somewhat less occult than the voidsingers or the hermetic order, our next society offers a playstyle more in keeping with diplomacy and espionage. If keeping city states in your clutches and holding sway over your allies’ secrets is more your jam, consider the owls of minerva.
Yearn for policy slots? Keen to hit triple figure envoys in your local city state? Does the thought of more trade routes make you hot under the collar? Locate your local sewer, take a left at the second grate and do your best gang sign impression – the Owls of Minerva are at your disposal.
Getting going with the Owls of Minerva is no more difficult than any other society in principle, but is heavily impacted by how sovereign your territory is, and how lucky both you and the AI get with scouting. Your entry to the Owls of Minerva requires you to send an envoy to a city state, and has an 80% chance of occurring, lessening as more civilizations join the society. Meeting a city state first gives you an envoy there – meeting second grants nothing. If the AI beats you to it, you might have a hard time gaining entry until later down the civic tree when you start to earn envoys via policy.
Should you be fortunate enough to be granted access to this most prestigious society, you’ll immediately gain an additional economic policy slot in your government, and any trade route sent to a city state will generate an envoy there. This can make the early game choice easier – often, if your civilization is not producing any faith per turn, you would be inclined to sacrifice the production provided by Urban Planning in order to run God King so that you can secure your Pantheon. Membership with the Owls of Minerva will let you run both.
Trade routes providing envoys is a renewable way to generate envoys starting very early, and may incentivize pushing towards Harbors and Commercial Hubs faster in order to expand your trade route capacity. Leveraging your governor Amani to place two envoys at a city state when established might also let you start grabbing first-time suzerainships in order to generate that sweet, delicious era score.
A quick shout out on the absolute madness of this initial ability – Matthias Corvinus, Cyrus, and Pericles are particularly hot on this particular secret society. Matthias’ ability to gain unfettered access to envoys in order to levy their military might is absurd, especially at pivotal tech switches such as Swordsmen or Musketmen. Cyrus gets an extra trade route capacity earlier than most, and can leverage that to his advantage by strategically grabbing city states. Pericles generates envoys when he builds his unique culture district (the Acropolis), and gains +5% culture for each suzerainship Greece has. Add in more envoys and, well, you get the idea.
So, you’ve kissed the ring and thrown your lot in with the Owls, and now you’re looking to further reap the rewards in the Medieval Era. This society loves its money, and it wants you to love it too – that’s why they offer a replacement for the Bank building in your Commercial Hub district. The Gilded Vault offers the standard +5 gold and +1 Great Merchant Point per turn, as well as a culture output equal to the adjacency bonus of the Commercial Hub district it is built in, and – here’s the kicker – having a Harbor district in this city grants you an additional trade route.
Yeah, it really is that good. As someone who would consider themselves a Matthias main, I am a big fan of having deep pockets. Money makes the world go round, and having a blossoming gold economy opens the doors for fast reactions to just about anything – Builders to rectify disasters, military units to combat a Surprise War declaration (I’m looking at you, Cleopatra), and even Settlers to forward settle a new strategic resource. This ability actually works to feed into itself and, in my estimations, makes Matthias Corvinus an undisputed S tier civilization as a result.
Firstly, the Gilded Vault wants you to have a big Commercial Hub adjacency bonus – not as easy to achieve as it is with other districts. Placing it adjacent to a river will grant you +2, sandwiched between your City Center and another district will make that +3 – not that exciting, is it? If you have the science and production, you can race towards Engineering in the tech tree in order to build Machu Picchu which grants your Commercial Hub districts (as well as your Theater Squares and Industrial Zones) a major adjacency bonus from mountains. It’s hotly contested and difficult to get as you go up the difficulty ladder, but worth a shot. Or, you can lean into the major adjacency bonus specifically provided by the Harbor.
Indeed, here lies the synergy. Find yourself a coast you want to settle with a river – ideally one where you can build a nice +3 Harbor district – and make sure you can set things up so that your City Center, Harbor, and Commercial Hub districts are all touching, kind of like a triangle. You’ll need to place the Harbor next to the City Center so that it gains +2, and then each additional resource will give it an additional +1. The Commercial Hub then gains +2 adjacency from the river, +2 from the adjacent Harbor, and then a further +1 for being adjacent to two districts (your City Center counts as a district too).
Boom, there you have it – stick your Gilded Vault in there (or buy it, you rich son of a gun) and you’ll have +5 culture coming out of the Commercial Hub, and two more trade routes in your empire. Firaxis saw fit to nerf having two trade routes in your city by having both a Market and a Lighthouse built there in the past, reducing it to a maximum of one – but have revised the sanctions just for the Owls of Minerva. Abuse your economy wisely.
Welcome to the Industrial Era, and to yet more goodies from your society companions. Straight out the gate you’ll be awarded an additional Wildcard Policy slot in your government, good for any policy card you fancy. In addition, as your empire furthers it’s indulgence with espionage, you gain an additional +2 spy capacity in your empire. Any spy in your home territory will add +4 loyalty in your cities, and +1 amenity to boot.
Spies are integral to securing victory on higher difficulties, but can still be fun to use on lower difficulties too. Beyond the domestic benefits of keeping them in the empire, you can deploy your double-0 agents to assassinate governors, steal gold, or even heist some great works. My personal hatred (and the reason I haven’t built a Neighborhood district in 2 years) is when the AI forments unrest and spawns barbarian units in my empire. Does your enemy have a Neighborhood district? Wreak havoc!
Congratulations, you have reached the Modern Era and the pinnacle of your society’s plan. In this instance, you’re not looking to summon ancient eldritch gods or to prove the existence of magic – you’re here to make dolla.
Rather than a city project, this passive simply gains you half of the gold, faith, culture, and science that the city in which a Spy completes an operation in generated that turn. You’ll also earn 3% of whatever’s in your treasury as gold per turn, up to an additional +1000 gold per turn. It’s passive, it’s effective, and it will ensure you can purchase anything you damn well please as you see the game out.
It’s times like these that I wish there was an economic victory.
What’s the verdict?
I touched on the three civilizations which suit this society best, but really, it’s a great jack-of-all-trades choice either way. Gold is great for everything: buying units, buying great works – hell, I’ve never done it in Civilization 6, but I bet you can buy some cities too! Although I despise the diplomatic victory condition for how damn long it takes, you’ll even be able to speed that up too.