Review of the Spy System (4.5.1)

Stalker0

Baller Magnus
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Spy System Review – 4.5.1
I’ve had a few games, with the goal of really digging in to the new spy system, and I’m ready to summarize my feedback. But first, a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: I know there is a sizable minority of the VP community that would wish for a radically different spy system. The goal of this thread is to adjust the current system, not redesign it. I fully respect debate for those who want to consider radically different alternate systems... but this is not the thread for that discussion. Thank you.

Overall Impression: Considering this was a brand new concept and really hasn’t had a huge amount of balance work done on it yet, I think it is an excellent implementation. I have found the system easy to use, with a solid UI. I have a good balance of just dropping my spies in certain places and only checking them once in a blue moon, versus actively using them and actively trying some shady business. There is definitely balance tweaking that is needed (as was completely expected), but I am quite impressed by this version 1.

Spy UI
General Area
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Missions Area
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Considering this is the first version with the updated UI, I am honestly very impressed. I have found the new interface simple, easy to work with, and contains most of the info I need to know. I only have a few notes:
  • In the general overview:
    • on the left side of the screen, I would like for a star icon to be present next to the capitals (exactly as you get with the city list on the right of this screen). This helps me quickly realize that a city is a capital for “capital only missions”
    • For the security tooltip (right side), I would like to see a breakdown of how the security value is calculated (aka base X, -Y for population, etc)
  • In the missions area:
    • Missions that are restricted because “spies did a mission recently” need more info, I don't know how that works, how long it will last, etc etc.
    • it should mention that you lose network points when you move a spy (or its imprisoned/killed).
    • Place the capital star icon near the missions that are capital only, as that is the most common restriction for why you can’t do certain missions.
    • Show the amount of yields I will steal (receive) for:
      • Sabotage City Production
      • Pilfer religious relics
    • For Sabotage City Production
      • There is a misspelling in the name.
      • Would love to see the current building the city is building and how many turns are left (so I don’t have to go to the city screen if I don’t want to)

Spy Point Generation / Security
Overall: My main feedback is that spies don’t feel like a renaissance activity (unless you are only using them for CS rigging). You just don’t get enough points to do anything until Industrial. On the flip side, late game you get a lot of spies and the points start to rise dramatically, which can make spying very powerful (perhaps too much).

Spy Levels:
One of the main ways to boost your spy points, right now spy levels are anemic. I almost never level my spies until the very late game. I also question if XP is the right mechanic for this. If spy levels represent such a massive boost in spy power (+50% for the first level as an example), perhaps levels should not be a function of XP (as there really isn’t strategy to build XP in this version). What if instead they were purely a result of national wonders?
  • Create a new “Scotland Yard” national wonder around Economics or so (late Renaissance). This levels all your spies.
  • Use the National Intelligence Agency to boost your spies to the final level (and remove that from bletchy park....the extra spy points are plenty for this wonder).
This would provide a more granular increase in spy power over time.

Cultural Level Boost
I’ve been pretty excited by this boost. Its meaty and gives a legitimate reason to push tourism outside of CV. Further, it gives you a real reason to use spies on “lesser civs” rather than the leader. Sure hurting the leader hurts more....but when I can literally get points 50% or even 100% faster in that small civ....I definately consider it.

Security
Security is basically non-existent for the majority of the game, and this is part of the reason spy points get a bit out of control in the late game....the defense mechanic is not actually working!
  • The population reducer to security needs to be halfed or maybe even cut to a third. It overrides every other security bonus until police stations.
  • Police Stations come online too late in the game, as they are only real meaty form of security right now, but spies start ramping up a lot sooner than that.
  • We probably need to reduce the Police Station (completely undoing the standard population penalty to security is kind of silly) and boost the Constabulary some in order to bridge the security gap.

Spy Missions
Overall: The balance is better here than I expected, but definately some tweaks. Most important, I think we need to have some cheaper missions, having all missions 1k or 1.5k points reduces variety and means you can’t engage with spy missions until much later in the game.

