Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

The latest Civilization 6: Rise and Fall trailer takes a break from introducing new leaders and nations to provide an overview of the new systems that will be ushered in by the expansion, including Great Ages, Loyalty, Governors, Enhanced Alliances, Emergencies, and new Wonders and Units. 

The primary addition, Golden and Dark Ages, are temporary changes to a civilization that last for an era. Both can dramatically alter the state of the game and will force players to adapt their strategies accordingly, but while Golden Ages are obviously preferable, Dark Ages have upsides too: Golden Ages come more easily when emerging from a Dark Age, and they also enable Heroic Ages, which grant three Dedication bonuses instead of just the single one that comes with a Golden Age.

Changes to alliances also promise to make things more interesting, by making the alliances themselves more meaningful. Instead of merely ensuring that other civs (hopefully) won't drop the hammer on you while you're preparing to do the same to them, Rise and Fall will enable different types of alliances—Research, Military, Economic, Cultural, or Religious—that will provide better bonuses the longer they're maintained. 

Emergencies are similarly designed to encourage diplomacy and cooperation. When one happens—for instance, someone nukes a city—the other players have the option of targeting the aggressor with a joint Emergency action, which will give them a specific objective to complete within a limited amount of time. Completing the objective can confer permanent bonuses to all who take part, but failing to get it done will grant a benefit to the intended target instead. And civilizations don't have to be allied to take part in an Emergency, so doing something to trigger one could have the knock-on effect of bringing together forces that were previously unrelated, with their attention turned to you. 

Civilization 6: Rise and Fall comes out on February 8. If you don't already have the base game, you can pick it up along with a couple of DLC releases for a really good deal—$12, instead of the regular $60 for Civ 6 by itself—in the current Humble Monthly Bundle.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Following the Cree announcement last week—and the criticism that followed—2K and Firaxis have unveiled the next civ en route to Civilization 6. Led by Golden Age ruler Tamar, Georgia will feature in the geopolitical strategy game's incoming Rise and Fall expansion. 

As detailed in the 'First Look' trailer below, Georgia's unique ability is Strength in Unity whereby the player receives an additional bonus when transitioning into a Golden Age. Naturally, this means Georgia is better placed to achieve and, crucially, maintain Golden Ages over rival civs. 

Replacing the Renaissance Walls, Georgia's unique building is the Tsikhe—Georgian fortresses situated atop neighbouring hills and rocky cliffs that provide faith. Moreover, the Khevsureti marks the Georgian's unique unit whose melee approach leverages a combat bonus on hill terrain. As such, the Khevsureti ignores all hill movement penalties.

As for Tamar herself, her leader ability is Glory of the World, Kingdom and Faith. It's described thusly: 

Tamar can declare a Protectorate War after gaining the Theology Civic. Considering Tamar’s upbringing—and how she was known to inspire her troops before battle, they gain bonus Faith for a limited time after declaring a Protectorate War. In addition, Georgia gains bonuses as they continue to deliver the word of God. An Envoy sent to a city-state of your majority religion counts as two. 

More information on Tamar the Great can read via this blog post. Georgia is set to arrive in Civilization 6's Rise and Fall expansion, due February 8, 2018. 

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

If you've ever wanted to play Civlization 6 but found yourself put off by the $60/£50 price tag, then you're in luck. The game, plus two DLC packs, are the early unlocks available to anyone that purchases the next Humble Monthly bundle, which you can pick up for just $12.

The brilliant turn-based strategy game has had the odd 50%-off sale, but its price has never been anywhere near this low. It really is an incredible deal, offering the base game alongside its Viking-inspired DLC and its Australian scenario pack, which normally cost £3.99/$4.99 each. 

The bundle is a subscription service, but you can just pay $12 for one and then cancel before the next one arrives. You'll immediately get Civilization 6, and then the other eight or so games in the bundle will unlock next month. You don't know what those other games will be, but usually you'll get a few decent ones. And besides, it's worth it for Civilization 6 alone.

