Civilization VI is the latest in a line of strategy games from Firaxis. I originally played III and VI in high school and university. V never grabbed me, and VI saw a lot of play when it first came out in 2016. This year I picked up the first three expansions (Rise & Fall, Gathering Storm, and New Frontiers) for the first time, which also required some re-learning of base mechanics.

Game Analysis

I won a deity (hardest) game twice with each victory condition — except score, that doesn’t count — across a variety of map types and leader. I also participated in two Game of the Month (6oTM) challenges, both of which I did full write ups of (6oTM 143 and 6oTM 144).

My Hall of Fame.

Civilization is a tough game to get good at because “in the moment” feedback loops both distract from and distort the larger picture. In a building heavy game it’s easy to zoom through multiple turns quickly and miss optimization opportunities, while in a unit heavy game the opposite can be true — each turn takes a long time and feels like you’re making plenty of decisions, but they might not matter.

With the Rise & Fall expansion you can export your era score timeline to JSON. I tried graphing this across games but I didn’t find it particularly insightful. What I actually want is metrics like “cities built” or “science per turn” so I can better compare across games. Era score generally showed when I “took off” in a game, but that by itself wasn’t particularly interesting. For example, the top line in the graph (for Poundmaker) was a fantastic start, and I converted it into my second earliest finish, but … how? This graph doesn’t help me understand.

Era score stats. Teddy is offset because I started in a later era. This wasn't as insightful as I'd hoped. Code here.

The best technique I found to improve was to keep a detailed turn by turn log as I did for the 6oTM games (linked above). This didn’t take as much extra time as you might think, since I was taking the time to think anyway and typing the thoughts out was pretty cheap. I identified plenty of low level tactical mistakes, individually only costing a turn or two but that in aggregate could shave tens of turns off victory. I was also able to better evaluate my larger strategic decisions with a log of what I was thinking when.

Ultimately I’d like to develop better heuristics like “by turn 100 for X type of victory I should have Y” but that would require a lot more play.


This section originally posted as Twitter threads here and here. I’ve edited them slightly since.

In aggregate these three expansions add a lot of new options and depth to the base game. I recommend them.

Victory Conditions

From worst to best, victory conditions stack ranked. A good condition rewards optimization with earlier finishes, while creating interesting choices and trade offs.

  1. Score. Shouldn’t exist, you should just lose. I’m salty this is a banner in the hall of fame. (I have not achieved it.)
  2. Diplomatic. Yawn. Fallback option when you mess up a culture win. Can’t accelerate clock much waiting for congress, limited options to generate diplomatic points, but even so incremental improvements don’t lead to incremental improvement. “Guess what AI is thinking of” is not fun.
  3. Science. Could be fun but in practice leads to a single high production city spamming projects, particularly with Royal Society (builders can rush district projects). Makes culture and faith largely irrelevant.
  4. Religious. What if we took Domination but reduced the number of units and overall strategic complexity? Still have kind of a soft spot for it though, don’t know why.
  5. Domination. A classic, with plenty of opportunity to accelerate. Late game can become a grind managing large armies and high numbers of cities.
  6. Culture. Top spot despite being the most inscrutable of the lot. Really needs better in game metrics. Transition from culture to tourism interesting. Faith and science remain relevant. Monopolies create incentive for war to collect more resources. Wonders and great people relevant.


In which I review each major new feature or mechanic on the following scale:

Good. Adds interest and fun.
Neutral. Could go either way, situational.
Bad. Annoying, irrelevant, lacking depth, or generally not adding fun.

Rise & Fall

Gathering Storm

New Frontiers