29 December 2013

#2LR Game Review - Civilization V, "Brave New World" Expansion -- with bonus partial walkthrough!

Review/FAQ/Walkthrough for Civilization V - Brave New World

Part 1/?

I know, I usually write reviews in this space.  And yes, there's already a place to upload walkthrough and FAQ information online.  I know that because I've already posted one, quite a few years back now, for Railroad Tycoon III, which also helpfully comes up in Google search if you look for "Railroad Tycoon 3 Walkthrough".  I do still get the occasional feedback from it, and I'm glad that I was able to help more than a few people in understanding the game and also to get through the scenarios/campaign missions.

Additionally, I would not be surprised if someone already has posted something akin to this; I'm sure that there are more than a few members of the public able and willing to write this up, and I also know that I am not one of the best Civilization V players out there.  However, I have won games at level five (out of eight), and I'm willing to at least post some of the things that have brought me success in this game.

So... the review! "Brave New World" is the second add-on to Civilization V.  It introduces new civilizations to the mix and also reconfigures one of the major aspects of the game, culture (and culture victories).  Previously, culture was by itself, representing all of the beautiful buildings that a civ could create.  Gain enough culture, win bonuses.  Gain even more culture than everyone else (quite a BIT of it), and if you'd gained 30 total culture bonuses, you'd be eligible to build a "utopia project" (if I remember correctly) which is an automatic game winner.  Chained to this modification is that the bonuses and headings are reconfigured, and there are "governments" that work through the culture menu that allow the world to split into factions somewhat like the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century.

Now, culture has been split into culture and tourism.  Tourism is gained via either building wonders or earning points toward "great people", split between musicians, artists, and writers.  Get a great writer and you can create a great work of art, which increases your "tourism".  Or, alternately, build the Eiffel Tower and increase your tourism.  Bonuses come along the way to a Civ's tourism.  If one Civ's tourism number goes above another Civ's culture number, then the first Civ is said to be "dominant" (think US/Canada... sorry, northern brethren, though your culture is kinda cool).  If one Civ manages so much tourism as to dominate all other Civs, the game ends with the first Civ winning.

The other major addition to the game is caravans.  Previously, money appeared on the map on river squares and on ocean squares.  Not anymore!  Caravans now take the place of this money trade.  And, quite like historical life, caravans can be used to boost tourism, to spread science, and to spread religion.  They are also the first to go when one civilization declares war on another.  New buildings and existing buildings add bonuses to caravans.

The last update is now there is a "World Congress".  This is much like the modern United Nations.  For those more historically inclined, it seems to work far more similarly to the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after Napoleon's defeat.  Two nations can advance worldwide proposals, such as increasing either scientist or artist generation, or increasing culture, or proposing a "world's fair", and the group of currently active civilizations can vote on it.  There's more to come for this, I sincerely hope, because the proposals are so very limited.  For instance, you can only raise culture instead of lower it... you could also have a "scramble for Africa" setup where either settlers can come with happy bonuses for making new cities/connecting new luxuries, or nations can get bonuses for attacking the single-city nations that proliferate on the map.  At any rate, it's a new wrinkle in the game, though it could have been so much greater.

Taken as a whole... it definitely increases the complexity of the game, and that's not actually a bad thing.  There are additional nuggets hidden within, such as culture playing a very large role in government types that may or may not work.  I quite enjoy the changes that the developers have made, though I certainly hope that they attempt to take some of the changes a bit further to support other aspects of the game that were ignored.

Of course, for a fan of the genre and of the specific game, I would heartily endorse the upgrade and recommend it.  If you're not a Civ fan, or if you're not crazy about where they've taken the game, then feel free to skip to any of the other reviews/articles posted here.  Below this, I will go into some of the strategies that I've been able to make work for me when playing Brave New World on the higher difficulties.

