Goal Accomplished: Win with all DLC Civs

Yesterday I won with the final civ of the downloadable-content (DLC) civs. It happened to be Poland (Jadwiga). A few weeks ago, I bought all the DLC on special and that presented a new challenge – win a game with each of the new (to me) civs.

In an earlier post, I mentioned I had bought Nubia (Amanitore) quite a while ago and already played and won a game (Culture) with that civ, so that left six civs from the DLC group.

Macedon (Alexander) was the first one and it turned out to be a pretty overpowered civ for a Domination victory. It took me just 321 turns on Standard Pace to clean up the map (Pangaea). With cities never incurring war weariness, you can be at war almost perpetually.

With the other four, I ended up winning through Science. Even though I tried for other victory types, especially a Religious victory with Poland, but apparently my general style of play leads more often than not to me choosing Science.

Just for the record the rest of the DLC are:

  • Persia (Cyrus)
  • Indonesia (Gitarja)
  • Khmer (Jayavarman VII)
  • Australia (John Curtin)

 

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Civ VI Sale

This past Thursday the Civ franchise announced a 67% off sale on Civ VI just for this weekend. That is about as good as it gets, so I recommended my son take the plunge and get it now for his daughter. Firaxis, owner of the games, finally is providing a Deluxe version, a little higher cost, but includes all the downloadable content (DLC) released to this point and probably all future DLC. I anticipate they will buy the Deluxe version.

As a result, I decided to buy all the DLC I don’t have yet at 33% off, so I will be able to play multiplayer games with anyone who wants to use one of those civs.
Side benefit challenge: I now have several more civs to learn and play, once again with the goal of winning a game with each one.

Civ V and Civ VI

As I wrote in the earlier gaming overview post, my motivation in recent years for sophisticated computer gaming has come as a part of interacting with my grandsons. In October 2015, my introduction to 4X (“eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate”) strategy games began with the acquisition of Civilization V, then available in its final expansion version with a package deal to get all previously released content. My youngest grandson was deep into the game and convinced me it would be a good one for my interests, and of course he was looking for someone to play multiplayer with as his brother was still resisting buying it.

Since then I’ve logged many hours of playing that game, setting as a goal to win at least one game using each of the forty-three civilizations/leaders. Sometime along the way, I did accomplish that. Youngest grandson liked the Shoshone (Pocatello), so whenever we played multiplayer he would choose that civilization. Oldest grandson, after he finally bought it, tended to prefer Germany (Bismarck), I think at least in part because he was studying German in school, but also because of its unique units and powers. I never settled on just one civ. I was not enamored with the Domination victory option; I tended to prefer the Diplomacy, or more often, Science victory options. That meant I often played as Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar), Korea (Sejong), or Poland (Casimir III).

Early on, after learning the basics playing in multiplayer mode with a lot of help from my experienced grandson, I played quite a lot on my own to get better at it so I would not hold them back. While doing so, I began to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the game, not the least being all the history learned, by reading the Civ V Wiki and in game information.

When we played in multiplayer mode we played as a team most of the time, but as we all became better players, we eventually played every man for himself. Only once did I win a game with both grandsons playing every man for himself!

I had enjoyed Civ V so much, I watched in eager anticipation for the release of Civ VI, which came in October 2016. In fact, I ended up buying it on the pre-release deal so I could get the Aztec civ immediately upon release. Those who did not buy pre-release, had to wait a few months to get the Aztec civ, although it was free then for them.

After playing Civ VI for a while on my own, I convinced the boys to buy it as well so we could play in multiplayer mode. This time I was ahead in knowledge of the new game.

It is quite different in several ways from Civ V. At first, I did not like the graphics look at all. I have since gotten used to it, but still would prefer a different basic look. The original version of Civ VI needed some work, and I and the grandsons did not like it as much as we did Civ V. Even so, I kept playing the game and again set the goal to win a game with each civ. I did so with the civs that came with the original game before the first expansion release.

In February of this year, the first expansion, Rise and Fall, was released and it had several significant improvements, especially in diplomacy. Several new civs were added at that time, so I had a new goal to win with each of them (accomplished). In the process I have decided the Zulu (Shaka) civ, followed by the Mapuche (Lautaro) are my favorites to play. I now like Civ VI more than I did at the beginning, especially after the Rise and Fall expansion and the Spring 2018 update that had more improvements, although I am looking forward to the next expansion. I have read nothing about it yet, which probably means it will be quite a while before it is released. The first expansion was released well over a year after the original version, so if they are on that kind of schedule, it will be spring or summer 2019.

