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!