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.

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.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Since launch last year, Civilization 6 has drip fed us incremental updates by way of new race DLC, Steam Workshop and mod tools, and a free demo. Now, it's unveiled its Rise and Fall expansion—billed as the "deepest Civilization experience to date".

Due on February 8, 2018, players are tasked with guiding their civ of choice through the ages wherein 'Great Ages' see civilizations entering 'Dark' and 'Golden' periods, depending on your in-game actions. "Rise triumphantly from a Dark Age," says publisher 2K, "and your next Golden Age will be even stronger – a Heroic Age."

A new city loyalty system means cities now have individual loyalty to player leadership, wherein low yields, politics and revolts are a constant threat. Rise and Fall also brings with it nine new leaders, eight civilizations, a number of new units, wonders, districts, buildings—and perhaps you should have a gander at the expansion's announcement trailer:

"With the new Great Ages system in Sid Meier’s Civilization 6: Rise and Fall, players can experience the ebb and flow of building empires amidst the challenges of history, either to lasting greatness or the dust of antiquity," says developer Firaxis' Anton Strenger. "With this expansion’s new features, players will be both challenged and rewarded in ways never seen before in the 26 years of the Civilization franchise."

Civilization 6: Rise and Fall is due February 8, 2018. 

Sid Meier's Civilization® IV

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 311. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.  

Welcome to the history of Civilization, a series that has been keeping us up until silly o'clock in the morning  since the release of Sid Meier's original game in September 1991. Civ turns all of human history into a playground that you can exploit, turn by turn, to bring your chosen nation to glory. It's a fascinating series because it has been interpreted by a new lead designer in each iteration, including Alpha Centauri's Brian Reynolds, Mohawk Games' Soren Johnson, and of course Sid Meier himself. In the following pages we talk to all of them about how the series has evolved from Civilization through to Civilization VI.

Civilization

"We were young, and we had no fear" 

In 1991, MicroProse launched Sid Meier’s Civilization, a game that would define turn-based strategy for over two decades, and give birth to a genre that eventually became known as 4X: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. You probably know someone who has been struck down by One More Turn Syndrome, shackled to their PC at 3am. Maybe it’s you. Meier had no idea what he was starting. 

Meier and Bruce Shelley had finished Railroad Tycoon and were looking for another project. They wanted to expand on some of the ideas behind their last game, and Meier had been intrigued by the exploration system found in Empire, the turn-based wargame. It started by giving players a limited view of the world, but that viewpoint gradually unfurled as the world was explored. 

“Railroad Tycoon had this sense of being a large-scale game,” Meier recalls. “But we were bold and wondered what’s a bigger, more epic thing we can do? Well, how about the history of civilisation? We were young, and we had no fear.” 

It was easier to be fearless then. “The expectations in terms of graphics and team size were different in those days. We did the first half of the work on Civ with just Bruce and I, so we could try things with less risk. It was definitely not something we knew was going to work, but it looked like it would be fun to try.”

While other strategy games were offering up cities or companies as playgrounds, Meier did worry that what they were creating was going to be too much. Too daunting. How do you make a game that spans human history? To start with, they said no to hexes, which wouldn’t make it into the series until Civilization V.

“One of the reasons we used squares for mapping was we thought hexes were too geeky. We went with squares to make things accessible.”

Making Civilization turn-based was an accessibility decision, too. Meier considered creating an RTS, but after testing it, he realised that it didn’t give players enough time to get to grips with its myriad systems. “Development is a journey in itself, and it could have easily gone in different directions. There were a number of things we considered that we didn’t end up doing. Real-time is one of them. I think it’s great to look at Age of Empires, for example, because that’s how the game would have probably progressed if we’d continued down that route.”

Despite being a game of conquest, there’s always been a thread of optimism running through the series, and it’s not an accident. It was part of MicroProse’s philosophy. It wasn’t all murder and land-grabbing. “It revolved around what’s the most fun. We were criticised for not including slavery in both Civ and Pirates, for instance, but those were decisions based on what makes a satisfying and pleasant experience for the players.” 

