Minecraft Versions

I do not remember when Microsoft/Mojang began calling the PC version I’ve been playing for years the Java Edition, but that is the one I use with both my accounts. As I mentioned in the last post, I tried the Windows 10 Edition when it first came out, but was disappointed in several aspects of it, so have not even tried it since.

I took a couple of minutes to go back and check to see what Java Edition version of Minecraft I was playing when I last posted anything about Minecraft on this blog. It was version 1.13.1 Update Aquatic as best I can tell. There was one minor update of it to 1.13.2 before the next new version was released.

Much has happened with the various versions since then, each one with some unique new features. Because the Minecraft Fandom Wiki has a good deal of useful information, I will just make a few editorial comments under the listing of names and links of the releases rather than going into detailed descriptions.

  • 1.14 through 1.14.4 Village & Pillage
    • I found this mostly annoying. It took getting used to the village changes, especially the availability of crops. Before this update, all three basic crops (potatoes, carrots, wheat) were present in virtually every village. It also took a little time to learn to deal with the new hostile mobs.
  • 1.15 through 1.15.2 Buzzy Bees
    • This one is not terribly interesting. I rarely bother with honey, etc.
  • 1.16 through 1.16.5 Nether Update
    • This update apparently was long awaited by many gamers, I do not normally spend much time in the nether, so all I’ve done is a little exploration to see the new stuff.

The current version is 1.17.1 and I am playing it while I wait for the second release (1.18) of what is called Caves & Cliffs. It will probably be released late in the year.

So far, this version has been only mildly interesting. Many of the additions are not items I will use much and since I am more of a “dig-down” miner followed by systematic mining at level 11, I have not found many of the cave items that were added. I suppose while I wait for 1.18, I may try doing more cave exploration from surface cave openings to find and see more of the new sights.

Minecraft Account Migration

Last fall Microsoft/Mojang announced their plan to require all Minecraft accounts to login via a Microsoft account instead of the Mojang account. I believe their stated intention was to eventually eliminate the Mojang account. It was a while ago so I don’t remember all the details, but as I recall the primary reason was for better security.

Earlier this summer a notice began to appear on the Minecraft launcher screen that they had begun to migrate accounts from Mojang to Microsoft. The first time that notice popped up I read the explanation of how to get that done and then waited for my turn.

I have two Minecraft accounts dating back several years. I bought the second one so that visitors here could play with me via LAN even if they did not have their own Minecraft account. Over the years it has not been all that useful because those I play with have their own accounts, but there is no point in worrying about that now.

The reason I mention that here is my second account turned out to be the first one to be migrated. I went through the process and found it relatively easy to do. The only disappointment was the weird name I was assigned for my Xbox gamer tag. It is disappointing that one cannot choose your own tag when migrating. Anyway, I got the migration done the same day that account was eligible.

More recently my original Minecraft account was finally eligible for migration, so I did it same day again. This time the Xbox gamer tag turned out to be the same name assigned years ago when I tried the Windows 10 Minecraft version, which was a bit of a surprise, but after more thought, I think it kind of makes sense. In the process this time I discovered one can change the Xbox gamer tag one time with no charge, but if you want to do it again, it costs $9.99 each subsequent time. Changing names was somewhat challenging, but long story short I eventually got both my gamer tags changed to the same as their on-screen name.

Most disappointing is the fact that there appears to be no way to change the icon that goes with the login. Maybe there is a way I have not found yet. I’ll probably try again sometime when I am looking for some diversion.

New Frontier Pass Modes

A distinctive feature of the New Frontier Pass is the introduction of eight new game modes.

I have tried them all and won at least one game with each except the Zombie Defense mode. That one was so weird in that it was virtually constant combat because each time you killed a zombie, eventually it would respawn again. In addition, each unit killed – whether your own or of an AI civ or city-state that was at war – eventually returns as a zombie thereby increasing the number to deal with. Since I am not a great fan of continuous combat, I ended up just quitting that game. Maybe someday I will try again, but not anytime soon. For gamers who like playing for domination wins and relish the combat, this mode probably is an enjoyable challenge, but for me, it was just not fun.

