Crusader Kings 3 - title

My blog readers know that I'm a fan of historic strategy games. Two of my favorite PC game franchises are Civilization and Total War, and I've dipped my hands into plenty of other historic strategy games ranging from the prehistoric Dawn of Man, all the way to Ultimate General: Civil War and Company of Heroes. But there's one prestigious set of historic strategy games that I've yet to get into. That is Paradox's historic strategy lineup of Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and Hearts of Iron. I own Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV on Steam, and I've always wanted to get into them. I have a friend who plays them a lot, and the game looks really fun, but I was just never able to figure either of them out.

I tried booting up both a couple times and was just immediately overwhelmed. I tried the Crusader Kings II tutorial twice, and still didn't feel like I had a firm enough grasp on the game to feel compelled to keep playing. Part of that is because both games have myriad expansions and DLC that have just further complicated the games and repeatedly raised the bar of entry for newcomers. The only one of Paradox's tutorials that I felt gave me a reasonable grasp on the game was the tutorial for Stellaris.

When I saw previews for Crusader Kings III, I immediately put it on my watch list and committed myself to buying it day one, so that I could get in on the ground level in the hopes that it will be easier to grasp before Paradox starts releasing countless DLCs. It seems to have paid off, as I've been hooked on the game on and off since launch, and that addiction has cut into my Civ playing time, as well as delayed many of my blog projects and YouTube content. So for those of you eagerly awaiting new Civ strategies or the next installment of "How Madden Fails to Simulate Football", you can blame Paradox Interactive for the delay...

I am not the state

As someone who was never able to get into the previous game, I cannot say if Crusader Kings III is "dumbed-down" compared to its predecessor. It is, after all, still insanely complicated. But I definitely feel like it has a gentler learning curve and a much more effective tutorial compared to its predecessors. The hand-holding of the tutorial really did help me get a better understanding of how the various mechanics were working, and I've also found it much easier to navigate the revised U.I. and find the information that I'm looking for. I still feel like I have no idea what many of the U.I. panels mean, but I at least understand enough of the basics this time around to actually feel comfortable playing the game.

If you're unfamiliar, Crusader Kings is a medieval grand strategy game in which you play as the king of a small, European (or Middle Eastern or African) kingdom. You engage in diplomacy and court intrigue to increase your wealth and power, fight wars to conquer territory, and manage your growing holdings. But unlike a game like, say Civilization, you do not play as an abstraction of the state itself. Instead, you play as a line of rulers in a single family dynasty. You play as a single king (or queen) character at any given time. This king grows old, and eventually dies, at which point, you take control over you chosen heir and continue playing the game as that character. If you ever get to a point in which you have no family heir to carry on when you die, it's Game Over.

When your player character dies, you take over as that character's primary heir.

As much improved as the tutorial is, I do feel that it has one glaring weakness: it doesn't really cover succession. The tutorial basically puts you in control of a 40-year-old king in Ireland. It shows you how to press a few claims, use a casus belli to press those claims, create a title, deal with vassals, marry off a child, and then it basically just hands you the reigns and says "OK, now keep playing". And yeah sure, these are all the things that you spend most of the game doing. But I would say that arguably the most important part of the game is declaring your heir and setting up your inheritance to maximize the territory that your primary heir retains power over. I think succession is the single most important part of the game, and the tutorial doesn't cover it at all. When it finally happens, there's a tool tip that pops up to explain some stuff, but it didn't really help me all that much to understand what was happening, and a tool tip popping up after the fact certainly didn't help me to prepare for my king's inevitable death and inheritance.

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Civilization VI - Simon Bolivar of Gran Colombia

Well, Firaxis is apparently not done with Civilization VI. They will be releasing new DLC packs with new game modes, new civilizations, and new leaders through March of 2021. The first such "New Frontiers" pack released in May of 2020 and included two new civilizations: the Maya and Gran Colombia. As usual, I try to give priority for my strategy guides to civilizations and leaders who have never been depicted as playable in the Civilization games before. In this case, we have a civilization that has been in previous games with a leader who has not, and a leader who has been in a previous game attached to a civilization that has not. I'm going to give priority to the leader who seems more straightforward to play, so that I can get this guide out to my loyal fans as quickly as possible. I will thus start by covering Simón Bolívar of Gran Colombia. Simón Bolívar appeared as a leader of New Spain in Civilization IV: Colonization, but has never been included as a leader in a mainstream Civilization game. And Gran Colombia is making its first appearance in the series as a playable faction.

Patreon

For future releases that may include multiple leaders, I may put up polls on Patreon to let my Patrons decide which civ or leader to cover first. I may also put up polls asking if my Patrons would prefer that I make guides focused on the new game modes. So if you would like to vote on which content you would prefer to see sooner, I hope you'll consider supporting the creation of this content on Patreon.

