Humankind Tutorial Game
Part Two

On the first page of the tutorial game, Mansa Musa led his people through the nomadic tribal era before adopting the Egyptian culture at the dawn of the Ancient age. The Egyptians settled their first city and laid claim to several of the surrounding regions while chasing off the Nubians from one of their own neighboring outposts. I was pleased overall at how things were going through the first 30 turns of the game and I hoped to keep things rolling along without getting attacked by one of the two other AI cultures on this continent. Border squabbles were one thing, a dedicated war would be something else. The AI opponents are at their strongest early in the game and tend to grow weaker over time (much like in Master of Orion) which means that time tends to be on the player's side. I wanted to keep growing and developing for another 30-40 turns and then see where I stood in comparison to my opponents.

When it came to city mechanics, I mentioned the concept of stability a number of times on the previous page of the report. Let's take a look at stability in a bit more detail:

Stability is the primary gameplay mechanic that limits city development in Humankind, much as maintenance costs would stop players from expanding endlessly in Civ4. New cities begin with a base stability value which decreases over time as more districts are constructed; the base cost is -10 stability per new district added. The default stability is 40 plus another 50 stability from having the default ideology in each category on the civics screen (those four axes pictured on the previous page) with the capital getting an additional 50 stability as pictured here. Memphis had three districts constructed at the time of this picture, two of the unique Pyramid districts and then a normal Makers Quarter district, for a cost of -30 stability. Each attached territory also carries a penalty of 20 stability to the city in question. The main goal for players is to keep stability over a total value of 30 percent; dropping below this will cause the city to become mutinous where bad stuff starts to take place. There's also a bonus for being over 90 percent stability: by default each population point produces 1 influence/turn and being over 90 stability doubles this to 2 influence/turn. That's pretty nice but it's almost always better to be pushing up against the stability cap of 30 percent, just as players wanted to be pushing up against the health/happiness caps in Civ4. Note that constructing three industrial districts has pushed the production in Memphis from 18/turn on founding to 80/turn which was more than worth any tradeoff in terms of stability. Just stay over 30 percent and otherwise keep building stuff.

The stability of each city can only increase or decrease by 5 percent each turn which provides some leeway to fix stability if it happens to be falling. There are occasional events which can unexpectedly cause a stability hit and this grants players a grace period to solve the problem before the city goes critical. This begs the obvious question: if constructing districts and attaching outposts reduces stability, what options are there for increasing stability? There are a couple types of infrastructure that increase stability, two early game buildings in the public fountain and aqueduct that add +15 and +20 stability respectively. There's also a district that appears in the midgame called the Commons Quarter that increases stability, though as we'll see later these are almost never worth constructing. The best way to improve stability in Humankind, however, is by connecting the luxury resources that appear on the map:

These little icons have been showing up on the map in all of the overview screenshots and this situation provided an opportunity to explain what they do. Cities can connect luxury and strategic resources in the regions that they have under their control, including regions with attached outposts. The official term for this is an Artisans Quarter but I tend to think of this as hooking up the resource to make use of it. Connecting resources never carries a stability cost and unlike normal district placement the resources don't have to be touching the city center tile or another completed district. Strategic resources are needed to train units associated with them; for example, I needed to connect at least one horse resource to be able to train the unique Egyptian Markabata chariot archer. Some types of infrastructure also provide a bonus based on the number of strategic resources connected; Animal Barns provide 5 food to cities for each horse resource connected, for example. If you have three or four horses sitting around in your territory, that can be quite a lot of food in the early game.

Luxury resources function in the same fashion, always providing a stability bonus along with some kind of other economic benefit. Memphis happened to have sage and silk resources on hand so I've highlighted their unique effects. Sage grants 3 food per resource on the main plaza (i.e. city center tile) along with another 3 food per resource on the center tile of each outpost. Silk is arguably the best resource in the whole game as it provides +2 production per Makers Quarter per silk. If you're lucky enough to have a bunch of them in your starting regions, well, the game just got a whole lot easier. Resources by default provide 4 stability apiece and all of these benefits stack up on a per-resource basis, making it always good to have more of everything. This is a really cool mechanic to drive players to collect as many resources as possible because they have such helpful effects; I wanted to pursue conflict with the Nubians to the east because they had a bunch of additional silk resources!

