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PREVIEW GUIDE: Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade

Posted on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 By Draginol

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Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade is an expansion pack for Stardock's popular 4X space strategy game, Galactic Civilizations III.  Crusade is a top-to-bottom update of the entire game.  This article will walk you through what's new, what's changed and try to explain it for those who may not be familiar with the series.

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The Specs


  • Title: Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade
  • Platform: Windows PC, 64-bit
  • Price: $19.99 if you already have Galactic Civilizations III, $39.99 for new players.
  • Release Date: May 4 at www.galciv3.com or at Steam, GOG, Humble Bundle and elsewhere.

Overview


The premise of the game is what happens when our civilization finally leaves its home world and begins exploring the galaxy?  It's a gigantic sandbox in which the fate of your civilization is in your hands.

Players explore the galaxy, colonize new worlds, research new technologies, design ships, trade, negotiate and war with alien civilizations to see if their civilization can pass the test of time.


Features List


When Galactic Civilizations III first shipped, we released a feature comparison to show what was new over previous versions.   Since I'm a bit of a cynic, I'll use the same chart (so that we can't pad it up since it's using the same one).  For features that got additional attention I've placed an extra checkbox.

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Click to enlarge (really!)

As you can see, Crusade is a massive expansion to the series.


NEW FEATURE: Civilization Builder


Have you ever seen a game get a "total conversion" so that it took place in a different universe? Crusade makes it easy for people to create their own civilizations and share them with others right from the main menu.

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Choose what you want your civilization to look like.

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Define what makes their species unique.

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Assign what colors and materials their ships will have and what their UI will look like when you play as them.

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Choose what the default ship classes they will use will look like (when you play against them, the AI will use them).

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Can't find the ship you want? Press the "Get more ships" button and subscribe to your favorite creators works and bring them into the game.

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Decide how the AI will play like, what they will say.

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You can even decide what your citizens will look like and what their names will be.

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When you're done, you can then share your new civ with others (note, it's considered rude to use other people's ship designs in your civ without their permission if you plan to upload it -- you can specify only your Steam friends can see it however).

 


NEW FEATURE: Global Ship Designer


GalCiv games have had ship design since 1993.  However, Crusade brings the Ship Designer to the main menu to allow people to create design templates to share with others or modify.  All the hulls parts and even starbase designs are accessible.

 

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Choose what your ships will look like by default

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Design starbases

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Your ships don't have to look like space ships...

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Ship parts can be animated, resized, rotated, etc.

When completed they can be uploaded to Steam.


NEW CIVILIZATIONS


While Crusade doesn't include any story-driven campaigns or scenarios, it does introduce new civilizations, each with its own history.  Each civilization also includes its own unique ship parts that can be used for future designs.

 

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The silicon-based Onyx are master spies.  Their ship components are made of rocks.

 

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The gelatinous Slyne rely on technology for even the most basic of things.

 

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The Terran Resistance is an off-shoot of the humans from Earth

Jenna Casey, the leader of the Terran Resistance, was first introduced in Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar (2008).  Now, she gets an entire set of ships, technologies and other goodies to play with.

 


NEW FEATURE: CITIZENS


The Citizen feature is the most obvious and far-reaching change to Crusade.  Your civilization is made up of billions of beings.  Every so often, one of them will rise to become a true Galactic Citizen.  How you choose to use your citizens shapes the way your civilization evolves.

 

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Every so many turns, a citizen is born. Each race gets its own citizens.

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Players can then specialize those citizens based on what technologies and traits they have.

There are many different types of specializations you can train your citizens into and which ones are available at any given time depends on what traits your civilization has and what technologies you have.

Citizens aren't just a bundle of stats or modifiers.  They can also have special abilities that unlock new game features.  For example, Spies unlock the espionage feature. Generals unlock the invasion system. Commanders unlock the Privateer system and so on. 

What a citizen can do also depends on where they are located.  For example, you can assign a Scientist to your government and he will boost your research for your entire civilization.  However, you can also send that same Scientist to live on a key research world to greatly boost just that single planet's research. 

By contrast, a Diplomat can boost your civilization's influence overall or be sent to a foreign power to boost your relations with them or be sent to a specific world to boost that planet's influence.

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An Administrator lets you build more starbases and colonies but can also be promoted into a Mobster (if you're evil) or into a Minister if you have enough resources.

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A scientist can be promoted to instantly discover a technology, be recalled from the planet or (if you play as malevolent) worked to death.

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Celebrities can be sent on a galactic tour making your civilization ever more popular.

 

Needless to say, modders will probably do some crazy things with this feature.

 


NEW FEATURE: Interactive Invasions


For the first time, Galactic Civilizations is separating civilians and soldiers. 

Previously, a player would construct an invasion transport and then transfer millions of civilians from the planet's population onto the transport.  Then, the player would travel to a planet whose orbital defenses had been taken out and invade the planet with those conscripted civilians.

[Trivia: This system was originally developed to show off the AI in GalCiv as the system required a lot of pre-planning and coordination which couldn't realistically be done back in 1993 on a single threaded game].

In Crusade, by contrast, the player first has to specialize a citizen as a General who, in turn, can train up to 5 legions.  Players can then load up their legions onto a transport and take it to the planet and invade.