Everyone who’s played Civ knows that Montezuma’s a dick, and for each leader, there are personality traits attributed to them. But while later iterations emphasised that, those AI personalities were basic in the first game. “Players would read more into the game then what was there in some cases,” Meier laughs. 

Some leaders might be more aggressive than others, and they were affected by player interactions, but it wasn’t quite as elaborate as the stories told by players implied. It helps, Meier thinks, that each leader and civilisation was recognisable. Players knew what to expect.

“One of the reasons Civ was successful was it tapped into things you already knew. You can enter into this world which you already know. You might know Napoleon, and Gandhi has a clear personality; these are leaders who you’ve probably heard of and already associate a personality or feeling with.” 

That success wasn’t a given, though, and Meier only realised quite how special Civilization was after seeing other people playing it. “As other people played it in the company, we’d hear, ‘Just one more turn,’ and, ‘I can’t stop playing.’ Whether the world was ready for it or not, we weren’t sure, but as the game launched and we started to get feedback, it gained momentum. We sensed that something unique was happening. 

“Good thing we left room for five more iterations.”

Civilization 2

An empire built on word of mouth. 

Brian Reynolds remembers when Sid Meier gave him a copy of Civilization. “I played until 2am,” he admits. “It combined the city, units and ‘one more turn’ of Empire with the experience of Civilization the board game. Avalon Hill games were the gold standard, and I didn’t realise computer games could do that.” He was hooked. 

He’d been working on adventure games, trying to compete with Sierra, but it wasn’t working out and everyone was worried about their jobs. So he started developing a prototype—a game about discovery and exploration. He showed it to Meier, and a week later he’d been moved to a new department to commence work on what would become known as Colonization. 

Then SimCity 2000 came out. Its predecessor had been one of Civilization’s influences, but SimCity 2000 offered up proof that iterative sequels could work, inspiring MicroProse once again. At the same time, Reynolds was moving across the Atlantic with his wife. “I moved to North Yorkshire with a PC and a mandate to make a new game: Civilization 2000.” The three zeroes would eventually be sliced off.

In a new country, left to his own devices, Reynolds found himself tasked with an intimidating job. “Nobody had ever done a sequel to Civilisation or even another MicroProse game before. How do you make a sequel to a game that covered all of human history?” Luckily, he had a long list of desired features from players, who had taken to Usenet groups to tell MicroProse what they wanted to see. These ideas, coupled with Reynolds’ own, ran the gamut from alliances to handy notifications that your enemy had started work on one of the Wonders of the World. There was the all-new tech tree, as well, which had to be built from the ground up.

“It all started to feel really fresh, but for reasons you couldn’t always put your finger on. They were subtle. But the executives didn’t understand. They just thought it was Civ, but for Windows.” That didn’t mean the fact that it was being designed to run on Windows 95 wasn’t important. “We were perfectly placed with the launch of Windows 95 to be successful. It was probably the first triple-A game that could run on the operating system, and we really leaned into it.” This allowed Reynolds to play around with different screens, making the UI modular, taking advantage of the OS’s strengths. 

The original Civilization made it so that there was more than one way to win the game, but with Civ II, Reynolds wanted to double down on peaceful solutions. So there was the aforementioned alliance system, while peace treaties would force the other civilisation to remove its units from your areas. 

“We did a lot of work on diplomatic AI in Civilization II,” Reynolds stresses. “It actually quadrupled the amount of code we had to write.” These changes to diplomacy also served as the beginning of the national border system that would see use in future Civs, as well as Alpha Centauri, which Reynolds also designed. 

Despite this focus, conquest wasn’t forgotten. Indeed, it was dramatically enhanced, thanks to unit hit points. The result was considerably more tactical when compared to Civilization’s basic combat. It also made the era units were from matter more. Reynolds wanted to get rid of those moments where a phalanx could stand up to a battleship.

“It was a long journey, making it more tactical,” Reynolds recollects. Master of Magic was a source of inspiration, but he still didn’t find the combat to be much fun. “There was talk of Sid working on that side of the game, but it didn’t happen. I’d already coded the idea of hit points, getting ready for what I thought was coming, and Sid was like, ‘Yeah, my prototype isn’t as fun as that,’ so I carried on.” 

