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Infinite city spam - a civ history & civ 6

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by sherbz, Oct 26, 2016.

  1. sherbz

    sherbz Emperor

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    I just want to throw a discussion open on one of civ’s "problems"/"features" it has had since forever really, and how civ 6 fares on it – the problem/feature of infinite city spam. It works on two levels I guess. The first is on the number of cities you have. And the second is on how big/powerful they are. To remind others, I shall give a brief civ history focussing mainly on number of cities:


    Civ1 – Civ2

    The larger your empire, the more corruption & waste you had. This manifested itself in wasted hammers and wasted gold that your city produced. If you were really far from your capital, it was not uncommon for cities for produce say 10 hammers (or shields as it was in those days), lose 9 to waste, and therefore only have 1 for building. So these cities were very unproductive and inefficient compared to your inner core of cities. You could alleviate this slightly by changing your government. In the ancient era a republic had less corruption than a monarchy. And later democracy had less than communism. But communism was better than a republic (I think).


    Civ 3

    Was basically exactly the same as civs 1 & 2. However, there were more ways to control it via buildings.


    Civ 4

    Had perhaps the best way of controlling infinite city spam over every civ, including civVI. It introduced maintenance in the form of gold. It cost money to found a city. The further it was from your capital, the more expensive it was. Gold was also used to generate science. So if you spammed out cities endlessly, then your science would grind to a complete halt, and you may even run into the negatives. This shortfall could be made up for by running science specialists. But eventually you would need cottages, which took time to grow, which would then pay for your expanding empire. Also, if you were colonising another continent, the costs could be crippling. As a way of circumventing that, you could create a vassal by ceding the newly created cities to an AI that would give you preferential trade and also help you out in warfare. Food was also limited by a city health mechanic, which would stop them from growing if they became unhealthy.


    Civ 5

    Introduced global happiness. This sort of turned the civ world upside down. Before, even on 4, the goal was generally to get as many cities as you possibly could. 4 threw road blocks down to try and slow you down (or even stop you), whereas 1-3 merely dis-incentivised you to perpetually grow. Civ 5 encouraged you to stay small, but grow big. So health was removed, and the “ideal” number of cities, particularly in the early to mid game, was pegged at 4.


    Civ 6

    And so we arrive at civ 6. There are 2 ways it tries to limit you – housing and amenities. But they both concern population and not number of cities. In fact, there is almost no way of constraining the player at all when it comes to numbers of cities, other than in the length of time it takes to build a settler, which can no be built without shutting off your growth, which is another important factor. Cities half way round the globe can be just as profitable as cities right next to your capital. There is no corruption and waste. The only slight caveat in this is that amenities are finite. So the more cities you have, the less amenities to go around. And the less big your cities can actually get unless you spam wonders and/or entertainment complex’s. There is no restriction on housing though, as it depends on city built improvements like districts and aqueducts.


    My conclusion here is that city spam is back, and in a very big way. You are basically encouraged to spam as many cities as possible, as wide as possible. Because the wider you go, the more room you have for districts and wonders later down the line. IMO this basically means the first 100-150 turns you should basically be constantly churning out settler after settler providing you have a large enough army to defend your territory. You don’t necessarily need to build early districts. All that will come much later once you have finished expanding. So all your early builds should pretty much be either – A settler, a builder, a trader (for the roads), or military.


    This means you forego a number of early boosts to tech and also, most likely, a religion. But all that’s worth it IMO for the crazy amount of stuff you can generate with 10-15 cities. The other option of course would be to conquer everything in sight right from the get go. A total war pursued from turn 1 would also be a viable tactic IMO.
     
  2. Plus Ultra

    Plus Ultra Conquistador

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    There is a problem with this strategy... district cost depends on the amount of civics or techs (whatever is higher) you've unblocked.

    Once you've stopped spamming those settlers and an army that can defend such an empire, the cost of creating infraestructure will be prohibitive.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2016
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  3. Menzies

    Menzies Menzies

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    The analysis of Civ VI and the conclusion drawn is bizarrely simplistic considering how much effort you were trying to put into the older games.

