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Difficulty Considerations

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by ahawk, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. ahawk

    ahawk King

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    Here's a few things that I find effect difficulty beyond just the 'difficulty' option:

    1. Map size
    - This is a biggie. I've usually found that as a map gets bigger, the game tends to get more difficult, and as it gets smaller, it tends to get easier. For example, on Prince difficulty, a duel map is really like a half-step down from Prince, and a huge map is a half-step up from Prince. Why? First off, unless I've adjusted the number of CSs and civs, the number of both increases on a larger map, adding to more civs that can become runaways and more CSs that may turn against me. Thus the chance of multiple runaways is higher, and there's so much room that one or the other may not be in immediate reach. Secondly, the map is so big that anyone I may need to get to may not be in immediate reach; if Siam is near a cultural victory, and they are on the other side of the world, the distance is a whole lot longer on Huge than on Duel.

    2. Map type
    -By and large, map type is the easiest way to cook the settings (Aztecs on Amazon, England on anything with a lot of water). But when not cooking the settings, I've found that Continents tends to be the hardest map type, with Pangae a close second, and Islands and water-heavy maps being a distant third. Continents is brutal in that often enough, I may find in the mid-game that a runaway civ has been around for 50-100 turns without me even knowing about it. On Continents, there's a good chance somewhere I can't see that a war-monger is about to take over a wonder-spammer, or has already done so. Pangae is a close second because while there's the possibility I may find every civ via land-based scouts, there's still a chance I'll miss a few on larger maps, and beyond, there's almost always a good land route to get to me, which usually helps the AI (although since G&K, AI sea-borne invasions and navies are more common). Water heavy maps tend to be the easier of three by a good ways. For one, runaways are a little less common, since everyone will generally start on their own little patch of land. Moreover, AI naval units are not excessively good at tracking down my own naval units, and AI embarked units often stray out of the protection of their escorting ships.

    3. The number of civs and CSs
    - This is something I rarely mess with. But back in Vanilla, for a few games I turned map size up and civ number and CS number both down. This has the effect of opening up land, as well as increasing barbarian appearence (more camps, fewer civs to kill off camps, etc. etc.), and also allows a better shot at finding a natural wonder that isn't inside a CS or in otherwise worthless terrain. Turning down the number of civs, in my experience, has usually made the game slightly easier.

    4. Game speed
    - Marathon and Epic were awkward at first, but gradually I've come to see that they are slightly easier. They provide more time to play catch-up, and, most of all, more time to move your army. In theory, the slower the speed, the faster your units are moving relative to the speed of building anything. Because units continue to move at the same speed, yet almost all else is scaled to be slower, it's as though all units are actually moving faster than usual. This is fairly helpful, because on both Marathon and Standard, I might have an army that will take 50 turns to move across the whole map to attack a runaway. Well, on Standard game speed, that 50 turns is forever, and in that time the runaway might get beyond all hope of stopping. On Marathon, that 50 turns is not as long, relatively, because it's less likely that the runaway will have built tons of extra units or researched a bazillion techs in the mean time.

    5. Start bias
    - With it off, the game tends to be a bit harder. Hiawatha without forest, William without marsh or flood-plains, and Montezuma without jungle are all lose-lose scenarios almost regardless what other terrain they start with. Conversely, jungle-heavy starts that are common with Siam, Korea, etc., go away, and sometimes this makes the game a little easier, since tiles can be improved much more quickly without needing to remove jungle. But in general, start bias off makes the game harder.

    6. Civ choice
    - Again, other than with cooking settings, civ choice can still be a factor. Some civs likely are, in fact, better than others, even if there's no quantitative way to prove this. But the biggest way to make the game easier or harder is to choose between a civ you know and one you don't, or to set it to random. Random is hardest. A civ you don't know is a little easier, and a civ you know is considerably easier to find a way to win with.


    I posted all this because I sometimes used to see people say 'I can beat X difficulty every time' and I'd say to myself 'Well, I only beat X difficulty 50% of the time, and I'm a reasonably attentive player: what gives?' Part of 'what gives' other than sometimes just being an inferior player is that other settings, even when not cooked, can change the game a lot. The best example of this is: I can beat Emperor pretty much every time... on Duel map size. When I play on Huge, I might only win 70% of the time. And when I set it to random civ, I might only win 65% of the time, and so on and so forth.

    All just IMHO. I'm curious if anyone else has ever felt the same way, saying 'I can only beat X difficulty half the time, yet I don't think I'm that bad a player', and tried to think of other reasons someone says they can beat X difficulty 100% of the time. Of course, sometimes I am just a worse player. But there's tons of times on the forums where I've seen someone say 'I can beat X difficulty 100% of the time' and sort of felt like something other than my own skill (or lack-there-of) was affecting the results.

