“Ethiopia rightfully earns its place on the Civ VI roster and outshines much of the competition.”
The second content drop of the Civilization VI New Frontier Pass has finally dropped, introducing Ethiopia to the game as a playable civilisation for the very first time. And that’s not all! There are some super-secret additions which come alongside the former kingdom of Menelik II, too, as well as some new spins on some original leaders and a whole new district to take advantage off across the wider game. It is an exciting wealth of new content whether you pay for the full package of content or simple take advantage of what has been made available freely to all. So, lets dive in and see what’s what in the Ethiopia Pack and the latest main game update.
Ethiopia and Menelik II
The headline addition of this content pack is of course the new Ethiopia civilisation and its leader, Menelik II. Ethiopia is a civ which focusses heavily on faith, with the added advantages of a proud history which will draw in tourists from around the world. Menelik and his people are also very fond of hills, with a variety of bonuses bestowed upon those cities that settle, work, and live atop them. Menelik’s Council of Ministers leader ability can offer strong benefits from turn one if the lay of the land is right for the player, offering science and culture bonuses equalling 15% of a cities faith if it is founded on a hill tile. This works out to be an increasingly useful mark-up as your early cities progress, allowing you to focus your civilisations growth across the board simply by pumping your faith per turn. Hills also provide an additional +4 combat strength bonus to Menelik’s units, and his unique Oromo Cavalry receive no movement penalty for crossing them. Their increased line of sight over the Courser unit that they replace sweetens the deal further still. Put simply, if you can hill as Ethiopia, do.
Ethiopia’s unique civilisation ability is called Aksumite Legacy, and offers faith bonuses for international trade and improved resource tiles. This helps with that early game push and works in perfect synergy with Menelik’s own ability. As the game progresses, though, it is still worth stocking up on Ethiopia’s faith levels, as the civ holds the powerful unique ability to claim Archaeology Museums and Archaeologists with faith. This will boost your later game tourism and culture numbers significantly if deployed across your civ, and can even allow you to clear up the archaeological sites on the map ahead of your opponents if pushed for early. When it comes to Ethiopia’s faith and tourism coffers, the fun isn’t over yet. The unique tile improvement for the civ also boosts these numbers with the construction of the Rock Hewn Church. Buildable only on hill tops, as is the clear running theme for the civ, the Rock Hewn Church improvement is well worth your time and effort, providing an inherent +1 Faith with additional faith earned through adjacency to even more hills or mountains. The church also provides tourism from faith with Ethiopia’s research of the flight technology, alongside a tidy +1 appeal bonus for the tile it is built on. And of course, just to make sure you can place the church next to the maximum number of tasty bonus mountains, natural disasters (such as volcanoes, for example) cannot destroy this improvement, but merely pillage it.
Frankly, the number of stackable bonuses which Ethiopia bring to the tactical, faith-focussed player are astonishing. Truly, the “Stonks” meme springs to mind. Ethiopia are an excellent civ for the less combat focussed Civ player, and those that have nailed the mechanic of adjacency bonuses and smart, patient settling and expansion. Should you start next to hill terrain at the inception of the game, too, then you are near guaranteed to play at an advantage to your opponents. A fine addition to an already impressive array of civs on offer, Ethiopia rightfully earns its place on the Civ VI roster and outshines much of the competition.
New District – Diplomatic Quarter
Whilst it may be a small splash in the pond that is this update, the new Diplomatic Quarter is one of my favourite, albeit one of the most needed, additions of the package. In essence, its main mark on the game is relatively small; for each delegation sent or embassy established by a foreign civ, your civ receives a +1 bonus to its Diplomatic Favour. The reason I very much like this is that it gives these actions purpose when playing against other players. AI diplomacy is critical when playing against non-player civs, but other players can make these decisions about who is friend or foe without having to use the diplomacy mechanics at all. Now there is a benefit to utilising these systems when playing with other people, and that, for me, fixes a long-standing hole in some of the thought behind Civ VI’s diplomacy.
