Civilization VI - Mvemba a Nzinga

The Kingdom of Kongo was a small, but prosperous kingdom located on the west coast of sub-Saharan Africa. It can trace its origins back to the late 14th century, when Lukeni lua Nimi conquered the city of Mwene Kabunga and renamed it M'banza-Kongo. The city grew rapidly in an otherwise sparsely-populated region, and by the 17th century, it contained about one-fifth of the entire Kongo population (around 100,000 people). It's large population made it a prosperous and wealthy trading hub that eventually attracted the attention of European powers. The Portuguese set up colonies in Kongo territory, where they would set up a Roman Catholic church that would become one of the strongest churches in all of Africa. In 2017, the entire city of M'banza-Kongo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Civilization VI - Mvemba a Nzinga portrait

In the first half of the 16th century, Kongo was ruled by Mvemba a Nzinga. His father converted to Christianity following the arrival of the Portuguese, and Mvemba a Nzinga added "Afonso" to his name, later becoming known as King Afonso I of Kongo. Afonso played a leading role in Kongo's conversion to Christianity and helped to establish and promote the Roman Catholic Church in the region. The reasoning for his conversion is unclear. Some scholars believe that he was motivated by genuine faith; while others believe that he was only complicit in the conversion in order to facilitate trade with European powers, and possibly to try to spare his population from becoming subject to the Atlantic slave trade. While Kongo had a slave economy of its own, and the kingdom willingly sold slaves to the Europeans, Afonso still denounced the Portuguese as exploiting Kongo's cooperation by kidnapping free Kongo citizens in violation of Kongolese law. The King of Portugal responded by dispatching officers to oversee the slave trade and ensure that only lawful slaves were sold to Europeans, and he demanded additional tribute from Kongo, such as wines and grains.

DISCLAIMER:
Civilization VI is still very early in its life-cycle. Strategies for the game (and for specific leaders and civs) may change as Firaxis applies balance patches, introduces new features, or expands the game through DLC or expansion packs, or as the Civ community discovers new strategies. As such, the following strategy guide may change from time to time. I will try to keep it up-to-date, and will make notations whenever changes are made. I'll also post links in the official 2K forums and CivFanatics, where I'll also report any changes made. If possible and practical, I will try to retain the original content of the strategy for posterity.

I welcome any feedback or suggestions that readers wish to offer. Feel free to post on the linked forums, or by posting a comment at the bottom of the page.

This guide is up to date as of the Summer 2017 patch (ver. 1.0.0.167) (Nubia DLC)

Kongo is a civilization that thrives in jungles and forest, growing massive (and productive) cities. Mvemba a Nzinga adds a unique religious flavor to the civilization by preventing it from being able to found its own religion, while simultaneously wanting other players to send their religion to you.

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Fallout 4

"Pirate Lord Captain Gregle, Slayer of Ancients and World-Renowned Trapeeze Artist" sounds like a pretty legendary character, right? Well, he wasn't. In fact, he was a very lucky, over-achieving halfling rogue in a short-lived campaign of Dungeons & Dragons. I rolled for the character's initial stats, got fairly low constitution, and then rolled the minimum value for hit dice for the first few levels. The result was a sixth-level character with a pathetic sixteen max hit points! A single lucky shot from virtually any enemy could be an instant KO for that character, and getting engaged in melee would practically be a death sentence. While some power gamers may scoff at the idea, rage against their dice, and then remake their character with a standard array and average HP, I decided to run with it and role play the hell out of little Gregle.

Dungeons & Dragons - Halfling Gregle
Character sheet for "Pirate Lord Captain Gregle, Slayer of Ancients and World-Renowned Trapeeze Artist"

With the low initial constitution, I focused my character around stealth abilities, disengagement and evasion tactics, and ranged attacks, and continued to improve those skills as I leveled. Knowing that he's a pathetic weakling, Gregle overcompensated by being a very flamboyant braggart and narcissist (I took inspiration from Stephen Colbert), and thought that he was more charming than he actually was. He routinely hid in the shadows, taking pot shots at vulnerable enemies and racking up kill steals from afar while his two warrior companions did most of the heavy-lifting. He would occasionally disarm a trap or unlock a door, and once used a clever trick to pacify (and subjugate) an entire band of pirates. He then took credit for much of the party's achievements.

Despite having only slightly above average charisma, he leaned on his halfling luck to succeed on some charisma checks and make himself a bit of a celebrity with the local townies for his exaggerated heroics. He reveled in the unprecedented access to their community that the locals provided, and he reveled in the adulant gifts that they showered upon him, happily hoarding it all in his bag of holding. The other party members never called him out on it in public, since they were just happy to have the cooperation of the locals.

