Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

England have taken a bit of a battering in Civlization 6 recently, with a series of nerfs making it harder to win with Queen Victoria. Developer Firaxis plans to put that right in its spring update, after which Victoria's Pax Britannica leader bonus will grant a free unit both when you settle in a foreign continent and when you build a Royal Navy dockyard in that new city. That additional unit should make it easier to expand your borders.

The update, which doesn't yet have a release date, will also tweak the loyalty system introduced in the Civilization 6: Rise and Fall expansion. You'll now get more loyalty from cities following the same religion as you, and less from those following a different religion.

The team at Firaxis is also changing the way that joint wars work. You'll now be able to declare wars with a Casus Belli, which is a justification for war in specific circumstances that will mean you'll get fewer warmonger penalties. Both the player and the AI will also be able to join joint wars that have already begun, gaining the benefit of the Casus Belli in the process.

Lastly, the update will tweak the AI and add a few more historic moments, which essentially act as achievements marking important milestones. No full patch notes for now—they'll arrive alongside the update.

Thanks, PCGamesN.

Sid Meier's Civilization® V

Welcome to our round up of the best 4X games on PC. Ever since the term '4X' was coined for the original Master of Orion, we’ve been Exploring, Expanding, Exploiting, and Exterminating our way through fantasy, history, and the depths of space. The genre has seen something of a renaissance in the last half decade, and while it’s great to have options, there’s also a lot to sort through. 

Not every 4X game is for everyone, so we’ve taken a look at all the major players to enter the stage in recent years and why you might, or might not, want to play them.

Dominions 5

Let's start with an unusual one. Dominions 5 is a 4X game about warring gods and their fantastical armies. You start by designing your deity, which could be a raging dragon or a mystical inanimate rock. Turn by turn you muster armies, recruit wizards to research apocalyptic magic spells, and fend off the attentions of other pretender gods. 

Dominions' visuals are... old school, let's say. You need to dig into the community and get some decent user-made maps but, once you've done that and scanned the manual you'll find a detailed strategy game that generates mad stories. I'm used to controlling spaceships and cavalry in 4X games, only in Dominions can I send an alliance of satyrs, wyverns, elemental spirits and ghosts off to fight some atlanteans. The AI is easily to beat once you have played a few games but the game thrives in multiplayer about other people.

Who's it for: Players happy to get past primitive visuals to unpick a detailed magic system and command dazzling and varied factions.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

A unique blend of 4X and RTS set in space, Rebellion is more fast-paced than most of the games on this list. It’s a standalone expansion, but also the definitive version of Sins currently available—so you don’t need to worry about grabbing the original to have a good time.

Who it’s for: Existing RTS fans who want to branch out into 4X, and players who like to get to the action fast and maintain a challenging pace. This one may be a little chaotic for the turn-based armchair generals of the world.

Fallen Enchantress 

This turn-based fantasy 4X revolves heavily around Hero characters and a faction leader called a sovereign who can go on RPG-style quests and be used in many aspects of empire management, not just limited to combat.

Who it’s for: Classic RPG fans will feel right at home with the quest system, and the customizable fantasy armies are likely to appeal to tabletop miniature painters of the Warhammer and Hordes persuasions.

Endless Space

One of the most intriguing aspects of the universe in which Endless Space (and its sequel) are set is the mythology behind it. Much revolves around the ancient empire known as the Endless, and the quasi-magical Dust they left behind.Who it’s for: A good all-around entry level space 4X that will also challenge experienced players, and holds added appeal for anyone who wants to unravel facets of a mysterious, pre-written story while dominating the galaxy. It’s also available for beans now that ES2 is in Early Access.

Sid Meier’s Civilization 5 

If we could crown a king of 4X, Sid Meier’s Civilization would have little competition for that throne. Taking one of an armload of civilizations from the ancient to the modern age while competing for various victory conditions, this is the series that has championed the genre for years.

Who it’s for: Even with Civ VI out, Civilization V frequently goes on sale for absurdly low prices, so if you’re not sure you’ll like the series and just want to try it out without dropping the full $60 on the new one, by all means take advantage. It’s certainly an excellent, entertaining game in its own right, particularly with the Brave New World expansion. Plus, the mod scene is excellent.

