I’ve never really been big on board game style turn based strategy games. They’re long, require a great deal of patience and typically the payoff doesn’t match the time spent. I swore I would never play this type of game. Civilization changed all that.

My first experience with the Civ series games started with Civ 3 years back and as much I thought that this game was going to be a mundane experience, it was anything but. It was exciting, watching the game change based on the decisions that I make for the people and seeing it all play out over time and how you advance. Civilization sucks you right in and before you know it, 6 hours have gone by and you’re still building your nation to conquer everyone else with no plans of stopping. Addictive is an understatement.

Civilization V really laid out the foundation of where the developers and designers wanted to take the series and with Civ 6 you see that vision come to fruition, it’s not perfect but it’s incredibly well done and when I played it understood why it took 6 years in between the two versions of the game. There’s more than just nuance involved with Civ 6. It’s a completely different game although it’s the same game you remember playing. It’s my personal pick for the best turn based strategy game this year and I’ll try to explain it to the best of my understanding thus far. I still have some things to learn.

What’s New?

Civilization VI

The look of Civ 6 is what you notice right away. It’s what I call a “friendly” look. Some would suggest that it’s cartoony, there’s some validity to that but I see it as a look that doesn’t allow the game to look like RISK or some other complicated strategy game. It’s comforting and friendly, kind of fun looking. You feel like you’re playing a game and not so much a strategy game. I actually loved it and the more you play the game the more you understand how the look ties into the new gameplay dynamics.

When you first start off with your settler and warrior, you should establish your first city ASAP and then you begin to explore the terrain or map. The map opens tiles corresponding to where you direct your warrior or scout. It’s similar to how it was previously although this time the area around the map behaves a little differently. I don’t know if this was done for gameplay performance but Civ 6 really emphasizes the focus on your cities and not so much the surrounding environment. Tiles are live ONLY as you interact with them (You can see where you’ve been however) whereas prior once you open the tile it’s always live.

When you first start to build your nation, you pick your first point of research and civic policy. From there is when the game now begins, for me I always opt for a builder before a scout because in order for your nation to thrive you need citizens i.e. population which in turn helps your production process for later builds of wonders and necessary utilities that your cities need to maintain its survival. This is exactly the same as Civ 5 in terms of the beginning mechanics. After that, everything changes.

Civilization VI map

Districts is one of the major changes to city building that was much needed for Civ. If you’ve never played Civ then of course this is all new but if you have then you know that in Civ 5 when you build landmarks and utilities it just becomes a part of the city as a whole and you see the changes in the production, faith, culture, etc. Now with the districts each facet of what makes up each respective city is separated based on location within the city and location of the city. Just to give you an example. Cities that are coastal will have a harbor district with amenities and not just having a harbor like before. It will change the economics and housing of the city and not just apply gold to the city’s bank. All of your cities must have districts in order to provide housing, entertainment, science, religion and trade. It’s required in order for the city to function. If not, then you run the risk of anarchy later. These are changes that you will physically see in the district as they’re being built and you’ll also see how they are functional unlike before when you just knew they were there because you built them.

Great people also make the districts home. When a great person becomes available, depending on what type of great person it is, having a district ready is a key element of growth for your nation. Districting also forces you to be more mindful of what’s going on in your city which can overload your brain but it’ll all work out in the end if you manage everything correctly. Of all the changes, Districts is probably my favorite change to Civ.

Wonders are also handled differently in Civ 6. Previously you were able to build wonder after wonder and they would not only give you distinct advantages city wise but it would also encourage tourism, culture and religion. That’s still the same but I noticed a little twist. You could have and build as many wonders as you could dedicate the turns to but now Civ 6 makes it to whereas building wonders has to make sense. You can no longer just build them or rather you shouldn’t just build them just to build them, which I found out in my first couple of attempts at the game. Wonders take up valuable space which could in turn affect where you place your districts, neighborhoods and future additions to your city. In my first couple of go-rounds I found myself in a jam trying to figure out where to put a wonder or if I needed to delete one because I didn’t manage my land properly. This could have been just poor play but I can’t recall having this issue in Civ 5, maybe it’s me. Either way, Wonders in Civ 6 must be treated in accordance to the city’s needs and available land mass. It is a welcome change because you can’t have huge Wonders everywhere.

Civilization VI Government

Research, Civics and Government went through a series of refinements as well. It’s a little tricky to explain as I’m still in the learning process but basically you have your research which is whatever technology or science your nation is learning, your civics which is for the most part governance and religion. This is only different in that they are separated into two different trees and they affect your progress into each era a bit differently. Going from the Classical Era to the Medieval Era isn’t based solely on the tech tree this time. It’s a combination of the two which allows you to spring forward into the different eras.

