Spirit of the Age: Expansion systems

From the first turn of a Civilization game the humble Settler is available to produce. With the benefits another city provides, what counterbalancing mechanics keeps a player from doing nothing but build city after city? In Civilization 4 the escalating maintenance costs could tank your economy. In Civilization 5 increasing technology and social policy costs could make the city a net negative for your empire. And in Civilization 6 there is no reason to stop expanding!

In Spirit of the Age I have a radical mechanic to discourage infinite city sprawl — what if you couldn’t build Settlers?

But how will I expand?

There are three ways to expand:

  1. Governments will give players unique ways to generate Settlers
  2. Certain Civics (ei: cultural technologies) will give one-time Settlers
  3. Conquest

The majority of Settlers will come from Governments. For example, Classical Republic gives a Settler when a player generates a Great Person while Oligarchy gives a Settler when a player builds a World Wonder.

Later Government provide easier access to Settlers. The Mercantile Republic and Theocracy will allow the purchasing of Settlers with Gold and Faith respectively. Atomic Age Governments will open the floodgates and let players simply build Settlers with production.

Some early game Civics will provide Settlers. This provide a consistent baseline of cities players can get online before they commit their empire to a specific Government path.

If an expansionist ruler still wants more cities there is always the option of grabbing your sword and taking them. However, Settlers will be immune to capture, just like in the Settlers Retreat mod. Due to the difficulty of acquiring them a single wrong move should not create such a large swing in economic capability from one player to another.

Why make these changes?

This design has three core strengths. It provides multiple paths of play, it gives each age a different feel and it mitigates the scale dilemma.

By coupling how a player gets more cities to their Government choice players will find themselves building radically different empires in games where they go Classical Republic verse Oligarchy. Each Government’s source of Settlers is designed to have multiple ways to be fulfilled. The tasks are not as homogenizing as building a specific district in each city.

As the ages progress and players unlock better Governments they will have easier access to Settlers. This will elongate the expansion stage of the game and help make each age a unique experience. For example, when the third (Modern and Industrial) Age starts on turn 200 I want there to be a scramble for colonies as the world opens up. That isn’t a common experience in Civilization games because players have often already filled in the map with cities. By limiting Settler access in the preceding age but then making Settlers cheaper in the third age it will create the incentive for the colonial drive that occurred in history.

Starting players with more cities in the early game while limiting their ability for exponential growth will let players experience more of the game in the Goldilocks zone. Not so few cities that there is nothing to do, but not so many cities that the game bogs down. With all the radical changes in Spirit of the Age it is critical to give players the time and space they need to absorb them.

Settling new ground

That is my current design path for Spirit of the Age. It is subject to change as development and play testing expands. Next time I’ll be talking about changes to the policy system and how they are connected to Governments.

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