Win Conditions and Difficulty Levels in Civilization V

I’ve been playing a lot of Sid Meier’s Civilization V lately. I’ve been playing Civ games since Civ II, but I only started playing Civ V with any regularity recently. I have some issues with Civ V, of course, namely the irrational diplomacy AI in the game.

But the big problem is I have is with difficulty curve. Moving from difficulty 3 (easy) to difficulty 4 (normal), is a huge jump. Namely, AI players are much, much more aggressive. Now, I don’t play Civ to play a wargame, I prefer to build culture and science heavy empires, because I like to treat my imaginary citizens like I would like to treat real humans, namely not as cannon fodder. My preferred way to play then is heavy on cash flow, happiness, science, and culture, and low on military. This is possible on level 3, but very hard on level 4, because when Germany comes marching into France [insert history joke here] it makes it hard to get anything but military done. Inevitably my empire stalls out because I have to spend so much money and time on my military.

Before we continue, I’ll add a disclaimer: I realize that I may just suck at Civ, especially Civ V, which I’ve played for a tiny fraction of the time I’ve spent with Civ III or IV. I also realize that there are plenty of tutorials and tips and things, but I prefer to play the game the way I want to, namely by not adhering to a strict build order. This is why I stopped playing StarCraft with my friends, or how I ended up with a half-orc sorcerer/rogue in D&D 3.5, because I’d rather do weird stuff that I find interesting, not follow a specific path to victory. I also realize that there are tons of options in Civ V, so I could probably set those in such a way to make culture or science victories the only possible way to win.

The problem here isn’t that I suck at Civ, it’s that the shift between “easy” and “normal” is huge, and it makes it into a totally different game, a game I don’t really want to play. This is a game with eight difficulties, a shift from one to the level higher shouldn’t make it that difficult to play the game. The only way to increase difficulty is by either giving the computer advantages, or by making them more aggressive, or possibly both.

So this has me thinking that I need to think about ways to preserve multiple victory conditions in games that feature them. I for one am a big fan of games with multiple win conditions, but finding ways to preserve them with multiple human players can be difficult. This isn’t relevant to GMEB, which only has one victory condition, but in a perfect world, I’d like to design a 4X game, and that would probably need multiple paths to victory.