Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a turn-based strategy 4X video game developed by Firaxis Games, published by 2K Games, and distributed by Take-Two Interactive. The latest entry into the Civilization series, it was released on Microsoft Windows and macOS in October 2016, with later ports for Linux in February 2017, iOS in December 2017, Nintendo Switch in November 2018, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in November 2019 and Android in 2020.
Similar to previous installments, the goal for the player is to develop a civilization from an early settlement through many in-game millennia to become a world power and achieve one of several victory conditions, such as through military domination, technological superiority, or cultural influence, over the other human and computer-controlled opponents. Players do this by exploring the world, founding new cities, building city improvements, deploying military troops to attack and defend from others, researching new technologies and cultural civics, and engaging in trade and negotiations with other world leaders.
The game features several civilizations not featured in previous incarnations of Civilization, while many returning civilizations have new capitals or new leaders. A critical design focus was to avoid having the player follow a pre-set path of improvements towards their civilization which they had observed from earlier games. Civilization VI places more emphasis on the terrain by “unstacking” city districts from the main city tile and giving bonuses for placing districts near certain terrain types. Other new features include research on the game’s technology tree based on nearby terrain, a similar technology tree for cultural improvements and a better government civics structure for those playing on a cultural victory path, and new artificial intelligence mechanics for computer-controlled opponents that include secret goals and randomized engagements to disrupt an otherwise stable game.
The game received generally positive reviews upon release, and it was awarded Best Strategy Game at The Game Awards 2016. The game’s first major expansion, Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, was released in February 2018, a second expansion, Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, followed in February 2019 and a season pass, The New Frontier Pass, in May 2020.
Civilization VI is a turn-based strategy video game in which one or more players compete alongside computer-controlled AI opponents to grow their individual civilization from a small tribe to control of the entire planet across several periods of development. This can be accomplished by achieving one of several victory conditions, all based on the 4X gameplay elements, “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. Players manage a civilization of their choice and develop their technology, culture and government structure between ancient times and the near future. They found cities and grow them through the creation of mines, farms and other improvements, while simultaneously exploring the randomly-generated world and encountering other civilizations and barbarians. Players have the ability to trade and manage peaceful diplomatic relations with other civilizations or alternatively go to war through the use of military force.
Civilization VI builds upon the general gameplay of Civilization V, including continuing the use of the hex-based grid introduced in Civilization V. New to Civilization VI is the idea of “city unstacking”: some improvements to cities must be placed in the hexes in the bounds of the city but not within the city’s space itself, whereas in previous games, all improvements were considered stacked on the same map hex or square that the city was located in. The player must assign specific hexes as “districts” in the city, which have certain limitations but grant bonuses for improvements placed in that district.
For example, the encampment district specializes a city for training military units, and allows for the construction of further buildings that grant production and experience bonuses to said units. Such encampments may not be placed next to the main city center. Other improvements gain bonuses for being placed in appropriate terrain – campuses benefit greatly from being placed adjacent to forest or jungle hexes, reflecting on scientific advance from studying the diversity of species within such biomes. Players can opt to attack specific districts of a city instead of the city center, which can affect the city’s operation. These districts may also add new strategies to the city’s defense. For example, with a military encampment in place, attacking forces approaching a city are not only subject to ranged attacks from the city center, but also from the encampment. The attacking forces may need to take the encampment first before they can successfully strike the city center.
In order to reduce congestion on the map, players are able to perform a limited amount of unit stacking (a change from Civilization V), but are only able to stack similar unit types or symbiotic units. For example, a warrior unit can be assigned to a builder unit to protect that unit from barbarians in the early game, and a battering ram can stack with a spearman to take over cities.
The game’s technology tree, now known as the active research system, has also been modified to help boost technology research if the player has access to appropriate improvements or resources (e.g. building a quarry helps boost the research into masonry). Technologies based on access to water, such as sailing, would be limited if the player started in the middle of a continent. A new feature called Eureka Moments is able to increase the player’s progress toward certain technologies after completing specific tasks; for example, laying a mine field contributes to the military tradition technology.
Past iterations of the game were considered difficult to win if the player decided to pursue a Cultural victory. To balance the game toward Cultural victories, a new Civics tree is introduced. The Civics tree has transferred cultural improvements that were previously part of the Technology tree in earlier Civilization games into a separate mechanic. Culture gained from cities is used to build on the Civics tree in the same manner Science from cities builds up the Technology tree. Completing certain Civics will then unlock policies, or policy cards, for the player’s government. In Civilization VI, the government is defined by placing appropriate and available policies into a number of slots divided among Military, Economic, Diplomatic, and Wildcard categories. The policies define boosts or limitations for the civilization (e.g. improved attack bonuses for military units against certain types of enemies such as Barbarians). Policies can be changed for free upon completing a single Civic, or for a small cost at any other time, allowing the player to adapt to a new situation as needed, according to lead producer Dennis Shirk.
More advanced cards, only obtainable through significant advancement in the Civics tree, can unlock improvements that give the player pursuing a Cultural victory advantages over other players, such as reducing the time or cost of producing new units. Various choices made by the player may cause unhappiness in their population as with previous games, but in Civilization VI, many of these were localized to the city affected by the choice rather than the entire population, further aiding towards Cultural victory-style players. The Religion system introduced in Civilization V’s Gods & Kings expansion is built further upon in VI, featuring more units and improvements that can lead to interreligious conflicts.
AI opponents have new agendas that influence player interactions. Some of these agendas are unique to each leader, emulating notable historical events, respective personalities and policies. Each AI character also has a second hidden agenda, which can only be revealed through espionage.