Steal a Great Work
Its the non-capital effect of this that makes it relevant. I don’t think this compares to a lot of other higher missions, but those require a capital. So this has a niche, and I think its a reasonable one for a CV focused player.
I do think the identification chance should come back down to 50%, it is MUCH higher than any other mission (even tech steals) and that’s not reasonable to me.

Sabotage City Production
This has one purpose....to stop a wonder so you can steal it. Its generally never the mission I am planning for when I plant my spy, but sometimes as the points rack up you check the city and realize “oh crap, I can stop this wonder and get it myself!”, and then you go for it.

Pilfer Religious Relics
This is a mission we can lower to 500 or 750 points to add in some variety. Its just too expensive for what it does, the pressure reduction is too short to really impact anything, and the faith you gain is just not worth it compared to other missions. But with a cheaper cost, it becomes an option.

Kidnap Specialists
We can fix this mission with two simple changes:
  • Remove the capital only restriction
  • Reduce the cost to 750 points.
Now you can do some cool combo work with this mission, kidnapping from several cities at once to super charge your GPP production in your capital. And realistically for most civs hitting several cities at once isn’t that big a deal, most secondary cities aren't your primary GPP breadwinners anyway. The key is the ability to focus all those points into your capital, and removing the capital restriction gives you that ability while opening a lot more options for this mission.

Steal National Treasury
It can be a solid benefit for its cost, depending on how much gold your enemy is hoarding. Though we have returned to the old problem that you can never store too much gold for worry about losing it. Its a powerful mission....but should it even exist? We tried doing a penalty to GPT instead in previous versions but that has its own problems. And so far this is the missions I’ve heard complain about the most. Maybe we just drop it?

Steal Technology
I think its a fair cost for what it gives you, and we can probably increase the caught % chance to 30% or something.

Radicalize the Rural Citizenry
The cost is too high for this one. I tried it once, and I’m thinking (that’s it, I could have stolen a tech....I could have knocked out defenses). I also just don’t find it all that interesting. Here’s a look at an alternative idea.

Cost: 500
Target City: +3 unhappiness. All other cities +1 unhappiness. Effect lasts for 10 turns.
This gives us a nice cheap mission that also can combo with the Arm Local Populace mission. And its a missions that hurts wide more than tall (and I think right now the system hits tall a bit too much)

Arm the Local Populace
I got hit with this one once...and its actually quite a scary mission if it hits your capital. First, your capital basically gets the sabotage production mission for 2 turns. Then....your happiness often plummets, which can often trigger the big unhappy penalty which generates a bunch of barbarians. Then...you get more barbs on top of that from the mission.
I think this mission is rarely worth it in other cities, but in the capital, it can actually be quite powerful.
I mentioned it above, but I think this mission would be more fun if you had happiness depletion options with other missions, so you could do a combo (radicalize the rural citizens to get them riled up...then hit the capital when its happiness dips).
The problem right now is this mission is too flippant. You have to go back and check all the time if you city you want to hit is unhappy or not. The restriction is needed, this mission would be insane if you could just do it for the points. But I do want a little control over it.

Target City Defenses
This one requires a LOT of foresight and planning. You basically have to set this up 30 turns before you plan to war someone, otherwise your war is usually over before its gone. That said, I have gotten some use out of it.
On the flip side, I am worried that the fortification pillage is just too strong against tall players. Tall absolutely depends on citadel usage, its a key defense for them, often required to hold against larger forces. If a wide player can just turn off citadels with the push of a button...I don’t know if tall players every stand a chance if the AI gets smart with spy use.
My last note...I don’t like the UI for this one. I am used to seeing the blockade icon, its frustrating to note see it (I honestly thought the mission was bugged until I closely checked the city to see if it was working). The effect should generate two icons, the standard blockaded one...and the one that shuts off the ranged attack.
All of that said, I think a weaker and cheaper version of this mission might be better in the long run.

