Dramatic Ages mode has really surprised me and become my favorite mode

pokiehl

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Mar 5, 2017
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When they first revealed this, I was interested, but I had reservations. I loved the idea of the Dark Ages being harsher (having cities immediately flip to Free Cities) but I was unsure of how I'd like not having Dedications anymore.

After playing a couple games with this mode, I can say that I absolutely LOVE not having Dedications. Converting the Dedications into Wildcard policies was a phenomenal idea because it creates much more interesting gameplay and strategic considerations. I used to always go for Monumentality in the Classical Era, but now I find myself actually slotting in the Exodus of the Evangelists quite frequently to get a Religion, Mandala State when I'm done expanding or if I'm building a lot of Wonders, etc. It's refreshing that every playthrough becomes different instead of just Monumentality over and over and over.

As for Dark Ages, the penalty of Free Cities flipping is just awesome. It makes the stakes so much higher for me and I find myself desperate to avoid Dark Ages! I also love that Free Cities exert Loyalty pressure now - it's the icing on the cake.

To summarize, I've been pleasantly surprised by this mode and I won't play without it anymore. If you haven't tried it yet, give it a shot.

PS - If you're open to using mods, I've created a couple mods for Dark Ages that I think enhance the gameplay a lot.

Darker Dark Ages - This mod adds a couple other penalties to Dark Ages: -1 Amenity and -10% growth in all cities. It was based on the original concept the devs had for Dark Ages. I made it because aside from Free Cities flipping in Dramatic Ages, Dark Ages can sometimes feel unintimidating. You can use this mod with or without Dramatic Ages.

Dramatic Ages: Free Wildcard Slot in Dark Ages - This mod gives all civs in a Dark Age an extraWildcard policy slot. Only works in Dramatic Ages. I think it creates more interesting decisions by giving you better opportunity to try out those powerful Dark Policies. Plus, if you or the AI were just devastated by important cities flipping when you hit the Dark Age, this gives a better chance to crawl out of the Dark Age alive. I am finding it helps the AI from immediately collapsing after a Dark Age.
 

RealHuhn

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Yeah, I really enjoy the tension, the chaos and the vastly superior balancing of the dedications.
I also like to add Tech Shuffle mode because I can't rely on my experience as much to chain golden ages. It's a nice way to balance out the overpowered bonuses from Secret Societies which I also like. City spam becomes noticably more risky and you actually need some military units if you want to expand quickly, especially when tech shuffle mode decides to really screw you over.

These three game modes together are my default pick at the moment. My only real complaint is that the AI just doesn't seem to attack free cities which can lead to some questionable scenarios in mid/late game. But I also had games where the free cities didn't do too much damage. Maybe reduce the loyalty pressure from free cities a little bit?

Anyway, it's more challenging and more rewarding than vanilla. I like it.
 

King Rad

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Yeah, I really enjoy the tension, the chaos and the vastly superior balancing of the dedications.
I also like to add Tech Shuffle mode because I can't rely on my experience as much to chain golden ages. It's a nice way to balance out the overpowered bonuses from Secret Societies which I also like. City spam becomes noticably more risky and you actually need some military units if you want to expand quickly, especially when tech shuffle mode decides to really screw you over.

These three game modes together are my default pick at the moment. My only real complaint is that the AI just doesn't seem to attack free cities which can lead to some questionable scenarios in mid/late game. But I also had games where the free cities didn't do too much damage. Maybe reduce the loyalty pressure from free cities a little bit?

Anyway, it's more challenging and more rewarding than vanilla. I like it.

I am also using these three modes as my new standard 'mode' of play, I have found that many times when the AI loses a city due to a dark age, it often quickly reacquires it, although it's usually a passive reacquisition, not a military one. I've found my self hurrying to take advantage of attacking the free city city so I can take one without having to go to war with the original owner [especially in my current game where I needed specific strategic resources that were almost nonexistent in my territory and I try not to initiate wars with other civs]. Right now it's looking a little scary for the upcoming age, since I have 86 points to score in order to be in a golden age when I reach the atomic area - which is 25-45 turns away. Makes for some interesting strategy [I started needed about 110-20 points to stay out of a dark age].
 

LMT

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Sep 4, 2013
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It definitely makes me think more about how to build my empire. Before Dramatic Ages, I build or conquered as many cities as possible. Always.

Now I'm forced to ask myself..."Should I really build another city? The next Golden Age era score will go up if I do. And, I may end up losing more cities if I can't reach it."

I don't know if it makes playing tall any better, but it definitely holds back the "expansion is all there is" play style.
 

