Civilization Part 6: Complete Barbarism

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 16, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 124 comments

Like I’ve said before, I’ve always hated the barbarians in Civilization games. I understand their purpose in the early game. They’re a really good automatic balancing tool for map generation. If the RNG blesses you with a bit of extra space, then that’s more blind space for barbarians to spawn in. If you’re close to an enemy, then there won’t be space for barbarians. Either way, you need to build defenses. They also keep you busy during those slow periods of the early game where you would otherwise just smash the “Next Turn” button over and over again. And on top of all that, they’re thematically appropriate for the bronze age.

But then a few hours later you get into the industrial age and you’re still running into barbarians, which are now ridiculously inappropriate, nonsensical, and irritating.

A Barbarian by Another Name

This barbarian camp can create military units faster than my city can create military units. Don't ask me how THAT works.
This barbarian camp can create military units faster than my city can create military units. Don't ask me how THAT works.

To a certain extent, my problem comes down to calling these non-player units “barbarians”. See, the barbarians usually have access to the best units in the game – even if those units haven’t been built yet! I’ve had gamesIn Civ V, not Civ VI. where I was the technological leader. I was going for some sort of non-combat victory like religion, culture, or science, and I was making sure to keep my neighbors happy. I had a bunch of military units that I’d researched but never built. These units can only be built by a complex society. You need factories. You need an educated workforce. You need electricity. You need access to strategic resources like iron, niter, or oil. And even then, it takes you many turns to make them.

But then here comes a bunch of “barbarians” rolling up with those cutting-edge units, produced for free in their village of mud huts. Now, if this was just some Starcraft-style game about shooting each other then this wouldn’t be a big deal. But in a game specifically about simulating CIVILIZATION ITSELF, this is completely obnoxious.

The last time I brought this up, some people described late-game barbarians as being things like separatists, cartels, rebels, insurgents, and other military groups that aren’t aligned with any government, rather than assuming they’re literal loincloth-wearing savages piloting attack helicopters and aircraft carriers.

This “barbarians are rebels” interpretation certainly makes more sense. My problem with this is threefold:

  1. That’s not what the game calls them. It would really help if, somewhere after the middle ages, the games swapped labels so that barbarians were called “separatists” or whatever.
  2. The game visually depicts them as barbarians. I vividly remember a moment in Civilization V where I had to fight a “barbarian” BATTLESHIP. So then I tracked down their home base to finish them off. Their home was a cluster of huts inside a rough palisade wall. That is ridiculous, regardless of what you call them.
  3. The game already has mechanics for separatists! You can have a city go rogue if their loyalty gets too low. Sometimes individual units can rebelThis mostly happens in response to the work of enemy spies, but it does happen. and you’ll end up with a hostile tank rampaging through the heart of your nation. In this case, it’s a tank built by a PLAYER as a product of their complex society, not a tank conjured up out of nowhere by a bunch of losers camping out in the wilderness.

Also, I feel strongly that rebels, insurgents, barbarians, or whatever we call them, should never have access to the latest technology and never ever have access to technology that hasn’t even been built yet. Yes, you sometimes wind up with camps or outposts of people equipped with modern weapons. They get weapons that have become commonplace in the wider world: Assault rifles, grenades, etc. But they don’t build those things themselves. They obtain those things through theft or trade. It’s literally impossible for them to obtain weapons more advanced than the superpowers they’re attacking. Please, don’t drag me back to TIM Island. That place is a madhouse.

Okay, you can piss RIGHT OFF with this 'barbarian tank' bullshit.
Okay, you can piss RIGHT OFF with this 'barbarian tank' bullshit.

As a rule of thumb, I think these non-faction units should only obtain units that:

  1. Are available to 2 or more players.
  2. Have been built at least once by a player.

I’ve always had this problem with the series, although Civilization VI made it worse by intensifying the frequency of barbarian activity in the early game. At Prince difficultyThe default. they spawn incessantly. You’ll finally stomp out a barbarian camp that’s been harassing you for a dozen turns, and another one will pop up before your units can even make it home. I’ve found turning them off helps a lot, although the game logic doesn’t adjust for non-barbarian games. I’ve had rival leaders call me up and berate me for allowing barbarians to run rampant in my territory when playing a game where barbarians literally can’t spawnI assume that the AI looks at how many barbarian camps you’ve taken out to judge if you’re doing a good job, and this logic would fall apart if there aren’t any for you to kill.. Also, killing barbarians in the early stages of the game is going to be your main source of Era Points. Without them, I found it tricky to avoid a dark age.

But my big gripe with barbarians is that they make the early stages of the game so much more combat-focused, and…

I’ve NEVER Liked the Combat in Civilization

I really question the barbarian strategy of assaulting advanced fortified cities. Even barbarians have a sense of self-preservation. And if they somehow don't, then natural selection ought to solve this problem for me.
I really question the barbarian strategy of assaulting advanced fortified cities. Even barbarians have a sense of self-preservation. And if they somehow don't, then natural selection ought to solve this problem for me.

I’m here for the long-term strategic planning, not the combat. I realize this is a bit like saying, “I like Tomb Raider, except for all the climbing,” but that’s the kind of fickle thinking you get from half-committed casual fans like me. I’m not saying that the game would be better if the designers got rid of combat entirely. You need the combat because the game would be too shallow without it. Also, it would make no damn sense to simulate civilizations without warfare. That’s like trying to simulate dodgeball with no ball.

Occasionally I’ll try to imagine a game that contains all the Civ stuff I like without any of the stuff I hate, and I can’t picture itAnd no, it’s not Sim City, smartass.. I’ve never figured out what it is that I enjoy about fussing with the layouts of my cities in Civ, so I’m not sure how that idea could be transplanted elsewhere.

Anyway. I don’t like the combat. Making matters worse is that the combat itself really breaks the flow of the game. Once a war starts, the pace of the game slows to a crawl as you spend every turn fiddling with dozens of little units.

Here’s the kind of scenario that drives me up the wall:

I’m going for some sort of cultural / religious / science victory, and so I’m trying to get the other factions to leave me alone and fight each other. But then one of them just HAS to pick a fight with me. So I spend several turns crash-spending to get my army up to size for a proper fight, and divert all my resources from science and start dumping it into military production. Then I have to spend a dozen or so turns getting everyone into place. Then I (hopefully) spend the next dozen or so turns crushing the invaders.

Now, the AI won’t let up just because you wiped out their army. They’ll keep pumping out units and harassing you forever, because the AI LOVES this combat and could do it all day. If you want them to go away, you need to give them a bloody nose. This usually means taking a couple of their stupid worthless annoying low-population citiesTheir good cities will probably be far away and hard to reach unless I’m willing to spend the next two hours clawing my way through their entire empire, one worthless city at a time..

So I spend another handful of turns marching my guys into position and batter down the defenses of their nearest city. Then once the city is helpless I realize none of my units are able to capture it. Some units can capture and some can’t. On one hand, I get that a trebuchet can’t roll into a city and announce that it’s running things from now on. On the other hand, that trebuchet isn’t rolling around the countryside all by itself, is it? It presumably has people taking care of it. I guess those people didn’t bring any firearms with them so they have nothing to point at the civilians inside?

Fine. I'll mow down these spear guys, but then I'm taking the rest of the year off.
Fine. I'll mow down these spear guys, but then I'm taking the rest of the year off.

Fine. Whatever. I spend a few turns building a footsoldier, then a few more nudging him across the map, one turn at a time, until he’s near the city. Then just as I’m one space away, the target city JUST HAPPENS to crank out an anti-personnel unit that wipes out my footsoldier in a single turn and now I need to spend another dozen turns building another and moving it into position. Except I can’t do that because I just closed the game. I can’t bear to spend the next two hours of my life with this fussy nonsesense just so this stupid AI will fuck off and bother someone in his own weight class. This entire war is a foregone conclusion, but the AI doesn’t care.

This is made worse by the way unit movement is handled. Advanced units are able to move many spaces per turn, but they can still only attack onceEr. My memory on this is a little vague. I’m not sure if this was always the case.. So my tank can only kill one spearman a yearOr whatever the years-per-turn rate is at this point in the game.. This means that fights take the same number of turns, regardless of how mismatched the two sides are. Per turn, each of your massively overpowered future-machines can still only defeat ONE feeble dude with a low-tech weapon. If your adversary is feeling frisky, they can flood the map with worthless units that completely stonewall your modern army for ages.

Civ VI doesn’t change the combat very much from the previous versions, but I wanted to whine about this anyway. This is one of those situations where I honestly don’t have any suggestions for the developers. I don’t think you could fix this for me without ruining it for proper fans of the series.

Wrapping Up

Dreamworks-styled Cleopatra is kinda weird.
Dreamworks-styled Cleopatra is kinda weird.

One final note: At the start of this series I mentioned I wasn’t a fan of the cartoonish art. People in the comments asked the perfectly reasonable question, “Why can’t Civilization games be cartoonish?” And yeah, given the silly layers of abstraction these games have, it makes a lot of sense to lean AWAY from photorealism. But I still don’t like the art style.

The only explanation I can offer is that it reminds me of a lot of the art I see advertised on mobile games. Maybe I’m just put off because this art style has been used to sell crap for the last few years? Or maybe the art suggests a certain comedic vibe that the game itself doesn’t deliver on? I dunno.  I can’t say it’s bad, but it did feel odd to me for whatever reason.

