Humankind is a turn-based empire-building strategy game released by Amplitude Studios in August 2021. These are the same people who created Endless Space and Endless Legend and even Dungeon of the Endless back in the day. Humankind is one of the most direct competitors to the Civilization series that we've seen in many years, something that the industry has badly needed since the Civ games have largely gone unchallenged since the Call to Power days. Humankind is therefore a fresh attempt to "build an empire that stands the test of time" and the developers have done a reasonably good job at putting together a new spin on the standard Civilization formula. There are a bunch of great ideas in Humankind; not all of them work in practice and the game needs a *LOT* more balancing but my overall impressions are positive after spending about a month with the game. What we're going to do here is walk through a Tutorial game for Humankind as a way of exploring the mechanics in more detail. My hope is that this will provide more information for anyone curious about whether it would be worth their money to purchase this game. (This is one of the perks of hosting my own website: I can go much more into depth than the official reviewers at places like Gamespot or IGN if I want!)
The first thing that I'll mention is that Humankind doesn't have historical leaders in the same way that the Civilization series does. I guess technically the game has them as your AI opponents but you don't choose to play as a historical personality in the same way that you would pick Gandhi or Lincoln or whoever in a Civ game. Instead the player creates their own avatar and then plays as that individual across each new game. There are stock avatar options but it's much more interesting to create your own character using the setup pictured above. I took my best effort at creating an avatar that reflected myself and used that for my first couple games of Humankind. The big downside is that you can only have one avatar at a time and there's no way to save more than one preset. You can actually download other people's avatars and play against them as AI opponents but you can't have more than one of your own avatars saved locally. At the time that I played this Tutorial game, I was getting ready to run a variant on Livestream where I played as Mansa Musa and relied on cash-rushing for production. Thus I tried to recreate Mansa Musa as an avatar which ran afoul of the fact that you can only edit your character's facial features - I wanted to make this person a bit portly to reflect Mansa's artwork in past Civ games. I guess that wasn't an option, we had the trim and fit Mansa Musa for this endeavor! Unfortunately I had to screenshot every single avatar setting so that I could go back to the digital version of myself after the Livestream game was finished; was it really that difficult to let players save more than one preset avatar? Ah well. This is still a pretty cool feature.
Humankind has the standard game options that one would expect from a turn-based strategy game. There are a bunch of different map options that let players choose the number of continents, islands, sea level, climate type, elevation levels, and so on. I picked a Small map with two continents, ensuring that there would be two main landmasses with three competitors on each one. I generally play Small maps to cut down on the micromanagement in each game even though I think it makes the gameplay a bit more difficult. There are currently seven difficulties in the game and I was playing on 6/7 which is known as the Civilization setting. (There's a joke here from the developers: "Civilization" is the second-hardest difficulty and "Humankind" is the hardest difficulty.) Unlike a Civilization game, there were no particular civ or leader bonuses to select on the setup screen; those are entirely dictated as the gameplay proceeds. And with that, we were off and running:
This was the screen that confronted me upon starting the game. Readers may be familiar with one of the big selling points of Humankind: the player doesn't begin with a settler unit as in Civilization but instead starts with a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe that has to complete a short objective before the settlement stage of the game begins. This is a highly creative idea and it's pretty neat to play through the Neolithic era of human development before cities can even be planted on the map. The big upside is that the player gets a lot more freedom to pick where their first city will be located. You aren't forced to start somewhere within the first few starting tiles, the player gets roughly 10-12 turns to move around and explore before deciding where they want to set up permanently. The downside is that the Neolithic era can be quite random in terms of how it plays out and having good RNG versus bad RNG makes a gigantic difference for the subsequent eras. It's apparently very common for players to do a lot of reloading to get better outcomes and Humankind does little to discourage this behavior.