In 1993, MicroProse was sold to Spectrum Holobyte. There’d always been issues with the business side of MicroProse not understanding Civilization II. It was more invested in the multiplayer remake of the first game. This wasn’t helped by the fact that multiplayer wasn’t on the cards for the sequel. “I put a good amount of time into multiplayer logic for Civilisation II, but by 1995, there was no way we were going to get it in.” After the acquisition, things seemed to get worse. 

“When they took over, they didn’t have confidence in the game, so they did very little marketing for it. In the end, word of mouth saved it.” The publisher estimated poor sales. By the time Reynolds left the company, it had sold 2.5 million. “It established that Civ was the type of game that could support sequels. Civ III was definitely going to happen.”

Civilization III

The series returns home to its creators. 

With the unexpected success of Civilization II, another sequel was inevitable, though not before some litigation over naming rights and the launch of Activision’s Civilization: Call to Power series. After suits and countersuits, the licence eventually ended up with Hasbro, and by 2001 the company had been acquired by Infogrames. Firaxis, which was founded by Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds and Jeff Briggs in 1996, could finally work on the next game. 

And, once again, the question became: what could possibly be added to such a huge thing? “Sid and I used to joke with each other that after designing Civilization, what else could you do?” Jeff Briggs recollects. “The scope of the game spans all of human history from the agricultural revolution to the present, so we already had everything that any other game could have.” 

Luckily, Briggs had been thinking about a new version of Civilization ever since Civilization II had been released in 1996. A lot of the experimentation had already taken place in his head. It was also around that time that he started thinking in terms of thirds. One third the same, one third new and one third improved. This, he says, helped guide them through the experimentation. 

Civilization has a tradition of having a different lead designer for each entry in the series, but this started out as a coincidence. With the original Civilization, Meier felt he had poured everything into that game, so Brian Reynolds took over. The idea was for him to lead development on Civilization III, as well. “We originally planned for Brian to lead the development and design of Civ III, but he decided to start Big Huge Games instead and left Firaxis before development really got started. So I was left as the default designer—exciting and intimidating. Luckily, I had a list of features that I wanted to integrate into the game already.”

One of those features was civilisations that had unique hooks which went beyond aesthetics. In Colonization, which Briggs worked on with Reynolds, Meier and Doug Kaufman, each faction had a sort of starting ‘power’, and he wanted to tap into that. “I looked at the time in history that each of the civs had achieved some level of dominance and tried to identify units and capabilities that would signify that moment in their history. This meant that a civ would have a slight advantage during their historical prime time and shape the player’s strategy to some extent.” 

Briggs wanted to expand the game to include elements that weren’t 4X concerns. He considered civilisation as not just domination on a military and control basis. Thus, culture was introduced, making border expansion a function of shared cultural experiences. Systems for ‘Great People’ were also designed, along with works of art, music and architecture, but many of them would be dropped before development concluded due to resource and time constraints. What didn’t make it, however, found life in later games.

The constraints did mean that the multiplayer side of things wasn’t ready for launch, unfortunately. If they’d waited, the game would have been delayed by a year. But Briggs doesn’t recall any serious issues or obstacles that impeded development, and with the hiring of eventual Civilization IV designer Soren Johnson, more work could be done. 

He does wish he’d removed the corruption system, however, which created an obstacle when it came to making large empires with cities spread out across great distances. “Corruption and waste had been factors in Civ and in Civ II as well. I wish I had removed it from Civ III altogether. To be honest, I don’t recall it ever coming up during development as a problem. I think we all just accepted it as a part of the system and we were a little afraid to mess with it. Oops.”

While Civilization III proved to be one of the more divisive games among veteran players, it was another success for the series. Briggs thinks that there’s something fundamental about the franchise that keeps people coming back. 