The game modes are not exclusive – one can use one or more simultaneously.

The two I have enjoyed the most and use together almost every game I play now are ‘Monopolies and Corporations’ and ‘Barbarian Clans’. I like the former because it enhances the gold per turn production significantly (among other things) and I always seem to need more gold! The latter I really like a lot because Barbarian Camps not destroyed eventually evolve into new city-states. That expands the number of possibilities for trade routes and suzerains as the game progresses, both of which make a Diplomatic victory easier to achieve, and that has become my favorite way to play. Another side-effect of the larger than normal number of city-states is the probability that Valletta is one of them is greatly increased. Valletta is by far my favorite city-state to have as a suzerain because of being able to buy city projects, including flood barriers later in the game, with faith.

For a challenge with some unpredictability, the ‘Tech and Civic Shuffle’ mode can be added. It changes the sequence of the techs and civics in a random shuffle with all techs/civics in a given era all mixed up so planning ahead for boosts (Eurekas in the tech tree or Inspirations in the civics tree) is much more difficult. I will play this occasionally just for variety.

I don’t particularly like the other four modes much, so rarely play with any of them on anymore.

  • ‘Apocalypse’ mode makes play more chaotic in the late game due to intensified disasters, comets especially. One comet can actually destroy a complete city if it happens to hit the city center.
  • ‘Dramatic Ages’ mode is a little too dramatic for me. After the initial Ancient Era as a Normal Age, you are either in a Dark Age or a Golden Age, depending on how successful you have been in navigating the current age challenges. Special policy cards for each type of age help some to mitigate the issues that arise, but not enough as far as I’m concerned.
  • ‘Heroes & Legends’ can be interesting because the characters are useful in unique ways for various aspects of the game. When I choose to use this mode, I try to get Hercules because of his ability to complete districts, even ones just started. That is a very powerful dynamic. The down side of this mode is recruiting a hero or legend takes city production time that many times I prefer to devote to other needs.
  • ‘Secret Societies’ is a bit too much fantasy to my liking. I also do not like having to use Governor slots to advance the chosen society.

For more detail about all of the modes, visit the game modes page of the Civ Wiki.

I suspect for most Civ VI players, myself included, the introduction of the modes has made the game more interesting to continue playing. The variety they offer keeps the game somewhat fresh, although whether one uses any of the modes or not, no two play-throughs are at all alike.

Probably one reason I keep playing!

New Frontier Pass Civs & Leaders

Over the course of several months from May 2020 through April 2021, nine new leaders and eight new civilizations were added as part of the New Frontier Pass. In addition, two Persona Packs were added in July 2020.

Eight of the new leaders came with their new civilizations, but the ninth, Kublai Khan, was added as a second leader option for either China or Mongolia.

In the Persona Packs, the developers introduced two new options each for Theodore Roosevelt and Catherine de Medici. Roosevelt becomes either Teddy Bull Moose or Teddy Rough Rider, and Catherine becomes either Black Queen or Magnificence. Unless one plays with the original (Standard Rules) version of Civ VI (not Rise and Fall or Gathering Storm expansions), these personas replace the original Teddy and Catherine.

A full outline of the New Frontier Pass expansion, including a listing of the new civs and leaders, is available at the Civilization Wiki website, a site I highly recommend for all kinds of detailed information about the game.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have played and won at least five games with each of these leaders. Some unique attributes make them all interesting to play, and some even feel over-powered at times. Although I’ve enjoyed them all as I played them, I cannot say any of them have become real favorites yet. I think it will take more intentionally playing to exploit their attributes than I did so far. I tend to play a style that favors diplomacy and not all of the new leaders or personas are as well suited to that as they might be to another focus.