I don't normally dabble with the monthly bundles, but I think I'll bite on this one and put some time into the game before the huge Rise and Fall expansion comes out next month. That expansion faced criticism this week for its portrayal of the Cree.

Pick the bundle up here.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

2K Games announced earlier this week that the Cree, led by Pîhtokahanapiwiyin—or Poundmaker, as he's more widely known—are being added to Civilization 6 in the upcoming Rise and Fall expansion. That does not sit well with the leader of the real-world Poundmaker Cree Nation, who told CBC News that the game's portrayal of Indigenous people is "very harmful," and based far more on Hollywood than on actual history. 

"It perpetuates this myth that First Nations had similar values that the colonial culture has, and that is one of conquering other peoples and accessing their land," Headman Milton Tootoosis said. "That is totally not in concert with our traditional ways and world view." 

"It's a little dangerous for a company to perpetuate that ideology that is at odds with what we know. [Poundmaker] was certainly not in the same frame of mind as the colonial powers." 

As Nuclear Gandhi has taught us, Civilization isn't the sort of game that cleaves closely to historical accuracy. But the case of the Cree is more problematic than most, because it remains an extant civilization that continues to struggle with the gross inequities caused by colonialism. In that light, the ahistorical potrayal of the Cree as being on equal footing with other civilizations, jockeying for world domination, seems particularly galling. 

Civilization 6: Rise and Fall appears set to portray Poundmaker and his people in a favorable, and relatively non-warlike light: Cree strengths lie in diplomacy and trade rather than military power. Tootoosis expressed hope that the game's presentation of Poundmaker's commitment to peace could help its efforts to have his 1885 conviction for treason officially overturned by the Canadian government. "It could go either way," he said. "I certainly hope it helps more than it hurts the cause." 

The Cree aren't the first Indigenous nation to play a role in a Civ game: The Shoshone, Iroquois, and Sioux have all been portrayed in previous releases. But this does appear to be the first time that 2K has faced any backlash over the inclusion of an Indigenous North American people. The Poundmaker Cree Nation are waiting to consult with elders before contacting 2K with its concerns, according to the CBC report; I've reached out to 2K for more information and will update if and when I receive a reply. 

Path of Exile

Tim Clark: Simulacra  

Look, I'm nothing if not entirely predictable, so to the surprise of absolutely nobody, least of all myself, I failed to catch up on Assassin's Creed: Origins. To be fair I did boot it up and made it through a couple of missions, but as I saw its vast sandy expanse stretching away into the distance, I felt the clarion call of my old favourites. And so most of the break was spent grinding Destiny 2 for masterworks weapons, of which I now have an indecent amount, but somehow still no raid hand cannon. I also managed to crank out a successful Hearthstone Dungeon Run with every remaining class, thereby earning the card back. Shaman was the last to fall, and finally got over the line last night—but only after I started auto-quitting unless I was able to get the 'double Battlecry' passive buff and a decent batch of Jade cards.

In at least a slight change of pace, I did play most of my games on a laptop this Christmas, a gift from my family and myself to myself. Being able to plug the 1070-equipped ASUS into the bedroom TV and enjoy Destiny 2 at 1080p/60fps made for an illicit pleasure and long lie-ins. (I also ended up buying a wireless adapter and charging pack for the Elite controller.) And at least I managed to play one entirely new game stuff on the laptop. Inspired by Hannah Dwan's retrospective on 2017's best visual novels, I picked up Simulacra and finished it over the course of a couple of nights on the sofa with my other half.

This was the first 'missing phone' game I'd tried, and I loved the mix of stalker-themed Tinder mystery with weirder supernatural trappings. Creeping around the emails, Twitter account and chat logs of a girl who has disappeared becomes propulsively dramatic when a blizzard of new notifications start popping up. Simulacra doesn't quite stick the ending, but as a self-contained mystery it was still a great way to spend a few hours. You can pick it up on Steam in the Christmas sale right now at 30% off.

