Finally, we made it to roughly the last stop on the Civilization train for the time being. After a total of seven separate games (and reviews), from Civilization 1 through 5 as well as Colonization and Alpha Centauri, we come to the end of the path as of 2013. The "Gods and Kings" expansion came out in 2012, and I managed to snag a copy of the game at the end of December. I've played it through a few times, and I do have a few conclusions about the additions that the programmers made to the game.
Firstly, make no mistake... there's more complexity to the Gods and Kings (hereafter G&K) expansion. The first point is that the naval battles are completely redesigned. Previously, all boats were effectively siege weapons. This time around, the boats were classed into two differing categories, siege and melee. The melee boats actually have to go up to another boat in order to attack, while the siege boats can still target away to their hearts' content.
The positives about this is that there is now a "pirate" promotion for the melee boats, which also will allow them to go up to ports and take a portion of gold based on the strength of attack. You can also get them naval promotions (melee promotions), while the siege boats have the typical "land/sea" promotion track as before. Additionally, there is now such a thing as a Great Admiral, which will add a percentage to attack just like the Great General does on land. Of course, the negative is that your caravels are not as rangy and can't attack as far.
They also revised the land siege units. Previously, archers would end up merging into the melee track by going "crossbowman - rifleman", and the only siege units afterward would be cannons and artillery. Now there are such things as gatling guns and machine guns, which carry a shorter range of one square but make up for it with equal attack and defense numbers, allowing you to go up to another unit without worrying that they would end up toast as a result.
Of course, the biggest change is that religion is back on, boys! You can earn faith points via buildings like the shrine, temple, and the revised Stonehenge. You can earn faith points via small city civs -- Vatican City, Jerusalem, and Wittenburg will add to your faith points just like the cultural cities added to your culture. And now, you can even earn them via natural wonders, like Ayers Rock or Mount Sinai. Once you get a bit of religion, you can choose a small bonus initially. After the small initial bonus, if you keep earning religion points, you may have the opportunity to create a new religion which affords additional bonuses, and then following that you can add a last set of bonuses to your religion. The "Faith" path also covers bonuses to religion, and the Great Prophet will act as either your religion starter, a shrine builder, or a super missionary.
To be truthful, there are a few annoying aspects of the religion track, especially when the computer sends in the missionaries to you... you have to either budget enough faith aside to counteract them, or literally go to war to expel them. You can also try to go to war to extinguish religion, though sometimes that doesn't work completely. But the designers did a very good job implementing something that will not win a game all by itself but will give you another aspect to a winning plan as well as a casus belli for conflict.
The G&K expansion will take some getting used to; as before, caravels are NOT the ships they used to be and getting used to the new naval conflict setup is not the easiest. However, I really believe that the complexity the programmers added to the game make the game even more enjoyable than it was, which is the really important part. The only major downside is that the AI is still pretty limited, though I suppose that is understandable for the challenges that the programmers rolled out in trying to climb the complexity tree.
As stated before, this is not the last expansion that the programmers will complete. As time and money permit, I will place a review for the new expansion once I receive it.