Civilization: Beyond Earth

I was finishing up my Civ V: Brave New World strategies this fall, and thought that I'd finally have some time to play other games besides Civilization. Firaxis and 2K, however, had other plans. Instead of being able to play other Steam games and getting back to my PS3, instead, I now have Civ in SPACE!

I guess I can't escape Civ so easily...

So is Beyond Earth going to hold my attention, keep me up till 3 in the morning playing "one more turn", and monopolize my PC gaming? Or will it be a short diversion before being shelved in favor of other games?

Table of Contents

Most of the gameplay mechanics of Beyond Earth are variations of equivalent mechanics in Civilization V, with more or less complexity. This makes the game very accessible and familiar for most Civ players, but it also means that Beyond Earth isn't really pushing any gameplay boundaries. Whereas Civ V's transition to a hex grid revolutionized the series, Beyond Earth just feels like more of the same.

Most of the added complexity works in the game's favor, but some mechanics have been simplified such that they almost feel pointless.

Beyond Earth's extraterrestrial setting does play a small factor in the gameplay and differentiates this game a bit from Civilization V. The most prominent displays of this are in the alien life forms and the terrain of the map. The inclusions of canyons as a geography characteristic is mostly superficial, as they function almost identically to mountains. The biggest change is the inclusion of toxic "miasma". Miasma tiles cause damage to units that end their turn on it, and trade units cannot pass through miasma at all.

Civilization: Beyond Earth - miasma
Miasma damages units and blocks trade routes until you unlock the ability to remove it or survive it.
This adds a satisfying challenge and sense of having to deal with a hostile alien environment.

This adds some challenge to the first half of the game, since miasma can force the player to explore and expand differently than they would in Civ V. Miasma can force your workers to have to avoid improving certain terrain, and may prevent explorers from accessing certain regions of the map or completing some expedition sites. It can also prevent your trade units from following direct routes between cities, which can cause them to follow winding paths far outside your inherent zone of control, making them harder to protect.

Contrary to the developers' claims prior to release, the aliens really are just reskins of Civ V's barbarians. They are counted as "enemy" units to every civilization and inflict zone of control automatically. They spawn randomly from nests that function identically to encampments, and even offer monetary rewards for entering the tile and destroying the nest. The only major difference is ...


Civilization V - Bismarck of Germany

Continuing my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's modified civilizations, I'm going to take a look at strategies for Bismarck's well-rounded Germany. Since Brave New World's fall patch, Germany's unique Landsknecht has been replaced with a Hanse (bank replacement) that makes Germany into a more well-rounded civ rather than being exclusively military-focused.

The region of Germany has been the site of some of the most violent and destructive wars in the history of the world. It was given its name by Julius Caesar, who called the region east of the Rhine "Germania" to differentiate it from Gaul, which he had already subjugated. The region was populated by tribes of Germanic people who were often labeled as barbarians by the Romans who were never able to fully annex the territory. Most of German lands were controlled by the Franks such as Charlemagne following the fall of the Roman Empire, and they would not be united into their own sovereign nation until Otto I would become the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 962 C.E.. When Martin Luther founded the schism religion of Protestantism, the Holy Roman Empire descended into the Thirty Years War, in which the northern Protestants fought for their autonomy against the southern Catholics. Following the war, the lands of Germany were broken up into multiple nation states such as Prussia and Saxony.

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, a series of social and industrial revolutions drove Prussia into becoming a leading educational and cultural states in Europe, and its Chancellor Otto von Bismarck effectively established the modern Germany in 1871. The German economy grew over the next few decades, but it was defeated in World War I, forced to pay reparations, its leadership was replaced with an unstable republic, and its economy completely crashed. All this lead to a takeover by the National Socialists (Nazis) who rapidly rebuilt Germany's economy and industry and turned it into a war machine that struck with greater speed and efficiency than the world had ever seen. Despite all the bitter bloodshed, a democratic Germany has emerged from the chaos as one of the strongest economies in Europe and is a worldwide leader in technological, scientific, and cultural development (and humor).

Civilization V - Otto von Bismarck of Germany

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg is known more simply as Otto von Bismarck. He is responsible for uniting the fractured states of Germany into a modern, unified German nation through the use of an efficient military and shrewd diplomacy. He was known to have a violent temper, but was a brilliant statesman and diplomat nonetheless. He became famous for using balance of power strategies to maintain peace in Europe while also furthering his goals as the political leader of Germany. Though he was staunch conservative autocrat, he did pass a series of social reforms that improved the quality of life for Germans. This, combined with his strong leadership, made him beloved by the German people. He was eventually unseated by Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose aggressive expansionist policies are often credited with leading to World War I.

