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Civilization 5 Gaming - American Science Victory, Game Concepts, and Map Editing. - Sauce1977 [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Civilization 5 Gaming - American Science Victory, Game Concepts, and Map Editing. [Apr. 12th, 2013|07:00 am]
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[Current Location |Detroit, MI, USA]
[In the Moment |fog of war]
[Special Music |Genesis - Land of Confusion]

Science wins in Civ 5 are kind of cool. Unlike the other victory types, there's an animated display of your spaceship launching as part of the science triumph. The only thing like it is seeing the enemy leader's laments when you knock 'em out of the game.


Note: I just noticed something ... Askia is literally the only nubian-skinned leader in the game (mehhh, Haile Selassie, yeah, but not as dark-skinned as Askia). If you watch all the others, they're pictured in lavish digs or serene settings. Askia? He's standing in front of a city in ... flames. I'll just leave that one there and hope this was not ... yeah. Maybe it was related to some particular battle his people fought. Yeah, that's the ticket. Just saying ... especially since, of the leaders, Genghis Khan is the one that needs a background of carnage more than anyone else.

Wellllll ... now that I think about it, defeating these leaders is most satisfying, since the game, after almost every turn, tends to screen-pop various rulers bringing up conversation on various things, a lot, even for banal shit like "Yanno I noticed you friended (insert ruler here). That's awesome, totally gonna copy that, Seacrest out." And some of the rulers can be mega-annoying, both in their animations, and the frequency.

Forgive me, I'm about to activate mega-nerd gamer-mode, with plenty of Civ 5 jargon.

For the rest of the unfamiliar, I done good. If you're generally not big on games, you can golf-clap now, and save yourself a lot of tedium by skipping this massive post.

For anyone interested, by all means, here's lots of Civ 5 talk, comin' right at you.

I hit the science victory screen-pop, playing as the Americans, on the 1,023rd turn, around the 1940s, AD, on the longest time setting. My final score was 2nd place, Hammurabi-class, 2300-something.

I think I'm going to go back and see if I can string along the game a little longer for a better score (I saved right before the addition of the last piece to the spaceship). If I halt production on the UN, and I refrain from adding the final spaceship component, then I can start pumping out extra gold from my cities instead. If I hang around a few turns longer, then I can score some future tech points (the last technology discovery in the game, repeating). Future tech adds to your cumulative score. The game also ties the score into how many turns it took to win, but we'll see if I can't counteract that and overrun the score drain with more turns of science output. Highest score class is 2500+, Augustus Caesar-class. I believe I've never done better than Hammurabi.

I wish they had an "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" rank.

Note: I am very new to the Civ universe. 2300 is a noob score. I'm not in this game, however, to play for 15 turns and stroke myself for breaking games. I'm in it for slow builds to massive dominance, which equates to my version of 'fun.' To each his own, but I'm pretty happy with myself for reasons to follow.

As for what's next, I am going to try for a multi-win in this playthrough. You can go back and keep playing the games you've already won, so I'm going to try to win another way.

I have won, in previous playthroughs, on multiple fronts and/or had the choice of victory coming from more than one way. After it brings up the victory screen-pop, instead of selecting the exit option, you select "Wait ... just one more turn," and it puts you back in the game. Every Civ continues along as if nothing has happened. You can then do some other path to victory, and it should give you another win notification ... I think it did with culture, after I won some other way, if I remember correctly.

You have to start with Science though, from experience. It won't let you build the spaceship for launch if the game has ended some other way. You can still build the ship components and get them to the capital to assemble, but you won't have the option to assemble when they reach the cap. The assembly button will be greyed out.

Firaxis has modified the game somewhat from its original release though, including a big bug-fix and mod sometime around this last November, so I have no idea if multiple wins with the same playthrough is even possible anymore, but I'm going to try.

As for a cultural win, I could have had that at least a couple hundred turns earlier. At game's close, I had just filled out Honor as a 6th full policy tree. To win via cultural victory, currently you have to fill out five of the policy trees, then you can trigger the "Utopia Project" to get the win.

As for choice of policies, I never bothered much with Honor (early military-related policy similar to Autocracy) in both Darius's Persian (most-recent run prior to this) and my current American playthrough. Nobody ever majorly threatened my national safety throughout both of those runs. The Honor bonus from selecting all those policies (getting gold from kills) is only good if you start raising hell early. Comparatively, the other trees produce much better rewards if you fill them.

