Seven Civilisations That Should be in Civilization VI

Now that Take Two have introduced four factions as DLC, the pattern of their releases is starting to become clear. It might be too early to assess any pattern to Firaxis’ ongoing release plans, but so far they’ve proved consistent with the base game by maintaining a balance between returning civilisations like Poland and Persia and introducing new ones like Australia and Macedonia (Admittedly, the latter is led by Alexander the Great, so it’s not that new). Similarly,  when Civilization VI launched last year, it included some familiar faces like Teddy Roosevelt’s America, Gandhi’s India and Montezuma’s Aztecs. On the other hand, we’ve also seen some left-field choices like Scythia and the Kongo, and new leaders for the returning classics, with the Romans led by Trajan for the first time, and Catherine Medici now rules the French, (even though she was Italian). It’s like Firaxis are making a special effort to dig deeper into history and look for cultures and play styles that they haven’t included before. That’s great: I’m glad to see the developer working on ways to encourage diversity, both in representation and in the playstyles available. But why stop there?

Here, I’ve collated seven cultures that have never appeared in a Civilization game before. Some of them might be familiar as city states or as off-shoots of other civs, but all of them have something to contribute, whether it’s an interesting play mechanic or a unique feel. Please feel free to mention any other civs you’d like to see in the comments.

1. Switzerland

Ah, Switzerland. Home of fondue, cuckoo clocks and an uncomfortably large stockpile of Nazi gold. It’s a little surprising that the Swiss have never made it into Civilization so far. Maybe it’s because unlike the rest of Europe they’ve spent the last four centuries studiously avoiding war, living at peace with their neighbours and eating chocolate instead of conquering the southern hemisphere. Whatever the reason, no other country in Western Europe has been so overlooked by the developers of Civ as Switzerland (except for Belgium. Poor Belgium).

Whatever the reason, Switzerland should be a tough nut to crack in the game. In Switzerland, every adult receives training in the army and is expected to keep their guns at home, just in case any of their neighbours gets any ideas about sending tanks up the Alps.  How does this work in-game? What it the Swiss received a bonus whenever they’re not at war— like the ability to cross mountains, a great advantage that gives Switzerland an edge while encouraging them to play nice with everyone else? Other bonuses could benefit their civics tree— Switzerland is famous for its tradition of direct democracy, where the people decide on everything from voting reforms to the price of books to whether it should be illegal to drive on Sundays. An advantage when choosing social policies would make the Swiss very flexible— a lot like those knives they give their soldiers.

2. The Timurids

Every Civ game has to have that one civ that no one wants to have as their neighbours. Names like Montezuma, Attila and even Gandhi are enough to send a lot of players into a cold sweat. These are the guys that will never be happy until they’ve declared war on you six times, nuked your cities and carted your last worker unit back to their capital, all the while laughing as you flail pathetically against them.

Tamerlane would make all these guys look like amateurs.

Timur the Lame was a warlord from Central Asia who took one look at his forebear Genghis Khan— the man who conquered everywhere from the Pacific to the Black Sea— and said: “yeah, I can beat that.” He very nearly did. His Wikipedia article reads like a police report on a serial killer: take for example the way he treated the people of Isfahan when they didn’t want to pay their taxes: Timur responded by massacring the populace and built towers out of their skulls outside their walls. And when he sacked Baghdad he issued standing orders to his men to bring back two severed enemy heads. Each. When he invaded India, his opponents decided to rattle his soldiers by using elephants against them. So Timur decided to scare the elephants by charging his camels at them.

Doesn’t sound like much? Did I mention that the camels were on fire?

The estimated casualties ofTimur’s wars might reach as high as many as seventeen million people. That might have been as much as five percent of the population of the Earth at the time. He was so scary that his tomb is said to be cursed: when the Soviets unearthed his remains, they found themselves at war with Nazi Germany three days later, and the Russians only started to win again once they had the sense to but his haunted bones back where they found him.