So that’s a big pile of random thoughts and digressions on the Civilization series in general and occasionally on Civilization VI in particular. I’ll admit this series was a little light on detailed analysis due to my status as a detached casual fan. That’s fine. I think it worked out anyway. We had some good conversations about 4X games, some people taught me a bit more about the mechanics, and I was reminded that I should really find the time to revisit Master of Orion 2 again someday.

As always, this site is made possible by everyone that supports me on Patreon. Thanks for your support, and thanks for reading.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] In Civ V, not Civ VI.

[2] This mostly happens in response to the work of enemy spies, but it does happen.

[3] The default.

[4] I assume that the AI looks at how many barbarian camps you’ve taken out to judge if you’re doing a good job, and this logic would fall apart if there aren’t any for you to kill.

[5] And no, it’s not Sim City, smartass.

[6] Their good cities will probably be far away and hard to reach unless I’m willing to spend the next two hours clawing my way through their entire empire, one worthless city at a time.

[7] Er. My memory on this is a little vague. I’m not sure if this was always the case.

[8] Or whatever the years-per-turn rate is at this point in the game.



From The Archives:
 

124 thoughts on “Civilization Part 6: Complete Barbarism

  1. Wangwang says:

    Anyone know any game that is Civ-like but non-combat?

    1. tmtvl says:

      If there isn’t one, let’s make one!

    2. Chris says:

      Well, Shamus describes he enjoys building up an empire to be efficient. A series of well-oiled cities that interlock with eachother. That sounds to me like simcity. But since he said he didn’t want that, I dont know what to imagine honestly. A game like simcity but on larger scale with technology that takes you through the ages?

      1. Wangwang says:

        Turn-based, with opponents, and win conditions.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      The closest I can think of is Offworld Trading Company, but I think it’s only single battles, not a big map that spans ages. (You control megacorps on Mars, fighting with money.)

    4. Paul Spooner says:

      Isn’t that kind of the point of “Before We Leave“?

    5. K. says:

      You could go for management games and city builders. Lots of strategy and fussing around with city layouts, combat being optional if present at all. I recommend Anno 1800 as a good real-time 4X.

    6. DaveMc says:

      How about Civ IV (the last one I’ve played): Custom Game, choose “Always Peace”, and you’re playing a game where only cultural, diplomatic, space, or high-score-at-the-“end of time” victories are possible. You can fiddle around with your peaceful cities to your heart’s content until that barbarian aircraft carrier shows up. (Unfortunately for Shamus, this leaves combat with barbarians as the *only* form of combat that arises in the game.)

      (Credit to the comment threads of this very blog for pointing out the existence of this game mode to me, many years ago.)

    7. Tom says:

      It’s positively ancient now, but Settlers 2 is a pretty decent, logistics-centred Empire-building sim for those who aren’t overly fond of combat. It does still have combat in it, but the combat is sort-of “semi-automatic,” and much more directly tied to your economy’s ability to support a standing army (except for the damned “Asiatic” nation, who – horribly sterotypically, it must be admitted – can continuously kick your arse with martial arts despite being poverty-stricken, whilst everyone else needs to mine gold and funnel it to their soldiers to train them up – nice idea, terrible, crude and arguably somewhat racist implementation). It’s got some nasty design flaws that can bite you in a long-term campaign, though (chiefly that both gold and stone are finite resources that magically vanish into the aether once spent or a stone building is demolished, or you use up all your stone as catapult ammunition – if you haven’t beaten the level by the time your gold mines and quarries run dry, then welcome to perpetual stalemate. Ironically this would actually be a perfect “win state” for real life, because at this point all the other, renewable parts of your economy just keep ticking over forever and nobody can practically invade anybody else!) Its biggest flaw is probably a complete lack of a diplomacy system – some neighbouring nations are friendly, some are hostile; all are expansionist. Friendly ones turn hostile if you attack them; hostile nations stay hostile forever.

      The sequels are nothing to write home about, if you ask me, for all that their graphics are a lot better – they’re much more generic and have much more generic strategy gameplay that is homogenised with the rest of the industry. I’ve always rather hoped for a modern reboot of the series with mechanics that are closer to the look and feel of the second entry, but with the flaws fixed.

    8. RCN says:

      The settlers?

      I remember it being quite light on the combat and allowing you to be as defensive as you like, though on the other hand it could be fiddly to build an army if you are attacked and isn’t prepared.

  2. Liessa says:

    100% agree with all your points here, Shamus. Another problem I’ve always had with the “late-game barabarians are terrorists/rebels/pirates/whatever” argument is that terrorists, rebels and pirates are all different types of organisation, with distinct goals and methods, and should therefore behave very differently. But the Civ ‘barbarians’ act the exact same way regardless of the game stage, which is basically to zerg-rush your cities like they’re the Orcs in a D&D game. They can’t be pacified, subdued, converted, bought off or negotiated with. It’s really quite a disturbing way to represent pre- or non-industrialised societies, and while this may have been excusable in the original game, it’s getting pretty ridiculous now that we’re in the 6th iteration of the series.

    1. tmtvl says:

      In Civ2 barbarians you could bribe barbs to go away. They should’ve improved that mechanic instead of removing it.

      1. Liessa says:

        Even the Mind Worms in Alpha Centauri had more depth to them than Civ barbarians. (Quite a lot more, if you follow the story through to the end.)

        1. Warstrike says:

          Yeah. And I’ve been known to basically win using captured worms :)

          1. Liessa says:

            Let me guess: Deirdre? ;) She was always my favourite.

    2. Daniil says:

      I take them for roving warbands rather than the whole of their societies. (After all, even in-game, there are also friendly villages.) Still, this is one of the big areas of abstraction for the sake of gameplay in the series. It would be good to have more options for dealing with them. (After all, even actual warbands often ended up reaching peaceful arrangements, being paid off, being sicced on rival empires…)

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      The other issue with the framing is that it really feels like it should be tied to the happiness/centralization/whatever of your cities, but no matter how happy or frustrated your citizens are you always get the same number of barbarians. And you probably can’t modify the game to tie those things together without messing up the balance midgame barbarians are designed for, because they practically exist to harass pacifistic “tall” empires but those are the ones most likely to be doing well on their “don’t spawn barbariansrebels” metrics.

  3. Bubble181 says:

    I absolutely agree with everything said.
    I do believe there are a few high-tech units who can attack twice in a turn (or is it an upgrade only possible after, like, 4 promotions?). It’s rare, and it does mean horribly lopsided combat still lasts ages.
    It makes sense that regular Warriors can withstand, say, Spearmen or something even if those are a thousand years more advanced. However, neither should pose anything more than a slight roadbump to a tank, let alone a modern airplane. There are some cut-offs after which it simply makes no sense to have units take up time. Let’s say, more than one full era difference.

    1. The Puzzler says:

      ‘Attack twice in a turn’ is indeed a level 4 promotion for highly experienced heavy cavalry by the look of it. (And tanks are heavy cavalry, so if they kill enough spearmen, they’ll eventually be able to kill two per year.)

      1. Retsam says:

        Also, level 4 ranged units get to attack twice (if they don’t move).

    2. King Marth says:

      Wait, attackers can’t be destroyed? In Alpha Centauri, whenever a unit initiated combat, the combat wouldn’t end until one of them was dead (with artillery bombardment as a special non-combat action) – and while I believe there was some bonus from being the first to attack (mostly that you were the first to deal damage and so would win in an identical showdown), I definitely recall late-game turns where the majority of time was spent on enemy turn while stacks and stacks of mindworms slaughtered themselves against my defenses. You shouldn’t need to attack multiple times, it should be sufficient to place your units within enemy threat range and watch as they’re destroyed on their own activations.

      I suppose garrison units wouldn’t actively seek to suicide-attack into your oncoming army, but that isn’t the scenario being described here.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        They absolutely can, but the AI is smarmt enough not to suicide-attack. If they’d die, they’ll try to run away, pillage to retore health, or fortify.

      2. Narkis says:

        Yes, in Civ 5 and 6 combat ends automatically after a specific number of rounds. It usually takes ~4 attacks to kill an equivalent tech unit. A unit can still suicide against your defenses, but it has to have been almost dead already. And I’ve definitely seen the AI keep launching attacks at terrible odds against my walled cities without healing the damage in between, until its melee units were dead a couple turns later.

  4. Mephane says:

    I am as casual a 4x player as it gets. Once every couple of years I play one, and usually only that one, and nothing in between. So my experience if very limited and it is possible some of these game alleviate my main issue with combat.

    Which is too much micromanagement and maintenance after the battle. Be that units destroyed, damaged cities, etc. Checking through everything, starting reconstruction and repair orders, starting the production of new military units to replace the lost ones, then when they are built order them to join the others etc. Which leads me to appropriate a strategy where I only build identical clones of the biggest baddest units just so that there is less detailed busiwork when rebuilding. If I lose a chunk of a very diverse and complex army, I need to check how many of each unit lost to rebuild, send to the right location, join up with the rest of the army etc. When it is just a bunch of identical, expensive big units, I just have to count. If I had 50 battleships and lost 10, I can just order 10 more to be built, then when they are done, send those 10 to join the other 40. Typically I would even make it so that one city/planet/whatever supplies one army/fleet/whatever so that I can just send everything built at location A to join group X and everything built at location B to join group Y.

    So basically what I would want is a way to set up a template for an army/fleet/whatever, and then build and repair to that template at the press of a button, and of course the ability to alter the template and then hit “apply to all existing” and new units are built automatically, added to their correct army/fleet/etc, obsolete units get scrapped, modified units retrofitted etc.

