Civilization VI’s Leaders May Be Drama Queens, But I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

What is that American settler doing in between my three cities? Stop causing drama, Teddy Roosevelt! I thought we were friends!

In rare, almost unprecedented fashion, Firaxis Games granted GameRevolution (and other publications) the chance to play a full game of Civilization VI in a near-finished state. Granted, there were more than several restrictions; the game was set at Standard speed, on Prince difficulty level, and only 10 of the 20 total leaders were available to compete against. While I tend to play Civilization V on the lengthiest setting possible and with as many leaders and city-states as possible, this version of the preview build still represents the average playthrough that you would expect in Civilization VI.

And within just fifty turns, I realized that the starkest change in Civilization VI from its predecessor was the AI leaders. This was surprising to say the least, given that there are plenty of other gameplay changes that have significant impact on the game: districts and wonders needing to be built on specific city, a lengthy civics tree, governments with swappable policy slots, happiness being turned into amenities, and a revised city-state system that have players compete to have the most envoys. But as I progressed through a single playthrough, it became more and more evident that giving AI leaders agendas made the game more nuanced and politically tense, influencing my decisions more than I thought they would.


Even the AI finds it hard to keep everyone happy. Here, the AI German Empire has been denounced twice and are unfriendly with two other Civs.

At first, it felt like the AI leaders were being fickle drama queens. Each AI leader has one clear agenda and one hidden agenda that both determine what they like and dislike, so unless you're going for a domination victory, it behooves you to try and not step on too many toes. Essentially, that means trying to paint within the lines and not ruffling anyone's feathers so much that you're denounced and become the target of a war or surprise war.

That might be easier said than done, though, since every agenda can lead to soft restrictions, both for doing too much and not doing enough. The Vikings dislike civilizations with weak navies and the Romans don't want to associate with civilizations that doesn't have a lot of territory. On the flipside, the Germans don't like you winning over city-states, the Spanish don't like you spreading your religion to any cities in their empire, and the English don't like you being on a continent that they have no city on (so if you're playing the islands map like I was, they'll dislike you by default). Then there are civilizations like the Kongo that dislike you if you haven't brought your religion to their empire, so don't be surprised if they're unfriendly with you right from your first encounter.

While having to juggle so many different personalities can be irritating, it ultimately improves the game and gives leaders more distinction. In Civ V, every leader more or less acted the same even though they had different passive bonuses, and it was subsequently simple to treat every civilization the same. They were, in a word, flat. But in Civ VI, it's clear what each leader cares about the most and, if you so desire, how to piss them off. After a several hundred turns, I became better at navigating the dangerous political waters to my advantage.

Open the above image in a new tab to see the full-sized version to see the new numerical breakdown for political relationships. Very handy!

This means you have a better idea of which type of victory a civilization is going for and which civilizations will be easier to sway to your side. It also gives you a better chance to win back their favor, whereas in Civ V, it's extremely difficult to switch their allegiance if they feel you've slighted them just once. Better yet, by clicking on the “Our Relationship” tab in their diplomatic profile screen, you can see a numerical breakdown of their relationship with you, with quantified pluses and minuses as well as a quick tip list of how to make relations better or worse. It's fantastic having all this information (without mods), and even though some agendas are hidden, it's not terribly challenging to figure out what they are.

So far, Sid Meier's Civilization VI has taken much of the feedback and criticisms of Civilization V and improved on giving more depth and dimension to each of its gameplay systems, only one of which is the new agendas for leaders. That's not even mentioning how each civilization has multiple passive bonuses, units, and buildings that set them and their playstyle apart from each other. Look for Civilization VI to release on October 21 for PC.