So how does this play out in practice then? The Neolithic era has three major objectives for players to chase after, listed in the top-left corner next to the player's banner. The goal is to earn at least one of these three stars: have 5 total population (tribal units), accumulate 10 science through exploring curiosities, and/or successfully defeat 5 animals in combat. Food and science can be picked up via Humankind's version of goody huts by exploring the map, and there are various animals (this game's version of barbarians) which can be hunted for additional food. Tribal units have 4 movement points and heal back 20 HP every turn which encourages this kind of exploration. Now here's the big downside: exploration of the map is totally blind and the player can have poor luck in finding food and curiosities and animals to hunt. There's also a serious snowball mechanic in the sense that every 20 food produces an additional tribal unit, which can then explore the map faster to unlock more tribes who then explore the map even faster and so on. I always feel enormous time pressure in the first couple of turns to get that snowball going in Humankind because it makes a massive difference. I don't think this is what the developers were going for but it's innately part of how the initial turns operate.
Now there is one little trick that Humankind doesn't explain which helps out immensely: turning on the auto-explore option will cause your tribal unit to run directly towards hidden objects in the fog. This is really silly but it does work and I used it in this game to find a food with 15 food on the very first turn. I will flip the auto-explore on and off each turn depending on whether it makes sense to let the AI handle things or take direct control myself. By Turn 3 my tribal unit had scouted out a nice-looking area and found a second goody hut containing food. This one granted 10 additional food which was enough to create a second tribal unit. As the interface suggests, up to four units can stack together at the start of the game though it's usually better to have tribal units spread out to explore more of the map. Over the next few turns, my tribes came across a pair of curiosities which granted science and influence. Science does nothing immediately at this stage of the game aside from stacking up 10 total beakers to unlock the Science star for progression to the next era. Influence though can be used right away to set up an outpost:
It costs 5 influence to set up the first outpost and the game provides suggestions about the best options available. I picked the location with 17 food and 7 production which are good but not amazing yields; it would then take 4 turns for the outpost to be established. Outposts are proto-cities, a way for each culture to lay claim to an area and potentially make it part of their empire. They are only preliminary claims though and the AI isn't hesitant about ransacking outposts to remove them from the map. Of course, the player can do the same to the AI if they don't protect their own outposts and this is one of the better parts of Humankind's gameplay. There's a lot of skirmishing in this game outside of a formal declaration of war, reminiscent of some of the best aspects of Master of Orion. Players can't turn outposts into a city until after they exit the Neolithic era so one of the goals of this period is to get your first outpost down in a good spot and have it finish being established by the time that the era is finished. More on cities and how they operate in a minute.
There are a couple of other notable things in the above image. There are two curiosities present on the map, the little glowing science icons hovering near my tribal units. I very much wanted to grab them in hopes of hitting 10 total beakers for the Science star since it unlocks a later benefit for your culture. There was also a mammoth present on the right side of the screen with the gray peace sign logo and that was an even jucier target. Mammoths are dangerous opponents but they provide huge rewards for a successful hunt. I stacked two tribes together to attack it:
Note that units do not need movement points available to start combat, they only have to be right next to their target. Zero movement is totally fine in this game. Then the combat began:
The fighting system in Humankind sounds great in theory and sometimes it even works in practice. Here in the Neolithic era it's fantastic: units deploy right on the strategic map and then fight their battle in a combat zone that extends out a few tiles in every direction. Units can move up and down cliffs, climb rivers, and so on with combat modifiers attached to having the superior terrain advantage. When combat is over, all surviving units remain on the tiles where they started. So this is an amazing system when using a handful of units in the early stages of the game: my two tribal units (strength 10) used their superior numbers and terrain advantages to take down the more powerful mammoth (strength 13). The problem is that this system falters badly once larger numbers of units start getting pulled into combat, especially when there are choke points on the map or the difficulty of crossing water becomes an issue. I had a situation in my initial Livestream game where it was impossible for me to land units out of the ocean because they kept getting pulled into combat before they could disembark (even though I had full control of the seas!) Anyway, more on this later.
