Old World (pka Ten Crowns) from Soren Johnson

The Old World Manual is now done! (Well, at least until the next update…)

Here’s the permalink: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hb4dmDKxpf3pJJtpdFA4y4OOY-d2yrz1/view?usp=sharing

Looks very professional, great work.

Yay, thank you!

So I’m loving this game but I keep hitting a wall once my empire gets too big - at a certain point I find keeping track of my workers brain breaking and I quit. It’s an issue with forcing me to make too many different but parallel decisions, rather than maintaining a core focus. This might be an individual problem for me due to my significant ADHD.

I’m wondering if there are good strategies for “winning tall” with maybe 4-6 cities. That might be a better fit for me than the “getting big” strategy.

#34 on the PC Gamer Top 100. Not too shabby.

There’s an early(ish) tech that enables you to automate workers. Unlike CIV where I absolutely hate to automate because the AI is brain dead, Old World automation is actually competent.

How many workers do you end up with? I don’t mean this to sound as glib as it’s going to sound, but maybe build fewer workers? However, I feel like I never have enough workers, so maybe don’t take my advice. :)

I’ve never intentionally pursued a “winning tall” strategy, but in most of my games, I have 6 or fewer cities. At least in terms of the part of the game where I’m actually playing instead of just mopping up while waiting to hit the victory condition.

If you find you’re spilling out into that many cities before you’ve actually won, I recommend raising the difficulty level, lowering the size of the maps you’re playing, and/or raising the number of players on the map, in that order.

When you get a chance, @Sharpe, post more thoughts. I’d love to hear more about what you think.


If you click on the far right tab on that informational panel on the right of your screen, it gives you a list of your units, and then you can just merrily select your idle workers one at a time, if that helps?

You can also rename them, so you can have a worker or two named “road building guy,” or “waset guy” or whatever.

Or just listen to Tom.

It’s not just you @Sharpe, I ran into the exact same problem. A couple of random thoughts:

  • The cities are complicated! I haven’t played Civ6, but it seems like Old World has some of the most complicated cities in the genre, what with the various types of adjacency bonuses, terrain bonuses, leader bonuses, various urban buildings according to level of city development, shrines and religious buildings and wonders, the actual buildings inside the city, the 3 types of production, the abstract-resources being produced, the intersection of the different production categories with the rushing system and your current Laws/Governor/Religion/Leader, etc. etc. Each developed city is basically its own Off World Trading Company base, but you are dealing with ~10 of them at a time.

  • It gets (moderately) better! After a long while I started to internalize more of the city dynamics, and it was no longer as much of a cognitive load to jump to city #11 in the empire, understand what the city is doing, and order the next step of worker development for the city. It’s still not great, but I did, after numerous abandoned games, eventually get over the hump and reach a point where I could at least finish out a game.

  • In the default Seaside map with the default map size and players, the leading AI’s have ~10 cities. So I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a human player to claim that many cities. I’ve always been too focused on the economic systems to get into fighting wars, but it also seems like an aggressive and successful human player would end up with well past 10 cities which would exacerbate the problem.

  • Looking at the AI players, they built waaaay fewer improvements than me. Their lands were mostly pristine and Shire-like with just a few key improvements on the special resources, while I had improved or strip mined every open tile within my borders. I think part of what is going on is that the AI is coded to be survivalist, with a focus on building units and defenses that provide short term strength at the cost of long term development. Which is necessary to defend against aggressive neighbors or to be that aggressive neighbor yourself. And I think the game design expects humans to be forced to play that way too and not build quite so many workers quite so early. But if the human player can get away with building workers instead of units, or if they can get a cushion which allows them to make workers, then they end up in this development trap where this successful and reliable strategy is also a brain-draining one. Workers are a great investment, but they also slow things down and aren’t as interesting as the other parts of the game.

I haven’t played the Game of the Week for a while, but quite a few of the early ones were 1 city challenges.