In the game, the Timurids would be a natural successor to the Mongols and the Huns: an all-out, death-or-glory rushing civ with bonuses when attacking cities (and elephants). But Timur had another side to him: he was a great patron of the arts and intellectuals who oversaw the beginning of a golden age in Persian art. Well, there’s nothing like burning stack of skulls outside your window to inspire you, is there?

3. Israel

This one’s likely to be difficult, since I doubt Firaxis want to leap into the acid bath that is the commentary on Israel. But let’s pretend for the sake of a list on the internet that we live in a better world because there’s a real opportunity here.

Israel doesn’t lack for potential leaders: the chances are you’ve probably heard of a few, like the guy with the sling and his famously smart son. If Firaxis are feeling brave, they could even go with a certain king who may or may not have ordered the murder of a whole load of babies.

In gameplay terms, Israel would be best suited towards a defensive strategy: this is a nation that survived for hundred years against the best the world had to throw at it. Israel survived invasion, occupation and assimilation from the Assyrians to the Persians to the Greeks, before the almighty Borg cube that was the Rome Empire finally absorbed it. Even then, the Israelites put up a hell of a fight: at the siege of Masada, nine hundred Jewish rebels held out for months against nine thousand Roman soldiers, before choosing to kill each other rather than surrender. But Israel’s also famous as a centre for religious devotion, with a long, long list of religious figures and prophets calling it home: maybe the in-game civ has a bonus towards generating great prophets, or a stubborn refusal to be converted to another civ’s religion. These bonuses would synergise well in a civilisation that gains strength and produces culture from protective structures: this is the home of the Walls of Jericho, after all.

4. The Normans

This one’s up for debate since throughout its history Normandy has been part of the France, which is already in Civ VI.  And the Normans were certainly very French: they spoke French, swore loyalty to the French king, built castles and cathedrals and did the sort of stuff you expect in an average episode of Game of Thrones. But hey: if Civ VI can have three civs that all speak English, it can manage to squeeze in another one that speaks French.

It would be a shame to exclude the Normans on a technicality since they were among history’s all-time greatest badasses. The Game of Thrones comparison is not much of an exaggeration: George RR Martin has admitted that he based the Targaryens in part on the House of Normandy (though presumably, he made up the bit about the dragons). The Normans were originally Vikings who settled in northern France and promised the French king that they’d help to keep the other Vikings out, in one of history’s greatest protection rackets. After that they were causing trouble just about everywhere in the medieval world: whether conquering southern Italy, leading the Crusades or fighting as mercenaries for the Byzantine emperor, the Normans were the Middle Age equivalent of an out-of-control stag party, drinking and fighting everywhere they went.

Then there was that time that a bunch of them shot the English king in the eye and took his country. You might have heard about it.

In the game, the Normans would be natural raiders, leading knightly charges or peppering their foes with longbow fire: bonuses to pillaging tiles and resources would make sense. But the Normans were also renowned as builders, so they’d be well suited to bonuses when creating castles and churches.

There’s only one choice for who could lead this boisterous band of brigands: after all, how many leaders in history can you honestly say was a real bastard without getting into trouble from a history teacher?

5. The Phoenicians

Carthage has been featured in every Civ game since the second, whether in the base game or expansions. But if Firaxis feel like making a change (or they’re running out of Carthaginian city names), they may want to widen the scope to include Phoenicia as a whole Carthage was the most successful colony founded by the Phoenicians— merchants, traders and sailors from the city-states of the Levant (modern Lebanon). From their home cities of Tyre, Sidon and Beirut, their trading network spanned the whole Mediterranean Sea, reaching as far as Spain and Somalia. They made their name as the middlemen of the ancient world by buying silver from Spain, gold from Egypt wine from Greece and selling their monopoly on Tyrian dye.

