It's a very fun, very immersive, fantasy conquest game with a strong narrative quest driven story arc for each race that adds to the immersion.
There's several pieces of downloadable extra content but I've decided that can be my Christmas present to myself and I'll d/l them on Christmas morning.
This blog piece is looking at an aspect of the game that isn't very well explained and that I've put some thought into figuring out: city development.
Cities grow outwards as you play one tile at a time. Once a tile or the city centre becomes adjacent to 4 other tiles it becomes a level 2 district and gets significant bonuses. So there are a lot of concepts intertwined here and a geometric mini-game on top. It's at this point you should mentally review whether you want to continue reading?
Still here? Hi 5 my felllow nerd.
Here's a strategic view of an unsettled region called Hawyrd:
In this view we can see very clearly the little molehills that signify bonus resource tiles. There are only three in this province and they're all near the watchtower in the North West. Also of note are the ruins which can't be built on. Other terrain features like resources and villages are fine to incorporate into your city. In fact placing your city on top of a resource is a good move as it will operate as an extractor. The same is true of placing a district on it. This saves you having to build an extractor separately and will often start the resource trickling in many turns before you would otherwise have been able to.
Now let's close in:
Pretty eh? My mouse is over the tile to the right with the light blue stalks on it, geysers. In the game they play a lovely animation of water continually spouting up then collapsing again. Also of note is the river to the south of us, a feature I'd missed on the strategic view. Rivers are pretty useful, they give extra food and certain resource producing buildings give more or require rivers.
Let's turn the resource (fidsi) numbers on:
Our anomalies (the three little molehills we saw on the strategic map) give us lots of science. I'm quite liking the hex that has the red spices on it. Taking it would turn spice production on and is adjacent to the Moss Pearls anomaly. Our first expansion can go north east and get us the right Geysers anomaly. Then south west gets us the two river tiles. After that we'd expand north west towards the final anomaly.
There's some discussion of what the optimal shape for a city is. I've heard people say triangles or tramlines but I don't think either is quite true.
Try not to laugh at my amateurish rendition of a hex map in paint:
1 = city centre.
2 = next 4 districts. Placing the 4th one levels your city centre to level 2.
3= levels 2 districts to level 2
4 = expands in a not-quite-triangular clump, It's not a triangle because the bottom corners would do nothing, They will not be enclosed to make a level 2 district nor will they enclose anything else. Starting from the bottom left placing the 4s gives us the following amount of level ups: 0, 0, 2, 0, 1, 2, 1 for 6 level ups from 7 districts placed. I think this is optimal.
What does that mean for our settlement of Hawyrd? Well, fast forward a few turns and I have a coloniser ready. Here's her view of the tile we're thinking about:
10+7+10+4 = 31. 31 resources plus a spice mine is a very respectable tile. I can mouseover the other tiles with the Build City button selected and compare but there's nothing better.
Plopping the city down there gives me this pop-up, basically telling me I got a free building.
Here's a city management view of our brand new city:
So the 7 hexes exploited produce 1+1+4+0+1+2 = 9 food. Our first expansion target is to the north west which will get us that rather nice 5 science 5 industry tile as well as the plateau tile with 1 food, 2 science 2 industry plus another tile left of that one.
And here it is:
Here's a close up of the city with 4 tiles built.
We're expanding to the west leaving the two eastern tiles blank. Behind the city you can see the geyser tile we're building out towards. On my Paint map this corresponds to having parts 1 and 2 of the city development complete.
I now plan my next expand. I have two good options. I can expand northwest and get the geyser tile which itself is worth 5 science and 6 industry or i can top the triangle which will give me 2 districts levelling up to level 2. Mouse over the Borough Streets building and the "extra level" part of the tooltip will show a level up gives 2 dust 2 science 2 influence and some fortification and happiness. It's at this point I compare the geyser tile with the alternative tile that would be picked up and discover that I'd missed an anomaly. Topping the triangle actually gives me an anomaly I hadn't noticed before, another Moss Pearls in addition to 2 level 2 districts. It's also a Watchtower hex so I'll get that for free too. That's a big play!
And here is the triangle (on the Paint sketch that's parts 1,2 and 3). As you see from the tooltip my city has some pretty nice tiles in it.