    The drawback on infinite city spamming appears to be a mix of many factors, rather than one catch all this time around. These include, but are not limited to, the cost of expanding initially (settlers cost one population), lack of focus of differentiation and specialisation (stagnation in civics, science and production), maintenance increase (I'm still not certain of the impact of distance on maintenance yet) and various other scaling factors. Then being able to defend that Empire, while also likely having the entire World hate you is also non-ideal.

    The simple point is that if you're pumping out settlers, your main cities will have a low population (the population cost of settlers) your army will be stretched, you'll have high maintenance costs, and a bunch of cities with no specialisation. The game does require more finesse than just infinitely spawning cities at this point. The fact that there are so many complaints about the cost of buildings should probably show where one of the balancing factors is, specialisation is the key to much of the later game, simply spamming cities isn't going to help. As mentioned elsewhere, there are also benefits to compactness in the game, including different districts that actually give benefits to multiple cities, so long as they are within a certain range.

    At this point I'd highly recommend playing more games and letting things turnover before trying to predict if the ultimate strategy is infinite city spam.
     
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  4. Frank327

    Frank327 Warlord

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    I had really hoped that governments would limit empire size. Maybe have governments with high bonuses to science/culture that only operates effectively with few cities. Then have governments like imperial or feudal government that can support more cities but fewer bonuses. At least some way to simulate that the bigger your empire gets the looser your control of it is.

    Right now, everything scales better with more cities. You get more trade routes (commerce district) more science, more culture, more production etc. I don't mind that too much but it would make it really punishing to have fewer cities if the AI wasn't so limited.
     
  5. zagosya

    zagosya Chieftain

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    Also one thing to be mentioned is the lack of strategic resources. Yesterday I tried a game where I stayed relatively small (4 core cities and 4 later ones packed close together to maximize the regional production bonus from factories) and because of that didn't get any niter, oil, aluminum and uranium and only one source of coal. And of course all of the missing resources turned out to be in locations where I could have settled but decided not to (lack of amenities, no regional production bonus and rather hard-to defend terrain). So yeah, I think you should expand at least until your natural borders like mountain ranges, sea or whatever.
    btw I still was able to win without strategics so...(it was on deity). I think science victory should require at least aluminum or uranium.
     
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  6. LDiCesare

    LDiCesare Deity

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    And I'd recommend you play the game too with a lot of cities because all your points are totally flawed, I'm sorry.

    Point by point:
    Settlers cost population:Yes, as tehy did in Civ and Civ 2 where ICS reigned supreme. Plus, it's easier to steal settlers from your neighbours than produce them yourself.
    Lack of focus? What do you mean? Because you have many cities they can still produce and focus on whatever you want, so there won't be stagnation.
    Maintenance increase: There is no maintenance increase due to numbers. There is a cost increase for settlers making it more difficult to spam them if you build them yourself, but since you can capture them it's actually harming your opponents as much as you.
    Being able to defend a large empire is easier than defending a small one. The cities you don't care much about act as listening posts in the worst case, and this was also present in various iterations so it's not VI-specific.
    The world doesn't have to hate you because you ICS'ed. They hate each other for allk inds of silly reasons, and again, they hated you in Civ 2 because their name was Shaka and he hated you no matter what, so that's not VI-specific either.

    The population of cities is capped by housing. So, if you're not building a settler when you're at or near your housing cap, you're actually wasting food. Would you rather build a sewer for +2 pop and a gold cost, or build a new city that will provide you more than 2 pop and can bring you some gold?
    Agian, you don't have high maintenance cost from lots of cities, but from buildings. That was the reason why IV managed to handle ICS better thanI, II and III. Buildings costing gold is easily circumvented by not building them. Cities costing cold addressed directly the problem (even if the solution was not perfect, particularly with corporations).
    Complaints about the cost of buildings come from people who don't understand how to play the game. You can circumvent these issues by prioritizing production sources (districts and mines, lumbermills), using civics to produce cheap units with which to take over the buildings and cities built by neighbours. The prices are not off.
    Your point about districts benefitting nearby cities in fact is in favor of ICS. The closer you pack your cities together, the more cities get a bonus from your factories, so in order to maximise factory hammer output, you need as many cities as you can close to the factory.
     