However, there are some key gameplay changes:

  1. If the defending planet has no defending legions, the planet is instantly conquered. Thus, players can decide which planets matter the most.
  2. The transport is no longer consumed.  That means, in theory, a single transport could conquer an entire civilization.  This vastly reduces the late-game grind of conquering (and to be honest, we should have thought of this 10 years ago).

 

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When the player arrives at the planet, they decide which tiles to land on. A planet is conquered when all the cities are taken.

 

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Any planetary improvements a legion traverses over is automatically destroyed unless defended. Hence, a player can use a single legion to try to raid a well defended planet.

 

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The statistical reality of a world-wide invasion is presented to the player.

 


NEW FEATURE: Missions and Deliverables


While not a specifically called out "feature", a big emphasis in Crusade has been to squash late game tedium.  Strategy games are notoriously for having a late-game grind.  The question is, how do you solve that?

Galactic Civilizations has always had civilizations surrender when they knew their cause was lost. That helped move the game along.  But one gigantic area that still needed to be addressed is what to do about your colonies (the space 4X version of cities) late game when they are largely built out?

The most common solution is to create some type of "governor" to automate what planets are doing.  The problem with that is that governors frequently do things that are contrary to the player's goals.

The solution that Crusade delivers comes in the form of Missions and Deliverables

Shipyards can be queued up with various missions that can bring in more money, influence, technology and more.  Since the player is essentially leader of the government, missions essentially turn a shipyard over to the private sector for a period of time in exchange for a piece of the action.   For instance, the player can agree to let Treasure Hunters run the Shipyard for 12 turns in exchange for a cut of whatever treasure they find.  At the end of the 12 turns, a small vessel, not controlled by the player, leaves port and travels to an unknown destination (the player can follow the ship, however).  

Depending on what resources and technologies the player has, many different missions can be chosen from.  What matters, however, is that the player doesn't have to queue up junk or turn it over to a "governor" or have their shipyard stand by idly.

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Players can queue up missions for private citizens in their civilization to go on in exchange for a piece of the action. This gives the shipyard something to do late game without the micromanagement and with a tangible, controllable benefit to the player.

 

Deliverables are the planet based equivalent to missions. Instead of turning over the planet to a governor (which the player can still do if they really want) they can queue up a series of long-term projects for the planet to engage in that deliver a specific result.  This way, a player could, for instance, ask a planet to try to recruit more citizens.  It may take many turns but it provides a benefit and keeps the planet in use, under player control, long after the planet has been built up.

 

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Planets can be assigned projects that deliver a specific result after a certain number of turns.

Different civilizations have different projects.  For example, the robotic Yor increase their population this way while the humans might use it to station garrisons on the planet.

 


NEW FEATURE: ESPIONAGE


Espionage wasn't in the base game of Galactic Civilizations III and was, by far, the most requested feature.  The challenge with espionage has always been, how do you make it meaningful without it overwhelming the entire game?

The answer returns to the Citizen system.  Once the player researches Espionage, the Spy specialization becomes available.

 

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Train Spies

Since citizens are so special, spies, therefore are also rare but also powerful.

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Place spies on alien civilizations to find out who they hate, who they may attack, and gain vital intelligence.

Players can also cripple a particular planet's economy with a spy by placing it on a specific tile on the planet.  Doing so reduces the planet's overall production as well as shuts down whatever improvement it is on/

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A well placed spy can hamper the growth of a competitor.

 


NEW FEATURE: Resource based economic system


Galactic Civilizations III's economy, like the previous games in the series, was based on the triad of research, manufacturing and wealth. Players used a global (or planetary) production wheel to focus their civilization. 

The production wheel system worked well for small civilizations but became a frustrating (and often gamey) late game feature because the player felt they had to find the perfect balance every single turn across their entire empire (and that's without even considering the local production wheel on every planet).

The other weakness of the old system is that no economy is that simple.  For starters, isn't there a big difference between military manufacturing and social construction? How about programs to make your people happy? How about farming? What about cultural development? 

Crusade starts over with a new system that allows the player to control their economy by how they use their citizens. 

For example, food is now a global resource.  One planet can grow the food and other planets can consume them by building cities. This, in turn, creates the need for farmers who can accelerate that food production.

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Players can have citizens specialize and work globally, ideal for large empires.

OR

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Citizens can be sent to a particular planet and give a large boost to that planet's economy. Over time, they level up.

 

In a 200 turn game, the player might only have 20 citizens, not an overwhelming number of units to manage and yet powerful tools for the player to control their economy.  

 

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Keep your citizens on your key worlds for tall empires or keep them centralized for wide empires.

 

 


NEW FEATURE: Commanders & Privateers


Another challenge of strategy games that involve diplomacy is that peace can be...well...boring.  Many strategy games resolve this by basically forcing players into war.  This can be frustrating for players who have really tried to be peaceful.

While espionage does provide one covert way to help and harm players without going to war, there is another way as well: Privateers.

Players can specialize a citizen to be a Commander.   Once assigned to a fleet, a Commander can be promoted into a Privateer.

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With some resources your Commander can be given a new, less public job.

A Privateer takes the best ship you can currently build and constructs it as an anonymous ship of war that players can use to wreak havoc on their competitors without officially going to war.

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Enemy freighters, Civilian transports or even unprotected Transports can be brought low by a Privateer or two.