Following Simón Bolívar's victory at New Granada in the Colombian War of Independence against Spain, political leaders of the colonies in Colombia and Venezuela established the Republic of Colombia (now known as "Gran Colombia") -- even though the War of Independence was still ongoing. The federal republic divided its territory into 12 "departments", each headed by an intendant (some of whom were also commandante generals in the military), with the nation as a whole being governed by an executive branch with a president and vice president. The country only survived 12 years before dissolving over in-fighting between federalists and centralists in its ruling parties.

Civilization VI - Simon Bolivar portrait

Gran Colombia's president, Simón Bolívar, had a vision of all the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies of Latin America being independent republics that cooperated in a league (similar in principle to the modern-day European Union) with a centralized parliamentary assembly and unified policy towards European colonial powers. The treaty was only ratified by Gran Colombia, and Bolívar's dream faded. A few years later, he became ill and died of tuberculosis, and his nation of Gran Colombia died the following year. Before he died, it is said that Bolívar stated that "America is ungovernable", as he became jaded towards the end by all the bickering and political in-fighting that had dominated Gran Colombia's brief existence. Though he failed to unite the entirety of Latin America, his prominent role in liberating Latin American countries from Spanish rule has him regarded as a father figure of many South American countries. The nations of Bolivia and the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela are named in his honor, and their currencies are know (respectively) as "boliviano" and "bolívar".

DISCLAIMER:
Civilization VI is still a "living game". 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 further DLC or expansion packs, or as the Civ community discovers new strategies or exploits. 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 release of the "New Frontiers" Maya and Gran Colombia DLC pack (May 2020) (ver. 1.0.1.501)

Simón Bolívar is built to be an aggressive leader in Civilization VI who should use his units' extra movement, and his free Commandante Generals each era to wage lightning warfare against his enemies.

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Civilization VI - Montezuma of Aztec

Now that I've covered all the civilizations which are new to the Civ franchise in the Gathering Storm expansion, I'm going to cover the other civs that my Patrons voted on. I'm going to start with Montezuma of the Aztecs. The Aztecs were included as DLC for the vanilla release of Civilization VI.

The Aztec Empire consisted of a "Triple Alliance" between the city states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan in the Central Mexican Valley basin around Lake Texcoco, based largely around the cultivation of maize. They would subjugate other city states through military conquest, trade, or marriage, and then install governors to administer those client states without necessarily needing to maintain a military garrison. Client states would pay tribute directly to the Aztec emperor, who would limit their ability to communicate and trade directly with other client cities; thus, making each of the clients dependent on the empire for resources and luxury goods and reduce the likelihood of an uprising.

Civilization VI - Montezuma portrait

In the early 1500's, Spanish Conquistadors (lead by Hernán Cortéz) arrived in central Mexico and occupied the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, keeping Aztec Emperor Moctezuma Xocoyotzin a prisoner in his own palace. Since most of his history is depicted through the lens of the Spanish conquerors, information about Moctezuma's life and rule are limited and contradictory. He ruled the Aztec Empire at its territorial height after several successful military campaigns, and he imposed regressive policies that increased the rigidity of the Aztec caste system and severely limited the ability of commoners to work in royal palaces or ascend to nobility. Contrary to his typical depictions in the Civilization games as a blood-thirsty warmonger, contemporary Spanish writings suggest that Moctezuma may have been rather meek and was accommodating of the Spanish conquistadors, whom he invited to live in the palace as guests. Moctezuma would die during the Spanish occupation of Tenochtitlan, possibly having been stoned to death by his own citizens who were frustrated with his inability (or unwillingness) to repel the Spanish invaders.

DISCLAIMER:
Civilization VI is still a "living game". 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 further DLC or expansion packs, or as the Civ community discovers new strategies or exploits. 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 release of the Gathering Storm expansion's "Red Death" update (ver. 1.0.0.341)

The Aztecs in Civilization VI are built to be highly aggressive, using the procurement of luxury resources to strengthen their armies and support their vast conquests.

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Ace Combat 7 - title

Ace Combat 4 would be on my short list for "favorite games ever". It's one of the few games that I've beaten multiple times. I rented the game from Blockbuster (back when Blockbuster was a thing), and beat it over a weekend. A few months later, I wanted to play it again, so I rented it another weekend, and beat it. I think I may have rented it (and beat it) one more time before finally just buying my own damn copy from a bargain bin, then played through it again.

When I was in high school, my parent's home was broken into, my PS2 and all my games were among the items stolen -- including Ace Combat 4. Despite having already beaten the game multiple times, when it came time to replace my PS2 collection, I bought the "Greatest Hits" version of the game, and played through it once more.

So in total, I rented Ace Combat 4 at least two or three times from Blockbuster, and have bought two new, retail copies of the game.

