The Medicis are going to the moon!
The Medicis are going to the moon!

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, and I’m full of excuses. My current hot #1 all-inclusive excuse for neglecting friends, family, and pressing medical concerns is last month’s launch of Civilization VI.

If you’re a regular, you know I’m a fan of the series*, and I wrote it up in our pre-Nerdhole days as well. Hell, I’ve been playing since at least 2004 when I picked up a used copy of Civ III. The series scratches quite a few itches–alternate history, resource allocation, exploration, and absurd situations like archers destroying (severely wounded) tanks. “One more turn” is to me and my fellow Civ players what “Braaaaains” is to zombies of a certain era.

And so here we are. Civ VI has been out for not quite a month and I have been playing the hell out of it despite, as usual, not quite having the hardware capacity to keep it running smoothly. Endgame turns run loooong, especially if I’ve got more than a couple of opponents left in the game. But I persevere, and I expect to upgrade my hardware soon BUT NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THIS GAME. GOD!

I’ve seen this version called an incremental advance, but some of those increments are, well, game-changing. One innovation that is a much bigger deal than I had thought is the notion of districts. Each city now has to build out districts to contain particular kinds of buildings, and you can only have so many per city. That means you need to choose just a few out of many options for each city–that holy site may keep you from building a factory when you need it later in the game, or that hot new entertainment complex may hold back your scientific achievement. In older versions, you’d just pack each city with as many buildings as you could afford to maintain. This forces strategic choice on almost every turn.

Another change is in workers (now called “builders”) and improvements. Each unit now comes loaded with a few charges it can use to build farms, drain marshes, or carve out quarries–and they can’t be automated. Many of us relied on AI to take care of building infrastructure–just like real life–and I was sure I would hate having to micromanage that aspect of the game. As usual, I was wrong. The designers have changed the game on many levels to make tile improvements both more important and less time-consuming. Roads get built automatically via trade routes, and the number of strategic resources needed has dropped significantly. Now you just pop out a builder when you need to get a new city buzzing quickly or when you learn how to handle a new resource like coal or aluminum. See above re: forcing strategic choice.

There are other big changes, though some of them hearken back to the Civilization Revolution offshoot series: Units can be combined into stronger armies, but they’re limited and don’t create the stacked-unit problem endemic to pre-Civ V versions of the game. The interface is a little cartoonier, diplomacy is deeper and weirder, and the victory conditions have changed considerably–and now include a religious victory.

Stop! It’s caveat time! Some concepts have sent me scrambling for Google when the help system failed me–but I likely just clicked past those parts of the tutorial in my eagerness to get to the real game. Your first few games will be much more satisfying if you keep your phone handy to learn why the world looks so different to settlers and how spreading religion works in detail–and so much more. Maybe in-game help systems are vestigial now? It’s a small gripe–go forth and civilize!

Hey, our pals over at A Podcast for All Intents and Purposes** chatted about Civ VI not too long ago–check it out.

* Beyond Earth did not hold up well, in my opinion. An interesting exercise for sure, but gimme my Gandhi back.

** Note to editorial staff: Please set up a hotkey to autocomplete this.