In playing Civ BE, I have, somewhat surprisingly, found that covert ops is one of the game elements that differs most dramatically from its Civ V counterpart. Instead of passively attempting to steal technologies, spies in other players' cities can choose from a wide array of missions to gain resources or attack opponents. The philosophy behind the attack options is, in my opinion, one of the systems great strengths. The attacks are dramatic and powerful. Dropping siege worms on a city or razing every one of its improvements hold far more visceral appeal than, for instance, inflicting a health penalty by poisoning a citys water supply. At the same time, such an attack requires investment, and the target player has plenty of warning that such an attack may be coming and a variety of options to defend against it, from counteragents to buildings to satellites. But, while the core mechanic of unlocking missions by building up intrigue is a strong framework, flaws in the systems execution hold it back from achieving its full potential. Transparency The first of these issues is a lack of transparency in the game mechanics underlying the system. In Civ V, the espionage screen shows the number of turns a spy will take to steal a tech, and while the tooltips do not show the exact calculations, they explain that this number is based on a citys science output, the spys rank and the presence of defensive buildings in the city. In Beyond Earth, however, scrolling over the Steal Energy mission may reveal, for instance, that the spy will steal 307 energy, but there is no indication of how the game arrives at that number. The Steal Science mission does not reveal even the amount to be stolen, nor does the game, as far as I am aware, provide any explanation of what pool "random" technologies or units are drawn from. This dearth of information prevents players from making informed decisions about their use of covert ops, and the addition of more detailed tooltips to the covert ops menu or of a detailed mechanics section to the civilopedia would therefore be a dramatic and relatively straightforward improvement. Target City Choice In addition to being problematic in its own right, the lack of transparency covers up what is, in my mind, the largest flaw in Beyond Earths Covert Ops system, the insignificance of the target city. When I began playing Beyond Earth, I expected, based on my experience in Civ V and what seemed to me a commonsense understanding of the "real world" process being represented, that I could steal the most science from a city with a high science output and that I could siphon energy most effectively from a city producing lots of energy. However, while energy theft seems to scale with game time and agent rank, 2 agents of equal rank siphoning energy on the same turn will always steal identical amounts, regardless of the target cities' sizes or outputs. Similarly, while I do not know how stolen science is calculated, I have seen no sign that the target citys science output is a factor. Finally, the steal technology mission provides a random technology chosen not from among those known by the target player but from among all those available to research, including those not yet discovered by any faction. That this makes absolutely no sense from a simulation perspective seems self-evident. From a gameplay perspective, it is similarly problematic, removing a great deal of potential for strategic decision making. Assignment of agents to rival factions cities should be an important decision. Instead, every city on the map is interchangeable to a player assigning agents without the intent of undertaking offensive missions. The only factor in determining which cities are most suitable as targets is the presence of other agents either generating intrigue or performing counterespionage. The importance of interactions with other agents is by no means inherently problematic- indeed it would function very effectively as a second layer of strategy on top of choosing the best city to target with covert operations. Unfortunately, this first layer, linking covert operations to the actual characteristics of the target city, is entirely absent from the low and mid level missions that make up the overwhelming majority of covert operations. This connection could, however, be added with a relatively straightforward change- making Steal Science and Siphon Energy yields scale with city output instead of turn number (I would also alter Steal Technology to steal a tech known by the target player, both for immersion's sake and to avoid the potential imbalance of stealing an expensive and unknown tech). Virtually all of the games missions could be tweaked to increase the significance of the target city and/or player: Recruit Defectors could scale with city production or happiness health, and an expansion or future Civ title might make a mechanic like BNWs tourism or Civ IVs clashing culture borders influence coups detat. However simply refining the outputs of the most common missions would dramatically improve both the immersiveness and the strategic depth of the covert ops system. Balance Issues In addition to these broader design issues, some particular buildings, missions and quests seem problematic from a gameplay or balance perspective. Affinity Missions: Though the affinity missions are the most dramatic missions in the game, from a strategic perspective they are thoroughly outclassed by the Coup DEtat option, which requires the same intrigue level and has no other prerequisites. I am excited to see that the upcoming patch is reducing the intrigue requirement for these missions, which will hopefully make them a strong choice in some circumstances. Surveillance Web: Having a building for defense against covert ops is an important aspect of providing counterplay options against aggressive missions. However, the mechanism by which the surveillance web operates removes gameplay options rather than adding them, allowing low level missions to proceed unhindered but completely blocking high level ones and removing much of the incentive to invest in other defenses such as counter agents and holomatricies. A defense building which slowed intrigue growth, reduced the chances of mission success and/or agent survival, or slowed the progress of missions (like the constabulary in Civ V) would be a valuable part of a defense against covert ops without negating the need for complimentary defense measures [Though the Human Hive and all-seer satellites likewise negate the need for other defensive measures, these options seem less problematic because of the limited nature of the former (as a world wonder) and the massive investment required in the latter (enabled by an expensive tech which provides no other benefits)] . Quests: Upon completing the Spy Agency, a player receives one of two quests, each of which grants an additional agent upon completion (players may later receive the second quest or a quest asking them to complete a level 4 mission, but I do not know how the timing of these quests is determined). One of these quests requires only establishing a network and can therefore be completed almost immediately, while the other requires completing the Steal Science mission, a mission that requires building intrigue to level one as well as taking longer in and of itself. I would either standardize the distribution of these quests (for the sake of balance in high level play) or add additional quest options (for the sake of variety in more casual play). This may seem like a long list of complaints. But in spite of its flaws, I think that at its core, Beyond Earths Covert Ops system is compelling, intriguing and full of potential. With a few tweaks to tooltips, mission yields and buildings, covert ops could become a great strength of this game and a valuable source of inspiration for espionage systems in future Civ games.