Cost: 1000
Target City is blockaded for 3 turns
That gives you a mission that you don’t have to plan a lifetime in advance, but doesn’t completely shut down a city.

Surveillance Bonuses (aka passive bonuses)
Most of these I think are fine, just a few notes:
  • Level 4 should cost 1500. That lines nicely with your mission costs, and is more in line with the scaling up to this point.
  • Level 5 should cost 1800. Its a very meager improvement in most cases, so at least let it kick in a little sooner.

Diplomats
These are more impressive than I expected at first glance. Their intel bonuses kick in very quickly compared to regular spies. I have found having access to an enemy tech tree pretty useful info. The rest though I don’t care all that much for intel wise. Are they really worth it compared to spies (or CS riggers).....jury is out for me.

Counterspies
I love the ability for counterspies to switch focuses every 5 turns without repositioning. That opens up a lot of potential. Example: One of the missions allows you to strengthen your city ranged attack. Normally that would be garbage, why would I give up bonuses for something that I might almost never use? But....I can immediately switch to it when my city is under attack, and then 5 turns later can move back to more passive bonuses. That is gold, and really enhances the experience.
I think the main problem right now is security is so anemic, once that is addressed this might become more useful.
One thing I want to recommend, I don’t see a reason for constabs and police stations to give yields when identifying/killing spies. There job is to improve security, its there main purpose (and lower unhappiness). So heap all of those bonuses on teh counterspy. Its a high risk/high reward play. Using a counterspy means I don’t get yields normally....but if I do get a spy oh man the bonuses!!! Make it really meaty to catch that spy!

CS Rigging
I think its way too powerful at the moment. It starts off fine but its easy to just leave a spy in one CS for every and by industrial get 100-150 influence per turn in a CS effectively. It basically gives you a sphere of influence on any CS you want. While in theory enemies can send spies there to counter rig you....considering the amount of cities to cover (and the fact that the later you plop the spy the weaker it is...and you are spoiling your own spy to do it), people using spies to counterrig is not something that looks to happen.

Buildings / Policies
  • Constabulary: Too weak at the moment. Mentioned above, I see no reason to just give this building bonuses for every spy caught in the city. Your job is security...just do your job. Let the counterspy enjoy all of those bonuses.
  • Police Station: Likely too strong security wise, but comes so late right now compared to when spies start to ramp up.
  • National Intelligence Agency: Pretty solid, though I mentioned above you could level your spies here and I think that would be a cool boost. I do appreciate that spy missions are rewarded 4x the value of a cs rig....that was a problem in the old version where it was best to just plop all your spies in CS and reap huge gold rewards.
  • Bletchy Park: Very good in the spy game, might be too much in fact.
  • Covert Action: If CS rigging was more in balance, I think this would be fine. Right now the rig bonus is already nuts, this just makes it insane.
  • Double Agents: The identify bonus is decent enough, and 200 points is just excellent. Really good if you want to push the spy game.
  • Great Leap Forward: I think the +100% spy points here is too much. +50% would still be incredible, and I think its more in line with tier 2 considering the other nice bonuses.
 