So far, I have bought only one of the individually available downloadable content civilizations – Nubia. I probably would not have even done that, but youngest grandson had read up on it and liked its capabilities, so he bought it. When we first tried to play together after he bought it, we learned to play a multiplayer game using Nubia, all human players had to have it installed, so I succumbed and bought it. In principle, I do not like the idea of having to pay for each new civ so tend to avoid almost all downloadable content. Maybe the next expansion version will be offered as a package deal to get all the civs released to date.  We shall see.

Even as I wait for the next iteration, I continue to play Civ VI Rise and Fall. While I definitely prefer Science, and most of my wins are in Science, I have won at least one game with each victory condition. I find Religion the most difficult and have only tried to win using that as my aim a few times, winning just once. Fairly early in the mid-game, one usually needs to pick a victory condition to pursue. Simultaneously trying for both Culture and Science has not worked out well for me, so Science tends to be my choice.

As far as map configurations go, I’ve tried most but tend to prefer Pangaea, Continents, and Fractal, unless I am playing as a civ that excels in naval operations, such as Norway, when Island Plates is the best choice. Occasionally I will use Shuffle and let the map be random just for variety. I have won at least one game on each primary map type, as well as each map size. On size, I tend to almost always play Standard now.

Except for the goals of winning with each civ, each map type and size, in Civ VI I have generally not been actively pursuing the Steam Achievements. I just take them as they come. In Civ V, I was actively working at getting all the achievements, but only unlocked less than half of the 286 possible. Ironically, I have already unlocked 55% in Civ VI, but almost certainly more will be added to the current 191 possible as new civs become available.

Minecraft

The first time I played Minecraft, one grandson had me play on their laptop using another person’s login. He coached me on how to do various things including how to get through the first day and night in survival mode. Soon the other grandson asked to open the game up to the LAN and he joined the game. As a result, I learned quickly how the game can become a multiplayer game almost instantly. From that simple beginning I was hooked, and immediately downloaded, installed and bought my own Minecraft login. (Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, establishes a permanent login after you purchase the game. You can then download the game and install it on as many computers as you wish.)

Not long after that first experience, the older of the two grandsons established his own server using MCHosting as the platform for it. That meant all three of us could play online together no matter where we were. I don’t recall the exact timing, but probably within a year I decided to use the same hosting service and created my own server so I could learn more about that aspect of gaming and technology.

I, in turn, introduced Minecraft to my son and his daughter and they quickly decided they wanted it as well, so they both got their own login accounts and off we went. I now had two households in different states to play Minecraft with and several times all five of us were playing on one or another of our servers from three different states hundreds of miles apart.

My son tried a different hosting service when he set up his server (GGServers) and it had quite a bit lower monthly fee, so I decided to add a second server for myself and explore the two hosting services to see which one I liked best never intending to keep more than one server for very long. Eventually I settled on keeping the MCHosting because it was a little better overall and generally had less lag. I attributed that to my server location being at their Chicago hub while the GGServers server was in Montreal, much farther away.

As the grandsons have grown – one in second year of college, the other a high school senior – we have done less gaming together, but I still have some fun gaming with my son and granddaughter, who is in middle school and continues to enjoy several games. She, of course, does most of her gaming with her friends, which is appropriate.

As a result of the lower demand for it, I have discontinued having my own server. We now mostly play when we are in the same location and LAN works just fine.

I, on the other hand, continue to thoroughly enjoy playing Minecraft in single player mode, trying out new things and building new structures. Each major Minecraft update adds more features to explore and the latest version, officially called Update Aquatic (1.13.1), is no exception, with all the water features and creatures.

 

Gaming Overview

Several years ago, my grandsons introduced me to more sophisticated computer gaming than the simple free stuff like Solitaire. The first game they showed me in detail and had me try was Minecraft. It remains one of my favorite games and I highly recommend it for all sorts of reasons, not the least being how open-ended it is leaving virtually all of what happens to the player. It is a terrific tool for developing creativity.

Before long we also were playing World of Warships (shortly after it first became available). The grandsons had already been playing World of Tanks and wanted to try the Warships. After learning how to play World of Warships and enjoying it, especially with the grandsons, I decided to add and learn World of Tanks so I could play that with them also. Both games are free and can be easily downloaded and installed.

About the time Civilization V was released in its final expansion (2015), younger grandson talked me into buying it so he and I could play it in multiplayer mode. I did so and quickly became a fan of the game. We eventually convinced older grandson to get the game too. We’ve had a lot of fun playing together, using the audio only of Skype to be able to talk with each other while playing. Very recently we have used Discord instead of Skype, because of its better-quality audio experience while gaming.

Installing Civ V introduced me to Steam, a digital game distribution platform, and over time I have added various other games they distribute – Cities: Skylines, Rocket League, Stellaris – and more recently Europa Universalis IV and Civilization VI – again mostly because the grandsons were playing them and it was great fun keeping up a long-distance relationship with them via gaming.

