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Brave New World - French Culture

Hi everyone. I picked up Civ 5 Brave New World on a Steam sale a while back, and hadn't gotten around to playing it, but the Holy Warriors succession game at Realms Beyond got me going. Here's a report of my very first BNW game.

What direction should I go with a first game? Well, there's one pretty obvious direction, and one that also might stand up to optimize through a few more replays. That would be the new Tourism culture victory. For a civilization pick, I went with the new France, double theming bonus for tourism. I'm not confident that it's enough in the late game to compare with something better for an earlier growth curve, but it's an obvious way to go and I'm filthy-casualing this one. Emperor difficulty as usual, the sweet spot with competent AIs but not insane carpets of units.

For the map setup, I went with my old favorite of Inland Sea. I set it to Hot climate, looking to make use of Desert Folklore as usual, but this time I resolved to play the very first map rather than start-scumming.

I got this, which seems just about what I wanted. Good enough to use Desert Folklore but nothing crazy.

I got ruins for a map, barbarians, and one population; nothing major like culture or faith. The build order was scout - scout - shrine. Then, sadly as it is for one used to taking out those huge loans to buy workers, I built a worker. In BNW, the AIs won't trade lump-sum gold without a Declaration of Friendship, an effective if hamfisted nerf to the practice of taking all the AI money ASAP to buy your way up the growth curve.

Here's a look 25 turns in, as we got both the first policy and pantheon. The latter was Desert Folklore as usual. The former, unusually, would be Liberty. Here's my logic. First, I want to try something different apart from my usual (Tradition), since this is an introductory game and I'm not slamming for fastest optimized finish. And the other reason is because I want to get into and finish Aesthetics as soon as possible. Aesthetics opens with the classical era, meaning the first few policies have to be sunk somewhere else. Liberty is a better tree for some partial investment like that, as more of its power is front-loaded, while most of Tradition's power is in the finisher. So here I took the Liberty opener, then would take the worker policy next. Partial Liberty then fast Aesthetics may or may not be a powerful optimized move, but it looks like what you should do for a culture victory, so it's the direction I'm going to try here.

After the worker, Paris then went for the Great Library starting on turn 30. It's got both two Great Work slots and slings me into the classical era for Aesthetics, so go for it.

Turn 31, Sejong of Korea unexpectedly turned up offering a Declaration of Friendship. I took it and borrowed all his gold, getting me up to about 400. Which I saved for a settler a few turns later. Why not a worker? Because this:

There's still that good old fashioned way of acquiring workers.

Turn 50: Nuts, I lost the Great Library by 5 turns to Poland. That sucks. How in the world was I supposed to beat that? I started it as soon as reasonably possible, after just the shrine and one worker. I guess you can't get early wonders without a significantly better start than Paris here had, some stone or salt for productivity, or at least a very early worker steal.

Anyway, then America also signed friendship and loaned me a big pile of gold. That bought a second settler. Paris now did the Writer's Guild and then staffed it. That also might not be the optimal play, but again it looks like what you should do for culture so I want to see how it works.

My religion came nice and early on turn 56 1760 BC. The follower belief had to be Cathedrals, for the great work slot. Cathedrals would be useless in the short term so might have been left for the second follower belief, except that I know the AI really likes it so I wouldn't risk letting it wait. The founder belief could go a number of directions, but I took good old Ceremonial Burial (+1 happy per 2 cities following it) since it looked like we would be going at least a little bit wide and would need happiness. I next started spreading missionaries as usual, two of them.

I started the Parthenon but lost it by a fair margin - again thanks to the Great Library failure or else I'd have had the tech much sooner.

Here's a silly but effective moment. My next settling target is the incense and ivory over there. There is a Korean settler heading towards that area. So I blocked it with a line of workers, who were building a road quest for Hong Kong anyway. I kept up blocking this settler with workers and that scout for a stupidly hilariously long time, close to 20 turns, until I finished settling my two more cities in that area.

