If you’re coming from Galactic Civilizations III, you’re in for a treat. And if you have never played a Galactic Civilizations game before, then know this: this game is specifically designed to answer to the question, “I want to play a space 4X game, what game should I start with?”
Read on to learn what this game is all about, who made it, and why we made it.
A little about the team
The highest rated space strategy game of all time is called Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor. With a 92 Metacritic score, it is tied with Alpha Centauri, Unreal Tournament, and other greats. After Galactic Civilizations II, the team went on to other projects and our lead developer went on maternity leave for a few years. Now, armed with a decade's worth of ideas, the team has been reunited for Galactic Civilizations IV.
The big changes
When we started designing GalCiv IV, we had a long list of grievances with the 4X genre. We are, after all, the first customers for these games. Moreover, since GalCiv III was released, the space strategy genre kind of exploded with some really great games that had their own ideas and innovations.
Here's a high level summary of the new features and what they are meant to do:
- Sectors. These are maps that connect to other maps and dramatically improves pacing, letting us have much bigger maps (because let’s face it, 200 tiles of dead space is not fun to traverse).
- Characters. This will be the most obvious first turn change for players. Less spreadsheety, more nuance.
- Policies. Our stats show that the vast majority of players play as the Terran Alliance. Not even a custom civ. Sigh. So we need a way to allow players to customize their civ during the game. Once you use this feature you’ll never want to go back because it’s obvious.
- Prestige Victory. 4X games are notorious for knowing you’re going to win long before you actually win. The Prestige counter combined with the new Galactic Achievements feature allows players to move the game to the endgame quickly.
- Executive Orders. GalCiv IV introduces a new resource called “Control” that allows players to perform direct actions on the game. These actions have consequences too, but allow players more direct ways to intervene.
- Core worlds. A big issue in 4X games is the micro-management late game. In every GalCiv playthrough, later in the game the player might have dozens of planets to manage (just like in other 4X games where you might have dozens of cities or stars or whatever). GalCiv IV has core worlds which are the high quality worlds that matter which are then fed by colonies which require no management. So late game, the player might have 50 worlds in their civilization but only 9 that are core worlds.
- Combat. Battles (and invasions) are no longer necessarily over in a single turn. An invasion might take several turns to occur. Transports are only required for core worlds, whereas colonies can be taken by any ship with weapons. Battles can also take place across multiple tiles, allowing for ships with extreme range weapons to soften up targets from multiple tiles away.
- Missions. We eliminated “the campaign” and instead took the content and made it so that every game can feel like a campaign with “missions,” which are story driven quests based on who you are playing as, who you are playing against, and what characters are in your civilization.
- Ideology. Gone is the old “good” vs. “neutral” vs. “evil”. Now there are 7 categories of ideology each with two trees. The choices players face are no longer “I’m a good person vs. I’m a terrible being”. Instead the choices might be between cooperation vs. creativity or innovation vs. tradition or compassion vs. pragmatism.
- New Economic System. In the new system, resources are brought in from the worlds themselves and then multiplied (as a %) by the population who are empowered (against by a %) by the improvements on the planet. The approval rating on a planet directly affects production (making approval matter a lot) with new elements such as crime (which affects planetary income) and pollution (which affects food production) as additional potential casualties of player decisions. And approval is now extremely nuanced and explained in great detail.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list. The game has an entirely new UI that is much cleaner and more effective to use. The general game mechanics work together in really nice and intuitive ways. We have nested tooltips and lots of other goodies. This guide will walk you through the game as it stands Pre-Beta 1.
A walkthrough of the start of Galactic Civilizations IV
A full walkthrough of an entire game is well beyond the scope of this article, but this should be enough to get you started.
The Main Screen
The main screen has room for the new ship designer (see bottom row) along with links to Discord and other places.
GalCiv IV’s graphics engine gets a big upgrade with PBR (Physically Based Rendering).
You can also upload your designs to be printed.
Who do you want to play as?
GalCiv IV comes with a lot more civilizations than GalCiv III did. We intend to have around 18 at launch, not counting the custom civs you can create.
You can also directly customize your civilization while setting them up.
Setting up your galaxy
In previous GalCiv games, you played on a single map (a sector). In GalCiv IV you can set up the size of your sector (this is like setting the map size in GalCiv I/II/III), but now you can also set up how many sectors you want.