“EUREKA” moments make researching tech really easy. You don’t have to rely on Great people as much in this game as you did in Civ 5. Great people are still important no doubt but the Eureka system speeds up the process. When I started the game and I setup my first city and I happened to be on a rice tile and when I decided to settle the city there I was awarded a boost in the irrigation technology for later in the game so if it would have taken 10 turns without the boost, with the boost it takes 6. The most boring part of Civ is the tech building, turn after turn after turn, so anything that will alleviate some of that process is a welcome addition.

Civilization VI Euerka

Leaders and Barbarians don’t differ much from any of the previous Civ games. World leaders still have likes and dislikes and their preferences as to the way you should run your nation. Not that you should pay attention to them but that’s the nature of the game. Barbarians are as annoying as they’ve always been, popping up at all the wrong times and at any time anywhere. You could toggle off the barbarians if you create a custom game but for the full experience, leave it on. Back to the world leaders. They’re dicks. They’re never satisfied and overbearing. The more you interact with them the more aggressive they become, especially if your nation is significantly better than theirs or if you have more culture, or great people or world wonders. Even generally they’re annoying, either they want to establish an embassy or send delegates, whatever. It doesn’t matter. It is a constant in the game. Not all of the leaders are overly aggressive but they will easily become that way if you don’t play along with what they want. No world leader has been a bigger pain in my ass more than Germany’s leader Frederick Barbarossa mainly because with him you can’t form any alliances with city-states, he hates them and I happen to rely heavily on city states for trade in my play style. Queen Victoria is a religion hater and King Phillip is just a prick. In essence, all of the world leaders have a uniqueness about them that makes them great as a user but as an opponent they can be tough to deal with and now that they can initiate surprise wars on you they’re even more difficult so plan out you military properly.

What else is in the new Civ?

Civilization VI WarriorsBuilders. Another component that was in desperate need of change. Gone is waiting forever and a day to get a farm, mine, road or city structure built. You have 3 chances at the start to build something instantly before you have either purchase or use turns to get another builder. You have to use your builders wisely but it makes the game go along so much smoother. You don’t get to keep them for the duration of your nation building which saves you time and gold from having to maintain them. I was elated with this much needed change.

Building roads for trade routes is instant as soon as you create a trader. No longer do you have to create an elaborate scheme of roads for your traders with builders to travel on (which used to take forever and a day). Now just choose your city-state or city and trading has begun. Simple.

Great people are still super important to your nation but they behave slightly different. Dealing with Great people and their works was convoluted in Civ 5. There was this system where you would apply each work to a slot system and you would acquire more slots by the wonder or a specific structure pertinent to said great person. It was a clusterfuck (My opinion, for some this was great). With the great people in Civ 6 as long as you have the district, facility or Wonder built, no matter the city, you can recruit them to live within that district and they in turn create their great works or reduce the number of turns for a specific research in the either present or future depending on what type of great person you recruit. You can also organize great works like before but it’s not nearly as complexed as the system prior. Thank god.

Winning the game also doesn’t seem to be so meaningless now. I’ve only “won” so far by just having done more than all of the leaders but I haven’t had a cultural, science, military or religion victory yet although based on what my colleagues have told me the religion victory is gone. There’s always an end result other than you didn’t achieve a specific type of victory so all of that time you spent nation building was all for naught. You can at least be pleased in what you’ve done in the game you played and it should help you refine how you play the next time around so you get the victory you want. You’ll appreciate that.

We finally get all of what we wanted

Civ 6 gives us all of what we wanted out of the Civ series. I won’t say that it’s flawless because there’s always a reason or something to complain about but as I saw in playing this game, to complain is to be nitpicky. If you bought it you have that right but let’s be honest, overall Civ 6 is an incredible game and worth every penny. If this is the type of game you like to play then I can’t recommend a better game right now over Civ 6. I haven’t completely figured out all of the nuances of the game and I’m sure there are somethings I missed but what I am addressing is the general gameplay and how it compares to Civ 5 which was a great game as well. Civ 6 is what a sequel to a game should be. Improvements and refinements that address common issues and make the game better previous version while adding tons of replay value. That’s what Civ 6 does here. Kudos to 2K for this one. I’m happy.

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Mike Bitter is a born gadget head and true lover of technology. It all started with computer classes at age 10 and his first PC the Tandy 1000. From then on he found his love and he became a gamer and a PC builder and has not stopped since. He specializes in hardware, troubleshooting and custom PC building. He’s known as the “fixer” amongst his friends whenever there is a problem with a PC or a Mac. He’s also fully immersed in all things that pertain to the world of computers and gaming. He's an 80's baby and he grew up watching technology evolve from the NES to PS4 and from the Commodore 64 to the iMac. He has a unique and minimalist perspective on technology and is here to help the average person to understand technology today.