So Paris ran the Writer specialists, which produced a Great one. And I discovered that the slot in the palace is for a Great Work of ART, not Writing. Not great design here - show the player that Great Work slot teasing you from the very beginning of the game, and then it doesn't even match the type of the first available Great Person. And also, missing that Great Library hurt freaking bigtime since that's where the writing slots are. I can't find any other Writing slots until Oxford University? What the heck... Oh, there it is, an Amphitheater building provides a writing slot. Didn't notice that until a city built a monument so the amphitheater showed up as a build option.

Anyway, I guessed I had to push tech next to Guilds, to build the actual ARTIST's guild and not this poor imitation Writer's guild.

I reached out past Korea to found my 7th city, since look at that amazing wealth of resources. (I wanted to split this up into two cities, but that Korean settler from way back was still walking back towards this area, and I couldn't get a second settler in time to beat it.) Problem is the city will take an enormously long time to grow to acquire them all... except, oh, wow, +7 food on a trade route from this newly built cargo ship! And it even throws in some religious pressure for me too.


Here's an overview at the traditional date of 1 AD, with all my cities founded. I'm in the traditional position on top of the scoreboard. (Emperor difficulty.) Also here is a look at the tight but manageable happy cap. I had used the second Great Prophet to squelch neighboring religions as soon as they were founded as usual, which got my own out to 18 cities and +9 happy via the belief.

One thing that wasn't so manageable was gold production. Sorry, but removing gold from rivers and coast is NOT an improvement to Civ. Forcing the player into using the trade routes instead is just a look-at-me feature to pimp the expansion. And the lack of gold also screws up the rest of the game that wasn't rebalanced around it: now markets are completely useless in anything other than the capital that's running the trade routes, and Golden Ages are also crap.

City connections still work for gold... but why the hell wasn't THAT system the one reworked into the trade routes instead? Why in the world do we now have two different route systems and zero actual gold systems? But anyway, Machu Picchu also still works on the city connections and is more critical than ever against the scarcity of gold, which I built to finally dig me out of debt to a reasonable +15 gold/turn.

Enhance religion: Itinerant Preachers was gone, so I had to take Religious Texts (although I even considered Religious Unity since there's a lot of city-states in range). The second follower belief could go pretty much any direction. My usual generic helpful belief is Religious Community (+1% prod per follower) when building tall-ish or Guruship (+2 prod with a specialist) if building wide. But here when I'm not on the clock for a fastest finish, I could try something new. How about Religious Art for +5 Tourism from the Hermitage, why not.

Quiet times of building, and here we skip up to my usual checkpoint of turn 150. Including a look at the budget. City connections still dominate what the trade routes are supposed to be doing, and those trade routes really aren't making up for the lack of river and coast income. I really have to say this was a step backwards in the wrong direction with this expansion. The soul of Civ is supposed to be managing the map terrain and its yields, not watching the map get nerfed to irrelevance under all the look-at-me expansion subsystems.

My religion didn't get nearly as far as I'd hoped. I converted Arabia over here well enough, but that's kind of as far as it went. Sweden to the south prophetted Hinduism into those border cities and I didn't get any more reach. Still had about 15 cities (it fluctuated) for 7 happy via Ceremonial Burial, but a far cry from the 50 cities that can be managed in some cases. The AIs seem to be better at putting out more faith and more prophets, and sure do seem to like the Piety tree. I intentionally steered away from Theology and the Great Mosque - Borobudur combo, both because that requires Piety and because our succession game was already doing it, but maybe you have to do that to spread religion far and wide.

Also in the religion department, Cathedrals turned out quite underwhelming. This has always been true, for all the faith buildings. Paying faith for those benefits sounds like a good investment... except the problem is the opportunity cost taken away from other faith spending targets. You can get just about as much benefit from missionaries and prophets leveraging good beliefs as you can from the cathedral/mosque itself, without consuming a belief slot. For this game, the Cathedrals were supposed to be for the Great Work of Art slot, but it turns out you really don't need those, regular buildings and wonders provide enough.

