In my review of the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V, I expressed some disappointment that some of the legacy civilizations didn't receive significant updates. I also complained about a few mechanical issues such as how the "warmonger" mechanic works and the value of trade routes. Well, Firaxis has released a major update to the game earlier this fall that addresses some of these complaints.
Legacy civs get a facelift
Several of the vanilla civilizations received a major overhaul. As I mentioned in my review, Germany and America seem to have been completely one-upped by the Zulu and Shoshone. Well, Germany has been given a major update, and America has received a small tweak in order to better differentiate them from the BNW successors. In addition, Japan has received a small (but significant) buff.
Germany goes economic; ditches Landsknechts
Germany was probably the civ that was in the most dire need of a facelift, since the Zulu left them completely in the dust. Both civs had a huge military flavor, discounts for unit maintenance, and a unique Pikeman replacement, and the Zulu had Germany beat on all accounts. In order to differentiate the two, The Landsknechts unique unit was replaced with a new unique building, the "Hanse".
The Hanse is a unique bank that gives German cities a 5% production boost for each trade route that Germany makes with a City State (regardless of which city the trade route originates from). City State trade routes were buffed anyway, and Germany has extra incentive to trade with CSs. This building gives Germany both an economic and a production flavor, and can be a huge boon to Germany's Renaissance and Industrial economy! In addition, it keeps gold from trade routes out of the hands of rival civilizations. The only downside is that you don't get science from trade routes with City States, so if Germany is behind technologically, they either have to rely completely on spies, or lose out on the bonus by sending their trade routes to technologically superior civilizations.
In any case, this is a strategically-significant building, and I like the options that it provides. It also makes Germany a very versatile civilization that excels in all victory types! They still have the "Furor Teutonicus" ability that gives them free units from Barbarian camps (although a boost to Germany's unit cap would have been nice) and the Panzer unique unit, so they have the military strategy covered for both early and late game. The new focus on City State trade gives them good synergy with the Diplomatic victory. And if Culture or Science is your preferred victory type, then the bonus production from the Hanse can be used to get a head start on building late-game science and cultural buildings, as well as for pumping out Archaeologists.
Japan's culture is all about sushi
Japan received the second most significant revision. The Japanese Bushido ability now includes bonus culture from Fishing Boats and Atolls. In addition, Japan has a higher coastal bonus (they didn't have one to begin with?), and the Samurai can build Fishing Boats. Um, OK. I guess this represents how big of an impact fishing and sushi had on Japan's culture.
I had hoped that Japan would receive a faith and/or cultural buff, so I guess I'm happy with this change. I wouldn't mind if they also added bonus culture or faith when a Japanese unit dies. Maybe in the next patch...
America's Minuteman is golden
America is the last vanilla civ to get a revision in the patch, and it's a minor one. The big complaint with America is derived from Shoshone's instant land grab being strictly better than America's 25% tile purchasing discount. So the discount was increased to 50%. Meh. In addition, the Minuteman was buffed to include the same Golden Age promotion that Brazil's Pracinhas already had in BNW. So each time the Minuteman kills an enemy unit, America gets points towards a Golden Age. That's kind of cool. Not terribly earth-shattering, but it is valuable, since late-game Golden Ages can be few and far between.
Personally, I would have preferred that America get a bonus towards being culturally influential with other civs. I would have suggested that "Manifest Destiny" be given more of a "Land of Opportunity" flavor by giving America bonus growth or a free Great Person when their culture becomes influential with another civ. Another suggestions that I like would have been a buff to railroads. Neither of those happened. Ah well. There still is not any civ in the game that benefits from being influential or dominant over another civ's culture, and I think America would have been a perfect fit for such a niche.
Indonesian gets a welcome fix
Vanilla civs weren't the only to receive attention though. Indonesia was also adjusted by removing the river restriction from its unique Candi building. The Candi is a replacement for the Garden, but the fact that it requires a river or lake made it very difficult to be able to build since Indonesia doesn't receive a bias towards starting next to rivers or lakes. Every time I've tried playing as Indonesia, I've been completely unable to use my uniques: no nearby islands, no rivers or lakes, and no iron. But now at least I know the Candi will always be there for me! This is a great change, as I thought Indonesia was far too map-dependent and frustrating, and this makes them a little more viable when the map isn't particularly favorable.
Landsknechts go mercenary
If you're a Landsknecht lover and were dismayed that Germany lost them as a unique unit: don't worry, they are still in the game! To make room for the Hanse, the Landsknecht became a special unit that can only be bought in cities if you took the new "Mercenary Army" social policy present in the Commerce tree. The Landsknechts were also given buffs to pillaging: they pay no movement cost to pillage, and they receive double plunder.
I don't mind this change, but I think the Mercenary Army policy needs to have something else added to it. Landsknechts are powerful in the Medieval Era, but become irrelevant later on. Sure you could still just buy them and then upgrade them and keep the promotions, but it just doesn't seem worth it. Perhaps Mercantilism should only give a 25% discount to purchasing buildings, and Mercenary Army can have the 25% discount for units? I don't know, but I definitely feel that Mercenary Army needs something beyond the ability to buy Landsknechts.
Other balance changes for Brave New World
In addition to the changes to the civilizations, there were a host of general gameplay and balance adjustments made for Brave New World.
