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Bringing back the Height Advantage [Ideas for Tall play]

Discussion in 'Civ - Ideas & Suggestions' started by Sostratus, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. Sostratus

    Sostratus Chieftain

    Jul 31, 2017
    Minnesota, USA
    After 4 years under Civ5 BNW's "4 city tradition" thumb, it seems Firaxis has pushed the pendulum too far back, making wide the only way to compete in Civ6. Even though I love wide, expansive empires, I sympathize with those who would like taller play to be at least a little less completely outgunned by wide. I think it is a worthy topic, since besides helping alternate strategies, this could create a strategic choice being growing your core vs your frontier in the midgame.

    Now, there's a few big reasons why wide is so good in 6:
    • Removal of per-city penalties
    • Districts and buildings give +X yields, not modifiers
    • Trade Routes are per city (and much stronger)
    • City State 3/6 Envoy bonuses are per district
    Civ6 is all about production: producing districts for your VC, settlers, builders, military units, and so on. The end result of the above points is that it's almost always better to invest production in getting more cities, which bring districts, land, etc.
    Therefore, I think the pathway to making Tall viable (without hammering wide into the ground) is to make the decision of where to allocate production a competitive choice: between settling new cities vs improving what you have.

    How can that be done? First, some potential tweaks. Then, perhaps a little red meat.
    -One avenue is to make the district buildings not quite so flat yield. To borrow from myself in another thread, here was an idea for the campus buildings:
    • Library can stay at +2 (cut the Ancient era some slack!)
    • University could be extra X% science from population (to make them viable only for the big cities. Could see Unis as more of an abstract, improving the general knowledge of the populace type deal)
    • Research lab could give +Y science to each specialized district in the city. (To really make them attractive in your largest cities, most developed cities. Labs are specialized places; colocation with other sectors is a boon!)
    The theatre square could have some similar reworks, perhaps having stronger synergies with wonders in the city or something. In the same vein, we could change some of the CS envoy benefits. Perhaps the 3 envoy perk is sum lump sum towards your total rather than to the districts.

    -We could adjust the populations at which districts unlock. Currently, the first few are unlocked at 1,4,7,10.
    Four citizens is trivial to get, requires only one amenity, and lets you get two districts. That's all the gold from a CH, a trade route, and a victory district for the low low price of having zoo coverage. But I digress; spreading these unlocks out would help.

    -Shifting gold from CH to international trade routes. When i have a wide empire, you darn well better bet I'm putting a CH in every city I can. The buildings alone (with Free Market policy) 30 gold, plus the whatever city states are giving you (8 per commercial CS. It adds up quick.) This makes large empires really overpower the little guys, because they swim in cash. There's just no way to specialize and compete. The summer patch buffs to plantations help a little- but if you want gold, you need CH's.

    But no one likes just nerfing things all the time, so let me toss out some constructive ideas.

    -City center buildings
    Despite being the city center, it's in really bad shape right now. There are some 4 non-wall buildings available- monument, granary, sewer, and watermill. This is a big opportunity. The big limitation on tall is usually housing, rather than just food. Buildings like the Hospital and medical lab could make a return- but they might come too late in the game. This would be a good place to drop a couple extra midgame structures. We have a castles tech; perhaps we could throw in a Castle that a city could build, boosting its defense a little and adding some housing. A caravansery to buff trade routes to and from. Maybe an actual growth building, too. (While not necessarily a tall specific thing, it would be nice to see the Civ5 stable, forge, stoneworks, mint, etc make a comeback.) But if we want tall cities in particular to get some boosts, we can focus on their traditional differentiating factors: specialists and +% modifiers.

    -specialist citizens
    Right now, specialists are really hurting. They barely provide yield. I would like to think that a smaller city with an industrial zone would be a bit behind the efforts of a bustling metropolis devoting 3 citizens to it. Some ideas here include making each level of building improve specialist yield as well. Perhaps +1 from each. So a built out district's citizens will give 5 yields. That's huge for a city that can harness it (and gives us something to do with all these citizens!)

    -National Wonders
    Speaking of percent modifiers, these bad boys have been conspicuously absent. Ruhr valley kind of hits exactly what an ironworks could be, but it's a world wonder. NWs are perfect for making tall cities relevant- the ol' NC rush was a cornerstone of the tall strats in Civ5. As for what this would look like, I'm envisioning a large structure place right in the center of the district. Most of them have a gap in the middle when fully built out; we could always build over the center+required building anyways. Make them stand out, a bit like wonders (maybe not THAT big.)
    Ideas on requirements include having the specialty district+select buildings, and perhaps building a national wonder counting as a district slot. As for benefits, bring back the +4, +50% type bonuses. These serve as force multipliers that wide empires will have a harder time taking advantage of.