I built a very late Oracle in 860 AD. It could have finished Aesthetics with the policy for a free Great Artist. But it was actually right to let that policy wait a bit - since the policy GP bumps the Artist cost counter (I tested and reloaded), it's better to naturally produce the lower-cost slots and let the "free"-but-not-really artist be a higher cost one. And there's no need for the Aesthetics finisher (double theming bonus, and purchase great people) until the industrial era.

On top of the Oracle, I had policies coming in surprisingly faster than I'd expected, every 10-12 turns. Where I ended up putting them was in the Exploration opener to qualify for the Louvre, then the Rationalism opener and specialist policies. It felt somewhat chaotic spreading policies all around like this, but there weren't any better moves, since both the Liberty settler and golden age policies were pretty lousy. Eventually I did finish Aesthetics, on T202 1420 AD with policy #13 (4 Liberty, 6 Aesthetics, 1 Exploration, 2 Rationalism.)

1150 AD Great Scientist. Usual choices, settle for 8 science Academy, or bulb. Hey, at least the UI now shows the bulb value. A terribly unbalanced bulb value, though. I do not think 200 turns to payback is worth settling over the bulb. I did hold on to the bulb for a few turns until Secularism was acquired and filled the 8 turn window with a bit more beakers. This and the next scientist bulbed into Sci Method and Archaeology.

Presently we reached Printing Press to found the World Congress, so okay what the heck is this. Hey, this looks good, World Religion for +50% tourism in my holy city. But it doesn't look like it has any chance to pass. Arabia and Siam were sharing my religion but 4 other civs didn't. Wow... This looks tough to pull off but a serious inflection point for fast culture/tourism victory - you need to get your religion started early enough that the whole world adopts it to go for this. But I couldn't do it here. Arts Funding seemed the obvious way to go, and 30 turns later it did pass.

A look at the trade routes. Mostly I just had to keep one active to each civ within reach, for the 40% tourism bonus. One of Civ 5's typical false choices that just come out obvious with not a lot of room for variation. In fact most of my real income came from another false choice: selling my iron resources over and over and over.

One thing that wasn't going right was opening up some daylight on the AIs. I never really did, with only a slim lead on the scoreboard and no real lead in technology. I got beat to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And...

Got beat to the Sistine Chapel by ONE FREAKIN TURN. F@% YOU. What really went wrong here was tying up a follower belief on Religious Art instead of the usual production boost from Religious Community. Dammit.

Presently we reached Archaeology and got started on the tourism subsystem for real.

Here's one stupid hiccup. If you don't have a GWA slot free, you cannot choose to take an artifact from a dig. The archaeologist and site are uselessly wasted in creating a landmark instead. This is stupid since it's easily avoided by way of tedious micromanagement: you have to check every archaeologist every turn and wake him up if he needs to wait to complete his task. Soren Johnson, we miss you, please bring back your keen eye for smoothing over rough edges like this.

And another. Apparently a dig erases any existing improvement, but then once you recover the artifact, you can put it back. Nice busywork there.

Anyway, we continued with digs for artifacts, and assorted great people producing their things. So we got a culture screen that looks like this.

At long last I finally got to put together the Theming bonuses for the special ability of France and Paris to double. The upper line there is the Louvre, and the lower one is Uffizi. Uffizi requires three Art works from the same civ in the same era. Mine are Industrial: one from a naturally produced artist, one from Uffizi itself, and one from a faith-bought artist. There is more false choice here. Uffizi is just always going to have three of your own works from the industrial era - when would you ever last long enough in an earlier era to put three together, compared to only needing two other industrial works on top of the free one from Uffizi itself.