The Privateer feature opens the door for a civilization with a relatively weak military to keep stronger opponents off balance without actually engaging in direct confrontation. 

To put this feature into perspective, beta testers have argued that the Commander / Privateer feature on its own could have been an expansion pack (GalCiv III: Mercenaries added Mercenaries, that was the thrust of that entire expansion).

 


NEW FEATURE: AI-Driven Diplomacy


Diplomacy in strategy games is hard.  Computer players almost never do it well.

The Thalan, for example, are a time-traveling civilization and they remember how it was.

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The Thalan remember you. Yes. YOU.

Crusade adds an entire background trade simulator.  As a result, the trades it makes with you are complex, fair and useful.  Because the simulator operates all the time, it can constantly look at what they want, what other players want (or should want) and offer it to them.

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The AI is almost uncanny in its ability to predict what you would want for it and how much you would be willing to pay.

 

In addition, a value bar is now present on the trade screen to make trade much easier to engage in.  Because resources are now central to the game, it was important to make it very easy to trade small quantities of various resources with minimal effort.

 

[[more to come]]


Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade - The First Turn

Posted on Monday, April 24, 2017 By Draginol

 

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Crusade is the space strategy game made by 4X nuts for 4X nuts.   Let's do this.

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What is Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade?

In 2015, Stardock released the latest entry in its popular 4X space strategy game series, Galactic Civilizations III. 4X means eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate and is turn-based.  GalCiv III was well received (81 metacritic) and has a recent Steam review score of 82. 

However, coming from Galactic Civilizations II (94 metacritic), there was some grumbling because it wasn't a huge change from GalCiv II.  It did play it a bit safe because GalCiv III was developed alongside with Stardock's new, 64-bit, multi-core game engine.

Crusade, by contrast, is the opposite of Galactic Civilizations III.  It is insane. No sane company would make this as an expansion.  Some will argue that Crusade is what GalCiv III should have been.  I say nonsense. There is no way all of this could have been attempted on a brand-new game engine.  The things being done in Crusade are the result of multiple years of experience with this new engine and a lot of training in using the engine's new multi-core job system.

The goal of Crusade is simple: Make a strategy game that also feels like it's taking place in a living galaxy.

 

 

EACH GAME IS YOUR STORY

I want to emphasize that.  Galactic Civilizations is a sandbox game that is played as a 4X.  We include our own civilizations in the game, but we encourage users to create their own, too.   To bring the point home, Crusade doesn't include any new campaign or "story" driven material whatsoever.

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The Drengin Empire is still waiting for karma to strike back..

 

Let's take a look at how the first turn of Crusade is. For those of you who have the base game, please comment below about how these decisions might be different.


The first turn...


This is my story.  Your story will be different. 

I have created a civilization called the United Earth government. 

I designed every aspect of this civilization in the Civ Builder.  That means the ships that they have. What their starbases look like. What technologies they will have access to. What ships they can have. What planetary improvements they can construct, and even what citizens they can have and what they will look like.

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The United Earth Gov will be playing against a bunch of civilizations that I downloaded from fans, along with the stock GalCiv civilizations.

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I'm playing on a huge, tight cluster galaxy. I chose tight because I really like seeing the galaxy as an ocean with islands made out of stars.

 


The story begins


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The first turn of the game.  What my ships look like and what they are called are unique to the civ I created.  I have no talent for art, which means all my ships came from fans via Steam Workshop.  There are over 10,000 ships already online to choose from.

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My civilization started out with a Constructor because my Civilization has the "inventive" trait.  It also has an attack ship because I chose the "Angry" trait. :)

When I zoom out with my mouse wheel, I see that there is a relic.  This is super awesome because they're pretty rare.  The dotted hex on the screen is the range of my constructor ship. As long as the object is within that hex, the starbase affects it.

Note that I do not start with a Shipyard.  That is because this civilization doesn't have a trait that provides for that (and most don't).  Deciding whether to rush build a shipyard is an important decision.

Research:

Hitting the TAB key OR pressing the "Research" button in the bottom right of the screen brings up the available technologies to research.

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What technologies I have available are based on what civilization traits I have.  There is no longer a fixed "tech tree," but rather a tech tree that is generated based on the civilization's traits.

The tech screen is simpler than it was in the base game.  I know every game wants to have a fancy research system, but I don't like to fight with a UI.  Techs are just a menu of goodies I can add to my civilization.

In this example my choices are:

  1. Colonial Settlements:  A bunch of missions are added to my future Shipyard.
  2. Planetology: Allows me to build Brindle's Observatory.
  3. Artificial Gravity: Lets my ships go (+1) faster.
  4. Militarization: Lets me build armed ships.
  5. Universal Translator: Lets me talk to alien civs.
  6. Xeno Commerce: Lets me start making money.

In addition, what goodies a tech gives you can also change based on what civ traits you have.

I chose Artificial Gravity.

Planet Choices

Next, I am taken to my home planet (that's Earth by the way, contrary to...rumors)...

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Now, the first thing is that the Harmony Crystals here provide something locally (to make people happy) if I build on them and they also will provide a resource that is needed for a variety of other things later on.

So, what should I build?

In the base game, the player started with a Shipyard so that wasn't even a starting choice.  In this example, I will probably build a shipyard because my starting planet (again, EARTH) doesn't have any unusual traits other than the flood plain.

Victory Status

What does winning look like?

