Part Two of the tutorial game saw my Egyptian/Celtic culture conclude the long-running struggle with the Nubian/Persian empire to the east by conquering both of their cities. Although Gilgamesh still had a stack of units hanging around to appear in some of these pictures, they would eventually disappear as the nation faded away into the dustbin of history. This victory transformed my people into the dominant culture on my continent, overwhelmingly more powerful than the Greeks that clung to life in the southwest corner. I was already over the city cap limit and therefore I figured that I'd tech upwards for a bit and then look to complete the consolidation of this landmass. It didn't feel too difficult to advance to the next tier of military units in the Medieval era and then hit the Greeks from a position of complete superiority.
This was the updated overview map after I had the chance to do some reshuffling of the various territories following the previous war's successful outcome. I had previously upgraded an outpost in the west into my fourth city of Nemossos, fortunately having enough influence to achieve this before gaining additional cities from the Persians and going over the city cap. Nemossos attached to the outpost in the territory immediately to the north, a rough area with lots of rocky hills that looked like a good place to build more industrial districts. Razing the Persian city of Parsa allowed me to attach that long-disputed region to Thebes as I had been planning since the early portions of this game. The formerly neutral city of Sus had a lot of tundra in its own region which necessitated attaching something to it for additional food. The only realistic location was the plateau region to the south which had long been attached to the capital city of Memphis. I went ahead and broke that bond, giving Memphis the largely ignored southeast region to compensate. There was only a single iron resource present but Memphis could use the territory to build more districts for further production. Finally, the former Persian capital of Kerma maintained its previous connection to the territory to its south. I had 11 regions in total and this was about the limit of what I could control at the moment, both in terms of influence and cities allowed under the cap.
Incidentally, I have no idea whatsoever what that green area on the map over by Nemossos was supposed to mean. I've never seen something like that before and it had no clear functionality when I zoomed back into the standard view. Was this some kind of visual bug (?)
I noted in earlier pages of the report that I had done virtually nothing in terms of religion up to this point in the game. The main way to gain additional followers in Humankind is to build Holy Sites in your territory; each nation can construct a limited number of them and they provide additional stability and faith to attract more followers for your religion. Upon reaching a certain number of followers, the player gets to pick between a list of different tenets which have various benefits of some kind. I've found that the religious tenets are quite weak overall and this makes investing in faith a poor decision given all of the other competing priorities in the early game. There's a religious overlay screen which shows the relative strength of each religion in each region of the map. It's visible on the right side of the image above and my original Egyptian Polytheism was the yellow color getting absolutely crushed by Nubian brown and Babylonian purple. In fact, now that I controlled the entirety of the Nubian/Persian territory, it made more sense to convert over to Nubian Polytheism. There were 14 followers and 3 Holy Sites for the Nubian religion already present in my territory and the number of followers would quickly grow after making the formal switch. In other words, I basically stole the Nubian religion and took control of it for myself - a bit evil but surprisingly effective!
Gilgamesh had chosen "Seek Wisdom" as the Tier 1 tenet for this religion. This caused each Holy Site to be worth 5 additional science, an absolutely terrible rate of return since a single Scientist specialist was worth 7 science/turn already and each one would increase in value much higher as I continued to build more infrastructure. Holy Sites are expensive to build and this is a good example of how weak most of the religious tenets are in the current version of Humakind. (Someone please buff them up to make investing in faith more worthwhile.) Gilgamesh had also built the Stonehenge wonder which is how he was able to get up to three Holy Sites despite only having a Tier 1 religion. It had been a poor choice on the AI's part to sink so much industry into all this religious stuff.
By Turn 70 I was ready to leave the Classical era and advance into the Medieval period. I'd been sticking around in this era for the last dozen turns in order to secure more fame; this delay allowed me to hit the second Population star, the second Science star, and all three of the Expansion stars thanks to reaching 11 total territories. The Military stars had also been particularly easy to reach in this era thanks to slaughtering so many hapless Persian units. Now I was leading the game in overall fame and the unmet green culture was the only one even remotely close. I'd been keeping an eye on the number of stars that this mystery empire possessed and now it was time to advance the era because they were only one away from hitting the Medieval period themselves. I absolutely had to be first to enter the next age because the Medieval era contains the single most overpowered culture in the whole game. Say hello to...