Steven Messner: Path of Exile

I had great, ambitious plans for this holiday break. With a back catalogue of games that had grown considerably over 2017, I was looking forward to making a big dent while sipping rum and eggnog in my underwear. I was going to finally wrap up Persona 5. I was going to try out PUBG’s new desert map. I was going to shovel the walks like a good neighbour should. And then I logged back into Path of Exile to give the new seasonal league a quick taste. I fell in love with the free-to-play ARPG back in September with its Fall of Oriath expansion, but I was curious about seeing how it had grown since then. Nearly two weeks later, I’m looking back at my holiday break in despair. Where the hell did it go?

I clocked in over 60 hours an average of five a day (though I m ashamed to admit there were a few days where it was much more). Path of Exile consumed me.

It’s been years since a game has wormed itself so deeply into my brain, but Path of Exile is like a fever that won’t break. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I woke up exhausted more than once because of a restless sleep filled with dreams of running maps, finding exorbitantly expensive unique items, and theorycrafting my build. I clocked in over 60 hours this holiday break—an average of five hours a day (though I’m ashamed to admit there were a few days where it was much more). Path of Exile consumed me. I’m finally willing to say that it might even be my Dota 2, the game that I will happily clock a thousand hours into and countless more talking and dreaming about.

Tyler Wilde: Civilization VI 

I uninstalled all my Civ 6 mods (some old, manually-installed mods were breaking all the icons and I couldn't remember which) and relegated half of New Year's Day to building a prosperous Russian civilization. I quit in the Classical Era to go find my old mods, though, disappointed by how few quality of life improvements have been made standard so far. Still no production queue? A strange omission. That aside, I still love Civ 6's district system, as I always thought it was silly that a city near the ocean couldn't have a harbor, and city-planning minutia is my favorite aspect of the series. 

Building mines, farms, camps, and roads, protecting caravans, erecting wonders and ensuring that every district is placed exactly where it out to be, maximizing gains—these are the reasons I play Civ, not warfare, so I'm typically on the defensive, protecting my perfectly symbiotic metropolises and hamlets from the absurd imperialist reasoning of my neighbors. Presently, Mvembra a Nzinga is furious that I won't spread my religion to his people, and Qin Shi Huang is upset that I've built more wonders than him. What did my peaceful, overly efficient society do to deserve such petty neighbors? Yet again I wonder if I wouldn't enjoy Civ more if I were by myself in the world.

Evan Lahti: They Are Billions 

Some of the most fun I had with RTSes as a kid was messing around with Command & Conquer: Red Alert's map editor. I'd make winding tesla coil death mazes that my opponent had to navigate in order to reach my spacious, well-supplied base. They Are Billions revives that same feeling of defense-focused strategy, except I'm the one being tortured.

I love the preparation for the payoff at the end, a Left 4 Dead-style finale where thousands of zombies are on screen simultaneously.

The structure of it is somewhere between StarCraft and a horde mode game like Killing Floor 2: you expand outward with pylon-like towers, hoovering up wood, minerals, and food off the map to feed your economy, but there isn't a true opponent on the map with you—you're the only one with an expanding base. Instead, there are crowds of mostly stagnant undead (with various durabilities, speeds, and attack types) occupying the map, and massive waves of them that attack every 15 minutes or so from a random direction.  

I love the preparation for the payoff at the end, a Left 4 Dead-style finale where actual thousands of zombies are on screen simultaneously, seeping in from all cardinal directions. Your north wall may be impregnable, but did you gather enough resources to reinforce that bottleneck to the west? An Early Access game, They Are Billions needs a little more depth and unpredictability in its midgame, but it nails the fun of building a sprawling defensive death machine and having it continually tested by a tough enemy.

