Jadwiga of Poland
Small map, Fractal, 5 AI Opponents
Sparse, Hot, Arid Climate
Fall Patch (188.8.131.52)
Welcome to another Civ6 report. For this game, I decided that I wanted to explore a Spaceship victory since I had last reached the end of the tech tree in a much earlier patch version. I wanted a chance to poke around with the latter stages of the gameplay now that I had a better idea of what I was doing. Way back in Adventure Two I had launched the spaceship on Turn 251 and I thought that I could do substantially better here. As a greater challenge, I turned up the difficulty level to Immortal and pledged that I would be playing a peaceful game this time: no attacking the AI civs and stealing their cities or settlers to snowball my own development. This was going to be a peaceful builder game where I won through a superior economy, not smashing everyone else's brains out. I went with my normal Small map size and chose the Fractal script this time to see what kind of zaniness it would produce. I also went with a Hot and Arid climate with Sparse resources, a map where surviving would be more difficult and require wise allocation of the limited tools available. This was also played on the final non-expansion patch version of Civ6.
My pick for this game was Poland, one of the downloadable extra civilizations that came courtesy of owning the deluxe edition of the game. Poland has a grabbag of different abilities that lean towards religion and gold generation rather than being something scientifically oriented. Poland's trademark ability is the fact that completing any Encampment districts or building a fort with a military engineer will "culture bomb" the six surrounding tiles and bring them within the city's borders. This was the ability that garnered the most attention when the civ was debuted, and it's handy to grab some more tiles for an individual city. I didn't find it to be as abusable as some of the community members had feared when Poland was announced though. Maybe it's a different story in Multiplayer, I don't know. This civ also gets bonus faith, culture, and gold from relics although I never seem to find any of them. Probably the best aspect of Poland is the conversion of one Military policy card slot into a Wildcard slot, which makes them similar to Greece in being favorites to land the first Great General if they want it. The Polish unique unit is the Hussar, a heavy cavalry unit with 55 strength that can knock defending units back into other tiles on the map. I understand that this can be extremely powerful in Multiplayer, although the Hussars are reigned in by the fact that nothing upgrades into them, forcing them to be built entirely by hand. Still a very dangerous unit regardless. Poland's unique buildingn is a market replacement that grants bonus production to international trade routes and bonus gold to domestic trade routes. Unlike everything else involving trade routes, the Polish Sukiennice grants bonuses based on the starting point of the trade route, not the destination city, which reduces their power somewhat. I had chosen Poland largely due to the meme from the Polandball comic, where Poland is constantly unable to travel into space. They seemed like a decent enough all-around civ and it was always fun to be trying something new for the first time.
This was the starting position that I rolled, and after moving the warrior, I decided to settle in place on the starting tile. The immediate local terrain was solid without being spectacular, as Krakow had a 3 food / 1 production sheep resource and a 2/2/1 ivory resource to work in the first ring at sizes 1 and 2. Longer term, I was pleased to see the jungle tiles to the north for some more 2/2 tiles and lots of grassland hills that would be production powerhouses down the road. The biggest weakness here was the lack of anything in terms of significant food bonuses; it was going to be tricky to grow this city to large sizes. Trade routes would have to help with that. Research was set to Animal Husdanry followed by Mining, while I had the capital open with a slinger.
Almost immediately I found a Commercial city state, Zanzibar, which was located exactly four tiles to the east of Krakow. There was a bug in the city state starting position generator in this patch version of Civ6, and it wasn't unusual for players to find city states on top of them at the very beginning of the game. Contact with Zanzibar revealed an ocean to the east to go with the ocean already visible to the west. The starting warrior then found a Religious city state nearby to the southwest, and that was a nice pickup as well to avoid the need for God King policy. I would be able to claim an early pantheon with no effort required, and could run the much stronger Urban Planning policy upon reaching Code of Laws. So far, so good.
Here's a small city management tip. When Krakow grew to size 3, I went ahead and purchased the 2/2 jungle tile to the northwest so that the city would have three good tiles to work (sheep, ivory, and jungle hill). It would take a very long time for the city's cultural expansion to reach that same tile, since it would need to claim the inferior 2/1 stone tile first and then take another dozen or more turns to expand again. Just as in Civ4, it's very important that cities have good tiles to work when they're just starting out their development, and the capital is the most important case of all. Purchasing a couple key tiles is one of the best ways to accelerate your starting position in Civ6. That said, it's important not to be reckless either. Gold has a lot of uses in this game and dropping 100 gold on a third ring tile for something like +1 extra beaker on a Campus district's adjacency bonus is a waste. Knowing when and how to best employ gold as a resource is an important strategic consideration.
Krakow trained its slinger followed by a builder and then I queued up a settler after that. This was a clear case to me where a builder needed to come before a settler; Krakow didn't have strong enough terrain to warrant going without tile improvements and there was no obvious place where a quick settler would be able to work good tiles immediately. I had discovered that there was yet another Industrial city state off to the southeast, and I had scored the free envoy from meeting all of them first. That suggested that I was on an island of some kind, or else the AI civs would have reached these places already. There was also a barbarian camp that had spawned in the desert about seven tiles to the west of the capital, and I worried about that camp erupting with new barbarian units. There were two barbarian scouts running around and I had no opportunity to destroy them before they reported back to the camp. At least I was able to get the pantheon I wanted: Our Lady of the Reeds and Marshes would be perfect for the many floodplains tiles that I had spotted off to the west. That pantheon combined with Urban Planning would provide my Polish civ with some solid early game production.
