Civilization V Offers New Strategic Combat

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Civilization V Offers New Strategic Combat


Fans of the Civilization series will be pleasantly surprised with the lack of "unit stacks of doom" and the addition of city-states.

Civilization is one of the longest running game series ever, with its first iteration released by Sid Meier in 1991. I played the crap out of each Civilization so I was excited to hear that Firaxis was busy designing Civ V to be ready for this fall. I was equally happy to attend 2K Games presentation of the game at GDC 2010 and I have to say that I like the changes that I saw in store for the newest Civilization. The alterations to combat, as well as changes to the resource, diplomacy and border systems will add many strategic wrinkles to Civ's tried and true gameplay. Gone are features like Civ 4's religions, but Firaxis is hoping that the addition of NPC city-states and integrated mod support, as well as other unannounced features, will bring Civ V to the next level.

Under development for the last 2.5 years, we were treated to an in-game demo of how a typical game would begin as well as the taking over of an enemy capital, in this case Washington D.C. First off, the game looks absolutely beautiful. "We've got a more organic landscape that looks like it grows naturally with flowing rivers and sweeping hills," said producer Dennis Shirk. "The art was influenced by a heavy gameplay change, which many avid Civ fans will notice first, the change from square tiles to hex tiles. Hexes allow us to make much more organic flowing lines. We have a lot less of the right angle mountain ranges and rivers."

Another big change is the combat system. Units are no longer destroyed if they lose a battle, which means that civs can spend much more resources on maintaining their armies as opposed to cranking out new units. The combat that we saw took place completely outside of a city, and positioning and terrain are much more important. "In the past, combat revolved around stacks [of units], which our fans affectionately call 'stacks of doom,'" Shirk said. "We wanted to pull combat out of the cities, and make every unit important." No two units can occupy the same tile, even friendly ones, so positioning on the battlefield becomes very important. Ranged units, like archers, are used to soften up the front lines from up to two hexes away, but they are vulnerable to attacks from melee units. The result is an emphasis on battlefield tactics instead of most Civ games which favored the civ that was able to crank out the most units.

The resource system supports that concept. In Civ3 and 4, once your civilization gained access to Iron, each of your cities could pump out swordsmen and there was no limit to how many you could make. In CivV, gaining access to one source of Iron allows you to make one swordsman and that's it. You can't make another swordsman unit unless that one died or you gained access to another Iron source.


As with each Civ sequel, the diplomacy system received an overhaul. "Leaders in Civ V are bigger than life, they pull you into the scene like never before and speak their own language, Shirk said. "You might meet Napoleon on the battlefield, or Gandhi on a cliff overlooking the sea." The AI has more at its disposal and will be able to sense units on its borders or that you are expanding too quickly.

A new addition is city-states. "City-states are small NPCs that are scattered throughout the world. They're not trying to win the game, they never grow beyond a single city. But they make stuff happen in the world," Shirk said. For example, Budapest was a city-state in the demo and by talking to them, you had the option of helping them out against barbarians with gold or units. Doing so raises your friendship level which means that they might gift you with units or aid in scientific research. "Different city-states grant different things," Shirk said. A more militaristic city-state might ask you to attack a neighbor or a weaker state might be attacked and ask you to defend them. Of course, there's always the option to simply take them over and add the city to your civ.

The lead designer of Civilization V is Jon Shafer, who made his name as a prominent mod maker for Civ games. It's no surprise then that Civ V will boast the most extensive modding tools ever available. Firaxis realized though that not many casual Civ fans know that such a vibrant mod community exists, so they are adding a way to browse for mods directly in-game. The mod browser will allow users to scan for mods by popularity with a built-in rating system, as well as give Firaxis the ability to feature mods on an ongoing schedule. Modders will be able to solicit comments and questions by linking to their fan pages on CivFanatics through an ingame web browser.

Overall, there are enough new features in Civ V to draw new fans to the series who may have only played Revolution or Colonization and enough of that classic Civ gameplay to make even hardcore fans excited for an update.


They had me with a new grid.

And now no stacks?

This is the game that my life needs more than the air I breath, more than the food I eat, more than the water I drink.

Civ 5 is my game.

some of the new mod features seem awefully like stardock's elemental

This would probably be the first demo I'd consider downloading in years. I'm kinda glad they got rid of the religions. It just took up space on the tech tree and was a crucial factor in making your citizens happy, which just made it annoying imo

So now Ghandi won't steamroll me with his stacks of tanks?


