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!

 

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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)

 

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.

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.

Battery Charging Problems

About six months ago, I started noticing some problems with the battery on the Asus ROG G751JY. At first, it manifested in the battery discharging even while being plugged in. I thought that was quite odd because it only happened while playing Civ VI. After doing some research online, I learned that was a common occurrence with laptops and high-end graphics gaming. Simply put, the power going through the power cord and brick cannot produce enough power fast enough to run games like Civ VI, so the laptop had to use both the connected power cord and the battery to power the game. I never noticed that with Civ V or even the earliest versions of Civ VI, but with the Rise and Fall update, the power demand appeared to increase. After learning this was common for gamers, for a while I did not do any more trouble shooting, but learned to monitor the battery level so as not to be shut down suddenly in mid-game.

Then sometime a few months ago, the battery would not recharge upon closing the game and going back to regular power usage. When all else fails, reboot or shut down and restart is one of my mottos. So that became my go to solution, because after shutting down the computer and waiting a few minutes, it would begin to recharge. Sometimes I had to unplug the power cord from the computer, wait a few minutes, then plug it in again for the recharging to start. That led me to more trouble shooting research online and I found one particular site very useful. It identified eight possible causes for this problem. Some really obvious “operator error” possibilities like checking to see that the power cord is really plugged in to both computer and functioning A/C outlet and checking to see that all connections, such as power cord to power brick, were secure. Others were more ominous.

When the problem became noticeably worse, such as the issue occurring with Minecraft as well as Civ VI, I decided I was going to need to check out the more serious potential problems. From previous laptop experience, I knew sometimes taking out the battery to shut down any battery power connection and booting computer without battery would help determine if the battery was bad and needed to be replaced. So, I set out to do that. The only problem was with the Asus ROG, the battery was not easily accessible and the back of the computer had to be dismantled to get to it. That turned out to be too daunting a task for me, so I opted for taking it in to the shop.

I asked them to check the three options I suspected: 1) bad battery, 2) bad power connector on the computer (where cord connects to computer), 3) failing or bad power cord/power brick. They did not find any of the three to be the problem, so I took it home again, still hoping for it not to be the worst – a motherboard problem, although the most likely possibility was in fact the battery sensors on the motherboard.

I muddled along for maybe a couple of more weeks before eventually the battery would not recharge at all no matter what I did. Back to the shop. They rechecked everything and eventually settled on probability that the power connector was the likely culprit, so ordered a replacement. The first one they got was the wrong one, so another had to be ordered. After installation, the problem still persisted and so the test of a boot up without the battery in the computer was the final straw. Even then it would not boot up at all, confirming it was a problem with the motherboard. Needless to say, replacing a motherboard was too costly to consider.

So, RIP Asus ROG G751JY.