At the time of the above picture, on Turn 21, I was pretty happy with my position. All of these city states were providing helpful additional faith and gold, I had been able to pick up the key early boosts without any trouble, and my settler was getting ready to complete and head for a spot along that sweet southern river. I had a slinger clashing with a barbarian spear and my warrior heading back towards the capital. Then that barb spear was followed up by a barb warrior and a barb archer. Then another barbarian warrior, another barbarian archer, another barbarian warrior... uh, guys?
Guys? Can I get a little help here? Keep in mind that at this point in time I had one warrior, one injured slinger, and one new slinger that just finished production. The barbarians outnumbered me by more than 2:1 odds, plus they had higher quality units, plus the Immortal difficulty bonus in combat. Those archers were the real bad news with their ability to shoot two tiles away and attack without taking damage themselves. I couldn't even build archers myself to shoot back on equal terms! It was about this time that I realized I needed to ditch the research into Writing and get Archery completed yesterday. Slingers weren't going to cut it against that barbarian horde.
If the AI had any clue what it was doing in terms of combat, this would have been a game over situation. Those barbarian warriors could have easily surrounded Krakow to put it under siege, then bombarded it with archers until it fell to melee attack. Instead I took advantage of the local terrain, moving the new slinger onto the hill tile southwest of the city and moving the injured slinger into Krakow itself, where it promote-healed and began firing back. The slinger on the hill took damage and soon had to retreat to heal, but I replaced it with a fresh slinger and the one in the city with the +5 ranged strength promotion kept firing and dealing serious pain. I gave up my stone quary and allowed the barbarians to pillage it, ceding control of the north side of the river to their rampaging force. At one moment, the barbarians even managed to get a warrior across the river when I pulled back in the hopes of enticing one of them to its demise. The turning point came when I finally finished Archery tech and was able to upgrade two of the slingers into archers. The extra damage and the ability to shoot two tiles away made a huge difference, and I was finally able to start damaging the barbarian archers. It's important to keep in mind that barbarian units can't heal any damage taken, and therefore so long as you can keep pulling your units back to heal and firing away with slingers/archers, even the worst looking situations like the one above are usually survivable.
By the beginning of Turn 40, the barbarians had been turned back and were in full retreat:
They had another scout in the field ready to spawn even more units, but this time my archer was on top of the situation and eliminated the unit. This was a nasty struggle and the worst barbarian trouble I've experienced in a while. That had to have been two scouts returning to that camp and triggering it at the same time. Thank goodness there were no horse resources nearby or this might have been an actual game-ending situation. (The fact that barb camps can sometimes spawn horse units from the start of the game is one of the dumber aspects of Civ6.) After pushing through the last remaining barbarian units, the camp was finally cleared shortly after Turn 40. The early game crisis was over.
When I wasn't cranking out slingers and warriors with Agoge policy, I had been doing my best to get the wider development curve of my civ up and running off the ground. Warsaw was the only viable choice for the second city location, narrowly slotting into an eligible spot on fresh water between three different city states. With the barbarians running around in the north, there was nowhere else safe to send this settler even if I had wanted to plant my city in another location. Thanks to the extra gold income from Zanzibar, I was able to purchase a builder and use it to improve the stone and cattle tiles to get Warsaw off to a strong start. I tend to be leery of cash-rushing builders because they can be produced with the +30% production Ilkum policy, but in this situation it felt like the right call. I made sure to repair the pillaged tiles at the capital before burning the last builder charge on a grassland hill mine. With three warriors and three archers out on the map, Krakow was finally able to start building a Campus district for the State Workforce boost. It was too bad that I found another Militaristic city state, Kabul, half a dozen tiles to the west of Jerusalem a few turns later. I was the first one to meet the city state and scored the free envoy, which would have been a lot more useful when building all those units earlier. Oh well.
That left me in a situation where I had all of these early game military units and no barbarians left to fight. There was really only once choice on what to do with them next:
Yep, time to annex some of those nearby city states into my empire. I said that I wasn't going to attack any of the other AI empires, however I made no such promises about the city states. Some of the city states are worth keeping around, especially the Commercial and Scientific ones to power up their respective districts. Some of the weaker city state types, like Militaristic and Cultural city states, are usually better conquered since it's rare to spend too much time building their districts. Religious city states are probably the best of all to capture, as they like to build Holy Site districts so early in the game that can be taken and used by the player. I had hopes of capturing Jerusalem and using that Holy Site to found my own religion. While the first Great Prophet had been taken via Stonehenge long ago, I figured that with 4 religions available in total for the 6 empires in this game, I only had to beat out two other AI civs to get my own religion. That seemed possible to do.
