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!

 

Outlook Profiles

Once again a technical glitch has led to some significant learning about some of the features of Outlook 2016 I had not used before, mostly because I did think I had a need to do so.

The Technical Issue

The issue that triggered some minor panic was a “phantom” message that Outlook was trying to send from the primary account and producing an error every time a send/receive command was initiated. I may have inadvertently caused the problem when a message was stuck in the outbox and efforts to manually initiate send/receive commands did not work.

Attempted Solutions

I had a similar problem occur a while back and eventually the solution that worked was changing the primary account to another one and deleting the original primary account .pst file. Then installing a new account using that email address and keeping it as a secondary account.

This time, in hopes of not having to do that tedious procedure again, I tried deleting the stuck message (after copy and pasting its contents to a new message) and trying to send the new message. That did not work as it got stuck in the outbox too. I then just closed Outlook and reopened it, hoping it would then send upon startup. It did, but that is when the “phantom message” was trying to be sent and caused send errors every time. I tried taking the deleted message and moving it to the outbox, but that did not work.

I suspected the problem may then be my service provider (same as cable/internet provider) so I called them. They were unable to resolve the problem, kicked it up to a higher-level tech person, but they said their preliminary analysis was the problem was with Outlook.

Then decided I was going to have to go through the change of primary account again, delete the .pst file and start over. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of changing the name of the default .pst file to keep its contents and then Outlook simply would not startup at all. A error message came up and it was clear, after multiple tries, it was not going to work. This is what caused the minor panic.

My first idea to resolve the new issue was to reinstall Outlook, which actually meant reinstalling the whole Office 2016 suite. After doing that, Outlook still did not open.

Eventual Successful Solution

I went online to see if there was any help available through forums, and found one idea – creating a new Outlook profile – that looked promising. After learning how to do that and creating a new profile, I started by installing the email account I wanted as the primary (default) account and was relieved when the send/receive worked fine with no errors (confirming the original problem was an Outlook not an internet provider problem). I then simply added the other account .pst files as additional accounts.

Since I had backed up the various email folders, RSS feeds, tasks, and calendar I was able to restore them quite easily. Unfortunately, I had not yet learned how to export the rules I had set up, so those I had to rebuild from scratch. In the process, I have now learned how to export the rules to an .rwz file, so I have backups should I need to yet again start a new profile.

Ironic Conclusion

I was aware for years of the concept of more than one profile for email because I have used multiple profiles in Thunderbird to make it easier to organize various email accounts, but it never occurred to me the same could be done with Outlook. For some reason, I had never paid attention to the option of multiple profiles in Outlook.

I suspect one reason is my first uses of Outlook were on an Exchange Server of my employer and I was the only user of my one account so never even used multiple accounts in Outlook until probably when I upgraded to Office 2007 on my home computer way back when.

Anyway, this set of technical challenges led me to learn about profiles in Outlook, as well as saving and reloading backups of the rules via export/import. I also re-learned I had an opml file to use to import the RSS feeds. Good lessons learned.

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.

Services and Add-ons

As a kind of miscellaneous category, I’ve lumped together several disparate apps or add-ons that have become regulars in my computer use.

I suppose because it was the first cloud file storage service I was aware of, Dropbox continues to be the one I use. I’ve tried One Drive and Google Docs a little, but like Dropbox better. Also, I do not really need more than one place. Someday I might choose to use one of those as a kind of backup, but so far, I have not seen the need for that.

As I mentioned in a previous post about my use of Twitter, I have kept my Facebook account purely for lurking. I never post anything, and long ago deleted what little I had done. I have my privacy settings at the highest level possible. Even so, I’m considering deleting the account completely, because I am so thoroughly disgusted with its failure to follow its own policies consistently, and its intentionally vague responses to avoid full transparency.

Pocket has become one of the most useful services for me. The quick and easy ability to save a site to read later is one of the handiest items created, in my opinion. (When I first began to use it, it was called Read It Later, which still is an excellent name for the purpose.) I learned toward the end of 2018, via a note from Pocket, that I was in the top 10% of users last year, which was a real surprise. And, I’m still a little leery about believing it, but I have used the service for more than just reading later. It has become a kind of archive of stories, sites, etc. grouped by topics I created by use of tags. I have no clue how many sites I’ve saved, but I find it a good way to go back to items I want to use again. Another great feature is it is available on all platforms, so when using the iPad or cellphone items can be saved quickly.

Several years ago, I found Google Reader a useful app and used it for my homepage. It has long since met its demise, but igHome was built by a developer who intentionally created it as knock-off of Google Reader. I have used it now for years as my home page on at least one of my computers.

My Yahoo also was a decent home page option when I was following sports more closely than I am now, but I have discontinued using it. I’ve tried a few other such as Start.me and more recently Protopage, but do not like them as well as igHome.

One add-on I have used for years is Web of Trust (WOT). Some browsers have discontinued it, but it still works fine in Firefox and Chrome. For a brief period of time a couple of years ago, it has some serious security issues, but they have been corrected. The little green/orange/red circle serves as one reminder of taking care not to visit dangerous sites online.

Other add-ons in Firefox: Privacy Badger, DuckDuckGo privacy Essentials, uBlock Origin, Facebook Political Ad Collector, Start Page private search engine, Save to Pocket

Other add-ons in Chrome: Privacy Badger, uBlock Origin, Save to Pocket

The most recent add-on I am now using with Firefox is Feedbro. It is one of the replacements for Firefox’s own feed reader that was just discontinued recently. I have come to really like Feedbro, and had I known about it sooner I would have used it instead of the built-in reader.

For the most part, I do not like to use add-ons, preferring to keep the browser lean, so these are the only ones I use now.