Sid Meier's Civilization

The announcement trailer for Sid Meier's Civilization VI made me very excited. Not just because there was a new iteration of my favorite PC game franchise, but also because the message of the trailer made me excited for the possibility that Civilization VI would take a much more humanist and globalist approach to its gameplay and victory conditions.

The Civilization games have always had a very optimistic tone, treating human development as being constantly progressing forward. Growing your civilization and building more things is almost always better. For the most part, Civilization treats human history as a constant forward march towards a better, more prosperous tomorrow.

This is despite the games including mechanics for "Dark Ages", climate change, nuclear fallout, occasionally pandemics and plagues, and so forth. Regardless of these mechanics, the civilizations of the game never regress, unless it's by the sword or gun of a conquering civilization, in which case, that other civilization is glorified. Climate change or nuclear winter can run rampant and render the surface of the Earth borderline uninhabitable for modern human life, but a civilization can still accumulate enough science or tourism or faith or diplomatic votes to win one of the various victories, or they can be the sole surviving civilization, presiding over a barren wasteland. But it's still a win.

Civilization is a game about cutthroat nationalism.

Despite vague gestures towards diplomatic cooperation and solving global crises, Civilization is, at its core, a game of competitive, cutthroat, zero-sum nationalism. This design ethos is probably the result of Civilization's inspirations coming from competitive board games like Avalon Hill's Civilization and Risk. "Our country is better than your country," and the whole game is an exercise in proving that. Further, one civilization's success must come at the expense of every other civilization's failure, even if those civilizations are friends or allies. One civ wins; all others lose. Every decision made is done to move your civilization closer towards one of those victory conditions, and every diplomatic agreement, trade deal, or alliance that you strike is only a temporary means to that end.

So what did Civ VI's trailer do to change my expectations for that game?

This essay is also available in video format on YouTube.

The trailer

Well, first, it's important to know how previous trailers and intro cinematics for Civilization games had introduced their respective games. Usually, they emphasized a single nation or leader doing great things. Winning wars, building wonders, developing advanced technologies, and so forth. And they usually ask the viewer: "How will you run your civilization?" and "Will your civilization stand the test of time?"

The trailer for Civilization VI takes a different approach. Let's take a look:

Civilization VI's announcement trailer celebrates the collective achievements of all of humanity.
"We are the explorers, the inventors, the architects of change, the builders of a better tomorrow.
We strive, we dream, we inspire, always towards something greater.
All the odds we defy, the risks we take, the challenges we endure, only make us stronger.
There's no end to our imagination, and no limit to civilization.
"
   - Sean Bean narrating Civilization VI announcement trailer

Notice the language that is used. The Civ VI trailer uses plural language such as "we", "us", and "out". "We are the builders of a better tomorrow.". "the challenges we endure, only make us stronger." "There is no end to out imagination, and no limit to civilization.". And so forth. The trailer for Civilization VI isn't a celebration of one civilization or leader rising above all others and being crowned the "greates" civilization; it's about the collective achievement of all of humanity -- not a civilization, but all human civilization!

It's a beautifully humanistic expression that emphasizes plurality and doesn't elevate any one culture or race or nation above any other. It celebrates the collective technological advancements, engineering, art, and struggles of all of humanity, without implying that any one nation or group has the best stuff. It emphasizes that we can overcome challenges by working together, and come out the other side stronger for it. It implies that when we cooperate to build something or solve a problem, the result will be better than what any individual entity can accomplish.

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Civilization VI - title

With the New Frontiers Pass for Civ VI over, an "Anthology" edition of Civ VI on sale, and no news at all regarding future DLC or expansions, I'm assuming that Firaxis has finished with Civ VI. As such, I want to look back on the game and reflect on the things that I liked most about it, and the things that annoyed me the most.

After the lifespan of Civilization V had ended, I wrote up a pair of retrospective blogs about my personal Top 10 Good Ideas and Top 10 Bad Ideas that went into that game. I'll be doing the same thing now with Civ VI.

I want to stress that this is a list of 10 good and bad ideas -- not necessarily good and bad mechanics. Some of the good ideas will be ideas that I like in principle (or on paper), but which might need more iteration before they truly work as intended. In contrast, there may be some bad ideas that work fine mechanically, but which hurt the "flavor" or theming of the game, in my opinion.

This is, of course, a subjective list of personal favorite and disliked concepts in the game. I'm sure there will be a lot of disagreement, and some of the things I write here will probably be somewhat controversial with the rest of the player base. So I'm interested in reading others' feedback. So if you agree with any of my points, or you vehemently disagree, feel free to post a comment and share your thoughts.

This content is also available in video essay format via YouTube.

This first post will cover my personal Top 10 Good Ideas, and I will follow it up with the next post being about the Top 10 Bad Ideas.