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You can with through conquest (good luck with that).  You can also win via influence (a cultural victory), technology (become a god via tech), Ascension victory (take control of the Precursor Ascension Crystals and move to a higher dimension, good luck with that), and Diplomatic victory (get everyone to ally with you - this used to be the easiest way to win).

Since Crusade has a different alliance system (under the covers), late game players see the civs break into blocks.

Government

At the start of the game your government consists of...well, you.

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You have yet to get anyone to help you with construction, research or administration.  And don't poo-poo administration.  Seriously. I just finished getting Stardock's books ready for the accountants.

If you're coming from base GalCiv III you will notice all the numbers are really small now. 

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And on turn 1, you of course have 1 planet. In this case, Earth.   What do those numbers mean?

  • Planet Class:  Earth is now a class 11 planet. This is how many tiles you get to build on.  We upgraded Earth from a 10 (GalCiv for OS/2) to a class 11 because GalCiv III takes place in 2242 whereas GalCiv I only took place in 2178 so we decided it had improved.
  • Population: Earth starts out at a 10. We have abstracted this over the years as it feels weird to take a billion people onto a transport.
  • Influence: 3.1 influence is pretty good. But that's because it's your capital planet.
  • Approval: 60%. People are pretty happy.
  • Research, Net Income, and Construction: These are actually pretty big numbers.

 

Design

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You can also create your own designs.  In this fan made ship, you can see the first row (of several) parts at the bottom of the screen used to construct it.  The game gives you building blocks that you can use to create anything you want.

If you go to options, you can have access to all the ship parts. :)

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When making your own ships, you simply take a part from the menu and drag it over to one of the red dots to stick it.  You can then choose to animate it, rotate it, resize it, etc.

As you can see from the above screenshot, I am a true artist...

But ships aren't just about how they look.  You arm them with weapons, defenses, engines, special components, etc. to counter what your opponents are doing.

 

Fleet Choices

Now I'm back to the main map. 

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You may  notice that only Earth and the moon have a little blue circle around it.  That's not a selection cursor. That's your empire. That's it, pissant.  You don't even have Mars in your sphere of influence yet. 

I send my constructor to be closer to the relic. I send the survey ship out to explore and I send my little battle cruiser out to explore.  At this point, I am ready to end my first turn.


Ending my first turn


For Crusade, we have really worked to make sure that each game feels very different and that each of your turns is interesting and meaningful.

Crusade will be out very soon.  You will be able to get it for $19.99 if you already have Galactic Civilizations III and we will have a package that integrates GalCiv III and Crusade for $39.99.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Cheers!


Galactic Civilizations through the ages

Posted on Sunday, April 23, 2017 By Draginol

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Galactic Civilizations has the distinction of being the longest running strategy game developed by the same company.

Let's take a look at how it has changed.

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Galactic Civilizations OS/2


The game that started it all.  I wrote this game from my dorm room in college. 

 

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Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 (1993)

 

  1. First commercial multithreaded game
  2. First commercial game to use more than 256 colors
  3. First commercial 32-bit game

It was written for IBM's OS/2 instead of DOS or Windows which limited its market but by being natively 32-bit, multithreaded, it could do things that wouldn't be seen in the game market for many years.


Galactic Civilizations for Windows


We didn't get back to Galactic Civilizations again until 2003 -- 10 years after the original.  Stardock moved to Windows around the year 2000 and its business focused on programs like WindowBlinds and IconPackager at the time.

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Galactic Civilizations for Windows (2003)

  1. First game to use Intel Hyperthreading

This was important because it allowed me to divide up the AI's fleet manager and the AI's planet manager which sped up turn times.  It was not a friendly game by today's standards (45% score on Steam). One of these days, I'd like to go back and update this just to make it work on modern computers.  I only recommend this for nostalgia folks now.


Galactic Civilizations II


This is the one people say they love.

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Galactic Civilizations II (2006)

  1. First game to be released digitally and retail on the same day.

GalCiv II was the last Stardock game to not have chicks (smart tooltips).  As a result, I have a hard time enjoying it as much as I could even though I designed this.  At the time of release it received a phenomenal 94 metacritic.  But, like I said, nowadays we expect the user interface, not the manual, to guide us into the game.


Galactic Civilizations III


This is the one that is loved by some and disappoints others.

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Galactic Civilizations III (2015)

  1. First Galactic Civilizations game I didn't design.

Jon Shafer, who designed Civilization V did the initial design for GalCiv III before Paul Boyer took it over.  The user experience of GalCiv III was so much better than GalCiv II.  What I would say its primary weakness has been balance and depth.  But it still has a higher metacritic rating than any other recently released space strategy game and a very positive Steam review average.


Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade


If we still had retail, this would have been a sequel (GalCiv IV).  But in the digital age, we made it an expansion.

 

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Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade (2017)

The UI of Crusade is a bit more like Galactic Civilizations II in that the mini map has been brought back to the bottom right and there's a general emphasis on letting you see how you're doing compared to everyone else (GalCiv II and Crusade both have the power bar).

However, if someone were to ask me what is the fundamental difference between GalCiv III: Crusade and what came before my answer is: Until Crusade, GalCiv has always been about getting your people onto as many planets as possible.  Crusade is about getting your civilization having access to whatever resources it desires/wants.