My policies filled were Tradition, Liberty, Freedom, Commerce, then Patronage. Once I started churning out B-17s (unique late-game American military unit, replaces the bomber), I focused on cleaning up the last 2-3 policies in Honor.

Rationalism I avoided because I already had a massive science number being produced per turn. In Darius's run, my science was less than gigantic, so I explored that tree a little bit, for the science-related boosts. Now that the game's essentially over, it's even less attractive to explore, so if I keep going, I'll probably start up Piety next and try to take over the world with religion.

Religion isn't actually an official win condition, like culture, science, or diplomacy. But it's a pretty extensive side-thing you can mess with since the major expansion pack, Gods & Kings, was released.

The addition of religion is awesome because it can be a ludicrous money-maker for your nation. You start off by accumulating points of Faith, which work like other things you accumulate, such as culture or gold. This will build you up to being able to found a pantheon, on which you select a belief from one of many in a pool. Pantheons are the first stage of crafting your dogma, and from there, as you earn more Faith, it allows you to generate a Great Prophet, which helps you establish your religion.

When you have the chance to start your religion, you choose from a wide assortment of various existing religions and their associated symbols, and it lets you select a 2nd trait from the pool. Once you settle on those details, you essentially 'own' that religion, and from there, as you earn more Faith, you can select more beliefs for it, as well as generate more religious units to help your religion spread. Depending on which beliefs you select for it, the religion can make you a ton of extra points in food, production, gold, and even more Faith. I tend to choose gold-related beliefs and beliefs that help spread it like a pandemic.

Regardless of how one feels about organized religion, in this game, you're a fool if you avoid it. If it helps, an alternative is to use a symbol from one of the religions and name it whatever you want. In one playthrough, I selected a symbol and named the 'ism' after my Civ's nation, and went with that.

In this American run, I happened to achieve an all-time best in terms of successful spread of my religion. I got to select one relatively early in the game, and I chose Christianity. I almost never get a chance to select it because the AI usually gets into the religious game hyper-fast, so I'm often lagging behind 3-5 Civs in terms of choices when I get my chance. Since you can't select anything that others have already chosen, once a symbol or belief has been selected, that's it, and the AI often chooses Islam, Christianity, and Judaism first. I tend to choose something different each time anyway, since the identity you choose isn't as relevant as its traits.

In terms of beliefs, I got some pretty powerful ones (some choices are better than others). I went for gold gifts upon a majority worship in a city, and I thought it said +100 gold, but somehow I was getting like +300 on those conversions. And there was another belief I picked for a significant percentage increase in the religion's rate of spread. The game runs some kind of strength and radius programming, so if the religion catches on somewhere, it can trickle out and manifest itself in neighbor cities.

Once I founded my religion, It spread like a wildfire across my American continent. Then I got to Asia and took a prophetman and used him on the Chinese capital, and boom, all of Asia started rocking mine. I got as far as Africa where the Mongols ended up, and I bombed their capital, where it spread until it hit a stalemate against Judaism (Iroquois selected that one). By the time I got to Europe, I was a bit too late, as the Germans (they usually select Christianity, but not this time, ha-ha) selected ... Zoroastrianism. They were virtually tied with Arabia's Islam for control of that continent.

But I saved up my Faith points (currently +26k), so I'm gonna buy me some prophetmans and sneak 'em in and convert their shit like they tend to do to me.

Speaking of which ... prophet and missionary city conversions are a historical source of irritation for me in the game. It's especially annoying when they bomb your capital, because that's also the holy capital of your religion. It really messes with the flow of your fables, and you need to build another prophet just to undo all the religidamage theirs did, and prophets ain't cheap. For example, in the American run, I've expended a couple of prophets already on the initial spread. Each time you buy/generate one, the price goes up a bit. The next prophet will cost me 11,400 Faith points. Currently, I make a whopping +106 Faith per turn, so they're very costly.

I really wish I had found a way to combat foreign religions sooner, outside of declaring war and going Crusadal on their Civ-asses.

But I found a better way. It's great, really. So simple, I marvel at its effectiveness. Basically, the way religimans work in the game, when they come to bomb their fables and jazz on your people, their unit needs to be adjacent to the city tile for it to work. Well, they can't bomb what they can't touch. Just surround the adjacent tiles with any available unit. Workers, military units, whatever you got, make six of them sit around the city. The religimans literally will stop in their tracks and basically stay there indefinitely because they can't complete the automated task. And you don't have to bother further with their bullshit. So awesome.

