Civilization (Breakdown) Six
So with the government-mandated social distancing measures now in full effect here in Canada and the spread of the Coronavirus in full swing I've found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I've been splitting most of this time between Doom Eternal (which is awesome) and Civ VI which I picked up on sale for Switch what seems like several lifetimes ago, though it was probably only a month or so. Hadn't played seriously since Civ III, so I was in for a bit of a learning curve. The copy I got included some of the expansions, so I picked John Curtin (obviously) and dove in at the deep end. Across three playthroughs I finally was able to get a win on Prince difficulty, here's a breakdown of each of the games I played.
My first game was a bit of a mess as I tried to re-learn all of the systems and mechanics of the game, as some of them have changed markedly. For example I spent a bunch of time training and using builders to improve tiles which was of utmost importance previously but now, not so much. I'd also forgotten how slowly things progress in the early game - it wasn't helping my anxiety watching that turn counter tick over to be honest. I've since read rough guides that suggest that you should have 3 cities by around turn 50-60 to be well-positioned to actually start making progress, but I was way behind that pace during all 3 of my attempts. I expanded way too slowly and got myself into unnecessary wars which crippled my cities with Warmongering penalties (another system I needed to learn about). I was totally oblivious to the Faith and Cultural systems and basically aimed for a Scientific victory. This brings up another point - you really need to figure out early on which type of victory conditions you are trying to aim for and gear your expansion towards that goal. I kind of fell by default into science as you're forced to make selections on that tech tree whereas other victory paths require a lot more active management. I also didn't really pay attention to the civics tree, and mostly just selected whatever would take the least time. Long story short, I lost to some other Civ I hadn't met around turn 400 and that was it. Reset.
Second time around I turned the game length up to Epic (750 turns as opposed to 500), partially to offset my early struggles to expand from the previous game. By this point I had a basic early game strategy in place focusing on initial city placement and expansion as quickly as possible. I had a vague understanding of the whole Civ traits concept and adjacency bonus ideas. I learned more about governments and their relationship to policy cards and the civics tree. I was able to expand relatively successfully, but got hemmed in by opposing Civs on my continent. I also didn't really grasp the importance of trade routes - these are literally lifelines to resources, especially in the early game and need to be prioritized accordingly. Without the gold from trade routes I found it very difficult to manage the inevitable wars that followed and wasn't able to effectively expand. This limited me to a handful of very large coastal cities which was great, but only allowed me so much development. Another key mistake I made with this playthrough was not selecting my policy cards carefully enough. You really need to pivot your strategy to align with the bonuses you've selected on your policy cards. Something key I learned on this playthrough was the alignment between a Civ's perks and some of the wonders that you can construct. For example, building the Great Lighthouse and Venetian Arsenal gave me an unstoppable navy which really helped with expansion, at least in terms of being able to raid coastal cities of rival Civs. Coupled with the additional housing granted to Australia's coastal cities, this made naval expansion a very viable strategy. Unfortunately it was too little too late in my case and I lost to Germany (!) claiming a cultural victory around turn 550.
Third time was apparently the charm for me. Using all the lessons I learned I was able to come away with a crushing Science victory at turn 590. With a really fortunate starting location right between a fresh water oasis and the coast, Canberra was founded and I was off to the races. I quickly founded Brisbane, Geelong and Melbourne on opposite coasts and aggressively pursued as many trade routes as I could.
I soon found out that I was hemmed in by Norway to the north and Persia to the south, with the Persians having settled in some breathtaking mountain terrain that would allow me to really push forward towards a science victory. I quickly expanded in both directions, claiming four Persian cities before settling Launceston on the rocky southern tip of the continent, with access to a bunch of strategic mining resources.
I turned Melbourne into a production hub, quickly constructing Hanging Gardens for increased growth and housing and the Venetian Arsenal to really jump-start the naval expansion. Canberra became the trade hub after building Great Zimbabwe and at this point the gold really started flowing.
Then it was all about the navy. Using a couple of long-range ship fleets that I upgraded as I went, I proceeded to conquer a good chunk of Norway. At this point Greece was closing in on cultural victory and I started to get worried. Fortunately China and Greece allied up and declared war and with my 100% production bonus I was able to pump up my navy power and surround the Greek capitol, essentially cutting them off from the outside world.
Another lesson I learned here is to keep wars short and sweet minimize the Warmonger penalty that comes with them. Not sure how well I followed this rule, as I found myself in 3 protracted 3 way wars during the course of the game. With Australia, production is increased 100% if someone else declares war on you, so another strategy would be to goad opponents into being the aggressors. Once I'd dealt with Greece it was really a case of mopping up and juicing as many resources out of a peace deal as possible. Thanks to the mountains I'd inherited from Persia I was a more than generation ahead of them on the tech tree, annihilating their crossbowmen with my heavy armor. I was heading towards a domination victory, but as luck would have it I got 3 great people in a row that contributed 100% production towards space-race projects and within 12 turns I had won. I also nuked the Macedonians because why not?
Aircraft units also felt like cheating at this point, but I'm not sure if it's just because I was so far ahead on the tech tree - might need another run at a higher difficulty to really check this out.
I'm glad I bought this game on Switch, I can imagine this being a real time-sink when traveling for work (if that ever happens again). I did experience some slowdown and performance issues in both handheld and docked mode, given I was only playing a standard-sized map it makes me wonder how well it will handle larger games. On the whole though, it comes highly recommended; once I got a hang of the systems and remembered what I was doing I couldn't put it down. You'll lose plenty of prime social-distancing hours to this game in short order. The AI still sucks though, like a lot.