While the other players and DM enjoyed Gregle's antics, their characters only barely tolerated his presence. During the actual adventuring, he was constantly getting into trouble and needing to be bailed out by his fellow adventurers. He once falsely awakened the party during his night watch after mistaking a wyvern for a dragon. In another instance, he was KO'd while using spider-boots to walk up a ceiling to pursue an enemy that had climbed a rope to escape the conflict, and he became stuck on the ceiling, forcing the party to figure out a way to get him down. They reluctantly obliged to help him, since Gregle was the possessor of the party's bag of holding, and was actually good at sneaking around to perform recon, unlocking doors, disarming traps, coming up with clever plans to avoid direct conflict, and other appropriately roguish things.

Gregle was one of the most fun characters that I've ever played, and he provided me with one of my most entertaining gaming experiences. This is the power of role playing to a character's strengths and weaknesses. It's a power that Bethesda shows no interest in utilizing for Fallout 4.

Out of the vault and into the wastes

I have to give credit to Bethesda for making one really interesting decision with Fallout 4: the game starts in a time period prior to the Great War that triggered the nuclear holocaust, and so it explores as yet unseen elements of the series' backstory. Or at least, it does for all of fifteen minutes. Much like Fallout 3, the pre-war gameplay and time that you spend in the vault is really just an extended tutorial and character-creation process. But unlike Fallout 3, it doesn't give enough time and depth to those settings to make the player legitimately care about them or the characters in them.

Fallout 4 - pre-war home
You don't spend enough time in your pre-war home or vault to develop any attachment to the place or people.

After creating your character and setting your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats, you and your spouse immediately flee with your infant child to the neighborhood vault. Once inside, you're handed the trademark silly superhero pajama jumpsuit and then promptly cryogenically frozen. You awake to witness your spouse get murdered and child kidnapped by apparent raiders, but then get frozen again. Then you awake again to do the combat tutorial against radroaches before leaving the vault and starting the game proper.

You spend virtually no time in the pre-war time period; you don't bond at all with your spouse or child; you don't establish any connections with your home or neighbors. There is absolutely no emotional bond between the player and what is lost in the war. So when the game drops you in the wasteland with a dead spouse, a missing child, and a quest to track down the kidnapper/killer, it does so without creating any emotional connection or investment for the player. I could go to Concord and then to Diamond City and search for my son, or I could just wander off in any random direction fighting raiders and painstakingly building my own little settlement out in the middle of nowhere using salvaged car tires and scrapped raider armor. Fallout 4 doesn't waste any time taking a nose-dive into the open world limbo.

Fallout 3 - birthday in vault 101
Fallout 3 simulated an entire childhood in the
vault, with friends, family, and even bullies.

Compare this against Fallout 3's prologue. It spent a considerably longer time developing your character and immersing you in the vault. Your dad (voiced by Liam Neeson) plays with you as a baby to teach movement and camera controls, he teaches you how to shoot, and throws a surprise birthday party for you. You interact with a childhood friend, other vault dwellers, and even a bully in order to tutorialize persuasion and speech checks and learn how to solve conflicts without violence. You even go to school and take a test to determine your default skills. In the short amount of time in the vault, you've lived a montage of an entire life.

With only a little bit of buy-in from the player, Fallout 3's Vault 101 becomes a living, breathing place populated with people who you can relate to and care about. You, as a player, have an investment in it and the characters that inhabit it. So when shit happens and you have to leave the vault, it's a monumental moment, and the events of your life, and the decisions that you've made, will shape your character's development over the rest of the game.

Even Skyrim gave the player interesting role-play decisions in its tutorial by required your character to make an immediate decision to follow the imperials or the Stormcloaks (though the scenario makes that decision a pretty one-sided one). And your initial choices of weapons and battle tactics would level up those specific skills; thus, starting the character down a path towards specializing in those skills as the game progressed (though you were completely free to change all that if you want).

And Fallout 4 has a perfect opportunity to take that father / son dynamic from Fallout 3, and invert it! The game could have opened with the birth of the baby. Since Bethesda had to record dialogue for multiple names for the player character, they could just as easily have done the same with the child's name. The doctor could hand you a paper with "This Year's Popular Baby Names", and you could chose one of those names that were explicitly recorded in dialogue. You could even be given the option to type your own name and replace the child's name with "my son" in dialogue. You could fill out the child's name and your own character's name on the birth certificate. Naming the baby would create a sense of ownership and connection to the child that might help encourage the player to pursue the main quest.

Fallout 4 - leaving the vault
Fallout 4's vault serves only as a combat tutorial with no depth, emotional resonance, or meaningful decisions.

But it doesn't have to stop there...

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Civilization V - George Washington of America

Continuing my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's modified civilizations, I'm going to take a look at strategies for George Washington's America. Since Brave New World's Fall patch (2013) America's ability was buffed and its unique unit now allows it to generate more late-game golden ages.