Europa Universalis IV 

While most of the other games on this list put you in a randomly-generated world or galaxy, EU4 is built on an extremely in-depth recreation of Earth between the years of 1444 and 1821. You can lead any nation on the planet, from France to the Comanche, through centuries of colonization, exploration, and technological discovery.

Who it's for: Considering it’s the highest review score I’ve ever given out, it’s almost easier who to ask who it’s not for. The complexity of the simulation and sprawl of interlocking systems for trade, war, and diplomacy might intimidate newcomers to 4X and grand strategy, but EU4’s interface and tooltips do an excellent job of helping you wade into the shallow end and get a feel for the water.

Eador: Masters of the Broken World 

Taking the role of a demigod battling others of your ilk for control of the shards (all that’s left of the eponymous broken world), Eador is another 4X game that’s hard to categorize. It features 4X, RPG, and board game-like, tactical turn-based elements.

Who it’s for: Eador’s greatest strength might just be how different its setup is compared to most other 4X games. The breaking of the game world into shards, which each behave like a smaller version of a strategic map in a game like Total War or Crusader Kings, means you’ll enjoy it if you’re looking for something a bit different than the standard map conquest or flipping largely static planets in a vast expanse of space to your color.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

Taking the Civilization formula into space, Beyond Earth casts you as the head of one of the first human colonies on an alien planet. You guide its development and compete with other colonial concerns using mechanics that will feel highly familiar if you’ve played Civ 5.Who it’s for: Beyond Earth is, in my opinion, a bit of a misstep in the Civ series, lacking elements that drive its siblings to success. While it has some cool things going for it, like a nonlinear tech system that allows you to evolve your futuristic technology in a number of distinct directions, it ultimately feels like a high budget Civ 5 mod that didn’t hold my interest for more than a couple dozen hours.

Endless Legend

Similar to its sci-fi counterpart Endless Space, the unfolding fantasy epic of Endless Legend takes place in a richly realized world with character and backstory to spare. Civilizations are highly customizable, and each presents distinct opportunities.

Who it’s for: We awarded Endless Legend a Commendation for Design in 2014. It has its foundation in the time-tested elements that make 4X what it is, but is unafraid to build on and remix them in ways that will especially interest long-time players who might be suffering from genre fatigue. Beyond that, anyone just wanting to explore a rich and interesting new fantasy setting won’t be at all disappointed.

Warlock II: The Exiled

Warlock is pretty close to what I’d imagine a well-done fantasy overhaul of Civilization might look like. It makes good use of neutral factions on the map to be more than just an early-game annoyance.

Who it’s for: Due to its relative simplicity and adherence to genre norms, this is a fairly welcoming first step for those wanting to branch out into fantasy 4X from other subgenres. It also has a sharper sense of humor than its more dour, grandiose counterparts like Endless Legend and Fallen Enchantress.

Distant Worlds: Universe

Allowing you to discover the stars in a pausable, real-time galaxy, Distant Worlds features one of the more robust models of a civilian economy (which can run on auto-pilot while you handle the political stuff) I’ve seen in a 4X game.

Who it’s for: Aside from just being an overall well-designed 4X, Distant Worlds will have a special appeal for those who like to focus on exploration. This is because it really succeeds where so many other sci-fi games have failed: it makes space feel really, really big.

Star Ruler 2

Similar to Sins of a Solar Empire, Star Ruler 2 is a bit of a 4X/RTS hybrid. It boasts quite in-depth systems for diplomacy and planetary development.

Who it’s for: This one skews toward the higher end of the complexity scale, and the sheer amount of fine control you have over its systems might be intimidating to newcomers. If you’re looking for gigantic, animated space battles, however, it may be worth your time to wrap your head around it.

Galactic Civilizations III 

Galactic Civilizations has cemented itself as the other 'blockbuster' contender in the 4X space, and GalCiv III is the most polished and extravagant entry to date.Who it’s for: If you’re sick of cookie-cutter victory conditions, one of the most positive changes GalCiv 3 made to the series’ formula was turning victory into a set of objectives you can pick and choose from. So even two different runs going for the same victory condition might look different.

Stellaris

Stellaris takes Paradox’s historical formula and blasts it to the stars where you’ll manage military, political, and economic aspects of your space empire.Who it’s for: Fans of historical grand strategy will feel at home in Stellaris, but for those used to more traditional 4X, it takes some getting used to. There’s a much heavier focus on politics, with elements like your form of government and the will of your citizens playing a large role.

