I ended up with a cultural victory, though I was also half way done with my space ship. I'd come within striking distance of winning a religious victory through the Apostolic Palace on a few occasions, and may have squeaked out a diplomatic victory if I'd finished the United Nations.
A few random thoughts on the expansion:
- Espionage is a cool system. I never really focused on any particular opponent, so it wasn't until later in the game when I was able to have enough points to get a lot out of them. Still, I like the mixture of active and passive missions. That said, I'm really glad that espionage didn't ship in the original game. It's a complex system that adds a whole other aspect to the game; it can be ignored, but at your peril, and would have been hard to master while trying to learn the game in the first place.
- The other major addition, corporations, are really interesting. I had a sizeable tech lead near the end of the game, so I was able to found all of them except for Standard Ethanol and Aluminum Co. They are EXPENSIVE - the maintenance payments are huge, and also a bit puzzling to me; I never did figure out the math for how much each city has to pay. I ended up being very selective in the way I spread them within my country - most stayed in one city, except for Mining Inc., which provided a much-needed production boost to a wealthy peninsula. However, I spread them like mad to to the rest of the world as much as I could, and my coffers were overflowing. In my next game, I might be more careful to be selective about the ones I spread - I got Mining Inc. early on and spread it, but it probably wasn't too wise to give a huge production boost to all my rivals. Sid's Sushi Co. or Standard Ethanol would probably be safer. Regardless, though, the money adds up. And an advantage of Mining Inc. is that the other civs LOVE it, so after spreading to one or two of their cities, they'll pour out corporate executives to convert the rest of their empire.
- The more things change, the more they stay the same: winning strategies in Civ IV seem to still be good, but you now have more tools at your disposal. Example: I pursued a variation of the religion+commerce strategy that has served me well in the past. Found a religion, spread it to all your cities, then all your rivals. Build the holy building and all the commerce improvements you can. And - this is the key - discover all the alternative religions that you can; if you keep a rival from having their own holy city, it's far easier to have them convert to your faith, and to some extent they'll do your evangelism for you, plus you won't need to invest in expensive holy wars. After you found Islam, build the Spiral Minaret, and then you'll be able to set your tax rate down to 0% - that one city will generate all the gold you need. Eventually, build Wall Street there, and you'll have more gold than you'll ever need. Now, with BTS, found your most successful corporations in the same city. (There seems to be a limit of 2 per city, in addition to the no-shared-resources rule.) Each city that has your corporation will bring you 5 gold a turn, and with your city improvements that will transform to 15. What's really funny: in this particular game, I never switched from Representation to Universal Suffrage, so the gold really was totally useless to me. I just get a warm feeling when I see it pile up.
- The new animated leaderheads are really well done. In this game I played against Stalin and Hammurabi, and played as Pericles, and all three of them were interesting and realistic. Pericles in particular has a great opening animation.
- The modified tech tree is organic and fits in well with the flow of the game; that being said, it does feel like Aesthetics blocks off a good chunk of stuff. Also, I miss Nimoy.
- Yet again, I played an entire game without a single battle against another civilization. I am awesome and craven.
- On a related note, I wonder if there's a bug in the AI. After I bumped my espionage to 20% and started getting great visibility, I noticed that Stalin had built up a HUGE stack of units right on my border. Like, thirty or forty knights, catapults, crossbows, the whole story. I was nervous - I was a bit ahead of him technologically, but had a bare minimal army, with a freaking warrior still defending my capital. So I started building some defenders, but - here's the weird part - he did nothing at all. They just stood there for several hundred years, staring at me, until my culture enveloped their city and they got kicked out. Very odd. It seems like if the AI has invested that much time in building up an army (and he had obviously slipped behind in technology and infrastructure as a result), it NEEDS to do SOMETHING to capitalize on its investment. If it doesn't like invading me because of the whole religion thing, fine, but march that glorious army of yours across my land and invade Carthage or Babylon or something.
- Random events are REALLY cool. They actually had something like this way back in the original Civilization, which makes it the second feature from that game to be recently resurrected. (The other one is the idea of a city revolting against its owner and joining your empire.) However, the old events were always disasters - floods, earthquakes (which could even destroy wonders!) and the like. The new ones are generally positive, although there are some bad ones. Someone has GOT to do something about mine safety. I especially enjoy the ones that let you make choices, as well as quests - I don't know how many of those there are, but in this game my quest was to build seven Coliseums (or in my case Odeons) before entering the Modern Era. In both cases, it makes me fondly remember Castles, an old DOS-based game that combined aspects of Sim City (except you're designing a castle), Warcraft (lead your English warriors against the Celts who want to tear it down), with fun once-a-month dramas in the throne room. Often times this was something simple, like being asked what a woman should name her baby, but there were also really intricate plots involving powerful noble houses, the Church, various native clans, and questions of honor, strength, and expediency. Anyways, I'm really excited to see what the mod and scenario designers can do with this... the one-shot events are great, but I love the idea of an overarching narrative where your decisions have lasting consequences that lead to future queries.
I think that's enough for now. I'm kind of civ'ed out for the moment - that game took longer than I had expected - but I look forward to trying out some of those cool-looking scenarios. Be warned, God of Winter! The time of wrath draws near!