1) Unstacking the cities.
This is going to be huge. Unstacking armies absolutely changed how wars were fought in Civilisation – it moved away from the ‘stacks of doom’ to actual tactical gameplay; with a centre block of melee protecting archers, catapults and other ranged units, with mounted troops fulfilling the roles of first or counter-strike units. Many gamers bemoaned this change, but I absolutely welcomed it. The gameplay actually felt tactical.
And can you imagine doing the same thing FOR CITIES? Now it’s no longer going to be an all-or-nothing affair when attacking cities. I don’t need to attack or raze a city in order to cripple an enemy civilization. Maybe a surgical strike and pillaging districts will be sufficient to hobble scientific advancement, or growth. Districts also get terrain adjacency bonuses, which means now I don’t just have to worry about fertile lands. I have to make sure I have mountains if I want to boost my faith/science, or rivers to boost my commercial hub.
Districts also open up much more tactical choices. Docks are able to function as a ship spawn point, which means that the city almost at the coast now has an option to build ships. There’s an endless number of new decisions that we have to make when founding a city now, and more choices are almost always good.
The move from global to local happiness (and the addition of housing as another metric to track) is definitely going to push the predominant strategy away from tall cities to wide cities. Add to that the fact that the various districts (and wonders) need a hex and are terrain specific and we’re definitely going to start seeing more specialized cities.
3) Eurekas, Inspirations, and the Tech Tree (s)
The tech tree has now been split into two. The traditional science tech tree is still there, but certain techs have been renamed civics, and there is now a civic tree as well. Think science tech tree, but for culture. This means that culture now pulls double duty, both to expand your borders, as well as to get civics. Most unit and structural improvements still come from the science tech tree. Some may come from the civic tree, but most of the civics score you either civics cards or governments (more on that later).
The eureka moments and inspirations (eurekas for the civics tree) are also a great change. They are essentially ‘miniquests’ that goad you into doing one task or another by giving you a 50% (one time, unstackable) bonus towards a specific technology or civic. For example, building a quarry boosts masonry. This means that sometimes you can end up ‘surfing’ the tech tree, researching down the path of least resistance (or most Eurekas).
Also, antiquity sites (villages) now just give Eureka or Inspiration moments, rather than whole techs. This has both pros as well as cons; it allows the game to give you bonuses higher up on the tech tree so you don’t just get the immediate techs, but half a free tech is by definition not as good as one whole free tech (and remember these bonuses are not stackable).
4) Civics and Governments
I liked being able to change from one government to another in earlier Civilization games, but I have to admit I seldom did because of the anarchy it would cause. Civ V’s social policies are ‘locked in’, and ideologies are pretty static too. In what is a pretty huge change, the Civic cards in Civ VI provide specific buffs, and different governments allow the slotting in of different civic cards to adjust what benefit your governments give. This allows on the fly tailoring of buffs to fulfill a specific (usually short term) agenda you may have. And because governments always change (especially in the millenia-long view that is Civ), you’re able to reshuffle the cards relatively often. Sometimes you want a benefit to fighting barbarians, and sometimes you need a production bonus to wonders. Civics have got you covered.
Previously workers would last forever and I would shepherd 2 to 3 worker units throughout the game, as they slowly turned my cities into civil engineering marvels. Builders are the new workers, and now they only have a set number of charges (3). On the other hand, the tile improvements built by builders are now created immediately. Again, this feeds into the tactical choice of Civ 6. No longer do I just leave my workers to gradually improve literally every part of my lands; each improvement now has a specific production and opportunity cost.
Roads are now built by caravans (in the early game). While this makes a certain sort of irl sense (since caravans and trade routes were what started roads in early civilization), it is going to be incredibly annoying not to build roads wherever you want. Now you can either join your own cities together, or if you’re going to send a trade route to another civilization, you better know it is friendly, or it will literally build a road from their army to your door. It has been stated that in the later part of Civilization 6 you will get the option of building military engineers to build roads specifically where you want to, but there’s currently no details on how that would work.
7) New Map and UI
HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW UI? This whole age of exploration theme is beautiful. Having the fog of war fade into a map instead of just greyed out tiles is amazing. I can’t believe it took so long for Civilization to get to this aesthetic. Almost everything is visible in the main screen too. No more having to bring up the city production or worker allocation screen; it happens all on the main map. It does take some getting used to though.
An additional shout out for the strategic view. It’s continued from Civ V, but I like how the new Civ VI strategic view looks like an old school strategy game ala Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms or a board game like Catan. Because it’s a top down view, the ‘map’ effect for the fog of war really works in strategic view too. The fact that all the icons are easily readable helps.
8) Art Direction
Civ 6VI is moving away from the more realistically rendered to a much more stylized look, both on the units as well as the Civ leaders. I didn’t like it at first, but Firaxis’ statement that they wanted it exaggerated in order to make it easy to read made sense to me, and after a while it’s started to grow on me. I still don’t much care for the leaders though, they look a bit too much like a caricature right now.
Speaking of other Civs and their Leaders though…
Apparently now each opposing Civ has a cultural agenda based on their civilization, as well as a hidden agenda. Their strategies will revolve around both of these agendas, and if you find out what they are you can try to push them into reacting in a way that would be beneficial to you. I certainly hope this is true. Many times I’m not sure why I ended up being denounced in Civ V. They apparently also now have Casus Belli in Civ VI, so maybe that will reduce your warmongering status?.
You are now unable to ‘buy-off’ city states. It is a change that is for the best because city states no longer go to the richest, but to the player that sends the most envoys (I believe via miniquests). I also like that they provide a unique Suzerain bonus to the Civ with the most number of envoys (I’m unsure if only Suzerain bonuses are unique, or all bonuses are unique). Some of these Suzerain bonuses are crazy powerful.
Civilization VI will be released worldwide on Oct 21.