Monday, May 05, 2014

Civ V: Valuing Excess Happiness

After some false starts with DLC and installation issues we've finally got an asynch Civ V game started up. You can choose what civ you want to play or you can run completely random. Robb decided he wanted a 'fair' game so we looked up a power ranking list of the civs and he randomly picked one from the list around the civs chosen by the other two players. His first random choice was ranked where it was because you could abuse the AI to give lopsided trades and in a human only game that seemed like it would probably be bad. He rolled again and got something else as his choice.

I went full random and let the game assign me what it wanted to assign me. My theory was the ranking list was for single player and undoubtedly was faulty for multiplayer. And if I got an 'overpowered' civ, whatever that would be, the other players could just gang up on me regardless. Also... RANDOM!

Anyway, I got dealt out the civ Robb rejected as requiring AI abuse to be any good: The Netherlands. They have the passive ability that they keep 2 happy faces from a luxury good if you trade away their last copy. I believe this is good in a normal game because the computer puts a huge value on their last luxury good, and by extension believes you should put a huge value on your last one also. So they'll give you a lot of cash in trade for your luxury good and you get to keep half of the happiness and all of their money. When Robb found out I was this civ he laughed and asked if I was going to abuse human AI.

Clearly I need to do something since the rest of The Netherlands bonuses seem pretty terrible. Their unique unit is a boat and I rarely find myself building any boats. They also have a unique tile improvement which can only be used on marshes and flood plains. I don't think I have any of those near me yet, but I may be misremembering? And maybe I'll expand into some? But even then it doesn't seem terribly useful and there's no doubt that the other civs chosen are more powerful than this one if I ignore the unique passive.

So... I need to find a way to get something out of my passive. Abuse human AI, as it were. But my opponents aren't rubes so I can't just expect to fleece them like the actual AI. So I figure I need to work out why they'd want to make these trades so I can know how much money should be involved on either side of a trade to make it reasonable. And then build in my cut, of course!

One side effect of just having The Netherlands in the game is, assuming trades get made, there's extra happiness to go around. If I trade 4 luxuries for 3 luxuries then both sides end up with 4 extra happiness for free. That's pretty good, though I feel like I should get a bigger cut! For one, I don't get a share of Matt's extra production for being Roman, or Robb's extra stuff from city states for being Siamese, or Dave's extra great people for being Mayan. For two, I won't have infinite luxuries to go around and only one of my opponents will get to share in the free happiness for any given good. So someone should be willing to throw a little extra my way to make sure I choose them?

Of course they could all just decide to work together to avoid trading with me to shut down my ability, or to force me to make suboptimal (for me) trades. And that may well make sense if I take a lead or something... But I doubt they'd be able to keep it together for very long once someone else takes the lead.

The happy faces aren't the only gain by trading luxuries though... All of your cities start demanding different luxury goods in order to trigger 'We Love The King Day' events. I'm generally thrilled to make 1 for 1 luxury good trades even as other civs just in order to get some of these things to happen. These events last 20 turns and give the city 25% food growth. Which can be a big deal if you have extra happiness lying around.

City states also periodically put out quests to obtain different luxury goods. Get a luxury good, get a ton of reputation with the city state. I really don't know how that's going to work out in a multiplayer game. Do they ask for different goods from different people? Will they cancel the quests for other people when the first person accomplishes it? If so, what happens if two people trade goods that both satisfy the quest? Do they just throw around a ton of free reputation for everyone? Depending on how it works out it could be a really good idea to just trade stuff around willy nilly to proc your quests.

The tricky part is that I don't think other people can see what luxuries are being demanded by other player's quests or cities. So someone could really want my gold and be willing to pay a lot for it, but I'd never know. And on the flip side, if none of their quests or cities want gold then hooking me up with 2 free happy faces in a 1-for-1 trade is just silly.

Even ignoring all that stuff, what I was really curious about is how good an extra happy face just lying around is going to be. Should I be happy to spend money to get more of them? Should I prefer to have other people paying for the extra happy faces instead? If you get enough happy faces you trigger a golden age which is worth 1 extra gold per tile, 20% more production, and 20% more culture in every city in your empire for 10 turns. The number of happy faces you need to make one happy goes up the more of them you get and the more cities you have so there's no easy formula to work out for how much a happy face is worth. Interestingly, excess happiness during a golden age is completely worthless! (Unless you have a social policy that converts happy faces into culture or something, anyway.)

Right now, at the start of the game, I need 335 happiness and am making 5 per turn. Assuming new cities and whatnot keep that ratio intact I'd be looking at having a golden age available for 10 turns out of every 77 turns. With an extra happy face I'd be looking at having it up for 10 turns every 66 turns. So I could have 2.6% extra production/culture or I could have 3% extra production/culture in the long run. And I could be getting an extra let's say 5 gold per turn during the golden age? That means one happy face would net me .1 gold per turn.

I'm going to have to look at these numbers more once I have some more cities and whatnot since it sure looks like rough napkin math makes the extra happy face pretty terrible. I have to assume I'll end up getting way more than 5 gold per turn out of it once things get rolling? And I'd swear the help files said 25% production, not 20%, but maybe that's because we're playing on quick instead of normal speed.

So maybe I mostly just care about extra happy faces because it will let me grow my civ to a larger size? Which may be especially true if I'm getting lots of 'We Love The King' days?

Anyway... Who wants to buy some happy faces?!?


Sky Roy said...

I always found additional happy faces were not great unless you had a good way to leverage them. Between wonders, social policies, and civ unique bonuses it was sometimes possible to generate an extremely good return on excess happiness. That said, without those benefits you absolutely want to run as close to the edge as possible. The only real advantage to a big surplus is you can go on a conquering spree without tanking your civ. Someone with 1 extra happy usually can't take any more cities without disaster.

Nick Page said...

That's a good point. More room for conquest! Not that the Dutch have any abilities to make them any good at conquest, mind, but maybe I can sell some happy faces to one of the more bloodthirsty players!

Normally I just build extra colisseums and stuff for funsies, but maybe that's wrong? Trading 2 gold per turn in maintenance for 2 happy faces feels pretty terrible unless those 2 happy faces are what you need to be overall happy.

Corey said...

I remember Polders being really good, but finding a place to build them to be a pain in the ass. If you can find a desert with a river cutting through you'll be laughing though.

Vienneau said...

Polders are *amazing* if I recall correctly.

Happy faces are critical for keeping my people content. I value them more than almost anything because they're very hard to get at certain points. I suspect you'll have no trouble trading with me because I'll need the 4 happiness on my side more than I'll care about 6 happiness on yours.

Check if the bonus triggers if you trade your last "home grown" resource. That is, if you trade your only Gems, but at the same time are getting Gems from an allied city-state, does it trigger? I suspect it might as it will not let you trade city-state Gems.

I didn't realize there was a ranking of Civs. I'll have to check it out. I also didn't think I could take a random civ so I went with something that plays to my a normal game. Not sure it will be all that great on a small board with human competitors.