    And for cities/planets/whatever, likewise, if they suffer some damage, just give me a button that says “rebuild whatever was destroyed, repair whatever was damaged”, otherwise only bother me in case of major events (e.g. a city being nuked beyond repair).

    1. Asdasd says:

      I’d like this, and it’d be good for RPGs too. Just heal the damn wounds already, Cleric! And do you really need me to go three menus deep to tell you to take off that poison?

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      Don’t forget all the new cities you’ve conquered, which even undamaged will be missing half of their critical infrastructure because the AI’s build order is hot garbage so you need to spend a bunch of effort figuring out how to best fix them.

    3. Thomas Steven Slater says:

      They have that in Stellaris

      1. Narkis says:

        Yep, that fleet template is a godsend. I was very glad when they added army templates in EU4 too.

  5. Asdasd says:

    I need to play Master of Orion 2 one of these days, just to see what all the fuss is about.

  6. Hal says:

    I love the Final Fantasy themed map up there.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Yeah, I understood these without running to Wikipedia, unlike the Rifle Race cities.

      Maybe Shamus’ dislike of wide play is subconsciously driven by the difficulty of theming the names of fifteen-plus cities?

  7. Daimbert says:

    I’m here for the long-term strategic planning, not the combat. I realize this is a bit like saying, “I like Tomb Raider, except for all the climbing,” but that’s the kind of fickle thinking you get from half-committed casual fans like me. I’m not saying that the game would be better if the designers got rid of combat entirely. You need the combat because the game would be too shallow without it. Also, it would make no damn sense to simulate civilizations without warfare. That’s like trying to simulate dodgeball with no ball.

    This is my exact problem with Hearts of Iron II. I really like the “alt-history” idea of that game, but on reading it learned that combat can actually be very complicated, and so worry that if I took on a country to make things go differently, things would be screwed up because my uber-powerful nation couldn’t win a battle, even with overwhelming force. I don’t want my own inadequacies with the combat ruin what I like about the game.

    I wish that they would just do some kind of reasonable auto-resolve. Star Wars: Rebellion’s was pretty good, although I ended up always taking over anyway because I’d pack my ships with bombers for bombardments and bring along Lancers to control fighters, and if I didn’t land my bombers I’d lose a number of them for no reason.

    1. Hector says:

      The wars in HoI is the point, though. That’s not a “side activity.”

      1. Daimbert says:

        It’s the same way as Civilization though when it comes to combat specifically: most of the planning for the war is managing resources and politics, both internal and external, and that’s what drives the alt-history aspects. Actually having to manage the specific tactical considerations of each specific battle down to specific terrain isn’t necessarily part of that. Compare it to Axis and Allies, where combat is far more streamlined despite it being a much bigger actual part of the game (since you don’t have much politics or diplomacy to deal with).

        1. Hector says:

          I don’t agree with you concerning HoI. It’s the most war-focused of the series. Managing armies at all levels basically is the game.

          1. Daimbert says:

            I disagree with that given the depth of the internal political and diplomatic options in the game, which drives the alt-history part of the game. It would be odd to say that managing armies is basically the game when you can take nations that never did and in the game never will actually engage in combat, where all you can do is research and handle the internal politics of your country.

            1. Hector says:

              I still disagree. If you had said this about any of the other Paradox Grand Strategy (PGS) games, I would agree with the statement but specifically *NOT* Hearts of Iron. While warfare is a big element of other PGS titles, there’s other ways to play the game that can be realistically part of your overall goal. Warfare is a part of the game because it’s a large part of human experience, historically. Hearts of Iron is laser-focused on the crisis times around WW2. While it’s possible to avoid actual conflicts, it is pretty inevitably the point of the game – and also much more focused upon than any other PGS title. The depth of combat is far more intricate than anywhere else, to the point that of all PGS titles, it is the only one which an entire “War” section, and the largest section of the entire wiki at that. Outside of some glitches, I don’t think you can even expand peacefully in the game without sending boots on the ground, whereas that’s explicitly a part of the model in all other PGS games.

              Don’t get me here – that’s not inaccurate to the time period, nor is that a criticism of the game.

              1. Daimbert says:

                My complaint, though, is not about the warfare, but is about the combat. Again, take my example of Axis and Allies. It’s all about the war, but the combat is sufficiently abstract to be manageable. And combat is a bigger part of that game than it is in HoI. So it’s just like Shamus’ comments on Civilization: I understand why combat needs to be in there, but really wish there was a way to streamline it so that the upper level aspects couldn’t be ruined by incompetence at the combat. The original HoI, from my experience with it, was a bit better than the second game, which made things more complicated (as per your comments on the wiki). But, again, just like for Shamus I wish that I didn’t have to put up with the complicated combat when what I really want to get into are the complicated politics and diplomacy (which are crazily developed as well, and so clearly being a big part of the game and arguably what draws people to it).

                Outside of some glitches, I don’t think you can even expand peacefully in the game without sending boots on the ground, whereas that’s explicitly a part of the model in all other PGS games.

                But in HoI most nations have no desire or ability to expand in any way. Only Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union historically had expansion as a major motivation. The United States and Great Britain might have had some minor motivation to do so in some areas of the world, but for the most part things are already settled and most nations just want to defend themselves and prevent the expansionary drives of some other nations. If you’re playing as Canada or Mexico, for example, you have no interest or ability to expand, and yet again the games can let you play a massively complicated political game. So that you can’t expand without conquest doesn’t say anything in a game where most of the nations don’t want to expand anyway.

                1. Hector says:

                  Let’s agree to disagree.

                2. The Puzzler says:

                  I googled Hearts of Iron 2 Canada Guide, and it recommended first conquering weaker countries like Portugal and Mexico before you attempt to take over the USA. So I don’t think everyone plays it the same way you do.

  8. Coblen says:

    I feel you. War in Civ is mostly just tedium that keeps you from doing the fun stuff. This is broadly a problem across the entire genre, but since Civ went to one unit per tile it became the absolute worst in this regard.

    If your looking for something that might scratch the Civ itch without the current Civ’s problems I would recommend endless legend. The combat is more interesting, and going tall is viable.

    What I really wish is that I could get a game with Civ style empire management with Total Wars war mechanics.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Seconding the recommendation of my favorite 4X. It also solves the barbarian problem Shamus has. Barbarian villages are generated at the start of the game but don’t respawn so once you deal with them you’re done (you can even pacify them with bribes or quests if you don’t want to fight), and they don’t scale nearly as far as Civ’s do so by the lategame you can just crush them rather than facing battleships.

    2. Erik says:

      I always thought I’d like Total War because they seemed like they had it right – real-time is appropriate for tactical gaming, turn-based is appropriate for strategic gaming, so let’s use each for the part of the game they’re good for.

      Turns out, I don’t really like real-time battle games that much, even without being forced into real-time strategy. ¯\_(?)_/¯

    3. MelTorefas says:

      Thirding. Was also going to recommend Endless Legend. I tried Civ 5 but bounced off it for basically all the reasons Shamus mentioned. Endless Legend improved on basically every aspect for me. I also really prefer the whole “aliens on an alien world with science-magic and magic-magic” to the “real world” vibe of Civ (I’ve never liked building wonders in places they weren’t, or the way the civ leaders are some sort of immortal beings). I also like that the tech eras in EL aren’t tied to real-world time periods so you don’t end up with weirdness where it takes hundreds of years to accomplish incredibly basic movements or combats (and units never age).

    4. Veylon says:

      I’ll recommend Endless Legend, too. The only thing that really puts me off is the goofiness with the region boundaries. There’s always some batch of hexes that would be a nice place for a city, but they’re arbitrarily divided from each other into separate territories. It’s one thing for areas with fundamentally different terrain or separated by mountains/swamps/rivers/etc. to be divided that way, but sometimes those magic lines just go through the middle of a valley or across fertile plains.

      It’d be nice to be able to swap hexes between regions if you owned one or both of them.

    5. C.J.Geringer says:

      Also gonna add my voice to the Endless Legend recomenders. I won´t say it is perfect but it´s got it´s own twists, allt he expansions ar eitnerestign and make the gamepley deeper, and creatign custom factions is fun, liekc reating a charcter ina n RPG.

      Plus the comunity Mod is great, and much improves lots of stuff, including the A.I. you really should try with it installed for optimum experience.

  9. Witness says:

    The most recent Civ game I played was 3, and the most recent one I liked was 2 (not counting Alpha Centauri, which was the best of the best). Reading through this has been a reminder of why I stopped getting the new ones.

    Units with multiple moves can use those moves to attack multiple times.
    I seem to recall a naming shift later in the game from Barbarian’s to Partisans? Which at least helped. They didn’t get the *best* units from my memory, but they did upgrade with the times, so they’d have muskets when you did, and rifles when you did. Sensible enough. I think there was just a specific set of units that they were allowed to spawn once the appropriate technology was reached.

    That said, I don’t think they were ever a balancing mechanic. The best Civ games to my mind didn’t do much “rubber-banding” or have too much in the way of balance mechanisms. Aside from a few random bonus techs at the start of the game if the algorithm thought your start location was “bad”, you get what you get and make of it what you can.

    1. Narkis says:

      I think you might like Civ 4 if you tried it. It was a great refinement over the classic Civ formula imho, and has almost none of these annoyances they added in Civ 5 and 6.

      I do agree Alpha Centauri remains the best of the best though.

