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4X Make Civ(likes) Great Again! Brainstorming design thread

Discussion in 'Strategy and Simulation' started by The Brazilian Slaughter, Feb 15, 2018.

  1. The Brazilian Slaughter Arcane

    The Brazilian Slaughter
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    We have been talking a lot lately here in the Codex about how the Civilization series has stagnated, and we have been lacking a Civlike that could compete with Firaxis and innovate the Civlike 4X genre.

    Maybe we could think together and have some innovative ideas.

    Lemme start:

    Diplomacy: I feel a lot can be taken from Paradox games here. Things like Vassals, Royal Marriages between Royal Houses and Personnal Unions, Claims, Spheres of Influence, Subsidies, Marshes, etc.

    Micro: How about turning parts of your empire into Provinces and handling them to AI governors? Another part that takes from Pdox games. You could micromanage if you want, but its ok if you just leave the AI to it, with some instructions. An interesting part is that said provinces could turn into break-away civilizations, or rebel. Civ IV had colonies. This would work a lot better if we had bigger maps and more players. Talking about that...

    Maps: Oh yeah, bigger maps and more players. I think the max the classic Civilization games had like thirty nations at once in III and IV? Bigger maps are totally necessary too. Engine optimization is the name of the game here.

    Tile Limits/Doomstacking: How about a cap on units per square/Hex? I'm thinking your cap would have a formula like Technology + Terrain. So you can put a large army in some nice grassland, but a mountain can only have a few units per turn through it. Maybe model a primitive logistics chain where the game calculates proximity to nearby city and terrain near the unit/stack in the square/hex.

    Demographics: Why strategy games seem to reluctant to use such concept? 4X should totally feature demographics as a thing. Another interesting factor are foreign demographics, who should present their own challenge with advantages and disadvantages - like being able to recruit cultural units from other countries.

    Social Engineering: Taken from SMAC, we really need this, and good. Would love to see more, and even more exotic choices. Rather than the small table from SMAC and IV, maybe we should get instead a far larger Social Engineering table of choices - running the gammut from Tribal Rule from Modern Democracy, or from Barter economies to Planned economics. One gets the idea.

    War: One thing that always bothered me in most Civlikes is how time and war make no sense. Every turn is too many years until near the "Modern Day". Most units take forever to move, and the average war takes forever, too. I was thinking faster wars through faster units than in a normal civilization game. Could also lead to the concept of thing like temporary armies - think feudal levies, or conscripts. Essentially, you can't just "build up" a huge army and keep it growing, until you have the tech and/or size to do it.

    Cities, Nomads and Feuds: The whole "Cities as the Center" was not the deal for a good part of history. In the Steppes, the nomads moved constantly and cities were pretty much places were those wandering nomads got together and traded. In Western Europe, power was concentrated in the castles and agricultural lands. Groups like teh Mongols or Arabs should be represented as they should be.

    This could also allow "Pre-Civilization" warfare - imagine tribes of unsettled nomads fighting it out for land, or even pre-civilization cavemen doing their thing before founding civilization.
     
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  2. TZ3K Arcane Patron

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    What about meme engineering?
    Think of it as something to go alongside demographics, a spread of an idea that can affect gameplay.
    A nation can incur a xenophobia say its next to a nation thats belligerent and this propagates through the Pops and affects them differently.
    So say you want to be a warlike nation just be surrounded by nations with no friendly relations and commit to boosting the idea, thus the political cost goes down.
    Think of it as decoupling politics from parties as in VIC 2.
     
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  3. Cael Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

    Cael
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    Bigger maps and more players tend to cause issues with calculating moves and handling save sizes, even game memory utilisation. Civ 4 really goes berserk once your save reaches about 2.1Mb or so.

    Limiting stacking based on techs would create a situation like in Civ3 with the Armies unit, except every square is an army. It makes the lower tech guys fall behind even more than they already do. While I don't mind an imbalance due to technology disparity, to accentuate the disparity even more would mean that those size increasing techs would be considered must haves and "I win" buttons. Not a good thing to put into a game, although there are already shades of that in Civ 4 and before.

