Civilization VI (Civ6) is already a big game. What could an expansion add to it? Previous editions of downloadable content have been fairly conservative, sticking mostly to new leaders and specialized scenarios so a true expansion must deliver more.
Of course there are the usual new leaders, although one feels the designers may be reaching with a few of them. The original Civ had 14 leaders, all of whom led mighty nations – England, China, Russia, and the like. Rise and Fall (RaF) adds Scotland, the Mapuche, and some other nations that, while I am sure were great in their own ways, never really rose to great-power status. They each have their own bonuses and special units, so they add variety, but one wishes Firaxis would just add a custom nation designer instead.
Some other content has been added, including eight new world wonders, seven new natural wonders, two new tile improvements, five new units, and three new resources. For the most part these do not change the game much beyond adding variety and providing more choices for action.
The first important addition is the two new districts: Government Plaza, and Water Park, along with buildings appropriate to each. The Government Plaza can be built only once per civilization, and provides space for buildings that allow for bonuses that can further craft your civilization to fit your playstyle. For example, building a Spy Agency in your Government Plaza allows you civ to support an additional spy and raises all your spies chances for success. The Water Park's primary purpose is to house buildings that produce happiness – Ferris wheels, aquariums and an aquatics center. This becomes very important later in the game, as large cities can be difficult to keep happy.
A major change is the new Governor mechanic. There are seven new Governors that can be recruited (using a new Governor Title mechanic, where Governor Titles can be earned by discovering certain techs, or building particular buildings). Governors are not units like Great People, they are more like Spies in that they are placed in cities (but only your cities, and only one per city). When in a city the Governor helps keep the city loyal, and can also provide various bonuses depending on which Governor it is. There are only the seven, they all have names and pictures, and each has their own specialty – religion, trade, military, and so on. There is a trade-off here: one can use the rare Governor Titles to get a new Governor, or promote an already-recruited one to get at their advanced bonuses.
Diplomacy with and between AI civs has some new wrinkles. Alliances still exist, but now there are different types: Research, Military, Economic, Cultural, or Religious. Each type of alliance provides a different benefit to the civs participating in it. Also, the longer an alliance goes on, the more powerful the bonus becomes. While this is an interesting mechanic, and a nice way to reward the less war-mongering among us, this reviewer had problems maintaining long-term alliances. Alliances have to be renewed from time to time, but there did not appear to be any notification when. Sometimes the AI would do it itself, but other times an alliance would just mysteriously end.
In a similar vein, there are now Emergencies. An Emergency happens when one civ does something that disturbs all the others – conquering a city-state, using a nuke, or other actions that reverberate through the world. Every civ gets a chance to join some sort of coalition against the offending civ. Every Emergency has a goal attached to it, usually some form of “undoing” the act that caused the emergency in the first place. If the offending civ can last through the duration of the Emergency they get a bonus, if the civs on the other side reach the goal, they get a bonus. The idea is to encourage losing civs to gang up on a civ that is threatening to run away with the game. In this reviewer's limited experience, this mechanic needs work. There is no real way to bribe/threaten an AI to join, and the Ais are generally not very bright in any case, so having them on your side is no great bonus.
By far the most obvious change is the overhaul of Ages. In addition to the usual Golden Ages there are now Normal, Dark, and Heroic. These depend on the idea of a Game Era: a set of years that is common for all the civs. It is similar to, but not identical with, the idea of tech eras. At this point it is unclear exactly how long a Game Era lasts, or why they end. The important thing is that your civ earns an Era Score by completing Historic Moments. A Historic Moment is an event in the game that seemed important to the developers: things like world's first flight, taking an enemy's capital, starting the Inquisition, and too many more to count. Earn enough Era points and your next Game Era could be Golden or Heroic, earn too few and it will be Dark, in-between it will be Normal. Each type of age provides its own type of benefit, with better types of Ages having better benefits. The net effect for this reviewer was that the Ages messed with the pace of the game. In particular, stretches of the game in which one quietly grows, perhaps preparing for a war, inevitably result in earning fewer Historic Moments, which leads to a Dark Age. It starts to become a strategy to put off Historic Moments until the “end of era” warning message comes out, and you need the points. All in all, it would be nice to be able to turn this mechanic off.
Possibly the biggest effect the Ages have is on Loyalty. Every city has a Loyalty level which reflects how much it likes belonging to your civ. Some things raise Loyalty: bigger cities are more Loyal, nearby cities exert a positive effect, a Policy can help, high happiness, and Governors boost Loyalty a lot. Other things reduce Loyalty: nearby foreign cities, low happiness, and being further from the capital city. The biggest civ-wide effect, however, is the type of Age. Golden and Heroic Ages provide a big Loyalty boost, Dark Ages penalize it. Loyalty is important because when Loyalty drops too low a city can leave your civ. It declares itself a Free City, and Anybody who can take it by force can have it without declaring war on your civ. That's right – culture-flipping is almost back, baby!
There are still some less-than-great aspects of the game. The AI is not very good. The secret leader preferences come off as arbitrary conflict-inducers at times. Religious conflict is still boring. Overall, however, there is enough new stuff in this expansion that a gamer will feel they got their money's worth.
In summary, this expansion provides a good amount of new stuff, both minor and game-changing. This reviewer found some of the major additions did not mesh that well, but this is such a varied game, with so many different ways to play it, that opinion will be divided on what worked and what did not.
If you have wasted great gobs of your life playing Civ 6, or feel like you have figured it out, this is a good expansion to make you rethink a game you thought you knew.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Can write a better AI than anybody out there. Your mom likes me better than you. So does your girlfriend. Better-looking than you. Greatest living American author (except for Gene Wolfe. maybe). Humble.