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  7. Menzies

    Menzies Menzies

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    Thank you for the recommendation for how I should spend my evening. I agree, playing the game would be most enjoyable.

    In terms of the points:
    - Yes, they did used to have a cost, but in this instance what we're talking about is the cumulative effect of doing this repeatedly, with the increasing cost of each settler, there is a break here.
    - You need to specialise your cities to get the most out of them in this version. Simply spamming city on city is meaningless if they're not doing a lot, and investment in them early generally requires the work that's going into spamming more, either through settlers or through military.
    - I may be mistaken as I've not dived too far into the maintenance mechanics, but there is a maintenance cost from cities from what I could tell. Equally, whilst you can get the occasional settler off your opponent, you'd be struggling to infinite city spam just on that.
    - Being able to defend a large one is only easier if you have the military to do so.
    - Except they do get annoyed at you for having a large number of cities, particularly building near them or quickly. Whilst I don't think the balance is tipped that way now, being dog piled while you've not specialised your cities could be devastating.

    - A sewer comes quite a bit later in the game, when the world is likely filled up, not sure why you're bringing it up here.
    - If I am mistaken about there being city maintenance, then I concede this point.
    - This is correct.
    - As is this to an extent.
     
  8. sherbz

    sherbz Emperor

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    I especially agree with this bit. Its possible to have 2 or even 3 cities benefiting from one cities improvements.

    Another point worth mentioning is that cities are the best way of busting fog. Which means you dont have to station units there in case you get a barb camp pop up. Your periphery cities are less valuable as well. So it shouldnt matter if they are attacked and/or captured as much. Then you can smash them with a vastly superior force.

    In my current game i am at turn 120 or something. I have almost twice the number of cities than anyone else (emperor), and even without any districts, my science and culture output is a good number of beakers more than anyone elses. Once i eventually get round to building those districts, my empire will snowball and ill be a powerhouse.

    In civ 5, or even 4, it was not worth building a city somewhere because of poor terrain. That is no longer the case now in 6. Even a cruddy tundra or ice city has value, as later on down the line you can create national parks.

    I also assume that population growth is more costly the bigger the city? So pumping settlers in high food & production cities (most probably your capital) offers the most efficiency, especially early in the game.

    One final thing that ICS allows for is uber specialisation. If you could get to a stage where you had only 1 district type (not counting entertainment or housing districts, and possibly production cities) per city, then you could have a pure faith city, a pure theatre, a pure miltary, a pure science, a pure commerical (less so commercial as you will probably want the trade routes). Then you could spam the mini projects continuously and generate enormous amounts of GPP
     
  9. isau

    isau Deity

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    The way the current system works pushes ICS in particular because district costs are linked to how many techs you have, but the cost locks in when you place the district. So for the lowest cost districts possible you should beeline them on the tech tree, and then in every city drop into place the districts you want later on even if you're not ready to build them yet. That locks the cost of them in at the lower rate.

    I consider this an exploit tho and hopefully they change it. Tech progress IMO should not have any effect on hammer costs.

    In particular, you shouldn't be awarded hammers for bypassing the water techs. Oceans are already suffering in Civ 6, slowing down district building because you grabbed a few Sailing related techs shouldn't be a thing.
     
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  10. CivScientist

    CivScientist Warlord

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    I'm still learning the game but it does appear to favor ICS very strongly. In fact, I see only the increasing settler cost as being a real deterrent to extreme rapid expansions.

