ensure that each colonist is happy and is working an ideal job. You are NOT a jobs placement officer. You are the manager of an entire colony. Bob the Geologist can suck it up serving meals in the Diner while you don't have a mine built yet.

2) Your job instead is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of labor compared to the jobs needed to be done in the colony. Ideally, you want to fill a job with a specialist, but realize that a warm unspecialized body is ALWAYS better than none at all.

3) You will always have chronic labor shortages in the early game so you will be constantly using unspecialized workers in the wrong job. This is not because the AI is bad at managing colonists. It is because you have an absolute shortage of specialists of the right type. You cannot fill 6 scientist worker slots if you only have 4 scientists to begin with.

4) Therefore never, ever manage individual colonists. Instead, use filters as noted in the guide above. Specialize Domes and have them prefer the right specialist (but do not reject non-specialists because of the aforementioned labor shortages). Reject seniors and children and put them in their own Domes where they can have their needs met. Build a university dome that prefers non-sepcialists (new students!) and rejects specialists (to throw the graduates out to the work force).

5) Close work shifts that can't be fully manned. Closing shifts is better than closing work slots because closing a shift also kills the building's power requirement for that time. You don't need all buildings working all three shifts.

6) Give the AI a few Sols to do its job. Colonists do have to walk to their new Domes, which takes in-game time. If your Domes are located far away prioritize building a shuttle network to handle the transport.

Comfort Myths

Another recurring criticism of Surviving Mars is that players can't seem to figure out how to make their colonists happy. This is actually even simpler than managing their labor as long as you remember a few key principles:

1) The primary determinant of a colonist's comfort is their residence. Having a 70 comfort residence is more important than having a lot of services. This is because they will always visit their residence. That said, don't build anything but Basic Residences (see the Housing section for details).

2) Your colonists do not need to have their every whim catered to. Building a Games store and stocking it with Electronics is expensive. Your Gamer colonists can suck it up for a while, especially if they have a nice home.

3) Your service buildings have a CAPACITY. Having a wide variety of service buildings means little if your colonists can't get in because it's always full. That's why rushing to build a huge Dome and building every kind of service doesn't actually result in happier people, because the combined capacity of the service buildings often outstrips that of the population. Have 1 big service "slice" (with 3 medium and 1 small buildings) for every 50-60 people.

4) Colonists of the same specialization have the same interests (check the wiki). For instance all scientists want games. This should also guide your service slice design.

5) A service slice should always have a Diner and Infirmary, because all colonists need to eat and have their wounds / sanity treated. The third medium building should be a shop - because almost every specialization has the shopping need - of which the Grocer is the cheapest to run because it consumes only food.

However, if you really want high comfort and don't mind spending the resources to get more babies - then build an art store (for farming Domes) or a game store (for science domes) instead of the Grocer, as these stores have a much higher comfort level than the Grocer and your other colonists will still shop there. For the small building, a park usually helps the most as there are quite a few colonists who want relaxation too.

6) Kid's Domes should have playgrounds. It's pretty much all they want other than food.

Housing Myths

Finally, a recurring misconception about Surviving Mars is that you should abandon Basic Residences in favor of Apartments (or Arcologies) as soon as possible. This is bluntly wrong for a few simple reasons:

1) Apartments are simply the worst single building in the game because of their enormous power requirement (12) compared to basic residences (1!). You are always better off building a new Dome and filling them with basic residences than to fill an existing dome with apartments from a cost and maintenance perspective. They also have terrible residence comfort, which is the most important factor in keeping your people happy.

Moreover water and air - two resources people often cite to justify building apartments and complaining about the lack of space - are in fact ridiculously easy to get. Moisture Vaporators can be called in from Earth and have very low power and maintenance requirements. A single Moxie produces enough Oxygen for multiple basic Domes.

Both require less power combined than a single apartment. If you are running out of space in a present Dome, just build a new one already.

You should only consider Apartments when you have literally run out of space to build any new Domes on the map and still want more population; and even then I'd tear down old space-inefficient power systems (e.g. solar power systems that have not yet been replaced by banks of Sterlings cleaned by scrubbers) first. Indeed, I suspect the game will crash or slow to a crawl before you get to this point.

2) Basic residences are the best. They are extremely cheap and reasonably comfortable, and their comfort can be upgraded.

3) If you want to really boost your housing comfort, build Hanging Gardens, not Arcologies. Hanging Gardens boost the comfort of all residences in a Dome. Arcologies provide a limited number of high-comfort residences and are frankly expensive construction and power-wise, much like Apartments. With a Hanging Garden and a few upgrades, your Basic Residence provides as much comfort as a Smart Home. The Gardens themselves are an awesome service building too.

4) Smart Homes are also pretty much unnecessary unless you want to show off.

