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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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.