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[NFP] Rework for Rationalism and similar policy cards


Sep 28, 2017
Currently rationalism works the following way (R&F/GS):
Extra Science from buildings in Campuses: +50% if city population is 10 or higher, +50% if district has at least +3 adjacency bonus.

There are also similar policies for gold (Free Market), culture (Grand Opera) and faith (Simultaneum).

Anyone who plays Civ 6 on decent level knows how important these policies are. Once you get them, you can easily double your science output (if you meet their requirements). That's the point when you start gaining more science/culture than the AI (Deity) and start gaining huge advantage.

These policies are responsible for a huge % of yields in your empire. From my experience, they are one of key reasons why wide > tall in Civ 6. No matter how big you can grow your cities, every city can have only one campus, and every campus' bonus from Rationalism is capped at +100% for 10 population. That's why growing your cities past 10 pop is not really rewarding in terms of science and culture (you still have to do it to work more tiles and place more districts, e.g. airports and spaceports). Therefore, having more space to place more cities is one of key factors in winning games, and it's not really skill-reliant.

The idea that I propose is meant to uncap bonus yields from these policies based on population. I propose to rework each of mentioned policies the following way:

+8% to yields from district's buildings per unit of population in this city (e.g. +80% for a city with 10 population, +200% for a city with 25 population, etc.). Additional +20% if this district's base adjacency bonus is +3 or more (+4 for commercial hubs).

This way the policy allows your empire to grow the way you prefer. One city with a single campus and 20 population will yield the same amount of science as 2 cities with 10 population each (if adjacency bonuses are ignored). In terms of raw yields, it's still better to have more cities (due to adjacency bonuses and its +20% multiplier), but playing tall is not as punishing.

Let me know what you think!
Sorry for posting to your thread late, but I think this an important subject that requires a full-fledged answer.
As you said, your proposed change helps reduce the gap between a tall approach vs a wide approach.
However, it doesn't address my main gripe with Rationalism which is that it is so powerful that once you unlock it, you have no reason to not use the card. When you are going for a science victory, there is no such thing as too much science and there is no drawback to using the card except maybe the opportunity cost of using another card, but since it's one or most powerful ones, it becomes a moot point. Also, as you progress through the civics tree you can use more and more cards and it becomes less of a factor.

Originally in Vanilla, Rationalism provided a simple +100% science from science buildings. The fact that Firaxis later nerfed the card proves that they realized it was too powerful. However, in my opinion, they went the wrong about it, or I should say, not far enough by simply making the bonus conditional and a bit more restrictive.
Before you had no real population target per city. Now, you have no incentive to go beyond 10 population.
You always wanted to get the maximal campus adjacency anyway. Now, you are penalized if you cannot reach +3.

To propose an "enlightened" change to the rationalism policy card, I believe one first needs to understand the factors that influence science output and the fundamental differences between the tall and wide playstyles.

Factors that influence science output

Favors tall

Population-linked percentage modifiers (see proposed changes)
Kilwa Kisiwani (can theoretically boost one tall city more if built in it)
Diplomatic Quarter (duplicates city-state bonus yields in one city)

Favors wide
Science from population (exponential food requirement for population growth makes it easier to get 2 pop 10 cities than 1 pop 20 city)
Flat yield from buildings
Great scientists that increase flat yields from buildings (Hypatia, Newton, Einstein)
# of campi / Campus production cost formulae (based on tech progression with no malus for previous copies)

Geneva/Taruga suzerain bonus
Any percentage based modifier that is applied empire-wide

It depends
Adjacency bonus / Natural Philosophy (it depends on the individual adjacency bonuses of the campi; if all cities have equal adjacencies, it favors wide; however there are more things to consider, see below)
Rationalism (if both criteria are met for all cities, it favors wide; as for the likelihood of meeting both criteria, see below)
Specialist slots (as there are more slots in a wide empire it favors wide, but you need a higher food output to support an increasing number of specialists which is more likely in a tall city)



Needs more infrastructure investment for housing (granary, sewer, neighborhood, builder charges)
Higher production per turn from more tiles worked allows you to build more stuff per city
You can hard build stuff faster once they are unlocked (such as science buildings).
Each population increase requires more and more food
To reach high population quicker you may need to make internal trade routes
You are guaranteed a +3 adj Campus even if you can't get any adjacency bonus from terrain, but it is delayed from the completion of districts (you can build 6 districts around your campus once you reach 13 pop: city center, aqueduct + 4 other districts; you can however only plan one district that way per city to get +3; to get another +3 district that way would require even more districts and more delay).