“It is the go-to game for history-of- the-world games. Several others have tried to steal this mantle but they’ve usually tried to ‘improve it’ in ways that go against the simple elegance of Sid’s original turn-based seeding of future events system. Improving graphics, adding new systems, expanding the definition of the game to include more and more elements of human history—all of this has kept it fresh.”

Civilization IV

The next generation of Civilization.

After cutting his teeth on Civilization III, Soren Johnson became the next torchbearer. It was the first in a new generation of Civilizations, built with a new 3D engine, accessible modding and multiplayer. And when it came to deciding what shape it would take, Johnson wasn’t going to give any feature a free pass.

“One thing I had a strong conviction about was that we weren’t going to do anything by default,” Johnson explains. “We weren’t going to adopt anything from the previous games by default. It’s not necessarily the most high-minded concept, but it meant that I was going to start from scratch and re-evaluate everything.” 

He wanted to place the focus on the big picture, not the tiny details, removing things like corruption and introducing religion. From other games came ideas like unit upgrades. Johnson had played Alpha Centauri, and was inspired by the armoury system. The Civilization IV version is simpler, but keeps the essence, the important decisions and different paths. This philosophy is also echoed in how Johnson approached the development of civilisations. 

“I felt like the previous games didn’t offer a lot of interesting choices about how you could develop terrain and manage citizens. In previous games it was pretty sparse, basically mines and farms. I wanted people—I think this has become a theme for the way I make games, and you can see it in Offworld Trading Company—to have a reason to play differently each time they started a new game.”

The map became littered with resources that ranged from cotton to iron, luxury and strategic goods that could be harvested by placing the appropriate building on them. But many of these resources were locked behind era-specific technologies, meaning when and if the player got access was largely up to them.

For all the new features, Civilization IV’s most dramatic changes were broader in scope. “There were a lot of things that were really development and productionstyle innovations or priorities,” Johnson recalls. And that included multiplayer. “It’s no secret that Civ has had a problematic history with multiplayer. One of the defining features of Civ IV is we also built it, initially, as a multiplayer game, not as a singleplayer game. So we knew that every system worked in multiplayer. 

“We were playing multiplayer games during the first two or three months of development,” Johnson continues. “They were rudimentary, but you don’t really need a lot of mechanics to have a fun experience with other people. We actually made a lot of progress just by being able to base it off these play sessions we had every week. It was a revelation.” 

There was a 3D engine to play with as well—a first for the series. It represented a huge graphical leap, but while the upgrade was a welcome one, it was the enhanced legibility that made all the difference when it came to navigating the map. It was easier to understand what you were looking at, be it a city or a piece of terrain, and what was happening there. Accompanying this was a slight change in perspective, too. “

It was actually a big fight between me and the artists for how the grid system would work. The 3D system in Civ IV is like a chessboard. It’s straight ahead. Artists hated that. Even though it was 3D, they still wanted that diagonal board, and I’ve always felt that it makes the distance between tiles confusing. If you move two tiles east to west versus two tiles north to south, you literally move twice as far, so it really obfuscates how close things are on the map.”

The changes to the map weren’t kept in its successor, Civilization V, which made the move to hexes. Johnson’s a bit wistful about that. “We were a bit afraid of hexes at the time.” But many features developed or established in Civilization IV have continued through the last two games. 

“If none of this had happened, Civilization would still be a landmark title. If Civ II had flopped, Civ I would still be important. But I feel like the franchise begins with Civ IV because the blueprint for how to keep iterating sort of starts there. There’s a path that’s been followed by Civ V and Civ VI, in terms of the amount of stuff you add to the game, how you manage things and the expansion format.” 

Halfway through development, the game was dropped by its publisher and sold to Take-Two. Yet Johnson remained confident. “I saw so many things that I thought needed to be improved from Civ III.” That confidence paid off for the team, and Civilization IV went on to become a series favourite. It even managed to be the first game to win a Grammy, thanks to Christopher Tin’s stirring Baba Yetu theme.

Civilization V

Squares are dead! Long live hexes!

A storm was brewing at Firaxis, and it was undeniably hexshaped. Since 1991, the series had used square grids, while more and more 4X and wargames gravitated towards the sexy angles of the hexagon. As a fan of games like Panzer General, new lead designer Jon Shafer decided to introduce Civilization and its many adherents to the joy of hex. 