An artwork swap with Siam got me the pieces needed for the full theming bonus of the Louvre as well. It's kind of an interesting sub game to arrange all your culture artifacts for maximum production... for about two minutes. Then I just started wishing for an "optimize" button. It's silly to manually noodle through all that. Especially the degree of micromanagement that gets involved, where you can pick up 1 extra culture by moving an artifact so that it levels out truncation from the 33% culture Reformation bonus. It's correct to check for that every turn, but extremely silly to actually do so. When and why did the venerated Sid Meier's Civilization turn into a chit-arranging puzzle game?

And here's what the influence screen with the victory details looks like. My tourism is already outproducing many civs' culture and will catch up to the victory threshold in just a few dozen more turns. But the long pole is Siam, who is still outproducing even my 162 tourism.

"Rising Slowly" is very misleading. It's not rising at all! It's rising in percentage terms but not absolute terms. That's why it doesn't show a date for becoming influential - it will never happen. Suppose you're producing 100 tourism against 200 culture. This is NOT rising to victory, but rather converging asymptotically to 50% influence. It will never go near the 100% needed for victory at that rate. "Rising Slowly" really means you are LOSING ground in the tourism/culture race. Only "Rising" means you are outproducing in absolute terms and approaching victory.

Presently I bulbed another Great Scientist for Electricity. One good thing about the reworked cultural specialist system with separate counters - you're allowed to use Great People of other types, rather than forced into making them all artists. Bulbing Electricity was to buy the hydro plant at Paris, only to discover a complete lack of aluminum. Stupid map. Anyway I bought some a bit later from Siam.

I built some Chateaux, the special French tile improvement for +2 culture. They didn't seem very good, I'd rather have a farm or mine on the tile. They're also not good because culture victory now has very little to do with culture. You end up producing culture anyway, because the pieces you need for tourism have culture as a side effect, but it's only incidental. I saw the same dynamic play out with Archaeologists choosing between a landmark or an artifact; the landmark seemed useless as tourism is what you really need.

A while later then I saw the Hotel building on the tech tree at Refrigeration, which converts 50% of culture from tiles into tourism. Okay, that's a way to make the culture landmarks and chateaux actually matter for culture victory, but seems like kind of a weird backwards way to do it. Particularly since that still wasn't very much and not even the primary function of the building, compared to the 50% directly applied to the Great Works which was substantially more.

I also didn't realize there was an Ideology for +4 culture from landmarks. The combination of that and the hotel/airport would indeed make a workable Landmark into more tourism production than an artifact. But man, this was not at all obvious going in.

Here's an overview as we enter the Modern Age, by bulbing Radio. I slowed culture for a turn in order to match up that policy to choose an Ideology.

Except... it still won't let me choose an ideology. What gives? Apparently you don't actually get the ideologies opened until another cycle of interturn processing. I would have reloaded to work around that if there were any good way to do so, but there really wasn't. I had to dump an unwanted policy somewhere... guess Representation was the least-bad choice as it would pay forward some of its own cost towards ideologies.

Anyway, then it was time to pick one. I don't know what the standard ideology is for tourism victory, and not going to look it up just yet. Reading through them myself, Futurism (+250 tourism when a Great Writer/Artist/Musician is born) in Autocracy looks tempting but deceptive. I don't yet know what endgame tourism numbers look like, but I suspect +250 is only a turn or two worth. The real prize seems to be Media Culture (+34% tourism with a Broadcast Tower) in level 3 of Freedom, so let's see if we can get there.

This is what I ended up with a while later. Volunteer Army might seem a bit unusual, but it made me feel considerably better on my cardboard defenses.

And hey it even says French Foreign Legion, gotta go with that.

Some more assorted notes, that don't really form a coherent narrative.

Sadly, the Eiffel Tower couldn't go in Paris. Broadway at the same time had to take priority because it has slots for a theming bonus.

Siam got ahead of me on building Broadway, as a spy showed. This game was still suffering from the lack of Tradition. Without the wonder modifier, and without the food bonus, Paris really wasn't very hot, only size 18. I had to take the Liberty finisher for a Great Engineer in order to get Broadway.