Steal a Great Work
Its the non-capital effect of this that makes it relevant. I don’t think this compares to a lot of other higher missions, but those require a capital. So this has a niche, and I think its a reasonable one for a CV focused player.
I do think the identification chance should come back down to 50%, it is MUCH higher than any other mission (even tech steals) and that’s not reasonable to me.
It's at 100% because it's obvious who stole the GW, when the player randomly places it on the swap slot. The AI obviously wouldn't know how to check it, so this is for the sake of human-AI balance.
It's not like being identified hurts the spy owner directly unless they're spying on a friend.
We probably need to reduce the Police Station (completely undoing the standard population penalty to security is kind of silly) and boost the Constabulary some in order to bridge the security gap.
Doesn't Police Station only halve the population penalty? I think if we want security to be more important, we should introduce another security building between Constabulary and Police Station.
For NP balance, we can increase base NP per turn and Constabulary security by a significant amount, and base security for a bit.
Pilfer Religious Relics
This is a mission we can lower to 500 or 750 points to add in some variety. Its just too expensive for what it does, the pressure reduction is too short to really impact anything, and the faith you gain is just not worth it compared to other missions. But with a cheaper cost, it becomes an option.
I think we can increase the pressure reduction to 100% too. It's only on one city (out of 8+ sources at that point of the game) so it's not really that significant.
Kidnap Specialists
We can fix this mission with two simple changes:
  • Remove the capital only restriction
  • Reduce the cost to 750 points.
Now you can do some cool combo work with this mission, kidnapping from several cities at once to super charge your GPP production in your capital. And realistically for most civs hitting several cities at once isn’t that big a deal, most secondary cities aren't your primary GPP breadwinners anyway. The key is the ability to focus all those points into your capital, and removing the capital restriction gives you that ability while opening a lot more options for this mission.
You can target multiple capitals at once to turbo charge your own. This was made capital only because you can target the least secured city (like a puppet) for the exact same effect on yourself (and let's face it, you only do this mission for the effect on yourself).
Steal National Treasury
It can be a solid benefit for its cost, depending on how much gold your enemy is hoarding. Though we have returned to the old problem that you can never store too much gold for worry about losing it. Its a powerful mission....but should it even exist? We tried doing a penalty to GPT instead in previous versions but that has its own problems. And so far this is the missions I’ve heard complain about the most. Maybe we just drop it?
Huh, all I saw were complaints about steal GW. It IS intended to discourage players from hoarding gold, but at the same time, does it really hurt that much if you have a sizeable GPT to make that gold to begin with? Again this is mainly done for the spy owner's benefit so this is capital only.
Radicalize the Rural Citizenry
The cost is too high for this one. I tried it once, and I’m thinking (that’s it, I could have stolen a tech....I could have knocked out defenses). I also just don’t find it all that interesting. Here’s a look at an alternative idea.
This can be very strong at the right moment. You can use it to knock out strategics for a few turns to stop healing. You can use it to cause more unhappiness than "Arm the Local Populace" if it's a landlocked capital (disconnecting every city). Luxury trade deals are also ended so it hits the gold income too.
Arm the Local Populace
I got hit with this one once...and its actually quite a scary mission if it hits your capital. First, your capital basically gets the sabotage production mission for 2 turns. Then....your happiness often plummets, which can often trigger the big unhappy penalty which generates a bunch of barbarians. Then...you get more barbs on top of that from the mission.
I think this mission is rarely worth it in other cities, but in the capital, it can actually be quite powerful.
It's even scarier if you hit multiple cities with this at the same time! Especially during war time.
It's actually intended for these missions to not stack exactly so that you can't combo them.
One thing I want to recommend, I don’t see a reason for constabs and police stations to give yields when identifying/killing spies. There job is to improve security, its there main purpose (and lower unhappiness). So heap all of those bonuses on teh counterspy. Its a high risk/high reward play. Using a counterspy means I don’t get yields normally....but if I do get a spy oh man the bonuses!!! Make it really meaty to catch that spy!
I'm worried that nobody would build these buildings if they don't give yields. They're already underrated.
CS Rigging
I think its way too powerful at the moment. It starts off fine but its easy to just leave a spy in one CS for every and by industrial get 100-150 influence per turn in a CS effectively. It basically gives you a sphere of influence on any CS you want. While in theory enemies can send spies there to counter rig you....considering the amount of cities to cover (and the fact that the later you plop the spy the weaker it is...and you are spoiling your own spy to do it), people using spies to counterrig is not something that looks to happen.
Votes are reset to 0 if and only if the spy successfully rigs the election. So you always have a higher chance to win the next one if your enemy won this election.
I think AI should be taught to counter-rig more if they truly care about the CS.
Bletchy Park: Very good in the spy game, might be too much in fact.
It's a policy-restricted lategame world wonder. Better be strong.
Great Leap Forward: I think the +100% spy points here is too much. +50% would still be incredible, and I think its more in line with tier 2 considering the other nice bonuses.
You can propose that. No opinion for Police State?