    As for the other points mentioned:
    • District costs rise with tech/civics so you want to to get them out ASAP. However, that favors more cities than taller cities since it's a lost faster to pop out a settler and get that extra district with a few pop than try to grow your existing cities up 3 pop for that extra district. Granted, there will be a point where district costs will be prohibitively expensive for a city with access to only a couple mines but you'll likely have several cities to a dozen cities by then.
    • Another point about districts is that it seems you only really need to build industrial and commercial districts. Trade is powerful and production appears more important than science in Civ 6. The other districts, while helpful, seem to be mostly optional. I could easily see an effective 4 pop ICS strategy where you just build just industrial and commercial districts and nothing else.
    • The fact that a settler costs 1 pop isn't that big a cost. All it really means is you're moving that pop to a new location. It makes sense thematically and, again, isn't that big of a deal considering that new city can build a variety of per city buildings and districts that give a flat bonus to production, food, science, etc. Thus, ICS means more cogs, gold, etc. per pop than if you go with a tall strategy.
    • Spreading out your empire makes it harder to defend. However, more cities means more production as each city can build cog producing buildings and industrial districts. Thus, you end up getting more cogs per citizen than in a tall empire. Same with gold. Thus, you end up being able to make a larger army. But, more important than that, the AI is incapable of waging effective war so defending a large empire isn't all that big of a deal.
    • Lack of specialization seems to be a benefit in this game. It means you have more opportunities to get eurekas and inspirations. That said, I don't see why you can't specialize with ICS in Civ VI. If you want to go for a science victory, for example, just build a campuses in all your cities. In fact, I'd argue you can specialize more with many small cities since you can only build one of each district in a single large city.
    • I'm not entirely clear about the maintenance costs mentioned. Maybe elaborate as I don't know where they are coming from. If the cost is in gold, though, that isn't really a restriction. Gold is plentiful in this game and costs are low. Same about loss of focus.
    • Great people could be a real reason to build tall and spread out. There is a globally limited supply meaning most civs could follow an ICS strategy and one or two could build tall to monopolize great people. The problem with this strategy is that a tall city doesn't appear to have any better chance of attracting great people. That, and great people just aren't that great.
    All that said, I'm still learning the game and prefer tall strategies to wide strategies myself. So, if I'm missing anything or wrong in anything PLEASE correct me.

    When it comes down to it, I can't see a viable advantage to building a city tall vs wide (which is half of the ICS strategy right there). At best, I'd say the game expects you to build cities at a particular pace based on the increasing costs of settlers and the availability cog producing terrain.
     
  11. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Deity

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    I like that civ6 encourages wide play. I hated how civ5 forced you to play as a 3 city empire. I am not sure why some players seem to think that civ has to punish wide play. Yes, if all you did was spam cities, that would be boring. But in civ6 it is not enough just to spam cities, you have to actually develop them. It is important to focus on housing on amenities in order to get productive cities.
     
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  12. Frank327

    Frank327 Warlord

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    The problem with Civ 6 is that there's no side effects of bigger empires. Having 6 cities instead of 5 is almost 20% better assuming it's of the same quality as the other cities. If every city produces gold, production, culture, faith, research etc. and there's no modifiers to research/culture/production cost then a big empire will always outpace a small empire. An empire with 4 cities needs those cities to produce twice the yields per city compared to an empire with 8 cities in every aspect.

    In almost every earlier civ game there were side effects of big empires like corruption in Civ 4. This is one of the few where there's pretty much nothing of the sort. If the AI wouldn't be so bad at development you wouldn't have a ghost of a chance of winning versus opponents with significantly bigger empires.
     
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  13. CivScientist

    CivScientist Warlord

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    Do you need to develop those cities, though? What if you keep on building 4 pop cities. Each city builds a commercial and industrial district and then goes to town building settlers, units for invasion, and maybe a few other helpful buildings and districts here and there. Is there any advantage to growing these cities beyond 4 pop?
     
  14. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Deity

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    Yes. I think so. a pop 4 city generally won't be able to produce a lot. Plus amenities are spread throughout your whole empire. So if you a lot of size 4 cities with not enough amenities to go around, then all your cities will suffer in productivity.
     
