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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This past weekend's college football match between Vanderbilt and Missouri wasn't much of a football game. Missouri trounced Vanderbilt 41-0. There was never a contest to be had here, and Missouri had comfortably covered the 14-point spread by halftime -- then went on to cover it by a factor of 3. This otherwise un-noteworthy game did, however, make headlines. That is because this game saw another breaking of the glass ceiling for women in football. In this game, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play football for a Power 5 conference.

Sarah Fuller is a senior goalkeeper for Vanderbilt's soccer team -- a team that has performed much better than the football team, going 8-4 and sweeping the SEC tournament. She was recruited onto the football team as a place-kicker after COVID-19 contact-tracing forced much of Vanderbilt's special teams roster into quarantine.

Sarah Fuller kickoff for Vanderbilt to start the second half,
and became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football conference game.

Vanderbilt's offense couldn't do anything all day, so sadly, Sarah never got a chance to kick a field goal or extra point. Her only play in the game was the second half kickoff, which she squibbed to the sideline for no return. She didn't get to score any points, but she did play.

Her kick was the only Vanderbilt highlight worth sharing, and it was shared on social media by the school and by multiple sports media outlet, where it was subject to lewd comments and ridicule by pathetic men -- because of course it was. Men criticized the kick for being squibbed for only 35 yards, completely failing to recognize the context in which the kick was made. The team was coming back from halftime, down 21-0. It is not uncommon for a team to squib a kickoff in such a situation in order to prevent a return for touchdown. It was a (for lack of a better word) "workman-like" kick.

Besides, even if the distance wasn't impressive, her placement of the ball was. It landed within a few yards of the sideline without going out of bounds. This is probably exactly where the coaches wanted her to put the ball. A ball so close to the sideline might discourage the returner from attempting to field it in the hopes it would go out of bounds, result in a penalty, and give the team even better field position. If unfielded, the ball would be live, and could be recovered by the kicking team. I would not be surprised if this was a designed kick with the hopes of tricking Missouri into giving up a turnover and put some spark into Vanderbilt's offense. Unfortunately, the kick bounced and was downed by a Missouri blocker, leaving Vanderbilt with no chance to recover the ball. All the men criticizing Sarah's "weak" kick, possibly only served to highlight their own weak knowledge of the sport of football.

And that was it. One play, and now Sarah Fuller's name is forever enshrined in college football history.

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Madden NFL 21 - title

In the past 2 years, EA has added 2 new arcade modes (Superstar KO, and now The Yard), on top of the existing [pay-to-win] arcade mode that has been in the game for a decade (Ultimate Team), and they've experimented with 2 new single-player career modes, but they refuse to make any substantial upgrades or improvements to the core Franchise mode. And they have the nerve to call this a "simulation" football game? And no, I do not consider Face of the Franchise to be a "Franchise Mode", no matter how EA may want to brand it.

Look, if Madden already had a deep, robust, and engaging Franchise Mode on par with the breadth and quality of the mode from 10-20 years ago, then I'd be perfectly fine with the team branching out and experimenting with new game modes. If the Franchise Mode were already so complete and robust that both EA's devs and the fan community were struggling to think of things to add or change, then all these other modes would feel more warranted. But that isn't the case. Franchise mode has been a half-baked, bug-riddled, experience since at least Madden 13. And the wishlists from consumers have plenty of ideas for EA to implement, ranging from hiring coordinators and assistant coaches, to off-season training camps, to position battles, to contract restructuring, to a more meaningful preseason and in-season scouting, and even relatively mundane and simple things like a weather forecast or a U.I. that shows us our player and team goals when we're actually in a match. Year after year, EA and Tiburon tell us that they "hear us" and are committed to improving Franchise Mode. But year after year, we get a "new feature" list that reads like an October patch log for last year's game.

Tiburon did not add anything to Franchise mode, but we got a whole other arcade mode.

In this regard, Madden 21 is the worst offender yet, because there is absolutely nothing new in the Franchise mode at the game's launch. We had to wait until October before EA even acknowledged that Franchise Mode exists in Madden 21, and for them to promise updates.

To be fair, The Yard isn't all that bad

Even though I'm frustrated to see yet another arcade mode that feels nothing like actual football (to the total exclusion of any Franchise mode updates), I have to admit that I'm more likely to play (and maybe even enjoy) The Yard more than Ultimate Team. The Yard is basically a modernized, but less-developed, version of EA's old NFL Street games. Despite still being a micro-transaction-fueled online-multiplayer-focused arcade mode, the fact that it is not built on a pay-to-win gambling architecture makes The Yard feel less cynically manipulative. It feels less like a brazen, anti-consumer scam, and more like a genuine attempt to make a fun game first, then stick an optional micro-transaction economy on top of it. It's still bad, and cynical, and exploitative (especially in the wake of Star Wars Squadrons, which was also published by EA, but had no micro-transactions at all), but it's less bad, less cynical, and less exploitative than the efforts EA has made in the past.

Can someone please double-check my math? Does this one uniform really cost $20?!

That being said, the cost of these purely cosmetic accessories is downright absurd. EA seems to think that a virtual helmet is somehow worth twenty dollars! Did somebody on the U.I. team fuck up and accidentally shift a decimal two places for these micro-transaction costs? 20 cents? Maybe. But 20 dollars? Are you fucking kidding me, EA?! $20 is what I expect to pay for an entire expansion pack, not for a single cosmetic novelty item.

