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[R&F] Civ is about the map. Until it isn’t.

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by acluewithout, May 12, 2018.

  1. acluewithout

    acluewithout Chieftain

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    Civ is about the map. Until it isn’t.

    Ed Beech and the Firaxis team succeeded with Civilization VI. You now play the map when you play Civ. There’s no longer one path to victory; instead, the best path is determined by your territory.

    But where Ed and the team succeeded, they also failed. The failure of Civ is that after the classical era, the map just doesn’t matter any more.

    Early game (Ancient, Classical).

    People often say that the early game is the most fun. Why? I think it’s because in the early game, ie ancient and classical eras, you have meaningful competition over territory.

    You’re rushing to settle open territory, you’re fighting to hold onto it or trying to conquer more.

    And the territory you settle, capture or lose is meaningful: luxuries you can sell for gold, or bonus resources or natural wonders that provide game changing science or culture or growth, or mountains and hills which are ripe for district adjacency or production, or finding game changing iron or horses.

    Sure, there are other reasons the early game is great: the AI is more competitive militarily, you haven’t started snowballing yet, and you don’t yet have so many cities, units and traders that admin becomes a grind. But I think what really drives the fun is you are not so much just competing with other Civs, but competing with them over something. That something is territory. And that competition matters, because the territory matters.

    Mid game (Medieval to Industrial).

    It’s the mid game where the map starts to stop mattering, and where the fun starts dropping off.

    The mid game should be about warring states, constantly fighting to hold their home borders, or expanding them by taking land from other major and minor nations. As the mid game progresses, it should also become about expanding your empire to foreign shores and the start of (basically) colonialism. This should be a race to discover and settle; but also a battle to win over or conquer new (and sometimes more primitive) people and cultures; and a battle to take territory from other powerful nations also trying to expand beyond their continent, or to win or hold the loyalty of these distant colonies and peoples.

    But Civ doesn’t deliver that, even after R&F.

    There are maybe still some border skirmishes in the mid game. You might grab a neighbouring city or two, by conquest or loyalty flipping, if it’s got particularly good infrastructure and resources, or maybe to hobble an opponent, or it’s just particular vulnerable. But it’s pretty limited. And the cities you grab are starting to not provide a significant enough return on investment to be worth grabbing. Warmongering too makes conquest hard by turning everyone against you, locking you out of the diplomatic game (even if that is actually perhaps a realistic response to a warmonger in the rampage).

    But if border wars are limited, then sadly expanding to foreign shores is almost non-existent. The mid game should be when you’re setting sail, exploring and discovering new cultures which you can conquer, or learn from, or assimilate. And these colonies should provide the potential for great rewards, so much that other great Civs fight over how to divide and control these riches. That doesn’t happen.

    Instead, if you do venture abroad, you find either great swathes of uninhabited land or other Civs usually at the same tech level as you. There are no alien cultures; no technologically inferior people resisting your imperial conquest or to otherwise befriend and protect. And there’s very little return on your investment anyway: these late cities are unlikely to pay for themselves, and there’s no real special benefit for settling abroad bar for certain Civs (eg Spain). There is no spice trade. No opium wars. No dividing the world between Portugal and Spain. There is no age of empires and colonies. You’re better just staying home and running projects.

    Late game (Industrial onwards).

    The late game is where territorial expansion should really shift gears, and become about spheres of influence, regional alliances, and controlling key territory. Yes, there may be wars, and territory and borders might change hands. But, save for maybe some old colonial empires fragmenting, usually “nations” and their “core” territory stay broadly the same and what matters is who is in charge of these nations and who are they loyal to.

    But there’s none of that. By the late game, there are only the same major Civs from the start of the game (minus a few who have been eliminated), and some remaining City States. There are no spheres of influence, just “your territory” and “not your territory”; and the territory itself doesn’t matter now - late game strategic resources are nowhere near as game changing as iron and horses, and new cities or other resources now provide minimal return on investment. Seriously, how is it oil isn’t not game changing? All that matters in the late game is how many rainforests you have left to chop in your space port.

    The AI isn’t really the problem.

