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For many years,  I have put the Galactic Civilizations games through their paces to see how well a given game does at feeling like a story.  I do this to help nitpick things we need to change.  With the beta for GalCiv IV just around the corner, I thought I’d see how well the game stacks up so far.

I also will be inserting comments that normally we would have at internal meetings, but for you aspiring game developers I wanted to show some of the feedback the team gets from the company Creative Director on a given project.

I wrote some AAR’s for GalCiv I and GalCiv II as well. 

Past examples:

GalCiv III: Drengin/Human Wars VI ( (2017)

Gameplay Example: Drengin-Human Wars XXII ( (2006)

Let’s dive in…

The setup

This takes place within a single sector.  From a gameplay point of view, it means it plays out like a GalCiv II or GalCiv III map.

In the beginning

The fledgling Terran Alliance has invented a new form of Faster than light travel called Hyperdrive.  This new drive system replaced the Stargate system that had been set up by the Precursors long ago and enabled free form travel between different stars in a matter of weeks rather than centuries.


The first two ships to come out of the newly christened Endeavor space dock are the T.A.S. Santa Maria and the extremely expensive prototype survey ship called the T.A.S. Discovery.


The Santa Maria holds 25,000 colonists.

Comment: The Santa Maria didn’t start out named. It should.  Similarly, the initial shipyard should be named. I had to rename it Endeavor manually.


Vos Tremen, the science advisor leading Earth’s efforts, has come up with 4 different promising candidates to research.  After much debate, Space Elevators are chosen.

Comment: The science advisor should have a name. I gave him the name Vos Tremen, but we shouldn’t just have generic people here.  Moreover, there should be an economic and military advisor, and each one should argue for a tech to research.

On Earth itself, we have a number of new projects available.


I decide to put the capital mainframe on the rare earth metals deposit to help increase its productivity.

Comment: The science, military, and economic advisors should be there to help.  Also, it would really help with immersion if the tiles at least broadly shaped the Earth’s continents. The paradise icon looks a little out of place for some reason.


Karn Urlox presents a number of different options for us to construct.  We decide to go with another colony ship.

Comment: Instead of a military advisor, make it the Shipyard Commander and have it be a character with existing stats that was previously put there with their own pros and cons.  The advisor suggestions are too tiny to be usable.

Some new Candidates have arrived to be recruited into our civilization to help us run it.


The Terran Alliance needs to make the full use of its best and brightest to help run a galactic civilization.


So I’ve brought in two characters here. 

Comment: I should be able to rename these characters.

Mera is a genius, so I will be putting her in charge of our technology.

Comment: This means from this point, this is the person who should show up in the technology screen.

Mera has a 10 intelligence, which means she gives a 10% bonus to resarch.

As for Ginny, she has a 9 resolve, which makes her really good at combat.


So I’m going to put her in command of the prototype ship, Perseverance.

Looking at my 3 main resources I have: image




Control is new in Galactic Civilizations IV.  It is primarily used in being able to use executive orders.


Every civilization has a different set of executive orders to start with, and more show up through the course of the game.  I also use control points to invite more candidates and pressure scientists to work harder to research faster. These actions consume the points, but I gain points back over time.

The Sol System

Within a very short amount of time, we have successfully colonized the home solar system and the Perseverance is on its way out.


Comment: I should still be able to see my character that is in command of the Perseverance and note the spelling.


A few weeks later the Colony ship Opportunity reaches the Scutti system and creates our first extrasolar system colony.

…End of Part 1…



GalCiv IV Journals

on Dec 14, 2021

I like how you added comments this AAR. 

on Dec 14, 2021

Thank you for sharing this information. I read all three AARs. Interesting to see how you use it to test and create a better immersion.

There is one point I want to give a more detailed feedback: you wrote in 2006 that one part of your job was to build the AI in a way it plays like a non-obnoxious human player. That sentence put me thinking about 4X, AI, multiplayer, immersion, challenge and fun ...

If you play GalCivIII against AI one of the  biggest strength is that different civs got very different character sets (not only buffs to some attributes and/or special abilities).  Additionaly the game makes this transparent to the player (green plus, red minus at diplomacy, dialogues). Lord Kona will be different to Altarians. Eventually there will be two or more red minus symbols saying that he wants to conquer the galaxy. Also he does not like to see us taking artifacts or trading with almost anybody else.

If you are weak there are civs who see you as ripe for conquest – other civs pity you instead. At late-game if we are winning there will be big diplomatic maluses. But that only means we are losing favor. Having really good relationships before this ticks in we can win before our long time friends declare war on us.

These mechanics create immersion and a challenge that is transparent, fair and fun to me.

As human you gain the abilities of your civ but not the character. This can "destroy" a lot: you got a buff on trading – others will be less likely to trade with you. You played too well and are in lead: others declare war on you. Peaceful culture flipping...? Of course you got others to talk and laugh about what's happening. Don't get me wrong

Long story short: In a 4X game I like AI opponents that are not 100% winning-driven and GalCivIII is a positive example how to achieve it.

on Dec 15, 2021

Those commander ships do not look very Human.

on Dec 15, 2021

One of the newest updates made the commander ships unique to their race

on Dec 17, 2021

I really worry about micro in this game. I feel like the game design needs to lean into the macro-level stuff, but some of the recent changes regarding planet quality and the lack of UI elements in place to allow for a macro-level game are really concerning...

on Dec 19, 2021


I really worry about micro in this game. I feel like the game design needs to lean into the macro-level stuff, but some of the recent changes regarding planet quality and the lack of UI elements in place to allow for a macro-level game are really concerning...

Could you go into more detail?

on Jan 17, 2022

One of my concerns is the lack of early game risk. In none of my play-throughs so far have I faced any kind of threat in the first 50 turns, even at the fastest speed. Someone declared war on me but never even attacked me before I abandoned that game. The worst thing that has happened was putting an unloyal leader in charge of a flagship ship and have it defect (whoops). There are so many goodie huts to inspect that I haven't even gotten around to hitting the lightly defended ones. By the time I needed a military I didn't really even know how combat worked and I got slaughtered. OK that part is mostly on me but still...You should either have to build up some sort of military or at least prepare for the possibility of getting attacked.

I think a good early-game decision point might be to encounter some space pirates and have to decide how to react. A. Attack them (some kind of buff to defensive operations) B. Bribe them (- to income, + to harmony) C. Join them (+ to aggressiveness, which will affect diplomacy). I obviously don't know all the vernacular yet but hopefully that made sense.