Chris Livingston: Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality 

I finished Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality before the break, but despite its size (it mostly takes place in Rick's garage and only gives you three spots to stand in) it's a impressively expansive VR playground. This is mostly to do with the Combinator, one of Rick's inventions that allows you to put two items onto it and see what you get when they're scientifically merged (think of Jeff Goldblum and a fly getting into a teleporter together). 

Often it's nothing exciting (combine a glass with a bar of soap and you'll get a bar of soap made of glass) but there are enough weird and surprising combinations to make you want to combine everything with everything else, and then combine the resulting combinations with the resulting combinations. And then combine those some more. Throw in some growth pills and the fact that you can copy your own brain (by laying your VR head on the combinator) and you might, with enough re-combining, wind up with an enormous twitching brain that fills the entire garage.

And despite it looking like a cartoon, it's still the most convincing VR experience I've had. I almost fell over after trying to lean on a countertop that doesn't actually exist, I've punched a few real walls throwing things around, and I realized that when eating or drinking something in the game I actually open my (real) mouth.

Wes Fenlon: Thimbleweed Park and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward 

My holiday gaming involved a lot of puzzle solving. Over Christmas I was away from home and my gaming PC, so I actually spent most of my time with friends playing games on Nintendo's SNES Classic and Switch. If you love XCOM, you really need to try Ubisoft's excellent Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. In the last few days of the break, though, I really dug into two games I've been meaning to play for months: point-and-click adventure Thimbleweed Park and escape room visual novel Virtue's Last Reward.

Information from some dead-ends actually lets you progress down paths that don't end with horrible suicides or deaths by lethal injection.

Thimbleweed Park is delightful so far, with classic adventure game puzzles that err on the side of reasonable instead of impossible logic. It gives you multiple characters to control so you don't get stuck and can jump between puzzles and areas at will, and there are also some clever bits that require using one character to help another. It's a little meta jokey for my taste (as mentioned in our review) with frequent jokes about the genre itself, but the laughs I've gotten from the ridiculously foul-mouthed Ransome the Clown have more than made up for it.

Currently, though, all I can think about is Virtue's Last Reward, which has its hooks in me deep. The central mechanic of this escape room game is solving the mystery of your imprisonment, with every major decision you make creating a new branching path—but you can go back and take a different route whenever you want. Information you gain from some dead-ends actually lets you progress down paths that don't end with horrible suicides, explosions, or deaths by lethal injection. The way it teases out the solution to its mystery is maddening, and there's a bit more repetition of similar conversations than I'd like, but I need to find out what happens, and each cliffhanger I hit just adds fuel to the fire.

Andy Chalk: Hob 

I started playing around with Hob shortly after it came out in September, but I didn't make a concerted effort to really do anything with it until the holidays arrived. With time on my hands, I got down to the business of properly exploring the bizarre, wild mechano-landscape, collecting its secrets, and unraveling the great mystery that lies beneath. Most of my gaming time is dedicated to shooting dudes or playing roles, but this odd little diversion ("little," I say, as Steam shows 36 hours sunk into it) was nothing less than magical: Complex without being obtuse, challenging but never punishing, and set in one of the prettiest and most unusual game worlds I've ever explored.

The sights and sounds are so wonderfully weird that even after botching an obvious move, I never felt the urge to pound my mouse into pieces with my keyboard.

The platforming is a tad wonky at times but never unfair, and more importantly the sights and sounds are so wonderfully weird that even after botching an obvious and simple move, I never felt the urge to pound my mouse into pieces with my keyboard. The ending was brilliant, too. No spoilers, but there is a story being told amidst all the strange grunts and glowing hieroglyphics, and the payoff was unexpected—and unexpectedly difficult to process, too. For all that I loved the game world, the fact that Hob isn't just jumping and slashing its way to a simple happy ending might be my favorite part of the game.

Everything we said in our review was spot-on (although I would've scored it ten points higher—sorry, Other Andy) but I feel like it could stand to be shouted from the rooftops a little more loudly: Hob is a fantastically good game. (And Runic deserved better.) 

