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Civilization VI: Gathering Storm - title

This past weekend, I put up my review of Gathering Storm, the new expansion for Civilization VI. The overall summary is that I felt very "meh" about the game's headline features, but was actually impressed by how the smaller, more subtle changes really improve the underlying game. That review focused on a lot of the high-level concepts of the game, and was already starting to get rather long (my readers all know how verbose I can be). I decided to cut a lot of my smaller criticisms of individual mechanics or functionality out of that review, and save them for their own separate post.

So now that you all know how I feel about the expansion overall, here's some of my smaller nags and nitpicks (and suggestions for resolving them) that I hope can be resolved by some post-release patches.

Table of contents

Un-intelligent queuing

Having a build queue is a great thing! And it's about damn time! However, it still has some annoying problems. Perhaps the biggest problem is that it still requires a bit too much micro-management. The principle offender is the fact that we still can't add structures to the queue if their prerequisite(s) aren't already built.

For example, if I have a Holy Site in the queue, the game still won't let me add a Shrine to the queue after the Holy Site because the Holy Site isn't built yet. This means that if you just founded a city or just unlocked a new district, or just hit the population requirement for a new district, you can't just queue up the district and all its specialist buildings. You still have to stop every few turns to tell the city what to build next.

We can't add buildings to the queue if their prereqs are already in the queue.

Similarly, it would be really nice if, after researching Currency, I could queue up the Commercial Hub, the Market, and then the Trader. No such luck.

No wishful-thinking in the queue?

It would also be nice to have some kind of queue for faith purchases. For example, it would be nice if I could queue up a Holy Site, a Shrine, and a Temple in the city's build queue, and also order the city to purchase the Apostle as soon as the Temple is complete.

Similar problems could crop up with queuing up units with strategic resource requirements. Say, for instance, I'm currently training a Knight (which costs 20 iron on standard game speed). The knight will take 5 turns to complete, and it used up all of my iron. But I'm producing four iron per turn. I should be able to also queue up a second Knight, since by the time the first Knight finishes, I will have accrued the necessary 20 iron.

The queue also doesn't anticipate how many resources will be available when the unit is completed.

These are, admittedly, much more complex examples to implement, and I don't blame Firaxis for not including it. In the first example, the game would not only have to know that the buildings in the queue will have their prerequisites met before the queue gets to them, and know that the Apostles prerequisites would be met before the queue reaches the Apostle, but the game would also need to know if I'll have enough faith to actually purchase that Apostle. In the second example, I might spend that iron someplace else, or trade it away. Say, for instance, I get four turns in, have 15 iron, but then sell 5 of it to another civ. Now I won't have the 20 iron saved up before the second Knight goes into production. The game would have to handle these case.

This limitation will also become an annoying problem later in the game, when spies start pillaging your districts. If a spy sabotages your Industrial Complex, you won't be able to queue up the repair to the Workshop, Factory, and Power Plant at the same time. You'll have to wait for the Workshop repair to finish, then repair the Factory, then repair the Power Plant.

I also can't queue up repairs, which is annoying when rival spies start sabotaging my districts.

It wouldn't be that hard to handle these cases, however. If the queue ever gets to an item for which the prerequisite(s) isn't | aren't met, then it could simple ignore that item and skip to the next. A UI notification for these cases would be helpful for keeping the player informed about what's going on in his or her queues (similar to the "someone else completed a wonder you're working on" notification). I wouldn't want to come back 10 turns later and be like "Wait, what happened to my other Knight? Where's my Apostle?"

It's not an intractable problem to solve. If I were at Firaxis, my logic for the build queue would be as follows:

  1. An item can be placed in the build queue if all its infrastructure and resource requirements are met,
  2. An item can be placed in the build queue if its infrastructure prerequisites are ahead of it in the build queue and its resource requirements are met,
  3. An item can be placed in second position of the build queue or later if :
    • Its infrastructure requirements are met, or
    • Its infrastructure prerequisites are ahead of it in the queue.
    This can be done regardless of if the item's resource requirements are met.
  4. An item cannot be moved in the build queue to a position ahead of one of its prerequisites,
  5. If the queue reaches an item for which the requirements are not met, the item is removed from the queue, and a UI notification pops up on the right side informing the user that an item was deleted from the queue.

