The hexagonal shift also allows ranged units to enter the game for the first time. Proper ranged units, that is - ones that attack from multiple tiles away, instead from adjacent hexes. These paper-thin units sit behind your infantry frontlines and barrage foes, usually from about two tiles away. It also means naval units are far, far more powerful than before. Never has being the British been so much fun.
These looming military presences might imply the game suffers from a, well, looming military presence, but the diplomatic, cultural and economic elements at work are just as integral and intertwined with the game as ever before. You'll always need some military units around to ensure nobody else gets any ideas too far above their station, though that's always been the case.
Other areas of the game include changes so gentle and straightforward you'll forget they weren't ever there to begin with. The research tree has been dramatically pared back, to the point that it's fundamentally simpler to advance the game across the eras. Gold, Research and Culture are now generated independently, though each resource can be prioritised over the others. Veteran players will be able to spend more time focusing on their actual strategies, and newcomers will be able to enjoy a system that takes the focus of the game out of menus and into the main screen.
It's the little things that help. For instance, all units can now embark across the oceans - albeit with no defences - after you've researched a single technology. Religion has been chopped out to make way for simpler diplomatic relations, and the whole civic system has been overhauled into a set of 10 social policy trees (such as piety, tradition and autocracy) which are unlocked by spending accumulated culture points. Any fears of the game's elements being dumbed down are eradicated when you realise the trimmed direction gives you more time to focus on units and strategy.
I can keep going. Cities can now only garrison a single unit but can attack independently, with a combat strength that doesn't diminish with the city's health. So, now you need to use the breadth of your land, making use of the defensive bonuses gained from hills and forests, instead of keeping a massive stack of units at home. When you conquer an enemy city, you're given the option of razing it to the ground, annexing it into your nation or creating a puppet. A puppet city feeds you its resources at the cost of giving the player no control over its production, whereas an annexed city is a jolly miserable place until you build a courthouse to restore order. The idea is that you can make puppet cities when you're on the warpath, slowly folding them into your civilization in peacetime. It works a treat.
Compared to earlier games in the series, Civilization V leans even further into specialising towards specific areas. Stats like Happiness are now indicative of your entire empire rather than each city, but this makes it far easier to turn certain locations into grim, production powerhouses and army factories (I'm looking at you, Manchester). Fiddling with all the bells and whistles is mostly optional, however, as cities run efficiently when left to their own default devices. But you can manually set the focus of each city, right down to selecting which surrounding tiles get worked, and you quickly learn to have each pillar of your empire making the most of its surroundings.
You can still get lost in the details, basically, despite the simpler focus - and that's exactly how Civilization should be. It's still more than potent enough to make me forget about meals and, on one occasion, to could skip showering in exchange for another half an hour of playtime. I'm ashamed of myself.