    Also, all Civ games have demographics. It is one of the ways you can use to identify the power of an enemy civ, if you know what to look for.
     
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  4. flyingjohn Arcane

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    I agree with most of your points,especially with ai governors controlling some cities for your empire.

    One thing civ really needs is actual supply and manpower.
    Units being tied to production feels off ,i mean you can just spam units without any consequence for your original population.
    If you actually had to devote population to soldiers and supply them it would make it more realistic.
    So if you loose a unit it would take 3-5 turns to recover that manpower point.
    Also modern wars would require alot more supply focus then ancient era,which make it realistic.
    Of course this would also mean that units would have to be produced on a separate level from buddings,like galciv.
     
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  5. Delterius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    My problem with Civ games is that I like the idea of a Science or Cultural victory, but those are often enough just a bad game of internal management. What if instead of one game of tactical conquest and 4 others of point accumulation, we had this multi-layered chessboard where a 'civilization' can be conquered militarily and annexed... but live on culturally? Like the greeks and the romans. Or the persians and everybody who so much as breathed nearby. An Empire that controls the world doesn't, necessarily, have a strong culture. Even the short lived colonial empires of the late XIXth century adopted much from their subjects. Especially the british with India.
     
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  6. Cael Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

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    Bad on many levels. Civ is abstract. There is no number of people per unit rules in any Civ. That tank icon could be a platoon or an army of tanks. We have no way of telling. How realistic would it be for 10 population to support a platoon of tanks?

    On top of that, the population icons are also abstract. One can mean 10k or it can mean several million people, depending on how big your city is. If you try to put in a linear rise in population points, how realistic would it be for Rome to start off as a 10,000 hamlet and end up as a 200,000 pop "mega city"?

    Being "realistic" is the worst sort of excuse you can come up with to either change a feature or introduce a new one. The question should always be "would it be FUN?"
     
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  7. Karellen Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    I don't think that you can meaningfully compete with Civilization by adding new things and features. To begin with, the problem with the recent Civ games is that they have an excess of fiddly subsystems built on top of the base game, slowing the game down, so developers are tempted to reduce the number of cities you have and the amount of units you have to keep the game flowing properly. With the reduction of scope, the game becomes less dynamic and less deep, while the focus turns instead to tedious micromanagement tasks that do not amount to anything genuinely strategic. Adding automation is no solution - the end result would most likely be something like Master of Orion III, a bland, boring game that plays itself.

    A genuine contender to Civilization should do avay with this superfluous junk so it can once more be fun, dynamic and reasonably quick to play, with simple and elegant game mechanics that give rise to interesting emergent situations when the game has enough scope. In the first place, Civilization gained the status it has because the essential core of Civilization is tremendously fun - so fun that the game remains engaging even when you add oodles of superfluous junk on top. A deceptively simple game like the original Master of Orion is much more likely to manage the same. Sophisticated, "realistic" extra features should be a secondary concern.

    My dream "Civ-like" game is essentially an empire builder set in the ancient world that deals almost exclusively with building and warfare, in that order. The premise is that you can quite easily conquer cities, but keeping them from rebelling against your rule is only possible with cultural dominance, which requires building palaces and temples to assert your dominance, for which you need hard-to-attain raw materials, luxury goods and specialist craftsmen, so you have to go on military campaigns to gain the resources you need for your building projects. This way, the empire turns quickly into a pyramid scheme on the verge of toppling that you have to struggle to keep running, while rebellions inevitably emerge to check your growth and cause weaknesses for rival empires to take advantage of, resulting in a natural "rise and fall" cycle. You could conceivably add some extra stuff like diplomacy or religion to a game like this, but the way I see it, you probably shouldn't add a lot, since there's a very real risk is losing sight of what would make the game fun in the first place.
     