Now the resources themselves are great and I love how they function within your own territory in Humankind. There's a gigantic problem though because the gameplay inexplicably makes it way too easy to buy up all the resources from the other AI cultures. This doesn't deprive them of the luxuries themselves (you are technically purchasing access to the luxury, not taking it away) but it's trivially cheap to gain access to basically every luxury regardless of who controls them on the map. The Babylonians had a source of lead, a resource that grants +1 science per Scientist specialist along with the default 4 stability, and they wanted a mere 45 gold for it. Even in the Ancient age that was laughably cheap and I snapped it right up. It's much, much too easy to trade for foreign luxuries which stack up to provide massive benefits. They also grant a ton of stability and this is one of my biggest criticisms of Humankind at the moment: there's way too much stability in the game right now which undercuts the intended tradeoffs in the city building. Trading for luxury resources is a modest problem in the first few eras and then balloons into a gargantuan balance issue midway through the game when Patronage technology unlocks. More on this down the road.

I had started out the game by building industrial districts until Memphis reached 90 production, the amount required to one-turn the Artisans Quarter needed to connect resources. That felt like a good time to start making use of those resources although it might have been better to keep cranking out more Makers Quarters until the capital was running up against the stability limit. When cities reach a point at which they can't construct further districts for lack of stability, they have the option to work on infrastructure instead:

Infrastructure makes up the "buildings" that are the other chief economic thing produced in cities. They are not located on the map like the districts and are instead contained on the city center tile as in traditional empire-building strategy games. There's an absurdly long list of infrastructure options in Humankind and this is one of the more bloated aspects of the gameplay. Some of the infrastructure choices are extremely helpful in getting cities off to a fast start, like the pictured Flood Irrigation which added +2 food on every river tile exploited by Memphis. Unfortunately the game doesn't tell the player how much food that will be, which can be tedious when trying to figure out whether it's more useful to construct a lumber yard (+1 production on forest tiles) or a stone works (+1 production on stone/hill tiles). More interface help is something that hopefully will get added for this kind of infrastructure in future patches. But lots of other stuff has a miserably bad return on investment, like Levy Administration which costs 570 production for 3 gold/turn or the Playhouse which is 1905 production for 2 influence/turn. There are vastly better ways of getting gold and influence and lots of the infrastructure stuff is never worth building. Like the civics options, much of the infrastructure is in fact a trap for newcomers where the best decision is simply to ignore it altogether. There are almost 100 individual types of infrastructure and they clog up the city production queue in the worst way. This is an overstuffed aspect of the game design which the developers should have toned down a bit.

By Turn 34 I had enough influence saved up to transform my unattached outpost in the northwest into a full city. I wanted to do this earlier in the game and delayed the second city in favor of attaching that territory to the east that the Nubians had been threatening. Anyway, the cost to turn an outpost into a city scales up quickly in exponential fashion. The first city is free, the second one costs 160 influence, the third one costs about 500 influence, and then everything after that jumps up into the thousands. There never seems to be enough influence in the early game to do everything that the player wants although at least it's relatively inexpesive to put down the initial outposts.

Outposts take the name of the region in which they've been placed, then acquire names from the current culture that the player is running when upgraded into cities. This meant that I wound up with another Egyptian city name in the form of Thebes; I could have changed the names if desired but didn't bother here in a private Single Player game. The first build choice in Thebes was naturally another Egyptian Pyramid district and I spotted that I could cash rush it to completion for 281 gold. In Humankind rushed production happens instantly, not at the end of the turn. The Pyramid appeared on the map immediately and Thebes could put the newly increased production to work on something else (a cheap Pottery Workshop for another +4 influence) on the same turn. This was a good way to take some of the gold from those various curiosities and put it to work speeding up the growth curve of a new city. Note as well that Thebes could build its own infrastructure and grow its own set of population separate from the capital at Memphis. This is a major reason why attaching everything as outposts to a single city typically isn't the best option - you want to have additional production queues and additional places to grow population.