Master of Orion

The most recent in the lauded Master of Orion series doesn’t do much we haven’t seen before, but it plays the old hits well and wraps them in stratospheric production value and some big name sci-fi voice talent.Who it’s for: Despite being so new, MoO is bog standard 4X. Not much has changed here since its 1996 predecessor other than the graphics. That does make it a nice starting point for total newbies, but the real draw is hearing John de Lancie lament the war that's brewing between his empire and yours.

Endless Space 2

Endless Space 2 builds on some of the best ideas of its predecessor, this time crafting more unique story content for each of the distinct interstellar empires.Who it’s for: It shouldn’t surprise you at this point in the list that connoisseurs of interactive storytelling should jump for anything that says 'Endless' on it. Endless Space 2 is also arguably a better starting point for newcomers than the first one, as it’s made lots of improvements to your ability to access important, contextual information.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

Civilization VI emerges from its chrysalis to reveal the most transformative and fresh take on the series in its storied history. Also, it has Sean Bean.

Who it’s for: Just about anyone who enjoys turn-based strategy. It presents lots of new challenges and opportunities even for the most weathered series veterans, but also remains among the most inviting 4X games for first-timers.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Update: Firaxis has confirmed that the spelling errors are a mistake. In a brief statement sent to PC Gamer, the developer wrote: 

“We’re aware of a community-reported bug that has a minor impact on AI behavior. We’ve also made sure that everyone knows that I goes before E except after C… or other weird exceptions. Thanks to all who helped bring this to our attention and there will be a fix included in our next update.”

Original story: There's a story going around that sounds too improbable to be true: that Civilization 6's AI leaders have been acting strangely all this time because of five misspellings in a data file. The likelihood that Firaxis wouldn't have noticed such an obvious error for so long seems minuscule. And yet, inside one of Civ 6's loose data files, Leaders.xml, are the following five lines: 

<Row Item="YEILD_PRODUCTION" ListType="DefaultYieldBias" Value="25"/><Row Item="YEILD_SCIENCE" ListType="DefaultYieldBias" Value="10"/><Row Item="YEILD_CULTURE" ListType="DefaultYieldBias" Value="10"/><Row Item="YEILD_GOLD" ListType="DefaultYieldBias" Value="20"/><Row Item="YEILD_FAITH" ListType="DefaultYieldBias" Value="-25"/>

In each line, 'YEILD' is a misspelling of 'YIELD.' That wouldn't matter if it were misspelled everywhere, but 'yield' is written with the correct spelling in every other instance across all of Civ 6's data files.

The misspelling was noticed by Something Awful forum user Straight White Shark (though they say in the thread that they weren't the first to pick up on it), and I've verified that the 'YEILD' lines can be found in a fresh Civ 6 download, though it isn't clear whether the mistake was always there, or if it was introduced in an update.

Testing with and without the typos

Shark and other Civ players believe these table entries are meant to set the AI leaders' default priorities, which are then modified by their various preferences and agendas. The effect should be that, by default, each leader prioritizes production and gold over everything else, and gives the least priority to faith. Popular theory has it that these misspellings are causing the default values to be ignored, explaining why some AI civs seem to put too much energy into religion.

By running two automated 151-turn games using the same Civilizations, each starting in the same spot on the 'true start' Earth map, Shark did find that fixing the misspellings created a noticeable difference in the AI leaders' priorities—they produced less faith overall, and more buildings and science.

I have been able to create reproducible results with the same basic methodology. By using the true start Earth map, I can run identical games using the Autoplay mod and produce identical end-of-game graphs, provided I don't change anything between tests. When I fix the typos, though, the graphs change. For example, Pedro II produces less faith-per-turn at the end of 100 turns when the typos are fixed.

The faith-per-turn graph after 100 double-speed turns without the typos fixed.

The faith-per-turn graph after 100 double-speed turns with the typos fixed. (Note the difference in the Y axis values.)

To confirm that I was definitely making a difference, I set faith to 1,000 and all other yields to 0. When I did, Pedro II's faith-per-turn skyrocketed within 50 turns, and the other civs in my test trended up too. Even Queen Victoria built a Holy Site, which she didn't do in any of my other tests. I tried the same thing with the typos uncorrected, and the graphs reverted back to 'normal,' as if I hadn't changed anything from my first baseline test. With the misspellings in place, the lines don't do anything.

