Sneaky Intelligence – Espionage
Though not as major a mechanic as religion, espionage can play a vital role in understanding how the game will play out in the near-future. With it, you might be able to find out who’s planning an attack on who, steal a technology from another civ, prevent yourself from suffering that same fate, and my favorite – rig elections.
To partake in espionage, you’ll need spies. You gain your first at the start of the Renaissance era, and you’ll receive an additional one at the start of each era after that. If that doesn’t seem like enough, you’ll be able to gain another on top of those by constructing an Intelligence Agency.
Using spies is simple. You first need to decide exactly what it is you want to gain, and then go from there. If another civ is far ahead of you technologically, you can send a spy in to attempt at stealing a piece of tech. If a city-state is on the verge of allying you, you can send a spy in to help rig elections to push you over the top. Regardless of what you do, if your spy is in another civ’s city, you gain the chance of uncovering some important information about what that civ is planning.
Like spreading religion, you’re not going to be the only one taking advantage of spies. If you’re the tech leader, then that means there’s a great chance another civ has a spy stationed in your biggest city. To help counter this, you place your own spy there for counter-intelligence. No matter your goal, anything can fail. A competing civ might steal technology despite your counter-intelligence, and you might fail stealing a technology despite a civ being an entire era ahead. As they say, it’s the roll of the dice.
Although spies are not physical units on the map, they still face the chance of dying by being caught. This again is a random occurrence and it’s impossible to resist. Your chances are better, however, the higher the level your spy is. Spies can reach a max level of 3, and this can be gained by completing their objectives successfully. If one of your spies happens to die, you’ll have to wait a couple of turns before you earn a replacement.
With G&K, the diplomatic aspect of things has greatly changed to account for both religion and espionage. While a civ can discover that a technology or some other form of intelligence was stolen, there is a chance that the culprit might never be figured out. On the flipside, civs might find out who was behind the attack, and if that happens, you can expect a call from them rather quickly. This will obviously have some diplomatic repercussions. If you happen to be the one to have something stolen, and you find out who the culprit civ is, you can confront them afterwards. For the sake of it being a bit pointless to deliberately mar your diplomatic standing, it’s probably best that you forgive them.
Tying into diplomacy a bit further, if you happen to uncover information that one civ is about to attack another, you can warn the target civ in order to get on their good side. In one match I played, another civ warned me of an attack, and within five turns, sure enough, I was at war. As before, keeping friends with all civs is simply impossible. If you ally with one, you’ll anger another. It’s just a given (unless you are playing a small map, perhaps).
Citrus, Jewelry & Truffles… Oh My
As I’m sure you can tell by now, religion and espionage play a major part of the gameplay in G&K, and as a result, the dynamic of the matches can feel quite a bit different than before. In my opinion, this is definitely for the better. While I do think things can still be a bit skewed, or nonsensical, the changes made do feel more realistic and make for a more interesting round.
As I mentioned in the intro, an expansion pack for a game like this is simply too difficult to cover in full, so I’ll help wrap things up by pointing out a couple of other things I like about it so far. Because it takes many matches to really get a feel for all of the mechanics, I am sure I’ll be discovering even more as I go along.
In G&K, there are some small changes that are not immediately obvious. Open borders, friendship declarations, research agreements and defense pacts will not be available with any civ until an embassy is built in both civs. This is not a physical unit, but rather an option in the trade menu. In my single-player games so far, virtually every civ has asked me for the embassy, but I wouldn’t expect that to play out the same way in all matches.
Research agreements have changed in the way your actual gain is decided. I am not sure of the exact math, but it’s unwise to do a research agreement with someone who’s far behind you in the tech tree or far ahead. You’ll want someone on par with you so that you both gain roughly the same benefit. If you team up with someone higher, they will get more out of the research agreement, and if you team up with someone lower, you’ll gain less. So, it’s not wise to start a research agreement with everyone, as was too easy to do pre-G&K.
Speaking of science, the Tech Tree has also seen a significant overhaul. Some things have been moved around, while other categories were added in to accompany the changes and added units. Due to some adjustments, researching a certain tech might take longer than before, which might be noticeable depending on how you play.
A major change with Great persons is that not all of them can trigger a Golden Age. Instead, that perk is left to the Great Artist. On the upside (if you are a gold fiend), the number of turns that a Golden Age lasts does not diminish with subsequent use. I reached a point in my last match where I had a Golden Age last a cool 22 turns, thanks to using two Artists while already being in the middle of a Golden Age. Did it feel sweet? Oh yeah.
One of my favorite additions to the expansion are quests offered to you by city-states that are actually worth doing. Pre-G&K, giving city-states gold was the primary way to have them ally with you, but now, there are a variety of chores they can present you that will reward you with massive influence. Certain tasks include spreading your religion to them, taking care of a barbarian encampment, building a certain wonder, locating an unfound natural wonder, bullying another city-state, denouncing a civ, tieing a new luxury resource to your network, or earning more culture or faith in a 30-turn span than any other civ.
Because of these quests, it won’t be difficult to get many different city-states to ally with you. While 500 gold might give you 40 or 50 influence, completing a simple quest could award you the very same. At one point in my last match (King difficulty), I had a staggering 238 influence with one city-state – a number I’ve never come close to before. Until the late game, keeping allies is generally easy if that’s your goal, but once other civs learn social policies that increase the amount of influence you lose per turn, not to mention other civs that are actually competing with you for the same city-states, it can become challenging.