You can also tell the game how close you want other opponents to be to you.
Opponent setup is fairly straight forward. You can, however, set up their intelligence individually, as well as their teams.
Into the game
The year is 2307. Earth has formed the Terran Alliance. Earth has 3 ships:
The starting ships that the humans have include:
The Discovery, a survey ship. Survey ships can explore anomalies.
The Endeavor, a colony ship filled with people ready to start a new colony.
Abd Theia, an unmanned exploration ship that has unlimited range.
The top command (top right of the card) displays any automated feature of the ship. In this case, auto-survey.
It takes 3 turns to survey an anomaly now, thus rewarding players who decide to build a lot of survey ships later.
Survey ships have the ability to attach new items and equipment to them becoming - if they survive - quite powerful late game.
When it comes to researching technology, different techs have different likelihoods of being available at a given time.
However, players can “reshuffle” to try and get the tech they want - if they're willing to pay an extra 20%.
I’m going to choose Starbases. In GalCiv IV, when you get a technology that unlocks something interesting, it tends to give you free samples. For instance, unlocking the Starbase tech gives you a couple of Constructor ships.
No one is going to accuse GalCiv IV of just being GalCiv III with better graphics. This is the new Civ Manager.
Setting your tax rate affects approval which affects output.
Max taxes brings in more money, but your production is very low.
Low taxes does the opposite:
So it’s a question of balance.
Here’s what “Normal” taxes do:
Look at that approval. 90%. It won’t stay that way.
Next up are the policies. At the start, you have one free one. So which one do you want?
- Brainstorming [+2 Research on your home world.]
- Coerced Colonization [Doubles population growth, but lowers approval by 5%]
- Fast Exploration [+2 to movement but at a cost of 50% of your HP]
- Heart of the Empire [+10% to influence and +10% to money]
- Land Exploitation [+5 to credits per turn but +30% to pollution – which lowers food production]
I’m going to pick Fast Exploration.
And then drag and drop it:
Later technologies will open up more policies.
Managing your Core World (Earth)
In this game, the capital is in Florida, apparently.
We admit that we did this part of the design as a hat tip to classic strategy games. But it is also quite fun.
Different tiles have different strengths.
Also, in the Beta we will sprinkle in random special traits to make sure your home world isn’t the same every game.
There’s a lot of dragging and dropping in GalCiv IV. This helps prevent a lot of accidental mis-clicks that we saw in previous games.
I drag and drop my Manufacturing Center over to central Africa and then queue up manufacturing districts to be adjacent.
When you click on a tile, you will see what it’s good at:
New technologies will bring up additional options. But this eliminates the listbox of death issue we’ve traditionally had by just having these districts be levels instead of a unique building for every possible one.
Up in the top right are the citizens of this planet. So, a planet with a population of 5 has 5 citizens.
Each citizen has their own strengths and weaknesses. So for the uber min-maxers, there’s a lot to play with, which is also why we keep the # of core planets to a reasonable number.
This is also where you can find out where your approval comes from. The total approval of a planet is just the average of its citizens. She hates our culture because she’s Harmonious and our civilization is biased towards individualism:
Throughout the game, players can make choices that will change their ideology in different areas based on the kind of civilization they want to have.
Core worlds can have shipyards.
Another new feature in GalCiv IV are advisors who suggest what you should do.
Your culture advisor recommends the colony ship while your science advisor suggests the probe, and your military advisor who runs the shipyard thinks you should build probes as well. This also gives secret insight onto what the AI players are likely doing…
So I choose Rush the Colony ship to start my colony rush.
I recommend using these early.
The first one is super useful in exploring some nearby territory. The other one, Draft Colonists, might make people a little mad, but getting those early colonies up is important.
By using the Telescope take over, I can see there’s a really good planet nearby.
This planet is a class 23, which means it has 23 tiles on it if you choose to put a governor on it to turn it into a core world (note: Governors aren’t AI, they give buffs and penalties based on the character you use).
It also has 3 minerals, 5 tech, 6 wealth, 7 food and 1 influence. If you leave it as a colony, this output will flow to its nearest core world (in this case, Earth).
Let’s explain the new economic system. It’s much more straight forward in how it works but far more sophisticated too.
Here’s Earth. Turn 1.