Late game food harvest, makes it easier to reach the 10 population threshold
Higher production output in your whole empire
You have access to more choppable/harvestable resources that you can use to speed up their construction
More trade routes available
You are more likely get more adjacency bonuses from terrain over more cities and a more spread out empire. The adjacency bonuses from terrain kick in much earlier than the completion of adjacent districts.
You are not guaranteed a +3 adj Campus if you can't get any adjacency bonus from terrain (unless you build a district that has no population requirement like a Dam, Canal, Neighborhood, Spaceport to surround your campus by districts)
Note: A wide empire is normally considered to consist of 15+ cities of 10 population, but you could push their population to 13 and get a guaranteed +3 adjacency bonus and it would still qualify as a wide empire (even if there is no formal exact definition)

My proposed change

Rationalism: +10% science from Campus district buildings per population in the city. Double maintenance from Campus district buildings.

Alternatively, this is effectively the same thing as providing a 50% science bonus per 5 population if you want to keep the same spirit of "population threshold requirement" as the R&F Rationalism policy. (ie a staircase function instead of a linear one)
The double maintenance has two functions: it acts a deterrent to constantly run the card and as a higher toll for a wide strategy (or more specifically spamming campi and its buildings in a large number of cities).

Scenario Analysis

With Natural Philosophy and Rationalism (current and proposed change) policy cards active
No Hypatia, Newton, Einstein, Kilwa Kisiwani
2 scientific city-states with at least 6 envoys


Scenario 1
1 Pop 20 city (10 bpt)
Campus +3 adj (6 bpt; -1 gpt)
Library (2*2+2*2 bpt; -1 gpt)
University (4*2+2*2 bpt; -2 gpt)
Research Lab (powered) (8*2 bpt; -3 gpt)
Specialists (3*3 bpt)
Science total: 61 bpt
Total maintenance: -7 gpt
Ratio: 8.71

Scenario 2
2 Pop 10 cities (10 bpt)
Campus +3 adj each (12 bpt; -2*1 gpt)
Library (2*(2*2+2*2); -2*1 gpt)
University (2*(4*2+2*2); -2*2 gpt)
Research Lab (powered) (2*8*2; -2*3 gpt)
Specialists (2*3*3 bpt)
Science total: 112 bpt
Total maintenance: -14 gpt
Ratio: 8.00

84% more science for double maintenance cost
2 Pop 10 cities (112 bpt) is only 8% less science than 2 Pop 20 cities (122 bpt) for the same maintenance cost

Under Proposed Changes

Scenario 1
1 Pop 20 city (10 bpt)
Campus +3 adj (6 bpt; -1 gpt)
Library (2*3+2*2 bpt; -2*1 gpt)
University (4*3+2*2 bpt; -2*2 gpt)
Research Lab (powered) (8*3 bpt; -2*3 gpt)
Specialists (3*3 bpt)
Science total: 75 bpt
Total maintenance: -13 gpt
Ratio: 5.77

Scenario 2
2 Pop 10 cities (10 bpt)
Campus +3 adj each (12 bpt; -2*1 gpt)
Library (2*(2*2+2*2); -2*2*1 gpt)
University (2*(4*2+2*2); -2*2*2 gpt)
Research Lab (powered) (2*8*2; -2*2*3 gpt)
Specialists (2*3*3 bpt)
Science total: 112 bpt
Total maintenance: -26 gpt
Ratio: 4.31

49% more science for double maintenance cost
2 Pop 10 cities (112 bpt) is 25% less science than 2 Pop 20 cities (150 bpt) for the same maintenance cost


Scenario 2 requires more strategic resources to provide electricity, but you are also more likely to have access to more strategic resources over 2 cities than 1.
Scenario 2 costs more, but you can build one more trade route to finance the -13 gpt gap.
Running two of the following cards (Rationalism, Simultaneum, Grand Opera) could actually cripple your economy unless you also run Free Market and build more Banks/Stock exchanges in your Commercial Hubs.