It's possible that the misspellings were introduced in a recent patch, and weren't there all along. It's also possible that Civ 6 is actually behaving as intended despite the misspellings, as different default values might be set elsewhere, making these five lines obsolete. But who would take these lines out of commission with typos, rather than by commenting them out?

I've reached out to 2K to find out if Firaxis is aware of the misspellings, and whether or not AI leaders are truly supposed to deprioritize faith, and just haven't been. 

If you don't want to go editing the xml file yourself, you can download this mod on the Steam Workshop to try playing Civ 6 with the typos corrected. For more data, a few players are testing variations of the typo-corrected values on Reddit.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

With so many famous historical figures to choose from, how does Firaxis decide which characters to include in each installment of Civilization? Ghandi's a given, obviously, but even then the surprisingly nuke-happy pacifist doesn't represent every aspect of India. In a panel at the recent PC Gamer Weekender, Firaxis' senior producer Andrew Frederiksen, and the DLC's lead designer Anton Strenger, explained how they came up with the cast of characters for Civ 6's Rise and Fall expansion.

This time around, they wanted a cast that would fit with Rise and Fall's Dynamic Empire's system, which sees empires rising and, well, falling over distinct historical eras. The team picked figures who would embody this theme, but who would also meet fan expectations, and sometimes surprise them, which sounds like a delicate balance to achieve. They wanted a diverse cast from a variety of historical periods, who would also look rather good standing next to each other in a cast photo.

As Fraser noted in his positive review, Rise and Fall introduces several new or returning civilizations, including the Cree, Scotland, Korea and the Netherlands. Naturally, the inclusion of new civs allowed the team to geek out and research the historical figures who would be the most appropriate figureheads for each civilization.

Frederiksen and Strenger discuss the base game's strengths and weaknesses in the full panel, below, while explaining their reasoning for the changes made for the recent Rise and Fall expansion. Ultimately, they wanted to improve Civ's capacity for emergent storytelling, something that lead to the creation of the Dynamic Empires system.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

It's hard to make a new strategy game that can compete with Civilization—even when that new strategy game is also Civilization. When Civilization 6 released on Steam in October 2016, it peaked at more than 160,000 concurrent players, quite a feat for any new game. But after the excitement of its first month, Civilization 6 has failed to surpass Civilization 5 in terms of regular players, according to Steamcharts. It’s gotten pretty close in recent weeks as expansion hype for Rise and Fall builds, but Civ 5 still holds the edge. Similarly, community members reported that Twitch viewership between the two games tended to favor Civ 5 prior to press and streamers receiving pre-release code for the expansion (though we were not able to independently verify this).

Why is this? Why are 4X fans (at least on Steam) still sticking to the old warhorse rather than moving on to the new hotness? Is it discontent with changes made in the newer iteration? Is it the price difference? Was Civ 5 just that good?

To unravel the mystery, we surveyed Civ players on Twitter, the Civilization subreddit, the CivFanatics forums, the Civilization 5 and 6 communities on Steam, and a handful of Civ-centric or Civ-friendly Discord servers. The results aren't scientific, but the responses give us some insight into 2010's enduringly beloved Civilization. 

Question 1: Which Civ game do you currently play most often? 

As it turns out, the survey results don’t reflect SteamSpy’s numbers right off the bat. Almost 57 percent reported that Civ 6 is already their main jam, with Civ 5 coming in second at a respectable 40.7 percent. Write-in responses mentioned no longer playing Civ, bouncing between multiple games, and at least one respondent who insisted their favorite Civ game was Europa Universalis IV. (I swear I didn’t vote in my own poll.)

A discrepancy between responses in a voluntary survey and actual player numbers isn’t that wild. But we may also be able to infer from this that the players who are very active in the Civ community have already adopted Civ 6 more widely than the general player base. A comment from Reddit user Reutermo seems to endorse this idea."I think that Civ players are a bit different than a lot of other gamers," he writes. "I know some people, especially older ones, who don't really play any other games except for Civilization. They treat the game like solitaire. They don't really need a new version, they already have theirs."