For anyone who is interested in a detailed analysis of Civ VI leaders and suggestions for how to play with or against a particular leader, I recommend the excellent Zigzagzigal’s guides found on Steam.

New Frontier Pass Intro

So many things have changed in the last two and a half years that there are many topics I could write about, but first I will pick up where I left off – writing about Civ VI.

Over that span of time, I have downloaded and installed all the various game updates and patches as soon as they were released. Several of them were sorely needed fixes. I bought each of the first two expansions as soon as they were available, but was slower to get the DLC (Downloadable Content), although eventually bought them to have the full set.

I also immediately bought the last expansion – New Frontier Pass – when it launched. The final update of that expansion was April 2021 and at that time the developers said it was the last change they would make to Civ VI. We have not even seen any bug fixes since, so it is likely they are working on Civ VII now. (I wonder, has the recent release of competitor game ‘Humankind’ put any pressure on the developers to get a Civ new version out sooner?)

I believe earlier versions of Civilization (I through IV) had an original release followed later by some major expansions and several more minor updates. My first experience with the Civilization franchise was with Civ V and I know that was the case for it. This time, after two expansions, Firaxis introduced the idea of a ‘pass’ to have access to a series of new content updates over about ten months. It felt kind of weird buying a package of unknowns, but I decided to take the chance and do so rather than waiting until the end to see if buying all the new items was worth it. I have to say, I’m glad I did. The various new items have provided many hours of fun game-playing and learning.

Concurrent with the release of the New Frontier Pass, beginning in May 2020, Firaxis also released free monthly updates for all Civ VI owners. I won’t attempt to go into any detail on the content of those, but interested gamers can find more here.

In the next few posts, I will write more about the New Frontier Pass, the civilizations and leaders added bi-monthly, and the new modes introduced. I have played them all and definitely have some opinions to share.

Just for the record, I have now played and won at least five games with each civilization leader in the entire Civ VI series. At some point, I decided to take on the challenge of winning at least one game with each leader at each of the five highest levels: Prince, King, Emperor, Immortal, Deity. The lower levels are too easy to bother with. Even though I had won games at various levels before an official record was being kept by the game, I actually decided to “start over” with the original and early DLC civs so I would have an easy-to-access record of my progress using the Hall of Fame feature that was added to the Gathering Storm expansion. If I recall correctly, that came with the September 2019 update, when they moved “Additional Features” to a sub-menu on the main page.

As of today, I have 521 overall wins playing Civ VI:

  • Original Release – 50 wins
  • Rise and Fall Expansion – 23 wins (51 through 73)
  • DLC (from early through Rise and Fall) – 11 wins (74 through 84)
  • Gathering Storm Expansion – 142 wins (85 through 226)
  • New Frontier Pass – 234 wins (227 through 521)

Here is a screen shot of the total play time.

(Achievements have not been a high priority for me, especially since many of them are won through playing the various scenarios, which I do not enjoy playing much.)

By now, it may be obvious that the pandemic and my self-quarantining meant a good deal of time being spent playing Civ VI!

First Diplomacy Victory

After several attempts to do so, I finally won a game through Diplomacy.

The earlier attempts were helpful in learning what to do and not to do, as well as what the AI civs will do to prevent you from winning once you reach 8 out of the 10 Diplomatic Points needed for a Diplomatic Victory.

Interestingly enough, my success was with the Inca led by Pachacuti. I had thought Canada with Wilfrid Laurier, or France with Eleanor of Aquitaine would be the best new civs for achieving a Diplomacy victory, but as I got deeper into the game, I decided that the Inca are well suited for this type of victory pursuit.

It was a fun game, maybe one of the most enjoyable in the series of playing each of the new civs in Gathering Storm for the first time. Avoiding wars, achieving and keeping five alliances, and focusing on diplomatic favor provided a somewhat unique approach for me, but it paid off.

I was attacked fairly early in the game, lost a city, then regained it before settling the war; that turned out to be the only war of the game for me – a defensive war, so not a problem from the diplomacy point of view.