I’ve always enjoyed playing various board games since I was a kid, so the transition to complex computer games was not difficult. One board game that I have enjoyed in its electronic version is Settlers of Catan. Microsoft games owns the rights of the electronic version, and one has to buy a license for the game to play it on a computer, but that is another game well worth the price.

I expect to continue gaming, especially having just invested in a replacement gaming laptop.

Alienware 17 R5

Once it was clear the Asus was not going to be salvageable, I started doing research on what I was going to buy to replace it.

I briefly considered a gaming desktop that would be high-end, probably a custom build on one of the build-your-own sites. Before long I realized that was not the best option at this time, because if I want to continue gaming with grand kids at their homes or otherwise while traveling, a laptop was the only option. It will be a few years yet before they are old enough to not be living at home – either at college or on their own – so laptop was the choice.

I did quite a bit of searching online for various options, first setting my sights on a less high-end machine in hopes of saving money while still having adequate power to run the games we play. That approach did not last long as it soon became obvious that the minimum specs I was willing to live with (such as 16 Gig RAM) meant a gaming computer was the only viable option.

After some more searching, I finally settled on the Alienware 17 R5. For the most part I am happy with it.

I ordered it online direct from Dell, and decided to pay the extra fee to expedite delivery (because by this time we had been operating with one computer in the household for a couple of weeks). My credit card service promptly decided it was an unusual expense and put a hold on it until I approved it, which I did within minutes of notification. Unfortunately, they would not try again to run the expenditure through until the next day, so I communicated with Dell and asked them to try it again immediately. It went through, but the delay ended up delaying the shipping a day. Following the shipping tracking was fascinating. The origin, apparently where the Dell factory or distribution center is located, was Kunshan, China. The next destination was Shanghai, China then Anchorage, Alaska. From there it went to Louisville, Kentucky where it went through customs. Although it only took a couple of minutes to clear customs (according to the UPS tracking report), it was a couple of days before it was reported as picked up and shipped from there, but it did arrive on the last day of the window of time promised when I paid the extra fee.

I was eager to get it set up when it arrived, but had decided when it was in transit that I was going to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro so I would have that on both computers. During the setup process I did the upgrade. Upon installation all went reasonably well, but I did find several updates of Windows and components, including drivers were required.

Only a couple of features have been a bit disappointing, though not enough to be a serious problem. First, the Alienware 17 R5 has only two USB ports! I was used to having four, so that was an adjustment, although most of the time I only use two – one for the mouse, the other for a portable backup drive that I connect and disconnect as needed. Second, I was somewhat surprised that the computer runs hot, especially while gaming. The Asus had such good internal cooling fans, small rubber legs keeping under the laptop open, and vents in the chassis, that it was not a problem. The Alienware runs much hotter and it sits flush with the board I use under it, so I quickly realized it would be wise to buy and use a cooling pad. I found one with four cooling fans, light weight, and otherwise quite functional. It was advertised as having two extra USB ports on it, but I discovered while setting it all up that one of those has to be used to power the cooling pad (plugged into one of the computer USB ports). So, I have no more ports than I had before. Minor inconvenience for the good cooling it provides, though.

I’ll share about the learning curve of using this new gaming computer in the next post.

Razer Failure

While enjoying the Asus computer and well before the worst of its problems began I made an investment in a new mouse.

After visiting and gaming with grandsons, I decided to buy a gaming mouse that one of them had. It is a Razer DeathAdder Elite. It is a really sophisticated mouse, but so far I have not really used any of its gaming features, because I am not sure I could get used to all the extra buttons, remembering which is for which action in a particular game. Also, the games I play for the most part do not require quick reactions or special functions, so a standard mouse works just fine.

Less than a year after purchase I started having problems with the left click button. Most of the time it would perform a double click after only a single click, and the click and drag function did not work. These problems made gaming very difficult.

After looking online for solutions, I engaged in an online chat three times with Razer tech support. Finally, after explaining I had tried everything they suggested (cleaning the mouse, reinstalling the device and software, updating driver, etc.) I eventually ended up having to request authorization for return of merchandise (an RMA as they called it – Return Merchandise Authorization). Because the one-year warranty was still in effect, a return was possible.

Once the RMA was approved, they sent me a prepaid shipping label, and I sent the mouse back using its original packaging. (I always keep the packaging just in case…)

The RMA process went smoothly. Once they received the old mouse, they sent me a new one. I have installed it and it works well, so far. I will take great care with this one, especially while traveling, so no pressure or bumping of the mouse buttons occurs, as I suspect that may have been a contributing factor in the failure of the first one.

I will very likely never buy another gaming mouse, unless I someday am playing games that require more functions than a standard mouse has.