Some sample pseudo-code for how the queue should maybe work:

function CanAddToQueue(buildItem, city, civResourceStockpile[]) {
   bool doAdd = false;
      // Check for district / building prerequisites
      foreach (prereq in buildItem.Prereqs) {
         if (city.Districts.Contains(prereq) OR city.Buildings.Contains(prereq) OR city.Queue.Contains(prereq)) {
            doAdd = true; break; } }

   // Add to later queue
   if (doAdd == true AND city.Queue.Items.Count > 0) {
      return true; } // We can skip the resource requirement, since we assume player will acquire resources before building this

   // Check for resource prerequisites
   foreach (resource in buildItem.ResourceRequirements) {
      if (civResourceStockpile[resource] >= buildItem.ResourceRequirementCounts[resource]) {
         doAdd = doAdd && true; }
      else {
      doAdd = false; } }

   return doAdd;

Did I miss anything?

In fact, this probably shouldn't be that hard. Civ VI cities will already cancel a current build if its requirements become un-met. For example, if you were training a Swordsman, and your iron mine got pillaged (pre-Gathering Storm), the Swordsman would be canceled, and you would have to select a different build command. The production towards that Swordsman would be preserved, so that when the iron mine is repaired, you'd be able to resume training where you left off. The queue should operate similarly, except that it shouldn't care if resource requirements are met until it comes time to actually start training the unit. It would be incumbent on the player to make sure that you acquire the necessary resources first!

I often plop all my districts manually (to lock in their cost), then put them in the queue.

Also, I do kind of wish that queued districts would be immediately plopped on the map when they are added to the queue. Because district costs scale up over time, and plopping the district locks in its resource cost, I often find myself plopping multiple districts, one at a time, in order to place them and lock their cost, then adding them to queue. It's tedious, and defeats the purpose of having a queue.

Ugh, now there's even more U.I. issues!

While the issues with the queue are annoying, they are not surprising. Civilization VI has never had the best U.I. in the world. TheMeInTeam complains about some aspect of the U.I. in pretty much every recording session of PolyCast that we do. What does surprise me, however, is that Firaxis did not add any new overlays for the new features of Gathering Storm.

The most conspicuous overlay absence is the lack of any sort of "Disaster overlay". While pillaged tiles can often be spotted by rising smoke or fire, they can be easily lost in the clutter of this game's very busy map -- especially in the later half of the game. There are plenty of times when I have a 1-charge Builder just sitting around with nothing to do, and I'd like to be able to check an overlay that would highlight pillaged tiles. It's also really easy to fail to notice that a tile improvement has been completely destroyed, since there is no graphic or animation of rubble or anything.

I wish there were a singular "Disaster Overlay" that would highlight damaged tiles and coastal lowlands.

A disaster overlay wouldn't have to stop with just pillaged tiles. It could also show disaster risk levels by highlighting floodplains and the tiles around volcanoes. Maybe floodplains that are protected by a dam could even be highlighted green to indicate that they are protected from damage, but may still be fertilized by river floods. A disaster overlay would also be a good place to label coastal lowland tiles, and tiles that have already flooded from sea level rise. You can see this information in the Settler overlay, but it's very easy to forget that it's there. I wish this info would also be rolled into a disaster overlay.

Railroad graphics do not run through district tiles
or unique improvements.

As a minor aside, I'm also not happy with the graphics for railroads. For one thing, they can be hard to discern from regular roads. More importantly, however, the railroad graphic does not appear underneath districts or many unique improvements. The railroad just seems to end at the border with a tile containing a district or applicable improvements, then starts up again on the other side. This can make it look like my railroad network is incomplete, and I have to highlight over the district tile to make sure that a rail is there. I've sent Military Engineers to these tiles on accident several times thinking that I had missed a spot in my railroad-building, only to find that I had wasted the moves because an invisible railroad is already there.