Mammoths are the top target in the Neolithic era because a successful hunt against them produces 20 food and 20 influence. Since 20 food equals a new tribe, killing one of them will always produce a free new unit. I've seen players online abuse RNG with lots of save-scum reloading to produce truly ridiculous numbers of tribes through mass killing of mammoths, as many as two dozen tribal units by Turn 10 as this mechanic snowballs unstoppably downhill. Then these players just rush the nearest AI cultures and wipe them out since they have enormous numbers of free units; I even did the same thing in my first Livestream game using half a dozen free units from the Neolithic era (albeit on medium difficulty). The randomness of the Neolithic era is one of the bigger weaknesses in Humankind's gameplay and the developers should consider making some tweaks to tone this down. Escalating food costs would be a good idea (each tribal unit costs more food than the one that precedes it) and would be my initial suggestion on how to tame this. If each tribal unit cost 10 food, then 15 food, then 20 food, and so on it would normalize out starts considerably and make them less subject to RNG snowballing.
By Turn 10, I had reached the Growth star by having 6 total tribal units in my culture. This allowed me to advance into the Ancient age and pick a culture for the first time; however, I held off for a few extra turns because I was sitting at 9/10 science and wanted to pick up the Science star as well. There was another curiosity nearby that I knew could be explored in short order and that was worth another turn or two of delay. There's a real opportunity to cost to doing this though since I couldn't turn my outpost into a city until after moving out of the Neolithic era. There's also a limited number of cultures in each era and they're first-come, first-serve as far as who gets which culture. The AI nations were starting to move into the Ancient era and the first few picks were getting taken. Note that I've already met the AI culture with the bear icon and I was defending my outpost to make sure they didn't try to ransack it off the map. How long to stay in the Neolithic era be a tough judgment call and I wouldn't have waited here if I didn't already have 9/10 science. In two more turns, I found one last curiosity to get over the science hump and then selected my first culture:
There were already four cultures taken and I was therefore a bit lucky to get the one that I wanted. That was Egypt which is by far the most powerful of the Ancient era options available. Production is incredibly important in Humankind and Egypt is significantly better at it than any of the other early choices. Every culture in Humankind has three distinct features: a passive bonus, a unique district, and a unique unit for their era. Egypt's passive bonus grants them +1 industry on any tile that produces industry, amazingly good at the start of the game where most production is coming from the terrain. They also get a 10% discount on all district costs, forever, which is most of what your cities will be building throughout the game. Egypt's unique district is a better version of the industrial district (officially known as a Maker's Quarter) which provides additional production along with the small amount of influence which all unique districts get. Finally, Egypt also gets a very good unique unit in the Markabata which is a chariot archer. It comes towards the end of the Ancient era but has high strength and can move, attack, and then move again in combat. While there are other decent cultural choices for the Ancient age, Egypt is significantly better than all of the rest in terms of getting out to a fast developmental start. They're basically the Klackons of this game and not playing the Egyptians if they're available is an immediate variant choice. You're deliberately making the game harder for yourself and embracing extra challenge if not picking Egypt.
I also pasted the legacy bonus for reaching 10 science into that screenshot. Achieving the Science star in the Neolithic period lets the player pick one of three legacies: +1 food per pop, +1 production per pop, or +1 science per pop. This is no choice at all because science is much, MUCH harder to get in the early stages of the game than food or production. (The developers should bump up the food and production bonuses a bit to make this more of a real decision, that or remove the science legacy and offer a much weaker +1 gold per pop instead.) Obviously getting +1 science per pop in every city forever is a pretty massive bonus, especially in the early game where beakers are scarce in Humankind. This is the reason why it can often by worthwhile to delay for a turn or two until reaching the Science star. On the other hand, every turn spent in the Neolithic era is delaying the development of your whole empire by another turn so it can be a tricky decision.
Entering the Ancient era allowed me to turn my outpost into a real city. This cost 0 influence since it was my first city; each additional outpost and city will cost increasingly more influence to plant on the map. Before getting to further expansion though, let's pause for a minute to explore how basic city mechanics function in Humankind. Cities have a base value on their center tile that produces food, industry, gold, science, and influence. The city center tile will then "exploit" the six tiles immediately bordering it and pull in their yields as well. There's a graphical effect on the map showing this with little irrigated fields and Memphis therefore grabbed the 3 production to the northeast, the 3 production to the northwest, and so on. Note immediately how much value Egypt's passive bonus was already providing to Memphis: the forest tile to the northwest naturally provided 2 production and then gained another point of production from Egypt's Grand Planners ability. In fact, this applied to four different tiles (including the city center tile) to raise the base production from 8 industry to 12 industry each turn. Uh, that's a lot!