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  8. tindrli Arcane

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    there is one Great game concept that only one game uses that i know of . Eador: Genesis and those missions in certain region. that would be interesting to see in other
     
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  9. The Brazilian Slaughter Arcane

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    That's a good idea. Something akin to EU's National Ideas, but acquired through use?
    Perhaps using the Culture mechanics on it?

    So, say, a bunch of guys alone on a island would develop a sea-born, trading, diplomatic civilization. Meanwhile, a bunch of people stuck in the middle of a war-torn continent full of aggressive civilizations would develop into a militaristic, xenophobic nation. Could also lead to influence of other civilizations through trade, religion, etc.

    Paradox Games have no such problems, and they're in real time and as mechanically complex, if not more than the average civ game. Your normal civ game has between 7 and 30 civs, Pdox Grand Strategy games have over a hundred countries in-game, all at once, running in a real-time game, not even turn-based. Did I mention the Clausewitz engine is old and has optimization problems?

    I agree.
    I remember playing a few mods for III and IV where your units were built off pop points, so quick city grown was necessary for a large army.
    Maybe your civics and tech determine how much of your population you can devote to manpower points. If you run out, you can get more, but you drain from your population.
    I think pure production tie is too "modern" - pre-modern armies were far more about food and money.

    Another thing that would be required is a model for non-standing armies. As it is, you build the army and sustain it forever as long as you got resources for it. Standing Armies are a fairly recent phenomena, even the Romans only had a true standing army with the Marian Reforms, and that brought its own problems.

    Honestly I'm a big fan of splitting production of units and buildings.


    So, a civilization can still "live on" inside another? Makes a lot more sense than the current model, where once the other civilization conquers you, its over and in like five minutes, your civilization becomes part of your conquerors forever.

    How it would work, game-wise?

    Civ can't represent properly some civilizations. For example, you could not have Sparta in Civ, because Sparta was a city-state with a small demographic base, most of which was a warrior elite lording over serfs, but the warrior elite was ultra-skilled in warfare. The Central Asia nomads weren't many, either, but they could fight the far-more numerous Chinese, Romans and Persians, using their cavalry-armies that, if needed, can retreat to the hostile steppes where the enemy will just starve. England would't have lasted five minutes in Civland, because France would just outproduce on boats with their superior number of cities, and then their non-coastal cities would produce enough armies to take over after the boats are defeated.

    Realism is not the reason, its the base. Something existed, therefore we can replicate it in game terms.

    I may be wrong, but I think II and SMAC had some ways of showing your population.

    I always thought Civ cities were always too small, late-game cities should be like size 20-100, with most citizens being specialists and like 10-20% working tiles. I don't think any civ game except SMAC can despict a city akin to say, New York, or São Paulo.
     
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  10. The Brazilian Slaughter Arcane

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    Who said tech should always increase the square supply?

    Tech should also not be necessarily good for bunching up your guys. Remember, artillery is a thing once gunpowder is up.

    Another possibility is to allow the defender in a war to stack more units per square, as long as its on their original territory. That would mean its the defender who can doomstack better.

    Another idea: Add ZoCs and Flanking modifiers. So, Doomstacking all your army together just means the enemy can attack you from multiple directions, inflicting extra damage, and make it harder for you to move.
     
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  11. Nutria Savant

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    I know the ZoCs in Civ 1 pissed a lot of people off, but they made it much more viable for a small number of units in good positions to hold off a larger force. Flanking modifiers also sound like a good idea to me. It shouldn't be too hard for the AI to understand.
     
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  12. Delterius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Its a really rough idea. The way I envision it is as a game of three dimensional chess. But instead of three parallel games of conquest, you've got one main board that isn't any different from the other civ games. And then you've got the immaterial boards -- religion, culture, science. A player can be weak in one board and strong in others. A scholar might be conquered by the weakness of his arm. And a conqueror might find himself unleashing his subjects a bit if only to conserve his culture. Imagine for an instance a cold war type of scenario. Two great civilizations fight over their proxies not just militarily but also diplomatically, economically and culturally. But instead of just moving a missionary to another person's city to convert their populace, you've got an abstract game of chess going on. Just as the warfare of a civilization game is already very abstract.