Development started in early 2007. Shafer was 21, and he wanted to do something different. “Civilization IV was such a good game, so we wanted to put a different spin on things. We acknowledged that it was going to be controversial, not everyone was going to like what we did, but we made a conscious effort to push things in a different direction.” 

What could be more controversial than killing squares? A lot of other things, it turns out. Surprising to Shafer, getting people to be open to it wasn’t all that difficult. He’d had the idea, and remembers suggesting it off the cuff, but never meant it seriously. Then, in a design meeting, someone else threw the idea out there. Sid Meier was there, and his opinion about hexes had changed over the years. He thought it was a good idea. So did the artists. And the engineers. 

It was easier to do since, like Civilization IV, the fifth iteration also used a new engine, built from scratch. It also allowed the art team to elevate the series’ aesthetic. “It broke a lot of boundaries in a lot of ways. It certainly had higher system requirements than some people were accustomed to with Civilization, but overall it was something that worked out in the end.”

In any other Civilization, the hexes might have been the headline attraction, but Schafer wasn’t joking about wanting to make big, potentially controversial changes. Stacks of doom were gone. No more could conquerors cram armies into a single tile. Instead, each unit needed its own tile, pushing things like unit placement and logistics to the forefront. It was one of the biggest changes to combat in the series’ long history. Shafer is unexpectedly ambivalent about it now. 

“The idea was to add more depth to the combat system. Lots of different systems had been tried, and none of them worked very well. But I don’t think the one-unit-per-tile system works very well, either, though it’s probably funny hearing me say that. It was an experiment, and it’s something that’s changed the series. A stack model is probably better, however; it’s more suited to a game of Civilization’s scope.” 

Despite this, the unstacking has continued in Civilization VI, and though he doesn’t think it works as well as it could, Shafer still believes that Civilization V’s combat is more interesting than it was in previous games. It gives more prominence to the map. You want to put archers on hills, hide warriors behind forests and generally pay more attention to the environment. And maps, I have learned, are one of Shafer’s passions. 

“There are very few designers who love maps as much as me. I want to put as much as I can on the map, utilise that map, utilise random maps, procedural generation,” Shafer starts to lose himself in a list of the map’s potential. He wants to use it to steer the game and highlight things that players might want to do, or explore, and in Civilization V, the result is a world that’s full of detail.

“This was something that was heavily emphasised and contributed by the art team. Our art lead, Dorian Newcomb, one of his bullet points on the art was ‘a living world’. That also fed into the design side because he was one of the first members of the team, and he said, ‘These are the pillars that we’re looking at on the art side.’ It made sense, so I thought maybe we could try to do more here.”

In hindsight, Shafer admits that there are some things he would do differently, and he has new ideas about how to bring strategy maps to life more, and what can be done with unit stacking. But he doesn’t dwell, and he certainly doesn’t regret the experiments and changes. 

“The only way I know how to do things is say, ‘What’s the craziest thing we can pull off here?’ Not everybody is going to like that approach. But there are plenty of Civ games, and there will be more in the future I’m sure, so people will have a chance to see many iterations.”

Civilization VI

Letting it all hang out.

As soon as work wrapped up on Civilization V’s final expansion, Brave New World, the design team had already moved onto Civilization VI. And with Ed Beach leading development on both, it’s not surprising that the pair share a lot of similarities, with the latter fleshing ideas introduced in the expansion and Civilization V’s other pieces of DLC. 

Ever since it appeared in the third game, culture has evolved into one of the key pillars of the Civilization series, and for Beach it was a priority in Brave New World, which saw the introduction of the tourism system. It became a priority once again in Civilization VI, culminating in a new progression system that put culture on the same level as science, complete with its own tree, but for civics rather than technology. 

“I’m a huge fan of world travel and spending time in other cultures,” Beach explains. “Every time I go to major European capitals, for example, all those opportunities to see the art that’s been collected, the museums, it’s a really interesting insight into what civilisations value and want to preserve. So I like to think about what that tells me about how civilisations should interact with each other, especially in the late game, when it’s not all about conquest.”  

