How Civilization: Beyond Earth Is Improving Proxy Warfare

War has changed.

The Civilization series has a slant towards open warfare. Sure, diplomacy is an option, but if you really need another civilization dealt with, then declaring war is often the best--and only--solution. However, this often carries with it serious ramifications, be it economic, political, or even nuclear (looking at you, Gandhi). I recall several games of Sid Meier's Civilization V in which I tried to circumvent open warfare in favor of fighting proxy wars by supplying extra troops and gold to civilizations at war with my rivals. Typically, the other civilization would just pocket these "gifts" and declare peace shortly thereafter, or get itself killed. Either way, I just flushed a lot of resources down the drain.

Fighting proxy wars--and generally harassing other players--is a lot of fun, especially for a series such as Civilization, which has always taken place on the global stage. It's also something Civilization: Beyond Earth co-designers Will Miller and David McDonough have been expanding upon in the next chapter in this long-running strategy series. If you're not already caught up on Beyond Earth, be sure to check out our extensive coverage of the game. Otherwise, read on to learn more about the changing face of galactic warfare.

Open warfare is always an option, but Beyond Earth has some more subtle ways to harass your opponents as well.

"We wanted the state of war to be fuzzier in Beyond Earth," said Miller. "Very rarely, if ever, in the modern age does Congress declare war and go through all the formalities involved. It's just not the way the world works. I feel like we needed that binary state in past Civilization games--either you're at war or not at war--but adding these secondary vectors for offense and defense in Beyond Earth was a goal of ours from the beginning. There's the covert ops system, which can produce some serious damage to another player you're not at war with, as well as stations and the orbital layer."

While the covert ops system is still under wraps--and the orbital layer has already been discussed--Miller and McDonough were able to shed some light on stations, which are Beyond Earth's spin on Civilization V's city-states. Stations are created when a group of your citizens decide to form their own research lab or military base or hydroponic garden or some other facility elsewhere on the map. They will approach you with plans for two types of stations, and the one you chose to support will appear on its own tile somewhere close by--but outside of--your empire. Similar to city-states, stations can be used to help augment a weaker part of your empire, such as by producing military units or generating research points. You can trade with them, and through trade improve your relations with the station and earn greater benefits.

Other civilizations can roll up and wipe out a valuable station without having to declare war on you first.

However, stations are vulnerable if they're not within your national borders. Other civilizations can roll up and wipe out a valuable station without having to declare war on you first. And if you relied on that station for, say, military aid, losing it can be a crushing blow. As Miller explained, "[Stations] can be a means to wage proxy wars or shadow competitions with your neighbors, so you can see where other players are strong and where their interests lie and then attack them there. That's one of the ways you can cripple an opponent's infrastructure and apply diplomatic pressure without declaring war."

Don't worry, allowing a station to establish itself doesn't take away from your civilization's population.

Of course, you could also take a more peaceful approach to dealing with another player's station by establishing trade routes of your own and competing for that station's favor. This could force any number of responses from the other player, such as doubling-down on trading frequency with that station or destroying it. And unlike city-states, stations don't function as miniature versions of the other civilizations: they don't occupy surrounding tiles, and you can settle in close proximity to them. Measuring another player's response to a particular station is a sly way to get some insight into their larger strategy.

It should be noted the design and play style of stations is still in flux, and could change before Beyond Earth's final release. Hopefully, when they're combined with the rest of the game's more underhanded options, they create a viable way to muscle out the competition without having to rely purely on brute force. You can see how it all shakes out for yourself when Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is released later this year.

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34 comments
m_booth_528
m_booth_528

If someone attacked a station I was trading with, I would assume this was an act of war and fight them.  Just like in Civ 5 when someone starts insulting me.. I declare on them and wipe them out. Maybe this makes me a violent person, i dunno.. ;)  But I do like the idea of stations in BE being something you help create, instead of just being randomly placed as random non civ civs.. that usually turn out to be money sinks.. and usually get taken over.. early in game.


Can't wait for release.. even though, like everyone else.. i am. Obviously.

