c) There should be no problem in SMAC- SMAX connection. The original and the expansion were designed to coexist in one directory.
Thanks for clearing that up. I'll reinstall the patch since I've played 2 games with your patch and 1 vanilla I can say there's a huge difference just with the AI using more formers in the start.
In Vanilla it seems the AI barely terraforms or builds enough roads.
In the patch, it isn't uncommon to see all the AI cities connected via roads. The AI is also a tougher nut to crack thanks to the AAA units it keeps building (looks like copter wars have been toned down).
The AI is more aggressive and starts wars on the drop of a hat. I usually roleplay the peace keepers(power brokering) so I'm always trying to get everyone to play nice (even the hive), but it's harder to do in the patch. I'm thinking this is cause the AI has more production and resources so it becomes more bold in terms of warfare. In vanilla I can usually bribe them out of wars but they seem more stubborn here. I guess I'll just adapt my strategies.
Morgan has a huge kick in the pants, since both of the games I've played with the patch, he was my number one competitor(usually swallowing another faction up in the process). Where as in vanilla he usually just has 4 cities doing nothing.
The university has always gotten shafted in my games (both times Miriam conquers them right off the bat, to be fair though both times she started right next to them).
In the one game I played as the Hive, the Peace keepers were a major threat (2nd to Morgan of course).
In the game I played as the Peace Keepers, the Hive was average, just slightly above Deirdre. Then again the Hive spawned right next to me so there was no place for them to expand.
Miriam is always a major threat. Mainly cause she conquers the university and is roughly the size of 2 factions.
Deirdre is average, she manages to survive to the end though so she's doing something right. Even if she gets shafted in the start, she usually expands to uninhabited islands and/or build sea bases to stay in the game.
Spartans are below average, they don't build enough bases and aren't aggressive enough.
This was all with standard map settings/size, 5-8 hour games fit my time schedule better plus I think the AI performs better on an average size map. Mid range difficulty (sorry I'm no 4x god). I'll probably fire up some more games this weekend as the university or deirdre and see if I can notice any other AI quirks but so far it was better then my vanilla game where I was #1 in everything except wealth and controlled half the planet without conquering anyone on the same settings.