This culture focus, and particularly the civics tree, greatly expanded how much you could do in the game without cracking skulls and smashing down city walls, but it also continued the philosophy of optimism and positive forward momentum that Meier espoused all the way back in the very first game. And as Beach notes, along with several of his fellow lead designers, you can still trace a lot back to the original Civilization, decades later.

Civilization VI was unusual in that, before development had even started, the team not only had a clear idea of several systems that they wanted to implement, they even knew that they worked. A great deal of the experimentation happened earlier in the process. You can see the origins of the district system, for instance, in 2010 with Civilization V’s Spain and Inca scenario pack, but placing buildings outside of cities was suggested as far back as the beginnings of the core game. 

“The earliest notion of unstacking cities was before the Civ V base game even shipped. We were wondering how the wonders were going to be visualised, and there was a push internally from a team to move them outside cities, making them seem powerful and magnificent. There were a number of people that tried to get Jon Shafer to do it, but I think he made the right call then. We had a lot on our plate already for Civ V, with the tactical combat and moving to one unit per tile.” 

It was an idea that wormed its way into the minds of Beach and his team, however, inspiring the occasional special building like the Incan terrace farms and the Polynesian statues, which needed to be constructed on specific tiles, such as mountains and coastlines, respectively. When Beach started work on Civilization VI, it was the first thing that the team got working. He now considers it the game’s groundbreaking achievement, transforming cities into these sprawling metropolises that expand across the land through specialised districts. 

“I’m a board game designer on the side,” Beach explains, “and there are a lot of board games that I like that are very focused on positional play and using or creating the map as you’re playing through it. That was the big stamp that we put on Civilisation VI, trying to make sure that you take advantage of the map, not just as this place you have to explore early in the game, but by putting your mark on the map, tile by tile. That’s why we unstacked the cities and included adjacency bonuses and districts.”

Unlike the other entries in this history of the series, Civilization VI isn’t finished yet. The game launched in 2016, and new civilisations and systemic changes are still being planned by Beach and his team. Religion, diplomacy and espionage will all be getting a new look before he’s done. 

“There are six of us who are working actively in either game design or AI development, and I remind the team all the time that this is a marathon and not a sprint,” Beach says. “I’ve only run one marathon myself, so I only have a little bit of an idea of what miles 15 or 16 of a marathon are like, but that’s where I feel we are now. We’ve still got quite a way to go.” 

But then Civilization is never really finished. Since the first game appeared way back in 1991, hardly any time has gone by where a new entry wasn’t being developed, or at the very least a prototype or piece of DLC. As familiar as it is, Civilization is always moving forward.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Two things happened today in the world of Sid Meier's Civilization that you should probably be aware of. First, the Fall 2017 update to Civilization 6 is now live, as is the Khmer and Indonesia Civilization and Scenario Pack, which 2K has recently been teasing. Second (and probably of greater interest), Civilization 3 Complete, which includes the Play the World and Conquest expansions, is free for the next two days on the Humble Store. 

To claim your gratis game, pop over to humblebundle.com, click "Add to Cart" (right below where it says "Free!") and then follow your instincts: Buy more stuff, check out, whatever suits your fancy. You'll be rewarded with a Steam key for your efforts, redeemable directly through the Humble site, and you're off to the civic races. Bear in mind that it's only free until 10 am PT on October 21, so don't dawdle.

Getting back to Civilization 6, the Fall update is free for everyone, while the Khmer and Indonesia Civ Pack goes for $9/£9/€9.  

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

2K Games announced yesterday that Jayavarman VII will lead the Khmer people into Civilization 6 in the game's next update. Today, it unveiled part two of that combo: Dyah Gitarja, also known by her regnal name Tribhuwannottunggadewi Jayawishnuwardhani (which we will not be using for obvious reasons), who led the Majahapit Empire—located in modern-day Indonesia—on a massive campaign of conquest and expansion. 