UWHabs

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Oct 10, 2008
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It can definitely impact how you proceed. Like in my previous game losing 7 cities in a turn, including one that I had assumed was "safe" since it was not pressured by anyone else, and a few border cities, certainly shifts how you have to adjust. And the eras before then I was fighting tooth and nail to avoid a dark age.

I do think it's still a little too easy to build up score while fighting due to the promotions you get, and if you're rocketing ahead in tech that can also cause you to gain enough score that you can ignore other sources. But it adds some twists, and I also like how I can play a "peaceful" game but still expand a little if I see a cluster of free cities.
 
Joined
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Dramatic Ages is the one 'Mode' I use all the time now. Not only does it force me to think more about exactly what I am doing or trying to accomplish, it penalizes one of the most annoying traits of the AI: Forward Settling. Now, if the AI settles a city in my face (or on another AI's borders) they risk losing it to FC status.
On the other hand, as stated previously, the AI frequently does not seem to attack Free Cities, and that can be suicidal. In my last game I watched with bemusement while Poland lost a city she had forward settled, then pressure from that city took out her third city, then pressure from the two of them flipped her second city, and finally as the Industrial Era dawned, Poland's capital flipped to Free City from the pressure of three other FCs nearby and she was out of the game! First time I had seen that, and since I was playing Russia I thought it was my duty to eliminate Poland in any game, but never got the chance . . .
 

Guynemer

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Feb 20, 2002
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I am a major evangelist for your Civilization Expanded mod (and the associated list) but my first experience with Dramatic Ages was suboptimal. Nearly every AI got completely wiped out through dark ages and the snowballing pressure from free cities. I was using your Darker Dark Ages mod; perhaps it'll go better with the Free Wildcard Slot.

Overall, though, I do agree with your assessment. Moving the dedications to policy cards absolutely has a great gameplay mouthfeel.
 

Myomoto

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Oct 13, 2013
Messages
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Dramatic Ages is almost what I actually wanted from the Rise and Fall expansion. I just wish they would keep Normal Ages. I can see the appeal of changing dedications to cards, but I would also like to see the cards turned back into dedications (including the new ones), or at least give us a specific slot for cards from ages.
 

pokiehl

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Mar 5, 2017
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Dramatic Ages is almost what I actually wanted from the Rise and Fall expansion. I just wish they would keep Normal Ages. I can see the appeal of changing dedications to cards, but I would also like to see the cards turned back into dedications (including the new ones), or at least give us a specific slot for cards from ages.

I am actually a huge fan that the Golden policies require a Wildcard slot to use. It makes the decision to use them much more strategic because you're giving something up. Otherwise it'd be a no-brainer to slot something.

As for Dark policies, I think due to their maluses a potential Dark slot could be warranted to lessen the sting and opportunity cost (hence my mod I noted above). I also think it'd be neat if you were forced to use a Dark Policy in a Dark Age.
 

EgonSpengler

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I started my first Dramatic Ages game and goodness gracious... At the start of the Classical Era, France under Catherine de Medici completely collapsed and is gone from the game. She had 5 cities and entered a Dark Age while her nearest neighbor, the Kongo - not me, unfortunately - enjoyed a Golden Age. 1 French city seceded immediately; the other four, including Paris, all turned over within the next 10 turns. So long, France. Hell's Bells. :eek: (And now Mvemba has 11 cities, without lifting a finger. I've got my work cut out for me now.)
 

Piranga

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Feb 13, 2018
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A game mode where the already poor AI is just completely incompetent. No thanks.
 

Apocrypha

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May 20, 2020
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Playing on at least King almost seems a must from my perspective, maybe even Emperor. Otherwise the hits the AI takes when entering a dark age are just too much for them to handle

Edit: Grammar
 
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EgonSpengler

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A game mode where the already poor AI is just completely incompetent. No thanks.
I'm a little concerned, yeah. If AI civs suffer total meltdowns during Dramatic Dark Ages, I don't know if I'll be playing this mode for long. I've already stopped using Secret Societies.

Playing on at least King almost seems a must from my perspective, maybe even Emperor. Otherwise the hits the AI takes when entering a dark age are just too much for them to handle
Yeah, I play on Emperor.
 

Apocrypha

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May 20, 2020
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I'm a little concerned, yeah. If AI civs suffer total meltdowns during Dramatic Dark Ages, I don't know if I'll be playing this mode for long. I've already stopped using Secret Societies.


Yeah, I play on Emperor.

Got it. So apparently even that provides no gaurantees that a Free City domino effect won't happen
 

EgonSpengler

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Got it. So apparently even that provides no gaurantees that a Free City domino effect won't happen
It's only my first game with Dramatic Ages, but it is concerning. France just blew up like a string of firecrackers.
 