So the difference in player numbers may be made up not by active forum posters and redditors who devour new leader announcements and discuss optimal city layouts. A lot of those still playing older Civs might be someone more like your friend’s dad who doesn’t own anything else on Steam and makes a go of casually conquering the world over morning coffee. Again, we can only speculate—but I’m drawn to this theory, as it can serve as a reminder that the vocal online community for any given game is often not representative of the larger base including casual, solo, and offline players.

Image via Steamcharts

Question 2: When Civ 5 came out, how long did it take to become your "go-to" Civ game? 

Here we can see pretty clearly that Civ 5 had early adopter problems of its own. While SteamSpy data isn’t available going back that far, the most popular answer was "after two expansions," coming in at about 41 percent. 35 percent switched over right away, 15 percent more were sold after Gods & Kings, and just over nine percent said Civ 5 never became their go-to game (either because they stuck with an older iteration like Civ 4, or because Civ 6 was their first—I was silly and didn’t think to separate these two possibilities into their own responses).

Reddit user J-Codo gives some voice to this phenomenon: "Civ V was regularly denounced until the DLCs came out. Give it time, Civ VI is the better game."

And he’s not wrong. Many Civ 4 die-hards criticized changes like only allowing one military unit per tile, and the lack of features like religion in the initial release of Civ 5. In my personal experience, I switched to Civ 5 pretty early on—but it wasn’t until after the second expansion, Brave New World, that it really felt like a complete game.

Question 3: How does Civ 6 currently compare in quality to older Civ games? 

This was the most divisive question, with roughly a quarter of respondents each deeming it somewhat better, about equal, or somewhat worse. Overall, those that said it was somewhat or much better outnumbered those who said it was somewhat or much worse—43.2 percent versus 31.8 percent, respectively. If you add up all those that said it was at least as good as older Civs, we can see that around 68 percent don’t view Civ 6 as a step in the wrong direction when all things are considered.

It may be telling that the most popular answer, by a narrow margin, was "about equal." When you correct for other factors like price, that may tell us something about why many haven’t seen a compelling reason to jump ship at this point.

Question 4: If you are currently still playing Civ 5 or another older Civ as your main Civ game, what factors are most keeping you from switching to Civ 6? 

This question was specifically targeted at those who are not currently playing Civ 6 as their main Civ game. It received 208 responses, while 229 survey-takers skipped it. Respondents were instructed to select all factors that applied to them.

The most popular answer was "Missing features I liked in past Civ games," with over 55 percent of respondents claiming this affected their choice. The second most common gripe was the art style and graphics, with around 44 percent. 

27.5 percent proclaim Civ 6 is already the best in the series. A close second, at 24.7 percent, believe it will take its place at the top after two expansions

The third most common response was the write-in "Other" category, where the most common complaint was about the AI of non-player civs. This was a problem for 30 percent of write-ins and roughly nine percent of those who answered this question altogether. 6.7 percent lamented that Civ 6 was not as moddable, and/or that one of their favorite mods had not carried over from Civ 5 to Civ 6—with Civ 5’s Vox Populi mod being called out by name more than any other.

Around 32 percent criticized the user interface. A handful of others expressed that the price of Civ 6 was currently too high, or that they were waiting until all of the expansions came out to be able to buy them together as a bundle. This is definitely a major factor to consider, as Civ 5 Complete Edition has been available for as little as $12 on sale, whereas I was not able to find the base game for Civ 6 (excluding any DLC) available for less than $30 anywhere other than shady-looking key resellers (though it was recently in January's Humble Monthly Bundle).As Reddit user Portugal_TheDude put it, "I think some of this comparison is just blown out of the water. One game has been around for a lot longer, is cheaper, and has had two dedicated expansions and tons of DLC. [Civ 6] is way further along than [Civ 5] was at this point in its life cycle." Several others agreed that Civ 6 at launch was better than Civ 5 after its first expansion, and if we compared them outside of time, it wasn’t until the second expansion that Civ 5 surpassed the launch version of Civ 6 in quality.

Question 5: When do you think Civ 6 will catch up to or surpass past Civ games for you? 

The most common answer once again supports the idea that our pool of respondents have already embraced Civ 6, with 27.5 percent proclaiming that it’s already the best in the series. A close second, at 24.7 percent, believe it will take its place at the top after two expansions. Meanwhile 16.7 percent trust that Rise and Fall will give it the boost it needs to beat out its older siblings. At least 12.6 percent believe that their grievances couldn’t be addressed with an expansion, but rather fundamental changes to the base game would need to be made.