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!


Continuing my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's modified civilizations, I'm going to take a look at strategies for Arabia. Arabia received a modest revision in Brave New World out of the box, having its national trait moderately redesigned. The old city connection economic focus has been regeared towards Brave New World's new trade route mechanic, and a religious buff was also added to make this civ more compelling for Gods & Kings mechanics.

The majority of the Arabian peninsula is harsh desert, and so massive human settlement did not begin until the rise of the Islamic empires of the middle ages. In the early seventh century, the Prophet Muhammad began preaching the tenets of Islam in Mecca and Medina, which united several Arabian tribes and led to the establishment of the Caliphate, an Islamic empire that began to extend its influence across the peninsula and beyond. In the mid seventh century, the Caliphate began conquering territory from the Byzantine empire and they completely destroyed the once-powerful Persian empire that had dominated the region since antiquity. At its height, the Caliphate extended from Portugal, Spain, and Morocco in the west, all the way to the borders of India in the east. Arabia's position as a crossroads between west and east made it a center for powerful trading hubs, and Arabian engineers and scientists developed advanced new mathematical concepts. Goods, knowledge, and religious beliefs from both ends of the known world (and beyond) often passed through Arabian trading bazaars, and much of the knowledge of the classical Greeks and Romans were preserved by Islamic scholars, eventually contributing to the European Renaissance centuries later.

Civilization V - Harun al-Rashid

Harun al-Rashid ruled during the mid eighth century during the Caliphate's golden age. He has been strongly romanticized by Arabian authors and scholars, and has even been mythologized in tales included in the Book of One Thousand and One Nights. He was known as a sharp political, intellectual, and military mind, but it is difficult to separate factual accounts from fictitious ones. Even his exact birth date is debatable. He was Caliph during one of the greatest periods of expansion of the early caliphates, but he also almost destroyed the Caliphate by dividing the empire among his sons instead of naming a single heir. This led to prolonged civil war between the sons, but the Caliphate did survive the turmoil.


UPDATE (September 9, 2014, 2:45 PM Pacific Time)

Shortly after publishing this blog, I came across a forum post that contradicts the information presented in this blog post. As such, I will review the actual source code in the Civilization V dll, do some more testing with the game, and revise the post as necessary. In the meantime, I'll leave the unaltered post here, for posterity. I apologize for the inconvenience.


Civilization V

A lot of buildings in Civilization V mention that they are affected by tiles or resources "near the city", but this quality of being "near a city" is poorly-defined within the game. So what exactly does it mean? I haven't seen any in-depth articles about this topic on the web or in the game's Civilopedia, so I thought I'd outline the important bits here.

Basically, a tile is "near" a city if that city was the first city in its respective empire to claim that tile within its workable radius.

So if you have a single tile or resource that lies between two cities, and both cities' workable ranges overlap that same tile, then that tile is not "near" both cities. It is only "near" the first city that owned that tile. This means that if you go into the city management screen and assign the second city to work that tile, it may receive yield bonuses associated with any improvements or buildings that affect it (such as the stable buffing pasture resources), but the tile's contents will not be considered "near" that second city for other purposes. This includes:

  • requirement of an improved Horse or Ivory to build a Circus,
  • requirement of an improved Horse, Cow, or Sheep to build a Stable,
  • requirement of an improved Iron to build a Forge,
  • requirement of an improved Stone or Marble to build a Stone Works,
  • requirement of an improved Gold or Silver to build a Mint,
  • wonder production bonus from nearby Marble,
  • requirement that the city be adjacent to a Mountain in order to build an Observatory,
  • trade route income from resource diversity,
  • and so on...

Say you have two cities (for example Rome and Antium) whose workable ranges overlap a pastured Horse. Rome was the first city to claim the Horse tile. Rome can, therefore, build a Circus (assuming Trapping has been researched). If you go to the management screen of Antium, you can assign it to work the Horse tile (which prevents Rome from being able to work that tile), but Antium still cannot build a Circus. That is, two cities cannot build a building that requires they both have the same tile.

Civilization V - Rome has horses Civilization V - Antium doesn't have horses
[LEFT] Rome has annexed a tile containing horses and is building a Circus.
[RIGHT] Later, that tile overlaps with Antium's workable radius, but it cannot build a Circus because the horse was originally claimed by Rome.

Alternatively, if a resource is claimed by a city's culture, but is outside of a city's workable radius (four tiles or more away), then it never counts as "near" that city...

Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
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07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
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Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

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