In my limited experience, this is an ideal early game strike force to take out a city state: 3 warriors and 3 archers. The warriors encircle the city and put it under siege while the archers plink away. I like having a third warrior because two of them sometimes struggle to get the siege in place, and rivers can make it impossible for a pair of them to do the job. My advice is not to fool around and make sure to bring enough force to the party to win quickly. Long sieges are no better in this game than in Civ4. Anyway, this operation went off like clockwork. My units declared war on Turn 48, moved into position on Turn 49, and captured the city on Turn 50. Nice and easy.
This brought my total empire up to four cities, and the capital was working on another settler for a fifth location. Unfortunately I was already starting to run out of fresh water in the immediate starting area, and with the cost of the settlers still scaling upwards, I decided to stop expansion for the moment after founding this next city. The other settlements were working on their basic infrastructure and the whole Polish civ needed to grow upwards for the time being. I was running Conscription to save money on those archers along with Colonization and Urban Planning and Caravansaries on the policy front. When I was done building settlers, I swapped out Colonization for the seldom-used Revelation policy: +2 Great Prophet points/turn. I was going to need that to have a realistic chance of founding my own religion, since the AI civs were pushing pretty hard for the remaining Great Prophets.
With nothing else to do for the moment, my military units healed up from the conquest of Jerusalem and kept heading west towards the next city state, Militaristic Kabul. The land over there wasn't terribly strong, entirely landlocked and dry with no fresh water in site, not even the potential to construct an Aqueduct via a nearby mountain. Too bad the city state wasn't a single tile to the east, where I could have constructed an Aqueduct and solved that problem. Still, beggars can't be choosers and I figued it was better to have another free city than not have one. Kabul put up a better fight with several archers, a warrior, and a random catapult that they had trained for some reason. My units were all promoted from their earlier fighting, however, and I had no difficulty subduing this city state as well. With the addition of Poznan in the south, I now had a core of six cities:
It was too bad that there were so many mountains along the southern river in between Jerusalem and Kabul. I would have loved to get another strong city there to help join the component parts of my territory together, but it would have to wait until much later in the game. At home my cities were working on builders and districts. I was researching Mathematics in the hope of constructing Petra in Jerusalem, which would be an absolutely amazing spot given all those desert hill tiles. I started work on the wonder on Turn 70... and then it was completed by an AI civ on Turn 71. Well, at least I didn't waste a lot of production on that failed venture. I never seem to have a chance to build that wonder on the higher difficulties, the AI simply loves chasing after it too much. On an Arid/Hot map, too many AI civs qualified for the thing to give me a realistic hope of landing Petra. Someday.
I had figured that the continent ended somewhere to the west of Kabul, since no other civs had met the Militaristic city state at the time of my conquest around Turn 65. Instead, the land kept going and going as my warriors and archers fought off a heavy dose of barbarians in the western wilderness. I stumbled across Uluru and finally completed the boost for Astrology tech, one of the latest times that I've ever found a natural wonder. What kind of a weird snaky continent was this? Eventually my units came across the Scientific city state of Seoul, and I was not the first ones to have contacted them. Sure enough, Alexander of Macedon greeted me on the next turn:
In other words, Poland wasn't alone on this continent after all, just separated by a long expanse of empty terrain from the other civilizations. This had turned into the perfect map for a builder's scenario and I was very pleased at how the starts ended up being distributed. Alex had the highest score of any AI leader in the game, slightly outpacing my own civ with 145 points to my 133 points. I could already see that this score lead wasn't going to last long, however, since the Macedonian lead came from techs and civics where the AI gets significant early game cheats. Alexander was behind in empire score 80 to 57, and that's the most important category since it tracks cities, population, and districts. I was out-expanding the AI civs even with their Immortal bonuses and beginning to accelerate past them. I've written this repeatedly in the past and it's still true: the AI needs to focus more on expanding in Civ6. They have gotten better with the patches but they're still not good enough. I think Alex had four cities to my seven, which was pathetic when considering that he started with two settlers on this difficulty level. Not good enough. At least I could sell him an excess ivory resource for 7 gold/turn - that's one thing that hasn't changed since the early days of Civ6 and remains a great way of raising cash.
The race for the Great Prophet was winding down and it didn't look like it was going to go my way. Three of the Great Prophets had been taken and there was only one remaining to found the last religion. Unfortunately I was being outpaced here 5 points/turn to 2 points/turn, with the unknown civ out in the fog already ahead and getting further ahead. The really obnoxious thing was that my one captured Holy Site district at Jerusalem had been pillaged by barbarians, denying me the Great Prophet points from the district and the shrine I had constructed there. This cut my Great Prophet generation in half and allowed that other civ to pull ahead. I had a lot of gold saved up though, and a strong income of almost 40 gold/turn. Only a few more turns and I would be able to patronage that Great Prophet... But no. It was recruited by the AI using its own patronage a couple turns before I had the chance. Argh, stupid barbarians cost me that religion. In retrospect, if I wanted a religion I should have built an early Holy Site district at the capital, not a Campus. You can't fool around on the higher difficulties because the religions are taken quickly. It was a miracle that there was still a Great Prophet waiting as late as Turn 85. Either take Divine Spark to ensure a religion or make sure that the first district in your first few cities are always Holy Sites. I honestly didn't do enough in this game to make sure I landed one of the Prophets.