Cities also grow population over time which can be assigned as specialists to Food, Industry, Money, or Science at a base value of 6 yield for each category. I've chosen to assign the one population point in Memphis to Industry to pick up another 6 production and reach the 18/turn number on the interface. There's a population cap (currently 8) which goes up over time as the city develops districts and infrastructure and a similar limit to how many specialists can go into each area. Each population point also requires food to feed itself which causes cities to need to keep increasing their food over time to keep growing. Note that science is rare on the map so science specialists have very high value (the base science from a city is only 3 beakers so a single Scientist specialist doubles the output of the city) but of course it was more important to put that population point into Industry for the moment to speed up the growth curve. Incidentally, cities start with zero population normally and Memphis only has one pop because the city grew it during its outpost phase.
The production queue for Memphis is displayed on the right side of the screen. The obvious first choice to build was the unique Egyptian Pyramid district:
Humankind takes inspiration from Civ6 in gearing its city mechanics around the construction of districts. Humankind handles them in a significantly better way though because it portrays the districts on a large scale; instead of building a single Industrial district, cities can build lots and lots of them, as many or as few as the player wants. Portraying districts on a large scale makes for significantly more interesting choices and also causes cities to spread out across the map in a really cool visual effect, making the terrain of the surrounding area a crucial factor in overall urban development. Anyway, this screenshot demonstrates how adding a new district increased the yields of Memphis as a city. The new Egyptian Pyramid was essentially a fancy version of a Maker's Quarter, the district that exploits industry. It increased the production of its own tile from 3 to 6 industry, then extended the reach of the city outwards to the northeast, pulling in the industry ("exploiting" it in Humankind's terminology) from three new tiles previously outside the reach of the city center. Note again the effect of Egypt's passive ability adding +1 production on every tile that already had production present to increase the overall effect by approximately a third. The total effect would be an increase of 15 production/turn, nearly doubling the industrial output of Memphis. Just as in Master of Orion, new cities need to get their production up and running as quickly as possible by emphasizing industry ASAP. Cities are pretty useless if they can't build districts and infrastructure and units to defend themselves.
Now the Egyptian Pyramid was a unique district which meant that only one of them could be built in each territory. This is true of all unique districts in Humankind to reign them in somewhat in terms of power. However, Memphis could and would later add lots and lots of the normal Maker's Quarter districts to continue increasing its industry by pulling in more tiles with industry to exploit. The gameplay works really well in this regard, as early on most of the production for cities comes from natural features (woods and mountains and so on) whereas by the end of the game the districts themselves greatly overshadow the landscape once cities have a dozen or more of them. The whole thing happens organically over time as cities build out their districts into the landscape. There's a lesson here for future Civilization developers: emphasize doing things on a large scale! The choice of how many Science districts to build is far more interesting than having a single Campus district.
As the capital city continued working on that initial Pyramid district, I reached enough influence to set up a second outpost in the territory to the northwest. I should clarify here that outposts are established by units as they move across the map. Any unit will do including the single scout that I was using here and having more units doesn't cause the outpost to be established any faster (the speed is determined by the quality of the underlying terrain). Conversely, having additional units and stronger units does speed up the rate at which an enemy outpost or city gets razed to the ground. Humankind also uses a restriction of no more than one outpost/city per region of the map; they can be placed anywhere within that territory but that's the limit. This system which is carried over from the Endless Legend games makes the map feel a bit more like a space-based strategy game with a strict limitation on the number of planets that can be colonized. There's no infinite city spam in Humankind and that's a good thing.
Since the map limits each territory to exactly one outpost/city, there's a great deal of pressure to claim as many regions as possible in the early stages of the game. The big limitation here is influence because it costs influence to set up outposts and then more influence to turn them into cities. Influence is therefore incredibly important as a currency since it dictates how fast the player can expand. I've found myself emphasizing production and influence the most in early games of Humankind, with food/money/science having a secondary priority. While all of them are important, it's production and industry that drive the race for contested land between rival cultures.