The first war anywhere in the game presently started, Poland in the southeast (red) declaring on Siam in the east (yellow). Great for me! Siam is my toughest culture competitor, and even lost a city to Poland.

World's Fair. Ouch, second place, 650 hammers to Harun's 1000. I had put about half my cities on it, didn't have any idea how much it would need (which is NOT shown in-game at all until this finishing screen! It's 350 hammers per civ in the game.) I didn't really need the culture jackpot, but it's a big problem that Arabia gets double culture for 20 turns to resist my tourism, ouch. At least the free policy was good, getting me Media Culture in Ideology. Took out big loans to buy Paris' Broadcast Tower right away.

I bought a late prophet to convert Arabia back to my religion. And with some leftover idle units, I blocked a rival prophet from undoing that. Yes, that's the use for the Liberty settler if it comes late game.

There's all my tourism. The next important bit of the narrative was the International Games proposal from the World Congress. I made no half-measures with this one, slamming every city into max Games production right away. The winner gets what's obviously an absolutely key +100% tourism for 20 turns.

Although I'm NOT #1 in production by the demographics and the games could be at risk...

This time I got it. And...

Oh ho, a Great Musician just spawned right on the same turn. One 5290 strength concert bomb later, it was over.

Culture Victory on turn 280 1820 AD.

Quick reviews:

France: unsure. The civ bonus did account for 30 tourism before multipliers, plus a bit from the chateaux (though they're still pretty junky.) But I still feel like it's not really enough to be the best civ choice for tourism victory, that it would have taken just a few turns more anyway to produce what the French bonus did, and that a civ geared earlier on the growth curve would still do better.

Liberty: still decidedly inferior to Tradition. Worse with the Golden Age in the Liberty tree indirectly nerfed through lack of gold from terrain.

Cathedrals: bad idea, you don't need the great work slots, museums and wonders give plenty enough.

Ceremonial Burial: still good, but you need to go fast fast fast on the missionaries (and not spending on cathedrals).

Religious Art: terrible, a production belief would have been better.

Religious Texts: still good, but noticeably nerfed at 25%/50% instead of 33%/66%, though it also seems the AIs are noticeably better at pushing back against it with prophets.

Ideologies: clunky. I get what they are doing from a design perspective. The later game social policies could never come in enough time and quantity to matter. The ideology system realigns them for broader availability with shallower requirements, and throws in a bunch of freebies to get even more of them into play. But this really didn't need another whole different subsystem. Just make the regular policy mechanic work better, with the same approach of shallower trees. This is totally throwing in stuff for the sake of stuff. I get wanting more differentiation and conflict between civs in the late game, and for tourism to mean something besides the narrow path of tourism victory, but throwing on gigantic arbitrary penalties for ideology mismatches isn't the way to do it.

Tourism victory: clunky but interesting anyway. I like the idea of it being competitive, your tourism against enemy culture, rather than a solo rush to 30 policies. But that does make it less meaningful as a comparative benchmark, that the speed to tourism victory depends highly on flukes of the AI. It probably does make for a better game in measuring against enemy production, and that my own preference for distilled solitaire optimization isn't really what Civ should be. It also has potential for varied endgame scenarios, as you might have to attack someone to trim down their culture.

Except that it wouldn't do so for me. I'm too good a player and finished the game too soon. I never made it to the major late game stuff for tourism: Airports, National Visitor Center, Internet, and most of the World Congress. The length of the tourism victory is calibrated for average players (perhaps such as the developers themselves) to finish it roughly along with the tech tree, but a good optimizing player like me will cut things short. Again, as always in Civ 5, the costs are too damn high. I do want to see the endgame stuff... but not at those atrocious research rates of 20 turns per atomic and information tech... but if you build all the science buildings to do that then you're not building the tourism stuff.

That's enough here. I do intend at least a few more games of Brave New World, so stay tuned.