And make sure you do that for every city, because the AI will send one of their prophets or missionaries to pretty much any city. They don't discriminate, but if they do have a pattern, they tend to either go for capitals to do some big damage, or they try to hit up the closest city you got to their nation. And no, even if you're not pals with that rival nation, and your borders are not open, it doesn't matter. Religimans can go wherever they please, regardless of inter-national standing. So, as a result, if you happen to be on semi-bad terms but not too bad a standing with a rival Civ, and you have yet to explore their land, you can use that religious unit as a sort of scout behind enemy lines. Avoid sending a unit into a nation with which you're at war, however. The AI will attack your rather-defenseless unit like it's a military unit.

The best thing about that religious defense tactic is, the AI doesn't know to do this for their own cities. So I will be going Snidely Whiplash on some key cities in the next turns.

Hahaha, RELIGION$.

I don't do a whole lot of the other new feature in that pack, though ... you can recruit spies and do tech-espionage on other Civs with G&K, but mostly I just park my guys in my own major cities and defend against the thieving AI. When I say thieving, I really mean grand larceny, because even if I have decent-skilled spies in my capital (the most-targeted city for thievery), over all the playthroughs, they still manage to steal a lot of tech from me. I've never actually done the same to them ... I tried one time, and it told me it would take like 300+ turns to get a chance to lift some tech. That's way too long to wait around for anything. I actually caught up to the tech leader I was trying to steal from, with legit research of my own, while that spy was still gathering data.

What I do with my spare agents, however, is park them in rival capitals, and they often tell me about the various plots the AI is crafting on other Civs. Now that is useful, since you can run-tell-that to whomever is the target of the plot. Snitching, in this rare case, actually gets you something other than stitches. Word doesn't get back to the schemer about your tattling. And the schemer's target will actually count that as a positive in terms of relations, so it pays by getting international tensions lowered on you ... and raised on the schemers.

Now that I've pretty much won this American run, and science tech will also be pretty hard to lift from me since I built the Great Firewall, I can probably up my snitching and put my moles in all the big rival capitals. Only the Chinese are relatively close in tech, so if someone steals something, it'll be a tech I unlocked ages ago, and I'm so far ahead that I can pretty much roll over anyone at this point, even the Chinese.

In terms of a tech lead, only China was in the Modern era, and they had juuuust reached the beginning of it by the time I was almost done with the Information era (final era). Everyone else was still in the Renaissance or Industrial age. BTLs (big-time losers) were stuck in Medieval era. It's fun to patrol the seas with WW2-era destroyers while everyone else still uses wooden sailing vessels.

The only time it gets much more difficult to assault a Civ is in the late era, after they develop atomic power. Atomic discovery happens in the Modern era, and by that time the Civ should also have developed Flight (previous era, Industrial-era tech) and have the capability of defending above and on the ground, as well as sea (sea power comes way earlier). And the AI is not afraid to use nukes. I will never forget a run a while back where I started exploring Asia, and I ran into a ton of fallout tiles in both Persian and Carthaginian cities. Apparently, those two got pretty heated, and they ravaged each others' lands with the big bombs.

At least nuclear damage isn't permanent in this game. It only takes a few turns for a worker to 'scrub' the tile, returning it to a useful state. Which is sort of like IRL, if one considers that Hiroshima and Nagasaki became usable and relatively safe environments only months after the atomic attacks.

You might not want to mention that to Kim Jong-Un.

In terms of national size, I had a total of six cities, Washington capital being the biggest at that point. It was generating over 300 culture per turn (massive amount of wonders built there, too many for the game to generate graphics for all of them). Only one city, Lafayette, was stunted, as it sat next to France's border, losing some of it's full expansion to a neighboring French city. It also lost tiles to the bottom of the map.

Note: Civ 5 maps wrap-around east/west, but not north/south, so you're kind of dealing with a flat Earth that happens to be an infinite scroll, or a scroll taped together at the edges, length-wise. I once got into a discussion with a friend about the idea of infinite alternate universes in such a scrolling situation, so that if you sailed your ship west and came out on the east end, you will have traveled into a completely new but identical world of its own, but then I started thinking of teleportation and cloning and it's just way easier to think of it as a scroll taped together. Trust me.