    Its just a pitch and even if its sound I'd ask a more experienced player of 4Xs to judge it and elaborate on it.
     
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  13. kris Arcane

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    i been long harbouring an alternative design idea for how to make a civ that breaks the mold. If there is one thing that is similar between all these games then it is that they are city based. I have been thinking about the game instead being based around the plots. for that i have in turn thought of different alternatives to do it, whether that be pop based like victoria or have the plots be tier based.

    Original idea was to have the player get population as a resource which he can use to either improve existing plots or to spread out. to do either the player should also need some resources. Of course all different plots produce different resources, main being food. Towns should grow organically from higher tier plots that are placed in a good place to gather surrounding resources/trade. All plots will be based on heat/climate, rainfall and soil; which will in turn decide what can be done with them. Are they best for grazing, logging or agriculture? Will it need to be cleared of rocks? Are the rocks suitable to buildings?

    This idea though is most suited for a fantasy 4X as you then can do more fun things with plots and races.

    some more ideas around this.

    - Explorers can be sent to explore plot(s) every turn.
    - Surveyors can try to find metal/mineral resources.
    - Player find unknown resources that need to be researched after finding them to use them.
    - plants and animals are not static resources, but ones that can be found or traded and then herded/cultivated in suitable plots (alternative, finding new crops will increase health or other things)
    - Wars should not be handled by having units walking around the map.
     
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  14. Lord Rocket Erudite

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    what these things really need is some sort of logistics system -- I've not played any of these, but what I've heard about the the one in the WWII Columbia block games (Rommel in the Desert rulebook, section 12) sounds like it could be imported with little fuss (you need to be able to draw an uninterrupted line, via roads or railways etc., to a friendly city or you're out of supply and your units will degrade rapidly. Cities in a 4X could have a limited supply capacity depending on their size/economy -- maybe you could get a choice between degrading units or the city's economy if this is exceeded).

    A couple more things I've been considering:

    war is entirely bad in these games -- you need to divert resources from tech, which is inevitably your real source of strength, and it costs a lot. But historically war has driven a lot of innovations (eg. jet engines, rocket science, ENIAC during and after WWII), and it also seems quite common for nations coming out of a civil war to turn outwards and smash every fucker next to them (eg. Napoleon, Augustus Caesar). Not to mention the fact people seem to enjoy that sort of thing (iirc the Athenians voted to get involved with the Ionian rebellion in the first place). Some sort of stagnation mechanic might be a good idea for too peaceful civs, eg. exponentially rising costs for technological innovation the longer you haven't been in a fight. I suspect most of these games severely underrate unit experience too (Herodotus did mention a large part of the Spartan's performance vs. the Persians at Thermopylae was due to relative levels of xp. Also, more recently, Jerries vs. Ivans).

    playing a civilisation vs. playing a nation (civ in the sense of Spengler or Huntingdon). Just a thought, but playing a larger cultural unit might be interesting. Internal wars, differential levels of development within your borders and so on. This wouldn't work with direct unit control and I don't know how it would play out because I only just thought of it.

    I agree with the OP that having a demographic element to gameplay would be interesting but it would be racist to have a downside to multiculturalism so I don't think we'll see that any time soon
     
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  15. Lagi Savant

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    i'm very hyped to extra layer idea. maybe its already in some games, but i dont play it. I would like to see 2 boards: government/army and culture/religion. I think that second extra "board" could work like that:

    each city consist of people, whose mind are into specific culture.
    Fluff explanation: culture in city is build up based on culture "ideas" ; "french food", "german music", "hindi exercises - yoga" and ofc religion "native american - church".

    the bigger the city the higher the foreign influence.
    if the happiness in city is low, people are angry, hungry, they will turn into another culture.
    if the city trade with other nation, are attacked or visit by foreigners - foreign culture affection increase.
    Player send prophets, warmongers to distant lands, to affect people mind and convert to own culture. Government can make spy [counterintelligence] to try intercept such pest's.
    in late game, this can be done without units - radio, tv, internet.