    Read the forums, and you’ll read comments about the AI, balance issues, features people want, and user interface. Many of these comments are valid and I respect them completely. People play Civ for different reasons, want different things, or have different ideas how the game should work.

    But to my mind, the fundamental reason Civ’s mid and late game is boring, the real source of frustration, is that the game actually stops after about the Medieval era. You stop having meaningful competition over territory. In the real world, and this a massive (and no doubt ill-informed) generalisation, competition over territory has never stopped, albeit the way we compete and what territory “matters” has changed drastically. R&F has not really addressed this, bar perhaps loyalty extending and expanding territorial conflict a little in the mid game.

    Civ is still a pretty good game.

    My comments don’t come from any authority. I don’t work in video games, game design or even IT / computers. I’m not an expert player. I don’t even really play other video games and haven’t played previous versions of Civ. My views are from the cheap seats. Take them with a grain of salt. Or ignore them completely.

    I love Civ VI. It’s a game which wears its heart on its sleeve. It is patently a game designed and built by people who are themselves enthusiasts and aware of its history and it’s appeal. And, by God, that early game is awesome, and only more so after R&F. And the mid to late game, for all I’ve said, is good enough. Civ is a game with grand ambitions: the sweep of history, grand strategy, and a bit of roleplaying and humour. It makes a real fist of it.

    But I wish it was better. And, sometimes, I’m frustrated that it’s not.

    I don’t want to turn this into an ideas thread. I really just wanted to put down my thoughts on expansion. But I think it’s worth discussing some possible solutions to help clarify how I see the problem.

    First, from about the Medieval Era onwards, the game needs some sort of layer of actors between Civs and City States. Maybe barbarians could become “junior civs”, or maybe City States could expand to take this role, or maybe just small nations “emerge”. I don’t know. But the game needs another layer of people in the mid game that can resist or aid expansion, and that Civs can discover, fight to influence and or conquer or even liberate. At some point, there should stop being empty space on the map, and the occupied space should be a mix of Major Civs, Smaller Nations those Civs compete over or use, and City States.

    Second, there needs to be a way to interact with this additional layer of “actors” or minor states. Perhaps you start by just conquering or befriending. But later in the game, as this layer become more like small nations, you should be able to influence or dominate them more diplomatically (eg vassals).

    Third, the rewards for gaining territory later in the game need to scale. Perhaps in the mid game colonial cities just give more yields or Era score, or let you establish ‘super’ trade routes. Perhaps when you have smaller nations, vassals improve yields in your own key cities or grant you more diplomatic clout. Coal, Oil and Uranium should be game changing, instead of just unlocking more units.

    You should be able to have a huge sprawling territory like Russia or the Ottomans; or be a relatively small state (such as maybe Japan) which reaches across the globe diplomatically or commercially and that it’s allies will never fail to defend. But either way, you should have and control an empire, not just a collection of cities and spaceports.

    But what do I know. I’m just a CivAddict with too much time on his hands.

    (And if you made it this far; sorry for the long rambling post.)

    TL;DR: Civ is fun in the early game because you’re having meaningful competition over territory. The game gets boring in the mid and late game because that competition stops.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
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  2. NoonePerson

    NoonePerson Chieftain

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    Excellent post. You're exploring what is essentially missing from the design of Civ VI.

    The issue that you're describing is that for all players with a mild to fanatical interest in history, Civ VI doesn't manage to model or abstract the elements that made up the rise and fall of civilisation in real history. It's a game after all so it shouldn't really be a rigorous simulation in that regard, but it should at least integrate these mechanics.

    Case in point, the lack of diplomacy mechanics (UN/NATO) late game makes it a case of climbing up the science tree for military or space techs for victory. Therefore, what is the need to interact with other civs in terms of mutual beneficience?

    Edited for clarity
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
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  3. acluewithout

    acluewithout Chieftain

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    Thanks.

    I think there is a historical issue and a gameplay issue.

    On the “historical” bit, my view is that Civ doesn’t so much try to simulate or (more accurately) represent actual history, but instead tries to represent a particular “view” of history. That “view” is in part about territory, expansion, and conflict over territory and expansion. Currently, I think Civ doesn’t really represent a big chunk of that sort of narrative, and that’s then a loss to the roleplaying part of the game.