  10. Karma The Alligator says:

    I really question the barbarian strategy of assaulting advanced fortified cities. Even barbarians have a sense of self-preservation. And if they somehow don’t, then natural selection ought to solve this problem for me.

    Ah, but you see, you are that natural selection.

    I recall hearing someone talk about how a barbarian spearman took out one of their aircraft carriers, so I’m guessing not all games have the barbarians build the most advanced units available?

    Anyway, I agree on the combat. In the rare cases where I’m suckered into playing CiV, I absolutely hate the combat, because I’m never ready for it and I don’t care about the micro management of all the units on the map.

  11. Lino says:

    Typolice:

    then here comes a bunch of “barbarians”

    Should be “come”.

    layers of abstraction this games have

    Should be “these”.

    Other than that, great article! The main reason I’ve never been a fan of this series is definitely the combat. I’ve never liked turn-based combat in games. The only exceptions are games I have a lot of nostalgia for and stuff like card games.

    I wish there was a game that combined the macro of Civ with the combat of the Total War series.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Pedantically, “come” or “comes” both work here, depending on how you interpret “bunch”. If it’s just a synonym for “many” then it ought to be “here come many barbarians” but if it’s meant to imply a distinct grouping in the same way “army” does (e.g. “a bunch of bananas”) then it’s “here comes an army of barbarians”.

      1. tmtvl says:

        I’ve seen an army of bananas burn my hometown to the ground. Never forget the fruit wars of ’27.

    2. vernal ancient says:

      Actually, “comes” is correct; it’s referring to “bunch,” which is singular

  12. Hector says:

    I think, if I were distilling the big issues Shamus has, is that he’s leaning into the simulationism. Except, Civ was never really conceived that way. It’s a board game, and all the decisions about it are made in that context. This is not to say that Shamus is wrong, just that Civ never was a historical simulation to begin with and never aspired to become one. This does not mean the criticisms are invalid, just that they come from a different angle than the base design ever thought of. For what it’s worth, I agree with some criticisms but think many of the mechanics need a deeper rethink in general. The games have too many crippling defects for a modern title, including fundamentally broken diplomacy and special civic abilities that are wildly imbalanced or which just don’t work properly in context.

    Now we just need to get Shamus into EU4. He’ll finish the tutorial mode of learning in 500 hours or so and then we can have some real fun.

    1. Chris says:

      EU4 is a wargame with minimal building/managing.

      1. Hector says:

        But it will require 500 hours before he realizes that!

    2. Khwarezm says:

      Well, it sort of seems like the game has a bit of an identity crisis in that regard then. A lot of the mechanics seem to be built with the consideration that its simulating real historical factors (economics, religion, culture, war) in a broad sense, with the board game elements making the obvious abstractions easier to stomach. In that regard barbarians seem to be initially built around the idea that the great civilizations of the world had to deal with outside attacks from their less ‘civilized’ neighbors (for example the Gaul’s sack of Rome, or the frequent attacks that the Chinese had to deal with from Steppe peoples) who were able to cause damage but ultimately were second rate players in the history of the world.

      There’s all kinds of problems with this notion if you look at it from the lens of an actual historian, among other things it creates a harsh dichotomy between the civilized and non-civilized that never really existed, it paints ‘barbarian’ cultures as being intrinsically destructive enemies of all that is good, and it plays into the idea that ‘civilized’ places are where the important stuff happens while less developed ‘barbarian’ cultures have little to offer except conflict. Still, it does reflect how a lot of people tended to think of themselves and their history for a long time, places like Rome and China tended to perceive of themselves as centers of civilization frequently under assault from crude barbarians outside and that seems to be what they are intended to simulate. But this falls apart as the timeframe moves away from early civilization, its very unclear what Barbarians in the 20th century with tanks and battleships are meant to reflect. As has been noted some people suggest changing the name to things like ‘Terrorists’, ‘Guerrillas’ or ‘Separatists’, but this implies a more subtle motivation behind them than mindless destruction of civilization for its own sake, and is already simulated in other ways better, such as city uprisings.

      I don’t really know what late game barbarians bring to the table at that point, they make little to no historical sense, much less so than the ones around during earlier time periods, and they don’t add much to the overall gameplay, since this is probably when inter-state friction is at its peak and thus when you are most likely to be at war with other countries, rather than needing piddly bands of barbarians to give your army experience.

      1. Retsam says:

        I’m with Hector: Civ has always been the “board game” version of history. I can’t name a single aspect of this game that’s a realistic depiction of *anything*. I mean, yes, it “simulates war, religion, culture, and economics” but that high level description is basically as far as the “simulation” goes, and nothing about any of those systems is designed with realism in mind.

        I really don’t think the game has an identity crisis; I feel it’s quite consistent in it’s self-portrayal as the “history board game”, including the “cartoonier” graphics. Like, explaining that some aspect or another of the game is ahistorical seems fairly unnecessary, in a game in which the American Empire is established in 4000 BC and ruled by the Immortal God King Teddy Roosevelt.

        1. Khwarezm says:

          That may be the case, but the thing for me is that, in the case of the battleship barbarians, if it is just something that purely exists for gameplay, to hell with accuracy, then it still feels awkward and stupid. Late game barbarians really don’t add much to the proceedings, they aren’t needed to fulfill the roles that they were useful for at the start of the game, and mostly just exist to be a fucking annoying hassle when are scoping out the last places on the map that might be settled.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      I think my love of simulationism is why I pretty much abandoned Civilization (despite having had a lot of fun and fond memories with 3 and 5) after I discovered EU4 in 2014. I love slowly discovering the map and seeing what other parts of the world have gotten up to and how they’ve developed similarly to or differently from actual history.

  13. Joshua says:

    I must admit, I tend to like barbarians in the early game, and have set “Raging Barbarians” in both IV and V. Not only does it give me something to do and give some of my units cheap XP, they tend to harass enemy Civs, which distracts them and allows me more opportunities to build Wonders. I fired up a CIV V game last night with “Large Islands”, a setting I normally hate because it tends to be so boring. Sure enough, Barbarians were limited to mostly sending a few ships around and I was getting beaten on Wonders and plopping down new cities I wanted left and right, something that rarely happens to me when playing on the Prince level, because the AI was freed up to knock out Wonders and new cities with impunity. The game was also pretty dull.

    There are definitely some changes that could be made to how Barbarians work in the later game, as you’ve suggested. On top of your list, one additional annoying thing to me in V is how the game has “Rebels” that spawn if a CIV is VERY unhappy. Guides for the game will even tell you that these units don’t behave like regular barbarians. So, if that’s the case, WHY are they named and look like Barbarians?

    I should probably look for a mod that stops the barbarians from spawning in arctic areas, or re-spawning in areas just because you can’t constantly see them until Satellites. Also, the ability to spawn a unit in their camp each round for several rounds in a row just plain sucks. I guess it’s just one more mechanic to harp on “Welp, we know we accidentally made Ranged units WAY better than Melee ones, so here’s one of those few times where you’ll really appreciate Melee units.”

    “Now, the AI won’t let up just because you wiped out their army. They’ll keep pumping out units and harassing you forever, because the AI LOVES this combat and could do it all day. If you want them to go away, you need to give them a bloody nose. This usually means taking a couple of their stupid worthless annoying low-population cities.”

    I tend to have a slightly different experience with the AI here, at least in V. I’ve had times where an enemy tried to sucker punch me, I killed every one of their units attacking and then they sued for peace by offering up one of their cities, even though I hadn’t retaliated yet. In other times, I’ve taken their capital and still have my entire (now with greater experience) army ready to do more and their attitude is still “You’re not ready to give up now, are you?”. My guess was that some of their Make Peace tendencies are based around whether they still have units available? So, if they still have units that could fight you somewhere on the map, they’re still wanting to keep up the war, whereas if you wiped out most of their advancing force they’re not willing to just reinforce their cities with defensive units and try to settle for a draw. It’s hard for me to determine the exact logic routine going on.

    1. GoStu says:

      I find “Raging Barbarians” to be an advantage to the player. The AI is so brick-stupid at combat that having to deal with increased barbarian spawns taxes them. It also evens out the gaps a bit between “I only build army” AIs like Shaka Zulu and “I only exist to steal your Wonders” dorks; the Wonder-Spammer actually has to contend with a bit of military opposition.

      I can’t speak too much to 6, but I agree that in 5 the AI will capitulate based on army score alone. Once their forces are dead they’ll sue for peace. The flip side of that coin is that if they’re busy wasting bodies by trying to break through a chokepoint you’re holding, they’ll never give up because they still see that their army is bigger than yours. A counteroffensive is almost mandatory just to even out the numbers.

      When they offer me some dumpster of a city as a peace settlement I typically accept it, immediately set it ablaze, and then try to sell it off to someone (If you immediately opt to Raze a city, you don’t get the science/culture penalties for an additional city). So often I’ll sell a whole (lousy) City off for some luxury or money or just diplomatic goodwill… or just to sow chaos. If the Zulus attack my Aztecs and have pissed off the French along the way, I’ll gift the (burning) city to the French just to empower them to be a threat back to the Zulus.

      1. Joshua says:

        Although I didn’t say it as such, I suspected it was based upon the pure army score, #of spears or whatever they tell you about. As someone here pointed out months ago, the AI doesn’t seem to take in any other factors other than current military score when deciding to attack you (capability to raise an army, composition of your/their forces, terrain, etc.), so it makes sense that they use that score to determine whether the war is going well or not.