    -Policy cards
    A lot of the above ideas can be taken further with policies. Have you ever noticed that of all the economic cards, they are all wide save the first one you get: God-King? Part of what made tradition so good in Civ5 was that it had some very powerful policies.
    We could see more things targeted at large cities. As for what constitutes large at each stage of the game, we have some population and development milestones already in the game. Various civics get boosts from having a city of pop X, which rises over time. We could benchmark policies to that. Or the progression of insulae/medina/liberalism/new deal that is tracked to number of districts built. A card that gives an extra trade route to cities over size 15, or grants +25% of everything to your capital, or a 10% discount in building districts for each district already completed in the city, would be great flavour and help out in building a megalopolis.
    For some of the ideas I threw out, we could boost specialists, bring back "universal healthcare" to add a little flavor to national wonders (+1 Amenity, +2 housing?), and even add in a little card to allow luxury amenities be able to stack on cities. So two cities could draw +2 each instead of wasting them.

    How would you like to see them bring a little balance between tall and wide?
    Amrunril likes this.
  2. Amrunril

    Amrunril Chieftain

    Feb 7, 2015
    I'd probably start by improving specialists, making them generate great person points and adding some wonders/policies that enhance them. They've been a really interesting strategic component in past games, and its disappointing to see them relegated to more or less the same status as city projects in Civ V. I'd also reduce the raw science and culture from population. This seems counterintuitive if the goal is to reward high populations, but it's much easier to get high total population if they're spread across many cities, and this would ensure that a civ that invests in settlers or in catapults and battering rams instead of in campuses and libraries really does fall behind in science, at least in the short/medium term.

    More controversially (and with less certainty on my part), I do wonder whether per-city penalties should return. A city with 10 well developed cities should be better at science than one with 5, but I'm not sure I'm convinced it should be twice as good.
  3. Phrozen

    Phrozen Chieftain

    May 7, 2012
    The thing is district should be industrial era or later things with the exception of holy sites as monastic orders of many faiths tended to build monasteries away from population centers and of course the harbor district. It wasn't until quick mass transportation ie railroads, trolleys, and automobiles that cities began to spread and specialized areas were made for industrial, entertainment, or commerce. Everything before that had to be in walking distance from where people lived as well that was the main mode of transportation.
    zagosya likes this.
  4. megabearsfan

    megabearsfan Chieftain

    Jan 17, 2006
    Las Vegas, NV
    A lot of the OP's suggestions seem like they would benefit tall empires and wide empires equally well. If we put in a bunch stuff that benefits tall cities, but which doesn't require any trade-offs with regard to how many cities you can build, or limitations to the productivity or efficiency of smaller cities, then we end up with a situation in which a civ can have very powerful tall cities, but still no reason to not just keep building more cities. And so the power balance still favors wide empires by a large margin.

    I posted some ideas in a similar thread:

    ... Though, admittedly, very few of my own ideas are things that wouldn't also benefit wide empires that have large core cities.

    Another idea that I've pitched in the past could possibly provide a solution to this issue. In the past, I've proposed some kind of demographics and public opinion system, in which cities or citizens have desires that the leader must meet in order to keep that city / citizen happy and healthy. I'm imagining a system in which individual citizens can offer "quests" (similar to "we love the king" demands in Civ V, or city state quests). Fulfilling that quest makes the citizen happier and more productive. Failure to fulfill the quest within a certain time period (or meeting some kind of explicit "fail" condition) would make the citizen unhappy and could lead to revolt. This could introduce a system in which very sprawling empires are simply harder to manage because there are more conflicting demands from your cities/citizens. This would provide a dynamic, systemic check on empire growth that isn't dependent on penalizing the civ for hitting some arbitrary threshold of cities or population. How effective the mechanic is would depend on how well it's presented to the player, and on the types and variety of "quests" that are offered.

    Simple quest ideas could be things like "acquire [X] resource", or "build [X] infrastructure", or "build [X] unit". Other quest possibilities could include:
    -enacting or maintaining certain policies,
    -adopting or maintaining a certain government,
    -founding or spreading a religion,
    -enacting an inquisition,
    -lowering/raising taxes (if taxation becomes a mechanic),
    -making war/peace with another civ,
    -sending trade routes to another civ,
    -settling near a natural wonder,
    -not having barbarians approach within [X] distance of the city,
    -maintaining the appeal of nearby land tiles,
    -putting a great work in the city,
    -assigning the citizen as a specialist
    -assigning the citizen to work a specific tile or improvement
    -not letting amenity or housing surplus fall beyond a certain point
    -not letting food surplus fall beyond a certain point

    This sort of feature would create some pressure for the player to have to consider what your population actually wants you to do, rather than just doing what you want to do. My biggest worry is that the A.I. wouldn't be able to handle it. My second biggest worry is that it would feel too "RNG" (like the random events of Civ IV BtS)
  5. Sostratus

    Sostratus Chieftain

    Jul 31, 2017
    Minnesota, USA
    I agree, megabearsfan- without introducing per-city penalties (a decidedly anti-fun measure,) any system that helps tall empires will also help wide empires with a tall core. But this is an issue that is hard to resolve: certainly, a player would expect that a wide empire with a tall core would beat a wide empire with a short core. And having additional developed, productive cities should always be a boon. (otherwise we'll end up in 2000AD with half the map unsettled!)