    But the other issue is “gameplay”. The game is “fun” when you have meaningful conflict over territory. It’s less fun when that conflict basically stops. One solution would be to introduce something else that’s “fun” in the mid to late game (maybe that’s what the World Congress will do). But I think a better solution would be to extend “meaningful conflict over territory” into the mid and late games.

    To do that, the game needs to both find new ways to pursue conflict (you can’t just keep declaring surprise wars), and new ways to make territory important in the late game.

    Like I said, this isn’t an ideas thread. But suggestions sort of help clarify the issue. I think two big steps in extend “conflict” would be to have another layer of actors you can fight over (both literally or in terms of influence), and some other way to “own” territory or cities that isn’t actually just absorbing them into your empire, eg vassals. But that just gives you new vectors and tools for conflict over territory. There would still need to be reasons why controlling territory was “useful”.

    To be clear, I don’t just mean the game needs more fighting. I mean it needs “conflict” or if one prefers “competition” over territory, because that territory matters. Civ already allows for mid and late game conflict, but it doesn’t really achieve anything (unless you’re going for domination). The territory you might capture doesn’t really give you anything new or that matters by that stage.

    What would be great, for example, is if something like some cities or locations became trade nodes at some point which provided some boost or control of international trade. You’d then have to scramble to control these, either through domination, or influence. At the moment, the closest the game comes to this is maybe wanting to capture city X because it has some great wonder you want (eg pyramids), or maybe tussling with envoys to get suzerain of some City State.

    (And sorry to follow a long OP with a longer reply.)
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
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  4. NoonePerson

    NoonePerson Chieftain

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    Well, despite the fact that this isn't an ideas thread, these threads are always useful. The essence of good communication is open and honest communication, so to point out the positives and flaws in a level headed manner makes sense. Constructive criticism and all.

    I think its best to look to certain other turn based strategy games for example. Early titles in the past of videogames had to be simplistic due to size limitations, but this is why they're often considered to be the greatest. And also due to the fact that a lot of things just hadn't been tried or done before.

    Take for example Heroes Of Might and Magic III. Widely regarded as one of the best of its series. The reason being is because its gameplay is logical and orientated in how you play it, and your goals are simple.

    Goals:
    • Eliminate the other foes on the map
    OR
    • Achieve a certain milestone goal to end the map (certain scenarios had this, such as amassing an amount of creatures)
    Then you consider the list of objectives taken to get there:
    • You travel the map taking on roving bands of monsters with a hero and its army to gain experience and clear your path to important encampments on the map (Early Game - Mid Game)
    • You flag dwellings for extra units and flagging resources for funding upgrades to your cities (Early Game - Mid Game)
    • You begin upgrading your cities carefully without breaking the bank or wasting precious turns. That way you get your armies/spells when you need it at the right time. (Early Game - Mid Game)
    • You consider how to best level up your hero/which heroes to hire to augment the power of your army or spellcasting abilities (Early Game - Mid Game)
    • You start taking on more challenging encounters, neutral encampments that are a bit riskier but reward you with lots of resources for getting to them first (Mid Game)
    • OR/ALSO you start finding cities that match your faction type that are neutral, you take them and you start upgrading them (Early Game - Mid Game)
    • You start meeting your other opponents on the map and get a feel for their army size, faction, type of hero and estimated size of creatures. Sometimes you have to scout to find their MAIN hero if they have one (Mid Game)
    • You start aiming to siege/engage in combat with the enemy. Sometimes your enemy gets there first and lays siege to your cities. (Mid/Late Game)
    • You try to scout the full extent of the map to find powerful artifacts that might aid you in beating your enemy. (Mid/Late Game)
    I dunno about you but even without the context of HOMM's setting, the objectives and the logical progression of steps taken to get there make complete sense to me. The goal is simple, the mechanics all support the end goal of combat.

    The difficulty with a 4X game like Civ is the extra victory conditions or playstyles. It becomes blatantly obvious when two different playstyles are not equally viable when the overall mechanics do not support it.