"Resume Game" should tell me which game I'm resuming

Now, let's move onto U.I. issues that are outside of gameplay, because there's something that's been bothering me since the game's launch. I am really annoyed that the "Resume Game" option in the main menu does not tell me which game I'm going to be loading. I often have multiple single-player games going concurrently. A major reason for this is because I write strategy guides. I'll often have one or two games running concurrently for a single civ (while I test alternate strategies), and might also have another game testing how that civ plays from an opponent's point of view. In addition, I'll often start up a game on a tiny map with "online" speed, in a later era, in order to test out some novel mechanic or how some unique unit might fare head-to-head against an opposing unit.

I often have multiple games running concurrently, and don't know which game will be resumed.

Now, most players are probably not booting up multiple games concurrently for the purposes of writing strategy guides. However, I'm still willing to bet that a large chunk of Civ players probably start up a game with one civ, play a couple eras, then load up another civ to see which map and scenario they prefer. I used to do that all the time before I started writing guides. In that case, it would also be nice for the "Resume Game" button to tell a player which game is being loaded.

It shouldn't bee too hard to have a pop-up tool tip showing the player's civ, map type, speed, difficulty setting, in-game date, and turn number that corresponds to the game that is going to be loaded.

More units should require different resources

Knights do not require horses?

If you read the review, you know that I love the new strategic resource feature. I might even like it more than the Civ V model! However, that doesn't mean that the feature is without complaint. While I like the feature in principle, and it works well in practice, I do wish that some of the specific resource requirements were a bit different.

Since strategic resource supply makes it a lot easier to buy and sell lump sums of resources, I feel like more units should require at least some resources to build, and some units should require a mixture of resources. Here's a few examples (based on standard game speed):

  • Knights and Cuirassiers should cost 10 iron and 10 horses.
  • Heavy Chariots should cost at least a couple horses -- maybe 5?
  • Ironclad should require 10 iron and consume 1 coal per turn.

Alternatively, I could maybe see mounted units all requiring 1 horse per turn, instead of a lump sum. Knights for example would then require 10 iron to build, and 1 horse per turn in maintenance. A per-turn maintenance cost for mounted units (especially Knights) would put a hard cap on how many such units a particular civ can field, and may help to make those units not-so-dominant throughout the classical, medieval, and renaissance eras.

Other changes that I wouldn't mind seeing, but which I could also live without:

  • Field Cannon requires 5 niter.
  • Tanks, Destroyers, Submarines, Battleships, etc should require 5 iron and 5 coal, in addition to 1 Oil per turn.
  • Aircraft Carrier and Nuclear Submarine should require 5 iron and 5 coal, in addition to 1 Uranium per turn.

The basic idea here is for early-game material resources (iron in particular) to continue to be necessary and useful later in the game.

More domestic uses for strategic resources

As an aside, I also wish that there were more domestic uses for strategic resources. I like that power plants consume some coal, oil, or uranium per turn, but I also wish the player could allocate strategics for other uses. For example, the Arena building in an Entertainment Complex could allow iron and/or horses to be allocated to it (for jousting, gladiator fights, and so forth) in order to generate additional amenity and/or culture. A "Horse Track" (or "Derby") building could consume a horse in order to provide additional money (from betting or whatever).

I wish strategics could be assigned to more domestic buildings,
such as horses to arenas or coal to fuel a train station.

A "Public Transportation" or "Bus Depot" building in the city center could consume oil and add a +1 adjacency bonus to all specialty districts in the city, and maybe also provide additional housing from Neighborhoods.

A "Train Station" building in a city center could consume coal in order to increase the growth rate of the city (as long as the city is connected to at least one other city by rail) and perhaps apply an additional movement bonus to any unit(s) that travel through the city.

A forge building in the Encampment could have iron allocated to it to speed up the production of non-mounted military units (and the Stable could work similar for horses and mounted units). Shipyards or Seaports in Harbors could have a similar boost for naval units if the building is supplied with iron, or coal.

There's a lot potential here with the strategic resources that I feel is still un-tapped. This would mean that civs who use their resources for military application would be doing so at the expense of further economic or domestic advancement. It would give peaceful civs a bit more opportunity to pull ahead in some areas if they aren't allocating all their resources to military, but without necessarily having to sell those resources to other civs who may turn around and use them against you.