I should also mention the spy quests: they're too hard to do compared to most other quests! They should always only require one mission, or the quest is completely changed to something else.
 
It's at 100% because it's obvious who stole the GW, when the player randomly places it on the swap slot. The AI obviously wouldn't know how to check it, so this is for the sake of human-AI balance.
It's not like being identified hurts the spy owner directly unless they're spying on a friend.
It gives the enemy a crap ton of yields if they have built all the buildings, so there's that.
Doesn't Police Station only halve the population penalty? I think if we want security to be more important, we should introduce another security building between Constabulary and Police Station.
I agree this might be necesssary long turn, the gap is quite noticeable.
You can target multiple capitals at once to turbo charge your own. This was made capital only because you can target the least secured city (like a puppet) for the exact same effect on yourself (and let's face it, you only do this mission for the effect on yourself).
Its not worth it. If I'm in a capital there are better uses of my points than kidnapping, especially if I'm in several capitals at once. But if not capital only, I could go raid some weaker civ I have big culture against and kidnap a bunch to jack up my GPP. That's fun and a reasnable alternative to the strong spy missions.
I'm worried that nobody would build these buildings if they don't give yields. They're already underrated.
The constabulary is underrated because the bonus it gives is meaningless right now. Could always give it a -2 distress as well to make it more happiness focus.
 
Security is basically non-existent for the majority of the game, and this is part of the reason spy points get a bit out of control in the late game....the defense mechanic is not actually working
I played england, which had by default 15 security in all cities, and i wasnt even able to increase security above zero in my capital due to number of citizens and trade routes, until endgame.
(Maybe i had, Half star, here and there in some smaller cities, rather rarely)
But around the time, when i built police stations suddently my security was almost full everywhere. By the time, you have Factories and Seaports Every where, there is a time window, when
relatively non-painfully you can pump few Public Works in each city.
Arm the Local Populace
I got hit with this one once...and its actually quite a scary mission if it hits your capital.
Just realize, this could be also amazing for saving, when you compete for number 1 in some global project.
I usually for starter, I target some Tradition capitols, and for example Germany, due to Henses is always sooo juicy.. Most of the time, their capitol, is like 60% of my total science :)
The production is also insane.
Spy Missions
Overall:
I honestly used only, steal technology and Steal Great works.
Steal technology, if you count the flat amount of bulbs comparing to for example Kidnap Specialist, is so overwhelming, it is just worth to wait. I dont honestly believe, there is
something that possibly could gave you more value. I was waiting, for the time, when i finish technology, to exclude it from the pool, because of being partially researched.
Then i was stealing techs, from the worst to the best civ. So once every x turns, i was able to get 2-4 techs immediatelly. That allowd me to keep up even on Diety.
Not sure it that wasnt OP, honestly, but at the same time AI bonuses on Diety are OP :)

Steal Great works, again comparing to Kidnap Specialist is comparable, but then again, you gain much more from theming bonuses, not to mention tourism late game becomes very important.
So you increase your Culture/Tourism and at the same time decrease opponnet.
Spy System Review – 4.5.1
I’ve had a few games, with the goal of really digging in to the new spy system
Can you clarify what is best way to level up your spies fastest or how to best utilise best level 1 spies?
I noticed, by simply station in other city gives 1 point per turn, which would give you level 3 after 200 turns, without any extra success missions.
Rigging election i believe lasts 20 turns, and every success give you 20 points extra.
Diplomat give you 15 points for every intrigue, so its comparable to Rigging election, maybe slightly better.
But then again, if you put plain Spy in some random city, after let say 50 turns he will accumulate amount of points that could be better then some
intrigues or city state influence, and he will get points after his operation, just slower the first time.
Even if you shorten leveling spy from 200 to 80 turns, you are not benefitting from the level yet, it was just investment untill that point, so im wondering,
maybe you should just put spy to work immediatelly, and swallow the fact, that he will be slow for a while?
 