Damnit. Sorry for double post. My bad.

Sweet merciful crap on toast!
I love the Civ games! I've been playing since Civ 1, and this looks to be shaping up to be the best yet!

They had me with a new grid.

And now no stacks?

This is the game that my life needs more than the air I breath, more than the food I eat, more than the water I drink.

Civ 5 is my game.

"You had me at Hex Grid."


I love every god damn aspect of this game so far. I thought Civ IV was close to perfection. This looks like it's going to be too perfect. Seriously, my sentient life comes to a close this Fall.

Is there a mistake?

One iron resource means you can make one iron-usage unit (e.g. swordsman)?

The only way I could see this working is if resources were far more common. Unless it's to increase trade use...

Seems like they are makingalot of improvements to the game. I cant say I am complainging. It will be nice to seee what can be thrown into the long as it does not upset the overall formula!

Damn, this is likely the only game that would force me to upgrade my PC to play... I love Civ games, and the improvement to combat would be so welcome.

When I read this a little bit of wee came out. I played so much Civ 4 it was untrue. This sounds like the game I was born to play.

Now I'm in tears as I know my laptop won't be able to run it. It only run blood bowl after I slashed all of the visual details.

I need this game but probably will never get to play it...


Ah, Civilization.

So many times have you promised.
So many times have you let me down.
So many hours have I wasted anyway.

Will you re-achieve the perfection that you gained in 2, only to lose it to the hideous AI of 3?

Civilization... Mmmm... One more thing to look forward to this year.
Gogo hex-grids!

Just make the god damn AI smarter.


I die a little bit inside when I see cities settled two off the coast.



This is going to be amazing, but I am worried about the resource overhaul, if I was designing it I would have the resources just deplete and new ones appear. (Civ4/3 might do that, I can't remember)

Awww I liked religions. Always rushing to get Christianity first, then shoving it down the throats of as many others as possible 88)

Sounds cool none the less, though I'm still waiting for Alpha Centauri 2 before I get totally giddy


If anyone here is from the future, will they send me back a copy of this game? This sounds like all I've ever wanted from a Civ game and more.

Thank you oh great Sid!

No religion? Honestly I liked that system. Even though Isabella would always declare war on me because I wasn't a Buddhist.

And no stacks! THANK GOD, no matter what game I play I lose at least one city to a stack.



The computer is broken. I cannot play it until I get it fixed.


No religion? Honestly I liked that system. Even though Isabella would always declare war on me because I wasn't a Buddhist.

And no stacks! THANK GOD, no matter what game I play I lose at least one city to a stack.

same here, religion was fun! plus striving to get all 7 religions in one city was awesome, culture FTW there :P

No stacks? Does this mean that Civ won't take 25 hours to play one game, and that I won't have to cross my fingers when attacking a spearman-stuffed city with my Modern Armour, knowing that I'll lose eventually thanks to the law of averages?

Hmmm, no stacks at all seems to be a little drastic, frankly I'd have preferred if they just limited stack size and make the armies in the stack provide each other bonuses when attacking together. The thing that worries me is one resource equals one unit, smaller civilizations will stand no chance at all even with superior tech, and the game will come down to settler spam to put cities right next to those resources. Aw well, I'm sure it'll get balanced somehow.

BTW, Best Civ was Alpha Centauri :P

Y'know, I actually LIKE Civ IV the way it is. I'm definitely not psyched about the lack of stacks, as that was something that made sense. Unless they completely redo the entire unit strength and combat system, the combat will be downright crap.

@JusticarPhaeton: You're not using enough Siege. That's why you're losing Modern Armor to Spearmen.

I can deal with the hexes, but frankly I like the grid based system. It's familiar, but more importantly, it WORKS. They didnt need to redo the entire system, just fix the AI. I can guarantee that this is going to be an issue for Civ V, as the decline in AI potency has always been in decay since Civ 3.

Sounds (and looks, oh good looks) amazingly cool, but I could spend all night fanboy-ing out over it without substance, so I'll instead address some issues that jump out at me, that might (note: MIGHT - like the rest of you, I have yet to see any of this in action) be not as awesome.

In order to avoid a senseless shitstorm I'm gonna move the end-of-post disclaimer up to the front:
But despite all this, the game does look awesome, and no doubt it will be tested and tweaked to as close to perfection as a game can be. And we'll just have to see about the actual effects of all that I've mentioned here, so basically, this entire post is theoretical.