I still managed to get Lafayette up to 12 in population. My other cities were all in the 30s, though, and a fresh city that I started, late-game, was already near the mid-20s for pop. Comparatively, the most massive city the AI will manage for their Civs is occasionally 30, but the average number usually sits around 13-18.

As for other random stats, I had over 115 units (probably about 7 workers and the rest were military units). I actually reached a point near the end where one of my advisors told me I have too many units for my nation's size, and it was affecting speed of production. That's something interesting that I hadn't previously encountered.

Part of the reason I got that many units was due to the extended period of time where I kept buying and building nothing but those B-17s. Whenever a particular nation's unique unit becomes available, one should take advantage and build the shit out of it, and build the shit out of it I did. At game's close I think I had over 35 of those units among all my cities.

Another part was from forming alliances with all the Militaristic city states. City states are autonomous 1-city countries that provide resources and side perks to the highest bidder. Every 17 turns, boom, the Militaristics gifted me a new unit. If you're a mostly peaceful nation, those types of city state can be great as allies, because they essentially act like a private contractor (think Boeing) and build your military for you.

Speaking of peace, I ended the game in a unique position of diplomatic perfection, as I ended up having active friendships with every existing AI Civ, something that I've never been able to do before. Nobody ever declared war or denounced me. Worst anyone got was "Guarded" in their status. That's rare ... even in the previous most-peaceful run with Darius, at one point the Iroquois got sneaky-jealous and declared war out of the blue on me. There's always someone mad at you for something in the games. It's like making an omelette, you have a broken eggshell in the process ... somehow, I had surgically extracted the white and the yolk and left the shell intact.

So if it's at all possible to win with diplomacy after science and culture, I should have a landslide in the UN vote for leader because any city-state with which you're allies will cast their vote for you. The builder of the UN will also get an extra vote (I'll likely build it), and it's not uncommon for roughly half of the other Civ nations to vote for you if you're in good standing with them. Considering that everyone is buddies with me, and I have alliances with all but 2-3 of of the remaining city-states (one seems to have been absorbed by Carthage), that would put me as the unchallenged UN leader.

"All in favor, stretch out your arms. Well then, it looks like you are the leader!"

Note: The upcoming expansion pack, Brave New World, will tweak various features of gameplay, like its predecessor, Gods & Kings, did. In particular, it introduces a more robust diplomatic option called the "World Congress," in which you and the other Civs will vote on in-game rules such as trade sanctions and nuclear treaties. So if, say, you happen to make a killing off of whaling (one of the luxury resourses), and a resolution comes up to limit or ban your big moneymaker, then it pays to have enough friends to throw out such limits on your power. In addition, such a well-padded position would seek to pass motions that enhance their own standing in the Civ world. I'm quite looking forward to this addition to the game. Since Gods & Kings promised similar enhancement, and it added more meat to the plate, Brave New World reads like it will make this a multiple-course meal, in terms of sophistication.

In terms of the number of individual nations I was playing against, I had about 20 total Civs in the game, plus the 20 city-states. By the end of the game, only 2 Civs had ceased to exist (London, the last-standing British city, fell a few turns before the end, to Napoleon's French). The other I suspect was Byzantium, since the Carthaginians had Constantinople in their empire. That Civ fell early, before I had a chance to explore the map. Only 2 others lost their capital ... the Iroquois, and the Romans. Rome was a surprise, since they usually manage to keep their capital. Caesar's misfortune was being plopped next to Germany, on the European continent.

You know, I've never seen Germany fall, except for one time ... and that was the time I rolled over them. The AI always does well with Germany. I think it's due in part to their special trait, 'Furor Teutonicus.'

Basically, in any early era, the map is littered with pirate-like units called Barbarians. They create havoc for weaker early-era Civs, taking essentials like workers and settlers from them at times they desperately need them to thrive. They can even take over cities, if one is particularly unlucky. Anyway, Germans have the chance to assimilate a Barbarian unit when they take over one of their camps. Because there's so many Barbarians early-on, they have plenty of opportunity for quick and cheap unit production. And if I'm reading their bio page correctly, they have a unit cost advantage as well, so they can field slightly larger armies than their peers without having to build any city upgrades or related policies. So the Germans almost always tend to thrive early, and by later stages they can be one hell of a competitor.