Further analysis

Under the current rules and same variables, 2 Pop 10 cities which only have +2 Campi adjacency (and thus +50% rationalism) produce 54% more science (94 bpt) than 1 Pop 20 city with +3 campus (61 bpt) which is about the same relative differential under my proposed changes. Only now, you should not be able to run the cards all the time.
Even under the proposed changes (which I consider conservative) and the same variables as the scenario above, it would take a city of Pop 40 (113 bpt) to beat the science output of 2 Pop 10 cities (112 bpt).
Under the proposed changes, the higher the population the better the science/maintenance ratio.
Under the proposed changes, running Rationalism makes any city under Pop 10 with campus buildings become an "inefficient allocation of gold spending".
If one were to run multiple of the following cards: Rationalism Simultaneum, Grand Opera and/or Free Market, a 33% boost to the 4 main yields might justify partly the investment of going from Pop 10 to Pop 20.
Currently, it has never been harder in a civilization game to go tall (due to housing caps) and never less rewarding to do so.
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Specialists tend to favor tall in the medium term because only tall cities have surplus pops to both be specialists are keep the city doing much of anything.

I think rationalism style cards would do much better to simply add to the yield of specialists (probably +2.) Combined with the t3 building, and you have 5 yield specialists. Clean, efficient. No longer game breakingly good unless you focus on the specialist.

You both touch on the idea that nudging the current game balance from wide to tall requires a exponential (or at least, supra-linear) benefit to pop output in tall cities vs wide cities. There are many ways to encourage this (one of them is using per-pop effects to force wide players to build more copies of buildings for the same output; a subtle yet powerful effect) however, the only thing to be careful with is making sure the timing of this benefit matches the reliant subsystems in the game.
A tall city requires a lot of food and housing. If you create a regime where it is better to have wide science in spite of tall benefits because you don't yet have neighborhoods, or strong enough farms, you have not yet succeeded. In the reverse case, you don't want runaway conditions where simply making big cities bigger is a no brainer victory strategy.
How do you define "surplus pops"?
Specialists are tied to specialist slots which are tied to buildings. In a wide empire, you simply have more buildings with slots and therefore more specialists. When you compare wide vs tall science output for equal population, an increase in specialist yield will favor a wide strategy.
It is true that the terrain yield you forgo by working specialist slots are greater as a percentage of total city output in a low pop city than in a high pop city.
For example, working 3 less mines in a Pop 10 city 3*5/35 vs working 3 less mines in a Pop 20 city 3*5/60.
Currently, if you get less food from terrain as a percentage in a low pop city, do you care? No, because there are no real advantage to growing taller.
Currently, if you get less production from terrain as a percentage in a low pop city, do you care? Not really, because in a wide strategy you can much more afford to chop/harvest (especially in shorter games in the current meta). In fact, it is better to work the science specialists slots, because it will help you research techs faster which will increase the chop yields faster.

Now, if you increased the number of specialist slots instead of increasing their individual yields, I could see scenarios where working too many specialist slots in a low pop city could become a problem.
Can you work 5 science specialists in a Pop 10 city? I think not unless you also run internal trade routes.
Another way to look at it would be to make it worthwhile (or even mandatory) to run other types of specialists in the city in conjunction with the science specialists. What if you needed to run 3 campus specialists and 3 CH specialists? A Pop 10 city could certainly not afford to run 6 specialists.. (Which validates my idea of increasing building maintenance costs or gold costs overall)
Also, you need to keep in mind that simply increasing yields leads to even shorter games overall..
How about increasing max number of specialists in a district then? Up to, I don't know, 99 maybe? Let's say flat district has 1 specialist slot, library gives 2, university provides another 2, and lab allows as many specialists as you wish (hence 99). The more food/housing/amenity in the city you have, the better science output it can provide.
Furthermore, I'd argue that specialists need to affect Great People points too, since if lots of people do science, it's more probable that there's a great scientist growing among them.
@DanQuayle don’t take what I said as in anyway against what you side. In fact I would be happy if they ratcheted up maintenance both in general and specifically.