Unfortunately this meant that I wouldn't be able to play around with Poland's religious abilities in this game, which was a downer. All those turns running the Revelation policy card had been hugely wasteful too. I would have to fall back on pure scientific and commercial might without religious beliefs for support. One piece of good news came in the form of a barbarian settler that I managed to snag over in the east, a settler that almost certainly had been lost to the barbs by Alexander. I simply cannot understand how the AI is so terrible at protecting their settlers and workers from being captured. It is really that hard to code the game so that settlers are always escorted by a military unit to their destination?
Elsewhere, I had swapped back into Colonization policy and pushed out a new round of settlers. It's important to keep doing this throughout the game because new cities quickly pay back the investment cost of their settlers and don't require maintenance or global happiness or whatever from past Civilization games. Just make sure to keep connecting luxury resources for amenities and trading for additional ones from the AI civs. Building the Colosseum also tends to be really easy to do since the AI almost never constructs Entertainment districts; I didn't chase after any more wonders following the Petra failure, but I could have had it pretty easily in this game. Gdansk was a city planted on the northern shores to take advantage of the fertile jungle region above my capital. I've chosen to highlight a builder using the harvest feature to knock out the cost of the Aqueduct almost immediately. This is the main way that new cities get up to speed: chopping forests/jungles and harvesting resources. The chopping and harvesting yields scale up right alongside the cost of districts and that makes it easy to get new cities off the ground with some builder labor to help out. The worst thing to do is to stop expanding, which is a tendency that's all too easy to fall into. There's always another district or another building to add in your mature cities, and the temptation to sit back and grow upwards endlessly can be tough to ignore. In the long run though, it's better to keep pushing out more settlers and more builders to get them running.
Over the following turns, I started to meet the rest of the AI civs. Nubia was further west behind Macedonia, and then Spain was further to the west still. All three of those leaders were jammed together in about 1/3 of the continent and then the eastern 2/3rds were empty aside from my civ and all those city states. Like I said before, a lucky start for a builder's game. I met Tomyris of Scythia when one of her units wandered past, and exchanging information on our capitals revealed that her territory was far to the north across a body of water. It looked like she was on another landmass, which was good news because Tomyris is one of the hardest AI leaders to deal with peacefully. There was still one remaining AI leader out in the fog, who had to be in the north somewhere.
Speaking of the north, I had thought that the land ended somewhere just above Krakow. I never saw any units from another civ arrive in that direction, and there had been plenty of coastal tiles up there. With all of the barbarian troubles in the early game followed by my attacks against city states, there had never been time to get an exploring unit in the north, and I hadn't prioritized it since I thought the land ran out up there. When I finally did send a unit up beyond Gdansk, I was shocked to find that the continent continued on and on with no signs of stopping. It was time to get some more cities up there; I had one settler about to found a settlement next to the sheep on fresh water, and then another one just completed in the capital heading for the eastern coast by the stone resource. Note as well the ridiculous vision range on that settler, which allowed me to send it north without an escort. We've actually had players use settlers as combat spotters in Multiplayer warfare just because they can see further than any other units. It still doesn't seem to stop the AI from getting their settlers captured by barbarians though.
My science and culture totals were humming along nicely for a game that didn't involve conquering any AI cities. (I did whack the two city states and captured a barbarian settler, of course, the latter of which had now planted another city on the Macedonian border.) I would spend most of the game in Merchant Republic government from this point forward, a perfect fit for any kind of economic gameplay with its extra trade routes and discounted cash purchases. As far as policies went, I kept Meritocracy's +1 culture per district permanently locked once it was available, and used Charismatic Leader in the Diplomatic slot to increase envoy generation as much as possible. I was also actively trying to fulfill the city state quests wherever possible. There were two Scientific city states on the map and for this spaceship-themed game I was going to want the full six envoys with both. That would get me +8 science for every single Campus district even before any buildings were completed, and I was making sure that every city had a Campus district. Generally speaking, it's important to also have either a Commercial district or a Harbor district for every city to unlock an additional trade route, since trade routes are incredibly useful for all sorts of things. As you'll see later, the trade routes proved to be critically important for constructing the spaceship parts in a timely fashion.
Relations improved enough with Spain that Philip would sign an alliance, thereby unlocking another one of the boosts. Alliances also grant line of sight with your allied partner, so if you were ever curious about how an AI leader manages its empire, this is the way to find out. Philip was the Stonehenge builder and he had been stymied by a horrible starting position with tundra to his south and a huge range of mountains to his east. Outside of his size 11 capital with its ridiculous overabundance of farms, the rest of his empire was tiny and insignificant. This guy was struggling horribly and already out of territory for expansion, doomed to be a minor bit player in this world. Nubia and Macedon weren't much better off, having divided up the land between them and found themselves left with about half a dozen cities each. I continued to wonder why Alex hadn't put much of a focus on expanding to his east. He could have gone east just as easily as I went west, and yet first contact had come about five tiles away from his capital. This was a sad referendum on the performance of these AI leaders.