To learn more about Crusade visit www.galciv3.com/Crusade


CRUSADE DIARY 8: A guided tour part 1

Posted on Monday, April 17, 2017 By Draginol

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In our previous entries, we've discussed specific major new features of Crusade.  For this entry, we're going to go through a guided tour of what's new in Crusade over GalCiv III in terms of features and gameplay.  Strap in!

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Let me preface that this is long and probably a bit full of typos.  I wanted to get this out to you as soon as possible. It's long, but I hope you like it! -brad

 

Prior to the age of digital distribution, Crusade would be a sequel.  It's that big.  There is a bigger difference between Crusade and GalCiv III than there was between GalCiv III and GalCiv II.  

Crusade is an expansion that will be released as a DLC for Galactic Civilizations III (www.galciv3.com), which means you do have to have GalCiv III already, but Crusade itself will only be $19.99.

Because of the immensity of the changes, I'm going to do this in two parts and mostly as screenshots.  I will leave it to other, smarter people to determine which of these features matter the most.  In the comments area, please feel free to comment on which things you care about the most.


The Civilization Builder


Immediately at launch, you know something is up.  There are two conspicuous new entries:

  • The Ship Designer
  • The Civilization Builder

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The Ship Designer and the Civilization Builder

We already had a dedicated article (DIARY 2: Civilization Builder) on this, but it has continued to get better and better since then.

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Via Steam Workshop, nearly every ship design ever made is available, including this fan made version of the iconic Omega Destroyer from Babylon 5.

 

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Players can customize what the citizens of their civilization look like.

Because players design their own ships and can share them online so easily, I feel I must emphasize: Stardock does not include popular sci-fi style ship designs with the game.  We simply provide a tool that lets people create any type of ship or civilization they want by giving them lots of ship parts.  There is no pre-made Tie-fighter part or Star Fury part or what have you.  People have made robots, snakes, Giant Rick, and of course, many excellent versions of favorite sci-fi starships.

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At any time, I can click a button and subscribe to one of the over 10,000 fan made designs that have already been submitted.

My screenshots tend to feature Babylon 5 fan art because I was a Babylon 5 fan going all the way back to Usenet. If you don't know what Babylon 5 is, you should check it out.

I also highly recommend you check out this site, as it has been a major source of inspiration for me over the years.

Anyway, the Civilization Builder does what it sounds like, right down to even controlling what the aliens say to each other.


 

Ship Designer


 

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Animated, organic ships are possible too.

 

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On the left you can see all the pieces. The red dots indicate where you can connect parts to.


New and Updated Races


We include two new alien civilizations, as well as the Terran Resistance.  We'll talk more about the TR later and go into some detail later about the new civilizations.

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Updated Races

These are just examples, but we've changed a ton about each of the existing civilizations to make them play much more differently than before. Playing against them now is much more unique.

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The Thalan are Time Travelers, which gives them access to special techs

 

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The Krynn are now "devout"

 

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Because the civilizations are substantially different based on traits, we make sure to give more detail about them when choosing opponents

 

Races no longer get a "tech tree".  Instead, tech trees are procedurally generated based on the traits of your civilization.  Modders should love this, since now they can just submit a bunch of new techs that have race trait requirements and they'll "just show up".

 


The new Economy


The new UI has a lot more relevant information and is much more intuitive. Because of the overall re-balancing and pacing changes, the early game keeps you busy with lots of interesting choices.

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You no longer start with a shipyard. That is one of the early choices your civilization will need to make.

Crusade's new economy means that each decision matters. A lot.

Most of you are familiar with Earth, so we'll use Earth on turn 1 as our example.

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Also, because population grows slowly, be careful about just cranking out colony ships.

 

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Everything starts with raw production, which is the square root of your population + any bonuses (such as happy people) or penalties (unhappy people).

Your construction, research, and money come directly from that number X any specific bonuses attached to them.

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Since Earth has a lot of people at this point (10 population units), you get 3.33 base production, plus a little something extra because people are happy.

Then you have to decide what you want to build first.

  1. Shipyard: Always tempting and about half the time it's my first choice, depending on what I start out with. 
  2. Computer Core: You only get 1 of these.  It provides 2 research points plus 1 for every level it goes up.  So your home planet may not be where you want to use this.
  3. Space Elevator: You can (and should) build one on each planet. Why? Because it's a goddam space elevator. It also adds +2 to general construction on the planet and gets another for every level it goes up.
  4. Central Bank: There can only be one of these, but it's +2 to the planet's income and it goes up +1 for every level.

So which of these should you build first?  The answer: it depends.  On this example, I'm going to build the compute core because it gives me +2 levels to research. It will make that computer core do +4 total, which is more than doubling my research on the first turn.

Also in this example is the Prometheus Stone Extractor, which would increase my wealth by 1 and give me Promethion (a resource used for higher end research stuff), but it's not not compelling in this case.  Aid Research is a Project I can do that will give me 25 research points, which is nice, but not something I want to do right now when I can build that computer core.

 

 

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Rather than having to mess around with sliders, players specialize citizens to be leaders who can be moved into any area of the player's economy to give it a boost.

 

 

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The new research screen provides a straight-forward view of what technologies you can access and why you would want them. Each tech is designed to provide a very tangible benefit.

 

 

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Because resources are so crucial, planets will now disclose what they have on them before you colonize.