The mighty Khmer! If you liked Egypt back in the Ancient era, the Khmer are like the Egyptians on steroids. Their passive ability is quite good in its own right, adding +3 production on all Makers Quarters districts. When combined with the four silk luxuries that I had on hand, each industrial district was already starting with 11 production/turn independent of any bonuses from terrain or placement - not too shabby! The Khmer also have an excellent unique unit in the Dhanvi-Gaja, a ballista elephant that functions much like an even stronger version of the Egyptian Markabata. The Dhanvi-Gaja has the same ranged attack, 6 movement points, and the amazing move/shoot/move tactical flexibility in combat. But the real strength of the Khmer lies in their unique district the Baray (yes a lot of names carried over from the Civilization series here) which counts as both a Makers Quarter and a Farmers Quarter simultaneously. There are relatively few unique districts that exploit two different resources simultaneously and most of the other ones exploit either gold or science which are both rare on the Humankind maps. The Baray exploits food and industry simultaneously which are not rare at all and then stacks a ton of other bonuses on top of them.
This is something that's easier to demonstrate with screenshots than it is to explain in text. Here's what the Baray does in practice:
Why yes, that is 33 food and 63 production from a single district placement, thank you for asking! The Baray is absurdly overloaded with far too many bonuses that add up to nonsensical results like this. It grants a flat 5 food and +1 production per population (something that scales well as cities continue to grow) independent of its placement on the map. Then it grants +2 industry per adjacent river tile along with exploiting all of the surrounding food and industry on every neighboring tile. In this specific case, the Baray was pulling in industry from 5 additional tiles, almost all of them river tiles, as well as exploiting the enormous food output of the nextdoor Celtic Nemeton an extra time. This is frankly too much math to figure out every time that a Baray gets placed but it can easily be summed up thusly: this district is crazy overpowered. And one of them can be placed in every single territory - Memphis had the option to build three of them! Not every Baray was quite this strong (they are much better in parts of the maps with rivers) but even a "weak" Baray can easily produce 20 food and 30 production, the kind of yields that other districts would kill for. All of my cities got to work building Barays as fast as possible to take advantage of this insanity.
The Greeks were my next target however I lacked much in the way of visibility on their territory. To remedy this issue, I went ahead and signed an Open Borders treaty with their leader and began scouting out their empire. I did not sign a Non Aggression pact and I've learned from past games that the AI loves to pounce on your units whenever it can, Open Borders deal or not. Sending a single unit off by itself is not safe and will usually result in a grisly demise for the unfortunate individual. Sure enough, the Greeks jumped on my stack of five units immediately after I crossed the border. (The number of units that can stack together increases over time as more technology is discovered.) I had been fully expecting this and had two additional stacks of units ready to join in the combat once it was triggered. They were not located inside the initial combat zone but could move into it and then enter the battlefield as reinforcements. The net result was a major battle with the Greeks even though we were still at peace and trading with one another. The Greeks killed two of my Markabata chariot archers on the initial turn by hitting them with their spears before I had a chance to act, then I pulled in my reinforcements and annihilated everything that they had. Thanks for providing me another half dozen kills towards the next Military star!
There were no immediate territories to claim for additional expansion and that allowed me to spend influence on another civic at this point, the Elder's Wisdom choice which granted +1 beaker per Scientist specialist. Readers should be aware that each lead luxury does exactly the same thing and doesn't cost the 592 influence that I paid to adopt this civic. (Luxuries are extremely powerful in this game.) I still had eight unadopted civics after making this selection and I knew that I needed to begin saving up influence for further expansion into Greek territory down the road. As I've said repeatedly, most of the civics aren't worth adopting because that influence is much more needed elsewhere.
