Civilization VI is getting its first expansion on February 8th 2018 and it sounds like it might be shake things up significantly. Going by the name Rise and Fall, it applies changes across the whole span of history and rather than introducing one big new system, it seems to focus on the actual rhythm and flow of the game.
There are new rules for Great Ages, city loyalty, governors, emergencies, and loads of additions in the form of civs, leaders, buildings, wonders and government policies, but it's the overall sense that Firaxis are adding a sprinkling of grand strategy to the series that has me most excited.
There comes a certain point in every playthrough of any Civ game where I consider quitting. Either I'm on well on my way to victory, with enough momentum to carry me over the line after a few more centuries of clicking End Turn, or I've lagged behind and found myself locked into a losing trajectory. There's rarely any ebb and flow after a certain point; every player is moving toward a predictable end-point and Civ becomes less of a strategy game and more of a waiting game.
Rise and Fall's new systems - and, heck, it's title - suggest Firaxis want to address that. Great Ages are a good example:
"As your civilization ebbs and flows, and you reach milestone Historic Moments, you will experience Dark Ages or Golden Ages, each providing specific challenges or bonuses based on your actions in-game. Rise triumphantly from a Dark Age, and your next Golden Age will be even stronger – a Heroic Age."
It's entirely possible that this just means you might get buffs rather than boosts at certain points in your development, but the mention of specific "challenges" gives me hope that things will be a little more playful than that. One thing that I thought worked really well in Civ VI was the way actions on the map, and between nations, affected the research tree. If Golden Ages and Dark Ages can have a similar impact, they might do more than apply extra acceleration or friction to your progress. Ideally, they'll lead to interesting decisions rather than simply being A Good Thing or A Bad Thing that happens every now and again.
Loyalty is the other eye-catching feature.
"Cities now have individual Loyalty to your leadership – let it fall too low, and face the consequences of low yields, revolts, and the potential to lose your city to another civilization, or its own independence. But one civilization’s loss can be your gain as you inspire Loyalty among cities throughout the map and further expand your borders."
Again, this could lead to some great fluctuations in the map and the status of nations. Civ has never been particularly great at modelling things like the collapse of empires or consolidation of power after a civil war or other period of strife. Loyalty, particularly combined with the Ages, could be a meaningful step in that direction.
This is mostly speculation for now, but you can make your own educated guesses by reading the full feature list RIGHT NOW:
"GREAT AGES: As your civilization ebbs and flows, and you reach milestone Historic Moments, you will experience Dark Ages or Golden Ages, each providing specific challenges or bonuses based on your actions in-game. Rise triumphantly from a Dark Age, and your next Golden Age will be even stronger – a Heroic Age.
LOYALTY: Cities now have individual Loyalty to your leadership – let it fall too low, and face the consequences of low yields, revolts, and the potential to lose your city to another civilization, or its own independence. But one civilization’s loss can be your gain as you inspire Loyalty among cities throughout the map and further expand your borders.
GOVERNORS: Recruit, appoint, and upgrade powerful characters with unique specialization bonuses and promotion trees to customize your cities, and reinforce Loyalty.
ENHANCED ALLIANCES: An enhanced alliances system allows players to form different types of alliances and build bonuses over time.
EMERGENCIES: When a civilization grows too powerful, other civilizations can join a pact against the threatening civilization and earn rewards, or penalties, when the Emergency ends.
TIMELINE: Review your civilization’s history at any time with the new Timeline feature, a visual journey through the Historic Moments that you encountered on your path to victory.
NEW LEADERS AND CIVS: Nine leaders and eight new civilizations are introduced. Each brings unique bonuses and gameplay, as well as a total of eight unique units, two unique buildings, four unique improvements, and two unique districts.
NEW GLOBAL CONTENT: Eight new world wonders, seven natural wonders, four new units, two new tile improvements, two new districts, fourteen new buildings, and three new resources have been added.
IMPROVED GAMEPLAY SYSTEMS: The Government system has been enhanced with new Policies and additional improvements have been made to existing systems."
I loved Civ VI at release but I've drifted away from it in recent months. That's partly because I've been expecting an expansion and wanted to wait and see how worthwhile it looked before starting another big multiplayer game. This looks very worthwhile to me, but it's all reliant on the execution. We'll find out how it is on Feburary 8th and in the meantime, there's loads more detail at the official announcement page.