Most of my focus was on landing the boosts on the tech and civic trees to keep advancing through them as quickly as possible. For example, I founded Wroclaw in the middle of this desert so that I could unlock the boosts associated with niter:
The tile northwest of the city had the only niter resource within a thousand miles of my territory. It's hard to spot but trust me, the resource was there. I was surprised that my lands were barren of a key resource given all of the territory that I controlled. While I would build a Harbor district here and do my best to import some food with trade routes, this city would never grow much for the whole game. It wouldn't have been worth settling without the resource nearby. This was also a period where I finally began to crank out trader units to fill out my available trade routes. I went from having a low of three active trade routes in the screenshot above to having ten active routes in the span of the next dozen turns. Some of those routes went to city states in order to fulfil quests and score more envoys, while others went to create roads and jumpstart the performance of new settlements. I was very pleased at how well this was working out:
Check out all those envoys allocated to the city states. While I only had two suzerainships (the AI gets free envoys on the higher difficulty levels and isn't shy about using them), I had managed to put together 19 total envoys to date across all of the city states that I'd found. Seoul already had the full six envoy bonus for my Campus districts, and I was getting close to reaching the same third tier with Zanzibar and Hattusa. Those Scientific city states were significantly increasing my beaker output, and the Toronto/Zanzibar combo were simply too useful for their benefits for me to send units to conquer them. Note as well the fact that Zanzibar was the only city state with an active quest. I had completed all of the other quests for the current era and I was eager to reach the next age to get a new set. Envoys were one of the gameplay mechanics that I found myself ignoring when I first started playing Civ6, tossing them around without much thought and paying no mind to the city state quests. I've come to realize over time that accumulating envoys with city states means a great deal, especially in Multiplayer where holding a key suzerainship can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Players skipping this aspect of the gameplay are missing out on a lot of benefits.
The other thing taking place in this screenshot is a series of builders out exploring in the oceans. Builder units with only a single charge left often serve as useful units for this purpose, and scouts (which are ridiculously cheap by this point on the tech tree) can be even better choices. I had about four of these builders out pushing back the remaining fog, trying to find the last AI civ out there. Since there's no map trading in Civ6, it behooves players to get out there and look for more city states, more resources, more places to expand down the road, and so on. Finally I did manage to stumble across a Persian unit, meaning that Cyrus was the last missing player in this game. We exchanged information on our capitals, and what was this?
For some reason the city walls at Pasargadae were down. I checked to see if Cyrus was at war with someone, and no, that wasn't the case. It must have happened at an earlier date, either from another AI civ or barbarian pressure. Cyrus would never repair these walls throughout the rest of the game, and they would sit like that forever. Furthermore, it turned out that Cyrus was located on my starting continent as well! The whole thing was a huge twisted backwards "C", with Persia at the head of the snake and then Poland in the middle, with the trio of Macedon/Nubia/Spain clustered together at the tail. Scythia was located on its own small island off to the west of Persia. What an odd map. Somehow Cyrus had never managed to send a unit to meet my civ in well over a hundred turns, and we only came into contact because my units had traveled up to his borders. There was still room for several more cities in the north, albeit only one area that had fresh water available. Once again, the failures of the AI civs in this game were painful to watch. This was Immortal difficulty, for crying out loud!
I managed to use gold to patronize a key Great Person at about this time, snagging Issac Newton and his unique ability granting +2 beakers to all universities out from under the nose of Alexander. Perhaps sensing this insult, he began moving units up to my western border and eventually declared war:
This wasn't exactly a scary invasion force. Not only did Alexander tip his hand many turns in advance with plenty of warning, I had been keeping my forces up to date militarily purely for the purposes of achieving some of the boosts: have three crossbows, have a musket kill an enemy unit, etc. With Professional Army policy to discount the upgrade costs, it had been simple to maintain a fighting group equal to or stronger than anything the AI civs were fielding. My Polish civ was actually ranked second in military score when this war began - behind Alexander, heh - and there was a reason why the AI civs had largely left me alone in this game. That's not to say that the Macedonian forces were irrelevant; promoted knights were nothing to be taken likely, especially knights backed by the Immortal difficulty combat bonus. However, the AI's inability to understand One Unit Per Tile combat was on full display here, and I had set up a tactical formation that left Alexander confused and helpless. As his units shuffled around from turn to turn, rarely attacking anything, I kept my two muskets fortified in place in front of my crossbows and let the ranged units do all of the shooting. Between the four crossbows and the supporting fire from Seoul's city walls, Alexander achieved absolutely nothing and barely scratched my units. He eventually signed peace after ten turns and gave me two iceball tundra cities in the peace deal. I kept them as reparations for making me go through the trouble of decimating his armed forces.
The game continued along on its leisurely course as I kept working to fulfill the boosts on the tech/civics trees and boost overall science output. Here's a few things that I noted along the way. First, check out another failure from the AI civs:
For whatever reason, this collection of AI leaders was obsessed with building Harbor districts and competing for Great Admirals. I had built a few Harbor districts myself for the purpose of lining up some of the naval-oriented boosts, but I never ended up landing a Great Admiral due to the excessive focus from the AI leaders. Conversely, none of them had built a single Commercial district in the entire game up to this point. Not even one Commercial district in any of their five civs! That was outrageous and I have no idea what they were doing. Commercial districts are one of the best types in the game, and everyone simultaneously passing them up as a group was completely baffling to me.