Here's an amusing tidbit: the triple Barays at Memphis were producing so much food that the capital actually hit the limit on population at 27. I decided to bleed off this excess population into a new stack of 5 swordsman units which the city was able to complete in a single turn (while also polishing off its last Baray). The early game units are incredibly cheap by this stage of the game and I wonder if the developers didn't expect players to stack up quite this much production in their cities. I'd built nothing but Makers Quarters along with the unique districts from each of the cultures adopted thus far, though that would be changing over the upcoming turns as I started to invest in gold and science for the first time in earnest. The general rule is to build almost entirely industrial districts and as few of the others as the player can get away with.
The Persians had left me another gift in the form of an uncompleted wonder so let's take this opportunity to discuss how wonders function in Humankind. As in the Civilization series, each wonder is a unique entity that can only be constructed by one culture and grants some kind of special benefit to the holder. Unlike the Civilization series, wonders are claimed ahead of time by purchasing the right to build them. This costs influence and once a wonder has been claimed it can't be built by any other nation. However, the culture that claims the wonder also can't claim any other wonders until after finishing the one that they've already selected. This keeps one jerk empire from buying up all the wonders and then refusing to build any of them, squatting on them like a disreputable patent owner. Since this is yet another way that influence can be spent, I don't recommend chasing after any of the early game wonders since that influence is needed for expansion. Let the AI empires waste their influence claiming wonders rather than doing something more productive. The wonders can always be captured later and the victor in warfare can take full advantage of any wonder spoils. I assumed control of Stonehenge from the Persians and also took over their claim on the unfinished Lighthouse of Alexandria.
The Lighthouse has a similar function to what we've seen in a bunch of Civilization games, granting extra movement points and strength to naval units. Wonders tend to be very expensive in the era in which they first appear, then become cheaper and cheaper as production scales up over time. The 2500 industry cost didn't seem too intimidating at this point given that Memphis alone was rocking more than 500 production/turn. Humankind adds a unique wrinkle to the creation of wonders and other big ticket items: the whole empire can combine their production on these "shared projects" to complete them faster. For example, I had five cities pool their production to knock out the remaining industry cost of the Lighthouse in a single turn. All of the wonders are shared projects along with Holy Site districts and the various spaceship stuff at the end of the game. This is a nice little feature to reduce the micromanagement tedium of completing big projects and I enjoy having it available as an option.
Once the Lighthouse completed, Kerma built a Harbor district and popped out two cheap Pentekonter ships to explore the blue reaches of the ocean. Harbors are the only district that can be placed in the water and they are another example of a unique "one per territory" district. They tend to be somewhat mediocre as a district economically, occasionally worthwhile to have (and needed for ships) but not something that's going to be heavily emphasized in most games. As for the Pentekonter vessels, this is one of the earliest ships on the tech tree with an inability to spend much time out of shallow water. Pentekonters are destroyed if they end more than a single turn in deep water, reminiscent of how galleys functioned in the early Civilization games but without the RNG element. I was hoping to find a path to this mystery green culture which had a lot of fame on the scoreboard only to find that there was no seaborn route to the east. It turned out that the world's largest ocean was off my eastern coast and the Pentekonters had to turn around and retreat back to the shallows on the following turn to avoid being destroyed. I would split them up and send one around the northern coast and the other along the southern waters, each of them exploring various curiosities along the way for more gold/influence/science rewards.
Back at home, several of my cities were finally starting to build Market Quarters and Research Quarters for the first time. These two districts are typically not worth building in the early stages of the game because they exploit money and science respectively, neither of which is commonly found on the map. It's much more important to increase food and production (especially production) to accelerate the growth curve of cities when they're starting out. However, eventually the player does want to start constructing them in order to generate more gold and more beakers. The rule here is that Market Quarters gain a gold adjacency bonus from being placed next to luxury resources while Research Quarters gain a science adjacency bonuns from being placed next to strategic resources. Therefore they are best placed in low-quality regions of the map (desert, tundra, etc.) near luxuries/strategic resources. Each of these districts also gains bonuses for being placed next to one another which means that players should cluster them as much as possible. One Market Quarter is pretty terrible by itself but by stacking four of them together I was able to get 22 money/turn from this new district.