Aeronomer
Aeronomer

I have lost faith in Firaxis after they completely butchered Civilization, my favorite franchise. I'm assuming they will do the same thing the Alpha Centauri. It will be overpriced, dumbed down and multiplayer mods won't work. Ever. It was a shame to see such a great franchise become a cartoony shadow of its former self while Sid was dicking around with friggin Facebook games.  I'm sure they'll plaster Sid Meier's name all over it but I'm also sure it will have none of the just-one-more-turn magic that his games (even the mediocre ones) used to have. I think it's time to give Europa a try.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

This game will likely be horrible... unless it comes to PS4.  ;-)

BuBsay
BuBsay

Ahh the lack of truly in-depth diplomacy and interaction with other countries was always the one thing that was missing for me in Civ V. And with Firaxis addressing that issue, it looks like this is shaping up to be an awesome game.

mescovic
mescovic

I love the ideal of proxy wars and look forward to more game using this as a play style. I always like turtleing in games with defense and tech and having ability to use covertly or proxy without having to openly declare war.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

I won't lie, I am really looking forward to this game. This just makes me even happier! As a person who likes to turtle, it always annoyed me that I couldn't help out the smaller factions fend off the big guys without openly declaring war myself. I'm really looking forward to being able to "fix" that now!

Afinati
Afinati

I wonder what the atmospheric level is gonna look like, if it'll be pretty. lol
Proxy wars seem interesting, but I just had a though: if Beyond Earth is more time constrained than the epic sprawl that is prehistory to the space age, will the way you play the game change dramatically enough? I never played Alpha Centauri, but in the Civ series ... it would take a while before you could enter into a particular kind of treaty or whatever. ... I guess I wonder what kinds of technologies will be available in the new setting.

Meteor7
Meteor7

Looking forward to this game

zeus_RO
zeus_RO

"Proxy wars" in Civ 5 BNW worked pretty well if you used City States. Didn't work as well if you tried to get two major civs to fight each other. Major civs will just call it quits after a few rounds when they killed each others units, but if you get a city state and keep pumping in units for them, they will keep fighting until they are overwhelmed.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

I'm looking forward to this game so much I reinstalled Alpha Centauri for a quick fix.  I've always  loved covertly messing with the neighbors to keep them weak.  That station concept sounds interesting.  Keep the drips and drabs coming Gamespot.

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

So far, for a "spiritual successor" to Alpha Centauri it seems to be missing the critical component of being at war with the Planet itself. Unless it WAS covered and I didn't see it.

Quarkzquarkz
Quarkzquarkz

what is this proxy war thing? I know that proxy means fake and war means fighting, so how is fake fighting going to work? I'm sooooo confused... =(

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

Definitely liking this game as I hear bits about it,  love that their taking the Civilization formula to this new setting!

genjuroT
genjuroT

the visuals reminds me of Command and Conquer.


I was hoping for more of a galaxy civ. I played a Commodore Amiga game when I was a kid where you colonize entire planets and build fleets plus ground defenses. The economy and building system was exactly the same as Civ too. 


I'm thinking this game will be like Civ 5, but add the prefix space to everything.


kingcrimson24
kingcrimson24

defiantly will pick this game up  . I never played any of Civilization games but I always loved Sci Fi settings so this one really got my attention .

nice article maxwell

Damnation_6
Damnation_6

Proxy Warfare...you know like the one Iran and Saudi-Arabia are having right now in Syria. One side sponsors the current goverment and the others the rebels. That way you don't have to fight each other directly. Pretty realistic to have in a game like this reality shows.

ganondorf77
ganondorf77

@Aeronomer You have no idea in what u are talking about. Civ IV is a complete sublime game. Civ V with expansions is at least pretty correct, and this new one seems fantastic. By the way, I'm still having exact same feeling with the new sequels. If you don't like something... mod it.

Foppe
Foppe

@youre_a_sheep Go try that Snes Civilization title and you will see why it's a bad idea.

kbatra
kbatra

@youre_a_sheep  the game is too complicated for PS4.. But it will still be awesome for Mac and PC!

mescovic
mescovic

@Afinati You start off as a colony  and depending on what nation on earth sponsors is your starting tech, bonus and play style.

Freedomination
Freedomination

@DarkSaber2k  Or just using the planet to wage war for you, like Deidre and her selfsufficient, never outdated, exponentially growing army of demonboils (oh and they we're earning a nice bit of cash everytime they captured another mindworm as well)


mescovic
mescovic

@Quarkzquarkz Proxy does not mean fake. It means to do something on the behave of another. in this case a power using another to do the fighting or dirty work.