Its inputs are just Earth’s natural richness in these areas at the start of the game. In this case, the year 2307.
The outputs are what happens after your people get done processing it. Let’s take a look:
So your mineral input was 3. Then various “Stuff” gets applied to it. And then, lastly, it’s multiplied by your approval (80%). In this case, it ends up a wash.
Here is food:
In this case, my input was 12 but I lost 12% pollution.
But let’s say I really care about food. If you run out of food, your people will go hungry which ends population growth and makes people unhappy. I’m going to go way out on a limb and say that starvation is bad.
Now, let’s make 4 of my 5 citizens farmers.
Voila. Instead of 11 food being produced I now get 14. However, my manufacturing has gone down because they were previously (and by default) workers.
So yeah, you can really tinker with these planets which, again, is why we have Core worlds.
I drafted colonists with my Executive Order and am sending those colonists to Mars.
We have arrived on Mars.
So now we have a colony on Mars and it sends back 2 minerals, 1 wealth, and 1 influence back to its Core world (Earth).
So back on Earth you see this:
Now, Mars does consume food. So keep that in mind.
So we mentioned getting a leader, this brings us to where the new character system really shines.
Going to the Leaders screen you can spend money to recruit leaders. Like all characters, they have the Intelligence, Social skills, Diligence, and Resolve. Later in the game, you will be able to train your own citizens to be leaders but for now, you need to recruit them.
The key things to keep in mind on leaders are:
- How good their stats are. (5, 6, 8, 6 from the screenshot)
- Their loyalty (60)
- How much they cost
- How long they’re going to be available to recruit before leaving.
- What their backstory is, because this can trigger missions.
Once I recruit a few, now it’s time to put them to work.
Your ministers help run your empire. And by run, I mean they give buffs to various areas based on the stats of your leaders. The color of the ministry corresponds to the stat they make the most use of.
Let’s put Bryan in charge of Exploration:
Having him there gives me +9 more range for my ships instantly plus an extra move for all my ships.
But I can drag him over to be in charge of tech and get this benefit:
1 additional slot plus 5% more tech research. 5 isn’t great, as Brian’s intelligence is only average. So I’m going to put him back as Minister of Exploration.
Making Ivan in charge of tech gives me a 9% boost.
Now I’ll put Masako in charge of Colonization:
Her social skills are 6 (above average) but I don’t really need a 6% boost to approval right now.
Instead, I’m going to look at my Commanders tab.
These are special ships that different based on what civilization you play as.
Each one is unique and makes use of the skills of your leader that you put in command.
So I put Masako in charge of the TAS Curiosity.
This ship has a survey module.
This will come as a complete shock, but within a given society there are factions. Not everyone agrees with the way your government should be run. I know, this is unbelievable. In GalCiv IV, every civilization has their own set of factions to deal with.
The Terran Alliance have 4:
Most factions have pros and cons. Let’s bring Ivan and Bryan back and put them here instead and see how that goes:
Assigning them to work with the Warforged Movement improves our shipyard production by 2% while raising crime by 4%. Needless to say, not worth it. That’s because both of them have 2 at resolve (i.e. they are very low on resolve and that’s the stat this movement cares about while crime goes up based on their social skills and note that both of them have 10s for social. So this is a terrible place to put them.
Putting Ivan on the science team gives us a 5% boost in research. But this isn’t nearly as good as he got as minister of tech. Lesson learned early on: fill the ministry positions first. If I put both of them here, I get:
Still not as good as what Ivan did as minister.
Now that this is set up, let’s check out Earth again.
My research has gone up.
That’s because having Ivan as Minister increased my output by 9%.
And we have just finished TURN 1.
That colony ship I rushed the last turn is now ready to be used.
Now it’s time to decide who gets to...go.
Alpha testers have already found (aka admitted) that they end up putting their criminals (some citizens have a criminal trait) or their most picky citizens on transports to colonize. Thankfully, we know this never happened in our history.
She has high expectations. Well, I hope she enjoys the icy planet of Artemis. Stop judging me!
So now we have 3 colonies.
And Earth’s doing pretty well. But not as well as you might expect:
First, crime has gone up. Colonies tend to have more crime on them (though it’s still better to ship criminals out there than keep them on a core world but I digress).
Second, people don’t like rushing production.
But still, we’re on our way. Nevertheless, it’s a waste to have Altair V be a mere colony.