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, better known to the world as Poundmaker—so named for his ability to lure bison into corral-like "pounds," where they could be trapped and slaughtered—will lead the Cree into Civilization 6 as part of the upcoming Rise and Fall expansion. 

Despite his legend as a bison caller, Poundmaker's true power lay in his diplomatic abilities. He helped negotiate treaties with the Canadian government in the late 1800s, and over the years that followed worked to establish and preserve peaceful relations. Sadly, despite his efforts he was caught up in the events of the North-West Rebellion. Following his voluntary surrender—again, in an effort to reduce tensions and avoid unnecessary bloodshed—he was convicted of treason and sentenced to three years in prison. He ultimately served less than one, but the conditions destroyed his health, and he died shortly after his release in 1886. 

The unique Cree unit is the Okihtcitaw, skilled warriors and scouts who start with a free promotion and have boosted strength in combat. Its unique structure is the Mekewap, a large, dome-like structure that provides long-term shelter: Not portable but relatively easy to build, and in game terms it grants Production, Resources, Food, and Gold when it's placed near Bonus or Luxury resources. 

Reflecting his commitment to peace, Poundmaker's "Favorable Terms" leader ability provides shared visibility across all types of Alliances, as well as bonus Food and Gold from trade routes. The unique Cree ability is the Nihithaw, which grants a free trade route after researching pottery and enables its traders to claim tiles by establishing new routes.   

Civilization 6: Rise and Fall is available for pre-purchase on Steam for $30/£25/€30, and set to come out on February 8.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

In what you might call a study in contrasts, last's week announcement of the upcoming addition of the Netherlands to Civilization 6, led by the Mary Poppins-esque Queen Wilhelmina, has been followed up by word today that the rapacious Mongol horde is on the way too, headed up by the mighty Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan united the tribes of northeast Asia, ushering in an era of unified law, religious tolerance, and relative peace between the tribes. But he's better remembered for the brutality of his campaigns: Following his victory over the Tatars, who had assassinated his father some years earlier, he ordered the killing of every Tatar male over three feet tall; after defeating the Taichi'ut, he had its leaders boiled alive. His grave has never been found, according to legend because his funeral party killed everything it saw on the way to his final resting place, so nobody would know where was buried. 

Harsh, but fair. 

The Mongolian unique unit is the Keshig, fast-riding horse archers with the ability to make civilian and support units move at a faster-than-normal rate. Its unique improvement is the Ordu, a "palace tent," which grants a movement bonus to light and heavy cavalry, and its unique Civilization ability is the Örtoo, a sort of "combat-focused trading route" that confers bonuses to Combat Strength and Diplomatic Visibility.   

Genghis Khan himself boasts the unique Mongol Horde ability, which gives a combat bonus to all Mongol cavalry-class units, as well as a chance to increase the size of his army by capturing enemy cavalry units. 

The Mongolians will join Civilization 6 in the Rise and Fall expansion, scheduled to come out on February 8.   

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

The Netherlands is a nation with a long and storied history, but it will steered into Civilization 6 by a ruler of a relatively recent vintage. Queen Wilhelmina ascended to the throne in 1890, when she was just ten years of age, and led the nation through both World Wars before abdicating in 1948—a reign of nearly 58 years. 

Wilhelmina's unique leader ability is Radio Oranje, named for her broadcasts to the Dutch resistance during the Second World War, which confers a loyalty bonus to cities originating trade routes to the Netherlands, and also a culture bonus for trade routes established with foreign cities. The Netherlands' unique ability is "Grote Rivieren," which grants major bonuses to Campuses, Theater Squares, and Industrial Zones when built near a river, and its unique improvement is the Polder, a man-made flood plain separated from the sea by dikes that provides food, production and housing from water tiles. 