    If a player manages to have a tall core in their wide empire, that is a feat above simply establishing a tall empire. After all, the wide player, at some point, had to divert resources from continued expansion to boost those core cities.

    What I was trying to get at was that, in a given game of Civ6, we have a certain amount of production and other resources that we can use to further our goals. How do we allocate this production budget for empire expansion? We keep expanding until it isn't worth it. In Civ5, there were heavy penalties to expansion that made that return negative in all situations. In Civ6, I am suggesting that we consider how a player looks at his near term production (his marginal production): should he invest it in putting down new cities, or in building up what he has already? Right now, players should almost invariably choose to expand, since there are so few options to making the nth citizen in a tall city more useful than an extra citizen in a fresh city. A percentage modifier is the best example, since putting hammers towards that makes your citizens more efficient, whereas putting them towards a new settler will simply net you more citizens.

    Wide vs Tall is a question of population distribution, so fair comparisons are empires with similar populations. Obviously, as I was alluding to in the first paragraph, an empire with lots of population that can support it should beat down smaller ones. This spans a huge range of empire types- and it's really about where to put that nth citizen/invest those next hammers.

    But without any mechanisms like % modifiers or better specialists, there's no real reason to concentrate population other than high production potential to build a wonder or spaceport. This strategic gameplay decision is one that lies in the early and midgame- by the end, you can have a wide and tall empire anyways once stadiums and neighborhoods are online. I was only trying to think of ways to make the strategic choice viable without penalizing wide. (For the record, I like wide more, but I feel like it shouldn't be the only competitive way to play.)
  6. NukeAJS

    NukeAJS Chieftain

    Jul 28, 2008
    I know this thread is a bit old but I got linked to it from the latest Polycast so here's my 2 cents:

    I think specialists providing +% yields and not raw yields could be the way to go. That being said, I also think that a nerf might be required to make this work well.

    Just spitballing -- if specialists gave +5%/+10%/+15% (for a max of +30%), I think it could be a huge boon to ICS by letting your cities grow 2 or 3 more pop points than normal (amenities might become a problem though -- again, just theorizing). So, if we went the specialists gave +% yields way, I think some kind of cap on raw yields via what buildings you can put in a district could be interesting.

    At size 1-3, you can building your first district, but no buildings inside them.
    At size 4, you can build your second district , but only one tier one building in one of those districts.
    At size 7, you can build your third district, two tier 1 buildings, and one tier 2 building.
    At size 10, you can build your fourth district, three tier 1 buildings, two tier 2 buildings, and a final tier three building.
    At size 13, 5/4/3/2
    At size 16, 6/5/4/3

    This would have the effect of putting a soft-cap on yields to pop size. Sure, you can have 20 pop 7 cities, but they'll only have a market and a bank and if you want the +15% modifier, you'll have to work just five tiles (two of which will be anchored to primarily food). If you want stock exchanges or research labs or whatever, you'll have to go to pop 10. If you furthermore want the +30% modifier, you can only work 7 tiles (with 2-3 citizens primarily working food). Since a size 7 city can only have one tier 2 building, it becomes more specialized. A size 7 city would have mid-level of one yield, low-mid of a second yield, and low yield of a third. On the other hand, larger cities -- let's say a size sixteen city -- would have three high yields, one mid yield, one low-mid yield, and one low yield assuming you built all available districts and filled them with their buildings.

    Attaching +% modifiers to specialists then allows a size twenty-six city to run three uber yields (three districts, full of buildings, with three specialists each). Being flexible on what it can produce would be a nice bonus. Smaller cities would be much more dependent on their local tiles as far as what they can switch production to.

    This would still make ICS a viable strategy. Some strats and cities SHOULD only produce a single yield well. In fact, I think these changes would make it so that a variety of mixing of small, medium, and large cities could all be viable depending on your tiles and diplomatic situation. On the other hand, it could just move the goal posts as far as how many pops are ideal in ICS. Right now, 6-7 seems ideal. With this change, I think that number would get bumped up to 13 (allows two final tier buildings and possibly max +% yields from specialists depending on your food tiles). This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing though. ICS is still doable, it just takes longer to start the snowball rolling.

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