    Player can not be sure how high are the other culture affection in each city. you just know that this many guys support your culture and rest are into another nation.
    Player see that in London has 7/10 culture (7 out of 10 population is into British), that drop to 5/10 in next turn. How many of that 5 are traitors to which nation?

    higher foreign culture of one type in city result with rebellion - that can be activated by the other player nation. Let see you see in enemy town culture 4/11. You think that other 7 are from many culture, and you are the strongest, so lets see if the uprising is successful.

    it could be 100% possible to play many turn only on the Culture board. You plan to make big uprising in many cities. By this time you sending prophets and spend "culture resource" to convert more population in the back of a big empire. Or accumulate "political capital" on much faster rate, than rival who has to also struggle with production, wars etc.

    =======================

    peaceful playing nation should be penalize city corruption. Each turn without being attack result with city corruption grown, city production and research speed is more and more hindered. The idea is to not being able to develop without own city being attacked. Corruption also increase foreign culture in city [ idea 1].

    doomstack could solved by extra damage receive by all units in same stack. this way you want to disperse all army as much as possible. C-evo work as duel of aggressor vs strongest defender, if defender lose all unit in same stack is destroyed. This solution by many is consider too extreme. I by myself would like to see units rather retreat than fight to death.
     
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  16. Galdred Studio Draconis Patron Developer

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    If you look for a game with ZoC and flanking modifiers, you can already play Pandora:First Contact.
    It is a subpar Alpha Centauri, but it has a really good AI compared to all other 4X (and a modder who still improves it).
     
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  17. Mr. Pink Travelling Gourmand, Crab Specialist

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    4x is one of the most technologically constrained genres of video games, because the core component of a 4x game (the AI) is something extremely difficult to develop in general. 4x games must to be designed around the current limitations of what can be feasibly done with AI, and just making a smarter AI isn't a viable option.

    Let's take Total War's campaign map for example. pre RTW games used a board game style map, so there wasn't much pathfinding nessessary for the AI to deal with. From RTW to M2TW, the maps used smaller tiles, and were designed to have settlements connected by lanes or roads few tiles wide. In areas where there were clear lanes, like North Italy where the Alps had several mountain passes and forests to keep the AI on the roads, it could negotiate the terrain fairly well, even setting up ambushes or building forts on choke points. However, if you play in the middle east, where the distance between the settlements were wider and most of the map was just desert, the AI would struggle and send out stacks of units into the desert, unable to react in time to save their settlements when sieged. By the time the warscape engine was developed, and the no-stacks-without-generals mechanic was implemented, there was a noticeable decline in the quality of pathfinding and we got the train wreck known as R2TW. They tried to alleviate the problem with things like implementing MCST for short term decision making but it just made AI decisions feel even more random and arbitrary because there's no way it would be able to process a sufficient number of branches on modern hardware in a reasonable amount of time.

    Civ 6 combat AI is another example of bad AI due to ambitions goals. One unit per tile is not inherently difficult for AI to handle, after all, Chess is one unit per tile game. The problem arises when you have a game magnitudes more complex than chess (in terms of number of branches that require searching) due to a variety of factors ranging from having to worry about unit cost on a macro level (suiciding your warrior isn't going to set you back as much as suiciding your knight), having to defend an objective (the settlement), and diplomacy (fighting multiple wars, keeping some units on reserve incase of another invasion). In a blank slate situation that Firaxis probably rigorously tested, I wouldn't be surprised if civ 6 AI could trounce most humans in an even matchup, but in practice, it just shuffles units in confusion until they get picked off by artillery and city attacks. While Firaxis is still incompetent for a variety of other reasons, they failed here because they tried to tackle an incredibly difficult problem that even the eggheads who make deep learning chess AI would have a hard time solving.