Here I wanted to highlight the training of a settler in the city of Poznan. This is far from my best city; it's probably about the fifth or sixth strongest from a production standpoint, crammed into the southern edge of my empire to make use of a freshwater lake. Poznan is giving up almost half of its tiles to its northern neighbor Warsaw, and it's actually working a Harbor specialist due to lack of any available tiles at the moment. Yet despite the fact that it's a thoroughly mediocre city, Poznan is still able to train a new settler from scratch in 7 turns while I'm running the Colonization policy for the +50% production bonus. I was in the process of pushing out three more settlers from three different cities, my last wave of expansion before the approaching end of the tech tree would make any further cities unable to pay back their initial investment cost. This is the important factor that all of the bellyaching about districts and settlers and builders scaling up in cost over time misses: yes, their cost goes up over time, but everything else in the game scales up at the same time to match. Using Poznan as an example, the hill mines that the city is working all get the +3 production from having Industrialization tech completed. Poznan benefits from being in range of an Industrial district with a factory for +3 production, and it has a trade route that's been beefed up with +2 food / +4 production from the districts in other cities. None of that stuff is available at the start of the game. The net result is that a new settler might cost 350 production after building a whole bunch of other settlers, but it still takes the same amount of time to build (5-10 turns) as it does in the earlier portion of the game. Builders actually seem to get cheaper as the game goes on, especially once the Public Works policy unlocks at Civil Engineering and grants both the +2 builder charges and the +30% production on builders. All of my core cities in this game were cranking out new builders in 3-5 turns in the lategame, even though the nominal cost of those builders had swelled to more than 200 production apiece. Long story short, anyone who keeps claiming that the scaling costs make it impossible to build anything either doesn't know what they're talking about or isn't playing Civ6 effectively.
This was one of those three spots that I had picked out for settlement. I had been planning on settling here earlier and had been forced to take the far inferior Wroclaw location due to the need to connect that source of niter. It was now Turn 171 and I was curious what this fertile river valley location would look like by the time that the game ended. The new city Legnica had two food bonus resources, multiple forests to chop, and lots of hillside tiles available for mining. All it needed was some builder labor to get it off the ground and running. I guessed that I had roughly 50 turns to whip this spot into shape before the game ended, and hopefully it would prove to be a useful contributor in that span of time.
At the far other end of my territory, I was placing one of my other last remaining cities:
This would be my 15th and final city, located far away in this northern outpost at the edge of the empire. It was remote enough that I was never able to send more than a single builder into this area, and I mostly established a city here to gain control over the spice and tobacco resources. It didn't hurt to plant my flag up here either for vision purposes and for a defensive front line in the event that Persia would ever decide to get frisky. The one oddity in this area was the presence of the Spanish settler. I have no idea why Spain sent a settler off to the other end of the world from their core, and I was even more baffled when Spain had that settler/spearman pair stand in place without doing anything for many turns on end. I'm not kidding, they had me beaten to this spot by half a dozen turns and Philip simply never created a city. His units stood there without moving for the rest of the game, which was slightly irritating because I was never able to mine that plains hill tile later on. I really have no words for this epic brainfart on the part of the AI. What's wrong with these guys?!
Back at home, I was gearing up for the most difficult aspect of the Spaceship victory condition: building the spaceship parts themselves. Launching the spaceship involves constructing a Spaceport district at a flat cost of 1800 production, then building the five spaceship parts themselves. The Earth Satellite must be built first (900 production), followed by the Moon Landing (1500 production), and then the last three parts each cost a further 1800 production. Novice players are in for a bit of a shock when they discover the stratospheric cost of these spaceship projects, and there's a tendency for research to outstrip production in the worst way. It certainly happened to me in my first few games. There are ways to work around these issues though, starting with the harvesting of resources:
In the lategame, every bonus resource should theoretically be harvested because the one-time infusion from harvesting is worth so much more than the benefit of keeping the resource around. Chopping forest and jungle tiles operates on the same principle, and I was able to shoot Krakow up from size 13 to size 17 almost entirely as a result of gaining food from hacking down the many nearby jungles. In practice, there are rarely enough builders to tear down every terrain feature on the map, but the one city building the spaceship parts is an exception to that rule and should deservedly get a lot of builder labor. I cranked out builder after builder after builder to reshape the landscape surrounding Krakow. In the specific case pictured above, harvesting this stone resource knocked out several turns of production towards the Spaceport district, and this builder was able to replace the stone resource with a mine that resulted in the same tile yield anyway. Earlier in the game this can be a tougher call, but with the ability to plant forests and lumbermill them once Conservation civic is reached, there's really no excuse not to chop and harvest everything. The only limitation is having enough builder labor on hand. (It made me wish I had gone for the Pyramids in this game, which would have been a huge help.)