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Civilization VI - Robert the Bruce of Scotland

Civilization VI's second expansion, Gathering Storm was announced earlier this year, and will be released in a couple months. It will include modified rules and new civilizations, and I'll certainly be writing some guides for its new civilizations. In the meantime, however, I'm going to tackle one more civilization from the previous Rise & Fall expansion. This civilization happens to be the last of the "new" civilizations (a civ that has never appeared in a previous game): Scotland, lead by Robert the Bruce.

Civilization VI - Robert the Bruce portrait

Scotland is currently a part of the United Kingdom, and makes up the northern third of the British isle. However, Scotland was an independent, sovereign kingdom throughout most of the Middle Ages. The lands of Scotland are shaped predominantly by receding glaciers during the tail end of the last ice age, and the area has been inhabited for over twelve thousand years. The Scottish Gaels strongly resisted Roman encroachment into their territory during the first and second centuries. Their raids on Roman forts forced emperor Hadrian to construct a defensive wall over 117 km long and as tall as 6 meters, that ran almost the entire width of the island. Parts of the wall still stand across England today. After the withdrawl of the Romans, the kingdom of the Picts became known as the kingdom of Alba, which flourished in the 12th and 14th centuries, possessing some of Europe's most influential philosophers.

In 1295, when Scotland's King John had refused to fight alongside England's King Edward against the French -- despite Edward having arbitrated the Scottish crown to John -- England and Scotland were plunged into war that resulted in England seizing control over Scotland. In the early 14th century, new Scottish King Robert the Bruce began a 20-year campaign against the English to restore Scottish independence. Victory at the battle of Bannockburn finally restored control of Scotland back to the Scotts, and conflict between England and Scotland continued off and on for many generations before the two countries were united diplomatically in 1707.

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 November 2018 "launcher" patch (ver. 1.0.0.262)

Scotland is another "world police" civ (similar to Australia). It can also hold its own and can become a technological and/or industrial powerhouse if its citizens remain happy.

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Civilization VI - Poundmaker of Cree

Civilization VI's first expansion, Rise & Fall released earlier this year, and it introduced a few leaders and civilizations that are making their first appearance in the franchise. I hope to be able to write strategies for every one of the expansion civs and leaders, but I'm going to start with the ones that are new to the franchise, and the ones that most utilize the expansion's new features (Era Score, governors, loyalty, and so on). This month, I will be tackling the Cree, lead by Poundmaker.

The Cree are a group of Algonquian-speaking North American First Nation hunter-gatherers. Their numbers have reached hundreds of thousands, and their territory has covered much of mainland Canada (stretching from Newfoundland all the way to western Alberta) and parts of modern-day northern Montana. They were divided into several subgroups based on region and dialect, but their social structure was mostly uniform. They grouped together into a "lodge" consisting of two families related by marriage. Several lodges would hunt and migrate together in a "band", with lodges routinely coming and going between different bands, or forming new bands.

Civilization VI - Poundmaker portrait

As Cree bands migrated into the Great Plains, those bands began taking up buffalo hunting and herding. The leader of one such band, Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, became famous for his "divine" talent for using song and drum to attract buffalo into a walled pasture called a "pound". This talent, earned him the name Poundmaker from English-speakers. With the numbers of buffalo dwindling in the late 1800's, Pîhtokahanapiwiyin lead his people to Battleford to reaffirm his loyalty to the Queen and to negotiate for food and supplies. The townspeople, fearing an attack, holed up in the fort for several days, refusing to speak to Poundmaker, even though a spy had verified Poundmaker's peaceful intents. Canadian troops arrived a month later and attacked the Cree. The Canadians were routed, but Pîhtokahanapiwiyin ordered his warriors not to pursue, as he did not want a massacre. Despite not having instigated the conflict, Pîhtokahanapiwiyin surrendered to authorities in order to avoid further bloodshed. He was convicted of treason, and sent to prison. His sentence was only for seven months, but he died shortly after release due to a lung hemorrhage that he suffered in prison.

Pîhtokahanapiwiyin's actions, and his many alliances with other native tribes, and treaties with the Canadian government, have earned him a reputation as a skilled negotiator and a man of peace and wisdom. Today, the descendants of Pîhtokahanapiwiyin and his band live in the Poundmaker Cree Nation, a reservation in Saskatchewan, which was founded by Pîhtokahanapiwiyin himself.

DISCLAIMER:
Civilization VI is still very early in its life-cycle (particularly the Rise & Fall expansion. 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 July 2018 "Red Shell" patch (ver. 1.0.0.262)

Poundmaker had front-loaded bonuses that encourage him to be a trade-based peacemonger in Civilization VI: Rise & Fall, who gains additional bonuses from trade routes (either domestic or foreign) with cities that contain camps or pastures...