This naturally leads to specialization of cities. I've found that it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a city split its production between Market Quarters and Research Quarters. Pick one or the other depending on luxuries/strategic resources and build nothing but that type for that city. I had designated Thebes as my money generating city and it was ignoring Research Quarters in favor of lots of Market Quarters. This was aided by the Tier 2 religious tenet that I was able to pick at this time: Give Alms for +5 gold on each Market Quarter. I think that this was theoretically inferior to taking Bear Not False Witness which added +5 beakers on Research Quarters. I would certain wind up building a lot more Research Quarters over the course of the game, especially at the capital where I stacked up tons of research. However, running a large military is extremely expensive in Humankind and I felt that I needed the extra gold income to avoid bankruptcy. You can't ignore gold generation, not if you plan to field a competitive military. (There actually is a way to avoid ever building Research Quarters and still have insane science which absolutely breaks the game; I'll explain in the last page of the report.)
My military was ready by now to start the invasion of the Greeks. I had hit the bottom of the tech tree in the Medieval era to unlock my unique Dhanvi-Gaja elephants and then chased after Great Swordsman units to serve as a sturdy front line. The Great Swordsmen had 35 strength which was far higher than anything that the Greeks could field... and the Dhanvi-Gaja elephants were seven points higher than that at an astounding 42 strength! Sheesh, this is another advantage that the Khmer absolutely do not need to have. At least the Dhanvi-Gaja are extremely expensive to build at 800 production and 2 population apiece and like all unique units cannot be upgraded into using older units. I was able to assemble four of them thanks to population contributions from Memphis, Thebes, and Kerma. My army had 18 units in three stacks of six units apiece including some outdated stuff from the early game.
Now take a look at the financial side of the gameplay: I had spent myself down to just 71 gold in the treasury and I was losing 13 gold/turn! I had started the turn with 2800 gold and it was entirely gone, spent on upgrades turning swords and the Celtic Gaesati into the new Great Swords. Those upgrades cost 400 gold apiece and I ran out of funds to upgrade everything. For that matter, the Great Swordsmen cost 20 gold/turn while the Dhanvi-Gaja cost 25 gold/turn. That was for each unit, mind you! It was quite a jump from the 5 gold/turn needed for swords and chariots in the previous age. I'll also point out the little stars next to my veteran units which indicated that they had additional combat strength. Units gain +1 strength for each star and then gain experience from winning previous combats. Strangely, I've been unable to find the amount of experience on each unit anywhere on the interface; surely this must be somewhere and I simply haven't found it yet (?)
After moving into position on Turn 91, it was time to kick off the hostilities on Turn 92. Unlike my previous war against the Persians, I did not have the 80 war support needed to declare a normal conflict. I was pretty close at 73 war support but didn't want to wait any longer given that my armies were ready to attack. This meant using the "Surprise War" option which carried a couple of additional penalties. I was branded as a Traitor diplomatically which made other leaders less likely to trust me. At least the Traitor penalty wears off after 20 turns as long as the leader in question doesn't initiate another Surprise War. I also gave the Greeks, err Aztecs as they had now become, an additional 20 war support for breaking two treaties with them as well as incurring a -3 war support/turn penalty from initiating an unjust war. This can be a problem in a lengthy war as you're slowly losing war support each turn and must keep winning battles and capturing territory just to avoid falling behind. It's less of a problem in short wars if the other side gets steamrolled quickly of course. Still, this penalty of -3 war support every turn did add up over time and it would wind up having an effect on the final outcome of the conflict.
My forces had enough movement to reach the outskirts of Babylon on the first turn of the war and I was immediately treated to the largest battle that I've fought to date in Humankind:
Fortunately the combat zone expanded to meet the size of the forces arrayed on each side; I still have no idea how the rules function in terms of overall deployment of units. This is how the game is intended to work, plenty of room for both sides to set up their units and position them accordingly, but I've repeatedly run into situations where I have 13 units trying to squeeze into three or four tiles for no discernible reason. Anyway, this was one time that Humankind's combat system worked perfectly and it was a beautiful sight to behold. I used standard tactics of positioning my Great Swordsmen on the front line in the middle of my formation, with the ballista elephants and chariot archers behind them and the older sword units stationed on the flanks. I even had two scouts from the beginning of the game taking part in the battle - hey, every friendly unit standing next to one another is worth +1 strength in combat and the scouts worked as well as any unit for that purpose! They could huddle in the back and provide adjacency bonuses while staying out of combat. Scouts also upgrade into horseman and knight units which I would have done here if I'd had the money to afford the upgrades.