    For example, if I am aiming for Domination in Civ VI, then hell yes, the AI continously hating on me for being a warmonger and wanting to declare war hastens my progress through that playstyle. That playstyle is heavily favoured. The AI's war willingness and propensity to hate you only eggs you on to play like an opportunistic conqueror.

    Then consider a Science Victory. With Science, its augmented by decent land, adjacency bonuses from districts, specialists and a strong production backbone for the Space Race parts late game in your cities.

    Sure, you can butter up other Civs for Research Agreements, but when its better to play wide, defeat the opposition and then transition into a production-science boom from all the land you have... uhh yeah.

    Was I going for a Science Victory again? Why am I building all this calvary? I wasn't going for an aggressive diplomatic strategy. I just wanted to keep to myself, then Monty declares war and here I am with lots of his cities and all the benefits of war. Oh? Peter wants war too? Ok I'll have his cities as well. Wow look at all the science I have from doing that.

    I could get away with being a warmonger for every single type of victory. The mechanics therefore are only supporting War primarily. Sure they added culture flipping and loyality back into the expansion but there's way more wrong with how the mechanics support war as the optimal option.

    For example, the fact that Districts are now independent of cities means that they're guranteed to exist following the conquest of a city, rather than a chance of losing these high value buildings following conquest in past titles. The fact that pillaging has so much in the way of rewards once you hit mid game because of the variety of yields you now get and not just gold or health. The speed of the units that you have and how many times they can pillage.

    As well, am I under the impression that in the expansion, eliminating a civ completely removes the loyality pressure their civilisation has? Then what the heck is the point in having the loyality system if a conqueror can go full ham and take everything?
     
  5. eternalblue

    eternalblue Chieftain

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    Talking about exploring the map, don't know why but I enjoyed much more exploring the map from CIV V than CIV VI. The colourful and realistic touch of the map from CIV V makes me even now play the game, because gives that organic view when watch it, and exploring it. It's true, the problem that you mentioned apears in CIV V too, but for me it's much more aproachable. For example in CIV VI when I get new resources in the later eras after I build districs and wonders It's very difficult to see them on the map because of the improvements and the new aesthetic, and for that reason UI suffers too from that visually. The cartography part it's a nice touch original in this game and I like it, but visually the FOW and the unexplored parts (I liked more the clouds from CIV V) are just feeling the same in the game, and need to be more concentrated to distinct the unexplored zones from FOW. In terms of mechanics of the exploration, the problem that you mentioned I think this appears in all civ games, after the first part of the game, the map when it's explored just you need to conquest or improve it better than the AI, and for that reason I like to play on huge maps to have even more to explore.
     
  6. acluewithout

    acluewithout Chieftain

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    I think Civs victory conditions do limit the game, particularly Religion.

    Religion can’t be too powerful or game changing because otherwise religious victories would dominate. It’s also maybe hard to make expansion in the mid to late game valuable for players going for science victory.

    I like culture victories in part because they encourage you to explore and interact with the map. Suddenly, I need to negotiate open borders (or failing that, declare war) to access various relic sites. Perhaps a “diplomati victory” in a future expansion will help drive more dynamism in the mid and late game.

    On exploration: in a lot of let’s plays I’ve seen, players really don’t bother exploring the map past a certain point. That’s not good. I think it’s becaise, frankly, the map stops mattering.

    In the real world, there a places that have resources the whole world depends on (oil); there are major trading and finance hubs (eg Singapore); there are international sea routes. Nations have conflicts over the control of these one way or another. But you don’t see any of that in Civ. Past the classical era, the map just doesn’t matter.
     
  7. Shadowhal

    Shadowhal Chieftain

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    @ OP: It's a bit of a long shot, but you might want to have a look at the revolutions mod from Civ IV. It has many of the features that you brought up:

    Internal dynamics can (and do) lead to full scale revolutions leading to the creation of a new civ mid-game. Where possible it's culturally linked to the originator and will start at the same tech level, i.e. a very threatening situation.