1. Go in with a plan... before the game even starts

Sounds simple, right?  I mean, who doesn't?  However, this means to figure out the basic path that your game will take based on the civilization that you chose (or have had picked for you via random).  I've noticed many times over that the games I have the worst time with are the ones where I just kind of winged it.  When I prepare, I check to see which units/buildings are available, when they're available, and what aspect of the game (e.g. money, military, culture, etc.) the civ's bonus will take.  One recent for-instance was when I played as the Mongols, who have a mounted bowman with ranged attack as their special unit, replacing the knight.  This means that I have a pretty clear path to take out any enemy city or even enemy civ around the middle of the game when Chivalry is researched, so I need to plan to put in place the basis of this plan... have the horses as a resource ready, or better yet have the horsemen already built for a quick cash upgrade.  (FYI, I was taking out cities all the way into the 1900s with those mounted bowmen... when you get them upgraded all the way with +1 range and +1 attack, a group of six can hit for a combined total of 120 points on even a mature city and still stay out of reach... food for thought.)

2. Use the first few turns of the game to refine or rethink your plan.

Who is around you?  Are you in a crossroads or off in a corner?  Hemmed in by city-states or by the ocean? Within ten turns or so, you'll know the type of lands you're starting on (e.g. islands, continents, or a pangaea), but you'll likely have an idea of some of the other civs.  If you are playing against religious civilizations, they might have already formed their pantheons within ten turns, fifteen at the outside.  In the beginning of the game, you're most likely already waiting on either the monument to be built, or a scout (or two), so there's not a whole lot of variance... but then you will be able to figure out if you can start out as a builder, or if you need to get defending.  If you're surrounded on all sides, getting defense is priority number one, to make sure that you can not only keep the other civs out but to be able to exert force if necessary.  If no one is immediately apparent, you could either squeeze out that extra settler or begin that wonder a bit earlier to reap the benefits of the earlier start.

Knowing what the land will give you can tell you whether or not a tall (few cities with lots of population) or wide (lotsa cities with luxuries, small population) will be the way to go.  Tall civs have the ability to build quicker, but don't forget that defense... you can't trade land for time going tall.  Of course, make sure your culture bonuses match your plan too.  The for-instance is the difference between the Tradition and Freedom paths... Freedom gives you +1 per city connected to the capital, while Tradition gives you both a +1 for each 10 population plus a +1 for each two population in the capital.  So an empire with a capital city of 24 and two additional cities of 12 would have +3 happy via Freedom, but a +12 and a +2 from the capital as well as +2 from each of the two other cities, for a total of +14 happiness.

By the way, a surefire way to tell that you're going to get invaded (especially at the higher levels) is when you see a computer civ that only has one city and a marker in the diplomacy screen saying "They covet your lands!"  That means that they've been building pretty much nothing but military since the start, and they're coming after YOU, especially if you happen to have the last-ranked military in the world.  Sniff these threats out as soon as possible.

3. Losing production is NOT an option.

When building new cities, do not let the computer dictate your food/production ratio.  Do it yourself.... or at the very least, set the flag to "production".  You can make up the food via the granary if you care to, but most likely it will be that much more important to get either defense (an archer) or culture (a monument) to consolidate your new gain.

There's a side-effect to not letting the game grow your cities too much as well.  Production drops by percentage points in each city with the "Brave New World" rules when you go underneath zero happiness.  It's better to get the production and to make your few citizens work smarter, not to grow out the city and make the whole rest of your kingdom suffer.

The other side-effect is that there are wonders that are limited by either culture (e.g. Forbidden Palace, Porcelain Tower) or by terrain (e.g. Colossus, Machu Picchu) that a small city could absolutely build if given the time.  A food focus early could defeat this purpose though, especially if you're also trying to build the national wonders (e.g. National College, Heroic Epic) because food-focused cities rarely build all the buildings you need quickly enough to make the national wonders viable.  And also FYI, the Colossus wonder is really far more useful now than it was before.