        The Razing city option definitely is a bit odd in Civ V. I haven’t tried your strategy. Depending upon the length of the game, I tend to hate taking cities even just to raze them because I suspect some civilization will just try to go in there and plop down a new city anyway.

  14. BlueHorus says:

    Please, don’t drag me back to TIM Island. That place is a madhouse.

    All these barbarians are just a rogue cell. It explains everything!

    These AI antics are in no way limited to the Civ series. My personal favorite is in the Dawn of War games; so, according to 40k lore, the Eldar are a race of very cautious, necessarily cunning space elves who are on the brink of dying out. They hate risking their lives in open warfare and would much rather either run away from confrontation or trick someone else into fighting on their behalf…

    …not that anyone appears to have told the AI that. Or the story team. In a standard game, the AI will gleefully send squads of soldiers (and – if you let them get far enough – Avatars of their war god, which is summoned via the costly ritual sacrifice of one of their best warriors) to pointless deaths again and again, occasionally (and hilariously) with an automated taunt that triggers on the attack.
    So the eldar commander will be smugly telling you how smart they are and how you don’t stand a chance over the screams of their own dying troops.

    Meanwhile, in the story, they will regularly send armies out to destroy you, usually while you’re in the middle of a different crisis, only for their leader to reveal – with their dying breath – that actually, they had the same goal as you all along!
    Wow, it’s a shame you only told me that AFTER I killed all your troops and razed your base to the ground, Farseer.
    …wait, aren’t you supposed to be some kind of genius who can literally see the future?

    1. GoStu says:

      Oh, 40K…

      I just cannot take WH40K seriously, with all the “strategic geniuses” who could be out-thought by any Second Lieutenant with a map and a copy of Sun Tzu on the shelf.

      It’s such a relentlessly stupid, grimdark, dumb setting.

      1. unit3000-21 says:

        “It’s such a relentlessly stupid, grimdark, dumb setting.”

        Really? Don’t you find it funny in that British 2000 A.D. kind of way? Like Ork vehicles go fasta if they’re red for example – hard to take that as seriously grimdark. The same goes for the Eldar problem, they’re too smart and cunning for their own good and often outsmart themselves :)

        1. GoStu says:

          The Orks are about the only thing I can tolerate. RED WUNZ GO FASTA or PURPLE IS DA SNEEKIEST insane troll logic that works somehow sets up a nice bit of comic relief. The Orks are literally born, bred, and live for war. All they want is war. The fact that they’re the only ones who seem to be having a good time makes them palatable.

          The rest, like so-called “strategic geniuses” wasting bodies like firewood in callous frontal assaults just makes me think it’s future-idiocracy or something.

          Absolutely everything about the setting (except Orks) seems built to make everyone and everything as perpetually miserable and grim as possible. The Imperial Guard throws away human lives because they can. Space Marines are biologically-enhanced in every way except having working think-meat. Eldar are dying out but throw away their own forces. The writers behind the whole thing have really little sense of scale and (apparently) once introduced a faction that could casually delete stars anywhere in the universe without really realizing that this ability should be an immediate war-winner for everyone forever.

          I get that it’s a story/lore written to justify literally any army hitting the table to fight any other army at any time, and I can appreciate that it’s doing its job…. but people who try to sell it as good reading or with interesting characters make me laugh. It’s a duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmb setting.

          1. Khwarezm says:

            I feel like Warhammer works best with a healthy dose of irony, when it started off the game was much more self aware about its intrinsic absurdity and played into it for some laughs and to keep things light. Over the decades I think that the people who make it and the people who play it have forgotten this too much for anything that’s not an Ork and take it much too seriously, which perversely is when the crazy setting starts to look completely ridiculous.

            1. Leviathan902 says:

              I was recently thinking about tone in fictional works where they are over the top and don’t take themselves seriously but aren’t really parodies, just doing their thing with a wink and a nudge. When it came to Warhammer 40k, I had a hard time pegging where it should fall.

              I like the universe, it’s ridiculous, it’s over the top, I love all the “FOR THE EMPRAH!!!!” and “GIT ‘IM BOYZ!!” and all that. It’s stupid and it’s fun, but I really can’t tell if it’s trying to be or not.

              Like, aside from the Orks, the setting takes itself extremely seriously. No winks to the audience, no jokes, no laughs, no lampshading. And yet, for the most part, I think the community in general doesn’t take it seriously. Like we all know it’s ridiculous stupid but we love it anyway. And I think the creators are in on it, they know it’s ridiculous and over the top and silly, and yet they play it completely straight. Almost like they’re taking it seriously so we don’t have to. It’s a weird universe/community.

              1. Khwarezm says:

                There’s something to be said for the idea that the po-faced seriousness and misery is taken to such an extreme that it wraps back around and becomes amusingly silly, and I do think this is something that is often done deliberately. Just the very tagline ‘In the GRIM DARKNESS of the far future there is only WAR’ has been adapted into the ‘Grimdark’ descriptor, which usually means something is so absurdly miserable that its not really possible to take it seriously and instead is best enjoyed in a tongue in cheek kind of way.

                But I recommend a video like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCapveFed9U, it really shows how weird and nutty the game was in its earliest days, and they absolutely were winking at the audience for the sake of silly jokes when they had an entire Space Marine Chapter called the ‘Rainbow Warriors’. People have mentioned the 2000AD comparison, and its a good one, most obviously because 2000AD clearly influenced WH40K but if you ever get the chance to read comics like Judge Dredd its interesting how they are quite openly comedic a lot of the time, especially in the early comics, and the self awareness about the absurdity of the universe and characters, especially how completely terrible absolutely everything is beyond any reasonable standard, is a frequent source of that comedy.

                I just think its a bit of a shame that over the years they’ve slowly sandpapered off a lot of the self aware and comedic elements of 40K, and while some of it still there, like I said, I think the series has gotten a bit too unironically serious.

                1. GloatingSwine says:

                  I think a lot of this happened as the design and development process shifted hands to people who had grown up taking it seriously, and so started writing the universe that way.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            people who try to sell it as good reading or with interesting characters make me laugh. It’s a duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmb setting.

            So I’m very tempted to do the fanboy thing and say “But have you read any of the books by [insert name of favoured Black Library author here]? Good 40k writing does exist!”, but…I have to say I agree with you.
            This setting *is* dumb, and taking it seriously usually does any attempt at storytelling harm.

            While there IS good stuff, it’s usually either embracing the irony, or focuses on something so specific that it manages to be good despite the setting.

          3. unit3000-21 says:

            Yeah it’s extremely dumb, but I think that’s by design. It’s really hard for me to imagine anyone taking a setting with spaceships looking like gothic cathedrals, a “yo, we heard you like skulls, so we put a skull in your skull” school of design, and golden nuggets of grim wisdom like “there is no innocence, only degrees of guilt” (or even better “maim! kill! burn!”) seriously. It’s gloriously dumb in it’s embrace of this supposed darkness. Plus some of the designs are badass in their own, appealing-to-twelve-year-old-boys kind of way. Anyway, toeachizown to quote a classic album – I think it’s good, dumb fun, but I guess I understand it can be a bit too much for some :)

          4. Boobah says:

            Given the topic, it seems apropos to mention that Orks are 40k’s barbarians. They show up out of nowhere, just about anywhere you aren’t paying attention, and they somehow have the tech to be a problem.

            Yes, they show up out of nowhere because they grow from a fungus that spawns from Ork corpses, and their tech works because they’re psychic and they think it should. They still fit that mold, though.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              That’s the thing; someone put the effort into working out how and why Orks work (probably retroactively, but whatever), which they didn’t do in the Civilisation games.
              Orks have a surprisingly rigorous origin story and explaination*, given how dumb they concept is. If someone had put that much effort into Civilisation’s barbarians, it wouldn’t be so incongruous.

              *Provided you can overlook concepts like ‘photosynthetic, fungus-based ape-men’ and ‘sheer belief makes their weapons work because something something Space Magic’….

  15. ContribuTor says:

    I think the barbarian mechanic would be better if combined with the city state mechanic.

    The problem I see with barbarians is a “what do they want?” problem. Yes, some men just want to watch the world burn, but very few societies at scale want that. The Goths, the Vikings, the Mongols we’re all called barbarians by the people they attacked, but they weren’t mindless. They had goals.

    Mostly, that goal was conquest, but not mindlessly. They wanted to accumulate wealth. Control territory. Sure the Vikings glorified dying in battle, but not to the point of pointless suicide. Viking kings ruled Scandinavia, England, and lots of other smaller realms, many of which no longer exist.

    The problem I have with the barbarians in most Civ games is that they don’t want anything in particular. They’re blindly at war and don’t do anything for themselves. They have no greater ambition. They’ll never build. Never expand. Never conquer and hold. If you have an isolated barbarian on an island unreachable with early naval tech, it will just sit there until discovered, with all the start-game warriors and archers and triremes it pumped out. In a dozen centuries they never for around to growing crops.

    Separately, you have this notion of city states. They’re effectively mini civilizations. They do all the things barbarians don’t. Farm. Improve land. Research. They’re designed to be “mini-civilizations”, with (in theory) their own focus and bonuses. I get the concept – unaffiliated mini-comics that full out the map, and keep the world from feeling like there are only 6 people in it.

    But city states again are poorly motivated and don’t make a ton of sense. They generate militaries, but they only fight barbarians or defend themselves. In Civ VI the only way to get one to join your Civ is to conquer it by force.