Besides making themselves very rich, the Phoenicians have many accomplishments to their name. They were one of the first civilisations to use a recognisable alphabet, which they introduced to Europe. Their cities were run by oligarchies and the rule of law at a time when the rest of the world was still under the sway of god-kings and pharaohs. They were the first people to sail around Africa. They practised sacred prostitution. They sacrificed their children to gods that they didn’t so much worship as cower in terror from in the hope they’d go away. And then there are the things that Carthage got up to, like Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants to scare the heck out of the Romans (some of the elephants even survived!).

In Civ VI, The Phoenicians should be a terror on the ancient seas, with advantages when building (and sinking) ships.   They should benefit from a robust trade network and bonuses based on collecting and selling luxury resources. Stay home, build your ships, get rich, and if anyone argues you can send in the elephants.

6. Florence

Strangely enough, the Civilization series is that it has never featured Italy as a united nation. That’s probably a quirk of history since there was no united Italy for some fourteen hundred years between the fall of Rome and the nineteenth century. Two of the most prominent Italian cities— Rome and Venice— have been featured in past instalments, and there are a dozen others that they could feature in the future, but surely there is no other Italian city crying out for attention like Florence.

Anyone who’s played Assassin’s Creed II knows why Florence should be in Civ. Think of the people who made Florence their home over the centuries: Botticelli; Machiavelli; Dante (not that one!]); Leonardo; Michelangelo. The list of artists and thinkers that lived in worked in Florence reads like a Who’s Who of genius (and potential names for Ninja Turtles). Under the leadership of the Medici banking clan/crime syndicate, Florence became the epicentre of the Renaissance that dragged Europe out of the Middle Ages and into the greatest cultural flourishing the West had seen since Rome. The Medici banking network stretched across Europe and beyond, and the richer the Medici became, the more money they had to pimp out their city, and the more time Leonardo had to spend in his workshop painting women with strange smiles and inventing helicopters and death rays in his spare time.

But Florence was never a massive world power, and in Civ VI Florence could take a cue from the way Venice played in Civ V and be limited to one city. A one-city Florence would challenge the player to plan ahead, to build an unassailable artistic legacy with only one city to fall back on. Financial bonuses would be a necessity, but Florence should be in a position to thrive as a cultural powerhouse, with extra points towards great artists and no limit on the number of artworks they can put in their museums. And if anyone feels like bullying them or carrying off the treasures of Florence for themselves, well, the Medici can always afford to pay them off…

7. The Nazca

The Nazca culture flourished in Peru in the first millennium AD. They didn’t build cities— they closest they had was a cult centre at Cahuachi that was mostly a temple complex/marketplace, and not a place where people lived or worked— it was certainly a lot smaller than the great pre-Columbian cities of Mesoamerica and the Andes. But the Nazca still managed to leave behind some of the finest artwork in the Americas: beautiful pottery and textiles, finely crafted and inlaid with images of animals and their gods.

None of which are as interesting as the Nazca lines.

The Nazca desert is home to hundreds of gigantic images etched in the sand— most are quite small, but the largest stretch for about a third of a kilometre and the only way to see them is from an elevated vantage point. Some of them are simple lines or shapes, but the most famous depict monkeys, birds, whales and people. It’s like finding a lost Banksy piece on a humongous scale. What’s fascinating about them is that no one is exactly sure what the Nazca people made them for. Were they used to calculate the movement of the heavens and the time of year, like Stonehenge? Were they meant to communicate with the gods, looking down on humanity from an unimaginable height? Were they designed to provide a landing strip for alien spacecraft (probably not)? We may never know.

It would be great to see the Nazca lines in Civ as a tile improvement for otherwise useless desert tiles, generating extra faith, culture and tourism. As for other benefits: the Nazca had a reputation for collecting heads. It’s not clear if this had a ritual purpose or they just wanted to keep the heads of their enemies as trophies, but it could provide the basis for a unique unit that would scare the heck out of their enemies.

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Nemo

 

In the year of the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus, fifty-nine years before the birth of Christ, there lives a prostitute in Rome named Nemo.

