Civilization VI: Rise and Fall - title

When Civilization V first launched back in 2010, it was in a pretty ugly, incomplete state. The game was buggy, was very slowly-paced, was completely missing any sort of espionage mechanic, and had other gaping holes in its design. It took about six or eight months' worth of patching and updating from Firaxis before the game reached a state that I would consider "adequate". Its first expansion, Gods & Kings basically came off as a fan wishlist, as it re-added (and re-vamped) many of the features and systems that had been removed between Civ IV and Civ V (religion and espionage). That expansion also addressed a lot of core complaints with the game by dramatically improving combat balance and A.I. intelligence. The second expansion, Brave New World, almost completely re-invented the game and added a considerable amount of innovation in the form of trade routes and the new great works and artifacts systems. It also added an exceptional, robust roster of new civilizations.

Civilization VI launched with most of Brave New World's innovations still in place (though culture seems to have regressed a bit), and also added its own new innovations in city management. It felt like a much more complete game at launch than Civ V was. At the time, I was blown away by Civ VI, but as time has gone by (and I've increased the difficulty level), my enthusiasm for the game has diminished a bit.

I really enjoy the game when I play it on the King difficulty level (the "easiest" of the "hard" difficulty levels, in which A.I.s only get very slight bonuses). As soon as I up the difficulty to Emperor, I start to get frustrated, and the game becomes much less fun. The problem is that on the difficulty that I enjoy (King), the A.I. puts up very little resistance, and the game (though fun) is generally too easy. I can play the game on Emperor (I haven't experimented much on Immortal or higher in VI yet), but the stacking of the deck makes the game less enjoyable because I often feel that I'm blocked out of many early-game strategies that I want to try (such as early religion or wonders). It's all possible to accomplish, but it's prohibitively so, and the game often pushes me too far in the direction of militancy.

Doesn't address core game issues

Nope. Still no build queue...

In summary, while Civilization V's first expansion filled many of the gaping holes and addressed many of the flagrant flaws in vanilla Civ V's design, VI's first expansion mostly just stacks additional mechanics and features onto an already-complete game, while leaving many of VI's annoyances, quirks, and genuine flaws un-resolved. Let's get these complaints out of the way first.

Rise and Fall does little to address complaints with shallow unit upgrade paths. There's still generally only a single unit of a given unit class every other era.

Rise and Fall does very little to improve the combat systems in general. Units still die far too easily (in my opinion) (though this seems to be due in large part to the disparity in unit upgrade levels mentioned above), and imbalances between melee, ranged, and mounted units are still prevalent.

Rise and Fall does nothing to address complaints that I've had with the maps feeling very crowded and claustrophobic.

Civilization VI back-loads most of its culture, tourism, artifact, and great work systems into the second half of the game, and Rise and Fall does very little to make these feel like game-long engagements the way that Brave New World mostly did.

It does very little to make the late-game victory march feel less like a slog, or to make the early-game feel less rushed (especially on higher difficulties).

It does very little to address complaints with how the A.I. agendas can make them very erratic and schizophrenic. A.I.s are still far too willing to agree to joint wars against their own friends, allies, and trade partners, and joint wars in general still feel like a cheap loophole that lets warmongers bypass the casus belli system and warmonger penalties. Further, while the expansion does allow for deeper alliances with mutual benefits for the civs involved, it does not expand alliances to the point of allowing for shared or cooperative victories. So dipomacy in general still feels like a zero-sum-game with every civ acting to the exclusion of all others.

There's still no icon or indication that a unit has experience bonuses from barracks or buffs such as "Spears of Fion", or to indicate which abilities or penalties a given unit has by default.

We still can't assign military units to escort traders, nor can we see the path of any particular trader after it's started a route. And Trade routes themselves still don't generate reciprocal profit by default, meaning there's no reason to want other civs to send routes to you (other than getting a free road out of it, which isn't all that rewarding).

There's also still no build queues for cities!

Religion was overhauled in a patch last year, and religious units occupy their own layer.

Some major game upgrades have already been made available via post-release patches and DLC updates, and I'm grateful for those. New resources and wonders have trickled in since launch. One of the best improvements came in an update last year that allowed religious units to exist on their own layer, so that swarms of missionaries don't block your own units' movement in your territory. And the religious system in general was improved. So the game, overall, has improved a little bit since release. It just hasn't improved as dramatically as Civ V had improved in its first year. Though, to its credit, Civ VI didn't have as much room for obvious improvement.

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Civilization V - Gandhi of India

Continuing my series of strategies for Brave New World, I am going to take a moment to discuss one of (if not the) most sorely misunderstood civilizations from the vanilla game: Gandhi's India. India received a very minor tweak in Brave New World (its unique building was modified to provide tourism instead of gold), but the new trade route mechanics radically change the way that India should be played. In some ways, the new features make India feel like a completely new civilization!

The ancient civilization of India is one of the world's most populace and diverse countries. More than 1/6th of the world's population currently calls India home (that's over a billion people!), it is one of the cultural and spiritual centers of the world. India is the birthplace of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions, which make up third and fourth most populous religions today. The less-populous faith of Jainism also has roots in India. In addition to the variety of religions, there are also over 100 distinct languages that are spoken in India! Indian society used to follow a rigid caste system in which a person's status in life is determined at birth. Although this caste system is not enforced (and is actively discouraged by the government), it remains a persistent force in the nation, and still leads to a great deal of prejudice and conflict within the country.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Gandhi

One of the most significant leaders of Indian history (and world history) is Mohandas Gandhi. In the early 1900's, India was under British occupation, and Gandhi, the son of the Prime Minister of the small state of Porbandar, was successful in leading an unprecedented non-violent rebellion to drive the foreign rule out. This peaceful rebellion lead to Gandhi being recognized as one of the most courageous and moral leaders the world has ever known. Indians affectionately refer to him as "Bapu" (translation: "father") in recognition of his role in creating the modern Indian nation. His birthday, October 2, is a national holiday in India, and is celebrated outside of India as the International Day of Non-Violence. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1948 (at age 78) by a Hindu nationalist who believed that Gandhi showed too much favoritism to Pakistan, one of India's bitter rivals. The assassin was tried and executed the following year, and Gandhi's ashes were distributed around the country for numerous memorial services.

Gandhi's representation in Civilization V gets a lot of undeserved criticism from some players, who often cite India as the "worst civ in the game" based solely on the fact that he is the only civ with a penalty explicitly stated in his unique ability (except for Venice in Brave New World), and that his unique unit is in some ways inferior to the unit it replaces. However, it is important to note right off the bat that there are plenty of civs who receive indirect penalties as part of their uniques. But the "Population Growth" ability, itself, is very poorly understood. Many players assume that this means that India must be played with a small empire, and that India cannot compete for any victory except for culture or diplomatic. This is simply not the case, and I'm going to explain why!

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