    City states don’t want anything. They clearly have the tech and ability to expand, but…don’t. They could in theory expend influence and project power but…don’t. They are there to defend themselves and give bonuses and military to support whoever has paid them the most of the special in-game currency (envoys, which also doesn’t make any sense but that’s a different rant). They don’t do anything but wait there to be conquered by or pledge their loyalty to a “major” power, despite being not obviously lesser or weaker, especially in the early game.

    How is fix it. Especially early in the game, start barbarian encampments that act like the current ones do. After a certain amount of turns (or with a low random chance every turn) an uncleared barbarian encampment becomes a city state. They are the ONLY city states. This puts city states behind major powers, but makes their existance make in-world sense. Once they grow to be a city state, they develop a personality. Some might still be “kill em all” warlike (and evening declare war on you for long reason), others might be more inclined to settle in. After a certain amount of time, a city state can put out (or capture) a settler, found a second city, and become a major power. And this gives them motivation – city states want to get a second city and become a major power. They just differ in their approach – some want to take a city or unprotected settler by force, some want to grow their main city until they can do so organically.

    As eras go on, the amount of time you spend as a barbarian camp before becoming a city state lessens (in later eras, they might start as a city state if the lands unoccupied).

    This is much more how “real” barbarian civilizations and city states arose. Oversimulatiin is something to avoid, but it seems like Civ keeps trying to patch balance into barbarians and city states already with not amazing results.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      “never for around” amazing how the left hand being offset one to the left makes a totally valid english word as well in this case.

      As to your main point, I think it’s a good start. How about having the progression go both ways? Once a civilization has been sufficiently thrashed, or outstripped, it dissolves into city-states, and a failing city-state can turn into a barbarian camp. Then take the concept all the way and have the player start out controlling a barbarian camp.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        This is kinda how it works in Europa Universalis 4, and is one of the reasons I like it; you can have a country go from controlling a single province (a so-called One Province Minor), the smallest unit of territory on the map, to controlling the entire world (it’s incredibly hard and I’m nowhere near good enough to do it, but there are some legendary playthroughs). And conversely, you can take a powerful country like France and strip it down to being a single province, or even outright end it…though as long as it has “cores” left on any provinces (which only disappear after, I think, 150 years), any country can resurrect it again on one or more of those provinces as part of a peace deal. (That’s a good way to weaken an enemy when you can’t afford to annex them entirely in one war, split off a few tiny countries that have cores in their land to create a bunch of weak countries out of one strong one.) There are even countries which exist only as cores at the start date of 1444, but which can be brought back in this manner.

        All of which is say, this would certainly be an interesting direction to take Civilization in.

    2. The Puzzler says:

      “City states again are poorly motivated and don’t make a ton of sense. They generate militaries, but they only fight barbarians or defend themselves. ”
      That makes a lot of sense to me. I’d prefer not to live in a country that wants to conquer the world.

  16. Syal says:

    So early game we call them”barbarians”, then late game we call them “Dr. Wily’s robot army”?

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Honestly, I’m struggling to think of a game not made better with the addition of this song to its soundtrack.

  17. krellen says:

    This comment will come in two parts. The first part is this one, where I rant about Barbarians, because they are dumb. Earlier iterations of the game didn’t have unit experience, so barbarians were just like every other enemy except red. But then they introduced experience, and suddenly barbarians are inexplicitly inferior, in that fighting barbarians can never grant your units any more than the first level of experience. Even though they are now churning out battleships and advanced infantry units (and modern tanks!) There is absolutely no justification for this limitation. If barbarians can produce state-of-the-art, modern units like any advanced civilisation, than fighting them should also be like any advanced civilisation. A battleship is a battleship, Firaxis.

    The second part is where I come in with a recommendation for Shamus, who is looking to reclaim the magic of Master of Orion. That recommendation is to give Stellaris a try. Especially in the newest updates, it is a very Master of Orion feel (especially population management), and with a large enough galaxy with a small enough empire population, it’s mostly exploration and expansion, not extermination. I must admit that the game still lacks somewhat in the victory department (it’s just kill everyone or get the most points by the end time), but it might scratch the itch you have, Shamus.

    1. Joshua says:

      While I concur with the frustration, it’s obviously just an anti-exploit so people don’t park their units next to Barbarian camps and farm experience while never destroying the camp.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        It’s not an exploit if the troops coming out are constantly scaled to what you’re capable of. If you really MUST limit that simply have the camp not produce units while surrounded. This serves the double purpose making the game less annoying for people playing as intended, while actively not allowing an unwanted tactic in the logical manner of a weak enemy being cowed. In fact have them offer a bribe and a promise to focus on someone else for a while if you leave them alone.

  18. ccesarano says:

    I feel like perhaps 4X games, at least ones seeking a broad appeal like Civilization, could use a slightly different customization. The “customizable” difficulty of Shadow of the Tomb Raider comes to mind, and is the sort of thing I’ve wanted games to adopt more often. I think Shadow of the Tomb Raider still botched the execution, but it’s still an idea worth looking into.

    Though “difficulty” isn’t the proper word here. I haven’t played many 4X games in a while, but my experience with them is that the higher the difficulty the more aggressive enemies are. Regardless of the difficulty, the game expects the player to go to war. Civilization sounds like it’s designed to entertain people that just want to build armies and steamroll the world rather than manage an actual civilization. Not to claim that those are the only players being catered to, but the degree to which they are being catered throws off the balance for any other player.

    So the first thing the game asks is what sort of play style you prefer: militaristic or diplomatic. Cater A.I. behavior to that, with the difficulties adjusting how the A.I. behaves towards you directly. Easier difficulties mean more countries seeking treaties or more likely to surrender, with higher difficulties being far more cut throat. A high difficulty diplomatic game will involve heavy compromise and risking trade bans or absurd tariffs rather than outright declarations of war. This wouldn’t remove war from the game, but it would take more to trigger combat.

    And, of course, offer the middle-ground, which would be the default Civilization style.

    Again, this is coming from someone whose greatest familiarity with 4X is Nobunaga’s Ambition II on NES (does that even count?), Master of Orion 2, and his older brother talking about Paradox games. It isn’t a genre I specialize in. Yet it seems like catering to play style first, then applying modifiers based on difficulty, might be the best way to go for a broad game with more money behind it like Civilization. The smaller devs can make their more niche titles that focus on just one or the other, but if you’re Civ and therefore have a larger audience, it might be beneficial to better cater to your different types of player.

  19. Scobie says:

    Making matters worse is that the combat itself really breaks the flow of the game. Once a war starts, the pace of the game slows to a crawl as you spend every turn fiddling with dozens of little units.

    This is an issue I have with grand strategy/4X games in general. No matter what else they’re trying to do, it’s for some reason accepted that they HAVE to have a tactics minigame, which piledrives the pacing, adds vast quantities of micro, and takes my attention away from the gameplay I started up the game for. I like fighting little tactical battles as much as the next strategy fan, but not when I’m in the mood for managing an entire nation. I know exactly what I’d do here – strip back the units to the simplest possible forms (i.e. armies, navies, maybe air force), with a few bonuses and penalties depending on one’s technology and policies. Have the player assign a leader and send them to a region with a broad strategic goal. If an enemy nation has done the same thing they have a bit of an argy-bargy in the form of rolling a couple of virtual dice. Then they come back and tell me how it went. It wouldn’t be terribly deep, but it doesn’t have to be, it’s only part of a broader game. It’s another expression of the player’s overall strategic goals. The way the Civ games currently do things feel to me like if every time you added another building to the queue, you had to pop into a game of SimCity to make sure it was properly placed and all the pipes and roads were connected. Or if every time you researched something you had to go and play a round of SpaceChem. It’s way too in-depth for the rest of the game, is what I’m getting at.

    I recently started playing a game called Field of Glory: Empires, which does something close to this. You put armies together, assign them a leader, and if they end up in the same region as an enemy leader they have an automated fight that lasts about thirty seconds (which you don’t have to watch if you don’t want to). The actual combat is a lot more complicated than what I described in the last paragraph, and it’s far from perfect – replenishing armies after wars in particular is a major pain in the arse – but I find it vastly preferable to having to shepherd dozens of units around the map one by one, and direct even the walkover battles personally. It’s probably a lot easier on the AI programmers as well.

    1. Daimbert says:

      This is the idea I like if it’s optional (Shogun: Total War did it) but the issue with this is that the AI has to be smart enough to manage battles competently for it to work. If it costs you resources or battles that you would have won or kept if you only managed it yourself, most players will end up managing it themselves anyway or, if it isn’t available, ranting about how it’s not available and their leaders/generals are idiots.

      1. Scobie says:

        I think it works in FOGE because there’s almost no management that even could be done in the battles themselves. The units line up and roll dice at each other, the side that rolled the dice best wins. Almost everything that could impact the outcome of a battle – the selection of units, the general in charge, the terrain – has already been determined before the battle starts by the player’s prior choices. There’s no input to be made during the battle, the skill lies in understanding the system well enough to pick the right units and put them in the right situation. The only thing that could theoretically be under the player’s control but isn’t is the choice of what units to put in the front line and how to order them, and yes, in the few cases where the units were ordered counter to my wishes I did get a bit annoyed.

        It’s worth mentioning that FOGE ties into Field of Glory 2, a battlefield tactics game. When a battle happens on the strategy map you have the option to export it to FOG2, spend forty minutes playing it out personally, and then export the result back to FOGE. I don’t own FOG2 and don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Perhaps if I did I’d feel obliged to export close-run battles to FOG2 in the hope that I could get a better result playing them out myself than through the automated system, but luckily that isn’t an issue for me.