The lands of North America have been occupied by various native tribes for thousands of years, but these tribes lived in relative isolation from the rest of the world, except (possibly) for a brief period of interaction with the Danish Vikings. After Christopher Columbus landed in Haiti in the late 15th century, a flurry of explorers and colonists primarily from Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands began arriving in North America, rapidly exploring and settling the continent. These colonists gradually displaced the native inhabitants, including the Iroquois and the Shoshone. But conflict between the colonies and their European masters (primarily Britain) eventually culminated in a revolutionary war in which the colonists retreated to the countryside, and used guerrilla tactics to defeat the British and establish the United States of America.

Despite being founded on the principles of "equality" and "inalienable rights", the early history of the United States is dominated by tension between its slave-holding and free populations. These tensions eventually culminated in the outbreak of the American Civil War, which resulted in more American casualties than the Revolutionary War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War. Combined. Union victory established America as a modern industrial nation with a singular identity, and Americans stopped referring to the country as "These United States", and began calling it "The United States". This war is also significant in world history because it is the first major war in which industrial technologies such as the machine gun, telegraph, railroad, steam-powered ironclad ships, and (probably most significantly) photography were used to large effect, which changed the way that future wars would be fought and the way that they would be perceived by the public. And it was one of the first major wars to employ new urban fighting tactics that would become the basis of combat for the wars of the 20th century. America would play a pivotal role in those 20th century wars as well, and would emerge from them as a dominant global super power.

Civilization V - George Washington, leader of the American civilization

George Washington was a colonial general who lead the British colonies in America in wars against the French and various Native American tribes. When the colonies declared independence, Washington became one of the premiere generals for the new colonial militia. Knowing that they could not defeat the British in conflict in the cities or open field, Washington and the other colonial leaders gave the cities to the British and retreated to the hills and forests of the countryside. Here, they successfully employed large-scale guerrilla tactics that weakened the British supply lines and culminated in American victory. Washington would then become the country's first President and set several precedents, such as the idea that the President would be a civilian position (as he refused to wear his military uniform while in office), and that the President should step down after two terms.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation season 2 celebration event poster

I had the opportunity last night to attend the Fathom Events Celebration of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 movie event. I attended the first season event as well, but wasn't terribly impressed with what I saw other than the simple nostalgia factor. I'm not a huge fan of the first two seasons of Next Gen, but I was really looking forward to the season 2 event because Fathom and Paramount chose my two favorite episodes from the season: "Q Who" and "The Measure of a Man".

In addition, the version of "The Measure of a Man" being shown was actually an extended cut of the episode. According to the behind-the-scenes featurette, the original script was very dialogue-heavy, and the producers underestimated how long the episode would end up being. The original version ended up being too long for network TV and was cut in editing by about 13 minutes. The full version of the episode, however, was retained on a VHS cassette given to the writer, and is going to be included on the Season 2 blu-ray.

"The Measure of a Man" is easily (in my opinion) the single, best episode of the first two seasons of Next Generation, and is arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series. It marks the point at which the show really started to turn a corner and elevate its storytelling and presentation. Seeing an extended cut (that I'd never before seen) on the big screen was a real treat!

I was very ambivalent about purchasing the Next Gen blu-rays. I had initially expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the packages, but was later informed that some special effect shots were replaced and/or augmented with CGI. I purchased the blu-ray sample disc, and was not terribly impressed with what I saw. The visual quality didn't seem all that much better than watching the regular DVDs on my PS3 (which has a pretty good upscaler). The only real positive points for the blu-ray sample disc was that colors were a bit more vivid, and sound quality had increased dramatically. So I wasn't totally sold on the new blu-rays, especially since I already have the full DVD collection and seasons one and two don't impress me all that much anyway. I was kind of in a position of waiting to see if seasons 3 and 4 would impress me.

But then I saw the extended cut of "The Measure of a Man", and now I am considering picking up the season two blu-ray.

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Today marks the anniversary of quite a few historical events of significance.

Firing on Ft. Sumter

Today, the American Civil War turns 150 years old, as we observe the anniversary of the April 12, 1861 attack by Confederate troops of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina. Although a grim occasion on its own right, this attack does have some silver lining, as it began the conflict that would eventually set in motion this nation's steps towards racial equality.

50 years ago today, on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space and orbit the Earth.

NASA logo

Today is also the 30th anniversary of the 1981 maiden voyage of the space shuttle Columbia, the world's first reusable spacecraft. It was a momentous and cheerful day for space exploration. The shuttle itself met a tragic end, when it disintegrated on re-entry during a mission, killing its seven crew and passengers over 20 years later. I'd like to take this moment to thank the brave men and women of NASA for the heroic work they do expanding the horizons of human knowledge and experience, and to offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of all such heroes who did not return.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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