    TL;DR - Bear in mind that if all someone says is 'I can beat X difficulty 100% of the time' that there are many other factors that they didn't mention. They may still be a better player than you. Many people are a lot better than me. But if that was all they mentioned, it might be wise to remember that maybe it was on Duel, or was with random starting civ, or start bias off, or some other thing that made it easier than usual (or, just as possibly, harder than usual).
     
  2. Heretiv

    Heretiv Warlord

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    I find the map size option can be a double edged sword - smaller maps push you right up close to your opponents more quickly. If you are able to win that encounter from the go, then you are set. With a larger map there is more of a chance for you to get established and overcome the AI's production bonus. You are right about the runanway on the otehr continent though, that can be very annoying. However it is also very satisfying when you can form a mass invasion of their lands from the sea.
     
  3. akbal

    akbal Chieftain

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    I wish I had more to add, but Agree and Good post :)
     
  4. SYahoo

    SYahoo Chieftain

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    I find Continents-Plus the most difficult map type and have only moved up a difficulty after a victory on it.

    The runaway unknown civ(s) coupled with the lack of trading partners adds levels of difficulty that other, closer-knit map types do not produce. Not to mention the fact that you need to tech/unit purchase a little differently so that you can get out into the water as early as possible.

    One of the largest hurdles in this game for me has been dealing with the division and seperations that Continents-type maps add to the game experience.
     
  5. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    City states: It appears the advantage of cutting city states down (more decent city spots available, including natural wonders) is largely negated by getting fewer city state missions in G&K.
    In addition the long standing subpolicy of Patronage that gives 20 influence stacks with G&K's pledge to protect adding 10 influence (free friendship)

    Start bias: Most civs don't have one; if your NOT playing a civ with a start bias it may make your game easier by denying it to the civs that do.
     
  6. Dogmouth

    Dogmouth King

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    On huge maps the difficulty goes up in some ways (more opponents, and harder to get opponents), but it also goes down in some ways. Huge puts you in a position to expand without limitation because unhappiness per city scales down while happiness per city (meritocracy, ceremonial burial, buildings) remains the same. Nonetheless, I would never even consider playing a large map on normal speed.
     
  7. ahawk

    ahawk King

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    I agree with the part about CSs: G&K has, indeed, changed it a little by the number of quests and what not.

    But the part about start bias is a surprise. I'll have to check the xml for once (not a huge fan of doing it), but it always has seemed to me just from personal observation that a fair number of civs have a start bias. What I mean by this is not that they'll end up in the same terrain every time, but that they tend to end up in similar terrain more often than others.

    A few examples:
    As Sweden, I seem to more frequently start in a narrow strip between mountain and coast.
    As Denmark, I tend to start on a coast with tundra not far off.
    As Russia, I tend to start land-locked with tundra near-by.
    As China, I almost always have plains/grassland with with sparse jungle or forest.
    As Siam, Korea, the Aztecs, and India, it's not uncommon to have a handful of jungle tiles right near the starting settler.
    As Ethiopia, I usually am between CSs, civs, or mountains and have less space to expand than normal starts
    And so on.

    I'm not saying I have solid proof of these start-biases; it could be I am only remembering starts that seem to favor the civ I've picked, which is possible because these would be the games I might have done best in. All IMO. But I'd always presumed that start bias applied in some major or minor way to a large number of civs.
     
  8. Matthew.

    Matthew. Deity

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    To add to number 4, Quick speed makes the game more difficult. Up until this point I've ignored quick speed, but lately I've been playing around with it. There are numerous reasons, but the big one seems to be that not all the numbers are scaled that well, and it seems to be in the AI's favor.

    I'd say if the next higher up difficulty is too hard, then try playing at your regular difficulty at quick speed.

    For the ultimate challenge, Deity, huge, quick speed, continents, domination victory :D
     
  9. smallfish

    smallfish Immortal

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    I've tried this before on a Later Era start

    Scary stuff.
     
  10. ahawk

    ahawk King

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    I've never tried Quick speed. It's about the only permutation of the map settings I've never tried, mostly because as you said, it seems poorly scaled. Just looking at the what the numbers are adjusted to for purchasing a settler, techs, etc., it looks like it significantly favors the AI at higher difficulty levels, because the AI will just soar through the tech tree with the greatest of ease.
     