While the capital was still in its early stages of development, my leftover units from the tribal portion of the game were out exploring the map and hunting for more curiosities. The tribal units are automatically converted into scouts when the Ancient era begins; they lose their automatic 20 HP regeneration but increase in strength from 10 to 14 and that's a big deal. You do not want to be stuck in the Neolithic era for much longer once your neighbors start having 14 strength scouts that can crush your 10 strength tribespeople. Incidentally, non-tribal units heal back 20 HP if they end their turn in friendly territory, regardless of whether or not they moved that turn. They don't heal at all in enemy territory (and of course enemy units will get the end-of-turn healing) which can make attacking difficult. This is another one of those little tweaks to the Civilization formula that isn't better or worse necessarily, just different.
As far as what was going on in the pictured image, my scouts were hunting through the empty northern part of the map in search of goodies from unclaimed curiosities. There are always a bunch of curiosities on the map (they get replenished at the start of each era) and their rewards are substantial. This was a case of my scouts turning up the best reward, a free new unit in the form of a warrior. These are the first real combat unit at 19 strength and I didn't even have the technology to unlock warriors yet on the tech tree! You really don't want to spend the early turns training units out of the capital which slows down the development curve; finding free units like this helps a lot in staying safe against the AI cultures. The other good reward is finding science and influence together in a curiosity which are again both substantial. As an example, I found 40 influence and 15 science at a time when my whole culture was only making 8 influence/turn and 6 science/turn. The worst reward is gold which is pretty pointless in the early game and it's always a bit of a downer to get that result. I was able to track down a healthy number of curiosities during these turns and they noticeably accelerated my growth curve. I think the benefits are a little too strong (especially the free units) and would like to see them toned down a bit. The gameplay would be more interesting if players had to train units to defend themselves as opposed to popping them for free like this. But the curiosities were there on the map so I chased after them with vigor.
It was a curiosity that supplied enough influence to make this move two turns later: attaching the new outpost to the capital city of Memphis. This is one of the more novel mechanics in Humankind, letting cities take control of another outpost on the map by spending influence and then benefiting from both territories simultaneously. By attaching the outpost to Memphis, this territory to the northwest became fully part of my empire for the first time. Enemy units can walk around in regions that only have outposts (and ransack them if they aren't defended) but enemy units can't move into regions controlled by your cities without declaring war ahead of time. So that's the first strategic benefit, laying firm claim to an area and forcing a war declaration or open borders treaty for rival units to enter that space. The other benefit is economic in nature: Memphis instantly gained the tile yields of the outpost for itself! That included both the center tile of the outpost and the six tiles immediately surrounding it, just as the city center had done for Memphis in its own region. This was clearly a gigantic benefit since Memphis went from exploiting 10 tiles in its own region up to 17 tiles thanks to the addition of the outpost. Memphis could also now build districts over in the new territory so long as they were touching the outpost's center tile - and since the rule is one unique district per region, that opened up the placement of another Egyptian Pyramid! I finished up with the Pottery Workshop (a very cheap form of infrastructure worth 4 influence/turn) and then hurried to get a second Pyramid onto the map in the new region.
Outposts therefore sound amazing and they are indeed really strong to have in the early game. They fall off somewhat over the course of the game however, since over time the emphasis shifts from exploiting the terrain itself to relying on the output of huge numbers of districts. The big weakness of outposts is that they don't grow population specialists as cities proper do and they can't build their own infrastructure. There's also a stability penalty for each region attached as an outpost which limits how many can be added to a single city (more on stability to follow on the next page of the report). With that said though, there's also a fairly strict city cap limit in Humankind and the cost in influence for each new city scales up very fast. I've found that I tend to wind up with a lot of city + outpost pairings, cities that have exactly two regions linked together, with fewer situations where I have three regions attached (a city with double outposts) or a solitary city with no outposts at all. This is highly subject to the specific circumstances of each game but that's been my general trend thus far.