On the military side of things (because it always comes to that, doesn't it?) the Netherlands brings to bear De Zeven Provinciën, a powerful, 80-gun ship of the line that helped make the nation a legitimate naval power in the 17th century. (Historical side note: It's also the name of a class of advanced air defense frigates that recently went into service with the Royal Netherlands Navy.) 

The Netherlands will join the Civilization 6 soiree in the Rise and Fall expansion, scheduled for release on February 8, 2018. Here's someone else you'll meet when it gets here, and everything else we know about it so far.   

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Korea is coming to Civilization 6, led by the formidable Queen Seondeok, the first Queen of Silla, which along with Baekje and Goguryeo made up the Three Kingdoms of Korea. As described by Wikipedia, Queen Seondeok's reign was not without its problems, including wars with with Baekje and Goguryeo and an uprising led by men who believed that women aren't fit to rule. But she reigned for 15 years, during which she put welfare policies into place, invested heavily in education, and is credited with encouraging "a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts." 

Korea's unique district in Civ 6 is the Seowon, an upgrade to the Campus, which provides a fixed yield of science. That yield is reduced by districts built next to it, but Korea's unique ability, Three Kingdoms, grants bonus science to mines, and bonus food to farms, that are built adjacent to Seowon—an interesting (and worthwhile) tradeoff.   

The Hwacha unique unit is a mobile ballista mounted on a two-wheeled cart that's capable of rapidly launching 100 rocket arrows, or 200 Chongtong bullets, against distant targets. It's "much more powerful than its Renaissance-era counterparts," and enabled a small number of Korean defenders to repel an invading Japanese force of nearly ten times its size in the Battle of Haengju in 1593. 

The in-game queen reflects her real-life counterpart with the Hwarang unique ability, which grants bonuses to science and culture in all cities with an established governor. 

Details about the coming Korean civ are up at civilization.com. Korea will be added to Civilization 6 in the big Rise and Fall expansion that's coming on February 8. Here's everything we know about it so far.   

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

It’s been over a year since the release of Civilization 6 and Firaxis has finally revealed the first expansion, Rise and Fall. The theme, as you might have guessed, is the tendency of civilizations to have some good days and some not so good ones. “Instead of just a march through history, straight progress all game, maybe with a few speed bumps, but always forward,” producer Andrew Frederiksen told me, “[what] we’re trying to capture here is the ups and downs, sort of riding the waves through history that is so paramount when you look back at our own world.”

This excites me. I’ve written more than once about how constant good fortune carrying you to the head of the most powerful and unassailable empire imaginable is… actually pretty boring compared to the stories we latch onto in real history. From the rise and fall of Rome to the ascension and collapse of various imperial dynasties in China, we are compelled by narratives that have dramatic pacing. And to have that, your moments of peril are arguably just as important, if not more so, than your moments of triumph. 

The designers at Firaxis have put together a hefty set of new features to explore these themes, which Fredericksen assured have been integrated with Civ 6’s existing systems “as much as possible,” rather than sitting on top of them as optional extras. We’ll take them one-by-one, because it’s a lot to absorb.

Great Ages

In previous Civ games, which Era you were in (Classical, Medieval, Modern, etc.) was defined by how far you progressed down the tech tree. While that will still exist on a per-civ basis, the game itself will now progress through global Eras, triggered by any civ fulfilling their start conditions. At the dawn of each new Era, every civ is evaluated on how well they did in the previous one and can qualify for a Golden Age, a Dark Age, or neither.

Civs that can endure a Dark Age will be rewarded.

Which type of Age you get is partly based on where you are, relative to the Era, in the tech and civics trees. These contribute to your Era Score, which can also be influenced by Historic Moments. The latter, Frederiksen referred to as “mini-achievements,” not unlike the smaller objectives you can pursue in vanilla Civ 6 to gain enlightenment bonuses on certain civics and technologies. Some examples given were being the first civ to circumnavigate the globe, the first to discover a natural wonder, or the first to found a religion.

