Every faction needs an army. This axiom is heavily reinforced by gameplay; those who do not build at least a token defense force will quickly and effortlessly be conquered by enemy factions. Additionally, as bases grow, the need for drone suppression increases, further emphasizing the need for a standing army. The Spartans, in this regard, represents a turning of necessity into virtue: the necessity of preparedness for armed conflict means that those who are best prepared are also those who stand to come out on top if and when conflict arrives. If, as Hobbes said, homo hominis lupus est, then being the biggest baddest wolf is the path to victory.
The faction name – Spartans – implies two things. It implies that this is a society that values martial prowess over worldly possessions, healthy warrior spirits in healthy warrior bodies. It also indicates that this is a disciplined society, consisting of soldiers rather than thugs. The aim of being prepared for conflict is not conflict for its own sake: a Spartan getting into brawls and fights at every turn is a bad Spartan, incapable of fulfilling their duty as part of a coherent, well-drilled unit. This is a faction of well-trained soldiers, capable of overtaking and outperforming their opponents even if the odds are seemingly (and numerically) even. The leader quote speaks to this:
Superior training and superior weaponry have, when taken together, a geometric effect on overall military strength. Well-trained, well-equipped troops can stand up to many more times their lesser brethren than linear arithmetic would seem to indicate.
– Colonel Corazon Santiago, “Spartan Battle Manual”
The Spartans emphasize individual virtue in the form of martial prowess, but it is by no means an individualistic faction. Wars are not won (or lost) by feats of individual excellence, but by extrapolation of initial conditions. Those who possess the better weapons and training also possess an advantage in terms of said initial conditions. Thus, it is paramount to secure and maintain this advantage at all times – and on every field of battle. Clausewitz is still with us.
Given this focus on superior training and weaponry, development (technological as well as social and economic) in the Spartan faction is guided by two questions: how can it be used as a weapon, and what is the most efficient method of implementing it once weaponized?
Having a gun makes you more capable of projecting force than not having a gun, and the same goes with having bigger and/or better guns. Military capability is not limited to mere possession, however. There is a difference between being proficient at a specialized set of tasks (such as being a plumber in our society), and being embedded in a culture where these same tasks are treated as an everyday occurrence. For the Spartans, soldiering is not a profession or a circumstance: it is a way of life. Training begins at an early age, and by the time of reaching adulthood, citizens intuitively see how things can be weaponized. Moreover, by virtue of a shared frame of reference in martial matters, they can communicate without friction with other citizens about how to go about using new weaponry and tactics. The Spartan culture as a whole endeavors to create readiness for adopting and modifying new military practices. The gear changes, but the mindset and discipline remains the same.
This is reflected in the faction bonuses: a substantial bonus to morale (which, mechanically, translates directly into combat strength), and a minor bonus to its police rating (more efficient drone suppression). The collectivist focus on military training and martial prowess creates a strong sense of unit coherence. An individual is at all times a part of a unit, who live and train and sweat and bleed and – when the day comes – die together. There is at no point any doubt about one’s place in things. It is an open question whether the bonus to police is a reflection of decreased rates of crime (due to the aforementioned unit coherence), or of an increased tolerance for punitive measures against those instances of crime that actually do occur. Possibly, it is a little bit of column a and a little bit of column b.
The faction receives a penalty to Industry, which in terms of game mechanics makes everything more expensive to build. This reflects the focus on military application mentioned above – attaining and maintaining superior military readiness does not happen automatically or without cost. Resources have to be constantly committed to ensure that the training and weaponry remain at its peak, and the increased number of citizens dedicated to soldiering rather than production means that the factional advantages are distributed accordingly.
It should not come as a surprise that the final factional bonus is that they can instantly apply new technological advances in the field, without having to construct a prototype unit first. (Prototype units cost significantly more minerals to build, and incur an equally significant increase in the cost of finishing construction with energy.) This does not only mean that the Spartans can construct a unit with better guns faster than other factions can, it also means they can retool their entire industrial infrastructure to building these better units as soon as they are available. This is in line with the Spartan ethos that the outcome of a war is an extrapolation of its initial conditions: since the Spartans can implement new technology faster, the initial conditions are more likely to favor them. Speed is not only a convenience – it is an absolute necessity.
Given all this, it is intuitive that the faction tends towards the Power social policy, and loathes its Wealth counterpoint. Wealth for its own sake makes no sense for a – pun intended – Spartan society. Enacting the Power policy gives a bonus to Support (meaning the capacity to support more units per base) and Morale (which, in this case, means very, very strong units). The downside is an additional penalty to Industry (making everything even more expensive). Here, gameplay and narrative converge: while units do take longer to train, upon finishing their training they are substantially better than equivalent counterparts from other factions. It is quite possible that new units start out with the highest possible morale, which enables them to move faster and further. Again, speed is paramount.
While the written backstory of the game and the expansion is rather hit and miss, episode 9 of Journey to Centauri does feature a statement from Santiago that well sums up the Spartan view of their being on Chiron, and of the other factions:
This mission stinks of politics under a veneer of idealism. We crave survival, pure and simple, and this focus gives us power. We wish to play out our destinies on our own terms.
The mission, of course, being the UN mission over which the Peacekeepers are nominally in charge. Needless to say, their visions do not necessarily align. Ironically, it is in the nature of those wishing to be fiercely independent not do agree with those who suggest they should be free to make their own choices; the fear always being of politics under a veneer of idealism.
If the Spartans were to lead humanity’s transcendence, it is very possible the endeavor would be undertaken with a tangible sense of belligerence against Planet. As we have seen, the Spartans are not adverse to technological progress, but neither are they interested in progress for its own sake. Everything is geared towards the goal of securing military superiority over the opponent, present or future. Given that material weaponry is inefficient against Planet, other advantages are to be sought, other ways in which humanity can gain the upper hand. A Spartan-led transcendence would most likely at some point mean post-humanity tries to take control over the awakened Planet, thus possibly becoming the biggest wolf in the galaxy. It would, ironically, be a reversal of the initial premise. Humanity, having transcended, is no longer wolf against itself.
But it would still be a wolf, with very sharp teeth, and a well-practiced knowledge of how to use them.