Of the write-in answers, the most commonly-cited demand was better mod support. Others once again brought up the poor AI, performance optimization, or some combination of the above. One respondent said, "When my friends buy & are willing to play multiplayer." This gives us perhaps a further hint. Even if you’re in a position to buy every brand new strategy game the day it comes out, being a part of a larger group who devotes less of their budget or energy toward having the latest version of things could cause you to hold back until the entire gang is ready to move on.

Question 6: How do you feel about Rise and Fall based on what you've seen so far? It will make Civ 6… 

The resounding majority seems to view Rise and Fall as a step in the right direction. 32.7 percent said it would make Civ 6 much better and 48 percent said somewhat better, for a total of over 80 percent feeling optimistic. Less than two percent felt it would make the game somewhat or much worse overall, and around 11 percent said they hadn’t been following news about the expansion.  

Question 7: Describe the features and changes you'd like to see in an ideal Civ 6 expansion. If Civ 6 is not currently your main Civ, focus on what would make it surpass other Civ games for you. 

This question received 228 answers, and the most commonly cited feature by far was better AI, referenced by 33.7 percent of the comments. Not far behind was the return of the UN/World Congress and Diplomatic Victory, which was mentioned in some form by 27.6 percent of respondents, and a similar number said they wanted more diplomatic options in general. Roughly 21 percent said they would like to see changes to armies, with a focus one tweaking or adding to the current military tech tree and/or overhauling movement rules.

Around 11 percent expressed a desire for more new civs or more alternate leaders for existing civs, and another 11 percent expressed dissatisfaction with the current Religion and Theological Combat mechanics—some calling for a total overhaul of the system. Nine percent brought up better mod support once again. 7.7 percent were unhappy with how districts currently work, and another 6.7 percent didn’t like the current government and policies system.

At least a handful of respondents felt Firaxis hadn’t been daring enough. "I'd like them to really be bold," one commented. "They said since Civ 6 included most of the systems from [Civ] 5 in its base game so they could expand into new territory. I like Rise and Fall but I feel it's playing it too safe. Not ambitious enough for my tastes."

Putting it All Together 

Much like the age-old questions, "Why did the Roman Empire fall?" and "Why wouldn’t Heather go to prom with me?", this is probably a quandary without a single, simple answer. At least a sizeable portion of the active, online community has already switched happily to Civ 6. Of those who haven’t, factors from price to features to aesthetics all play roles of varying importance to various people. For some, it has nothing to do with how good Civ 6 is. They’re simply content with Civ 5. And I can’t blame them—Civ 5 remains one of my favorite strategy games of all time, while I’m not sure Civ 6 would make that list just yet. The march of expansions and Steam sales will tell how long it takes for Sid’s latest flagship to overtake its predecessors. Until then, I will leave you with the definitive, final word from the immortal Ice T: 

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

The upcoming Civilization 6: Rise and Fall expansion will add the Zulu to the roster of nations, led by Shaka, the illegitimate son of a Zulu chief who would suffer exile and humiliation before finding his place as a warrior in the ibutho, eventually rising to become one of the most influential rulers of the Zulu Kingdom. 

The unique Zulu unit is the Impi, a light, highly-disciplined force that is less expensive than other combat units of the same era, has an increased flanking bonus, and earns experience at an increased rate. The unique district is the Ikanda, a self-sufficient, fortified homestead that provides additional housing and, when prerequisites are met, enables Corps and Armies to be built outright.

Shaka's unique ability, Amabutho, reflects his commitment to the constant, harsh training of his troops, and enables him to form Corps and Armies earlier than other leaders, with additional Base Combat Strength. The Zulu civ ability is Isibongo, awarding bonus loyalty to conquered cities when garrisoned and automatically upgrading units that conquer them into a Corps or Army when the proper Civics prerequisites are unlocked. 

Shaka was a deft politician and an outstanding military commander whose military innovations helped make the Zulu one of the most powerful and feared nations in southern Africa. But his rule was far from peaceful, and the death of his mother in 1827 led to a period of mandated grieving that resulted in the deaths of as many of 7,000 of his people. He was ultimately assassinated by his two half-brothers. Try to do better. 

