Last week, Firaxis released Rise and Fall, the first major expansion pack for Civilization 6. It comes with all the usual new features - some new mechanics, buildings, several more historically significant leaders, and so on. But it also brought some smaller, under-the-radar changes - one of which in particular has had a mixed reaction from fans.
The issue centres around Firaxis' addition of more Hidden Agendas for its various leaders, and a couple of those new Agendas in particular: "Flirtatious" and "Curmudgeon". The former means a leader will like other civilizations that have leaders of the opposite sex, and dislike those of the same sex. The latter the opposite: disliking the opposite sex and liking those the same as their own.
If you're not familiar, Agendas are basically the goals, or playstyles, that are given to for each AI-controlled civilization's leader in a game. They come in two forms: fixed agendas that generally suit that leader's overall theme, like Queen Victoria's desire for imperialistic expansion with "Sun Never Sets"; and Hidden Agendas, which are randomly assigned and a bit more light-hearted about adding personality - maybe a leader is "Fun Loving" and wants to keep their citizens well entertained, or "Nuke Happy" and won't hesitate to pelt you with a few ICBMs when the mood takes them. These new ones fall under the latter.
Many fans see these new traits as a bit of fun - and, more importantly, historically accurate fun, given how much the romantic whims of leaders have already shaped the world - but others have noted a couple of problems.
The first complaint, which is frankly a little curmudgeonly itself, is concerned with how it impacts gameplay. In-game, Hidden Agendas also affect that leader's opinion of you, which could in turn affect alliances, trading, and even warfare. Normally you can play around them - if you find out someone is Nuke Happy, for example, then you know they'll like it if you build nuclear weapons yourself, and so you can curry favour by doing so, and so on.
But with Flirtatious and Curmudgeon, you can't. If you're playing as Queen Seondeok of Korea and Alexander the Great is a Curmudgeon, he'll start out disliking you no matter what (and being disliked by Alexander normally means being conquered by him, so it really doesn't help).
The second issue is more significant - Flirtatious leaders only ever hold favourable opinions towards the opposite sex. In other words, they're always straight, and given the fluidity of certain leaders' sexuality in the real world - Alexander the Great himself purportedly had same-sex relationships - that seems like an oversight.
Firaxis has a reputation for holding a more progressive, inclusive view on history, even noting that there was a conscious effort to include some of the more overlooked women and civilizations of history in the Rise and Fall expansion - and so it seemed surprising that they'd miss the mark here.
So we asked Firaxis about it, and a spokesperson told Eurogamer that while it didn't have an official comment to make, the studio was aware of the discussion amongst fans and that it would be addressed soon in an update to the game. Firaxis did not give an indication of when that would be, or which specific complaints it would address, or how it would do so.
Clearly, the new Agendas are a bit of fun - as most of the Hidden Agendas are - and the developer even seems to have programmed certain leaders like Alexander and Cleopatra to be two or three times as likely to be Flirtatious as the rest. The balancing of that levity, with the weightiness of history and the burden of representing it fairly, is what Civilization is all about. Here's hoping the update will maintain this.