And if Furor Teutonicus isn't enough, in the late game, when tanks become available, they have a unique unit, the Panzer, which is slightly more powerful and has a slight advantage in movement per-turn to its tank counterparts. If they get to the Modern era, watch out.

Germany's leader, Otto von Bismarck, well ... some people despise the character. I disagree ... I actually like the guy. While German language sounds even more guttural than English, and Otto's actor already sounds gruff on top of that, it doesn't completely match their style of play. The Germans can be sneakier than Otto would like you to believe, as I have been the victim of a good deal of tech thefts at their hands. They tend not to treat their lesser Civs or their direct neighbors all that well, however, so I can understand the negative opinions. As long as you are at least Otto's peer, if he's not mad at you, then the Germans are actually decent partners. They don't beg or demand nearly as much as the other Civs. And they're more than fair when it comes to striking up trades.

One thing that surprised me about Germany, this time around, was that they didn't do as well as I thought they would. On top of its usual advantages, Germany essentially had its own Holy Grail. In terms of settling near the Fountain of Youth, they chose ... wisely. I love this Wonder because it gives any unit that moves into an adjacent tile to it double the healing power for the rest of the game.

Note: A good strategy, if you didn't settle lands around the Fountain of Youth, is to spend your time playing nice with its owner, ferrying your own units to the FoY to get the double-speed recovery bonus, in preparation for future skirmishes. Whether you're in a tech lead or lagging behind, your surviving units with the bonus will be able to deal extra damage because a fast recovery rate would make it possible for you to spend an extra turn or two fighting the enemy before they would have to be relieved.

Another good idea with FoY is, in terms of a diplomatic path, to send excess or less-useful military units to FoY, then gift those to city-states. Because they're 1-city countries, they often lag far behind in military firepower, and if you want to protect your interests, it's a good idea to gift them better military units than they can build on their own. Some Civs will not hesitate to swallow city-states into their expanding kingdoms, especially the more aggressive leaders like Genghis Khan or Montezuma.

I thought the Fountain of Youth might be a game-breaking feature, but it wasn't. It definitely didn't help Germany as much as I expected because they didn't knock out Rome or Arabia, their closest neighbors. And I'm sure they used FoY because they built a road next to it and probably moved all their units past it on their way to attacking Caesar and al-Rashid. They only managed to cripple the Romans, and they didn't do much damage to Arabia. I expected them to be in total control of Europe.

One thing never changes for me, with regards to Germany, besides their constant formidable existence. I always chuckle when the Germans befriend Japan. I can't help it. Every time I get that notification, I say, "Yeah, I'll bet you like each other."

As for Japan, they're pretty much the only Civ I can think of where FoY might make for near-invincibility. The Japanese have a special trait that lets their units fight at full strength, regardless of how much damage they've taken. So if you gave the Japanese a quick-heal bonus on top of their ability to ignore damage in attacks, then you might have some pretty unstoppable units, particularly their unique late-game unit, the Zero (aerial fighter). Fighters in general aren't as tough as their bomber cousins, so I don't usually use those nearly as much as I do the bomber, but a Zero with double-rate for healing probably could take a better beating than the bombers and unleash a better punch over more turns.

In this run, Japan didn't fare so well. Usually Nobunaga manages a decent empire, but China (biggest of the AI Civs) and Carthage (also a strong nation) carved up his kingdom. In terms of leaders, I used to like Nobunaga way more than I do (in general he's very polite in the screen-pops), but during an earlier playthrough, he eroded my regard for him by pulling a sneak attack on me that I almost completely failed to anticipate.

I had partnered up with him and Korea in another game last year, and together we had been running roughshod over our continent. But somewhere down the line, despite the fact that Nobunaga was getting plenty of helpful trades from me, he grew jealous of some lands that I had taken over. He maintained a friendly face, while in secret he built a large number of ground units. It was only after he started asking for more in the near-giveaway deals I was throwing him that I suspected something was wrong. Unfortunately for him, the AI hadn't calculated that I had a good tech lead, and when he declared war, I survived his massive assault wave, then pushed back, wiping him out of that game. In sum, he plays even more shifty than the Germans, and I've never forgotten that.

