One of the most dangerous games out there is Civilization V.
No other title gets its hooks into you and becomes an all-consuming obsession. You can plan to play one hour in the evening and the next thing you know the sun is rising in the morning. It's that addictive.
The PC game's second expansion pack, Civilization V: Brave New World, is scheduled for release on July 9. It gives players another reason to go for just one more turn.
I sat down with Brave New World's executive producer Ed Beach, who showed me the new civilizations and improvements.
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Meet the new Civs: Firaxis has already announced Poland will be one of the new civilizations. The news that Syria and Brazil will be making their way to the game raised eyebrows as well.
At the preview tour in San Francisco, Beach showed off Portugal and the Zulu. The event focused more on Portugal, which is geared to take advantage of the new trade system.
That was one of the bigger changes I saw in Brave New World. Firaxis revamped the trade system so that it's more streamlined. Players just click on a trade unit like a caravan or galleon and pick which city to trade with. They have to keep in mind what resources a city has and what the destination needs. The farther the trading port, the more gold players will get. In addition, they have to factor in how much science and religion flows between ports and routes.
Trade is more powerful: What makes trade even more powerful is that players can use it within the empire to bolster areas. They can send excess food to a slow-growing city for a population boom, or if a place is building a wonder, they can send production to that municipality to speed up the process.
Trade becomes an even bigger factor in the latter half of the game, Beach said. It affects culture and diplomacy, two systems that also get a major overhaul in Brave New World.
Culture is an active force: In the new expansion pack, culture becomes a granular, offensive force. Players don't just build cultural buildings such as museums and opera houses; they also fill those institutions with great works like a Monet and The Great Gatsby.
Players can even view or read the work, trade it with other civilizations or mix and match it with other buildings to maximize their cultural benefit.
If players can amass enough masterpieces, they can start getting a resource called tourism that draws other civilizations to your nation and spread your influence. That resource becomes even more important when archaeologists are developed in the later eras. They can explore the world and unearth relics to take back to your civilization's museums. They can even raid heritage sites of other nations, which can turn into a international scandal.
Raiders of the lost battlefield: The smartest thing about archaeology is that it's based on the history of your playthrough. Brave New World memorizes the major events that unfolded in your game. If there was a battle, it will remember that tile as an important site 1,000 years ago. If players run into ancient ruins or barbarian settlements, that becomes an area for archaeologists to dig up. It's brilliant.
Once players amassed enough tourism and other nations acknowledge your cultural superiority, you win the game.
Diplomacy changes the game: Lastly, diplomacy has new importance with the earlier possibility of a World Congress. That's formed when one civilization manages to contact all the others and has a printing press. The group meets periodically, and it's where players can essentially change the rules of the game. Each civilization has a vote with the host nation holding two votes. (That's a benefit and incentive to explore.)
"We thought we were missing an opportunity because it happened late in the game," Beach said. "It would have been something cool all along so why not bring it in sooner?"
The World Congress can enforce a trade embargo and ruin a rival's economy. They can push a non-nuclear proliferation treaty or ban a luxury. All of these proposals will make potential friends and allies, and it will be up to you to count votes and persuade neutral members of the Congress.
That's where spies have an added value. They can be turned into a diplomat and tell you if a rival nation is leaning against your proposal. They can also pass along rumors and facilitate a trade for a vote in the World Congress. Play nice with all your fellow world leaders and perhaps players may get a diplomatic victory and be elected world leader.