In addition to the above detail, the Diplomatic Quarter also offers an envoy if you construct it adjacent to a city centre and reduces the level of enemy spies in the district and those next to it by 2 levels. These are very worthwhile effects to have on board in one of your most important cities, but it is crucial to choose wisely as the Diplomatic Quarter is unique and can only be built once in your civilisation. The longer-term upgrades on offer come in the form of the Consulate and Chancery buildings. The former provides +2 influence points per turn and further reduces enemy spy levels by 1 if the city being spied upon contains and Encampment District. The Chancery on the other hand offers +3 influence points and provides you with 50 science per level for any spy your civilisation captures or kills. This latter action has been a minor bargaining chip mechanic in the past, but now has additional purpose as well. Effectively, the purpose of the Diplomatic Quarter is to fill some holes, but in doing so it earns a rightful place on the district roster and further tightens the already sharp main game.
Secret Societies Game Mode
Alongside the titular addition of Ethiopia to the game, a new game mode awaits New Frontier Pass owners with the latest major update. Secret Societies adds, well, secret societies to Civilization VI, each of which have significant, powerful abilities to offer loyal members which may completely change the way you choose to play the game.
Early into play, you may be invited to join one of four different societies. Each has its own Governor-style progression tree, with abilities, bonuses, policy slots and even units for members to make use of. You must choose wisely, though, as you can only join one secret society per game and once you have joined there is no going back… Your membership of a society can ultimately gain you powerful friends in the world or equally powerful enemies, so it is important to consider not only who you side with, but who you think your opponents may have sided with too. The most fun, however, naturally comes from your solo decision and what you get for it. There are four possibilities on the table.
Owls of Minerva
First off the mark are the Owls of Minerva. Now I didn’t tell you this, but the Owls of Minerva can be found by sending an envoy to a City State that you don’t already have an envoy at; though naturally their discovery in this way in not guaranteed. Policy slots are the speciality of the Owls, with an Economic slot unlocked at Level 1 and a Wildcard slot on offer down the line at Level 3. Alongside these big boons are benefits to your gold and espionage endeavours. The Gilded Vault building replaces your Bank at the Commercial Hub and grants the latter an additional culture adjacency bonus equal to that of its gold bonus. At Level 4, your economic growth is pushed to the max with an additional turn-based income equal to 3% of your current treasury value. Now that is interesting (sorry).
On the espionage front, the Owls believe in keeping their enemies close and their spies closer. At Level 3, your undercover operations are given a massive leg up with an additional +2 spy capacity heading your way, and an incentive to keep these spies local with a +4 loyalty bonus and +1 amenity to any home city where a spy is stationed. At Level 4, though, you might consider pushing them out into the world, with each operational success granting a 50% return on the gold, culture, science and faith that the spied-upon city earned during that turn. If you enjoy sitting back, making bank, playing politics and pulling the strings behind the scenes, the Owls of Minerva may suit you; if you can find them, of course…
You didn’t hear this from me, but rumour has it that the Voidsingers society can be found amongst the tribal villages of the world… The Voidsingers call out the Old Gods to grant faith and loyalty to their members, whilst diminishing that of its would-be adversaries. It is a join or be consumed type deal, if you will. Membership starts off friendly enough at Level 1 with the replacement of your bland and superficial monument structure with a more meaningful and powerful Old God Obelisk. In addition to your cultural earnings, this structure provides a hefty +4 faith to support your early game push (perhaps this bonus would suit a certain new civilisation…) along with an open Great Work slot for you to store any object or creation of note which the Old God’s might appreciate… Things remain civil and highly beneficial at Level 2 with the Voidsingers as well, with all cities being granted science, culture and of course gold equal to 20% of the faith output. Stacking with other benefits can make this a wildly powerful early-mid game bonus.