I guess the best example of specialists would be to look at civ5- wide play got more specialist slots too, but small cities never really filled them. Although I may have been “thinking past the sale” and considering specialists because if I had my way, most buildings would lose their flat yields.

They could pretty easily overhaul buildings in one of these patches- if they wanted to.
If you develop and release a major gameplay system, and then stick to it for years, your customers will learn it and stick to it as well. Many players will be pissed by such reworks, because they "finally learned to play civ 6, only to see it get changed almost to its core."

I see only 3 possible ways to release such a big change:

1) new toggleable game mode, like apocalypse (probably a bad idea, because it doesn't add anything content-wise);
2) rework in several small steps (over a few patches);
3) mod.

So here we are. And I think firaxis are watching over bbg and several other mods for some cool ideas to put in the base game.
What is "Wide" and "Tall" in Civilization VI?

In Civilization V, it was simple: Tall-play has few but populated cities (Tradition), and Wide-play has many cities (Liberty), with an hard cap: Happiness and increased cost for technologies and policy depending on the number of city.
In this scenario, you could have a Capital with 54 Population and all of them will either work a tile or as Specialists.

In Civilization VI, this is quite different: there is no hard cap! A wide player will have, on average, between 15 to 20 tiles per city, (a little less on a highly densely packed on big Pangea). Under 10 Population, a city do not really require management: you could ignore Amenity completely and get just enough Housing with fresh water and a few tile improvement. As long a player do not have too much city over 10 Populations, he can expand infinitely without any severe consequences (technically, dark age with -6 loyalty could kill his empire, but even since your empire is densely packed, this seems unlikely except against Eleanor). Now adds the classical republic legacy (+1 Amenity and +1 Housing), and a wide player has even more freedom.

If Specialists get viable (or if it is worth of having populous cities), nothing prevent a Wide players to grow their populations, have Specialists and further increases the gap between "wide" and tall. One advantage of Tall-play is having more tiles. If Specialists are now worth, well Wide with densely packed cities will suffer less from the lack of room. Except if Specialists scales with population (for example: Specialist yields +0.3 Science per Population, so +3 Science on 10 Population, and +6 on 20 Populations).

The new 'Rationalism' policy always looked weird to me. I do not fully understand the design, mostly the +50% if we have reached the adjacency arbitrary goal. The game is basicly saying: "You already having better Science than other players because you got lucky to be next a Mountain range or Reef (or playing Korea)? Then enjoy your free +50% Science!".
Out of the 3 policies of the kind (Rationalism, Free Market, and Grand Opera), 'Rationalism' is the best. First because it is easier to trigger the +50% with adjacency bonus (TS rely on Wonder that you might not have, and CH on either river/harbor triangle, or river+surrounding with 4 districts so a lot of effort). Second because the science buildings yield more (+14) than TS (+10 Culture) or CH (+19 Gold), the two latters depending of Great Works or Trader for the output. Where it get ridiculous, it is when we add Hypatia, Newton and Einstein that increase from 14 to 21 the Science output of city.
I am ending to think a bland "+5% Science per Population from Campus district building" will be best for players enjoying high Population.
I think adding a maintenance cost increase to Rationalism would be an important step towards balancing the card. It is far too strong, and almost no matter how much science it actually gives, it would still be dominant because science = win the game.

There has to be a trade-off for using the card (more than the simple opportunity cost of using another card), because this policy card will literally win you the game sooner if you run it, so why not use it?
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