In those scenarios, I found the path to victoy was racing through 10 ambitions - it was impossible (for me) to compete with the AI in military terms.

You also might consider playing smaller map sizes where 4-6 cities isn’t as much of a relative to handicap (ie, there are fewer city sites in general).

OK, here are some thoughts after a bunch of partial games and trying out various things on The Just difficulty and the one difficulty above that. I’m going to try a higher difficulty next time as I don’t feel in hindsight that the The Just provides a good sense of the game.

So I guess my first thought is The Just is fine for your first game to just see the basics but I now recommend bumping up difficulty one step for your next few games. Specifically, both the AI Tribes and AI Nations play differently enough, and they are a big enough part of the game, that it’s best to play on levels above The Just (which degrades the aggressiveness of the AI to pathetic levels.)

A few thoughts on general game design / 4X issues: Old World is a 4X that aims for a deeper more focused experience than a Civ game, with an emphasis on complex interactions of gameplay systems. As such, my overall impression is strongly favorable but the big disadvantage is a “learning cliff” compared to other similar games, made more pronounced by the fact that the in-game tutorials are like an order of magnitude short of what would really help. (This is not a huge complaint; actually implementing tutorials deep enough to convey the guts of this massive beast of game design would be a HUGE task, plus probably only crazymen like me would actually use the super-tutorials.) The now-availability of the 100 page manual is a nice thing and I want to compliment Mohawk on getting that out there at least.

In terms of more meta thoughts, I feel there are comparisons of Old World to my other big gaming focus these days: heavy board games. Specifically, I feel there are elements of both Vitale Lacerda-style game design and Uwe Rosenberg-style game design in Old World (Soren, if you don’t know, that’s a pretty major compliment coming from me. I don’t hand that shit out lightly.)

The Lacerda-esque elements are the intricate interlacing of many different game systems, much of which is both non-obvious at first glance but actually hangs together when the parts are conceptually coalesced into a whole, which takes massive effort. Just like a good Lacerda design, Old World punishes the brain brutally at first but as insight slowly dawns, the player begins to feel awe. Everything in Old World has a way to do it, and a cost, but the ways to do thing may require MANY steps of preparation (getting the right courtiers or family members, earning the right traits or stats on them, researching the techs or building the stuff needed, then putting the characters where you need them, etc.) AND on top of that, getting the resources to actually pay the costs can be either simple (raw materials) or very very complicated (luxuries). Tom’s article about the intricacies of Hurrying Production is a good example.

At the same time, there is a certain Rosenberg-ish quality to Old World in that there is a fair amount of randomness and limited windows of opportunity. You may need to kludge together 17 steps of Lacerda/Rube Goldberg stuff to be able to the do the thing you want, and then you might only have a few opportunities to actually do the thing. However, if you did it just right AND the RNG smiled upon you, then you can reap all kinds of crazy bonuses. The randomness is not IMO the FU kind of randomness but rather the kind of “opportunity MAY happen” randomness of a good Uwe Rosenberg design. For example the tech cards and the opportunities that they lead into reminded of the way cards work in Rosenberg games like Agricola or Feast for Odin.

In terms of actual gameplay thoughts, well I’m still working on the learning cliff. There’s a LOT of great stuff there, but thus far I’ve quit every game I’ve started (often several dozen turns in) b/c I always reach a point of either brain-overheating and/or “Oh, I just learned X, now I want it to apply it” or "I just tried Y option (like the Disjunction map as an example) now i want to try Z option (eg. Inland Sea Map). This is not a totally unexpected start to a deep game for me, but this game has brought out the most sustained iteration of that behavior in me, even more so than AoW Planetfall (which was the prior record holder.) So I’m liking it, but thus far it’s more of an “experience” than a “game” to me. However, I’m strongly positive on it overall and will definitely finish some games eventually.