Of the big fish (big fish only in name due to my massive lead), China, Carthage, Germany, Songhai, and Russia are the top tier. Next near-to-them-tier was Ethiopia, Maya, Aztec, and Korea. Iroquois had a good run until they lost their capital, same with Rome, and both of them were reduced to 2-3 cities, unable to reclaim anything due to neighbors holding better firepower. Lesser Civs were France (my closest neighbor, somehow plopped next to me in the Americas), Arabia, and Mongolia. Japan was reduced in size to one city, Kyoto, their capital. Worst was probably a tie between India (lost their capital, reduced to one city, Mumbai) England (until they lost their last city & capital, London) and Byzantium (probably finished early by Carthage).

In retrospect, I probably could have done way more to help out my friends. While I stayed friends with all of the Civs by behaving like Switzerland (providing no favoritism), my lack of military help ultimately got them far less than my trading was worth. And while staying neutral helps you stay on good terms with everyone, I found out in the long run that if you don't intervene in some situations, you can actually lose more than neutrality is worth. For example, England was doing quite a lot of trading with me, both on research agreements and purchasing a lot of my excess resources. When France knocked out their final city, all of my trade arrangements were ended, without further reward. The conquering Civ does not take up the agreements and obligations of the conquered.

And later on in the game, as a result of my lack of intervention, I ran into trading dearths, as larger Civs started cannibalizing their neighbors, eroding my trading opportunities. Early on, through the mid-late game, most countries are not big enough to have everything they need, so if you happen to develop a lot of your own resources, trading of your excess luxuries can be rather lucrative. However, as the late game approaches, the too-small Civs will struggle with income, never having enough money to do any business with you. You can still strike up research agreements with them, but you have to essentially pay for their end and your end of the deal. The too-large Civs, on the other hand, tend to secure similar bounties of resources to you, getting at least 1 of everything, thus making them just as limited because you can't trade them a luxury they already possess. And while they'll have the capital to fund their end of a research agreement, they'll still demand extra money and resources from you before they'll shake on it.

One of the ways I might play further into this American run might involve liberating and reclaiming lost lands to certain Civs. If you happen to conquer a city that belonged to someone else, you have an option of returning it to them, which is similar to the option of returning lost units conquered by Barbarians. Both types of rescues will give you a boost in overall relations with that Civ. The unit recovery is by far the less complicated endeavor, chiefly because it doesn't involve making an enemy out of another Civ in order to do it. Barbarians are always hostile, so you're never able to partner with them. I was doing plenty of unit recovery for Civs while I was exploring the map, which probably contributed significantly to my universal adoration among them.

Playing further with America will be no trouble for me. In terms of favorite Civs of mine, America wins big.

America is a favorite of mine for several reasons. For starters, I am most familiar with my own country's history, so I end up personalizing cities and units with unique names (both have renaming options, just like religions). I tend to rename cities after the historic figures in US history, Lafayette being a chief example of this (French aristocrat and a formidable general and friend in George Washington's army). As for unique names to units, the option to name them comes up when you advance their level, either through warfare or through experience-generating city upgrades like Barracks. American WW2 bombers adopted a tradition started with WW1 German Triplanes in the sense that their pilots gave the bombers special names and markings on their plating. So I emulate that historical feature by giving my own B-17s crazy names. Last B-17 I built before the win was named "Superfreak."

There's nothing superfreaky about George Washington, however.

The Americans are also favorites of mine for their particular bonuses. Early-on, if you have extra cash to buy up tiles around your city, there's an advantage America has with a special trait called 'Manifest Destiny.' You can buy up lands at a much cheaper price than other Civs. Doing that helps in what I call "fast-tracking" cities, because each tile has an associated plus with it. So if you buy up some grassland, that's good for farming and food bonuses. Hill-territory provides extra production power, and so forth. And you don't necessarily have to have a worker upgrade it or have a member of your city's population working the tile to gain those pluses. The more land you have early, and the more food you acquire early, the larger your city can expand, at a faster rate. So Americans can build some crazy-large cities out of thin air, past the early stages of the game.

A 2nd bonus to playing America comes during the Renaissance era. With discovery of Gunpowder, you can build Minutemen, a unique counterpart to the Musketmen. They're amazing units for one reason ... they ignore terrain costs, like Scouts. So a few of these foot soldiers can cover much more ground than any other Civ's, making for better attacks, defense, and faster exploration of the rest of the map.