Deadly Dog

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Playing on Deity in a dense continent you can still see large black holes of Free Cities develop. I've had games where several civs disappeared off the map from Free City blocks. Terra Map is perhaps the most extreme, at least for the civs stuck in the Old World :viking::mischief:.

Oh, and lessons from the Terra Map....civs that got a foothold in the New World, like me, were spread out and had no loyalty problems, and so in Dark Ages cities that flipped for the AI were in the Old World, even though they were much closer and within loyalty pressure of their own older cities and capitals. So they don't seem to lose colonies that you can pick up easily.

And lest ye think a continent of Free Cities is some utopia Anarcho-Syndicalist Communes, they didn't respond well to aging infrastructure and Ternate suffered a bad Nuclear meltdown. Right next to poor Gitarjas loyal capital.

I like the mode a lot, definitely with SS enabled as well, on higher levels especially so AI has a chance. I prefer swapping wildcards to committing to one dedication in GA's. I like pacing out my expansion, and I like the much more tangible sting of Dark Ages when I overreach. My only complaint is it doesn't mesh well with Apocalypse mode as Free Cities don't emit CO2 so if you get a Free city black hole your climate change clock will slow down dramatically, and, well, no comets!

For me All modes on is pretty fun, ridiculous at times, strangely overpowered in some cases, easily breaks the AI sadly but also sometimes gives you a whopper of a challenge too.
 

EgonSpengler

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I've already stopped using Secret Societies.
It's only my first game with Dramatic Ages, but it is concerning. France just blew up like a string of firecrackers.
Y'know, I just had a thought. Playing with Secret Societies Mode may have some synergy with Dramatic Ages, in getting so many more Governor Promotions, especially early. It gives the AI (the player too, but I'm mostly concerned about the AI here) more governors for their Loyalty bonuses, and also allows it to get Victor's "Garrison Commander" promotion ("Your other cities within 9 tiles gain +4 Loyalty per turn towards your civilization"). So playing with Secret Societies might help prevent the "string of firecrackers" thing during a Dramatic Dark Age. Of course I'd have to start a whole new game for that, but oh well.
 

c4c6

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Aug 28, 2016
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Secret Societies Mode may have some synergy with Dramatic Ages, in getting so many more Governor Promotions, especially early. It gives the AI (the player too, but I'm mostly concerned about the AI here) more governors for their Loyalty bonuses, and also allows it to get Victor's "Garrison Commander" promotion ("Your other cities within 9 tiles gain +4 Loyalty per turn towards your civilization"). So playing with Secret Societies might help prevent the "string of firecrackers" thing during a Dramatic Dark Age
You could fine tune the situation with p0kiehl's fine mods:
-1 Amenity, -3 Loyalty, and -10% growth to all cities when in a DARKER DARK AGE only for the human player
Dramatic Ages: FREE WILDCARD SLOT in dark ages only for the AI players

Also avoiding Pangaea style maps should help with "string of firecrackers" ...
 
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Deadly Dog

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Feb 23, 2018
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St. John's, Canada
Y'know, I just had a thought. Playing with Secret Societies Mode may have some synergy with Dramatic Ages, in getting so many more Governor Promotions, especially early. It gives the AI (the player too, but I'm mostly concerned about the AI here) more governors for their Loyalty bonuses, and also allows it to get Victor's "Garrison Commander" promotion ("Your other cities within 9 tiles gain +4 Loyalty per turn towards your civilization"). So playing with Secret Societies might help prevent the "string of firecrackers" thing during a Dramatic Dark Age. Of course I'd have to start a whole new game for that, but oh well.

Keeping in mind that AI loves to use Amani early and will even levy troops regularly now (I'm so happy I don't even ruin it for them and put my envoys elsewhere!), it does help them for sure. I find dramatic ages doesn't mess up AI until medieval or later on deity level, they only lose one city usually and often reflip it in the classical.

Yes, SS actually can help AI through these crazy new modes. I tend to just secure culture with Pingala when I get free promotions and have taken my own SS choice later usually just before classical...because gettign uber power from Sanguine Pact is tedious and the best things in SS mode are those that come passively and early. If Voidsingers wasn't such a faith sink (useless Ai cultists) I'd say SS makes Ai more competitive but that seems a stretch. I do think SS helps AI deal with environment better.

For myself, I can't imagine playing Tech Shuffle without SS. Having access to the governors early mitigates the RNG on your civics. Also, what can possibly explain why your need Sailing to learn Horseback Riding except some conspiratorial suppression of knowledge by the Hermetics, amirite?
 
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