Finished my first game of Gods & Kings last night (early this morning, really). Having fond memories of missionary spam in Civ IV, I decided to see whether I could do the same in Civ V. Missionaries are now bought with Faith points, so I had to go Faith-heavy. I chose to play the Celts, who get a +1 Faith bonus when their cities are adjacent to unimproved forest, +2 Faith if next to three unimproved forests. My starting location gave me plenty of forest, so I was the first to get a Pantheon just for sitting there with my one city.
Later, the Celts’ unique unit (a spearman replacement) also gets Faith for enemy kills. So I went around killing all the barbarians I could find. Combined with the new shrine building (which gives Faith) as well as nabbing Stonehenge (which now gives Faith rather than Culture), I was the first to pop a Great Prophet and establish my religion. Not being a warmonger type, I decided to tailor the religion to give me Culture - since I’d be building shrines and temples for the Faith points, I also made them give me some culture as well. I also chose to make cathedrals, which give some Faith and plenty of Culture. (The alternatives are to make mosques for plenty of Faith and some Culture or pagodas for balanced Faith and Culture.)
The Faith system does a pretty good job of staying out of the way if you don’t want to micromanage. You can tell it to automatically create missionaries, religious buildings, or wait for a Great Prophet. Later, when you get the more advanced policies, you can buy other great people with Faith (as well as getting them the old-fashioned way). I believe I cycled through the choices early on, creating a cathedral, a missionary, then another Great Prophet. I used the initial missionary to convert the local city states. I chose to pop my second Great Prophet to have foreign cities with my religion give me culture and to extend my religion’s influence by 30%. Much later, I used some other Great Prophets as sort of super-missionaries. If a city is already under the influence of another religion, sending a missionary in won’t do much, but the Great Prophet will do the job.
Converting major civs does have diplomatic consequences. I converted the Ottomans, who were never able to found their own religion, and maintained good relations with them throughout the game. The neighboring Iroquois, on the other hand, did found a religion of their own and I got into a sort of cold war with them for the hearts and minds of our peoples. They fired the initial salvo by converting my holy city of Edinburgh to their blasphemous way of thinking. I got rid of the heathens by sending in an inquisitor, then sent a missionary to their own holy city to convert them. They didn’t like that one bit, so they asked me to please stop, which I agreed to do since I didn’t want to get into a shooting war. When I tried again in a later era, they denounced me. Nothing much came of that since by that time I was quite strong militarily and had quite a collection of troops on his border.
Going back to barbarian-killing, this not only gave me a Faith boost, but also gave me an early lead in befriending the local city-states. It’s easier to get on the good side of the city-states now since they give you a lot more quests. A lot of them were things I would have been doing anyway. You want me to convert you to my religion? Done! You’re holding a contest to see who can generate the most Faith in 30 turns? Why that would be me! You’re looking for a Great Artist? But of course!
It seems the city state AI is much improved. I once got into a bidding war for a city state that had asked for money. Three of us were each trumping the other to pay the city state and get the most influence. I came out on top, which got me their unique luxury resource as well as influence with a second city state that happened to be seeking that resource. I was thus able to stay in the good graces of at least four city states (usually more) at any one time. With their unique luxury goods, I had happiness out the wazoo. The military city states kept gifting me units, so much so that I didn’t build a single land unit after the Renaissance yet still managed to have the second largest army at the end of the game.
Not that I actually used that army aside from killing barbarians. There were plenty of wars, but I was not involved in any one of them. The Ottomans and the Iroquois on my own continent would have a go at each other pretty regularly. England sitting off shore was pretty belligerent. Montezuma was on the other continent and took out Siam in the early going (not that I ever met the latter) then tried to take on the Byzantine-Dutch alliance. I was content to stay in my four cities, peddling my wares, generating happiness, and sending my missionaries far and wide.
At the end of the game, through a combination of happiness, Wonder building, Faith-based Great Artist buying, as well generating Great Artists the old fashioned way, I was able to maintain an almost continuous state of Golden Age. This production boost quickly propelled me to Cultural Victory.
All in all, I’d say it’s a good expansion, approaching Beyond the Sword greatness.