The World Congress should have a leader who sets the agenda

Gaining World Congress favor from alliances is a huge improvement over Civ V's Congress.

The inclusion of the Diplomatic Favor currency, and the fact that it is chiefly earned by building coalitions through alliances, is a huge improvement over how the World Congress worked in Civ V. I do, however, wish that favor was also earned through declared friendships as well. This would provide extra value to early-game coalition-building (prior to researching Diplomatic Service). I'm imagining a re-balance of Diplomatic Favor such that:

  • a declared friendship earns 3 favor per turn,
  • an alliance with another civ earns 3 favor + the alliance level per turn,
  • having 3 or more envoys in a city state with whom you are not at war earns 1 favor per turn,
  • having 6 or more envoys in a city state with whom you are not at war earns an additional 1 favor per turn,
  • being suzerain of a city state earns an additional 1 favor per turn,
  • a level-1 government earns 5 favor per turn,
  • a level-2 government earns 10 favor per turn,
  • a level-3 government earns 15 favor per turn,
  • a level-4 government earns 20 favor per turn,

The costs of diplomatic favor actions would then have to be re-tuned to accommodate the extra sources and magnitude of favor being earned.

In Civ V, the host of a given session of the World Congress selects which resolution(s) are proposed.

The inclusion of favor, however, is about the only step forward that Civ VI makes with regard to how the Congress works. Almost every other design decision, I feel, is a regression. The chief complaint is that the resolutions that pop up are all (as far as I can tell) random. Aside from emergencies, civs do not have any ability (that I'm aware of) to set the World Congress agenda. There is no host or leader, as there was in Civ V. This causes the whole Congress to feel kind of meandering and without much purpose, and I often feel like I can safely ignore the Congress for most of the game.

Civ VI's congress should have a leader, just as it did in Civ V. There's a couple ways the leader could be determined:

  1. The civ with the most accrued Diplomatic Favor at the start of a session is that session's leader.
  2. There is an extra round of voting before the Congress, in which civs elect this session's host.

The leader would get to propose at least one of the resolutions from a list of available resolutions. The second resolution could either be generated randomly, or the runner-up could get to select it. In the latter case, the leader should probably get some additional bonus, such as more favor, a discount to the cost of votes, or maybe the ability to veto the runner-up's proposal.

Civ V allowed civs to negotiate (or bribe) other civs into voting with them.

In the case of voting for the leader, I think each civ should have one vote, and they should not be allowed to vote for themselves. If there were options to negotiate with other civs to vote for you prior to the Congress session, and maybe even to make promises to them, that would also help flesh out the system and make it a bit more engaging. If you promise to propose a resolution that another civ would support, but then break that promise, then you'd get grievances. Of course, the UI would have to clearly present which resolutions would be likely to be favored by which civ(s).

We should be able to demand promises before the offending action

Now that asking for a promise requires spending a currency, I feel like we should not have to wait until the other civ has already committed the offending action in order to demand the promise. This is a particular nuance to Civ VI's design that I never liked or really understood, and now that it also costs a currency, I especially don't understand it. The A.I.s can simply not agree to the promise, and even if they did agree, it wasn't really binding in any way prior to the Gathering Storm expansion. At least now, with the grievances, there is a possible enforcement mechanism for broken promises.

Since demanding a promise costs favor, and breaking the promise generates grievances,
promises should be available regardless of whether the other civ has already committed the relevant action.

Having to wait until after the A.I. has settled that annoying city in the middle of your sphere of influence before you can ask them to please not do that again is both incredibly annoying, and also entirely moot! They've already settled the city, so unless there's some other primo real estate that you've left available, then there's nowhere for them to go anyway. At least, since Rise & Fall, these cities will soon flip from loyalty, at which point, you can conquer it as a "Free City" and then raze it to the ground (which, I think does not produce any grievances).

At the very least, if you see a Settler or Missionary near your borders, you should be able to demand the "Do not settle near me" or "Do not convert my cities" promise before they've settled or converted your cities.

It is so frustrating to see a "friendly" Settler crossing my territory,
and not being able to do anything about it except declare war.