      2. Thomas says:

        In a game like total war there should be a separate difficult setting that alters how effective auto-resolve is. If someone wants to play campaign mode only, they can hack auto resolve up to ‘even’ or something

    2. Asdasd says:

      This is an issue I have with grand strategy/4X games in general. No matter what else they’re trying to do, it’s for some reason accepted that they HAVE to have a tactics minigame, which piledrives the pacing, adds vast quantities of micro, and takes my attention away from the gameplay I started up the game for.

      Ironically, there was someone who made a rule that you should never incorporate overly involved mini games into your game design for exactly that reason. What was his name again? Sid Bier? Sid Speer?

    3. The Puzzler says:

      EU4 is a lot like that. There are armies with a number next to them showing their size; they might have bonuses making them a bit stronger than the number suggests. If two hostile armies are in the same province they fight (with some non-interactive virtual dice rolls and cavalry flanking bonuses going on in the background, which the player is free to ignore) until one retreats or is wiped out. There’s some tactics in terms of splitting your armies up to occupy more territory, versus keeping them all together to avoid getting picked off individually (but maybe taking attrition if you keep too many soldiers in one place). It makes it possible to play out large-scale wars at a reasonable speed.

      1. Narkis says:

        All Paradox games are like that, and I appreciate them for it. Combat in them boils down in just a series of dice rolls, and your influence over them ends as soon as the fighting starts. Even in Stellaris, where you can design and build individual ships, you can order your fleets around only when they’re not shooting.

  20. Retsam says:

    Despite the completely negative tone of this series, every time I read this series, it makes me want to go play Civ 6. So I’ve been playing a fair bit of it, and getting a bit more into the strategy and mechanics.

    I did pick up the Maya the recently released “tall” Civ. And it’s a really interestingly designed Civ: you get a large bonus to cities within 6 tiles of your capital, a large penalty to cities outside that area, and your cities don’t care about water. So you basically try to align your cities on a precise grid, get them out early (often needing some early military to clear some of “your land”), and then you don’t really have to expand for the rest of the game.

    It’s nice because by early game you have your set of cities and it becomes a lot more about carefully cultivating those cities, which due to the Mayan bonuses will quickly grow to be huge mega cities. The city districts mechanics really shine when you’re really trying to optimize your cities and thinking a lot about how to place districts.

    Of course, it’s very much still a “Civ 6” version of tall: the ideal setup is 12 cities, densely packed around the capital, (but in practice, you’re unlikely to have such perfect terrain, so 9-10 has been more normal) which is still a ton more than you’d have in Civ 5. (You could probably make a 6 city variant work, if you aren’t trying to be maximally effective)

    And, of course, given that it’s only one civ, you’re somewhat constrained in how you play: the Maya are very biased towards science, due to their other bonuses. Culture also seems possible (I’m trying a culture win right now), but doesn’t have any particular benefit except for the inherent cultural benefits of the mayan mega cities.

    It’s a shame this is still basically the only truly “tall” Civ, and it’s behind a few dollars of DLC, but it’s done in an interesting way. I am pretty impressed by the Civ VI mechanics for how differently all the various Civs play.

  21. raifield says:

    Master of Orion 2 consumed my early teenage years. I still play it to this day. Stellaris scratches the Civilization (but in SPACE) itch very well, especially after Paradox completely revamped resources and planets.

    I would pay legit money (overtop the Patreon) for a series of articles on the Tropico series though. Except the second game. Skip that one, it never happened.

    1. pseudonym says:

      Yes Tropico! It’s more fun than simcity in a way. Tropico one was really good. Haven’t played the others much.

      I can really recommend it to other people on the blog as well.

      You are a dictator on a carribean island and you need to stay in power. You can build all sorts of buildings, and you can make policy decisions which influence the game. There are several different ways to generate income as well as several different ways to keep the population happy.

      1. Shamus says:

        I played the first couple of Tropico games and I really liked them. But then at some point they got rid of the advisor character and the games seemed to lose a lot of their personality. I loved that guy.

        In particular, I remember messing up and getting ousted, and the ending cutscene had us fleeing the island in a rowboat. I don’t even remember his lines, but I remember it being a hilarious send-off for a failed playthrough.

        I just went to YouTube so I could link to an example of his smooth voiceover, and I literally can’t find any examples of him. I feel like I’ve been hallucinating him all these years.

        Am I going mad?

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Penultimo is back in Troico…5 and 6, I think? Only 2 and 4 don’t have him, but I might be mixing up numbers what with expansions and such.

          I, too, really like the Tropico games for a bit of faffing about – they’re not as serious as Civ or Sim games.

          1. pseudonym says:

            Tropico one had what I think is one of the greatest game soundtrack of all time. It had all these wonderful atmospheric songs and instrumentals that they licensed. The soundtrack stands on its own without the game. The game and the music together are more than the sum of their parts.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07m3aXx4Wto

            1. Asdasd says:

              Truly one of the greats. The original Mafia was another one that had a sublime selection of era-authentic licensed music.

  22. Warclam says:

    This series is frequently confusing regarding previous entries. I think that may be because Shamus is only familiar with five and six? Otherwise, saying “Civ VI doesn’t change the combat very much from the previous versions” is baffling, because 5 completely uprooted the combat system and made its own. Accordingly, the combat in 6 doesn’t remotely resemble Civ 1, 2, 3, or 4.

    Something similar happens with the barbarian complaints for someone like me, who’s most familiar with Civ 4. In that game, barbarians only spawn out of nowhere for a little while. Before too long, there are instead barbarian cities that are not collections of mud huts. Basically, the precursors to the city states, which were invented by Civ 5.

    In general, Civ games come in pairs. The odd numbers innovate, and the even numbers refine. And the biggest change in the history of the series was from 4 to 5.

    Earlier entries had examples of this too (being able to win the game with just a few really good cities has only ever been a real strategy, instead of a variant run, in Civ 5), but talking about the combat really cements the impression.

    I could be mistaken, and Shamus is indeed thinking of the other games in the series. But it does feel to me like Shamus is really only talking about 5 and 6, even though the wording implies talking about the entire series.

    1. Narkis says:

      I don’t really agree that odd Civs innovate and evens refine. Instead, I see 1->2->3->4 as a continuous evolution of the series, with each game improving over the last (and with Alpha Centauri in its own corner, better than all). And then we get 5, such a massive departure over previous games that it’s practically a new series, and 6 an evolution over 5, though mostly in random direction instead of having a plan like, say, 4 did.

      And yes, Shamus seems to have skipped 3 and 4, at the very least, and is mostly comparing 6 to 5. Which is a valid comparison, it does fail even in the things that 5 got right (for a specific definition of “right”).

      1. Warclam says:

        Fair enough. Where you draw lines does depend on the analyst. There are some changes that I remember being really crucial from 2 to 3. The removal of caravans and the creation of workers are huge.

        I did misremember some stuff, though. I thought the attack/defense system was removed in 3, but actually 3 just removed the old firepower system. Attack/defense hung on until 4 unified combat strength. That was part of why I thought there was a big change from 2 to 3, but in fact the combat system was, as you say, more gradual than I remembered.

        1. Narkis says:

          Not just combat. 4 had cities cost maintenance but not buildings, finally doing away with ICS strategies. Cottages and specialists made managing your economy quite a bit different than in 3. I really don’t consider the 2->3 jump any more significant than the 3->4 one.

          1. Warclam says:

            Oh right, the maintenance change! AKA the greatest innovation in the entire series! Can’t believe I forgot that.

            1. Narkis says:

              And now we agree completely. :)

              What I can’t believe is that the later games reversed that innovation and tried to reinvent the wheel by adding different, bigger penalties to wide play instead of just keeping what worked and adjusting it.

  23. That mention of TIM Island made me think. I finished reading East Minus West Equals Zero by Werner Keller recently (I recommend it but you have to get a dead tree copy if you want to read it–it’s way out of print and translated from German to boot). The takeaway here is that Russia basically DID manage to build TIM Island after WWII . . . by kidnapping LITERALLY THOUSANDS of German scientists and technical workers and getting the U.S. to “loan” them millions of dollars of investment capital and materiel that they never paid back. That, and a truly titanic industrial espionage operation. The ruins of the Nazi war machine *became* the Soviet war machine. The Russians built towns and “relocated” their German prisoners of war there, and put them to work with promises that if they built stuff they’d be released or reunited with their families.

    So, it sounds completely insane but there’s actually at least one historical precedent for it.

    Also (I did not know this until I read a Japanese novel recently), it’s apparently fairly common for China to kidnap Korean nationals for the same reason–particularly ones that are visiting other countries (Japan in particular) so their whereabouts are harder to trace. At least, it’s common enough that being afraid of this happening is considered unsurprising and reasonable.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      It’s not exactly TIM Island if it’s a government/world power doing it, though. The point of TIM Island was to show how impossible it is for a clandestine organisation to do the same.

      1. Except that the Soviet operation WAS clandestine.

        You CAN do it, you just need a large, poorly-monitored system to embed it in, which the human colonization effort certainly was in Mass Effect–their colonies were so poorly monitored that aliens could swoop in and kidnap the population of entire planets completely unopposed.

        If you take it that Cerberus hijacked their “colonization” program and turned it into a weapons development program (and there’s evidence of this even in the first game), yeah, you could say it’s semi-reasonable.

        Cerberus got their start just after the humans were briefly at war with the Turians, too, which would give them the opportunity to snatch PoW’s and captured Turian techonology.