Civs in a Golden Age are living the good life. For the entirety of that global Era, they get bonuses to Loyalty (more on that later) in all of their cities. In a Dark Age, things are not so rosy. You’ll instead get penalties to Loyalty across the board. But it’s not purely punitive. Civs that can endure a Dark Age will be rewarded. For one, Dark Ages unlock Dark Policies that can be slotted into your government, which offer a trade-off of some kind. Most will come with a powerful buff to help some aspect of your civilization carry on through the hard times, paired with a debuff that will make things even worse for a different aspect. “We might be deciding to tighten up our borders,” Frederiksen gave as an example. “[We’re] not going do as much with trade or diplomacy or something, but in turn, our internal production—our food, or whatever the case may be—is going to be stronger.”

The grand prize for overcoming a Dark Age, however, is a Heroic Age. These trigger when you emerge from a Dark Age with enough Era Score to qualify for a Golden Age, in spite of everyone and everything. They’re basically a Golden Age on steroids, with even more powerful buffs to spur your civ on to victory. The whole system is based around these risk/reward trade-offs. Frederiksen was clear that Dark Ages aren’t meant to just suck. The gloomier chapters of the story of your civilization need to be as fun to play as the shining ones, and pursuing a strategy of timing a Dark into Heroic transition for a key moment will be viable. They didn’t want to create a system where you “never want a Dark Age.”

Dedications

At the dawn of each new Era, your civilization will get to make a Dedication. Frederiksen described this a player-selected goal of, “This is what we are going to be about as a civilization for the next Era.” If you’re going into a Dark Age or a Normal Age, your Dedication will give you a new way to earn Era Score—which should help prevent a Dark Age spiral where you’re stumbling from one disaster to the next. In a Golden or a Heroic Age, your Dedication grants you an extra buff on top of the Loyalty bonus you’re already getting, such as increased movement or combat ability for units. While these buffs are nice, they don’t contribute to Era Score, making it difficult to chain together Golden Ages.

Loyalty and Free Cities

All cities now have Loyalty ratings.  As Frederiksen put it, these measure “how people feel about you and your leadership.” It’s affected by things like amenities and what type of Age you are in. It can also be bolstered by your own actions and eroded by actions of neighboring civs. It’s almost like a new health bar. When Loyalty reaches zero, the city will secede from your civ and become an independent Free City.

Free cities have militaries and will defend themselves, but will not expand or engage in diplomacy like a full civ. They also don’t have the special interactions available for the city-states in vanilla Civ 6 like missions and suzerainty. The essentially exist as an “up for grabs” morsel to be taken. The most straightforward way to take control of one is military conquest, but nearby civs can also exert Loyalty pressure on them. If your opponents build up a Free City’s Loyalty high enough, it will be peacefully annexed into their civ. This makes 'flipping' cities like in Civ games past possible again, with the caveat that they will exist in a neutral Free City state during the process, giving their original owner a chance to reconquer them or peacefully restore Loyalty.

Loyal cities will reinforce the Loyalty of other cities close to them, meaning Loyalty will be less of a problem near the core of your empire and shakier on the far-flung frontiers. Sprawling empires will thus have to focus more on good governance, or else have armies ready to go on their fringes to retake cities that try to break away. Frederiksen said they will be looking at balancing with civs like England that are encouraged to settle far away to make sure they aren’t disproportionately screwed by this. He also pointed out that a civ in a Golden Age bordering one that is in a Dark Age creates an interesting and potentially explosive dynamic, where the Dark Age civ’s cities will be ready to defect to the Golden Age civ with only a slight nudge.

You’ll also be able to annex vanilla city-states using Loyalty, though you will lose their suzerain bonus as if you had conquered them militarily.

Governors

Emergencies will bring a taste of this to Civ 6, with certain actions being taken by an aggressor civ triggering a sort of common mission to be pursued by their adversaries.