The Aztecs had five real units to defend Babylon and then gained four additional levies to assist in combat. I expected them to stay within the city's fortifications and force me to battle my way through the defenses. However, maybe there wasn't enough room for that in the narrow squiggly line formed by the shape of Babylon and instead the Aztec units came charging out after me. That was a very bad decision as my shiny new swords held the line against their blows while the ranged units picked them apart in complete safety. I did notice this weird bug:
This Peasant levied unit was clearly outside the fortified part of the map, standing on a tile to the southeast of Babylon's walls. Yet for some reason the unit was still getting a massive +6 strength fortification bonus despite the graphics clearly indicating that it was not inside the walls. These lucky Peasants were also getting a +4 high ground advantage even though my sword was clearly standing on the same elevation level. As if that wasn't strange enough, my sword was also getting +1 strength from the Lighthouse of Alexandria (!) which is a bonus that's supposed to go to naval units. This... was not a naval unit. None of this mattered since I had an overwhelming advantage in force but it was amusing to see this wacky stuff. Hopefully some of these bugs will be cleaned up over time in additional patches.
When the dust settled it was a total victory as expected. I killed all nine of the defending units and suffered no losses. There was one older sword unit which had been focused by the Aztecs but managed to survive with about 20 HP remaining. Victory in this big battle resulted in occupation of Babylon and its attached territory to the east. I paused for a couple of turns to heal my units before continuing onwards to the city of Sippar to finish off the conflict.
Meanwhile, my exploring Pentekonters had finally completed a circuit of the starting continent and made their way to the western seas. There were two small islands here in between my continent and the other main continent in the west, a northern island with a horse resource and then a tundra island in the far south where the Aztecs had established a third city named Athenai. Even with the two islands, this body of water was much smaller than the massive eastern ocean and the Pentekonter units were able to make a crossing to meet the green empire that I've been tracking on the fame screen. They turned out to be Harappans, one of the Ancient era cultures that their leader had stuck with throughout the Classical and Medieval eras. This is always an option in Humankind and empires receive a fame bonus for sticking with the same culture across additional eras: first 10% additional fame, then 20% extra fame, and so on. Obvious the tradeoff is not getting the various unique bonuses that accrue from adopting new cultures in each era but it's fun that the gameplay allows this as a possibility for variants or flavor purposes.
The Harappans are generally considered to be one of the other strongest options in the Ancient era. They're an Agricultural culture who get some major bonuses to food and can use that annoying ability to pay influence to steal population from neighboring regions. I've found the Harappans to be one of the tougher cultures to have as an early neighbor and I was pleased that they had rolled on the other continent. The Harappans were obviously the dominant empire over there due to their huge fame advantage on the scoreboard. Their leader was willing to sign the basic luxury trading agreement and I immediate set to work exploiting this hole in Humankind's balancing:
Once again, it's far too cheap to buy up every luxury in the world and start taking advantage of their powerful benefits. I think that each of these luxuries averaged somewhere between 100 and 200 gold to purchase, a pittance at this stage of the game. I was poor (33 gold/turn income) only because I was supporting a massive military, not because my cities didn't generate money. Anyway, I cleaned out the Harappans of everything available and gained +20 stability, +10 food (salt), +4% industry (obsidian), and +1 food per Farmer specialist (coffee) in every city. This was bad enough in its own right but would only become a hundred times worse when Patronage technology unlocked the ability to create luxury manufactories in the next era. We'll get to them in the next page of the report and trust me, if you though the luxuries were overpowered already, you haven't seen anything yet.