 

 


Galactic Citizens


By far the biggest new addition to Crusade is the concept of Citizens.

Rather than using sliders and dials to manage your economy, you instead specialize your citizens in the area that you want to focus on.  Every 10 or so turns, one of your people rises to the top and becomes a galactic citizen. 

Once players have a citizen, they can choose a specialization for him or her.  These specializations depend on many factors including your race, ideology, and more. 

Specializations include:

  • Administrator:  Allows for the construction of more Starbases, Colonies, and Survey Ships.
  • General: Allows for the construction of Transports for planetary invasion.
  • Spy: Allows you to spy on your opponents and sabotage their planets or protect yourself.
  • Scientist: Boosts your research.
  • Commander: Can be assigned to a fleet to boost its speed and offensive power.
  • Leader: These citizens only work for the central government, but can be switched into any area of it.

 

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When a new citizen is available, players can choose an area for them to specialize in.

Citizens can work for your central government, where they provide a civilization-wide bonus in some areas -  OR, they can be sent to a specific planet to provide a massive boost for that planet in a particular area.

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Citizens, when assigned to planets, must travel to the planet in question. The further away, the longer it till take him or her to get there.

Players with large empires will tend to want to keep their citizens in their central government.

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Over time, the priorities of a civilization become clear based on where they put their citizens.

Early game, most players will settle citizens on key worlds.  On larger maps, players will often gravitate to specializing in leaders (see the gold leader icons above) so that they can quickly adjust their global economy.

 


Espionage


What are your opponents up to?  Use Spies to find out what they're up to and eventually steal their technology.  Alternatively, use spies to sabotage key planets. 

 

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Spies can tell you a lot about a given civilization, including who their primary enemy is, key stats on their planets, and much more. Once you know everything there is to know, your spies can start stealing tech.

 

 

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Putting a Spy on a given planet dramatically reduces that planet's overall productivity. The tile you place the spy on is completely disabled as well.  A single spy on a key world can knock that player's economy for a loop until they use one of their own spies to kill them.

 

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Spies can do some pretty awful things to a player if they are left on the planet long enough.

 

 

 


New Starbase System


Players construct modules on the starbase itself rather than sending additional constructors.  Different modules cost different amounts of various resources, requiring players to trade for them (most common reason for AI trading).

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No more constructor spam. Starbase modules simply have a resource cost. If you have it, it's yours.

 

 

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The Starbase market requires a Techapod hive.  Those are rare and only found on certain planets.  You will have to find someone who has it and trade with them (or conquer them).

 


New Diplomacy System


Diplomacy in strategy games is always a challenge.  You want it to be powerful, but you also don't want it too easy to exploit the players.  Because Crusade's general focus is now about obtaining resources, we had to rewrite the diplomacy system in order to make it intelligent and fun to trade with, as there is a lot more trading.

 

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This had to basically be rewritten in order to properly handle the new resource system.  This, in turn, required us to create a simple but effective bar that shows up above your trade to tell you how close to being equal the trade values are.

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Thus here, I'm being too generous. So I can go ask for more money.

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Now it's fair.  But the AI calculates the value of every tech and compares it with its treasury.

For example:

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The Drengin value Space Labs for $1230.

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The Altarians value them at $1600.

Why the difference? Lots of reasons including that the Altarians are more concerned about research techs, and have more money, and like you more, and so on.

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The sneaky Onyx only value it at 700.  Do they know something you don't?

Similarly, if you're really smart, you can use the system to figure out what strategies they use based on what they value different resources at. 

Generally speaking, the trades are a lot more sophisticated because the AI has a self bartering system to prevent it from wasting the player's time (or other AI's times).  It doesn't come to you until it has put together a reasonably good trade. 

 

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This is a trade deal the AI put together to present to the player.

 


A new vision for the third act of 4X


The late game in PC strategy games is notoriously grindy.  This was a challenge we wanted Crusade to address.

Let's take a closer look at how the very term "4X" advertises the seeds of its own demise:

  1. Explore.  This is fun! Hooray!
  2. Expand.  Still pretty fun.
  3. Exploit. Can be fun if done right.
  4. Exterminate. Oye. I either know I'm going to win or I know I'm going to lose.

So how do we mix this up and move things along?

We do this in a number of ways, some of which are obvious...in hindsight.

 

Reusable Transports

For example, in every Galactic Civilization game you invaded planets with a transport ship full of soldiers.  When the invasion was completed, the transport was consumed.  But why?  In Crusade, the transport isn't consumed.  One of the most tedious parts of a 4X game is the effort in conquering planets, cities, etc.  But it shouldn't be tedious.  If they're militarily finished, then taking their planets should be quick and easy.

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Being a native 64-bit game, GalCiv III: Crusade has map sizes that are insanely big. This makes it imperative that the late game be worth finishing.

 

Citizen Promotions

By late game, players will have quite a few citizens.  If the player has the right resources (which means, late game) they can promote their citizens to become incredibly powerful.  These promotions are typically a one-time act which results in the citizen retiring. But in return, you can help finish someone off or buy yourself a last desperate chance to turn things around.