Freedomination
Freedomination

@Quarkzquarkz  Proxy doesn't really mean fake. Quick google search says definition is "The authority to represent someone else, especially in voting" or "A person authorized to act on behalf of another."


Its used in a few different combinations though. Mostly it comes down to someone getting someone else to act on their behalf

xantufrog
xantufrog

@Quarkzquarkz It means that resources and troops you contribute to an ally will more effectively be used by your ally in their conflicts.

For example: your team is not at war with India, but you don't get along with them. you have an ally that is at war with India. You can help take down India by contributing things to your ally without entering the conflict directly. These sort of features were "there" in previous games but never really played out that way

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@QuarkzquarkzThe nearest example I can think of is the US's support of the Afghans when they fought the Soviets. The Vietnam war could be seen as a proxy war between the USSR (and China) and the US, but the limited material benefit to the Soviets of a Communist victory, including the Domino Effect that never materialized, casts doubt on the alignment between the "proxy war" and Soviet strategic goals. I personally believe proxy wars are ineffective in achieving any strategic objective beyond sabotaging a competitor's existing war effort, which is why I used the Soviet-Afghan example. The Soviet didn't fight a proxy war; the Americans did, and although the Taliban ultimately became one of the worst enemies of the US, the original goal of sabotaging the Soviet war effort was a tremendous success.

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

@genjuroT   there are many games similar to the ones you describe, like galactic civilizations 2(and soon 3), the space empires series, sins of a solar empire which puts an RTS twist to the formula and its older cousin legions of iron and many more. there are plenty of choices in the space 4x strategy field.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@Damnation_6  the problem with training rebels to fight the wars for you (its always happened, however Bzerzinski started Al Qaeda), theres zero empathy however. Becuase they train them to be as ruthless as possible and as god hungry as possible. Which should give us all a pretty good indication that imagine if its robots in the future fighting our wars , they will have no empathy, be completely ruthless and you wont be able to talk to them. Scary future if everything becomes robotic. Weve seen proof of the lack of empathy with Al Qaeda, Al Nusra(from Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda's allies) . I think we should be pretty concerned about where technology in wars is heading. Because the governments have proven if they arent using their own people for the wars and creating small groups to fight for them, they are creating the most ruthless HARDCORE , diehard "Dont give a fck about life" soldier as possible.


I saw that video with Al Qaeda sitting in the plane with Ronald reagan when they were working for him.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@Unfallen_Satan  yeah look how awesome thats turned out for the world. Middle East is a fcked up place now. creating these groups like Al Qaeda in Afghanistan (like the trilateral Commission members did in the 70's) has spawned NEW groups to have to fight back when the trained rebels go rogue after the war.  So you eventually get what you have now, rogue rebel groups fighting all over the place and being secretly hired by major countries. It becomes a giant uncontrolled mess.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@nyran125tk Your mentioning of Al Qaeda brings up a level of strategy not possible, or at least not done, in Civilizations. Ironically, CoD: Modern Warfare portrays it very well, though the player character doesn't actually play a part in the strategizing, except maybe as a pawn. What was it that Makarov said? "All it takes is the will of a single man."

It sounds corny, right? Like out of a B-movie. But that actually embodies one key philosophy of the Art of War (which is about much more than just war per se): a small force, applied astutely by one man to a key point in a much bigger maelstrom, can change the course of history. And it has.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@nyran125tk @Unfallen_SatanAt the time the Soviet Union was a far greater threat to American interests. In one sense, a messed up Middle East is not contrary to American interests as a core principle of Machiavellianism is to keep all (potential) competitors in conflict with each other. The Middle East, with its vast oil reserves and entrenched Islamic influence, is a natural competitor to the West. And an unstable Middle East has benefits. I cannot imagine the US's gaining allies in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia if Iran and Iraq were not constant region threats.

The emergence of Al Qaeda as a global force that aims to harm Americans even at the cost of their own lives was unexpected. Religious strive that rise above physical welfare is nothing new, but this is something else. I attribute its creation to the genius of Osama bin Laden. 9/11 was orchestrated by a relatively small group of people, but the US backlash, and the rise of Islamic terrorists in reaction to that, created the global terror threat of today. One major fumble Americans made was a failure to identify bin Laden as a threat and remove him promptly. Then again, not raising any loud alarms ahead of 9/11 was a part of bin Laden's genius.