I went into the game knowing I would most likely need to build the Statue of Liberty wonder, because it provides 1 Diplomatic Point upon completion, and Diplomatic Points are difficult to earn. Even though I had only one port city, I was able to do so.

Another important source for those points is Aid Requests from other civs after they have experienced a natural disaster of some sort. In my previous games, I had the disaster intensity set at the default of 2. In those games, I had few opportunities to win the points through Aid Requests because there were so few serious disasters and the AI civs did not request any aid. This time I set the disaster intensity to the maximum of 4. It made a significant difference in the number of opportunities and as a result, I was able to win the game on turn 389 without relying only on the late-game options.

There are two late-game ways to earn guaranteed Diplomatic Points – researching the Seastead tech, and discovering the Global Warming Mitigation civic. I did research the Seastead tech, which gave me an important point – my ninth.  The final and winning point in this game came as a result of winning an Aid Request just a few turns before I would have completed discovery of the civic.

One other way to earn Diplomatic Points is through Climate Accords in the World Congress, but I was never offered that option in this game.

Mid-to-later game options for essentially buying Diplomatic Points using Diplomatic Favor are presented as World Congress opportunities. Each time it comes up as a choice, 2 Diplomatic Points are at stake. I was able to win these points three times using a large amount of Diplomatic Favor. The first time was only by one vote, but the other two were not close. If another opportunity had come up after I already had 8 points, all the AI civs would have ganged up on me and voted for me to lose 1 point. That happened to me in another game, putting me too far away to win via Diplomacy and I had to settle for my backup option in that game, Culture.

In the Inca game, I was working on Science as my backup win option if Diplomacy failed again, but it was not necessary this time.

I had so much fun with this game, I think I will be choosing to play to win via Diplomacy regularly.

Wins With All Gathering Storm Civs

A little over a month after its release, I have completed my goal to win a game playing each of the new civs and leaders in Gathering Storm. I played all at Prince level of difficulty, standard game pace, standard map size, and beginning in the Ancient era. All but two were set at the default level of 2 for disaster intensity. The map types varied to take advantage of the strengths of the civ/leader.

Playing all the leaders and civs meant learning quite a bit more detail about the changes in Gathering Storm, as well as the unique strengths and weaknesses of the civ and leader. I found each to be strong in different ways and well worth playing again. As I look back on all ten games, I realize I won three each through Science, Culture, and Domination, and the final one through Diplomacy.

My original plan was to go through the civs in alphabetical order by their leader name, but for some reason I did not have the Inca and Pachacuti on my “list”, so I ended up playing him last. It turned out to be good, because after trying to win a Diplomatic Victory a couple of times (with Canada and France/Eleanor) and failing, having to settle for Culture victories, I was finally able to win via Diplomacy with the Inca. I will be writing a separate post about that game and win strategies.

The record for shortest game so far is a Domination win on turn 228 playing the Ottoman Empire with Suleiman. I think it helped to be on a Pangaea map as building a navy and time for sea travel was not a factor, but this is an overpowered civ.

Not surprisingly, the Maori with Kupe is quite strong on an Archipelago map, in this case resulting in a Domination win on turn 335.

Hungary with Mattias Corvinus was dominant due to their ability to levy city-state troops and upgrade them without cost. Result: Domination win on turn 356.

Mansa Musa of the Mali is fun to play because of the huge accumulation of gold and faith. It made winning by virtually any method viable, but I chose Science and won on turn 449. I enjoy getting deep into the late game that is inevitable when pursuing a Science victory.

In my next post, I’ll say more about the effects of a higher disaster intensity level, but as a result of what I learned so far, I think from now on, I will be playing with the disaster intensity level set at the maximum of 4. Watching Mabozir’s series of play-throughs, where he always sets the level at the maximum, I’ve seen the effects of the worst, and in most cases, the ultimate benefits outweigh the negatives.