Indonesia's unique unit in Civ 6 will be the Jong—large sailing ships that function primarily as merchant vessels and transports, but can hold their own in a fight as well. Their cities can be improved with houses on stilts called Kampung, which provide housing, production, and food to adjacent fishing boats, and its unique ability is the "Great Nusantara," which grants bonuses for holy sites, campuses, industrial zones, and theater squares when they're adjacent to coastal tiles. 

Gitarja's leader ability is the very poetic-sounding "Exalted Goddess of the Three Worlds," which grants bonus Faith to coastal cities. It also enables Gitarja to purchase Naval units at a discount using Faith, and eliminates the movement cost of Religious units that are embarking or disembarking from vessels. 

There's still no word on a release date for the Indonesian (and Khmer) civs, but I'd expect them to arrive soon. Based on most previous Civilization and Scenario Packs, you can expect it to cost around $5.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

The 12th century Cambodian king Jayavarman VII "is generally considered by historians the most powerful Khmer monarch of all time," according to the unimpeachable sources at Wikipedia. So with the Khmer people on their way to Civilization 6, as 2K Games announced today, it only makes sense that he'd be the one to lead them. 

"Rising to power during a period of crisis for the Khmer, Jayavarman was a military leader. By 1181, Jayavarman VII had repelled Cham invaders to the north and when hostilities died down, he crowned himself king. But instead of turning outward and seeking to aggressively expand, he focused on his people," 2K wrote. "King Jayavarman VII saw himself as a warrior for his subjects. As a result, his rule was marked by its tolerance and his drive to create a place of safety and paradise for his subjects." 

Which isn't to say that the Khmer don't kick ass, and in fact their unique unit, the Domrey, might be the coolest of them all: It's a war elephant with a ballista mounted on its back, making it basically the 12th century equivalent of self-propelled artillery. On the more homefront-focused side of things, the Khmer unique improvement is the Prasat, a replacement for the temple, which gives the Martyr promotion to missionaries it produces and provides a Relic Great Works slot.   

Jayavarman himself brings the "Monasteries of the King" unique ability to the game, enabling the Khmer to grab adjacent territories when their Holy Sites are completed, while aqueducts will increase food production in adjacent farms and provide a bonus to Faith and an Amenity through the "Grand Barays" unique ability. 

Owners of the Civilization 6 Digital Deluxe Edition will receive the Khmer civ, and the rest of the DLC it comes with, automatically when it goes live. A launch date hasn't been announced, but I would expect it to show up at around the same time as the big Fall Update

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Big changes are coming to Civilization 6 in the Fall 2017 Update, including a revamp of the Religion system that adds new religious beliefs and units, improvements to the interface, and tweaks to gameplay balance and enemy AI that will make them much more dangerous on the high seas. 

"Two new Pantheons will be get introduced into the game, along with new Founder, Follower, Enhancer, and Worship Beliefs. These beliefs unlock the ability to build two new buildings as well as a new combat unit, the Warrior Monk," associate producer Sarah Darney explained. "Religious units can now exert Zone of Control and receive Flank and Support bonuses in religious combat. Meanwhile, the Guru religious support unit can heal nearby religious units." 

"Finally, the Religion Lens has been overhauled to improve overall usability and readability. You’ll also find UI touches, such as religion indicators on unit flags, to remove all guesswork on where a unit’s allegiance lies." 

Enemy AI will put a greater emphasis on building and protecting naval units following the update, which Darney said will be "especially exciting" in concert with the upcoming addition of a new civilization. The "least useful" gossip messages are being removed, so you'll only get the news that matters, and Diplomacy screens are being changed as well to make them easier to use. 

"Beyond this, the Great People art has been updated to feel more 'great' and make this screen easier to navigate," Darney wrote. "Capital icons now show on city banners in the Espionage Mission selection menu, and many smaller changes have been made to the menus to make screens more moddable and extensible." 

Darney didn't say which new religious Pantheons are being added to the game, or which new civilization will make the promised big splash with the improved naval skills, but details about the Fall Update will be released when it's live. Alas, there's no word yet on when that will be. 

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