    Barbarian cities will, if left alone, eventually develop into a proto civ (which you cannot yet interact with) and later a full blown civ (with all the usual diplomatic features). Due to their late arrival to the scene, they will generally be smaller and technologically backwards, so the perfect targets for proxy wars, vassal states, colonisation, etc.

    There are some more interesting modifications to the base game, though several of these have been reflected in some form in the later civs. My most favourite package of the lot was Legends of Revolution: https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/uxp-legends-of-revolutions.319235/

    A yet more different take is the whole Rhye's and Fall of Civilization (again Civ IV) which is more of an Earth simulator and let's civilizations start when they (roughly) emerged historically and have unique historical victory conditions. Plus a lot of other stuff. (you can even switch civs when a new one rises and conquer the empire you had built for your previous civ). http://rhye.civfanatics.net/pages/civ4-menu.php

    I believe Gedemon worked on a revolution mod for Civ V. Not sure what the final state was and whether that one does some of what you want, but could be worth looking.

    Broadly speaking, I agree that your ideas are a very interesting look at the game. Make it more dynamic such that not necessarily all players start at the same time and that's it. Revolutions, late-comers to the party, unlikely catch-ups, it happened at times and would be cool. I suppose that's an easier proposition for the wider 4X market, but moving from that could provide some fresh impulses.
     
  8. NoonePerson

    NoonePerson Chieftain

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    Improvement wise however, the tactical overlay, I feel, has improved compared to Civ V's one. Everything is much clearer and better colour coded.
     
  9. Disgustipated

    Disgustipated Warlord

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    My issue is that this game is very gamey. Civ 4 was actually much more historical. They seem to be moving away from any sense of realism into whatever works as a gameplay mechanic. Don't have much time to get into it. I love this game, but it is very gamey. You don't really feel like you have an empire.
     
  10. NoonePerson

    NoonePerson Chieftain

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    Au contraire :lol:. I don't think gameyness is a problem. I think you can have a very competitive and focused game whilst still properly abstracting real life concepts without becoming too much of a simulation game. Civ IV's method of abstracting borders are about as far removed from reality as you'd expect, since they linearly 'pop' into wider, regimented tiles.

    I mean if you want a simulationist game or something closer to that experience, Paradox usually has that angle covered. But even then its not without its goals or gameyness.

    I think they really need to stop with Religious Victories. Mechanically it really hasn't worked all that well in the past (Civ IV it was just an earlier form of Diplomatic Victory triggered by building a wonder). WIth VI its basically a faith multiplier scramble and is not particularly imaginative or strategic. The fact that you can't select apostle promotions without first building a wonder is a little silly, for example.

    I think having major focal points on the map for players to focus on is a good idea in principle but in practice the underlying mechanics and bias towards certain playstyles needs to be addressed first.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
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  11. Hammurabbit

    Hammurabbit Chieftain

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    I agree fully that Civ is all about the map. Exploring your surroundings and forming and executing a custom strategy based on that is what makes this game great.
    That's also why i (mostly) enjoy playing on larger maps, but at the same time, the travel logistics becomes a pain in the butt with larger maps. That's still an unsolved problem in the Civ series - how to get rid of travel logistics, without screwing up combat system and exploration. Perhaps some more game mechanics on trade hubs and airports?
     
  12. acluewithout

    acluewithout Chieftain

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    @Shadowhal Thanks. They’re all good suggestions. Much appreciated.

    I’ve been looking at Civ 4 for about six months or so because of some of the points you’ve raised and similar comments on this forum. Not having districts is a bit sad, but having a more “complete” game is very tempting. I certainly don’t care about the drop in graphics.

    I’ve also been thinking about EU4. But it’s a big chunk of change to buy with the main expansions / dlc, and I’m not sure where I’d find time to get up to speed.

    @Disgustipated Agreed the game feels very games. I think R&F has made that worse. The Government Plaza seems silly, and tier one government buildings seem very gamey. I’m not sure about Eras.

    I don’t think being a game, or gamey, and having a strong historical feel are mutually exclusive. It’s mostly about having a good internal logic to the mechanics and clear boundaries, although the sweet spot is a bit subjective.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
  13. NoonePerson

    NoonePerson Chieftain

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    If you want, maybe try the complete version of Civ V with the Vox Populi mod. It's rather excellent. The base game itself is functional too.
     