While this negotiating was going on, my army had easily captured the Aztec city of Sippar since it was defended only by levied units. At this point I paused my military rather than try to capture the final Aztec city on the tundra island of Athenai. I had some bad experiences in my initial Livestream game trying to land units from the sea and I didn't think I'd have enough war score to get Athenai in the peace treaty even if I captured it. The decision to sit back and wait for the Aztec war support to hit zero was probably a misake, however, as my own war support was going down by 3 points each turn thanks to that Surprise War declaration. I didn't understand what this meant at the time until it popped up on the surrender screen:
I had a war score of 205 which was enough to acquire Babylon and its attached outpost of Alkalurops but not enough to secure Sippar as well. It was extremely close as those three regions summed together to 208 war score and I was 3 measly points short of that. The fact that I had been bleeding out 3 war support each turn really did make a difference here over the course of nine total turns of war. I would have been better served to try and capture Athenai just to pick up the additional war support. Note that the war score used on the surrender screen is based on current war support, the war support when the conflict started, number of cities captured, and any demands that existed prior to the beginning of the fighting. I did not understand where this number came from ahead of time and would have played things differently had I known. Well, this was only my fourth game of Humankind and I was still picking up details that I had missed along the way. I had to settle for the Babylon/Alkalurops pair and then I was able to take the offshore island of Ard'im as a consolation prize. It hurt not having Sippar under my control but I'd simply have to come back again later and finish the job.
As soon as the war was over, I burned Babylon to the ground and replaced it with a fresh outpost. This allowed me to take advantage of one of the wildest gameplay mechanics in Humankind: new cities founded in the later eras will start with every single infrastructure building from the earlier eras once the appropriate technologies have been researched. It cost 2760 influence to raze and replace Babylon but the new city of Yasodharapura started out with 26 different types of infrastructure already present. The only real downside here is the need to start again from population zero and that's not much of an issue since cities grow very quickly at low population sizes. In fact, if the player has enough influence it's theoretically better to ignore infrastructure completely and burn down your own cities to replace them with newer versions that get all of the infrastructure for free. (There's even a cheezy workaround to save their population: bleed it all off into dozens of scout units and then instantly re-merge all of the scouts back into the new city afterwards.) This feels exploitative to me and I hope that the developers tone this down in the future. I wasn't going to burn down my own cities to make use of this rules loophole but I would refound enemy cities that had never been part of my territory to take advantage of the free infrastructure.
I'll also mention here that the number of followers for my religion had exploded as the Khmer population kept growing upwards and competing sources of faith from the Persians and now the Aztecs were steadily removed from the map. I was able to take "Eschew Gluttony" as the Tier 3 tenet to grant all of my units an extra movement point and then "Meditate Often" for +2 strength on all units as the final Tier 4 tenet upon reaching 125 followers. Religion still feels very much tacked onto the gameplay and the fact that these were the best tents of the bunch should indicate how weak they are as group. I expect that we'll see some downloadable content at some point that tries to flesh out the religious side of the gameplay in more detail.
All good things must come to an end and I was finally ready to advance to the upcoming Early Modern era at the end of Turn 105. I had stuck around as the Khmer for a few extra turns so that the new city of Yasodharapura could get two Baray districts built in its two regions. (You can no longer build the unique districts from the previous era after advancing but any partially complete districts in the build queue are allowed to finish.) The Medieval era had been utterly fantastic for my culture as I accumulated 14 of the 21 possible stars, fully maxing out the Builder star, Military star, Science star, and Population star. This led to a tremendous explosion of fame that zoomed me far ahead of the only competitve culture in the Harappans. What had been a narrow lead at the start of the Medieval period now looked to be unassailable by the AI. (The fact that the completely prostrate Aztecs were still doing better than the other two cultures on the western continent was not a good sign for them.) What can I say, the Khmer are very likely the best culture in the entire game and their overpowered nature had allowed me to run away with the game.
Now that I was far ahead of everyone else, my attention was turning to how I could complete this tutorial by achieving one of the victory conditions. We'll wrap up this game in the final part of the report on the next page.