Then, when you get to the Modern era (next to last era in the game), the previously-mentioned B-17 becomes available. It has bonuses in attacking cities and evasion from fire as perks, so your B-17s start off more powerful than other Bombers.

Civ 5 has stirring nation-specific music for all of its playable nations, and of all the pieces, America's is my favorite.

The game features a subdued but powerful rendition of "America the Beautiful," which is one of our nation's most popular national songs. Arguably, it was a better choice than "The Star-Spangled Banner," one of my personal favorites, specifically because Civ 5's "AMB" is so soft, yet full of majesty.

Plus, "SSB" is in particular reference to the War of 1812, when Fort McHenry survived an assault by the British Navy. I've seen the flag that Francis Scott Key saw when he penned the lyrics for the anthem (it's housed in one of the Smithsonians), and it actually brought me to tears. That's how much I love the anthem. But the more in-general lyrics of "AMB" make it more of a fit for a generalized rendition of the empire.

"AMB" remains better, still, despite the odd memory I have from the 1984 version of Red Dawn, where the US citizen-prisoners began singing a rather off-key rendition of it before their execution. Honestly, some people hated that part of the film, but think about it ... if you're going to be killed, I don't think it matters if you can sing in tune. In terms of context, I thought it was a potent display of defiance, right before their end.

Of all the Civs I've tried, some have been excellent, but I keep coming back to the Americans, more often than any other Civ. I find them to be one of the more dynamic of the bunch, being able to win in almost any way, with spread-out bonuses that help your nation in any stage of the game. Comparatively, some Civs, like the English, have special units more useful in earlier eras, and their traits limit them to dominance in a particular situation. England's primary trait is 'Sun Never Sets,' which gives their naval units +2 movement. That doesn't help them on maps with less water tiles, and if they start completely land-locked (far away from the sea), that trait will be wasted.

If I had to choose a Civ other than the Americans, however, I'd probably take the Germans, who are also a nation gifted and suited for any era. I haven't played them yet, but I'm sure I'd enjoy their well-rounded design. Another Civ that I haven't played that looks enticing is Egypt. They possess a trait that lets them build Wonders at a faster rate, and I love building those. What's kept me from playing them is that I tend not to have much trouble building my fair share (or more than) of Wonders, but I'd also probably enjoy their special building upgrade, the Burial Tomb. That upgrade costs nothing to maintain, plus it generates extra gold, which is always a good thing in terms of general perks.

If I had to choose a Civ specific to a win condition that I haven't tried already, Babylonia beckons me as well because they seem to have the best Science-related trait of all the Civs. They receive a free Great Scientist early-on when Writing is discovered, and in general they earn Great Scientists faster than anyone. Using one of those units to build an Academy helps you generate a lot of extra Science per turn, and such a bounty early on in the game should help you rocket through most of the earlier technologies. Once I try a more aggressive military run, I think I'm going to select Japan, due to their previously-mentioned trait, 'Bushido,' which gives them the ability to ignore their damage when attacking. There are other Civs more suited to military dominance (Mongols come to mind), but that ability to attack at full strength at all times sounds like an amazing advantage if you have more units than your enemy. Plus, like Germany, one of their special units comes later in the game, so it seems like they're suited for play in every era. And if I want a pure diplomatic run, I could try Greece, since they have city-state-related perks. The only thing stopping me is that their unique units are designed for the early eras, and they possess nothing special to help them as the eras progress. I also have little trouble working partnerships with city states, thanks to the Patronage policy. It essentially gives you similar boosts with city-states to that of Greece, but I'm sure that if I played as Greece, that policy tree would magnify their built-in advantage. In terms of maps with a lot of water, England is somewhat outclassed in my opinion by Polynesia, which starts the game with their units able to move across water and explore the seas. That trait gives them something that takes all the other Civs more than a few turns to unlock. A game with Polynesia means that you can settle lands nobody else can reach until much further along in play.

Of the other Civs I've played that I like, Persia's one of them. For beginners, they're probably the best nation to use. They happen to be a fantastic moneymaker because their special trait gives them an extended Golden Age, which is a set of turns where all your culture, production and gold receive boosts. If you build Wonders that enhance Golden Ages, on top of Persia's special trait, plus obtain a couple Great Artists (who can also be used for Golden Ages), then it is possible to chain Golden Ages for over 100 turns. Compared to the average Civ getting about 10 turns for their Age, that's a whole lot of extra stuff. And if that isn't enough of a reason to use them (Gold is very very important in this game), then their special building, Satrap's Court, costs nothing to maintain, and it boosts a city's gold output significantly. If you play as Persia, in sum, you're going to be swimming in gold. If you aren't, then you're really not very competent at Civ 5.