Addendum 5: Terraforming

I'm guessing this is the section the veterans will be looking for first.

First of all - while you can start Terraforming early in the game, it doesn't mean you should. Terraforming is an extremely expensive and costly undertaking - and I would argue that it is a proper endgame challenge (unlike workshops) that exceeds the difficulty of most Mysteries. The benefits gained by Terraforming also don't exactly scale up compared to the resources you have to spend. Moreover, Terraforming takes a lot of time - so you will have a very boring game where you will largely stare at the screen waiting for percentage numbers to slowly increase. If you don't believe me, watch the Paradox Community Manager's very boring preview videos.

So this guide assumes that you have built up a successful and productive colony first before Terraforming. The guide will therefore not focus on how to acquire the resources necessary to Terraform, but instead outline the most efficient way to complete the project.

1) You want some of the early Terraform techs regardless as they help your overall colony. In particular, landscaping tech helps you deal with terrain and limited building space, while the tech that gives you six on-map expeditions generally helps boost your tech. Since these techs are early in the tech tree don't be a afraid to invest a little research into the Terraforming branch.

2) The Terraform techs in the early game also give you ways to improve Temperature and Vegetation. Regardless of when you start I suggest to start with these two elements first - because the buildings that improve temperature and vegetation are much cheaper to run than the others. In particular increasing temperature only requires some power and fuel, while decreasing the chance of Cold Snap disasters.

3) Start investing in water only when the temperature is high enough to support liquid water. Note that these make your Moisture Vaporators more efficient so improving water percentage also helps you get more water to pump into lakes. There is not as much point before then. I would also invest much more in vegetation at this point due to soil quality improvements brought about by water, albeit I would avoid outdoor farms due to the huge water requirements.

4) Atmosphere improvements come last in the tech tree and should also be the last area you improve - as the buildings which improve atmosphere are quite expensive to run (50 power!). You definitely don't want these in the early game too when you're still relying on Solar.

5) Assuming you live in the Triboelectric Future (no more maintenance costs), gradual terraforming using colony buildings is the cheapest way to go; albeit it's a bit on the slow side. You don't really have to nuke the polar ice caps or do a lot of projects as they are quite costly to begin with. That said, where's the fun in refraining to nuke the ice caps?

Good luck, Commanders. Make Mars Green.
 
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YertyL

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Well written (and can you say wall of text? :-D), I agree with almost everything and learned some new details (the battery thing).
One thing I would like to comment on:
1) Landscaping

Definitely use landscaping to flatten the ground and give yourself more building space, and use landscaping to build ramps across cliffs instead of building tunnels. Landscaping mostly takes time, whereas a structure like a tunnel requires resources. Tunnels also cause some pathfinding issues for your rovers.
So much this. Ramps and tunnels seem pretty mismatched currently, with tunnels requiring a pretty huge investment (as they should IMO), while I built a ramp before my first rocket had lifted off.
If you still want the rough and steep maps to be harder -- and I like the geography presenting a challenge -- I would at least limit ramps to the RC Dozer, or hide them behind a tech, or significantly increase the time they take with just drones (though the last is IMO not the best option). Maybe make all of terraforming an early-mid game tech, e.g. unlock it with the dozer tech, because there is currently not a lot of reason to get that. I like it as a new feature, but it seems very strong for something you can do from the very start, with just drones.

Also, this
Surviving Mars, despite the name, is NOT a "survival" game. Indeed most "survival" games are misleading because they are not really about survival - instead you simply collect more and more resources to build bigger and bigger things.
is very true, but a bit of a shame. So far I have had the most fun in situations where (almost) half my colony died, but after a few games you almost have to artifically limit yourself to still have some risk. I think my best game so far was a roleplay as the last of humanity with the church of the new ark, last ark option, and as little interaction with earth as possible, to avoid exactly what you described, i.e. supporting yourself mostly with money. So...#adddifficultyoptions?
On the subject of that, did you notice that importing a drone hub prefab is actually far cheaper than importing the ressources for it? This game sets weird incentives sometimes.
 
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dilvish8

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On the subject of that, did you notice that importing a drone hub prefab is actually far cheaper than importing the ressources for it? This game sets weird incentives sometimes.
Yes, but metal can be found freely on Mars, so the real cost is cheaper by 2 electronics when you only order the electronics :)
 

YertyL

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Yes, but metal can be found freely on Mars, so the real cost is cheaper by 2 electronics when you only order the electronics :)
In my current game, 5 electronics cost 140m and hub 210, so as much as 7,5 electronics. Building a hub takes 8 electronics + 12 metal. I have inflation, but I'm pretty sure the ratio of prices does not change. So it's cheaper to buy the prefab even if you disregard the metal.
 

