Civ Update

I’ve had some time to dig into the new Civ expansion some over the last few weeks. Overall, I’m really enjoying it. I’ll give you a summary of the games I’ve played and then take a look at some of the new features that came with expansion.

The first game I played was a short one as the Byzantines. I wanted to try out the new Religion system and they get a bonus when founding a religion. I didn’t play the game for to long but did manage to spread my religion around the world.

My second game I wanted to try out the new ships. Being a naval buff, I love focusing on the navy. Previously the computer was pretty stupid over the ocean and G&K was supposed to fix that. On an archipelago map I played as the Ottoman’s so as to try out their new power, Prize Ships. I upped the difficulty on this game and would have been conquered early on if it weren’t for that ability.

I had a modest fleet get attacked by both the Greeks and the English (highest ranked player). They sent in invasion forces against two of my outlying resource colonies. Using my melee ships (I had Triremes against the Greeks and Privateers against the English), I managed to isolate and then capture their warships. Then using the new firepower, I was able to bombard the shore and save my cities.

Next game I’ll probably go for a more standard continental game so as to get better acquainted with the land units. Now, for the systems.

AI Combat/Improved Ships

First, I’ll look at what’s freshest in my mind, the improved AI and changed naval combat system. This has definitely been an improvement. Each time I was invaded, the AI escorted their troops instead of sending them in single file. A massive force landed at once. It was pretty exciting.

The break down of ships in melee and ranged is also a nice change. On my archipelago map, I have almost no land units. Using naval ranged to bombard cities and then melee ships to take them over, I’ve managed to conquer the Greeks and the Aztec.

In some ways this is bad, as I don’t have any use for those cool land units. But, this is only useful against coastal cities. For non archipelago maps, you’d be unable to reach most cities.

While the AI has been improved, it’s still pretty dumb. When the English invaded, I managed to survive simply because they didn’t send in all their Ships-of-the-Line to bombard my city. They had be surrounded and if they’d used their ships to soften me up, would have taken the city. Instead, I was able to capture their more powerful ships and use them against their land units.

The addition of the Admiral is also a nice touch.

Religion

Overall, I’m not terribly impressed with the religion system. Though, one of my biggest complaints is probably it’s greatest strength; it doesn’t feel like it really has any impact on game play. I haven’t really noticed my civilization getting a boost from it’s religion and trying to gain faith means my resources are split in even more directions (culture, science, faith, units, production, wonders).

In the first game, I focused on beliefs that helped me spread the religion. I gained religious dominance but then had nothing to do with all the faith I was acquiring. In the second, I focused on useful things (money and production boosts) but I couldn’t spread the religion enough to see a noticeable boost.

It’s a nice addition of something to try and achieve in the game but I never really noticed it affecting civ’s attitudes much. No religious wars or huge benefits.  We’ll try a balanced approach next time.

Espionage

This is another mixed bag, but unlike religion, is mostly positive. The system and interface for espionage is nice and simple. You get agents at every era, plus a few wonders can provide more.  You choose the city where you want them to go and do their work from a list of all cities you’ve discovered.

There are three basic things you can do with your spies: Steal technology (and intel), Influence city-states, and counter espionage. If you’re ahead technologically, counter espionage in your biggest science city is the way to go. If you’re behind, stealing techs can help keep you relevant. If you’re into an empire of city-states, you can cause some havoc there.

Spying on other civs can be useful. I was behind technologically for most of the early game as the Ottomans. Using spies I managed to close the gap some, or at least grab the necessary defensive techs. Sometimes my spies died, but sometimes they put me 30 turns ahead in research.

They would also occasionally gather useful intel. This you can share with other civs. Such as if the English are planning to invade Korea, you can let them know and make a lifetime friend. Also, they share this intel with you. The Romans, despite a mixed history, share intel that China was preparing to invade one of my cities. I had enough time to move the fleet into position to surround the invasion force and take it out before they reached land.

This can also lead to bad intel. I was informed of an imminent invasion another time that never happened. How the computer decides when a civ is preparing to launch an invasion isn’t clear. It comes up more often than I believe they’re really planning an attack. Though, that does match real intelligence gathering.

Where the espionage system falls down is with the city-states. Rigging elections for influence can be a nice way to gain some friends. But the Coup feature feels unbalanced. I once had a Coup fight with England over Marrakech. They performed a coup ousting me as an Ally. I responded back and then they did it again. All in one turn. Sure it simulates real unstable regimes, but it gets old.

Everytime England replaces me as the Ally of Marrakech (and Monaco), the city state declares war against the Mayans (who are at war with the English). When I get them back, the Mayans apologize for attacking my ally. I am then presented with a choice of either losing influence with the city-state, and forgiving the Mayans, or not forgiving them and risking war with the Mayans. Once in awhile, this would be an interesting development. Every few turns? It gets old.

Other

The last few things I want to comment on are diplomacy and resources. The expansion added a bunch of new luxury resources to the game. Off the top of my head I can think of copper and truffles, as well as the new Mercantile city states. These city-states produce some luxury items that are only available through befriending them. This adds a nice dynamic to the city-states. Now you have some that aid culture, military, religion, food, and happiness. Getting to be friends with all of them would be expensive, so you have to pick a city state style that matches what you need.

One resource areas that wasn’t changed is the Strategic resources. This is one mechanic I love and hate. On the one hand, having limited resources you need to make your best military units creates a good balance. You may be able to build swordsmen, but you can only build so many. That keeps you from wiping the floor with everyone.

The problem comes from the resources becoming useless over time and not being equally valuable.  Coal, for example, is only useful for producing factories. In Civ 5, factories aren’t the mandatory building they were in Civ 4. You can get by without a factory in most non-production cities. They’re nice, but not vital.

Since, in Civ 5 you don’t usually build a ton of cities, you only ever need as much coal as you have cities. Finding one source is usually enough. But at least the use continues throughout the rest of the game. Unlike iron and horses.

In the early-mid game, these two resources are vital militarily. The best offensive weapons require them. You can get by defensively without them though.  But by the mid game, these resources have lost their value. This gets annoying when every Civ you want to conduct a trade with keeps offering you all their excess iron and horses in exchange for your luxury resources.

The same thing happens to Oil later on, but on a much faster scale. Planes and battleships rely on it and really limit what you can build. But by the late game, technology advances so fast that they are obsolete very quickly.

Speaking of planes, in Civ 5 they feel pretty worthless.  The AI builds TONS of anti-aircraft units. That seems to be the majority of their forces. Unlike other ranged units, planes take damage when they attack. And they aren’t any more powerful than other ranged units but require a special resource that limits the number you can build.

But now I’m just rambling.

Over all, I’ve really enjoyed the expansion. I look forward to trying some of the scenarios later down the line. The fall of Rome and the steampunk one look like they’ll be fun. For another perspective, Space Sector has a nice summary review of the expansion as well, covering some areas I missed.

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