When it comes to Spain, I kind of wish Civ 6 had chosen a different Philip

Sid Meier’s Civilization games are brilliant for learning about historical figures. Historical figures such as Pedro II of Brazil, say, who had passed me by before Civ 5’s Brave New World expansion introduced us, and who turned out to be a man who was seriously missing from my life. Gentle and rather sad, Pedro II never really wanted to be ruler, but he still aced it if you ask me: he abolished slavery and – this is a recent discovery of mine – he was close friends with Jean-Martin Charcot, the father of modern neurology. How close were they? Let’s just put it this way: he gave Charcot a pet monkey called Rosalie. They were at the monkey-exchanging level of friendship. I would know none of this if it wasn’t for Civ 5’s prompting.

Pedro II is still there for Civ 6 – thank God – but there are changes elsewhere in the roster. Take Spain, for example. Isabella is out and Philip II is back. This makes total sense. Philip II ruled Spain during the height of its Golden Age. The empire was vast and intimidating, with territories, Wikipedia informs me, on every continent then known to the Europeans. More Wiki goodness: “The expression, “the empire on which the sun never sets,” was coined during Philip’s time to reflect the extent of his dominion.”

There are plenty of other good reasons for choosing Philip II. He was the guy behind the Spanish Armada, so he’s good value from a greatest historical hits perspective. He was also a religious force to be reckoned with, an absolute zealot for Catholicism. This is where he seems to fit into Civ 6, I gather. Under Philip II, Spain is a religious powerhouse. It has a Treasure Fleet ability that allows it to get a boost from trade routes, but elsewhere it’s God all the way: a combat bonus when fighting against players of other religions, a Conquistador unit that, amongst other things, forces captured cities to automatically convert to Spain’s religion if he’s in an adjacent hex. Then there’s the Mission building, a unique improvement that produces faith, and produces faith even more aggressively if it’s built on a different continent. Religion and conquest come together rather neatly under Philip II: a devout expansionist. Perfect for Civ.