Here's an overview map showing the big picture situation for the first time. Humankind weirdly has no minimap at all but does have multiple levels of zoom and a beautiful-looking abstract national map showing this overhead view. The two territories that I controlled showed up with a solid yellow color thanks to having attached that outpost to the northwest. I had the misfortune to draw the dreaded central starting location with the Nubians in brown to the east and the Babylonians in purple to the southwest. At least, those were the cultures that they had adopted here in the Ancient age; like your own culture, the AI empires will shift around with each new era which can be disorienting at times. The Babylonians had an outpost to the south that they hadn't attached to their capital thus far, indicated by the hazy region on the map. I would have loved to send some units down there and interfere with their outpost but I thought it was more valuable to keep hunting for more curiosities in the north. I was most interested in controlling the two territories to the immediate east and west of Memphis. I thought that if I could establish outposts in each of them, I might be able to box out the two AI empires from the northern part of the map. It's much more expensive to set up and attach outposts that don't directly border your own territory in this game; the AI empires might not have enough influence to get there in a timely manner. Only so much you can do in the early game on high difficulty though.
I'll also draw attention to the two circular meters in the bottom-left corner of the screen. The first of these was the science indicator, filling up as techs were researched on the tech tree. The other one indicated when my Egyptians had enough influence accumulated to pick a new civic. Here's what that looked like:
The civics mechanic in Humankind is kind of weird. There are about 30 civics in total, each of them split into binary pairs like the two listed here for Founding Myths. The player can spend influence to pick one of the two options, which has a corresponding benefit of some kind that comes at the expense of taking the other option. Only one of the two can be in operation at once. The civic choice also moves your nation along one of four different axes which removes some stability in favor of a different benefit. In this specific case, moving towards the little lightbulb meant gaining slightly more science (up to 10%) at a modest cost in stability. I haven't found moving along the axis in either direction to be particularly significant and I pretty much always choose civics based on their direct benefit. In this case, gaining 5 influence on the main plaza (i.e. center tile) of each city was incredibly useful and I snapped it up instantly. This paid for itself in a mere 4 turns and almost doubled my total influence since Memphis was making 8 influence/turn at this point. The civics gradually grow more expensive over the course of the game, scaling based on era and number of civics already chosen. (This is not Civ5 where each policy taken increased the cost of all future policies - the civics cost scaling happens in Humankind no matter what the player does.)
I actually like having this sequence of binary civic choices and I appreciate the simplicity of the mechanic here. My issues with this mechanic are twofold: the civics unlock in a completely bizarre fashion and the vast majority of them are never worth taking either option. The requirement to unlock each civic is hidden and never revealed to the player during the game. They just seem to randomly pop up from time to time as gameplay progresses: oh look, a new civic to choose! No clue how or why it would show up now, it's just suddenly present in the corner of the screen. There's a list on the Humankind wiki but it's insane that such a fundamental aspect of the gameplay operates as a total black box. (Some of the civics prompts are still unsolved at time of writing: literally no one seems to know how to get the Capital Punishment civic to trigger!) The other problem is that most of the civics are pretty weak and do little to benefit your empire, especially given the critical need for influence in expansion. For instance, one of the early civics will decrease religious district industry cost by -30%. The religious districts are lousy and sinking precious influence into them will pretty much never be worthwhile. I always wind up with tons of unchosen civics because neither option is as useful as getting more outposts and cities onto the map. This whole mechanic is kind of a giant newcomer trap since there are only a few civics that are worth spending influence on.
Between the influence accumulating from Memphis and a few more curiosities found in the northern wastes, I was able to establish a second outpost further to the west. I didn't attach it to Memphis for the moment though, as I was hoping to turn this into a full city in its own right. The second city costs 160 influence and I would need to save for a little while to hit that mark. I also need to point out that I was skirmishing constantly with scout units from the Nubians and the Babylonians this whole time, especially the Nubians with their brown bear flags. The AI is wildly aggressive in Humankind and they will attack your units at any chance that they get outside of your own territory. This region had an outpost but it wasn't attached to a city which meant that Nubian units could wander through it as they pleased. I had a pair of warriors (both popped from curiosities) which were doing the heavy job of defending this area from AI aggression. I did lose a scout here and there but kept my units concentrated enough to get the better of most fights. It's worthwhile to lose the occasional scout to enemy units in order to keep grabbing more of the curiosities.