Here's something else that can happen when your cities exist in close proximity to another culture. Occasionally these "cultural osmosis" events will pop up which can grant some free additional science, or the chance to spend gold to finish a tech owned by the neighboring culture, or force a civics decision like this one. In this case, I had the chance to adopt the Codified Laws civic completely for free because Babylon was running it next door. This was highly worthwhile and I happily followed the Babylonian civic choice. However, sometimes this same kind of event can pop up and ask the player to switch into a civic that they don't want, with the penalty for refusing being a -50 percent hit to stability in the affected city. It only lasts for ten turns but yeesh, that's pretty bad! I don't love this mechanic but it does force some tough choices on the player from time to time. It definitely sucks when you've just spent thousands of influence adopting one civic and then get the choice of flipping into the other option or taking a massive stability hit to a city. No good options there.

Speaking of civics, with the city of Thebes established I paused expansion for a few turns to grab a pair of critical civics. I took Small Council for +1 city cap which is something that I always pick in every game. There are very few ways to increase the city cap in Humankind and this is one of them. (Having more cities than the city limit costs influence each turn; the penalty starts small and then rises rapidly with each additional city over the cap.) I also paid the minimal 65 influence needed to enact Professional Soldiers for +1 combat strength on each unit, something that has excellent value throughout the game. Unfortunately I didn't get to keep this for long before one of those cultural osmosis events forced me into the other option for this civic, 30% cheaper unit costs, which felt less useful if still decent to have. Readers may have noted that the Nubians had refounded their outpost at Azelfafage and this time they were defending it with enough units that I couldn't return to raze it a second time. Combat with this neighbor felt inevitable given the way that we kept clashing throughout the early game.

I had also accumulated enough fame by this point to adopt a new culture and advance to the next era. Fame is essentially how the game keeps score in Humankind; the empire with the highest fame at the end of the game is the winner. Players earn stars throughout the game in seven different categories: total population (including units), districts built, regions controlled, technologies researched, total money produced, total influence produced, and number of non-animal enemy units killed. Hitting certain target values in each of these seven categories results in a star with a certain amount of fame associated with it. For example, I had 5/6 units killed thus far and eliminating another enemy would result in a Military star worth 79 fame. Once a player earns seven stars in an era, they have the chance to move on to the next era and pick a new culture. They also have the option to remain in the current era to continue earning more fame, and in fact it's quite often better to stay in the same era to stockpile additional fame via more stars. As was the case at the start of the Ancient era, cultures in the next era are first-come, first-serve which can lead to a race to be first into the next era. The other big reason to advance the era is a limitation on research: players can't research any techs from the next era until advancing into it. You don't want to fall behind competitors who can produce more advanced units from the next era while your nation is still stuck with outdated stuff. I had no immediate need to advance into the Classical era just yet and thought I'd stick around a bit longer in the Ancient age, long enough to research three more techs to complete all three Science stars at the very least.

The Nubians continued to be annoying, walking another random unit right up to my capital. They shouldn't have been able to do that with an enemy unit since we didn't have Open Borders signed, except that their leader (Gilgamesh) had some kind of ability that allowed him to move into my territory without a treaty. (This was apparently due to Gilgamesh taking an Expansionist culture in the Classical era, all of which share the ability to move through enemy territory.) In any case, I decided to train a few Markabata units to take advantage of Egypt's last remaining unique feature. These are very dangerous units with a strength of 24, movement of 6, and the ability to move/shoot/move again on the tactical battlefield. They're one of the more expensive Ancient era units at a base cost of 180 production (modified by -30% thanks to the civic I had been forced into by Babylon - thanks, I guess?) although that wasn't too much of a problem for Memphis by now. Now here's the unique twist on units in Humankind: they all cost population to train as well as production! Memphis had nine population points and one of them would have to be sacrificed to create this new unit. The fact that units cost population is one of the main reasons why the player wants to avoid creating units as much as possible in the early game. It's also why popping free units out of curiosities is such a big deal - no need to lose a population point. Units can also merge back into cities to increase their population by one though I've found that it tends to be fairly easy to grow new pop and doing too much of this just drives cities into starvation. Normally it makes more sense to turn population into units, not vice versa.