The cynic in me believes that this exorbitant cost is a deliberate attempt by EA at sabotaging their own micro-transaction store. Maybe they think that if they jack up the prices ridiculously high for these cosmetics, nobody will be willing to pay for them. They could then go back to focusing on gambling and pay-to-win loot boxes and blame the consumers, "well we offered cosmetic-only micro-transactions, but you didn't want to buy them. Clearly the market prefers randomized 'surprise mechanics'."

I lost a game by 1 point because the scoreboard became unreadable,
and I didn't know if I should go for 1, 2, or 3 pt conversion.

My first impressions of The Yard were further hampered by several significant bugs. The most egregious was several instances in which the scoreboard overlay graphics became corrupted, and I couldn't read the score. With the weird scoring rules of The Yard, it's much harder to remember and track the current score in my head. In one of these occurrences, I scored a touchdown in my final drive, but was unsure of whether to go for 1, 2, or 3 because I couldn't remember exactly how far I was down. I went for 3 and failed to convert, only to lose by 1.

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Axis Football 20- title

Compared to messy launch of Maximum Football 2020, the release of Axis Football 2020 went pretty smoothly. Maximum launched with some signs of regression from its 2019 iteration. Canuck Play has since patched out most of those bugs and issues, but those weeks spent fixing bugs that shouldn't have been in the game to begin with, are weeks that weren't spent improving the game in other areas. Axis 2020, on the other hand, is a small, but noticeable, upgrade to its 2019 counterpart.

This tweet may have oversold 2020 a bit.

Not the overhaul I expected

I may have set my expectations a little high with Axis 2020. Axis Games had posted to Twitter that they planned to completely redesign their locomotion and tackling system. I got my hopes up for something more robust and realistic. The end result still shows some steady progress, but it isn't the complete overhaul that I was expecting and hoping for.

I don't want to discourage Axis from tweeting promises of gameplay improvements. I really like having the transparency of knowing what the developers are working on, and I also understand that it can be easy to over-promise sometimes. I work as a software engineer. I know how it goes. That being said, I really don't feel like 2020 constitutes a "complete rebuild from the ground up", and the tweet in question definitely oversold 2020 by a lot, in my opinion. I don't know what was done under the hood. Maybe they did make extensive changes. It just doesn't feel all that different.

Movement hasn't been completely overhauled,
but there are some new animations.

There was some noticeable work done to animations and player movement. Tackles do look a lot cleaner most of the time. There are also a few new animations, such as animations of players bending over to pick the ball up off the ground on fumbles or un-fielded kicks. But that's about it. I would have liked to see more animations of players falling on a lose ball, especially the less athletic linemen. Other than that, most of the player movement, ball-carrier evasive moves, catching animations, blocking animations, and so forth look pretty much identical to last year (and the year before).

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Civilization VI - Ambiorix of Gaul

Firaxis will be releasing Civilization VI DLC packs with new game modes, new civilizations, and new leaders through March of 2021. Two new civilizations were released at the end of September. One of which is entirely new to the Civilization franchise. That new civ is Gaul, which is lead by Ambiorix.

Patreon

For future releases that include multiple leaders or civilizations, I may put up polls on Patreon to let my Patrons decide which civ or leader to cover first (if Firaxis gives enough advance notice). 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.

Gaul (or Gallia in its original Latin) is the name the Romans gave to a region of Western Europe that now encompasses France, Belgium, Netherlands, and parts of Germany and Austria. The land was inhabited by industrious Celtic tribes that frequently raided Greek and Phoenician settlements in southern Europe. Around 1200 BC, the small settlement of Hallstatt (near modern Salzburg, Austria) built an economy around salt mining and developed advanced metal-working techniques. These techniques spread throughout the tribes of Gaul until Hallstatt was abandoned for unknown reasons around 500 BC.

Civilization VI - Ambiorix portrait

Ambiorix (whose name possibly translates to "protector-king") was a king of the Eburones clan in Belgian Gaul. After a drought destroyed much of the Roman harvests in Gaul, Julius Caesar requested that the Eburones give up their grain harvests to feed occupying Roman troops. Ambiorix conceeded, but he and his men soon joined the resistance against Caesar. The resistance did not last long, as the insult caused Rome to lead a genocidal campaign to exterminate the rest of the Eburones.

Overall, the Gauls held off the might of the Roman Republic until Gaul was finally subdued by Julius Caesar, who contracted tribes of Gauls to help him in his fight against the other tribes. The conquest of Gaul spring-boarded Caesar towards his destiny. Though the "Barbarians at the gates" theory is a widely-known explanation for the fall of Roman Empire, there is also the competing (or complimentary) theory of "Barbarians inside the gates". As Rome's conquests expanded across Europe and North Africa, the growing empire needed more and more soldiers to defend its borders. As such, later emperors opened military service to non-Romans, including Gallic mercenaries. These troops retained much of their Celtic culture, spoke Romanticized Gallic instead of Latin, had never been to Italy, and so had little loyalty to Roman law or culture. They fought for whoever would pay for their services, and their loyalty to their commanding officers enabled internal conflict that contributed to Rome's downfall as much (or perhaps more) than external threats.

When Belgium became an independent nation in 1830, historians found Caesar's accounts of Ambiorix (who Caesar praised as the "bravest and strongest of the Gauls"), and the government annointed him as a national hero. Poems and statues were commemorated in Ambiorix's honor throughout Belgium. Today, he is also a pop hero, appearing in Belgian cartoons and comic books.

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" October 2020 ("Pirates") Update (ver. 1.0.6.9)

In Civilization VI, Ambiorix spreads his cities out a bit more, fueling his economy and culture with mines. He also swarms his opponents with units that support each other and promote the cultural development of the civilization.

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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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