Civilization 6: Rise and Fall comes out on February 8. We spent 150 turns with it earlier this month.   

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

We're delighted to welcome veteran strategy developer Firaxis to the PC Gamer Weekender at the London Olympia this February. Under the creative direction of developer legend Sid Meier, the studio is responsible for classics like Civilization, XCOM and XCOM 2, and they'll be talking to visitors directly from one of our stages on the show floor at our live event.

In a session titled Tales from the Helm of Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, lead designer Anton Strenger and lead producer Andrew Frederiksen will take you behind the scenes on the creation of this major new expansion for Civ VI, detailing the creative challenges and opportunities they faced during development. It's your chance to get some game development insight, and learn how some of the finest strategy designers in the business tick.

For more on Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, you can follow the developers on Twiiter, Facebook, and the official Civilization website.

In addition to Firaxis there will be many more stage talks and hands-on sessions with the best new and upcoming PC games at the PC Gamer Weekender. It's happening on February 17-18 at the Olympia, London, in the UK. For more details see the site, and follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news. Tickets are available now from £12.99, though you can knock 20 percent off that price with the code PC-GAMER20.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Off the back of its Poundmaker-led Cree and Tamar-fronted Georgia, Civilization 6 now welcomes Scotland the Brave. Led to battle by Robert the Bruce, the tartan army will debut in the game's incoming Rise and Fall expansion.

Cue hordes of kilt-wearing, ginger-headed, haggis hunting soldiers—whose 'Highlander' Unique Unit replaces Civ 6's Ranger as a recon ensemble, that gains strengths from fighting on hills and within forest terrain. 

Moreover, Scotland's Unique Leader Ability is 'Bannockburn', in reference to the famous independence-fighting battle; whereas its Unique Structure is 'Golf Courses', which provide additional Gold, Amenity and Culture. 

The civ's Unique Ability is 'Scottish Enlightenment'—whereby happy cities are granted surplus Science and Production. They also generate a Great Scientist point per campus, and a Great Engineer point per Industrial Zone. 

Other traits that failed to make the cut include 'Being Inherently Tight With Money', and 'Whinging About The Snow, Despite The Fact It Happens At This Time Of Year Every Year'. Writing as a Scotsman, these are my own best qualities too. 

Despite the film's historical inaccuracies, I'd quite like to have seen a William Wallace-in-Braveheart-led Scotland feature here. Perhaps Civilization 7 might consider Nicola Sturgeon, Billy Connolly, or Glasgow Airport terrorist-kicking John Smeaton at its helm.   

More information on Rise and Fall's Scottish contingent can be found over here. The expansion is due on February 8, 2018.  

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

One of Sid Meier’s most frequently quoted musings on game design is that games should be a series of interesting decisions. Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, the latest game’s first big expansion, feels like a reinforcement of that philosophy, restructuring each era—from ancient to modern—around big choices and important events in the history of a civilisation. 

It's a real shake-up of a system that's normally tied to technology, with each civ independently moving from era to era depending on the pace of their research. Now every civ reaches new ages at exactly the same time, but there’s still a competitive aspect. During each era, civs get points for historic moments, like recruiting unique units or founding a new religion, and at the end of an era these points determine whether the next one is going to be a normal, Golden or Dark Age. These moments can also be viewed in an illustrated timeline of the civ that shows some flavour text and the total number of points they added to the era score.

So when you bid farewell to the ancient era and slide into the classical period, you’re not simply getting a notification that you’ve moved on and some new techs to research. Depending on your achievements in the first era, you’ll be able to pick a number of ‘Dedications’ that net you major buffs for the entirety of the next era. As the Cree, for instance, I decided that I desperately needed more builders so I could construct a Mekewap, the Cree’s unique building that adds extra production and housing to a tile. I selected the Dedication that allowed me to spend faith points on civilian units as well as religious ones, giving me another route to recruit some diligent builders.

Despite getting a Golden Age at the first opportunity, my Cree nation didn’t fare as well when it entered the medieval era. Some problems with barbarians and a couple of lost wonder races left the civ’s notable moments somewhat diminished, ushering in a Dark Age, a period of turmoil.

It s possible to spread loyalty to your empire among other civs, seducing their citizens to your side and increasing the chances of the city defecting.