Promethian

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You are wrong about ranches. They are better than farming and by a lot. Farms only become comparable after you've researched quinoa/fruit/corn. See the recent threads on this forum for the number crunching. Of course the open farms from terraforming are the absolute best at raw output but it chugs a lot of water and seeds.

I agree about Apartments for the most part. Definitely use basic residences for most of the game. However Hanging Garden boosts their comfort level well above what is needed to get good work performance and is definitely above the breeding threshold. Power can be a concern but once you get scrubbers, which is often sooner in the techs than Hanging Garden, power is never an issue again.

Also big agree on Arcology. Its out classed by Hanging Garden in every way. Even in a small dome, which is Arcology's best case scenario, you can get more residences at higher comfort using Hanging Garden and Apartments. Even worse, if you get the breakthrough that lets you call in prefab spires the Hanging Garden is cheaper than Arcology.
 

Philadelphus

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Zinegata

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Thank you for all the praise and I hope the guide was useful to a lot of players over the free weekend :)

You are wrong about ranches. They are better than farming and by a lot. Farms only become comparable after you've researched quinoa/fruit/corn. See the recent threads on this forum for the number crunching.
I’m not saying ranches are bad. I just don’t think they are as efficient because the recent threads tend to forget the construction cost and power requirement.

When you have a bigger colony totally go for Ranches, especially the outdoor one. I support making vegans miserable.
 

YertyL

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One thing I would add to this guide, if I had written it, because that seems like a classic noob trap to me as well:
Barrel domes, basic domes & spires: A basic dome has 6 large patches, a barrel dome has 8,6 (8 large 2 medium). If you fill 2,3 of the barrel dome patches with 2 large residences and 1 small (colony design DLC), you get 2*14+4=32 additional living spaces -- which means that you have as much living space as a basic dome with an arcology, but with a medium patch more space, and a significanltly lower cost and upkeep. The only downside is not getting the small comfort boost of arcologies.

I would honestly rename "basic domes" to "small spire domes", because contrary to their name, for a long time the spireless domes should IMO be your bread and butter, with basic domes only coming in when you can really make use of a spire. Which for me mostly means the farm dome with 4 farms + water reclamation + small residences in the connecting patches, and even that makes the most sense after researching farm automation, because then 6 small residences are enough for 4 farms and water reclamation. Even in the later game, spires like hanging gardens and node network IMO make most sense for medium domes and above.
So in the early to mid game, I would heartily recommend barrel domes, because you get 1,5 basic domes for almost the same price, with the only practical downside being trading in some concrete cost + upkeep for polymers.
 

Vouru

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Thank you for all the praise and I hope the guide was useful to a lot of players over the free weekend :)



I’m not saying ranches are bad. I just don’t think they are as efficient because the recent threads tend to forget the construction cost and power requirement.

When you have a bigger colony totally go for Ranches, especially the outdoor one. I support making vegans miserable.
Love the guide, incredibly useful, by what did vegans ever do to you. :(
 

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This is amazing information for a newbie like me. Thanks so much for your efforts, I'm going to put it to good use.
 

Zinegata

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Love the guide, incredibly useful, by what did vegans ever do to you. :(
Its mostly a joke.

That said, I do believe that the whole Veganism movement is largely motivated by virtue-signaling rather than a genuine desire to respect animal life. Its an extreme reaction to American burger fast food culture. The game’s description implies this too.

In reality, most of the world rather sensibly eats a much more balanced diet than either extreme. Thats why we find both Super Size Me and Veganism to be very silly - just eat a normal healthy diet dude.
 
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hironolind

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Grabbed this game in the recent sale and glad I found this guide as it highlights some things I had even got round to considering while developing my colony.
Would been interesting to read your ideas on building and developing outposts, you mention briefly using RC transports, but not much more.
 

Latakia

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Not only is this the best Surviving Mars guide I've come across, it's also one of the best game guides in general I've seen in a long time. I like the organization and concision, especially.

One of the things that's has mystified me as a new player is the birthrate mechanic. I wish I could at least estimate the rate my population is growing.

Above that, I also wish I knew more about how the schools and universities work (more the universities). Do you recommend keeping universities on "auto?" Will they sufficiently populate my growing specialized domes? (I do get the part about specializing an education dome for non-specialists. That was my favorite section of the guide, I think.

Again, very well done, and thanks for the incredible effort/time that went into this guide!
 

Zinegata

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Grabbed this game in the recent sale and glad I found this guide as it highlights some things I had even got round to considering while developing my colony.
Would been interesting to read your ideas on building and developing outposts, you mention briefly using RC transports, but not much more.
An outpost is just a resource extraction center away from your main base. You can’t really move resource sites, so you have to build where they are.

Say you have run out concrete in your main base. To get more concrete you should build an outpost on a good concrete spot - which consists of just the extractor and some power buildings (no need to build a whole new base). Since this outpost will eventually run out of resources it likewise should only be manned by an RC commander instead of a full drone hub.