Anyway, the net result is that units tend to be fairly cheap in terms of production. The real limitation on army size instead comes from the population cost and the money that units require to be maintained. Ancient era units are cheap like the 3 gold/turn required by this Markabata but they get very expensive very fast in the later eras. Even a mature empire can struggle to field more than a dozen or so contemporary units due to their financial cost. This is a neat feature of Humankind's gameplay and I expect we'll see more of it if the Realms Beyond community ever gets into Multiplayer proper.

I reached a full 10/10 techs discovered for the third Science star on the next turn and decided that this was the right moment to advance into the Classical era. I had completely filled out the Science and Builder categories to wind up with ten stars overall for the era; this resulted in 1667 fame which was pretty darn good. The player is often well behind the AI empires at this stage of the game on high difficulty and I was quite pleased to find myself in second place behind an unknown green empire. The Nubians and the Babylonians had already entered the Classical age before me, transforming into the Persians and the Greeks respectively. This is the downside to the shifting cultures in Humankind: the AI empires have significantly less personality because they're constantly changing. By way of contrast, in Civ4 if the player finds themselves next to Pericles (culture) or Isabella (religion) or Mansa Musa (teching) or Montezuma (insanity), they know what kind of neighbor they're likely to get. The Civ4 AIs have strong personalities and they play the game very differently from one another. The AIs in Humankind all feel pretty much the same because they're always playing as different cultures with different bonuses in every game. I'm not at all sure that Humankind's setup is a net benefit on the whole since the adaptability of changing cultures has the tradeoff of indistinguishable empires.

This was a situation where delaying entry into the Classical era did have a real disadvantage: I was planning to choose the Persians and they were already taken! The Achaemenid Persians get +2 to the city cap as their passive ability and there are very few other ways to increase that limitation. Instead I settled on playing as the Celts, a culture which gets its bonuses in the realm of agriculture. The Celtic innate bonus is +2 food per Farmer specialist which I've found to be pretty good since I run a lot of Farmer specialists to keep growth up. Their unique district is a more powerful version of a Farmers Quarter with extra food per attached territory and their unique unit is a sword with slightly lower strength (25 as opposed to 26 on the default sword) but more movement points and the specialty ability of not getting weaker as they take damage. The Celts are a decent culture and they pair well with Egypt since they help add additional food for more city growth. They are nowhere near as strong as Egypt though, nor are they as good as the top Medieval culture that I'd be aiming to pick up in the next age.

Now that my empire had entered the Classical era, I had the option to place the new Celtic unique district in each region of the map once again. The Celtic Nemeton was pretty useful here at the capital city of Memphis, adding 27 food/turn along with minor trickles of faith and influence to the tile west of the city center. And of course Memphis controlled three total regions of the map which meant three Nemetons in total available for construction. That was a lot of food! Stability was getting to be a problem though which meant that I'd have to pace the rate of new district construction and make sure to get a public fountain and aqueduct in the near future. I'll also point out one other feature of how districts work: each one "exploits" certain tile yields on the local terrain. For example, the Egyptian Pyramid exploited industry while the Celtic Nemeton exploited food. Other tile yields not being exploited by the district are simply ignored and do not get added to the city's overall yields. This Nemeton was worth a ton of food because it exploited several fertile grassland tiles that hadn't previously been utilized by Memphis. Smart placement of districts makes a big difference in the early stages of the gameplay.

Playing as the Celts also allowed me to be a total jerk to the neighboring AI cultures:

Each of the cultures in Humankind belongs to one of seven archetypes associated with the seven types of stars. There are Builder cultures (like Egypt), Military cultures, Aesthetic cultures, and so on. Each of these cultural types has a special ability of some kind that gets shared across all of the different technological eras. The Celts are an Agricultural culture which grants them the use of the highlighted Greener Pastures ability: these cultures can spend influence to steal population away from neighboring cities. I was able to exchange 150 influence for a gain of 8 population points - wow! One of them just came over from my own city of Thebes but the other seven population were genuinely stolen from the rival empires nearby. This is a powerful ability to have in the early stages of the game and it stinks when you border one of these Agricultural cultures only to see them siphon away your hard-grown people. The big limitation is that it costs influence which is needed to claim territories on the map. I had set up outposts and cities just about everywhere remaining on the map and investing 3 turns of influence into gaining 8 population points while simultaneously subtracting 7 of them from my competitors felt more than worth it. Memphis' population was running a bit low thanks to my training of four Markabata chariots out of the city earlier and this was exactly the ticket needed to fix the situation.

