Using Improvements and Wonders

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Modifying city improvements and Wonders of the World in a way to make these more than just cosmetic alterations.

by Michael Daumen (September 1999)


Using Improvements and Wonders to the Fullest

Sadly, the customization of improvements is the most frequently overlooked aspect of scenario design. Players - and consequently designers - often pay little or no attention to the names and pictures of city improvements and even wonders of the world, despite the existence of icon compilations on the net. But if approached with care, the changes you make to city improvements are more than just cosmetic. With some creativity a designer can

  1. highlight the differences between civilizations;
  2. transform average cities or nations into powerhouses; and
  3. educate Civ2 players about the era their scenario portrays.

Everyone is familiar with the names and effects of city improvements and wonders of the world in Civilization II, so I will not go over them here. What I will do is examine several groups of improvements in detail to show some of the design possibilities available. And since attention to improvements requires attention to technology, I will also point out several relationships between improvements and technologies.

The Multi-level Groups

This is my name for several types of improvements that duplicate and add to the effects of each other: Marketplaces, Banks, and Stock Exchanges; Libraries, Universities, and Research Labs; and Factories and Manufacturing Plants. For each group, the you can only build the latter buildings in a city if all previous ones are present. However, they function independently of each other so nothing keeps you from selling the lower-level improvements.

As a quick example, say I an planning a game with Greeks, English, and Arabs. For Greek towns I plan to use agoras, English towns will have fairs, and Arabic towns will have bazaars - all with the exact same effects. To do this I take the following steps:

  1. rename market to agora, bank to fair and stock market to bazaar in rules.txt.
  2. change all prerequisites for these buildings to nil, nil.
  3. make new icons for these improvements.
  4. build agoras in one Arab, Greek and English city with the cheat function.
  5. build fairs in the Arab and English cities (now available because "markets" have been built).
  6. build a bazaar in the Arab cities (because "banks" have been built).
  7. sell agoras in the English cities.
  8. sell agoras and fairs in the Arabic cities.
  9. change the building prerequisite to no, no, (or Pedia tech).
  10. copy the improvements from these cities to all others of the same tribe. In the alternative, you can take these steps for all cities in the nation.

Now each tribe has their own market-type wonder, and cannot make the others. The only disadvantage is that cities founded by someone playing the scenario cannot make any of these units unless you make the tech available.

The Temple - Oracle Group

Temples are cheap and effective ways to prevent unhappiness. The larger a civilization becomes - in terms of city size AND number of cities - the more important happiness becomes. So if your scenario involves cities over size 5 at the outset, you may already be planning to use temples. It is important to not at the outset that temples will not work AT ALL unless they are made available by Ceremonial Burial (or whatever you rename the "Cer" tech in rules).

But you can make temples up to four times as effective from one nation to the next by using the Mysticism ("Mys") technology and the Oracle wonder (which doesn't have to be made available with Mys). By preventing Mysticism from being traded (to do this, set its prerequisites to no, no; you can give it to a nation while designing or with events), you can restrict this effect to certain civilizations. Similarly, the Oracle will make one nation's temples work better - and offer a tempting target to disorderly nations.

Sl useimprv temple.png

In a modern-day scenario I renamed Temples to TV Stations. Thus Cer became Television or Broadcasting. What makes TV better? In my case, I thought satellites, which I was planning to use in the scenario anyway - so I used the Mys slot. And in place of the Oracle, I reasoned that reruns of old movies (plus the icon in allicons) justified the Hollywood wonder in Los Angeles.

The Granary - Pyramids Pair

This group is one of three where possession of the wonder makes construction of the underlying improvement impossible. Thus, if your renamed Granary looks out-of-place in a Mongol camp or Mayan Ziggurat, give them the Pyramids and they can't make any.

Sl useimprv gran.png

The Research Lab - SETI Pair

This pair is identical to the Granary-Pyramids concept: if a nation has the SETI wonder it cannot build research labs. However, this may work in your favor if you wanted to have four different technology improvements: give libraries to one, universities to a second, labs to a third and SETI to the fourth!

The Cathedral - Michaelangelo's Chapel Pair

This pair works just like the other two, with a few wrinkles. The basic premise is still the same: a civilization with Michelangelo's cannot build Cathedrals. A good example is Harlan Thompson's Mongols scenario - the Arabs have this wonder and so cannot build Christian churches. However, like Temples and Ceremonial Burial, civilizations using either Cathedrals or Michelangelo's Chapel MUST have Monotheism (MT) and it must be the prerequisite for both improvements.

However, you can still allow for differences between nations with using Theology (The) and Communism (Cmn). Nations with Theology have more powerful cathedrals; nations without Theology and with Communism have weaker ones (a nation with both techs has normal cathedrals).

The Power Plant Mess

The most complex group comes last, because it is a mix of both the multi-level improvements and the improvement-wonder pairs. It will help to explain the normal game function here, so bear with this repetitive information:

  1. Only after there is a Factory in a city can you build a Manufacturing Plant. This idea has already been introduced in Section I.
  2. If a city has EITHER a factory OR a manufacturing plant, it can build a Power Plant, Hydro Plant, Nuclear Plant, or Solar Plant. These improvements, or the Hoover Dam wonder WILL NOT WORK unless a Factory or Manufacturing Plant is present in the city.
  3. Hydro plants are limited to cities with rivers or mountains in their radii, but you can make one anywhere by copying another city's improvements in the cheat menu.
  4. A city with a nuclear plant that experiences disorder may cause meltdown. This effect ends when the nation discovers the Fusion Power tech (FP).
  5. Once you build one of the following - Power Plant, Hydro Plant, Nuclear Plant, Solar Plant - in a city, the city can't build anything else in that group unless the original plant is sold.
  6. A nation with the Hoover Dam can only build Solar Plants from the group in b. in its cities (this is because of the special pollution-reducing effects of Solar Plants). No other plants can be built after a civilization has the Hoover Dam (so it works exactly like the Granary-Pyramids pair for Power, Hydro and Nuclear Plants).

If this sounds complicated, it is - but it allows for a fantastic variety of ways to increase city production from nation to nation. Using the technique of multilevel improvements, you could give half your nations factories, and the other half plants. Then you could give power, hydro, nuclear, and solar plants to particular nations, and Hoover Dam to a fifth. You could restrict the "plant" wonders to particular cities in particular regions of the world. In the Birth of America scenario I gave southern cities nuclear plants (renamed Plantations) that caused revolts until the Slave Trade ended (by the nation acquiring FP tech).

Sl useimprv pplant.png
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