I think it can feel that given all I write about the politics of the game, there’s not much space to talk about the actual features of the game. Personally, I think that you miss a lot of the core of the game if you don’t engage with the politics but I also feel that everyone has the right to approach a game in whatever way they wish, so here’s a rundown of the features of the game without any of the politics around them.
Syphilisation has you working on a group report and so is nominally cooperative. As everyone who has done a group report knows, in practice there will be some amount of behavior that falls short of ideal every time, but the core of the game has everyone working toward the shared goal of getting a good grade on the report.
Also, your character would like to become friends with the other students doing the report. The game keeps track of your relationships and another of the win conditions of the game is to become close to the other players. You always have the option of being mean to the other players and certain play styles require you be, but the game gives you other options as well.
The game keeps track of your relationships with other players across multiple axes and also keeps track of the kinds of units you use against them. So, using the powerful, brutal units can give you an advantage in the immediate campaign, but will also have long term effects on your relationship with that person that may or may not be beneficial depending on the play style you adopt for that game.
Multiple Combat Types
To further explain the previous point, there are multiple types of campaigns in Syphilisation and they allow different types of units. Units come in four categories and lower-intensity campaigns prohibit use of the more aggressive units, much in the way that Russia had different levels of engagement when they annexed Crimea and in their current conflict with Ukraine.
Furthermore, every campaign can be resolved without any use of combat units, if you so choose. The kinds of units that you use affects your relationship with the other player and also affects the culture of your own civ. Also, the type of unit you use affects the camp engaged with, possibly causing damage or growth.
Also, when you start a campaign, there will be support and resistance from every player involved. So, there are parts of your civ that will resist your campaign and parts that will support it, as is the case for every civ involved in the campaign and you then have to pacify all of the support or resistance according to how you want the campaign to conclude.
Control of a region is determined entirely by support of a plurality of citizens of a region. There are many ways to convince citizens to support you, including completing their quests and helping their camps grow. Once you have enough citizens supporting you, you take control of the city of the region.
In addition, each region has a number of camps that each hold citizens. These camps also use citizens to determine control. Camps that controlled by a player and connected to a city controlled by the same player let that player choose their production. Otherwise, they choose what to make themselves.
Also, camps can favor the environment instead of any of the players and then will function completely autonomously. Certain events can even cause full camps to turn to the environment completely.
Pollution has a big role in Syphilisation. All production leads to pollution. The more a tile produces, the more it pollutes. In addition, there are many actions and choices that players can take that can further boost their pollution. Pollution then has heavy impact on the game. There are multiple extinction events that can happen and finally, if the pollution rises enough, all of the players immediately lose the game.
Over the course of Syphilisation, you fill out a group report on Gandhi, Churchill and the Raj. As you research these topics in the game, it presents you with hundreds of direct quotations from major historical figures of the time. You get exposure to a lot of the perspectives and arguments of the time, in the words of the people who made those arguments at that time.
Syphilisation is broken into four distinct stages and the locus of the game shifts with each new stage. In particular, in the eXploitation stage of the game, the economy shifts heavily to the usage of advanced currencies and their refinement.
The tech tree is comprised of a large number of small collections of techs and there are a lot of pieces shared between the techs, so you can unlock a building in a number of ways in one game and just as easily not see it at all in a given game.
The culture of your civ is affected both by your actions and by your explicit choices. It’s even sometimes affected by the choices of the other players and what they teach you. It’s a key part of the way the civ produces and behaves and so you have to pay attention to what you do as the long-term effects on culture may outweigh the short term rewards of a particular action.
In Syphilisation, you will sometimes receive inspirations from various events and projects and the like. You can have these take over a camp for a few turns, quieting the whole area and resulting in one of a number of things, such as the immediate conclusion of the tasks under that camp or a permanent change to civ culture.