I was also somewhat randomly asked to pick the basis of my people's beliefs on Turn 24. This is the religious element of Humankind and I don't think that it's implemented particularly well. Your culture can build a limited number of religious districts which will provide faith and there are also some unique districts that add additional faith. More faith will cause your religion to gain followers; the player then gets to pick from a series of religious tenets upon accumulating a certain amount of followers (the first one comes at 25 followers). The main problem comes from the fact that the religious tenets are pretty weak overall and it's hard to justify investing heavily in faith when there are so many competing priorities for your cities to spend their limited production upon. The return on investment simply isn't very good. The religious tenets are also pretty indistinguishable from how the civics work: pick a benefit from a short list rather than picking between two choices. I get the feeling that faith only exists in Humankind because someone pointed out "Civilization has religion, that means we have to have religion too, right?" It's a shallow and uninteresting implementation of religion as a concept and this mechanic could be removed entirely with nothing being lost.
In any case, I would be pretty much ignoring religion during these early turns. I was much more interested in securing control of the disputed territory around Memphis which was still my only city for the moment. There was a mountainous region directly between my capital and the Nubian capital of Kerma off to the east. I'd been planning on saving up the 160 influence needed to set up a second city off in the west only to realize that this eastern border zone had an even higher priority. I'd been skirmishing repeatedly with Nubian units in the north and along that river just to the northeast of Memphis. I did not want to have to dig enemy units out of this hilly region which extended all the way down to the borders of my capital. Eventually I decided to spend 89 influence to set up an outpost in this northern plateau area. There were only two entrances to this area in the northeast and northwest; the cliffs down by Memphis were too steep to ascend up there. I was praying that my scout wouldn't get whacked while the outpost was in the process of getting established and fortunately the Nubians left it alone. Although I still didn't have this area formally secured by attaching it or creating a full city, at least I'd staked a preliminary claim in the region.
Of course, two could play at that game and the Nubians were in the process of setting up their own outpost at Azelfafage - ack! That was far away from the rest of their borders and represented a truly bold claim on their part. This was the strategic situation at the time:
It was pretty weird of the AI to pursue this region rather than something that bordered Kerma. That outpost had to be extremely expensive to plant given the lack of connection back to the rest of the Nubian nation. My plan was to set up a second city in the west and then attach that northern region to it, followed by setting up another city-outpost pairing with the territory to the northeast and the region even further north of it. The Nubians were messing up my plans here and I did not like it one bit! I collected together my warriors in the area and sent them on a mission to ransack that Nubian outpost:
This was not an instantaneous process even with three units grouped together on the outpost tile. Stronger forces can ransack enemy outposts/cities at a faster speed and my handful of early game units weren't terribly powerful. I also had the bad luck to see a group of two barbarian units raid from out of the northwest and temporarily cause me to retreat from Azelfafage to deal with them. I still had a few turns before the outpost could be established and then more time before it could be upgraded into a city by the Nubians. By the way, we still weren't at war while all this was taking place! Both of us had very high war scores from the constant fighting (more on war scores later) but we were still technically at peace with one another. I was very worried about Nubian units burning down my own outpost in that disputed zone so I went ahead and attached it to Memphis by spending my influence back down to zero. This delayed the ability to found a second true city (and added a further stability penalty to Memphis) but it brought that mountainous territory to the northeast fully under my control and kept the Nubians out short of a war declaration. They weren't willing to break the peace and that allowed me to bluff my way into a whole extra region. This is a good example of how strategic concerns can dictate how and where expansion winds up taking place.
As for the Nubian outpost at Azelfafage, I was forced to retreat by the barbarians only to come back again and finish the job:
This was a major victory for my Egyptians in the early game skirmishing phase. The Nubians invested a lot of their scant early influence in setting up that outpost and now they'd have to start all over again. Time would prove that this successful ransacking had set them back significantly in their development. As far as my culture was concerned, I'd managed to lock down four regions of the map and I was keeping pace in fame with the AI cultures thus far, which is not at all guaranteed early on when playing at high difficulty. In the next part, we'll look in more detail at the city management of Humankind and explore how resources and stability function. This was a promising start but we were still in the early stages of the gameplay.