A few examples:

  1. The Privateer:  Trying to win an alliance victory but not powerful enough to take out the one hold-out? Promote your Commanders to Privateers, which will convert your most powerful ship into a Pirate that you can control to help your more powerful friends take out the hold-out.
  2. The Epiphany:  You can sacrifice your scientists to instantly research late game techs.  Going for a tech victory, but the Drengin are slowly destroying you (or alternatively, you won't want to have to grind through another 50 turns to get there)? 
  3. Crunch Time: Sacrifice an engineer to instantly finish a ship at your home planet or at at whatever planet the engineer is stationed on.  Your mega ship designs can become become a reality.
  4. Influence Burst: Sacrifice your Celebrities to get a huge influence burst on your home planet or whatever planet they are stationed on.

Each of your citizen types has at least one promotion. Early and even midgame, you won't have the resources to use them, but late game is a different story.

 

 

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Some of the Promotions we are testing now...

 

 

Alliance System Upgrade

The base game has alliances, but they didn't tend to have the teeth that some players wanted them to.  In Crusade, Alliance treaties are enforced, resulting in those who don't obey them being roundly hated by everyone. 

Civilizations will actively band together to deal with evil (from their point of view) and to try to swiftly wipe it out late game. 

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Late game, you and your allies may face off against opposing alliances in epic galactic wars

 

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Get that tech immediately.

 

 


Missions


There's never a reason not to be building something from your shipyards.  There's no concept of wastage so you might as well just build something at all times.  Worried about micro-management?  Queue up a bunch of missions:

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Your shipyard can now be used by the "private sector" to send out various types of missions that can benefit your civilization. This eliminates the need for a "governor" or an "auto build" system, which drastically reduces late game micro management.

You can send out missions from your shipyard. These are private sector efforts so you, as the "government," don't have to do anything other than grant them permission to use your shipyard.

What techs, ideologies, etc. you have determine what missions are available. 

The Research mission goes off and gets some tech for you.   Bear in mind, these aren't a matter of just building it and getting free stuff.  The missions actually do go out somewhere and only when they get to wherever they're doing do you get the reward.

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There he goes!


Invasions


Planetary Invasions tend to be an all or nothing affair.  In Crusade, we try to make sure that most of the time, once a planet's space force is eliminated, taking the planet is pain free.

However, players can station garrisons on their planets.  Here's how it works:

Unlike in the base game where your population is simply conscripted to board an invasion transport or die against invaders, players instead use legions, which are produced through a number of different means:

  1. Specialize a citizen as a General and you receive 5 legions.
  2. Build a Military Academy and you can train a legion on a given planet.

Legions are a global resource by default.  When an Invasion transport is produced, players can load up the transport with legions from their global pool, send them to an undefended planet, and quickly conquer it.

However, players can also choose to assign a general to a key planet.  Alternatively, they can choose to station a Garrison.

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Players can transfer one of their legions from their global pool onto a specific planet so that incoming invaders will have to get through them first.

If the planet has soldiers on it, your civilian population will rise up to help them defend your planet.  That is where the resistance value comes into play.

When a player invades a planet that has garrisons on it, they are presented with a screen like this:

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The defender's single legion

When a planet is contested, things get interesting.  After choosing their invasion tactic the invader then is presented with a map of the planet's surface:

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Invaders place their invading legions based on what their objective is.

To conquer a planet, the player must conquer the cities.  This puts an interesting dilemma on both the attacker and the defender because any non-city tile that the invader goes through is destroyed.

Thus, an invader with only a single well placed legion may not be able to conquer a planet with 5 garrison legions that are all placed in city centers but it could wipe out most of the planet's infrastructure.

Thus, each player has to carefully consider where they place those legions for battle. 

 


 A living galaxy


Crusade is technically an expansion pack.  Actually, technically, it's DLC.  But we believe most people will find Crusade a whole new game.  A lot of the changes are small, but have a big impact.

A few examples:

  1. New Multicore pathfinding.  We'll be doing video demos of this, but the late game performance of Crusade is unlike anything that has ever been seen before in turn-based strategy.  That's because Crusade uses all of your CPU cores which means even late game, with dozens of civilizations on massive maps,  turns will be reasonably short (it's not magic, however. If you're playing on a 2-core laptop, we can't do much about that).
  2. Planet Projects.  Similar to the missions you can use on your transports, you can queue up projects such as Aid Economy, Aid Research, etc. that will keep your planet busy while also contributing to your overall empire.  This matters because you don't end up having to micro dozens of planets on a large map if you don't want to, but also don't end up forgetting about them due to assigning them to a governor or having it on a continual project (we've eliminated continual projects).  You can still use governors if you want, but they are not nearly as necessary.
  3. Tight balance. Whether you're playing Crusade single player or multiplayer, tight balance means that each decision you make has tangible consequences.
  4. Personality. Each civilization has its own dialog and we've given players the tools to easily add and share their own civilizations with their own dialog.
  5. Usability. No one throws a parade for UI designers. But UI design is crucial to the enjoyment of games like this.  When the choice has been between making a UI "clever" or functional, we've chosen functional.

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200 turns into the game. The numbers reflect the priorities of the player.

It's little things such as having early planetary improvements act as hubs that get more powerful based on what improvements are constructed adjacent to it. It's making sure all the numbers in the game are the result player choices that don't blow up the balance.

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Your people will tell you what they think (see the word of the street quote)

 

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Your planets at your finger tips.

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The research screen has been re-designed to maximize usability.