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  14. eternalblue

    eternalblue Chieftain

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    Don't see it like an improvement or much clearer with the new arst style... finding the new resources in the later game with this new art style and the cartographic map on exploration is very annoying. I'm not saying that it's not good the art style, it's ok and original (don't like the units tho "android game feel"), but I liked much more the map from civ V because it was much more interesting and organic. In terms of mecanics like I said CIV VI it's very solid with the implementation of districts, civic tree, etc.
     
  15. Shadowhal

    Shadowhal Chieftain

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    I second that. I didn't end up playing with VP all that much, but what I saw was very good. So much better interface, AI made a huge difference to me, improvement adjacency rules that somewhat foreshadowed districts, more appealing policy system. A lot of good stuff in there.

    Re Civ IV: well, it can't possibly cost much these days. One could also add it to the wish list to wait for the next promo.

    Funnily enough, I did return to a random version of the RFC mod I mentioned, but for slightly different reasons. It allows shorter games without sacrificing immersion, scope, or feeling incomplete. At my gaming speed, it just takes sooo long to ever finish a civ game.
     
  16. eternalblue

    eternalblue Chieftain

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    Yes CIV IV it's a very good experience. I started with CIV V enjoyed a lot of it with both expansions, and then I played a lot CIV IV BTS because it was so different. Speaking of paradox games I played all of them, and they are awesome in depth, historicaly accurate, but of course to enjoy every complete experience from CK2, EU4 and HOI4, you need to pay at least 200+€ because every game have lots of dlcs, and the dlcs and expansions are all payed dlc excluding the patches with free content, but wait for the summer sale or whatever get them discounted. In the other hand Vicky 2 and HOI 3 are cheap right now I think so you can play them before having the others, but are much more difficult to learn. I recommend you Stellaris too, it's a hybrid version of 4x and grand strategy, lots of fun with a ton of content in the game.
     
  17. MP | Moongazer

    MP | Moongazer Chieftain

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    Love this thread.
    We can only hope for the next expansion to be great (probably have to wait more than a year from now) or expect for a new game that will combine features from a 4X game and a grand strategy game.
    Civ 5 with Vox Populi was the best version of Civ I have ever played (I love it, but sadly I cannot load the saves with that mod).
     
  18. Rosty K

    Rosty K Chieftain

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    Well, even in HOMM3 ending a scenario (after you're done with most of those objectives and are just trying to find that last castle or something) can be tedious and boring.

    That kind of problem can't be completely solved unfortunately. In most cases you know you win some way before the game rules agree with you. That gap can be made shorter though. E.g. in Civ6 you sort of know the outcome by Medieval/Renaissance (probably even up to the victory type). In Civ5 you didn't because then the whole world might declare war on you and change everything. Though after that moment you know the outcome.

    Actually, it's not just that the race for the territory stops by mid-game, there is another problem: there are no decisions for you to make which could have dramatic effect on the rest of the game. Nothing else as big as the decision which district to build first, where to put the second city, or whether to go for a religion. You can't take a really big hit like losing your first trader or settler to barbarians (that still can happen, but by now it's effect isn't worthy of a ragequit anymore, and nothing else comes up as a replacement). So there are kind of no things you must do to keep your advantage from disappearing. After a snowball, just do whatever you want.
     
  19. eleven11

    eleven11 Chieftain

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    Great post! If I can nitpick one tiny thing. You state AI isn't the problem yet this problem can be solved by making the AI more competent and always competing against the player. The issue is once you break the back of a civ or two in Ancient and Classical, your snowball to victory is ensured. There is no more threat. I have yet to play a game of Civ6 where the AI rolls tanks and aircraft into my territory as I rush to complete space projects. If they do attack, it's with a couple cavalry and a crossbow that I shoo away like an annoying fly.
     
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  20. blackbutterfly

    blackbutterfly Chieftain

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    I think you're talking about the standard maps that ship with Civ VI. Try playing some of the maps from the Workshop (i.e. mods) ;)
     

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