I hope I shall be forgiven for the conceit of naming my protagonist: “Nobody”. That is not her birth name, of course, nor is it the alias she provided to the aedile when she registered her profession. Indeed, I have not fully concluded any details about her or her life. There is much about her that remains mysterious to me, and so the duty falls to me to paint upon the blank canvas of her existence.

Now there were many classes of prostitutes in the twilight days of the Republic, though I suppose she is rather more successful than the common sort, for she eats well keeps quarters of her own upon the Aventine, perhaps keeping a slave or two. There are so many possible backgrounds from which to choose, each offering such a surfeit of narrative potential that I am loath to choose just one. Perhaps she is a foreign slave, a woman from Pontus captured by the legions of Crassus when he vanquished Mithridates. No, that will not do: she must be a Roman, well-educated and literate, as many of her profession were. She needs to be of gentle birth, from a well-to-do family, a patrician gens of great antiquity that has fallen on hard times in the tumult of the Republic’s death throes- perhaps they were reduced to poverty by the proscription of the tyrant Sulla, and this poor dove must now endure the infamy of harlotry if she is to survive in an uncaring world. Yes. There is pathos to her plight that I find most appealing. Perchance her family is a famous one, and she is a hitherto anonymous descendant of Brutus the Regicide, or Cato the Censor, or an unknown cousin of Tully. I wonder what other great scions of Rome could trace their ancestry to my Nemo: it is within my power to make her the progenitrix of Agrippina, Honoria and Theodora. Perhaps she is my own ancestress, and her blood calls to me across the abyss of time and space.

It is past midday, a fine spring morning. Nemo is waiting for someone in the Forum Romanum. Ironically, she is standing next to the Temple of Vesta. Most common harlots would avoid the Forum, but Nemo is a woman of taste and distinction, able to simply imitate the manners of a respectable Roman maiden so that she move effortlessly among the upper crust of society without attracting attention.

She listens to three senators of some small importance whose names have been lost to history. They discuss their misgivings over some plot or other between Crassus, Pompey and Caesar. I deem that Nemo is an intelligent and engaged young woman who believes that Crassus is too good a man to need the support of butcher Pompey and philanderer Caesar. One of them turns and sees her, and she smiles. He is one of her clients, an overweight man who refers to his wife as “that frigid shrew”, and orders Nemo to call him Domine! and Taure! and other such nonsense to compensate for his lack of vigour. Last time he was inside her he lasted two minutes and eighteen seconds, though he demanded that she attend to him for another hour, since he is a rather miserly soul who demands his money’s worth in all things. He flushes as he sees her, and then wanders off, leaving his colleagues bewildered. Nemo laughs.

An hour passes. Nemo watches the pigeons defecate on the curia. Then she spies a young man in the distance and waves to him to attract his attention. He is a client of hers, a man of equestrian rank and therefore still eats well enough to afford my Nemo. He is younger than the fat senator, and handsome, after a fashion, though his hair is prematurely thinning to reveal an oversized forehead, and he tends too much towards the skinny. He is a poet, by inclination and vocation, and though I would dearly like to believe that my Nemo is not so shallow as to be swayed by such frivolity, I must conclude that she is somewhat smitten with the young man. If her heart were easily won then it would not be worth winning, but I must allow her some small weakness. It would only add to her charm.

She greets him, Salve, Gaius Valerius. It is not entirely proper for her to address him so without his cognomen, but alas! I cannot bring myself to name the undeserving wretch who has so easily swayed her heart.

The poet responds. Salve, Nemo. He remarks that it is a fine day, today, and suggests that he walk with her a while. She agrees, and they promenade about the forum. They hear a nuncio announce from the Rostra that Calpurnia Pisonis is engaged to marry Gaius Julius Caesar, to general indifference from the crowd. The impertinent youth is in favour of the marriage, since he is an ignoramus who does not realise that the marriage will founder upon the rocks of childlessness and Caesar’s dalliance with the last of the Ptolemies.