This was the big picture situation as the game approached the Turn 50 mark. I had two full cities with four regions completely under my control along with two additional unattached outposts in the northwest and southeast. The territory in the northwest was one that I'd always expected to control but I'd been planning on conceding the spot in the southeast to one of the AI empires since it had few resources present. They never made a move to occupy the region though and eventually I had enough influence to plant my own outpost. You snooze, you lose and all that. The big annoyance on the map was the Nubian, err Persian, city of Parsa up in the north. It was unconnected from the rest of their brown borders and I had always wanted to attach that territory to Thebes. Then I would detach the western territory and split it off into its own city, followed by attaching the northwest corner area for another city-outpost pairing in the corner of the continent. None of those grand plans could be carried out until the Persians had been relieved of that intrusive region and I started building up some additional units to take Parsa off their hands.

There was also a neutral city which had sprung up in the northern tundra at Sus. These neutral cities start to appear over time in unclaimed portions of the map although I don't see a lot of them because I play on smaller map sizes where the landscape fills up quickly. It's possible to assimilate them peacefully over time using influence or alternately to take the more direct route and smash them militarily. I had scant influence pressure along the northern seaboard and plenty of other competing demands on how to spend my influence, and that meant it was clobbering time:

This neutral city had only been on the map for a short time and it lacked the population and units needed to defend itself. My force of four Markabatas easily overran the weak units protecting Sus and brought the territory into the Celtic fold as my third city. This was a fairly low-quality portion of the map but it did have a couple of luxury resources on hand along with several unidentified strategic resources which wouldn't be revealed until future eras. Even if this was a weaker area, better that I control it than the Persians take charge for themselves. (I did make a mistake here: I was very close to having enough influence to transform one of my outposts into a city. I should have waited a turn to get the third city naturally, then conquered Sus for the fourth city. The cost to turn an outpost into a city is based on the number of cities that the player controls, and by taking Sus the cost to upgrade my outpost went up from 550 to about 1100 influence. I'll have to remember to keep this sequencing in mind for the future.)

Control over the tundra region of Sus meant that the Persian city of Parsa was even further isolated than before, an enclave of brown holding out against a sea of surrounding yellow. The Persians continued to walk units around in my territory and when they sent a stack of units towards Parsa, probably intending to reinforce their colony, I spotted an opportunity to pounce on them:

We still did not have a Non-Aggression Pact and therefore there was nothing stopping me from attacking their units as they walked about in my territory. This is what the combat overlay looks like when hovering over a potential battle before it starts. The interface displays the projected strength of each side and it also shows the two zones where the sides will deploy their units for fighting. Many of my gripes about Humankind's combat engine are based in the wonky method in which the battle gets started. It actually matters enormously which group of units initiates the combat and what tile they initiate the combat from as the deployment zones can be totally different with even minor adjustments to either one. For example, I had a battle in a previous game on Livestream where my dozen units were given exactly one tile - ONE! - on which to deploy. I had all these units and only a single one could take part in the fighting. The rules about how the deployment works are never explained and don't seem to make much intuitive sense. The player can very easily lose battles when they have overwhelming force present due to something bizarre happening in the deployment setup. I've gotten better at managing this through trial and error but I still wind up with half my units unable to deploy more often than I'd like. This would all be so much simpler if combat took place on a separate screen, sigh.

In this specific battle, I had eight total units present in two stacks of four. There's an Ancient era technology named Organized Warfare that allows multiple stacks of units in the same area to take part in a shared battle without being on the same tile; those stacks only have to be present in the "combat zone" to take part in the battle. They can even be outside the combat zone and move into the area on their turn, thereby joining the fighting as reinforcement units. This is really weird for a turn-based strategy game as more units keep piling into the fight that weren't present at the start and it threw me for a loop in my first couple of games. Now I know to expect that even a small fight can quickly blow up into a major engagement as more and more enemy units keep racing to join in the fighting. Sometimes enemy units can be a dozen or more tiles away and still manage to get into the combat zone to join in the fray.