The biggest problem introduced by Dark Ages is the deterioration of loyalty. Every city now has a loyalty meter, reflecting how happy its citizens are with being part of the empire. Low loyalty can lead to lower yields and thus slow growth and production in the suffering city; worse, it can ultimately cause revolts, with the city joining another empire or simply declaring its independence. 

Loyalty can also be exploited, however. It’s possible to spread loyalty to your empire among other civs, seducing their citizens to your side and increasing the chances of the city defecting. It's a lot like culture flipping from Civilization IV, and to a lesser extent V, where a unhappy cities could revolt and join the civ with the most culture. In Rise and Fall, cities automatically exert loyalty pressure on nearby cities, so even when you’re not focused on it, your propaganda machine is still ticking away.

Dark Ages aren’t all bad. Nobody wants disloyal citizens, but there are some advantages to slumming it. Unique policies can be activated, for example, that give powerful bonuses but with high costs. Choose the Inquisition policy and you’ll beef up your religious units but at the cost of science. When being good at chemistry can get your burned at the stake, you’d probably pick a different career too. If the costs seem too great, you can ignore these policies entirely, but they’re a great way to keep up with the other civs if you’re willing to specialise.

It might even end up being worth dealing with a Dark Age just so you can overcome it. If you get enough points to make the next era a Golden Age then you’ll enter a souped-up version known as a Heroic Age. There are consequences and new challenges, but hitting a Dark Age isn’t a failure. And if you’ve assigned some governors to your cities, you might barely even notice any disloyalty. 

A governor, in a 4X game, is typically just another name for automation. You can set their focus and then just forget about them. Rise and Fall’s governors have definitely grown out of that mechanic, but now they’re characters with progression trees and predilections. Not only can they foster loyalty amongst the citizenry, they can evolve into powerful tools that are able to transform cities into capitals of culture,  industrial powerhouses, and stalwart citadels.  

Deciding to take advantage of the Cree’s handy trading abilities (more gold and food with every trade route, more trade route capacity, and a free trader when pottery has been researched), my first governor was Reyna, ‘The Financier’. Not surprisingly, money is her sphere of influence, and hiring her also made it easier to buy tiles and expand faster. With her influence and my trade routes, cashflow wasn’t an issue. 

By the time I hit turn 150, the end of the preview build, I’d managed to hire three governors and promote them all. When you are able to hire a new governor, you can also choose to promote an existing one instead. You level them up by picking and unlocking new abilities, just like you would a combat unit. There are seven governors in total with six abilities each.

For my 150 turns I decided to take a friendly, diplomatic approach, knowing that the loyalty system gives my opponents new ways to screw me over and steal cities. Alliances have been given a makeover in Rise and Fall. Civilization VI unstacked cities, and now it’s unstacking diplomacy. Instead of just becoming buds with the civ of your choosing, you need to pick a specialised alliance connected to each of the game’s pillars: cultural, research, military, religious and economic. Within these specialised alliances are different tiers that represent how close you are to being total BFFs. You progress through tiers by earning alliance points. These are generated every turn an alliance is maintained, and there are ways to increase the yield—by sending traders to your ally's city, for example.

The result isn’t just that diplomacy feels more varied, it’s now more proactive. Since you can only have one of each specialised alliance on the go at the same time, you need to make sure you’re picking the right civ for the specialisation. Who wants a military alliance with a chill pacifist who prefers missionaries over warriors? It’s worth finding out more about your potential pal, then, before you start pursuing them. 

Lamentably, the final new addition to the series, international emergencies, didn’t appear in my first 150 turns. Emergencies are big crises that can be solved by civs working together. It might be that a city state has been taken over by a civ, or maybe someone naughty is playing with nuclear weapons. Emergencies have objectives that must be completed before rewards are doled out and if those objectives aren’t reached then the civ that the emergency is targeting gets rewarded instead. Firaxis warns that it might not be worth the risk if the other civ’s reward is too great.

Rise and Fall makes a lot of broad changes that fatten up existing systems with more interesting decisions and consequences, and in practice it feels more cohesive than the list of features suggests. But with a game as large as Civilization VI, 150 turns is just the tip of the iceberg, we'll have to wait and see how Rise and Fall's multitude of changes affects the entirety of a campaign when the expansion comes on on February 8. 

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.

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