Security
Security is basically non-existent for the majority of the game, and this is part of the reason spy points get a bit out of control in the late game....the defense mechanic is not actually working!
  • The population reducer to security needs to be halfed or maybe even cut to a third. It overrides every other security bonus until police stations.
  • Police Stations come online too late in the game, as they are only real meaty form of security right now, but spies start ramping up a lot sooner than that.
  • We probably need to reduce the Police Station (completely undoing the standard population penalty to security is kind of silly) and boost the Constabulary some in order to bridge the security gap.
I was thinking there should be a project called Counterintelligence or similar name that gives a temporary boost in Security.
 
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Security is basically non-existent for the majority of the game, and this is part of the reason spy points get a bit out of control in the late game

Civ franchise has previously enabled the equivalent of VP's envoys to provide spy defense (civ 2 had diplomats and spies as units -- diplomats could be stacked in city to boost defense against the very powerful spies).

If the AI could be trained to balance the use of envoys between wooing CS AND parking in city as a sort of espionage garrison, I think we'd have a relatively simple and elegant solution that adds depth to gameplay as a bonus to fixing the problem identified here
 
In response to the OP I agree with pretty much all of it. I would highlight the following as places where big wins can be got with small changes:
  • spy levels (xp feels very slow),
  • mission costs (some weaker missions could be much cheaper),
  • mission cooldown (I have points but it wont let me spend them yet),
  • number of spies (gets very large in late game),
  • security (feels not completely finished)
On that last point:
If the AI could be trained to balance the use of envoys between wooing CS AND parking in city as a sort of espionage garrison
Civ 2 spies/diplomats were crazy. Buy out an entire city! (very cool) But in VP as always I would prefer we keep it simple. The easiest thing is to spread +security over more buildings than just the current two.

I have been pondering my critique of this spy system for a little while. I have some ideas on how we can make certain things more interactive, and was planning perhaps a modmod to present them. The (bigger) changes I would implement--in addition to the fixes discussed above--would be:
  1. remove spy points from era advance. instead some buildings would give small amounts of one-off spy points (a small empire doing rubbish shouldnt have tons of spies for free)
  2. break link between spy point threshold and map size. spies should scale with investment: empire size and development
  3. add new niche buildings, wonders, and national wonder(s) that give more spy points and/or bonuses on missions, to support point (2)
  4. rebalance existing buildings' spy interactions, especially the +security distribution above
  5. make great diplomat have a +spy point and +spy xp option alongside city state mission, to support point (2)
I'm a huge fan of spies and would like to take the opportunity to thank axatin et al. for their work on the current version.
 
instead some buildings would give small amounts of one-off spy points
That makes it a wide thing, which we don't want. There also isn't half a spy, which means spy points not reaching the threshold are completely useless.

I wonder if we should increase the number of spies in general, make them stackable in cities, but lower their NP gains and CS influence numbers, and weaken the counterspy effects. Basically making it more nuanced.

People are going to complain again that the system has too many moving pieces though.
 
That makes it a wide thing, which we don't want.
One would tune it such that a "wide" empire had a similar number of spies to the current system (after any tweaks of course). "tall" empires would need wonders and the diplomat bulb.
One would also make sure that wide didnt just want to build all the spy point buildings as a priority, so that two equally wide empires could have different numbers of spies (this would be essential, in fact).

There also isn't half a spy, which means spy points not reaching the threshold are completely useless.
I'm not sure you thought this through before you wrote it. That's was the whole purpose of introducing the spy point system! Spy points gained in excess of the current threshold make you closer to the next threshold, this is how the current map size scaling is implemented.

Make spies stackable
That's an interesting idea, but of course it will make the number of clicks to manage much worse.