That was exactly what happened here in this battle against the Persians. It started out with me jumping all over the Persian stack of four units that foolishly wandered into my territory. My initial warriors had all been upgraded to swords at this point and they held the front lines while my Markabata chariot archers fired away in safety from the hilltops behind them. Even as I spent the first two rounds of combat slaughtering the initial group of Persian units, another stack of four wandered into the battle from the south:

They had been close enough to the combat zone to take part in the fighting, entering from the south near where my capital city was located. There's an Egyptian Pyramid and Celtic Nemeton district visible at the bottom of that image. Unfortunately for the Persians, those cliffs were too steep to be scaled from the river below and my ranged units easily shot them to death using their height advantage. This was the whole reason why I wanted to control that plateau region in the first place: it could only be entered from the north, not from the south. These poor units picked a bad spot for combat and were slaughtered to a man as I killed all eight Persian units while losing none of my own. This was a devastating defeat for the enemy and it left them essentially crippled for the immediate future.

I moved quickly to take advantage of Persia's weakness:

Memphis had been growing at a fantastic rate in recent turns thanks to having triple Nemeton districts across the three total regions controlled by the capital city. It was actually approaching the city's total population cap which is something that almost never happens in Humankind. (The population cap is equal to the total number of specialist slots; districts and many of the infrastructure buildings add to the number of specialist slots available.) This was a perfect opportunity to burn off some of that growing population by turning it into more units and I decided to train a quartet of the Celtic unique unit, the Gaesati. These woad-painted swordsmen were almost comically cheap to produce at a cost of 63 industry apiece and Memphis was able to knock out several of them in a single turn. This is another nice aspect of Humankind's mechanics: cities can produce multiple things in the same turn if they have enough industry. Memphis would finish triple Gaesati on the next turn at the cost of three population points. This game does have overflow for all of its various currencies, production and research and so on. (Come on, it's not like a flagship strategy game title would ever forget to include overflow, right? That would just be crazy!) In particular, it's nice being able research multiple techs on the same turn in the later stages of the game to reduce micromangement tedium.

With the veterans from the last battle having healed back to full health and joined by their new Gaesati comrades, I decided that the moment was ripe to initiate formal warfare for the first time:

I had clashed with the Persians so many times that it felt strange that neither of us had ever been at war with the other. This is the basic relations screen in Humankind where the player can see some additional information about how the AI leaders feel about them. There were, uh, a lot of downward-pointing arrows over on the right side of the screen with the Persian leader. The most important tidbit was the last one, however, telling me that the Persians were much weaker than my Celts. The other key information on this screen was located at the top where it listed our respective war support with one another. War support is a mechanic which has no real counterpart in the Civilization games though it has been used a lot in the Paradox strategy games. This is essentially a numerical indicator of the aggression of each side towards one another. Killing enemy units increases your score and decreases the war support of your opponent as the most basic example. Issuing demands and gaining grievances against the other side can also result in war support for one side or the other, however. There's a natural tendency for war support to revert back to its base value of 50: doing nothing will slowly increase war support if below 50 and slowly reduce it if above 50. Having a high war support is invariably good while having a low war support is bad. If one side in a war hits a war support of zero, they officially lose the conflict and the winner gets to make demands that the loser must accept.

War support also dictates how and when each side can declare war. It requires a war support of at least 20 to declare a "Surprise War". This carries a modest diplomatic penalty as the aggressor gets branded as a traitor and receives less war support for winning fights while the target receives more war support when they win battles. It requires a war support of at least 80 to declare a "Normal War", one that doesn't carry any penalties attached to the invasion. I've found that it can be tricky to get up to 80 war support while at peace when not playing a Militaristic culture (they naturally rise to a war support of 80 while at peace) and it was a testament to how awful my relations had been with the Persians that we were both sitting at the absolute top of the war support scale. I was the one to kick off the formal hostilities by declaring the normal type of war and Celtic armies crossed into Persian territory for the first time.