And now I have a second core world.
Now, the governor’s loyalty matters. It’s 45 right now which is fine. But if it gets too low, he can start to cause trouble or even take his planet and colonies independent. Quality planets can really magnify the resources coming into it, eventually. But not immediately. At first, they’re actually a net loss. Look at the stats in the above screenshot. In every case, they are providing less than what they were when they were a colony. Lesson learned: Don’t fall for trying to make every planet a core world. Only really good planets make good candidates, and even then it takes awhile to have a positive outcome.
Meanwhile…What is going to be your ideology?
My survey ship, the TAS Discovery, has encountered a debris field.
Each choice has consequences:
Each choice gives you awareness of an ideology. It does not, however, actually give you points in that category. Awareness is the first step. How you spend your culture points is what matters.
So now you have more awareness of Opportunity which means when you acquire a culture point (which you get from completing missions and through tech) you can then gain the benefits from adopting the traits of a given ideology tree.
My other Survey ship, the Curiosity, has also found something:
And now boom:
I have another level of awareness. We are still balancing this system (and will be throughout the beta), but the goal is for these to become very powerful, as you won’t be able to pick very many throughout the game.
Just be aware: Other civilizations have very strong relations bonuses and penalties based on how similar your ideologies are.
Starbase technology has arrived, which not only lets me build Constructor ships but also gives me two constructors immediately.
Starbases are designed to essentially lay claim to resources within their zone of control. Let’s look at our solar system.
Other than planets and asteroids the only weird stuff are anomalies which your survey ships deal with are galactic resources and relics.
Precursor relics are pretty hard to miss.
This demonic Deep Space Nine looking thing is some sort of ancient Precursor manufacturing relic. Controlling one of these gives your entire civilization a manufacturing boost.
And this is an Ascension Relic:
No one knows exactly where the Precursors went but these ascension relics kind of give a clue. Controlling one of these gives you a prestige bonus, which helps you win the game faster.
Then, just beyond the Oort cloud is this:
This is an Elerium node. These are required for advanced beam weapons.
And if I zoom out really far:
You will see there are quite a few resources to choose from. Each with its own benefit. I’m going to go with the Manufacturing relic first.
Now, you can see the area that a future starbase will be able to claim. This range can be increased with technologies and other events as well. Just be very careful. If you hit the G key, you can actually see the grid:
As long as the range goes into the grid tile, then it’s in its range.
Now I just need to construct the starbase:
There are three types of starbases in the game:
Economic starbases only show up if there is a core world in range.
So here there are only two choices.
Military will give my ships in its area a boost whereas Communications will increase my influence in the area and help spread it which helps bring my culture across the galaxy.
I’m going to choose military because it’s close to Earth and I want to protect this area.
Now I can add an Archeology lab to start benefit from those relics.
So here on turn 5 you can see my growing empire.
But it is a small part of the overall sector:
Which in turn, is a small part of the galaxy (based on my game setup choices).
With Starbases researched, I now research Asteroid mining.
I can also look at the Technology Navigator to see what different techs lead to.
Getting Asteroid mining spawns two Asteroid mining ships that you can send to asteroid fields.
Asteroids provide small but meaningful boosts to mineral input.
Space is Dangerous
There are things out there that will kill you if they get the chance. Remember the probe I sent out? Well, it found…something. Then it blew up.
At some point, we will need to start arming our ships.
In the top right is your empire management UI.
The third one manages planets.
Uncolonized planets at the bottom are planets that be be colonized. Big ones are good planets and little ones are not.
If you have a Colony ship selected, you can right click onto an uncolonized planet and it will go there. The little buttons at the top allow for sorting.
Core worlds can build their own Shipyards. Don’t forget to do that.
And with that our journey really begins. We haven’t even met any aliens yet, fought any battles or gone on any missions yet. We’ll do a late game version of this guide another time. This should be enough to get started.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments!
Appendix A: Let’s talk scale
So how big can a game of Galactic Civilizations IV get? Pretty big. Let’s take a look.
Earth and the moon.
Our solar system.
Our sector. This would be a “medium” map in Galactic Civilizations III.
Zooming out, we see another sector.
Zooming out further, we see a bunch more sectors.
Zooming further out, and we see there’s even more sectors out there and that our sector isn’t even the biggest.