Also, it would be really nice if promises actually worked between human players in multi-player. It seems that in Hot Seat (not sure about other MP modes), a player is allowed to ask for a promise (which costs 30 favor), but the target player does not have the option to accept or reject the promise. No promise is made, no grievances are generated for rejecting or breaking it, and the target cannot receive favor for accepting the promise. I imagine this has to be a bug. I doubt this would be working as designed.

Can players not accept or reject promises from other players in MP?

I'm not sure if promises ever worked between human players prior to Gathering Storm, since I rarely played multiplayer, and it never came up in my games. Nevertheless, I reported it on the Civfanatics forums:, so hopefully Firaxis will fix it.

Joint Wars should still count as "Surprise Wars"

As far as I can tell, Joint Wars are still treated as "Formal Wars" with regard to grievances. This was true of "warmonger" penalties prior to Gathering Storm, and it's a mechanic that has bugged me from day one. If you haven't denounced a player, you should not be able to declare a Joint War. Or if you do, it should still count as a "surprise war" (with all applicable grievances and other modifiers). Treating a Joint War as a Formal War seems like an easy cop out for completely bypassing the casus beli system.

Joint Wars are an easy cop out for bypassing the casus beli system.

This is especially true with Canada's national ability, which prevents it from being the victim of a Surprise War. However, other players can completely bypass that ability of Canada by simply declaring a surprise Joint War.

At the end of the day, a Joint War is still a surprise to the target of the declaration. It shouldn't matter that you are able to bribe some other civ into joining the war with you, the player being declared on is still surprised.

Joint Wars and joining an ongoing war should cost Diplomatic Favor

In general, I wish that the new Diplomatic Favor currency were more of a necessity when bringing other civs into conflicts. You can trade Diplomatic Favor in exchange for joint wars, but the favor isn't necessary if you have an otherwise strong reserve of gold and lots of resources to sell. Now that demanding promises requires favor, I wish that asking for Joint Wars, or for civs to join an ongoing conflict would also require Diplomatic Favor.

Joint Wars and joining ongoing wars should maybe cost Diplomatic Favor, similar to an emergency vote.

This would bring joint wars and joining ongoing wars a little more in-line with emergencies (which requires a vote using Diplomatic Favor to enact), and it would mean that civs who haven't been actively building coalitions and alliances would have a harder time bringing other civs into conflicts. This would hopefully make it easier for peacemonger civs to get help when they need it. Warmongering civs would likely have less Diplomatic Favor (since the primary way of getting favor is through alliances), and may not be able to use Joint Wars or bring in a partner for an ongoing war in which they are the aggressor.

Civs that don't pollute should gain Diplomatic Favor

Scrubbing CO2 is a possible path to victory.

Late in the game, there is a civic that allows civs to "scrub" greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Doing so grants some Diplomatic Favor. Further, you can only scrub pollution that you have created. You can't scrub someone else's CO2. This means that civs have a perverse incentive to pollute as much as they can, and then scrub it for Favor (which can be used towards a Diplomatic Victory).

I do believe that civs should be rewarded for cleaning up their messes, but I also think that civs that don't pollute to begin with should probably see more reward. Thus, I believe that the lowest-polluting civ(s) should gain Diplomatic Favor per turn that is inversely proportional to how much CO2 they're generating. This would go into effect when the world hits climate change level I. Just throwing out numbers here: maybe civs that aren't generating any CO2 at all get an extra 5 Diplomatic Favor per turn, the civ with the lowest CO2 output could get 2 Favor per turn, and all remaining civs who are in the bottom half of CO2-producers could get 1 Favor per turn.

This could maybe also scale with the level of climate change. For instance, at climate change level I, nobody gets extra favor. At level II, all civs in the bottom half of carbon-producers get 1 extra favor. At level III, all civs in the bottom half of carbon-producers get 2 extra favor, and so forth.

This would provide a benefit to the civs who never polluted to begin with. These non-polluters would then have extra favor (and would start acquiring it earlier) which they can use to enact energy policy to hopefully protect themselves from the effects of further climate change (which they are being punished for, even though they are not contributing it it). Or spend it on diplomatic victory points to end the game earlier!

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