The next big factor in building the spaceship comes in the form of trade routes:
Trade routes are always a good thing to have throughout the whole game. However, they only get more and more powerful as the game goes on, and the end stages of a space race should see all of them rebased to the Spaceport city to stack up as many production modifiers as possible. This is another reason why continuing to expand through the game is so important: every additional city opens up the possibility of another trade route, which can be moved around as needed and used to support spaceship production. Trade routes gain significant buffs from some of the midgame and lategame policies, and this is one of the main reasons why a Spaceship game will want to complete the civics tree as well as the tech tree. In this particular case, I'm running the Triangular Trade policy for +4 gold / +1 faith on all trade routes, and then the less well known Diplomatic policy Arsenal of Democracy: +2 food / +2 production on trade routes to an allied city. The alliance that I had signed earlier with Spain was now paying off in a big way, as this policy combined perfectly with the Polish unique building Sukiennice's +2 production on international trade routes. Even Spain's crummy cities were now veritable powerhouses when it came to trade route yields. This was so effective that I began looking to sign alliances with more of the AI civs in order to open up more of these yummy trade routes. While domestic trade routes are the way to go for most of the game, the policies at the end of the civics tree make international routes the most effective ones in the endgame.
Finally, the last and most important element in a speedy space race involves mass patronage of Great People, specifically Great Scientists. The key to making this happen is to accumulate as much gold as possible:
I had been saving gold for dozens of turns on end to stockpile as much as possible in my treasury. Warsaw spent the previous 25 turns slowly constructing Big Ben, which adds an Economic policy slot and, more importantly, doubles your current treasury. This was going to leave my civ with approximately 27,000 gold to burn on patronage of Great People, which sounds like a lot but still left me short of the ideal amount. To pull this off perfectly, the player would want to have a gold total somewhere in the 50-60k range, depending on how much help that they received from the AI civs along the way. By this point I had switched my cities over to Campus District projects, each of which would produce several dozen Great Scientist points when completed. That was all that mattered now, as my beaker/turn rate was functionally irrelevant by now. I would have plenty of science to finish the tech tree and unlock all of the spaceship parts, now I simply needed to build the darn thing. A flurry of builders had chopped down all of the jungle and harvested all of the resources surrounding Krakow, and I was essentially out of tile micromanagement tricks to pull there. The Great Scientists were going to have to do the bulk of the work from here.
Let's look at some of that mass patronage in action. Earlier I had made sure to be in Democracy government for its 50% discount on Great Person patronage, with the extra policy slots coming in handy as well. I had also previously burned my faith total, accumulated in random bits and pieces over the past 200 turns, to shave several turns off of recruiting Albert Einstein. That was the last Great Scientist from the Modern era, and my goal now was to cycle through the Atomic era Great Scientists to get to the Information era ones that would actually be of use. Here's what that looked like:
First up was Mary Leaky, a Great Scientist who was useless here since I already had more than enough beakers to get the job done. Her unique ability that triples tourism from artifacts is completely game-breaking for Cultural victories, and the designers really should tone that down to a more reasonable +100%. Currently, recruiting Mary Leaky is an instant "you win" button for anyone who wants a Cultural win. That cost 3800 gold since I had about half the Great Scientist points required, clearing the way for Erwin Schrodinger up next. His eurekas were equally useless here, as I already had all the techs that I needed for the spaceship. I burned 7150 gold just to get him out of the way. Janaki Ammal was also unnecessary, and I was forced to spend yet another 7150 gold to clear the route forward. This is a great demonstration of the problems with the Great Person system in Civ6. If the game would simply let me PICK which Great People that I want, all of this could be avoided. My civ was already in the Information Age and there was no need to force me to recruit all these pointless Great Scientists just to cycle the game forward to the ones that I wanted. This insistence on having only one Great Person available at a time in each category, instead of making them all available once each technological era has been reached, serves no purpose other than frustration.
There are three Great Scientists available in the Information era, just as in all of the other eras. The one that I most wanted was Carl Sagan, and the description above should make it clear why: 3000 instant production towards spaceship projects. This was calibrated back when the spaceship parts each cost 3000 production in the earlier patches and was never adjusted downwards; as a result, Carl Sagan is now worth nearly two full spaceship parts by himself. This was a lucky break in getting him to show up as the first Information Age Scientist. The other Great Scientist that I wanted was Stephanie Kwolek, who grants +100% production towards spaceship part construction. These two bonuses *DO* stack together, which means that ideally you would recruit Kwolek followed by Sagan and the two of them would combine together for an instant 6000 production, essentially enough to build every spaceship part immediately. This is how those super fast Spaceship victories are won at CivFanatics, by overrunning every AI city on the map, chopping/harvesting everything, and then spending tens of thousands of gold to mass patronage all the Great People to insta-complete the spaceship parts. There are also two Great Engineers that have similar functions, with Sergei Korolev serving as a mini-Sagan with 1500 production towards spaceship parts and Werhner von Braun exactly duplicating the +100% production bonus of Kwolek. I didn't have that many Industrial districts in this game though, and the Great Engineer list was still stuck in the Modern era. This was going to have to Great Scientists or nothing on the Great People front.