The youth is nervous, and stumbles over many of his words. Nemo finds his awkwardness charming, and takes it as a compliment, for he is clearly in awe of her. I do not blame him, for it goes without saying that she is beautiful, since that is a basic requirement of her employment, or least for its success. Moreover, it is not the insipid beauty of emaciation and ultraviolet bombardment favoured in the twenty-first century, but a classic, Roman beauty. She is full figured: her hips are broad and sensual, her thighs firm, toned. Her skin is fashionably pale, though I suspect it would have to be painted with cosmetics, since maintaining a natural pallor would be difficult when one must endure the Mediterranean sun every day. It is a great shame, for she doesn’t need to paint her face to be beautiful: her face is a perfect heart shape, framed delicately by her long, iridescent tresses. Her hair is dark, a shade of midnight black that reflects the light of the world. She reminds me of a comely young lady I knew once, an enchanting maiden with whom I was enamoured until she laughed at me and rendered me a cuckold.

The couple speaks for a while about pleasant irrelevances. The price of wine. The difficulty of finding a good tailor. They would not be out of place in a Victorian novel or a fashionable Sunday night drama. Comfortable civility fills the air between them. He recites a poem about a girl playing with her sparrow. She smiles at that. She thinks it is about her, poor thing!

They wind their way out of the forum and up towards the Palatine, which in my own day is pleasantly forested. I would like to imagine it was also so in that charming afternoon in 59 BC, before Nero inflicted his monstrously gaudy palace upon it, so that Nemo and her unworthy suitor may spend a while in the shade, away from the heat, and talk about nothing in particular.

Twilight falls on the Eternal City. Nemo looks about the hill, to ensure there is no one else about. There isn’t. They are alone beneath the awakening stars. She moves in close to the boy –and be assured, whatever his age, that he is still a boy! – and brushes against his thigh with long, delicate fingers. She runs her hand up his chest, his neck, and cups his face just below his ear, and kisses him. Gently at first, then with greater passion.

She feels the urgency start to grow deep within her, in the tingling of her chest, the warmth between her legs. The boy is slow to respond, of course, so she reaches down to his groin, begins to stroke him. Slowly, he starts to stir. He moans a little, bites his lip. She unties the girdle around her waist, lifts up her skirts, lowers herself onto him, starts to rock gently back and forth.

She sighs as she rides him, and for once her pleasure is not feigned. He begins to caress her breasts, to kiss her neck. Then he turns her around, violently, pushes her onto her hands and knees, enters her from behind, mounts her. He whispers a name, but it is not hers. Lesbia. Over and over, faster and faster, he says the name. Lesbia. Lesbia. Lesbia.

Ungrateful swine! Most wretched of sinners! You have before you the most exquisite woman in the Seven Hills, a jewel among pebbles, all yours to take delight in, and you profane her so with the name of another woman! You will not even look upon her perfect face and see her sighs of pleasure for yourself. You cannot see her face, her bright-eyed desire that she has only for you, unworthy Catullus! Even here, even now, in the presence of this goddess, you cannot forget your adulteress and her fucking sparrow! You long for a mere girl who is beyond your grasp when you could have a woman, willing and expectant! No shame, no ignominy is too great for you!

But I am the author of your tale, Catullus: this is my realm, and I am more powerful than Jove and Apollo and Hercules combined. You shall not escape my retribution! You reach your pinnacle too soon, leaving dear, sweet Nemo unsatisfied. She employs her powers in an effort to rouse you, only to be rewarded with flaccidity. She sighs and whispers falsehoods in your ear, that it happens to all men, that you lasted for far, far longer than most, that she enjoyed it nevertheless and reached the plateau of her own pleasure several times. But you and I know better, O Catullus. We know the truth: that when called upon to perform you have failed as a lover and as a man.