  15. CivScientist

    CivScientist Warlord

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    A pop 4 city individually won't produce a lot but you'll have a lot more of them. I think empire wide, though, you'll end up with a net gain. As for amenities, more cities means more territory coverage which means more luxuries. Just build every 4th city on a new luxury and you should be covered.
     
  16. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Deity

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    I am not saying that civ6 does not need some balance tweaks. But overall, I like that the game strongly encourages wide play. I know some players are so used to civ5 but please let's not try to make civ6 into civ5.
     
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  17. Plus Ultra

    Plus Ultra Conquistador

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    That depends, which victory are you trying to achieve?

    Cultural victory requires plenty of Theatre Districts and at least a couple of wonders. Good luck building Cristo Redentor with a 4 pop city.
    Science victory requires a Spaceport District and 5 wonder-like projects. Again, can't build that on a 4 pop city.
    Score victory... probably no need to build anything else if you go truly crazy with ICS.
    Domination... as long as you are able to produce those end-game units on your cities, you are fine (they are expensive, so they'll take a while)
    Religious victory... yes, no issues here as long as you focus on getting a religion rather than expanding like crazy at the start of the game.

    In any case, don't forget about the entertainment district, you are going to need a few of those too with ICS, regardless of the VC.
     
  18. sherbz

    sherbz Emperor

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    I agree here. Encouraging wide play is not necessarily a bad thing IMO. In fact, I think civ 5 could have done a better job of it than it did with the liberty tree. I am merely pointing out that to be successful at higher difficulties, the civ 5 tactic of going tall will not work, and that in a way makes for a poorer system, as going tall is not really an option at higher difficulties. This is largely because there is no disincentive for going wide. That’s why I gave the history of civ as the preamble. Because in every other version, there was at least something. Here there is next to nothing, other than amenities.


    My suggestion would be that rather than nerf the current wide play bias, they should look to buff tall play. The easiest and best way to do this is through the policy cards. Most of these currently favour wide play. A selection being:


    1. +1 Production in every city

    2. +”X” resource for trade route

    3. Bonus builder actions

    4. +50% settler production


    My proposal would be to keep the above, but have a scaled system of cards that are only pickable based upon the number of cities in your empire. Scaled based on map size of course. Something along the lines of:


    0-4 cities

    0-8 cities

    0-12 cities

    Any number of cities


    The 0-4 cards could be really powerful. But once you get that 5th city, you can no longer choose any of them for your civ. This would enhance the strategic experience IMO as you would have to think carefully about how many cities you want to build, and also in a war, how much territory you want to conquer. Examples of the 0-4 cards could be something like:


    1. +100% faith

    2. Double growth

    3. Each district has its effects increased by 50%


    I think that would diversify the gameplay quite nicely. As it would make tall and wide both a viable option.
     
  19. UWHabs

    UWHabs Deity

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    It's always the balance issue. Building more cities should help you overall, as long as those cities are helpful. Maybe even a system where trade route yields decrease the more routes go to a city could help limit this. I mean, if I can spam 10 cities, and have them each able to send a trader to my cap to get a big food/production/gold boost, that makes spamming cities too valuable. But if each subsequent trade route to my big capital had reduced yields, then I'm not really getting as big of a benefit from each extra city.

    Otherwise, they can probably add some more "tall" policy cards or buildings. I think it would make more sense to give factories a small regional bonus, but a larger city bonus. So something like +1 production per 4 pop in the city, and +2 to all cities within 6 tiles. That way, you can still spam factories to help the region, but they'll give a larger bonus the bigger your city is. If you had each district give a similar bonus, then at least that would give you something to reward tall play, while still having trade route spam a viable choice for wide play.
     
  20. DanPMN

    DanPMN Chieftain

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    You don't get any additional amenities for having multiple copies of a resource, so if you endlessly spam cities and neglect entertainment districts you'll definitely have happiness problems.
     

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