People are going to complain again that the system has too many moving pieces though.
I don't accept that people are simply against the espionage part of the game completely. If such people do exist then we should support the "no espionage" game setting, not water down the whole system to the point the player doesn't have to engage with it!
 
In response to the OP I agree with pretty much all of it. I would highlight the following as places where big wins can be got with small changes:
  • spy levels (xp feels very slow),
  • mission costs (some weaker missions could be much cheaper),
  • mission cooldown (I have points but it wont let me spend them yet),
  • number of spies (gets very large in late game),
  • security (feels not completely finished)
Agreed. I think the vast majority of my critiques are simple balance changes. I do recommend a few more aggressive changes here and there, but honestly those are secondary.

If all we did was:
  • Reduce security penalty from pop
  • Increase constab security
  • Weaken Police station security
  • Cost adjustment on some of the missions
  • Reduce the increase of CS rigs each time you rig.
That alone would probably cover like 70% of the issues. We can talk about things like a new security building, or more radical changes to missions, but I think a little spit and polish will get us most of the way.
 
I don’t see a reason for constabs and police stations to give yields when identifying/killing spies. There job is to improve security, its there main purpose (and lower unhappiness).
The constabulary is underrated because the bonus it gives is meaningless right now. Could always give it a -2 distress as well to make it more happiness focus
Here here!

Or have it reduce empire needs modifier. I agree that yields aren’t the point; security (and happiness) is the point.
 
Civ 2 spies/diplomats were crazy. Buy out an entire city! (very cool) But in VP as always I would prefer we keep it simple. The easiest thing is to spread +security over more buildings than just the current two.

It's a subjective perceptions thing maybe, but consider that within the existing "simple" paradigm, we have inquisitors that buff religious defense (or was this patched out? I been around here too long, sometimes remember how things were and not how they are). The proposed envoy spy-defense mechanism would be no less simple than the Inquisitor function

People are going to complain again that the system has too many moving pieces though.

I don't mind moving pieces if they're FUN pieces, but the spy system in civ 5 has never achieved this. In the main part of the game, it's not uncommon to glean a little rp-esque attachment to favorite units, parts of the map/world etc. None of this comes through the spy system, I care as much about them as I do a cell in an excel spreadsheet. One died? Who cares, it's almost a relief to not have to click into his UI for a few extra turns. I'm not knocking the overhaul designers, from vanilla to now it's been the same, spy system feels like I'm playing the database rather than the game.

My hopes lie with the event system overhaul work at this point, if there's some fun to be found in spying, it may be in the unexpected events that arise in connection to this system. Spying could have many more moving pieces in my view, if they were fun...

As alternative to building-based security (building method, though tried and true, seems more of the same boring spy spreadsheet stuff), consider some kind of event structure in the following format:
high incidence of spy events triggers event for spied-on player, trigger is consistently applied, little to no rng --> event gives player a choice of various methods to improve security to various degrees with different cost options based on resulting effect, or ignore the problem --> player choice results in temporary buff to security at some cost, depending on choice made (or not at all if ignored).
 
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I will note that to the complaints about "I don't want to do a lot of micro with my spies".

Honestly the current system is basically fire and forget if you want it to be. If you want the super simple spy experience.
  • Send every spy to a capital.
  • Wait until Industrial Era.
  • Click the steal tech when you hit 1500 to steal a tech.
That easy. Now if you have the super super super simple spy experience.
  • Put every spy in a CS.
  • Enjoy your CS allies.

Seriously, both of these are very good options, if you never want to finangle the system at all, just do that.
 
Votes are reset to 0 if and only if the spy successfully rigs the election. So you always have a higher chance to win the next one if your enemy won this election.
I think AI should be taught to counter-rig more if they truly care about the CS.
If someone else rigs an election and you want to counter, you need to move your spy there first. So in the first following election round, you'll have a lower success chance than the other player. Why take that risk if it's also possible to go to some other city-state and get the influence more or less certainly there?