I always liked how this series hits a comfortable middle ground between an arcade shooter/dogfighter and a flight sim. You can configure the controls so that the planes fly like actual planes, but it also gives you access to 50-100 missiles on planes that only have 2 missiles strapped to their wings. If you get good enough, you can shoot down enemy planes with just machine gun, but it takes a lot of practice.

Ace Combat has found a comfortable middle ground between arcade shooter and flight sim.

I had gotten to the point that the mission briefing music has been permanently burned into my memory, and I was performing my own self-imposed challenge runs in those last few playthroughs of AC4. I would play through the entire game with machine guns only, trying to cut down on the number of times that I'd have to stop at the airstrip or carrier to resupply. I think the only other game that I've ever done self-imposed challenge runs on is Metal Gear Solid 2.

Challenge runs

The direct sequel, Ace Combat 5, sadly, didn't quite do it for me. I played the game once, and I'm not even sure if I finished it or not. A big part of that game's problem was that it was repetitive. A belligerent nation launches a surprise attack, cripples the Allies' military, and the Alliance has to fight back to reclaim occupied territory before finally beating the aggressor by capturing or destroying its secret super-weapon. I had been there, done that so many times that Ace Combat 5 just kind of dragged. It didn't help that many of Ace Combat 5's missions felt recycled straight from Ace Combat 4.

Ace Combat 6 was an XBox exclusive, which I never played on account of having never owned an XBox, and the other titles since have either been portable titles or spin-offs that just veered too far into "arcade" territory for my tastes. As such, it's been over a decade since I last played an Ace Combat game. Perhaps Ace Combat 7 is a prime opportunity to jump back on the bandwagon? Well, if you were getting tired of challenge runs in AC4, then 7 is loaded with its own little challenges for the player.

Clouds will ice your plane, limiting maneuverability, stalling the plane, and covering the canopy in frost.

Much moreso than the previous games that I've played, Ace Combat 7 uses environmental phenomena and genuine level design to throw a little wrench into the gears. Most missions will have some extra little circumstantial element of its design that can knock a player out of your comfort zone and force you to get creative and/or bold.

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Star Trek: New Horizons

Here's something that I've never done before: a review of a game mod! I don't play mods very often. When I play games, I usually want to play the game that the creators created in order to get a feel for what their intent might have been. For some of the more sandboxy PC games that I play (like Cities: Skylines or the like), I might try some small mods.

There has yet to be an official game quite like Microprose's 1999 release, Birth of the Federation.

For this one instance, however, I'm making an exception because this particular mod fills a very specific niche desire for me that has gone unfulfilled for around 15 or 20 years. The "New Horizons" mod for Stellaris is finally allowing me to play a full 4-x strategy game set in the Star Trek universe. I haven't been able to do that since Star Trek: Birth of the Federation, developed by Microprose for Windows 98!

The creators seem to have been inspired by BotF.

Yes, there have been other Star Trek mods for other games in the past, and there's even some community projects to create spiritual successors to Birth of the Federation (such as Star Trek: Supremacy). The problem is that I've yet to ever see one of these get finished. "New Horizons" for Stellaris is still a work-in-progress, but it is mostly functionally complete and fairly robust. Since Birth of the Federation holds such a special place in my heart, I'm going to take a stab at reviewing "New Horizons" and see how it compares to my personal favorite [official] Star Trek game of all time.

Built on the back of Stellaris

"New Horizons" is, of course, a mod for the PC game Stellaris (developed and published by Paradox). Because of this, it takes advantage of most of Stellaris' strengths, but it is also hamstrung by many of Stellaris' faults.

"New Horizons" makes excellent use of the massive size and scale of Stellaris' maps by featuring a detailed recreation of the canon Star Trek galaxy, and including a surprisingly exhaustive roster of Star Trek races and factions -- all of whom are playable. Yes, of course, the big players like the Federation, the Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, Ferengi, Dominion, and Borg are all here. As are all the expected ancillary empires like the Gorn, Tholians, Orions, and so forth.

The playable roster is surprisingly vast and exhaustive.

It doesn't end there, though. This mod also features a crap-ton of "aliens of the week" as fully-featured, playable empires. They aren't "minor races" like what we had in Birth of the Federation or the city states of Civilization V or VI. They don't just have one planet and a handful of ships just waiting for a "major faction" to conquer or absorb them. The obvious choices like the Vulcans, Andorians, Bajorans, are all there. The game also features empires like the Sheliak, Anticans, Selay, Caitian, Cheron, Dosi, Hirogen, Kazon, Krenim, Kelpian, and more! If you have a favorite space-facing civilization from any episode of Star Trek (including Gamma Quadrant aliens from DS9 and Delta Quadrant aliens from Voyager), there is a very good chance that it's a playable faction in "New Horizons"...

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A gamer's thoughts

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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