Scrooge McDuck might as well be Darius 1 in disguise.

France wasn't a bad Civ to use, either. Like the Persians, they can generate a lot of extra culture. The trick with them is to not over-expand cities because they lose their culture advantage during the Renaissance era, when steam power is discovered. A good French empire, from experience, is no more than 5-6 cities (similar size to this current run with America), because each new city you found ups the total culture points needed until the next policy, and at a certain point you can really choke your Culture progress and turn it into a lost cause. France also has a special Musketman, like the Americans, called the Musketeer, and then later on they get another special unit called the Foreign Legion, which is the much better unit of theirs because it receives combat bonuses outside of friendly territory. So in case you end up expanding too much, it's nice to have a built-in alternative plan, shifting gears to go for a Military victory with units suited for an offensive. France is probably the next-most familiar culture for me to that of the Americans. Since a lot of Michigan originally sat under French control during European exploration of North America, as a kid I would read about their exploits when I'd check out books about the local history from the library. The city I live in, Detroit, was originally an outpost set up by the French to help displaced Native American allies. And I studied French in high school, which gives me a very rough (can't fully read or converse in it) but better familiarity than any of the other romance languages. Plus, up until they developed a reputation for being military chumps and surrender monkeys during the modern age (two words: Maginot Line), they were actually one hell of a fighting force during earlier eras. It helps out a lot that they chose Napoleon as their leader for this game, since he's one of my most favorite generals.

Of my other favorites besides America, however, I just love the Koreans.

Sejong's dynasty is another science-oriented Civ, gaining bonuses every time you build or use something science-related. And they're very good at defense, which is both how I fell in love with them and how I learned that fact. There's a particular scenario you can play in Civ 5 as Medieval Korea, and you have to defend your land from a massive Japanese attack. As they take over a few of your outer-most cities, I found that the Hwach'a (unique siege unit) did an excellent job of turning the tide and pushing back the Japanese invaders. This unit isn't as powerful as the Trebuchet it replaces in terms of attacking cities, but I found that if you just double or triple-up your Hwach'as on a city, that the city penalty is virtually negated. And the bonus it receives when attacking land units more than makes up for it. Hwach'as will absolutely cut through Medieval infantry and cavalry like a machine gun, so long as you protect them with a wall of your own infantry. After winning that scenario, I used them in a regular playthrough and rocketed up the technology tree, further solidifying my satisfaction with their ability.

Also, in terms of playing against them, I have found them to be a particularly agreeable ally. Sejong himself is one of the less-annoying Civs out there, generally presenting himself in a rather calm and reserved demeanor, even if he isn't happy with you. And the Koreans don't seem to be as sensitive about borders as the other AI Civs. I have had them as neighbors in a couple of playthroughs, and they have never given me a warning about settling more cities near them. They tend to settle a ton of cities themselves, though, so if there's anything in free territory that you desire, and they happen to be close to you, then you better settle a city there, pronto. As a result of their city-whoring, they also tend to be greatly disliked by the majority of other Civs, which is kind of a bonus for you if they're your allies. Not only are they good at defending their land, but they can serve as a shield and a surrogate army to help repel and deflect attention off of you. Plus, they like to negotiate research agreements, so they can help you boost your tech while they run interference.

Also, not that this has anything to do with the game, but they make damn good TVs and cellphones (LG & Samsung).

In terms of what I can still do with the current American run, I have plenty of options, but I'm still not sure exactly what I'll do next.

I've never had a military victory (wipe out all other Civs), so it might be fun to try on a large map with a mega-army. However, military victories are more suited to smaller maps with lesser numbers of rivals. Then there's the religious dominance that I mentioned earlier, something I've never been able to achieve. For a while, I might start playing like current-day America, which is to say, acting a bit like an annoying World Police, championing some struggling Civs for my own eventual gain, all the while building to an evil New World Order.

And I will ransom this city for ... ONE MILLION GOLDS.

Plus, I got to make this epic run on a custom map that I made. I'll talk about that in another post.