TLDR: my overall view is in accord with Tom and the general sense of the board: it’s a good, deep 4X, that breaks new ground, but also has a brutal learning curve and is likely to appeal to the more hardcore 4X fans. Special comment on the music: the music is truly, deeply outstanding and whoever was in charge of that should feel proud.

Those are my general thoughts, with an effort to approach the game as a general 4X/strategy player - later on, I’ll provide some more individualized thoughts based on my own unique quirks as a gamer.

I’m still climbing that learning cliff and I’m wondering, for you folks that have talked about winning, especially the double victories, what difficulty settings are you using, what factions are you playing, and what sort of strategies are working?

I worked my way up to The Noble difficulty but have just decided to go back down to The Strong. I’ve probably had winnable games I’ve abandoned but I’m still getting a handle on what works.

Mohawk recently posted on Twitter:

Thanks, guys, that’s exactly what an early buyer who’s been content to hold off and let the kinks get worked out needs to hear. Thing is, I’ve been following this thread pretty closely since release, and I’m still not convinced the game is worth investing the immense amount of time to learn. AI is my main concern, but it also sounds like some of the sloppiness that’s endemic to the genre is present and holding it back. Like the talk about potentially managing more than six cities, which I imagine makes for an end game of diffuse and unsatisfying choices. Maybe Mohawk needs even more time to make this the rare 4x that’s still rewarding to play after it’s been learned.

It’s probably the most tightly designed 4X I’ve played and I’m struggling to think of other games in the genre with superior AI.

Not really sure what your expectations are but Old World is a top tier 4X in my book.

So how are you playing it? What are you doing? What difficulties, what factions, what strategies?

Basically it’s just not coming together for me so far, which might be a me problem. I see the potential greatness but I feel like I don’t have enough information to make good choices in the game; and I’m not sure if that’s due to my obtuseness or the game’s obtuseness, or both.

Perhaps learning how others play might help.

Old World is such an (IMO beautifully) holistically designed game, for lack of a better word, that it didn’t really click for me until I grokked the design as a whole.

Understanding a piece of the system is all fine and good, but without the context of where it fits within the larger whole it doesn’t actually do much for you.

I’m struggling a little bit with my morning brain here to come up with an example that doesn’t sprawl out to discussing way more than I want to type on my phone, but maybe that’s the point.

For me the process of falling in love with Old World was similar to what I went through with Planetfall, another of my all-time favorites. I had to build up enough baseline knowledge that the cognitive burden of just parsing what I was seeing on the screen lessened, and I could start to spend my brain orders on contemplating the system as a whole instead of focusing on one individual piece after another.

I get the same sense from your posts, @Sharpe , which is why I bring it up.

What worked for me was to just YOLO through some of my need to understand everything on a micro level (once I at least had some foundation in place) and make whatever decisions at hand to keep the game moving so that I could observe the whole system at work rather than spending all my time trying to fully comprehend all the ins and outs of a particular unit, tech, law, improvement, or whatever choice.

Maybe this helps? Maybe I’m just indulging morning brain here, heh.

I agree with your overall sentiment. The comparison to Planetfall is apt, with Old World having an even taller learning cliff. And the reason I say “cliff”, similar to references to Lacerda’s board game designs is that learning is not so much about conceptual depth but as you say, context. Just understanding one piece of the game or one system is not enough; it’s all about the intricate interplay of the many systems, options and resources.

I’m trying to push past the idea of needing to understand the game on a holistic conceptual level and learn enough context to form a skeleton of understanding, and then slot in more detail as I go. The example from Planetfall is that I learned the superficially simplest faction (Vanguard) first, then learned various Secret Techs, then moved on to other factions, gradually understanding units, colonies, technology, etc., as I played.

That’s why I was asking for specific examples of what worked for folks, to help me build that skeleton of understanding.

