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Vive la France: Catherine de Medici leads the French in 'Civilization VI'

The French have always been a mainstay of the Civilization series, guided by legendary leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis XIV, and Charles de Gaulle. Civilization VI will bring the debut of Catherine de Medici.

Born of Italy’s powerful de Medici family, Catherine exerted a strong influence on the French court in the latter half of the 16th century, as wife to King Henry II, intermittent queen regent, and mother to three subsequent kings of France. Retaining power in the French monarchy during a period of great social, political, and religious upheaval, some historians have called her the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe.

France’s unique ability is called Grand Tour, which provides a boost for constructing midgame wonders and a tourism bonus for all wonders built. Their unique tile improvement, the Chateau, must be built next to a river, but provides culture and gets additional bonuses for proximity to wonders.

Related: Queen Victoria will make England great again in ‘Civilization VI

The Garde Imperiale is France’s unique unit. It helps defend all of those wonders from jealous neighbors. They receive a combat bonus for fighting on the capital city’s home continent, and generate Great General points from kills.

Lastly, Catherine is the first leader revealed so far to focus on espionage. Her ladies in waiting serve as a bonus spy network, providing additional diplomatic information about newly met rivals by listening to court rumors. Catherine will also receive an extra spy once castles are researched.

Unlike China and Egypt, whose abilities encourage them to build a lot of wonders early and then snowball that early lead into victory, France is geared toward peaking around the medieval and renaissance periods. The culture and tourism bonuses point toward a cultural victory, but like all of the other civilizations revealed so far, there is a lot of flexibility in their features. With most of the obvious French leaders in history already covered by the series, Catherine is a really interesting choice as someone that had a strong hand in the leadership of France for an extended and important period, even if she only explicitly ruled it for some of that time.

Civilization VI arrives on October 21 for PC. We will be getting more hands-on time with the game in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for our ongoing impressions.