Next up

Next up, we'll get into part 2 of what is in Crusade and why we hope you'll find it to be the ultimate space 4X strategy game. Stay tuned!

 

Previous Entries:


CRUSADE DIARY 7: Conquest

Posted on Thursday, April 06, 2017 By Frogboy

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Let's begin this diary with the understanding that conquest is not the primary means to victory in Galactic Civilizations.

While warfare is commonly seen as politics via other means, it is not the only or even the easiest way to "win".  

That said, when you do go to war, you are dealing with battles on a scale that humans of the 21st century could scarcely imagine.  Invading a planet is an immense task.

[[..]]

Invading entire worlds: BEFORE

Since the start of the Galactic Civilizations series, taking over a planet was a two-step process. 

First, you had to gain space superiority by eliminating all of the defending ships in orbit.

Second, you had to then bring in a transport loaded with millions of soldiers to do battle on the surface.

To be honest, I created this system back in 1991 primarily to show off the AI of Galactic Civilizations. It was the very commercial multithreaded game and I wanted to demonstrate how the AI could plan multiple turns ahead.

In Galactic Civilizations III, the invasion system was largely the same.  You constructed a transport, transferred population from the planet onto it, and then took it to another planet whose orbits you had cleared of defending ships to do battle with ground forces.

Crusade... makes it more interesting...

Invading entire worlds: CRUSADE

Instead of civilians being loaded by the millions onto transports, you now first must have legions of soldiers.  A legion represents a bunch of armies, which in turn are made up of several divisions, which in turn are made up of a few brigades, and so on. 

We decided to use the term "legion" because we really needed a new term and an old term to grasp what invading a planet means.  The old term "legion" makes it approachable (but has no modern specific meaning).

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Bottom line: To build transports, you need to have legions available.

To defend a planet after its orbital defense ships had been cleared required...nothing.  When an invader landed, your civilian population would be consumed fighting the enemy.

Now, if there are no defending legions, the planet is taken without a second thought.  But if you or your enemy has garrisoned a legion on that planet, then there's a ground war. That is the subject of this Dev Diary.

FAST FORWARD: A GALAXY ON FIRE

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To get to invasions, you first have to fast-forward around 10 years...

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The Krynn are trying to spread "The Way" across the galaxy.

In Crusade, there are a bunch of new civilization traits.  The Krynn have the Devout trait which gives them a cleric (a citizen specialist only available to Devout civilizations).  They do not consider the Terran Coalition sufficiently...pious, and after they went to war with my friends, the Iconians, I agreed to help them against the growing menace of the Krynn.

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The Enterprise and my X-Wings were protecting Jupiter (don't judge me).

The Krynn came in with a very powerful force, but at great cost I had built up a decent defense.

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My little X-wings bought time for the Enterprise and my Commander to get in close.

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My spies had been studying the Krynn and saw that they were focusing on energy weapons,  so the Enterprise had the latest in shield technology on it.

The Krynn spent the early part of the war devastating my asteroid mining bases, but I was ready to take the war to them now.

 

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Here you get an idea just how large a Transport is.

This is my invasion fleet.  It carries 3 legions on it (millions of soldiers).  It is protected by the Enterprise, Commander Jenna's flag ship, and two X-wings (in case you haven't figured it out yet, you can design your own ships in this game or use ships designed by others).

At Kyrseth

My fleet fought its way to the heart of the Krynn Domain and made a surgical attack on Kyrseth itself.  With my invasion force at hand, I had the ability to look in and see what I was dealing with.

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Upon entering orbit, my legions see what they're up against.  The Krynn home world is no joke.  It has 10 legions garrisoned on the planet.  My 1.5 million soldiers will be up against their 5 million soldiers.

I have a number of different tactics I can use.  However, I am not far enough on the tech tree to use them.  But in Crusade, I have a new option: Raiding.  We're going in!

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Still a work in progress, so I will explain how it works.

The placement of your legions matter.  They will b-line to cities and destroy any undefended improvements on the way.  Your opponent can place their legions where they choose as well.  Since the Krynn have 10 legions to my 3, he could place them in strategically important locations to protect his most valuable wonders and improvements. 

Since I know I'm going to lose, I am going to place my legions in such a way to destroy his star port and his computer mainframe.

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I have placed my legions in such a way to make sure they have to move through the star port and the planetary mainframe to get to the capital.

 

Once I hit the Invade button, the legions move out and destroy the improvements and do battle in the streets of the capital (from up here, they look like little tiny ants).

Between now and release, it's mostly about improving the effects to make this experience really cool and having the AI updated to try to predict where you might place your soldiers.  However, your goal isn't to kill the enemy soldiers - it is to capture the bulk of the population who live in the cities.  In this example, there was only 1 city. 

A good opponent would have kept, say, 5 legions in the city and used the other 5 to protect the key planetary improvement.  Because he didn't, I destroyed his mainframe, his star port, and several other improvements, which crippled his capital world.

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My spies show that only a single planetary improvement came out unscathed.

Most planets won't have any garrisons to defend it, so once you clear out the orbiting defenses, you can land unopposed. However, civilizations can train garrisons (send a legion to the planet) to protect it or, if it's a key world, send a general or two to the planet with his corresponding legions in tow.

Ultimately, I didn't conquer the Krynn in this game but because I brought them so low, they surrendered to the Yor.

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade comes out early Spring...

www.galciv3.com

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