It shouldn't be required that others do counter-rigging to keep the strength of the rigging mechanic under control. Also, if a city-state happens to be not contested and you keep the spy there, decolonization has practically no effect on it at all.

Proposal:
- The consecutive rigging bonus is removed.
- Instead, the gained influence scales with spy level in the same proportion as network points (network points are 20/30/40, so influence from rigging should also increase by +50% per higher spy rank).
- If a spy doesn't stay in a CS over the whole 15-turn election period, influence from rigging is reduced accordingly
- The "contender" information is only available if a spy is in the city-state. This gives the ally an incentive to keep a spy in the CS and know whether it's contested and it also gives spies in city-states some bonus other than simply getting influence.
 
It shouldn't be required that others do counter-rigging to keep the strength of the rigging mechanic under control. Also, if a city-state happens to be not contested and you keep the spy there, decolonization has practically no effect on it at all.
completely agree.
 
If someone else rigs an election and you want to counter, you need to move your spy there first. So in the first following election round, you'll have a lower success chance than the other player. Why take that risk if it's also possible to go to some other city-state and get the influence more or less certainly there?

It shouldn't be required that others do counter-rigging to keep the strength of the rigging mechanic under control. Also, if a city-state happens to be not contested and you keep the spy there, decolonization has practically no effect on it at all.

Proposal:
- The consecutive rigging bonus is removed.
- Instead, the gained influence scales with spy level in the same proportion as network points (network points are 20/30/40, so influence from rigging should also increase by +50% per higher spy rank).
- If a spy doesn't stay in a CS over the whole 15-turn election period, influence from rigging is reduced accordingly
- The "contender" information is only available if a spy is in the city-state. This gives the ally an incentive to keep a spy in the CS and know whether it's contested and it also gives spies in city-states some bonus other than simply getting influence.
The problem is that if influence is constant, it's very easy to reflip the CS using a couple of diplo units countering 15 spy-turns, no matter how long the spy has been there. Meanwhile, a spy in city keeps getting stronger for staying there.
 
The problem is that if influence is constant, it's very easy to reflip the CS using a couple of diplo units countering 15 spy-turns, no matter how long the spy has been there. Meanwhile, a spy in city keeps getting stronger for staying there.
Maybe spys should get network points also in city state?
Maybe there could be additional operations there like "riots" or something like that, for that would cause, that for some amout of turns city state cannot by ally with any body..
"if i cant have it, nobody will" :) That could also "temporary close embassies".. I see benefint in that, before starting a war, or before important vote..
 
In my current game I'm going CV, and so trying out diplomats more in this game to get a feel for them. Here are my thoughts:

  • The info you can get with a diplomat comes online pretty quickly and is solidly useful. Knowing the tech path of a major rival, and even their military composition, can be great info to have in your backpocket.
  • Vote Trading remains very expensive. Normally I want to buy votes from rivals who wouldn't want to vote for it anyway (otherwise what's the point), and then will charge obscene amounts for even a few votes.
  • There are few problems with the diplomat that tend to make them unwiedly:
    • They do get intrigue XP but thats random and so the XP of the diplomat feels loose and unknowable.
    • War declarations can just trash your diplomat progress, whereas your spies just keep on trucking.
    • The biggest one...once you get a base amount of NP, further points are 100% useless. I found it a real "feels bad" mechanic that I'm just seeing all these points accrue knowing its literally showing me all the wasted points I could have used if the unit was a spy.

I think the simple answer is, the diplomat needs at least one mission to spend their points on, one that can reinforce their vote acquiring aspect. And so I recommend:

Leverage Blackmail
Cost: 1500 NP
Identify: 20%
Caught: 10%
Benefit: The target loses 2 votes in the next World Congress, and you gain 2 votes.

And just like spies, you would gain XP for this mission, giving the diplomat a consistent platform to level. This would make diplomats a fun alternative to spies for those wanting to really leverage the world congress.
 
Diplomat is supposed to be mutually beneficial.
 
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