An RC transport is then set on a convoy route to pick up concrete from the outpost to deliver to your main base. It will also deliver maintenance parts when the outpost breaks down, at least until you get shuttles.

This is what I noted regarding lategame logistics. Shuttles can handle small deliveries for maintenance. But if you want to haul 50+ concrete use the RC Transport to save fuel. Build ramps when needed to shorten routes. The exception is water - for these you have to build long pipes and have a paired RC Transport and RC Drone commander on standby to fix leaks. The huge cost of leaks is also why long pipe routes are often a good candidate for a twin redundant pipe setup where you can turn off one of the two pipes in case of a leak.

A more complicated setup would be a mining outpost - since that requires workers. In this case a MicroDome can house enough workers to fully man a mine, and since you have to probably setup a Vaporator for the dome anyway you might as well add a fuel refinery in the same location.

Remember also that you can always decommission an outpost once it has run out of stuff to extract, and you will get a partial refund on the construction cost. That said, feel free to be sentimental about early outposts. I had a playthrough for instance where I never built a dome on my initial landing spot, but the outpost there provided concrete and fuel for basically the whole game. When the concrete finally ran out, I still kept the buildings in place as a sort-of museum to commemorate where the colony started.

Not only is this the best Surviving Mars guide I've come across, it's also one of the best game guides in general I've seen in a long time. I like the organization and concision, especially.

One of the things that's has mystified me as a new player is the birthrate mechanic. I wish I could at least estimate the rate my population is growing.

Above that, I also wish I knew more about how the schools and universities work (more the universities). Do you recommend keeping universities on "auto?" Will they sufficiently populate my growing specialized domes? (I do get the part about specializing an education dome for non-specialists. That was my favorite section of the guide, I think.

Again, very well done, and thanks for the incredible effort/time that went into this guide!
As a general estimate your colony tends to be self-sufficient birthrate wise at around 100+ colonists at average comfort. When you get to 200+ you may start getting into runaway population growth. If births are really outpacing infrastructure then turn off births in domes until you have a hundred pop or so that are allowed to have births. Note that you should not count seniors.

Universities should be kept on auto. The game does a much better job of keeping track of overall job demand than most players really, because it accounts for colony-wide shortages and not just the building they really want to fill up right now.
 
Last edited:

Mike999

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Great guide. It definitely helped me.

If you really want to use connections in an efficient way, then I recommend that you continue to specialize Domes. However, instead of a specialized dome that contains both housing and workplaces, you should split them into two separate Domes - one consisting entirely of housing, and the second (likely smaller Dome) filled with workplaces. For example, have a Dome full of housing for Botanists, and then connect that to a Dome full of farms.
Is this still worth it with the penalty for not working in your home dome?

Edit: I guess the answer is yes or you wouldn't have recommended it. I just always hesitate when aiming for something with a penalty attached.
 
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Damez_Gamez

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Mike999 said:
Is this still worth it with the penalty for not working in your home dome?
That penalty doesn't make sense to me, I don't like it at all. So the game is telling me that colonists, who left everything behind on Earth to start a new life millions of kilometres away on a new planet, feel aggrieved if forced to live in one dome and work in another dome literally only metres away, unless they're Brazilian. *facepalm*

I haven't gotten far enough along in the game yet to actually see how it affects my game, but the idea of it being a penalty just irks me. I could understand it if it applied to domes further than 1 dome away from home, but even then it's not like they have to sit in traffic jams for hours trying to get to work 15km away from home.
 
Last edited:

chippydip

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2) There are only 9 hours of nighttime. This means that your fully charged battery should actually have 20 power leftover even if fully utilized through the night (20 consumption x 9 hours = 180 power, versus the 200 total capacity). This means a fully charged battery will leave you with a margin of error in case of any recharging issues during the day (e.g. your solar panels were out of service for an hour due to maintenance).
This is a very common misconception, but there are actually only 8 hours of nighttime. The in-game clock tooltip has the misleading trivia fact that "Martian days consist of nearly 25 Earth hours." While that's true in the real world, the game actually just models a 24 hour days (with 3 equal shifts of 8 hours each). I've verified this several ways (including checking the code) but the easiest is to just watch the hour values of the game clock and notice that you only see 0-23 there.

2) Nighttime-only Power: As noted above, this is a combination of 3 large solar powers and 1 battery for 20 power/hour, or 5 large solar panels and 2 batteries for 40 power/hour. The panels will fully charge your batteries during the day so you can supply power during the night.
Because night is only 8 hours, you technically only need 160 power which can be supplied by 2 large solar panels per battery, or enough panels to generate a surplus of half of your nighttime power requirements during the day.