  11. smallfish

    smallfish Immortal

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    Here's an example I just found on imgur, and its on Quick Emperor

    I think the best screenshots are the ones that highlight the cross-continental takeover by a certain runaway

    Spoiler :


    Spoiler :


    That's Quick Emperor, and it could give you a handy approximation of certain timings of stuff you need to do or the AI will do if you want to move up a level (7)
     
  12. Unresolved

    Unresolved King

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    I'm not sure I agree with the continents>pangaea rating. Continents is difficult because a civ on the other continent is likely to runaway by the time you find them. But the starts are pretty easy since you don't have everyone as a neighbor to DoW you. But on pangaea, I get DoWed much more frequently in the beginning of the game. And a civ can still run away on the far-side of the map.
     
  13. ahawk

    ahawk King

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    smallfish:

    That does look a lot like Immortal-style runaways. 200 turns went by and Polynesia took over the place pretty well.


    Unresolved:

    Agree for the most part. But on Pangea, there's at least a reasonable hope of your scout or two seeing enough of the map to know where the runaways are and where those DoW's will come from. And Continents starts are not automatically easy just because you tend not have as many people to DoW you (I agree Pangea gets more mass DoW's, though), because there are fewer AIs to milk for gold right away, fewer to trade luxuries with, fewer to have research agreements with, and so forth.

    Where I agree most with you, despite all that, is that sometimes a runaway on the opposite side of a Pangea is worse than on another Continent: at least on Continents, I can generally find a ocean-route to embark on and move to the enemy via without having to go through forest, jungle, and other civs. When a runaway is on the opposite side of a Pangea, there isn't always a sea-route to them that is faster than over-land, if there's a sea-route at all from whichever coast I was nearest to.

    But I'd still argue, IMO, Continents is slightly tougher than Pangea.
     
  14. Matthew.

    Matthew. Deity

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    It depends on the map really. If you get a wide, open pangaea and you start in the middle surrounded by Greece, Rome, Aztecs, etc. I'd imagine there is likelihood of multiple wars no matter how nice you play.

    Then there is the scenario on continents where you are isolated from trading partners and land, and by the time you meet up with the rest of the world, a runaway is a complete era ahead and showing no signs of slowing down.
     
  15. Browd

    Browd Dilettante Administrator

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    Well, even on the most-impassable of pangeas there is always the sea route to the other side of the continent -- directly across the ocean that wraps around to the other side of the continent.

    So, with terrain and other civs blocking your path, if you're going after a runaway on the other side of your pangea, you may be stuck in the mud until you research Astronomy. But once you do, you can mount the same amphibious assault you would on a Continents map.
     
  16. ahawk

    ahawk King

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    True, but my point was that in some cases, Pangea throws you on a coast that is technically landlocked, usually because of the way the ice at the edge of the map comes up. In this case, there'd still be a coast somewhere else you could settle on and rush buy naval units, but otherwise you'd have to chance it and send your army without a navy to support it.
     
  17. Breezin

    Breezin Warlord

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    Great post OP. I can't think of anything to add.

    I agree that continents seems to be the toughest because almost without fail there is a runaway Civ on the landmass you're not on.

    I hadn't thought about trying the slower play speeds to make a difficulty setting easier - great idea.
     
  18. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    It's somewhere around 1/4h of civs have a start biases; the rest don't.
    What your describing for Ethiopia isn't a bias. (There's no near City State bias)
    Siam & Aztecs do have a Jungle bias. Neither India nor Korea do
    What your describing for China isn't a bias. (Plains & Grassland are separate regions)
    Russia does have a Tundra bias.
    Denmark is among several civs that have a coastal bias. (And it has a Tundra one as well)
    There's a couple of civs with a Forest bias
    There is place in the XML for a river bias; but an early patch removed it from America
     
  19. ahawk

    ahawk King

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    To clarify, I'd just meant as China I get either plains or grassland almost every time, without much forest or jungle usually. The slash to indicate either/or was probably a bad idea since slashes are usually how the game itself actually combines terrain types with terrain features (i.e. : grassland/river/hill).

    Only 1/4 of civs have a start bias? Wow. I guess most of the start bias is probably to ensure naval civs don't get stuck too far inland or to ensure that certain civs get terrain they need for unique buildings or improvements.

    From what the XML says, what is the probability then of not getting the terrain a civ has as its start bias? I'm curious because I usually don't check XML, and I know I've had enough times where sort of odd things have happened (Russia in jungle, England not on a coast, Denmark not on a coast, etc.).
     
  20. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    What your seeing with China is whenever you are playing a civ without a start bias, it's first going to try to give the civs that have a start bias have it.
    (So some of the Jungle, Desert, Tundra, Forest, Coast, etc. positions are already taken)

    The starting bias only works on map scripts; and so doesn't work on the real earth map.

    Some map settings may also virtually eliminate some types as starting locations.
    (Region map scripts / ring / duel)
     

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