Oh, and that losing production is not an option?  That goes for wonders too.  Don't go after wonders if your empire can't support it.  Trusting one archer to defend against a horde of Aztec Jaguars while you finish Stonehenge in a desperate attempt to make up for lost religion is pretty much a white flag of surrender.  The best case scenario is that you're defending your cities with a lone archer while getting +5 religion per turn.  The worst case scenario is that you're defending your cities with a lone archer while not getting +5 in religion while at the same time earning a pittance for not finishing your Stonehenge in time.

Even in a normal situation, losing the production is not ever really a good thing.  That's not to say to never build wonders, but to make sure that your empire can support the possible lost production.  The replacement gold is really crummy when you don't make it, and you could have been building a military that could have taken the wonder from the city that builds it anyway.

In the upper levels, when you get past Level Four (Prince) and higher, the computer goes from being even in production to needing less production to finish buildings/projects.  All you have to do to verify this fact is to get to the midgame on a King-level game and view a city that you've sent a spy to.  The city will only need 90% of the production you need in order to finish everything, including wonders.  If you lose 300 production to a failed Alhambra, remember that it could have meant a trebuchet plus two pikemen to take the city that ended up building it... and the gold that you get for the consolation prize is definitely not enough to buy all three units.

Extra hint... the secret to military in the game is that military is how you steal someone else's production.  Not only in taking over cities that have built buildings/Wonders, but even in tying up an enemy Civ's time and resources into building an army rather than building improvements.  An army costs money and does not come with an immediate boost in any resource, unlike a building or a Wonder.

4. Research what you need (and can use) immediately.

This is in reference to two contexts.   In the beginning of the game, there's just so much that needs doing, such as getting the technologies to develop your resources, building certain units (archers/composite bowmen/horsemen), exploration (trireme), and Wonders that you need to get set up.  It may sound trite, but it's pointless to work on a technology that you really don't need.

However, this also has reference to the middle of the game too.  The computer usually goes into specific tracks, especially to pick up currency (to gain Petra) and to get to Civil Service (to gain both pikemen and Chichen Itza).  You can use this to beat the computer either to the Education track, setting up your research for the long haul, or to pick up the lower end of the spectrum (Engineering/Metal Working) so that you can boost your shields and your defenses.  Another way to go is one of the new bonuses in the Commerce track, which is that Landsknechts are available as the second Commerce bonus.  Of course, your defenses will be more than set if you pick up Crossbowmen, and getting all your cities in shape to start setting up a military to deal with those Civs that go in a different direction would be helpful.

Just remember that if you follow the other Civs into the same track, at higher levels they'll be likely to get the upgraded soldiers as well as the wonders first unless you have a solid plan (e.g. a Great Engineer to help finish Wonders, or a ton of catapults/spearmen just waiting for the Civil Service tech to become a pikemen/catapult invasion force).  Whenever a new tech comes up, have either a plan for what you're going to do with the immediate tech or open up the tech screen to figure out a tech that's two or three downstream that you can really make hay out of.

5. Culture

Gotta have it even in the beginning, or else the end game will absolutely suck the bag.  There's two ways to go about it... either build it yourself or take it from someone else.  Just remember a couple of principles here.

--If someone's building culture nearby you and building it quickly, they may have a weak defense.  Getting them to stop building culture could be as easy as declaring war and putting a few troops in position to threaten... as above, forcing them to build military will be tantamount to wasting their production, especially if you defend via ranged units (archers, catapults) with the occasional horseman to keep their own ranged units honest.

--If someone's building it far away, you're going to have to figure out a way to get others around that Civ to declare wars against them, or to build culture buildings as a defense.  And whatever you do, only engage in open border treaties with them when absolutely necessary, and trade with them (via caravan) only when absolutely necessary.  Those two things will help their tourism bonus overwhelm your culture bonus... but their tourism bonus will definitely go down far quicker if they're defeated.  Also remember, one of the culture tracks will raise the tourism bonus for shared trade routes/open borders/shared religion.  Allowing them to buy your extra luxuries can also lead to them getting more happiness and therefore additional culture as well, so be careful when dealing with the culture hog!

This will likely be a three-part series, as I am planning to cover the middle game next and wrap up with the end game.  Good luck!