In the two games I played at level 4, disasters were a major problem a few times, especially one tornado damaging 11 tiles (five districts!), killing 3 population, and otherwise creating havoc, but I’m learning how to mitigate natural disasters and the eventual improvement of tiles makes it worth it in the long run, even if it takes a number of turns to fix the districts and buildings damaged.

While watching Marbozir videos, I learned of a very useful mod, Concise UI. I used it in the last four games I’ve played. The first two games I used the original version, but that is now obsolete. The last two games were using the updated version with the core module and several add-ons. In those last two games, I discovered one glitch I think was caused by one of the add-ons: the Statue of Liberty reverts to the old version providing two settlers upon completion instead of 1 Diplomatic Point. In the game I discovered this, the one point not gained meant not winning a Diplomatic Victory.  In the last game played, I believe I found the culprit add-on (by replaying from the turns just before completion of the wonder several times) and was able to get the correct result for the wonder. My next game will probably either confirm that as the problem or I will need to look for another solution.

In summary, I have found Gathering Storm to be engaging and fun to play. I now plan to try some of the civs and leaders again at higher levels of difficulty.

Gathering Storm First Review

Introductory Thoughts

The eagerly awaited expansion for Civilization VI arrived as announce on February 14, 2019. I’ve now played three complete games, and finally am starting to get a better feel for all the changes.

Simply put, I really like this expansion!

All the changes from previous versions appear to have been well thought through. They add significant complexity while enhancing enjoyment, especially in the late game.

Weather incidents, natural disasters, and global warming add new dimensions that have intriguing upsides as well as negative consequences. Having a choice on the disaster intensity level for natural disasters is another new wrinkle. There are four levels, with the default being 2. So far, I have played only the default level, but eventually will try the others.

While there are several technical changes and fixes to the user interface, I found the build queue in each city production screen the most practical and found myself using it almost constantly.

The new civs and leaders are all very strong.

Once again, my goal is to win a game playing each of the new civs. More or less arbitrarily, I’ve decided to just work alphabetically as the leaders are listed in the game itself. (When starting a new game and selecting the civ, they are listed by leader name.)

That means my first three games were Dido of Phoenicia, Eleanor of Aquitaine (England), and Kristina of Sweden. In the 2nd game, I opted for England with Eleanor this time. (One of the new features, never before done in any of the Civ games, is one leader for two different civilizations. Historically, Eleanor was queen of France and also England depending who she was married to at different times, so one can choose either of those civs when selecting her as the leader.)

Game 1: Phoenicia (Dido)

With Dido, my plan from the outset was to try to balance Science and Culture per turn and decide later which to focus on as a victory condition. Eventually I settled on going for a Science victory, so I could learn the changes to pursuing that victory condition.

Dido (Phoenicia) Game Play settings:

  • Start Era: Ancient Era
  • Difficulty Level: Prince
  • Game Pace: Standard (500 turns)
  • Map Type: Continents
  • Map Size: Standard
  • Disaster Intensity: 2
  • Other Civs: Random, turned out to be (in order I met them)
    • Inca
    • France
    • Hungary
    • Maori
    • Mali
    • Sweden
    • Ottomans

After muddling along and learning from a number of mistakes that slowed me down, I finally was able to win with Dido by completing the final space project on turn 426.

Game 2: England (Eleanor of Aquitaine)

This one was different from the start, in that I intended to go for a Culture victory.

Eleanor (England) Game Play settings:

  • Start Era: Ancient Era
  • Difficulty Level: Prince
  • Game Pace: Standard (500 turns)
  • Map Type: Continents
  • Map Size: Standard
  • Disaster Intensity: 2
  • Other Civs: Random, turned out to be (in order I met them)
    • Australia
    • Mongolia
    • America
    • China
    • Canada
    • Phoenicia
    • Japan

Again, I balanced Science and Culture in the early game. I focused on getting as many Wonders as I could, expecting they would lead to the Culture victory. Unfortunately, I ended up with fewer Theater Districts and more Campuses and try as I might, the Culture victory was elusive. For a while, I had viable options for winning with Culture, Science, Points and even Diplomatic, but was too impatient to wait out a Points victory and settled for another Science victory, this time at turn 404.

