ShopTo recently got invited to try out Civilization VI and interviewed Firaxis about the game see here our first impressions and watch some game-play footage.
One of the first things which stands apparent as you start up the game is the changes to city structure and tile usage. In previous Civilization games cities existed on a single tile, even when they had influence on the surrounding land and you could build infinitely on that tile. Now though cities are getting unpacked into their surrounding land, having to build specialised districts for specialist buildings of each upgrade tree, such as science or commercial districts, and for each district it sets the tile usage of your selected tile. This creates a emphasis on tile management as the cities local tiles compete as not only do you still have to look to build farms, mines, pastures and other such upgrades you may remember from Civilization V to keep people fed and the economy rolling; but you also have to allocate tiles for every wonder you wish to build.
Culture has also seen a major revamp this generation, rather then repeating the sometimes awkward mini trees of small bonuses and passive upgrades, we are now presented with a development tree similar to how research is managed. With this development it now allows culturally strong civilizations to stand their own against nations with higher tech progression, gaining access to policies which can be enacted for civilization wide bonuses; and allowing you to customise your civilization's traits to the era its going through.
Another new feature which could lead to plenty of fine optimisation of play is a form of affinity/boost system applying to both the science and culture tries. What it comes down to is having your Civ perform certain actions or achieve certain milestones gives you a progression boost to specific research on similar subjects. To take a basic example, settling on the coast will immediately give you a boost to sailing if you have not researched it yet, as it just makes sense that a coastal nation would know how to make boats. Not only does this mean you find it an easier path to advance techs which match how you have been playing, but it also becomes possible to examine the tech tree and deliberately take actions which will take you towards your desired advancement.
With my own hands on time with the game I was able to come to power as a merchant empire. After a strong push for economy and culture early on I managed to acquire a 'Great Merchant' which boosted trade route value from my capital. Capitalizing on this along with recently cleared routes to the nearby city state of Zanzibar and the friendly English territory beyond I doubled down on trade. Hunting down trade bonuses in my culture progression I took bonuses to trade income while overlooking military advances. With the income bonuses associated with my trade routes my ties to nearby nations only strengthened, and even the Japanese who were unhappy with how my empires location blocked their continued expansion were pacified by the income from allowing my trade routes to them.