And one more thing: Units not dying after combat? GLEE! I love it. I've been waiting for this for so long.

Right. Now on to the issues.

First off: no stacks. Bear in mind that I've never played any Civ multiplayer, so the only mega-stacks-of-doom in my games are my own (or buildups of workers or outdated units or aircraft or etc. in a city). It's certainly very interesting, and I'm sure it'll work wonders with terrain and positioning and such, but banning stacks outright? Wouldn't this make combat more tactical than strategic? In the older Civ games, a unit on its own could be taken to represent a brigade or a division, with a stack or a close group of units being an army, preferably with a combined-arms aspect or simply a fuckton of cheap cannon-fodder. Now, a single unit would represent that army. You'd lose a lot of versatility, and combat would be a LOT more one-on-one, which admittedly sounds good but which also means that any gathering of more than two or three units - which is pretty much mandatory; say one core combat unit, spearman or other anti-cavalry defender, cavalry/armour corps, and that's without catapults/artillery, archers, specialised units, etc. - will spread out over a huge front, and any serious war will take up a massive amount of space, space that you might not actually have - turning what is, in theory, an epic fight between superpowers into a giant traffic jam where only about a quarter of the units involved are actually fighting. This kinda puts the kibosh on human-wave tactics, even when they'd be legitimate and not just "look at me spam 3 of the best unit in the game every turn!" matches. And let's not forget the implications for naval combat. Any kind of serious navy will take up a space the size of the North Sea, and a full-scale naval engagement - even one battle - will require roughly the Atlantic Ocean to work. I hope that this field remains open to modification. I know I'd want to play - perhaps even make - a mod that implements this to a somewhat limited degree (say, max stack of 2 in a forest or hill, 3-4 in a plain). Nonetheless, it's a fascinating concept and I can't wait to try it out.

Second, ranged fire. Archers firing two hexes away. Now we had units that did this in Civ III, and mods for it in Civ IV, so it works, but if Archers can fire two hexes away, wouldn't that give them about the same range as a tactical cruise missile? Or is the combat done differently, on a smaller hex grid than the strategic map? Because if an ancient-era archer using a creaky bow can shoot clean over a city and the hills beyond it to hit an enemy, I'd like to see what "modern"-era (because in its own time, every era is the "modern" era - one day even this era will have a name. My money's on "The /b/tard Era") howitzers can do. Maybe they can shoot all the way across a smaller ocean. No, but seriously. I'm all for ranged attacks, but if Archers can shoot two hexes already, what about artillery? They simply can't be limited to a bow-shot's distance or it'll just seem ridiculous, but you can't increase their range all that much either or they'll become the equivalent of a conventional intermediate-range ballistic missile. What would be interesting is if this means that hexes are smaller than tiles in older games, so for instance a large city would span multiple hexes. Of course, I sincerely doubt that's the case, but that'd make for some interesting games. Or at least an interesting mod.

Thirdly. Only one iron unit per iron resource? Well, like others have said before me, chances are that this means that the presence of resources is increased. But if it doesn't, this could have some serious implications. Yeah, it'd fight the mega-stacks-of-doom, but at what cost? You wouldn't be able to build up a serious army, or you'd be forced to branch out to other, perhaps less useful units to fill out your ranks (whereas swordsmen are traditionally a general-purpose unit, spearmen, for instance, are mainly useful against cavalry - but what if the enemy doesn't have horses?). And if you choose not to, your units will all be useful, but they'd be spread extremely thin, and if you're fighting on a land front of any kind of size, you're gonna be bypassed left and right by units that would basically serve as little other than experience generators for your forces (again, spearmen come to mind), but which can now begin a campaign of happily ravaging your countryside. I was going somewhere with this..... Oh yes, I do sincerely hope this means that resources are more plentiful, because otherwise, you might even have trouble maintaining garrisons for all your cities if you expand fast enough. There are upsides to this though, but since this paragraph is long enough already, I'm going to leave those be and move on to the next issue.

