A screenshot of Civilization V: Gods and Kings

Faith and spies are the main highlights of the upcoming expansion for Civilization V as two new tools in your arsenal as you compete for world domination. The expansion isn’t set to come out until June 19, but I got a sneak peek at what’s coming from Firaxis next month in a limited hands-on trial.

The expansion, Gods and Kings, is a welcome addition to Civilization V (Civ 5 to its friends), and is far more than a warmed-over addition to a two-year-old game.

Gods and Kings gives players the option of conquest through religion — and the option of building their religions from scratch. Adding shrines and temples to your empire gains you Faith, which in turn can be spent to found a religion or build missionary units. You can mix and match aspects of religion to get different bonuses that fit your personal style before sending missionaries out to convert other cities to your faith.

Combat has also changed in the expansion — particularly for naval units — which requires a bit more strategy from the player. Your navy now has ranged and melee units, meaning that it’s probably best to move in fleets. The same is true of your land units, which fight on a much more nuanced scale that makes you more likely take the time to send out a few units to flank an enemy rather than just sending one out with the hope that your luck will carry the day.

If you like to be a little sneakier, the game also gives you the option of stealing research from your neighbors by training spies. The espionage element isn’t sketched out quite as well as most other aspects of Civ, mainly because you never see your recruits’ faces or hear their voices. Maybe that’s normal spy protocol, but it’s honestly it a little less fun to steal if you can’t see your agents sneaking around. Still, it’s great to see the espionage dynamic included in the expansion.

The game also adds a handful of new rulers vying for global dominance — including Dido, Gustavus Adolphus and Boudicca — and has some great additions to the technology tree that give even veteran players something new and exciting to work toward. The game preview ended too early to take advantage of a few of the options listed, but they included improved weapons units such as World War I tanks and awesome new wonders like the Hubble Space Telescope or the City of Petra. (That was for you, “Indiana Jones” fans.)

The deep changes to the gameplay and new twists on old features make Gods and Kings a great follow-up to Civilization V, and well worth a look. If the hours I sunk into the preview alone are any indication, this is an expansion that was worth a two-year wait .

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