I learned some important strategies for better use of Diplomatic Favor and earning/buy Diplomatic Points that will certainly be helpful when I decide to focus completely on a Diplomatic victory. I also learned how to use some great late game options, including Rock Bands, that makes it more important to develop Faith throughout the game to have enough for obtaining them.

Ultimately, it appears to win in Gathering Storm, one cannot ignore any of the aspects of the game. It is important to have at least minimal growth in everything.

Without being aware of it early enough, I was the world’s major carbon producer (over 50% of total, mostly coal use, but also some oil use). That became a detriment for Diplomatic Favor and by the time I realized how to do some mitigation, it was too late to have a big enough impact.

Game 3: Sweden (Kristina)

Determined to achieve a Cultural victory, from the very beginning all choices were made to optimize Culture as well as Science, as Kristina has unique abilities related to both.

Kristina (Sweden) Game Play settings:

  • Start Era: Ancient Era
  • Difficulty Level: Prince
  • Game Pace: Standard (500 turns)
  • Map Type: Continents
  • Map Size: Standard
  • Disaster Intensity: 2
  • Other Civs: Random turned out to be (in order I met them)
    • Canada
    • Mongolia
    • Maori
    • Japan
    • Khmer
    • Georgia
    • Mapuche

This time, the plan worked very well. Culture Victory came on turn 351, substantially sooner than the other two games. Kristina is overpowered if focused on enhancing Culture and building Wonders, especially those with Great Work slots.

My location on the map helped as well. I was able to settle a number of cities, while eventually defeating Mongolia to add several more cities and keep a major portion of the continent in my possession. Only Canada and Mongolia were originals on the continent, with the Maori the only civ to settle a few cities on the continent later.

Hat Tip to Helpful Videos

Before the official release of Gathering Storm, the Firaxis developers posted weekly videos featuring one of the new Civs and highlighting many of the changes and additions to the game. These were not only extremely helpful in learning the new aspects of the game, but were also quite entertaining.

One other “go to” YouTube site for game play explanations and play throughs is Marbozir. His entertaining videos using the pre-release version in advance of February 14 (and since, actually) have been terrific tutorials while seeing how a full game develops beginning to end.

I highly recommend both if you are just digging in to Gathering Storm (or Civ VI for that matter).

Next Up Kupe of the Maori!

 

Mild Disappointment

I suppose it might be a little too soon to complain about the next Minecraft update, but that won’t stop me.

The Minecraft team announced late last September that the next version of the Java Edition (1.14, Village and Pillage) would be released “early in the new year”, but no more announcements since. All we have seen is brief blurbs on some of the new features, but much of that is not really new information for me.

Here we are in late January, just a week from February, and by now I was expecting at least some announcement on the projected release date. Truth be told, I was really hoping for early to mid-January for it to be available, but…

So far, I have yet to try any of the 1.14 snapshots as I did with the 1.13 Aquatic Update. I’m thinking I may try the latest one sometime in the next few days while I wait.

To offset some of the disappointment with Minecraft, February 14 is rapidly approaching. That is the announced date for the release of the Civ VI second major expansion, Gathering Storm.

Over the last several weeks since they announced the date, they have gradually introduced some of the new civs that will be included. More are yet to come. (Their marketing team knows how to build the enthusiasm!)

Meanwhile, after taking a couple of months off, I have been playing the Rise and Fall version to get re-acquainted with the intricacies of the game so I can focus on learning all the new things when Gathering Storm is released.

I’m pretty sure they will not offer any discounts between now and then for the new expansion, but I still am likely to wait until the release date to buy it, just in case.

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)