The isolated city of Parsa was the initial target and it stood absolutely no chance with zero units on hand for protection. Cities do spawn a few units to defend themselves when they come under attack in Humankind but these levies were no match for the core of my army. I left a single scout behind to begin razing Parsa to the ground and sent the rest forward against the Persian capital city of Kerma. That was where the above picture was taken and I was forced to fight my way into the enemy capital while additional Persian units entered the battlefield from the south. (They kept getting stuck on the wrong side of those cliffs - whoops! Kind of a mistake in positioning from the AI there.) Note the fortified walls surrounding the city of Kerma: each city has its own fortification rating which can be increased by building defensive infrastructure. As far as where the walls are placed, the city's fortifications are simply the shape formed by all of its completed districts. If you look closely, you'll note that every tile inside Kerma's walls was a district that had been built by the Nubians/Persians thus far. This is another genuinely awesome aspect of the Humankind mechanics, as cities start out very small and eventually wind out gigantically big on the tactical combat screen as they construct more and more districts. It really feels like you're fighting your way through the streets of a hostile city to get inside the fortifications.

The fenced barriers can be quite difficult to crack for attackers. The units inside get a major defensive bonus and it takes all of an attacker's movement points to cross the fortification walls. In other words, an attacking unit can cross the barrier if it hasn't already moved that turn and there's a space open inside, otherwise no dice. This picture was taken from the tail end of the battle when I had managed to slip a few swords through the defenses of Kerma at which point in time the fighting turned lopsidedly in my favor. To make the same point from earlier once again, this combat system works reasonably well if there's enough room to deploy units and maneuver them - which is not always the case on the strategic map.

One Persian unit inexplicably tried to attack me at Memphis at the same time that I was invading their capital. I didn't have any units at home for defense but fortunately Memphis could protect itself with these levies. Although these units were extremely weak at only 13 strength, they were able to fight using the fortifications advantage in their favor. The four of them hit the Persian warrior from all sides and annihilated the interloper. There are various techs throughout the game that upgrade the strength of these homeguard units which can be handy in case a situation like this pops up.

In any case, I won the main battle at Kerma and took control of both Persian cities. Occupying enemy cities causes their war support to fall rapidly; I think they lose 8 war support per turn per occupied city. It only took half a dozen turns of conflict for the Persians to reach zero war support and bring them to the diplomatic table:

Wars always conclude when the loser hits a support of zero and this is one of my bigger criticisms of this gameplay mechanic. There really should be some kind of way for the attacker to reject a peace treaty and continue fighting onwards if desired. But no, that's not currently possible in Humankind and this surrender screen must be followed by both sides. The winner has a set number of war score points to spend and they can use them to "buy" individual regions or force the loser to become their vassal. I don't really know how the vassal mechanics work and I'm hoping that there's a way to turn them off; vassal states are a dumb concept. Fortunately my winning war score of 259 points was enough to secure both Persian cities of Kerma and Parsa along with the attached territory of Regulus. Leftover war score was converted into 540 gold of reparations payment which was a nice little side bonus. This was everything that the Persians had and it spelled their doom even though they remained technically alive a little while longer with a stack of four units. Armed forces which have no home territory left are supposed to lose 10 HP per turn until they eventually die; that did not happen here because Persia had the ability to move in my territory without signing Open Borders. Their units remained at full health but then died anyway after ten turns of not having a city. Confusing but sure, not complaining here.

The destruction of the Persians left me in control of the northern and eastern corners of the starting continent. It was a huge relief to get the constant pressure of their units off my back since the Nubians/Persians had refused to leave me alone the whole game. I think that ransacking their initial outpost at what later became Parsa had set them back significantly. Once they picked a bad fight with me on the central plateau, they were simply too weak to resist the pressure of my armed forces. Now I found myself in control of six cities which was two over the current limit of four. Going one city over the cap only carries a penalty of -10 influence per turn, however going two cities over the cap was costing me -120 influence/turn, ouch! By coincidence I was netting out at an exact zero influence which was not a good place to be. I was in the process of razing Parsa to get back to a manageable 5/4 on the city cap, then I could attach Parsa's territory to the city of Thebes as I had always planned from the beginning. I also wanted to shuffle the new territory of Regulus over to the capital Memphis and then attach the disputed plateau region to tundra city Sus which would be enough to make it a viable standalone location. It would take a few turns to accumulate enough influence to reorganize everything to my liking but then we would be pretty set.

One opponent down, one more opponent to go on this continent! The story continues next time in Part Three.