It is at Levels 3 and 4 that the more devious nature of the Voidsingers comes to light. At Level 3, players who support the ways and rites of the Voidsingers unlock the Cultist unit. Acting much like the faith-focussed Missionaries, Cultists are bought with the same resource but rather than spreading religion they recruit followers and spread dissent in opposing cities. This will ultimately bring down the owning player’s loyalty and cause their people’s allegiance to waver. At Level 4, Voidsinger-aligned players can increase this loyalty-diminishing effect by performing a Dark Summoning project in their own cities which offers more faith and increases the power of the Cultists. Essentially, the Voidsingers suit players who already have a strong Faith focus and offer the opportunity to flip cities without ever needing to raise a sword or fire a bullet. It’s an aggressive pacifist’s paradise.
If you have been wondering where you might naturally find the Hermetic Order, the answer was somewhere in this sentence… The Hermetic Order suits civilisations which aspire to do great things, with powers which draw from the supernatural forces of the Earth itself to push that civilisation forward. At Level 1, followers of the Hermetic Order become privy to the knowledge of ley lines; rivers of supernatural energy flowing across the Earth in lines similar to latitude and longitude. Acting as a resource, ley lines offer adjacency bonuses to districts; a fairly mild bonus at this stage but one which grows in power as the Level’s progress. In preparation for this, Level 2 sees the Campus district boosted and diversified in its output, with a unique Alchemical Society structure replacing the traditional University. In addition to its predecessor’s benefits, the Alchemical Society provides gold equal to the Campus’ natural science output, as well as +2 production and points towards both Great Merchants and Engineers. A significantly larger boost to your civ than that offered at Level 1, the Alchemical Society is a huge early-to-mid game asset.
For the science-loving Civ-er, the list of boons is not done yet. At Level 3, the Hermetic Order sees ley lines earn a yield in-line with every Great Person’s key resource type, along with Generals and Admirals meriting science on top of this base gain. All of these stacking additional yields quickly add up to allow for rapid growth and development in your cities; particularly on the scientific front. Nevertheless, a small growth in science will only leave you wanting more. Therefore, at Level 4, Hermetic Order-ees can complete the Occult Research project in their cities. Whilst still in progress this project provides a healthy output of gold, but that certainly isn’t the main highlight of the action. Upon completion, a wealth of great people points are awarded to the player along with additional science for every, yes every, ley line within the city’s borders. Yikes. If you are a science-focussed player who likes to get ahead of the opposition when it comes to your tech tree, the Hermetic Order are waiting.
Arguably the best, but certainly the most exciting society has been left until last. The Sanguine Pact are found amongst the less civilised peoples of Civ, but once these ruffians are despatched a strange an unusual power may overcome the victorious player. Joining the Sanguine Pact is to hand over a part of your soul to the darkness, but what is offered in return is an overwhelming, otherworldly power. At Level 1, the Sanguine Pact offers its allies a Vampire unit. These cannot be purchased and must therefore be used intelligently by their masters but are valuable and lethal assets under the right command. If you are a bit slap-dash with them though, don’t panic, these units cannot die. If defeated, they simply revert to the capital at 1hp and can heal by pillaging tiles of its enemies. Not spooky at all. At Level 2, the Vampire can construct its own castle in either owned of neutral territory. This allows it to respawn at the castle rather than a city, and the structure offers a defensive benefit to any unit which occupies it too. For a Vampire’s castle, it is not too shabby! Oh, and of course a second Vampire is borne into your ranks, too.
In terms of its actual strength compared to existing, more mainstream soldiers on the board, the Vampire is unique in that its base combat strength is equal to your strongest built unit upon its arrival, and its strength increases with every unit it kills. I wonder why that might be? Furthermore, upon reaching Level 3, Vampires become capable of intimidating their enemies, causing them to lose combat strength by being in its proximity. This comes with the added benefit of your third Vampire, and at this stage the pillage action only costs the unit a single movement point, too. Finally, at Level 4, the benefits of the Sanguine Pact’s Vampiric Reign do begin to stale somewhat. A fourth and final Vampire becomes available to you, but the only added benefit at this stage is the ability to airlift to and from your various Vampires’ castles. It’s an ironic anti-climax given the theme of the Sanguine Pact society, but the earlier benefits, when stacked, more than make up for the somewhat shallow finale.