    The moral of the story is that the developers ambition rose faster than AI technology could keep up.

    If you want "good" AI, you need to make your mechanics computationally simple and solvable with algorithms the average game developer has the skill to implement. Civ and Total War at their latest state will NEVER have "good" AI without excising the parts that are too hard to deal with.

    The game design must limit the number of possible choices or actions that the player and AI can take in one turn, and then limit the number of possibilities that can result from said choice or action. A chess board at any state has a limited number of possible moves that one can make per turn (T), but if you want to compute ahead, the number of turns ahead (N) you need to process T^Nth power of possibilities (optimization can cut this down significantly, but in the end it's still an exponential increase). Imagine having to write code that will move a bunch of units from one city to defend another. In Civ 4, since stacks move together, you only have to do pathfinding for one entity, and it wouldn't have to worry about collision. With one-unit-per-turn, now you need to move several entities, and also move them in a order where they won't collide with each other causing a traffic jam at a bottleneck. There are several approaches this ranging from trees to behavior patterns, but all are significantly more computationally complex than just moving a single stack around, and even if you get it right, your turn times will probably be obscenely long.

    tl;dr: Focus on number crunching, not spatial reasoning. Keep it small, tight and tactical over wide, nebulous and strategic. Work within your limits.
     
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  18. Galdred Studio Draconis Patron Developer

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    Actually, some other studios manage 1UPT pretty well(Warlock anyone?). The problem is that Firaxis had no experience in the domain before, while the Warlock team had worked on Fantasy whatever and Elven Legacy.
    But it is true that Warlock is also much more focused on the tactical part, and their strategic AI is atrocious (when I played, it did not even dispell your über units, nor enchant units of its own).
     
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  19. sser Arcane Cuck Developer

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    Repost:

    From July of 2015 :negative:
     
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  20. Mr. Pink Travelling Gourmand, Crab Specialist

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    Call to Power's combat is almost the same as EU4's combat, with stack widths and flanking. Computationally easy to handle (as in, it's easy for the AI to calculate how likely it is to win the engagement), looks nice and gives you something to look at while the dice rolls.
    [​IMG]
     
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  21. flyingjohn Arcane

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    Firaxis has not figured out how to make ranged units move and shoot for 8 years,they are the definition of incompetence.
     
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  22. kyrub Augur

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    I would love a shorter time-focus rather than a whole civilization, from stone age to superstring theory. It always brings terrible problems with scaling of time. At first, Civ games are slow, in the latter parts they gallop alike a mad horse.

    There are fascinating epochs of civilization development, that are always lost in focus in Civ games. They come too late and one runs through them quickly. My tip would be XiX-XX century, amazing times for country, science, philosophy, various state conceptions development. A new Civ-thematic, more historical and realistic game. Or alternate history with some extra focus.
     
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  23. Cael Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

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    Actually, Warlock has a pretty crap combat AI. It was not made any better in Warlock 2. I played it, and I can rely on AI units not finishing off my units if there is another target to hit. Even my stunned and red-lined unit is ignored for a fresh unit, which only means I end up with both units still live at the end of the fight. You won't believe the number of times I see the AI knock down a neutral unit to red health and then POINTLESSLY run all his units across his entire empire for no reason while the neutral unit healed up, only to run them back a few turns later having done exactly nothing else in between.
     
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  24. laclongquan Arcane

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    1,868,337
    Location:
    Searching for my kidnapped sister
    I want Alpha Centaury with modern graphic. Just modern graphic, not anything else.
     
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  25. Nutria Savant

    Nutria
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2017
    Messages:
    785
    Imperialism tried to pull that off. In my opinion it was pretty hit-or-miss in terms of actually implementing their ideas, but it's the best I've seen yet. Oh yeah, and it has some ambient sound of a sawmill that I found incredibly irritating.
     
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