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Strategic Value of Great Works


Apr 13, 2022
One of the things I really appreciate about Civ is that the developers clearly put a lot of effort into making different aspects of the game feel really special. Unfortunately, great works don't feel special to me, and I wanted to share my thoughts on why that is and how I think they can be improved.

Wonders are a great example of what feels so special about Civ, and making great works more like wonders will be a good start. Building wonders always brings me satisfaction, and I believe it's because of the following:

- Each wonder provides a unique set of benefits that no other wonder or feature in the game can provide
- The only way I can obtain a wonder I haven't built myself is conquest
- Building a wonder requires you to do city-wide and empire-wide planning
- You get a nice cut scene the moment you finish a wonder

Great works on the other hand:
- do not provide unique benefits
- can be "built" by collecting great people points, but can also be stolen with spies, and most critically, bought with gold
- require very little planning other than to just spam theatre square districts and buildings, and there's no unique planning required for acquiring any specific great work

I don't think it's important that great works provide unique benefits, because I think it makes sense to restrict the purpose of collecting great works to help a player win a culture victory, and providing benefits other than tourism, which can be useful for other victory conditions, I fear, might make great works feel like a chore you need to complete when you're going for a non-culture victory. There's also the risk that great works become so powerful that they just become like wonders, which I think might take something away from wonders, making them less special.

Now, there's the concept of theming, which does somewhat distinguish great works of art from each other. I used to think theming is a pointless mini-game with no strategic value, but I think it can be an important element in making great works more strategically interesting. I'll get to what I mean by this later, but for now, I'll just say that I'd like to see theming be applicable to writing and music as well.

Making great works non-tradable should significantly improve how special they feel. It will also make Great Work Heist a much more viable mission to make your spies perform, because you can no longer steal gold and use it to buy great works from other players. I also believe it's generally a good idea to restrict direct deals between the human player and AI, so that the AI doesn't fall into the trap of making the game too easy. Similarly, players shouldn't be allowed to buy great people using gold and faith.

The great people point system, at least for great writers, artists and musicians, should be replaced with a system that encourages players to "aim" for specific great people, rather than hope to pick up as many as they can by spamming theatre squares. I think a quest system similar to that for earning city-state envoys could be interesting. When an era begins, all great writers, artists and musicians from that era can simultaneously be up for grabs. There will be a unique quest players need to complete in order to obtain a particular great person, and if no one completes the quest before the era ends, that great person becomes forever unavailable. I haven't thought too deeply about the nature of the great people quests, but it'd be nice if each quest related to either the upbringing of the corresponding great person or the environment in each the person was able to produce some of their great works. I'm not well-versed in history, so I'm going to resort to a somewhat irrelevant example of Adam Smith, whose unique quest could be that you build a campus next a maize farm because he loved counting corn. However, I feel like a binary quest like that might be a bit too brief for recruiting great people, and I like the racing element of collecting points toward certain great people that I really want to get. So, instead, maybe these unique quests can be coupled with the existing GPP system and provide boosts to players who complete the quests, so they can collect points faster toward certain great people.

Now, back to theming. Without being able to purchase great works from the AI, players have an incentive to recruit great people who produce specific types of works. If you're going for a religion-focused game, that might mean that you're in a good position to recruit many religious artists. You can try to plan out your city so that it fosters an environment that is amenable to producing many religious works. If you have access to a lot of marble, you might have an opportunity to recruit artists who produce sculpture, and maybe some of these artists require you to build theatre squares close to marble mines, so you plan for that. Not only do I think these changes will make great people recruitment more strategically interesting, I think they also align thematically with the district mechanics in Civ 6, which helps add character to each city.

Another way theming can make the game more interesting has to do with the age old discussion of Tall vs. Wide. I've always thought it was bizarre that the number of great works you can have in your empire hinges on how many museums and thus how many cities you have. This restriction is a completely gratuitous disadvantage to playing wide. One way to solve this issue is to allow players to add slots to existing museums by building or buying them. Extra slots can be priced such that it's not always more economical to add slots to a museum than to build a new one (e.g. production of 1 museum = production of 2.5 slots), but if players just add 1 slot at a time as they need and they haven't planned things out ahead, they might just never bother building a new museum, even if that's not the most efficient thing to do. With theming, however, players will have an interesting choice. As the number of slots in a museum increases, theming becomes more difficult, and so the marginal utility of your latest great work might be very low, but it will be costly to build a brand new museum especially if it means you need a new city or if you don't actually need all three slots that come with the new museum.
If you have access to a lot of marble, you might have an opportunity to recruit artists who produce sculpture, and maybe some of these artists require you to build theatre squares close to marble mines, so you plan for that.

I like the idea of tying great works to resources. There could be issues similar to strategics resouces being all or nothing, but I think that issue can be address by a better trade system that doesn't rely on leader trading.

. I think a quest system similar to that for earning city-state envoys could be interesting.

I could see this with relics. Completing a quest would allow you to buy a relic with great profit points.

Two other small things: You should be able to place great works in entertainment complex buildings for amenities instead of culture/faith, and there should be a "sack city" option that would allow to steal great works instead of taking the city.
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