Fourth. The leaders. I see a lot of over-the-top phrases here, but reading between the lines, Napoleon's battlefield and Gandhi's cliff seem to be little more than the backgrounds of what used to be the leaderheads, which are apparently now an entire scene. I do think that this overblown announcement means that we'll get to see more than just the head and shoulders (and sometimes hands and wrists) of the leaders (as evidenced by that portrait of Dick Van Dyke in a foul mood - seriously, that is the most un-Bismarck-like Bismarck I've ever seen), but I don't really see a lot more there. You can only pimp the diplomacy menu so much until it becomes needless clutter and a waste of time and space.

Fifth. No more religions? Why? It worked pretty well IMO in Civ IV, gave you a way of improving your happiness, and it offered plenty of openings for modding. Also, the diplomatic aspect worked well - spread your chosen religion around, and you get more influence; conversely, some rulers (*cough*Isabella) will be quick to brand you a heretic and you'll soon have Conquistadores at your borders. And (especially with modding) tensions within your civ could also run high, as foreign religions spread to your lands. And one of my favourite diversions was playing with just one city and researching every single religion first before expanding, thus allowing my capital to be the holy city for all the religions of the world. Fun times. (Also lots of Great Prophets.)

Sixth. Still doesn't look like there's true 3D terrain. Pity.

That said, the city states do sound awesome, and I still stand by my claim that this is a purely theoretical post, and I have every confidence in the abilities of the design team to deliver an excellent game.

For the end-of-post disclaimer, see beginning of post.

OK. I started writing this when the last reply was #14. Let's see how many (dozens of) times I've been ninja'd.

...Any kind of serious navy will take up a space the size of the North Sea, and a full-scale naval engagement - even one battle - will require roughly the Atlantic Ocean to work. I hope that this field remains open to modification. I know I'd want to play - perhaps even make - a mod that implements this to a somewhat limited degree (say, max stack of 2 in a forest or hill, 3-4 in a plain). Nonetheless, it's a fascinating concept and I can't wait to try it out...

Thank you! I understand not wanting to have MASSIVE unit stacks, but I think your suggestion is spot-on! I would happily download and play a mod that allowed minimal stacking.


Will you re-achieve the perfection that you gained in 2, only to lose it to the hideous AI of 3?

What are you talking about? Civ2 was good because of the wonder movies and the advisors, certainly not because of the AI. The AI in Civ2 as in Civ1 was practically just waiting for you to come conquer his cities - building lots of units only to have them wander pointlessly back and forth. In Civ3 for the first time the AI would actually build a massive force to purposefully attack you with. It's only since Civ3 that the AI seems to have a vague idea of how to handle it's units.

Civ 5 sounds awesome tastic.

But, um, Sid, I minor little tiny itty bitty question.








.....I'm still waiting for Civilization on Facebook.

Holy snap crackle and pop!

...I sense hours of my life being lost forever in the near future...

I have to say, I'm rather disappointed by the news of no religions - I also liked that aspect of the IV. I'm also on the same page with wishing that rather than eliminate stacks all together, they'd simply limit it to 2 or 3 units per square.

Everything else I've heard about the game, however, I've liked.

This is certainly looking promising. I've always found the "unit stacks of doom" to be a terrible deterrent to the game (in short, it always had me cranking the difficulty level down a few notches). Shame that they aren't keeping the religions, though, I've always liked tinkering with those.
Still, it'll be interesting to see Civ V.

After years of playing Civ 1 and then years of playing Civ IV I didn't think they could improve anything else, but this does look very promising. I'll miss religions, religion + wonder spamming was a hilariously effective tactic, but I don't think I will miss SoDs very much. I always hated the fact that units could stack in the early games, and while having them not all die at once is useful (and lets you build well-balanced armies on one square), it was still a bit silly. Having Montezuma turn up on your border with a stack of 30 Jaguars was a nightmare, even if you have powerful units you can never attack them enough times in one turn to stop them pillaging everything. No more stacks sounds fine to me, although the perfectionist in me is wondering what size the hexes are going to represent if you can only fit one army unit in it...

Hexes will be strange to get used to, as someone who has played Civ with squares for almost 20 years and not played any hex-based games at all. I imagine more than one battle will be lost because I will forget how units move and end up with half my armies one hex out of range.

Also, I concur - Alpha Centauri 2 would be AMAZING! As long as they kept and improved the diplomacy and design workshop features, custom-building units was great fun.

I wasn't really excited for Civ 5... until now! Sounds like a major shake up. And this new hex grid system sounds like it'll improve the graphics as well as the gameplay. Awesome! And I was hoping not to have to buy any more games for the next few months, heh

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