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Civilization VI: Rise and Fall - title

When Civilization V first launched back in 2010, it was in a pretty ugly, incomplete state. The game was buggy, was very slowly-paced, was completely missing any sort of espionage mechanic, and had other gaping holes in its design. It took about six or eight months' worth of patching and updating from Firaxis before the game reached a state that I would consider "adequate". Its first expansion, Gods & Kings basically came off as a fan wishlist, as it re-added (and re-vamped) many of the features and systems that had been removed between Civ IV and Civ V (religion and espionage). That expansion also addressed a lot of core complaints with the game by dramatically improving combat balance and A.I. intelligence. The second expansion, Brave New World, almost completely re-invented the game and added a considerable amount of innovation in the form of trade routes and the new great works and artifacts systems. It also added an exceptional, robust roster of new civilizations.

Civilization VI launched with most of Brave New World's innovations still in place (though culture seems to have regressed a bit), and also added its own new innovations in city management. It felt like a much more complete game at launch than Civ V was. At the time, I was blown away by Civ VI, but as time has gone by (and I've increased the difficulty level), my enthusiasm for the game has diminished a bit.

I really enjoy the game when I play it on the King difficulty level (the "easiest" of the "hard" difficulty levels, in which A.I.s only get very slight bonuses). As soon as I up the difficulty to Emperor, I start to get frustrated, and the game becomes much less fun. The problem is that on the difficulty that I enjoy (King), the A.I. puts up very little resistance, and the game (though fun) is generally too easy. I can play the game on Emperor (I haven't experimented much on Immortal or higher in VI yet), but the stacking of the deck makes the game less enjoyable because I often feel that I'm blocked out of many early-game strategies that I want to try (such as early religion or wonders). It's all possible to accomplish, but it's prohibitively so, and the game often pushes me too far in the direction of militancy.

Doesn't address core game issues

Nope. Still no build queue...

In summary, while Civilization V's first expansion filled many of the gaping holes and addressed many of the flagrant flaws in vanilla Civ V's design, VI's first expansion mostly just stacks additional mechanics and features onto an already-complete game, while leaving many of VI's annoyances, quirks, and genuine flaws un-resolved. Let's get these complaints out of the way first.

Rise and Fall does little to address complaints with shallow unit upgrade paths. There's still generally only a single unit of a given unit class every other era.

Rise and Fall does very little to improve the combat systems in general. Units still die far too easily (in my opinion) (though this seems to be due in large part to the disparity in unit upgrade levels mentioned above), and imbalances between melee, ranged, and mounted units are still prevalent.

Rise and Fall does nothing to address complaints that I've had with the maps feeling very crowded and claustrophobic.

Civilization VI back-loads most of its culture, tourism, artifact, and great work systems into the second half of the game, and Rise and Fall does very little to make these feel like game-long engagements the way that Brave New World mostly did.

It does very little to make the late-game victory march feel less like a slog, or to make the early-game feel less rushed (especially on higher difficulties).

It does very little to address complaints with how the A.I. agendas can make them very erratic and schizophrenic. A.I.s are still far too willing to agree to joint wars against their own friends, allies, and trade partners, and joint wars in general still feel like a cheap loophole that lets warmongers bypass the casus belli system and warmonger penalties. Further, while the expansion does allow for deeper alliances with mutual benefits for the civs involved, it does not expand alliances to the point of allowing for shared or cooperative victories. So dipomacy in general still feels like a zero-sum-game with every civ acting to the exclusion of all others.

There's still no icon or indication that a unit has experience bonuses from barracks or buffs such as "Spears of Fion", or to indicate which abilities or penalties a given unit has by default.

We still can't assign military units to escort traders, nor can we see the path of any particular trader after it's started a route. And Trade routes themselves still don't generate reciprocal profit by default, meaning there's no reason to want other civs to send routes to you (other than getting a free road out of it, which isn't all that rewarding).

There's also still no build queues for cities!

Religion was overhauled in a patch last year, and religious units occupy their own layer.

Some major game upgrades have already been made available via post-release patches and DLC updates, and I'm grateful for those. New resources and wonders have trickled in since launch. One of the best improvements came in an update last year that allowed religious units to exist on their own layer, so that swarms of missionaries don't block your own units' movement in your territory. And the religious system in general was improved. So the game, overall, has improved a little bit since release. It just hasn't improved as dramatically as Civ V had improved in its first year. Though, to its credit, Civ VI didn't have as much room for obvious improvement.

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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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The un-fulfilled promise of Civilization VI's announcement trailerThe un-fulfilled promise of Civilization VI's announcement trailer03/04/2022 The announcement trailer for Sid Meier's Civilization VI made me very excited. Not just because there was a new iteration of my favorite PC game franchise, but also because the message of the trailer made me excited for the possibility that Civilization VI would take a much more humanist and globalist approach to its gameplay...

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