The Demise Of China

Responding to an unprecedented boom in computer game popularity, China’s government established a censorship task force this week to monitor the content of imported games for offensive or politically sensitive content.

Ministry of Culture officials said all online and wireless games produced outside the country will now be subject to examination first before they can be legally distributed within the country. Foreign producers of online games already in distribution must submit those products to MOC examinations by Sept. 1, or face punishment.

First off the rank would have to be the latest expansion to Civilization 3, “Conquests“. Why? Because mighty China, the undisputed king of the original Civ3 and its first expansion “Play The World”, has been well and truly nerfed by the new game rules.

Those not interested in Civ 3 (which is probably most of you), kindly skip to the next post.

None of the changes in Conquests target China specifically, but a great many balancing tweaks have seen to it that their previously gigantic advantage has been completely stripped, and new, even more unbalanced abilities have taken over.

The anti-China conspiracy comes in 3 parts:

1. The Agricultural trait:

This new civilization trait is absolutely ridiculous. Previously, “Industrious” was the best of the available civilization traits. Workers worked at twice the normal speed to quickly complete mines and irrigation to get your cities growing fast. Now, not only has the industrious worker speed been slowed down to only a 66% speed boost, but the agricultural trait has completely usurped it in terms of boosting your civilization.

Agricultural civs get a bonus of 1 food in the centre square of each city. This is a huge boon in the early game, making your cities grow 50% faster than non-agricultural ones. Additionally, when an agricultural civ irrigates a desert, it provides 2 additional food instead of one, making that desert the equivalent of a plains square for an agricultural civ. These changes might not sound like much, but food is power in civ3, and Agricultural civs get more food than any others. They also get to build Aqueducts for half the normal price, meaning that cities are less likely to be stuck at size 6 for long.

The new agricultural trait is far and away the strongest civilization trait now. China does not have it.

2: Military Great Leaders can no longer rush great wonders.

China’s strength as an attack force lay in its ability to dominate the world with hordes of elite riders. These fast units retreat from combat when they are losing, giving them more chances to survive and get to elite stage. A typical campaign with riders could produce anywhere from 5-10 great leaders over the course of a game, which you would use to rush all of the best Wonders before your rivals can build them.

This was obviously ridiculously unfair, and the ability of leaders to rush Great wonders (like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, The Sistine Chapel etc) has been completely removed. You can still use them to rush small wonders like the forbidden palace or build armies, so they are still useful, just not as amazing as they used to be. The ability has now been given to a new unit called the “Scientific Great Leader”, who appears about 5% of the time you are the first to research a new technology. This significantly strengthens the scientific trait at the expense of the militaristic trait.

3. The cost of upgrading units has been increased to the point where it’s actually not even worth doing at all.

The typical China strategy in the past was to build an assload of horsemen in the ancient era, fight a small war with them before discovering Chivalry, then upgrade all of them to Riders the next turn and go all medievel (literally) on your enemies. This was quite easy to do because it only cost 30 gold to upgrade a horseman to a rider. It now costs 120 gold. Doh.

Previously you could save up 1000 gold, upgrade your entire army and blitz. Now you have no hope of accomplishing that massive upgrade, and are better off simply continuing attacking with your horsemen and building riders in the meanwhile as reinforcements.

Riders are still one of the best units in the game, don’t get me wrong. The problem is they aren’t nearly as easy to get as they previously were.

Those 3 big hits to China are enough to knock them off the #1 spot. Additionally, a few of the other civs have had their abilities tweaked slightly.

The 2 biggest changes are that the Russian Cossack (A replacement for the Cavalry) now has the blitzkreig ability, meaning it can attack up to 3 times in a turn instead of 1. This is the only unit in the game capable of blitzkreig before tanks, and is very, very powerful.

The other big change is that the Celts are now Agricultural and Religious instead of Militaristic and Religious. Big, big news for the Celts. The other Agricultural civs are primarily the MesoAmerican groups: The Maya, The Inca, the Aztecs and the Iroquois. All of them are also quite powerful, especially the Maya due to their unique “Javelin Thrower” unit, which has the ability to enslave any unit it defeats in battle, turning it into a worker. This can be a huge advantage if you like to go around hunting barbarians. Free workers are quite handy.

The problem with the above MesoAmericans is that all of their UUs come at the very beginning of the ancient age, meaning that an early Golden age is your fate if you decide to build any unique units at all. As I’ve stated before, I think the ideal time to begin a golden age is during the Middle Ages, either the beginning or the end.

The Ancient age is really all about building cities and fortifying position. You really don’t tend to build anything except settlers, workers and military units. In the middle ages is when you start building libraries, cathedrals and great wonders, and the production boost of a golden age is key at that stage.

The Celts, on the other hand, get to keep their already impressive UU from Play The World, the Gallic Swordsman. Even though you can build these from the time you discover Iron Working, that doesn’t mean you have to use them right away. The Gallic Swordsman is a very effective unit even into the middle ages, having a good game against pikemen and rival knights. In a sense, they are Knight-lite, a much cheaper unit that accomplishes the same thing.

They are useful attack troops until the discover of Gunpowder, at which time you can switch to knights or wait for cavalry, whatever takes your fancy. You can use Gallic Swordsmen to trigger a golden age at any stage throughout the middle ages, although obviously if you actually want to accomplish any military objectives with them, it would need to be early on (before your opponents can fortify with musketmen).

All of these points, along with the already great religious trait, means that the Celts are the new kings of Civilization. The rest of the agricultural civs would fill positions 2-6, with the Mayans probably ahead of the rest of the pack. You can easily test this theory by playing a few games against the AI. More often than not, the dominant computer civ are the Mayans or the Celts if they are in the game. Mao is nowhere to be seen.

If you haven’t tried Conquests yet, I have to recommend that you do. It’s a significantly more rounded effort than the first 2 iterations of Civ3. One of the best new features is that Naval and Air power has been signficantly improved, and I mean a lot. Ships and Planes can now Lethally bombard units instead of simply injuring them, and the Stealth Bomber is an absolute force to be reckoned with in the later game.

New wonders, resources and common units are also included to plug some gaps. The diplomacy system has also been revamped, making it a much more effective strategic tool than it was before. One final treat for all self-respecting RWDBs: You now have the option to change government to “Fascism”, complete with ethnic cleansing, xenophobia, and forced labour camps. Sweet.

Check out Conquests as soon as humanly possible.

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