The secret societies game mode really does add an unpredictable element into the game. Finding a new civ never traditionally surprises you all that much in Civ VI, as long-time players will have an idea of what each is capable of and the in-game scoring gives you a solid idea of their relative progression versus your own. The secret societies, though, until discovered or revealed by that player, are an element of mystery which leave you wondering who your opponents might have gone with. Even once this detail is known, the benefits that each society offers are powerful enough to fully change the way you play, and many players will likely develop favourites based on their playstyle. The societies are well balanced and offer advantages to suit most, if not all, playstyles, and I see them as a very valid and welcome variant of the vanilla gameplay options.
The final big addition to Civ VI in this flurry of updates is a pair of new personas for Theodore Roosevelt and Catherine De Medici respectively. These provide the leaders with different personalities based on their histories, each with a new set of agendas and of course new unique abilities. For Teddy, the Bull Moose persona offers breathtaking tiles next to natural wonders or mountain tiles a +2 bonus to Science. Similarly, breathtaking tiles next to wonders or woodlands offer +2 culture, along with cities containing National Parks receiving +1 appeal. It is a much more naturalistic look t Teddy than his more aggressive Rough Rider persona, which offered combat bonuses and a unique unit. In line with these boons, Teddy now likes civs which are appealing and dislikes ones which are not. As an AI, Teddy might become something of a force for frustration for players, though, settling near high appeal tiles and building more wonders (and high appeal districts) with this new persona. He’s friendlier now, but don’t be surprised if he gets in the way.
Catherine De Medici’s new persona is subtly entitled Magnificence. Here, Catherine expresses her great joy at having access to the finer things in life, with this persona being focussed around luxury resources and showing them off to the world. Any luxury resources which have been improved next to either her unique Chateaux structure or the Theatre Square provide +2 culture as a bonus; not bad! Further to this, though, Catherine’s Magnificence finally brings a benefit to all of those duplicated luxury resources. Whilst they still do not provide amenities (sorry), Catherine’s unique Court Festival project will bring the player a culture and a tourism bonus in line with the number of excess luxury resources which France has improved. This is great news for anyone who likes to settle next to all of the wines, spices and incense that the world has to offer, with the new persona as a whole being well-suited to culture victory seekers. As an AI, Catherine will like you if, you guessed it, you trade her luxury resources, and dislike you if you have not. She will also try to collect as many copies of resources as she can, so even as an AI player she is likely to help you out with the pennies if you support her “needs”.
The New Frontier Pass continues to bear a great wealth of fruit just a couple of short months after its inception. So far, the value for money seems on point to me as a long-time player, with the only clear shortfall in the concept being that new players still need not apply. Nevertheless, focussed on content alone rather than its ultimate recipient, the pass has persisted in giving a solid but ageing game a new breath of life. With a truly unique and significantly powerful new Civ in Ethiopia, a new perspective on the game is on offer. The Secret Societies game mode, much as its predecessor Apocalypse Mode in the Pass’ previous instalment, boasts yet another new and exciting twist on the way the game is played, whilst the Diplomatic Hub provides much-needed purpose for some long neglected aspects of the PvP game. The cherry on top is the Persona Packs, a feature which I hope continues to be develops, which offers new and historically-informed takes on existing leaders to freshen up their position in the meta. On the whole, this is quite a punch to pack in just one small portion of a long and ongoing offering. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next!
This review is based on the PC version of the game, other systems include PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
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Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Ethiopia Pack (New Frontier Pass Part 2)
This content pack introduces Menelik II as the leader of Ethiopia. Ethiopia focuses on cities built on Hills, generating Faith and using Menelik’s “Council of Ministers” ability to boost Science and Culture. It also includes the Secret Societies game mode, where players will encounter mysterious organizations who offer their civilization their powerful skills.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 3.99
Product In Stock: SoldOut