Governors are new characters that exist somewhere between Great People and Leaders. They aren’t physically present on the map, but are assigned to a city somewhat like spies. One of their main jobs is bolstering Loyalty, but each of the seven types of governor (you can only have one of each) also has a theme like military, economy, or religion, and an entire promotion tree that will allow them to grant powerful bonuses to that area of focus in the city where they are assigned.

The resources to level up and recruit governors all come from a common pool, so there will always be a trade-off between having a wider stable of less powerful governors or focusing on a couple to make them as potent as they can be. “One of my favorites is we have this governor that if you get her to the top tier,” Frederiksen says, “and if you have her in a city, you can just straight up buy a district with gold.” Another he called out allowed building units that normally require a strategic resource without that resource, a potential balm to those extremely frustrating games where you put all your eggs in the military basket and somehow never get access to iron.

Alliance changes

Alliances will now be available in a variety of different flavors. A scientific alliance is similar to the old research agreements, where the shared knowledge of two civs can benefit both. An economic alliance is more focused on mutually-beneficial trade. And of course, the old school military alliance, which has you stand back-to-back with another world leader to fight off the forces of everyone who doesn’t like everything being your map color, isn’t going anywhere. They can also level up and give stronger benefits if they remain stable for a long time. Frederiksen confirmed that AI civs will be less likely to break an alliance that has been around a long time and accumulated lots of benefits than one that was just started a few turns ago.

Emergencies

From The Crusades to World War 2, history is full of moments when several great powers unified to take action. Emergencies will bring a taste of this to Civ 6, with certain actions being taken by an aggressor civ triggering a sort of common mission to be pursued by their adversaries. One prominent trigger is the first time any civ uses nuclear weapons, which will serve as a wake-up call to the rest of the world that maybe they need to be paying more attention to this whole “physics” thing. Another example Frederiksen gave was a holy city for an established religion being conquered or converted by a follower of a different religion, in which case any civs following the holy city’s original religion might be invited to take it back.

“It can sound like they’re something to stop the person who’s ahead,” Frederiksen noted. “And it can do that, but it’s not a kind of thing where you hamstring the winner just to make the game longer. It’s very much a flavorful thing that can shift the power dynamic—cause something that’s great to fall, or something that’s not so great to rise.”

Each emergency will have a winner, whether that be the alliance of volunteers fulfilling the victory condition or the civ that triggered the emergency holding them off and making sure that objective stays un-ticked. In either case, the winning side receives a buff for the rest of the game. So while every emergency will have a sort of 'bad guy' that’s getting ganged up on, there will be a reward for choosing to be that guy and standing firm in spite of the odds.

New units 

The team at Firaxis is keeping the new civs and leaders close to their chest at the moment, but they were able to talk about four non-unique units coming to the tech tree for anyone to unlock. Pike and Shot is a new anti-cavalry unit bridging the long, awkward gap between Pikemen and Anti-Tank. Three more units have been added to the late game to cap off lines that previously ended too soon: The Supply Convoy (an upgraded version of the Medic that can increase the movement speed of units it shares a tile with in addition to restoring HP), Spec Ops (a “Navy SEAL-inspired” unit that caps off the line for the humble Scout, gaining the ability to para-drop forward without the use of aircraft), and the Drone (an upgraded version of the Observation Balloon).

New Districts

The most prominent of the new districts being added (and the one we were allowed to hear about) is the Government District. There can be only one of these in your entire civ, and it interacts directly with the updated government system. Based on your current government type, you will be able to build a number of new buildings in your government district, each of which unlocks policy cards.

New civs 

We asked Frederiksen if he could hint at all what part of the world any of the new civs might be coming for, to which he responded: “The Land.” So sorry to disappoint everyone who had their fingers crossed for Atlantis. Still, all of the above is plenty to chew on for now. Civilization VI: Rise and Fall will be out on February 8, 2018.

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