I'd like to think I'm a people person. I might not agree with 75 per cent of what other people say or think or believe, but I get along. It's what I do. In today's society it works, for the most part. In Civilization V it didn't, at least not until now. It's a Brave New World, and I almost conquered it with commerce.
In a world filled with nations bickering and battling with each other, there's only one truly safe place to be, and that's at the heart of trade. If you control the weapons they use to kill, the resources they need to build, and the gold they need to bargain with, then they're going to go out of their way to be your friend. That's the role I've always wanted to play in Civilization V, and with the Brave New World Expansion I can.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to play through a small, six to eight player scenario in the expansion. I was cast inn the role of Ahmad al-Mansur of Morocco, champion of diplomacy and Moroccan independence.
Ahmad is particularly well-suited for my trade ambitions, gaining not only extra gold through trading, but culture as well. Therein lies the key to controlling the world through trade. It's not just about selling things. It's about having other civilizations come to you to buy things, immersing them in your rich culture, and then sending them back to their homes, heads ringing with your ideology.
This is where the new additions in Brave New World all fall into place. First, trade routes give barter-hungry players a means to reach out and touch scouted civilizations and city states, creating wondrous streams of gold to my capital of Marrakesh and its ever-increasing entourage of sister-cities.
My neighbours pop in for visits, one-by-one. The Indonesians, pokey-little islanders with a penchant for ocean-going.
The Brazilians, seeming far too stoic to eventually become the world's party destination (but they do).
And my favourite neighbours to the west, the Zulu. I was so disappointed when I realised the demo would not let me play as the Zulu.
But, as I said, Morocco suited me just fine. Each leader who approached me left with some sort of trade agreement. Horses, jewels, gold — I had it all, and I doled it out sparingly, like a caring parent with an eye on their children's welfare. They loved me for it.
The money poured in. At one point the game's tutorial system took me aside and told me I had too much money, suggesting multiple ways for me to spend it.
I made a point never to anger any of my neighbours outright. If they declared war on each other, I'd politely decline. If I stepped on their toes, I'd quickly apologise. If I declared war on Vatican City in a fit of sheer 80's punk rock rebellion, angering the city state's Brazilian patrons, I smoothed things over. I was so good that eventually the single entity other than barbarians that I had attacked was attempting to convert to my religion.
And really, that's all I wanted. The entire world to worship me for being a darn nice guy. They'd adopt my Ideologies — new extensions to the Social Policy function that allow civilizations to spend social points on perks in Freedom, Order, or Autocracy trees. I would craft culture attractions, attract Great Artists, Musicians and Writers, and place their finest work on display for the world to see. The tourists would come, bring my word back to their people, and soon I'd be the most influential man in the world.
And I would have gotten away with it too, if not for those damn Zulus.
We'll, really my trouble starting with the World Congress, and organisation founded by the travel-hungry Indonesians.
This precursor to the United Nations is where influential civilizations change the world. By cultivating enough delegates to vote on items from trade embargoes to world fairs, a crafty civ could easily bed the planet to its will. Apparently I wasn't as crafty as I thought I was.
While me first proposition — a worldwide celebration — met with unanimous support, future votes did not go my way. My cities changed religions on me. Products I was selling became useless.
Then the Zulu started destroying my trade routes. It was nothing personal — they were just really pissed off at Brazil, my major trading partner, and had to teach them a lesson. I was caught in the crossfire of a war I wanted nothing to do with. My income dropped, my citizens got angry to the point of threatening rebellion. I was so flustered I accidentally dropped a great work onto my gold mine, and the rebellion blossomed into all-out civil war.
The world continued around my troubled territory. I'd try to sneak in a new trade route, it'd get destroyed the next turn. My fields were on fire. My troops were turning on me. Poland showed up in the middle of this, suggesting we open our borders to each other. I agreed, hoping maybe the rebels would go bother someone else for a while.
Obviously my technique needs a bit more work, but it wasn't a bad run for someone that hasn't played much Civilization V since release. I called it a victory, and called it a day.
So my civilisation fell (okay, I pushed it), but I see my path clearly. Brave New World comes out on July 12 worldwide and I'll already have my trade routes mapped out. The world will be mine through peaceful, easy means, or I'll set it on fire.