A few turns after my big buying spree, I was able to drop the 10k gold required to recruit Sagan. Unfortunately, it wasn't Stephanie Kwolek behind him but the completely useless Abdus Salam (triggers the boost for all Information Age techs). Argh. There wasn't enough time left to patronage two more Great Scientists before the game ended, so I was going to be stuck with just Carl Sagan's bonus. Fortunately, that alone would be decisive. I held him for a few turns until I could make the following civics swap:
Most important here was the Integrated Space Cells policy, one that arrives very late on the civics tree at the creatively-named Space Race civic. That +15% production towards spaceship parts would indeed function together with Carl Sagan, turning his ability into a one-time 3450 production bonus. The only issue was that Krakow had an Encampment district but not a military academy. I realized that I wouldn't have time to patronize any more Great People, and instead saved money for a few turns to cash-rush first an armory, then a military academy. That allowed me to use Carl Sagan and the Great Scientist indeed knocked out two of those very expensive 1800 production spaceship parts immediately. I only had one left to build, and that's where some of these other lategame policies came into play. Arsenal of Democracy remained in place along with Trade Confederation, joined now by the game's best trade route policy: Ecommerce. This one arrives ridiculously late on the civics tree at the Globalization policy, but it's absolutely worth the cost of going so deep into the civics tree. The +5 production and +10 gold from international trade routes is simply amazing when putting together the last spaceship parts. Look at this list of trade routes:
I managed to get alliances with Nubia and Scythia as well as Spain to unlock more of their cities as destinations for international trade routes with the Ecommerce and Arsenal of Democracy policies. This random Nubian city was worth an astonishing 2 food, 9 production (!), 13 gold, 1 beaker, and 1 culture per turn. The interface couldn't even display the culture because there were too many yields on screen at once. For the last three dozen turns of the game I had been swapping every trade route over to Krakow, and this was the net result:
210 production per turn, with 126 of that coming from outgoing trade routes (60%). This honestly wasn't even that great in terms of surrounding terrain from a production standpoint, with no food bonuses and only a modest number of hills, plus highly cramped surroundings with the nearby cities. I hadn't even had the chance to build Ruhr Valley in this game due to lack of available time. And yet Krakow was still able to reach more than 200 production/turn at the end right before launching the last spaceship part. I had been shooting for a finish on Turn 225 and missed it by a single turn, coming up about 65 production short on shaving off one more turn. I would have saved that turn if an enemy spy hadn't sabotaged the Industrial district, cutting off the bonus production from the workshop and factories for the last 15 or so turns. There was no chance to repair the damage as any time spent fixing the buildings would only have slowed down the spaceship. I wised up after that and put a defensive spy in place to protect the Spaceport district, which turned out to be a good decision when that spy foiled two more attempted sabotages. Sheesh AI civs, talk about annoying. I thought we were all allies here?
And here's a check-in with Legnica right before blasting off into space, one of those last cities that I had founded about 50 turns earlier. During that span of time, Legnica had grown to size 8, finished two districts, and was pumping out 30 production per turn along with 16 beakers and 18 gold. If I'd managed to get another builder over here, I could have chopped the remaining two forests and turned them into another district, which would have kicked in the New Deal policy's +4 housing and +2 amenities for even more growth. Not bad for a little spot that had been ignored most of the game. This is a good illustration of one of the main rules of Civ6: any kind of decent land is almost always worth settling. Don't ignore spots like this and try to turtle upwards on a small handful of cities.
In any case, I won a Spaceship victory on Turn 226:
There's still no map replay and the Dan Quayle screen is still broken with no bonus for fast finishes or for winning on higher difficulties. At least Civ6 does have short cinematics for each of the four victory conditions. I went ahead and included the science bar graph here for comparison purposes, which was unfortunately another dispiriting measure of the poor performance of my AI competitors. Even on the second highest difficulty level, they completely fell apart at the economic side of the game and put up no resistance at all. Alexander was the only one who did much of anything when it came to research, and shortly after Turn 100 my civ left him in the dust without ever looking back. Philip and Tomyris and Cyrus could barely crack 100 beakers/turn while I was in the process of building the spaceship itself. And it's not like they had been conquered by another civ and had just one or two cities left; none of the AIs ever managed to take even a single city off of anyone else, which again is all too typical for Civ6. The AI simply can't play this game on the military or the economic front, which does much to remove the excitement from the gameplay. Civ6 has all these awesome mechanics and most of them fall apart because the AI doesn't understand how to use any of them.
I have mixed feelings about this particular game. On the one hand, I had a blast developing my own civ and playing out a peaceful space race. Chasing after the various boosts was constantly engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to poke around with some of the lategame stuff that I don't end up seeing in most other games. I was very pleased with my Turn 226 finish date for a game that wasn't based around attacking and conquering cities from the AI civs to snowball ahead. On the other hand, I haven't reached the endgame in quite some time and that's been masking the awful performance of the AI in the later eras. This is ugly, ugly stuff and I honestly can't see how an experienced Civilization player would actually lose a game if it gets past the first 100 turns. The AI is so bad that the player is guaranteed to win eventually; the AI can only win through early game cheese rushes with their free starting units. That's... really dispiriting. This is why interest in Single Player Civ6 games has shriveled up and died in our community. There's no challenge to be had and even a game with great mechanics gets boring quickly under those conditions. The future for Civ6 looks to lie in Multiplayer, where we can get around the embarassingly inept AI by having humans compete against other humans. It's truly a shame that the designers either couldn't or wouldn't put the resources needed into developing a better AI. As for me, I have one or two fun variant ideas that I'd like to try in Single Player, but the days of straight up "serious" games are likely finished. The AI can't put up a fight and I'm guaranteed to win eventually, so what's the point?
Regardless, I did enjoy this game and I hope you enjoyed this report. Thanks for reading.