Rebalancing City State gold
I still have mixed feelings about the trade mechanic in BNW, but one of my criticisms has been mitigated. Trade Routes with City States has been made more profitable, and some policies now further buff them. The gold yield from City States is now just about on par with trade routes with other civilizations, except that you don't get the science leakage. This definitely helps make Germany's new Hanse building viable, and it also helps out with warmonger strategies, since you can still keep an economy going even if all other civs hate you. It's still risky, though, since CS alliances can be very fickle, and you're always just one gold bribe away from having your trade routes plundered and your economy sent into the toilets.
None of my more fundamental complaints with the trade mechanic were fixed though. The "unit versus abstract line" conflict is still present, and there still isn't any practical way of escorting trade units given that their movement rules are different than regular units. They are also still automatically plundered when war is declared, which is a huge issue for me.
Degrees of warmonger-ness
The warmonger mechanic was also changed to make it a little bit easier to understand. A.I.s now have varying degrees of "warmonger" hate, and the combat tooltip will tell you how severe the warmonger penalty will be if you conquer a given city.
These are both positive changes, but I'd still like to see this mechanic changed at more fundamental levels. For one thing, I don't think "warmonger" hate should be based on conquering cities to begin with. Once you're at war, you should be free to wipe your enemy off the face of the map.
[LEFT]: Attacking cities will tell you how much it will affect your "warmonger" score.
[RIGHT]: Different A.I.s have different tolerances for warmongers and varying degrees of dislike for warmongering players, and now they'll tell you both.
Personally, I think that "warmonger" status should be based on:
- how often you declare war,
- how often you actually take aggressive action after declaring war (to which both killing units and capturing cities should contribute),
- razing cities,
- and the big modifier: refusing offers of peace.
Yes, I think that refusing an offer of peace should be the biggest, single contributor to "warmonger" hate; not how many cities you capture. A.I.s almost always offer a peace treaty before you capture their capital anyway, so adding to your "warmonger" score for refusing peace automatically incorporates a "capturing a capital" penalty. Most human players will probably also try offering peace prior to a capital getting captured - that is, if they haven't rage quit first. Since there's already a mandatory waiting period before peace can be negotiated, the mechanic is already fairly exploit-proof, and adding a 5-turn waiting period before you can propose a peace treaty after already refusing one would further keep the mechanic from being exploited. Razing cities should also have a heavy influence, since it is effectively an attempt at genocide. This would only work, though, if the A.I.s would offer more worthwhile terms of surrender. Who wants to accept a flat peace treaty with no reparations for the winner?
Warmonger hate also needs to fade more rapidly. This penalty should not persist for the rest of the game the way it does, unless you actually persist at warmongering. Fighting one early game war of aggression in which you completely annihilate an opponent should not result in the winner being a "warmonger" for the rest of the game. This is akin to the real-world modern day Greece still being a "warmonger" due to the conquests of Alexander the Great! This penalty should last for an era or two at the most, so that players can still change their victory strategy away from conquest if they need to.
Have a landmark, bro
Another mechanical change is that building landmarks in other players' territory gives diplomatic benefit. So if you run out of slots for artifacts, there is still a benefit to digging in foreign lands, and creating a Landmark in foreign lands is no longer a completely worthless action. This is another good change that covers up an oversight in the original design.
Creating a landmark in foreign territory will grant a diplomatic bonus.
Not just a "tourist trap" anymore
The last major mechanical change is an update to the Tourism and influence mechanics. There are now increasing benefits for being more influential with other civs:
- Science from trade routes scales up with influence level,
- Spies receive numerous surveillance bonuses with higher influence levels (including being able to "establish surveillance" in fewer turns),
- Captured cities suffer from lower unrest time and population loss with higher influence.
Much like the Landmark change, these are all good changes that cover up what seems like oversights in the original design. This makes focusing on tourism more valuable even if you're not going for a culture victory. Before, all you had to do was focus on Culture to defend yourself from other civs' Tourism, but now you get more rewards for Tourism influence, so it's worthwhile to build up a large chunk of Tourism.
There are a few other miscellaneous balance changes. A few new Pantheon beliefs were added. These add some bonuses to resources that weren't receiving any bonuses yet, as well as provide a general-purpose Palace buff that has good synergy with small empires and the Tradition policy tree.
New air unit stacking rules were also implemented. Now, only six air units can be stationed in cities, and the Airport building is needed to raise that cap to 10. But the Airport still doesn't create a city connection to the capital? Seriously?! Why the heck not?! I can understand why they wouldn't want to add air Trade Routes or a Cargo Plane unit, but an Airport should at least count for a city connection! But nope, it's still Harbor or nothing when it comes to cities on other landmasses...
Support for sound modding was also added. I'm not sure exactly what this allows, but it might come in handy for me for a few mods that I have in my pipeline... However, the option to play online multiplayer games with mods (which was present in the fall patch's beta) has disappeared. Hopefully this feature will be re-introduced soon.
And, of course, there's a whole long list of bug fixes and A.I. adjustments. You can read the official Fall Patch notes to see them all. Some A.I.s will now actually be able to use their uniques properly, and there were some improvements to military A.I. and the use of workers and aircraft. Unfortunately, Firaxis still hasn't added code to allow the A.I. to re-evaluate its decision with a unit after moving it, so the A.I.s still don't use ranged units as effectively as they could be. So, basically, an A.I. makes a decision of what to do with the unit at the start of the unit's turn and doesn't change its mind if it sees something new after moving one tile. So if an enemy unit is our of range of an A.I. archer, the archer won't think to move one tile and then fire at the unit. I can't believe that this is still a problem, but whatever... I guess that's the incentive to play multiplayer!