It is dark now. Nemo leaves for her quarters. She sleeps pleasantly, though she must attend to herself first to finish what Catullus could not. She does not think of him. But another fate awaits the poet when he returns home. For I am already waiting for him, lurking behind his door with the knife in my hand, ready to inflict the same fate upon him that Caesar will endure scant years from now. Once the scoundrel has laid down his head, I make my move. I stand over his sleeping form with my blade drawn, and then…

I realise that death would be too easy for him to endure, and that it is within my power to inflict a far greater doom upon this wicked bastard. I lean into his ear, and I smile as I echo his own words back to him:

I shall bugger you and fuck you in the face,

Faggot and shirt-lifter Gaius Catullus,

You who think that because your little poems

Are rather girly, you have a trace of shame.

For a true poet should exercise virtue

Himself, but you have never practiced any.

Your poems are witless, without any charm

They mistake sensitivity for passion

Useful only when they arouse some small itch

In hairless youths and little rich buggers who

Suffer from acute erectile dysfunction.

Since you cannot escape the throes of cliché

You are worthless as a man and as a poet.

I shall bugger you and fuck you in the face

I shall use the power at my disposal, far beyond the cretinous imaginings of this human sputum. I shall send him somewhere cold and distant- perhaps to Bithynia- where he shall know the company of no woman. I shall curse him so that his precious Lesbia never loves him, and spurns his every advance. I shall ensure he dies young and unremarked, and condemn him to centuries of obscurity. The greater lights of Horace, Virgil and Juvenal shall eclipse him: no one shall ever ask Gaius Valerius Catullus to be their guide through the Inferno! Finally, many centuries later, when he is rediscovered, he shall little more than a figure of fun amongst English grammar schoolboys, who shall delight in his childish vulgarity and mock him for his failure to win the heart of his beloved. His obscene words shall be better known than the sensitive ones he is so fond of, and the entire world will know that I am the better man!

I take my leave of him. There is only one thing left for me to do. When dawn awakens, fresh and rosy-fingered, I go to Nemo’s home and take her into my arms. I kiss her. She tastes of pomegranates and full summer days. She tells me that wants to know only me, that she would refuse the embrace of Jupiter himself over mine. We make love, over and over again, until every nerve is numb with the sweet, desperate ache for each other. The days melt together. How much time has passed? Every morning I cover her with kisses, more kisses than there are grains of Libyan sand in salty Cyrene. Every time, I watch the light of her eyes as she climaxes. Sing, O Venuses and Cupids, for we have triumphed over Catullus and his accursed sparrow!

I realise that she deserves better than this, my queen, my Nemo. She deserves better than to live in an age of squalor, war and uncertainty. And I realise that it is within my power to grant her every happiness. I could ensure that she lives a long and happy life, that she will never want for anything, but shall eat with finest meals and keep the finest servants. Of course, I shall have to make it so that she never knows the touch of another man: for she must be mine, and mine alone. I could have her join a priesthood- not the Vestals, of course, since she must remain free for me to enjoy. I can make it so that she keeps her beauty for many years, so that folk wonder how she remains so radiant, fresh, perfect, until at last she comes to an end in the year 4 AD, so that she may now peace under the reign of Augustus. She shall be forgotten by history and known only to me. My world. My love. My Nemo.

Yes. It shall be so. Tomorrow.

 

When morning comes I wake up, and turn to face my beloved. She isn’t there. I search every room in the house, desperate, feverish, aching for the touch of her fingers, the warmth of her breath. She isn’t there. I head out into the street and I interrogate everyone who might have seen her. Blank stares. I call her name- her true name, the name I didn’t give her- until my throat is coarse. For days and days I search, from the catacombs to the Capitol, from the Esquiline to Tiber Island. In all the streets and caponae, in all the bathhouses and temples, mansions and slave-markets, there is not the slightest sign of my darling.

Where has she gone?

Who has taken her?

Has she left me?

Why would she leave me?

How could she leave me?

 

I hate her, and I love her. One may ask why I would do that to myself.

I do not know, but I feel it, and I am tormented!