I do think I’m beginning to get there on my own. Last night I was playing a Babylon game on The Noble and I finally had enough context to make my strategies begin to work. An example of what I meant is that I’m “playing tall” (fewer cities, more development) and I finally now understand enough about the AI nations, AI tribes, and my military and diplomacy options to contain them outside my borders, AND the resources needed to fuel those options to actually make this seem like it’s going to work. Just understanding pieces of the above wasn’t enough - you have to understand enough of the context, enough of the interlocking systems, to reach a viable point. The same is probably true for every faction/strategy. I’m close…

Yeah, you’re getting there. My first game where things started to gel was also with Babylon. I think they’re easier to start with because the science bonus from ol’ Neb to start things off makes that something you don’t really have to worry about; the science will just kinda roll in even if you don’t push it.

I will say this about Old World, after my last round of Civ IV playing I had written off the series for good. My tastes had shifted such that a Civ style 4x no longer held appeal, ruined as it was by the Paradox games.

Old World marks this as not definitively true. Oh the Civ series is still out, but Old World takes what works there and mixes it with things from other games to fix what wasn’t.

It shouldn’t be a shock though. Since the Crusader Kings character based diplomacy was a huge part of what ruined Civ for me, taking that style of system
and putting it into a Civ style game goes a long way for me.

So, just to preface, I am playing the game wrong. I’ve been going with the default map, and a notch above the default difficulty (something weird happened in my last game where somehow I ended up playing 2 notches above default difficulty? But let’s not speak about that game).

I say I’ve been playing it wrong because I way under-focus on military, give in to every demand the AI makes of me, and focus instead on building up my civilian economy (Settlers for whenever I can claim a new spot, multiple Workers per city as the first thing out the gate, specialists and econ buildings after that). It mostly works; the ideal is you give into the AI demands, they start a war against another AI, and then they both fight each other and leave you in peace for decades while you build up. You probably won’t have more than 2, maybe 3 close neighbors unless you are right in the middle of the map, so if they are fighting each other that takes care of your main threat. I’ll have a light force for protection and clearing out tribal camps and getting the garrison morale bonus, but I don’t go past that till way later.

I try to get a religion in the early mid-game, since the culture and happiness boosts are great. If you boost the religion twice you can a 40% spread chance per turn, so your religion will get to most of your cities without additional help. Later on you can then fill in the Monasteries and Temples at each religious city. If there’s nothing else that is crucial for my workers, I have them strip mine the land, since you can always use more stone. Garrisons and Stronghold and Barracks everywhere for Orders, then other misc urban buildings, and then build Wonders as the stone supply allows. Hanging Gardens and Apadama are great, the Light House too if you have the coastline. Those last two will mean you’re always running a large cash surplus and can easily handle events, rushing, bribes, tutoring, supply shortfalls, etc. etc. After that it’s just build, build, build. The AI’s seem to stall out around 15-20 VP, so you need ~40 VP to double them and get a victory. Which is doable with ~10 cities giving you 2-4VP each, plus a row of Wonders.

Oh! And rush things wherever possible. I try to use every part of the resource bar to rush projects; e.g. a Zealot Leader let’s you use Military mana to rush, an Orator Governor let’s you rush with your excess orders, a Judge lets you spend money to rush specialists, some Families let you rush certain projects with gold, there’s always your precious Civic points, etc. etc. I try not to “float” resources and instead spend them on rushing unless there is some other pressing need that is coming up.

For leaders I like the Zealot just because he lets me spend my hoarded military mana, and the Judge has the upgrade-building ability which is surprisingly useful, and the Builder can be useful just to pump out a ton of Workers. Spymaster and Scholar can go jump in a lake, and the others can’t be too important since I’m having trouble remembering them.

When I come back to the game and try harder difficulties, I think I’ll have to change my strategy considerably and build many more military units and much earlier, since I think the higher level AIs won’t put up with my nonsense.

Oh right and this has mostly been with Greece. They seem like a nice all-rounder? I like the base culture bonus and their starting Family selections. I tried Carthage for a while but they never quite gelled with me.