        1. LCF says:

          Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think what Shamus reproached TIM island was the lack of support, means, logistics an actual state has.
          Using an operation a big real-world states realised to support the idea a non-state covert organisation doing the same without the means of its universe’s actual state misses the point.
          The SU could do it because they had the ressources and organisation. TIM Island in ME was not the Soviet Union, it was more along the lines of a bunch of terrorists with some bureaucratic connections. A terror group of a dozen people with ties to the local DMV are unable to build a nuclear ICBM from scratch in their backyard.

    2. Daniil says:

      The Soviets did this or similar with their own population as well, long before that (see sharashkas; I’m pretty sure the Germans were simply integrated into the existing system, actually). But it is indeed different when a superpower with more land and coercive capacity than sense does this. I suppose space terrorists might technically have a lot of land, though…

      Honestly I think Cerberus might have been better off working through a shell colony-owning megacorp. Maybe they did, I forget.

  24. Jabrwock says:

    As a rule of thumb, I think these non-faction units should only obtain units that:

    Are available to 2 or more players.
    Have been built at least once by a player.

    I like this idea. This is how it works in the Harrington universe. Mega corporations building warships and weapons for nation-states have become massive corrupt behemoths all on their own, and will do things like take a contract to “recycle” 100 slightly obsolete battlecruisers, and low and behold manage to lose a few during reclamation that end up being bought in secret by some tin-pot dictator.

    A little less believable in Civ when you’re talking about something the size of a battleship, but it works at the plane/tank/grenade level.

  25. Thomas says:

    I have always liked the idea of simulation games that are a bit more hands off with the simulation. You can set goals, and tech paths, and plan things out, but then the game simulates out the consequences of your choices. You can produce lots of military perhaps, and generals will appear and the quality of the general will go off and fight if you tell him, and the quality of the general combined with the quality of the units will resolve the outcome.

    There used to be a strategy game called “Spartan” that I loved, because you’d assign you unit formations before a battle begins Total War style, and you could give them basic commands – but as soon as the battle started it was out of your hands. It was really fun seeing the consequences of the tactics play out in ways I couldn’t expect.

    I’d love an empire building game that pushed the hands-off consequences even further. It would be fun if you had a heavy weapons focus, but because you built that production of the back of a strong trading economy, your empire became weapon traders and started selling their arms to other countries who would become more powerful and start conquering their neighbours and snowballing in size.

    Sometimes I just want to pull levers and watch cogs turn and whilstles blow.

  26. GoStu says:

    I think the game AI needs to adjust over time. The way that the Civ 5 (and 4?) AIs work is that each AI leader has “flavours” from 1-10 that influence how much an AI favours certain behaviors. For example, things like “Settle new cities” or “build army” or “improve terrain” are all affected by flavours. A 1 in a given score means that the AI will barely, if ever, do that thing and a 10 means they’ll probably do it incessantly to the exclusion of nearly anything else. For example, the Iroquois civilization in Civ5 has a very high value for “Settle City” and this leads it to planting nonsensical garbage cities in any patch of land it can find.

    At the start of each game, a random +/- 2 value is rolled for every AI on every score to make them a little less predictable. There’s multiple issues in this system but I don’t think they’re insurmountable with a little effort:

    – First, having values for absolute basic things like improving your terrain is crazy. Failing to build a pasture on cows near your capital is a mistake that even total rookies probably don’t make. For the early game at least, this should never be omitted.

    – Second, these scores should shift per leader by era. Civs with very strong early units tend to get ridiculously high “build army” and “attack” scores, which can serve them well… until it doesn’t any more. The Huns with their Battering Rams and Horse Archers should absolutely be trying to devour a neighbor, but that doesn’t mean they have to play this way all game long. Once they’re into the renaissance they don’t have any particular advantages (beyond what they have already conquered) and ought to settle to a more even keel; deciding how to best use any gains they made earlier.

    – Third, these scores ought to be revised based on game events. Losing a war or a city ought to decrease their desire to have a second war, because clearly the first one(s) didn’t go so well. If your neighbors held you off and even claimed one of your cities after your initial assault, you need a new plan for victory. Don’t spend the next 300 turns building inferior units because your science is behind, and then do nothing except clog the map because your spearmen and muskets are still weaker than my tanks and bombers.

    1. Decius says:

      I disagree with the last point except on the highest difficulty settings. In general, a pivot to a different strategy should be a rare thing, and civilizations should instead die trying to implement their favored strategy rather than change.

      The issue where tanks can be slowed by spearmen is a different one, and I don’t see any way to avoid it entirely except to explicitly code the cases where a large enough tech advantage wins the entire war.

      Getting a not-stupid build order and economic strategy is also critical, especially if you want to avoid just allowing the AI to cheat on economy.

  27. bubba0077 says:

    Going to go off-book and suggest a board game, because that is what I mainly play these days, but there is a really good app for it you can find on Steam/iOS/Android: Through the Ages. There are also other websites to play for free against other people, but then you would have to learn on your own instead of a tutorial.

    You build your civilization by drafting and researching technologies and then building the associated buildings/units. Everything is abstracted: no map, no fiddling with individual cities, ‘combat’ just compares whose military is bigger and can be painful if the gap is large, but is mostly just another thing to make sure you don’t fall too far behind on.

    I’m not sure it will quite scratch your itch without the city management aspect, but something to think about.

    NB: This is considered a ‘heavy’ board game, which I generally wouldn’t recommend to someone who isn’t already into board games, but given your deep game analysis, you’ll probably catch on pretty quickly.

  28. The Rocketeer says:

    Midgar, huh? I guess Shamus really does like tall play.

  29. Gaius Maximus says:

    Shamus, I, for one, am with you on the awful, ridiculous cartoony art. It’s at least half the reason I never even bought this game despite my love for every previous entry in the series. I just can’t stomach the thought of spending a game looking at, to take just one example, Pericles, (a figure I greatly admire), portrayed as an anorexic Santa Claus.

    1. ngthagg says:

      I always find it odd that people don’t prefer the art in Civ 6 after the atrocious leader portraits in 5. That was such a garbled mish-mash of styles, perspectives, colour schemes, etc., that civ 6 with it’s clear style was a breath of fresh air. To each his own, I suppose.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess; the Civ V portraits are my favorite so far (and by far), though I’ll admit that some of the ones for the base game are a bit wooden and unnatural-looking (*cough*Catherine*cough*) and definitely not up to the level of the ones that came out later, but I like the generally ‘realistic’ look without cartoon-y exaggeration. I also really liked how V made the leaders a bit more dynamic and had them in much more varied poses compared to earlier games—Harold Bluetooth with one foot on the side of a longship, Theodora lounging on cushions, Alexander atop Bucephalas, Boudicca swinging her sword around, etc.

      2. konondrum says:

        I think it’s more that the art direction at Firaxis is pretty uniformly terrible (or more accurately not to my tastes). Early Sid Meier games had a clean, utilitarian graphic design that managed to convey a lot of information without being overwhelming.
        Pretty much everything after Civ IV (basically the HD era) is a total eyesore to me. The XCOM games are fun for what they are, but the art is just so painfully banal. The same could be said for Civ V and VI as well.

  30. MaxEd says:

    This (combat being exhausting) is actually true for most 4X games, I think. Even Master of Orion 2 is not that much better, although for me, it was planet management that became a chore by the end of the game. I’m OK with managing 3-5 planets, but a whole starmapful of them? Automate away!

    Personally, I think Master of Orion 1 got it right – by focusing on combat and not having any planet-building. You just got abstract numbers that affected planet’s production and three sliders to choose how to spend them (building ships/science/improving planet itself). It was a very streamlined system that made the game unique, by shifting focus to ship design (my favourite part!) and combat.

    I guess you can try to move the slider the other way, and abstract away combat. Actually, this was done by a lot of pre-Clash of Clans mobile games that tried to combine city building with warfare, but badly. But if we do away with the need to milk the player for micro transactions, then it might be possible to make a game that focuses on exploration, optimization of cities, and science tree planning, and that has abstract combat. You might spend a certain number of production point to support a “standing army”, and even more to “mobilize”. For extra complexity, maybe you can have several kind of army branches, so you have to decide who gets which slice of the pie, but I feel this is unnecessary. On the other hand, dividing spendings between army, police, and border guard (for example) might be useful for simulation. But you never build or control individual units.

    There are several approaches to simulating invasions/defence in this way:

    1) “Risk” it – you just select part of enemy territory and select a number of forces you want to send (which might be hard-limited by a number of roads in the area, your border cities etc.), the enemy does the same for defending forces, and then dices are rolled until either side’s numbers reduced to zero, or it decides to retreat (which is more realistic).

    2) You do actually control “armies” on the map, Civ-style, but there is less of them, and you can replenish their number without moving a newly built unit across the whole map, Panzer General style (the number of available reinforcement and be decided by the length of your supply lines, i.e. how far you are from your cities).

    3) Instead of armies, you create and order “fronts” (possibly by drawing the frontlines with your mouse). Frankly, I’m not sure how this would work in entirety, but I think it can be fun, if done properly.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      #3 is basically how Hearts of Iron works, where you draw up plans and fronts and tell your army divisions to execute them. It’s quite involved and detailed, though, rather than abstracted away.

  31. Decius says:

    Civ VI barbarians spawn a new village roughly whenever a village is razed, and in many senses they are a resource that can be fought over, not a hazard to be defeated; Even moreso for Gilgamesh, who gets a tribal village reward in addition to the gold reward.

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