Classic Game of the Week -- Civilization

The question is not whether Civilization belongs as a Classic Game of the Week. The question is, which one do you put on top?

Channeling my inner Jim Croce, for a moment, if I could put time in a bottle, then I'd need a fully functioning bottling plant to fill the containers that hold hours lost to Civilization in its many forms. No series has more consistently mesmerized me during play sessions into a kind of joyful stupor from which I wandered bleary eyed to bed at Unholy-fifteen-in-the-morning. Sid Meier and increasingly Soren Johnson should hold an annual clinic on delivering constant and consistent reward in video games and attendance should be mandatory and compulsory. Releasing a game without hearing Sid and Soren talk at length should be a penalty punishable by banishment or being shot from a canon into the sun.

I'm almost done! Just as soon as I build the Pyramids -- just as soon as I research writing -- just as soon as I capture Corinth -- just as soon as I build this trebuchet -- just as soon as I convert to Hindu -- just as soon as I get riflemen -- just as soon as I ... Oh My God is it really that late?!

I admit that I think Civilization IV, particularly when combined with the absolutely epic Beyond the Sword expansion, is probably one of the most lovingly crafted and perfect games I've ever played. It's a permanent resident of my hard drive and something I will fire up for years to come. At least until Firaxis decides to go back to the old watering hole and eek out the next iteration in the series, but I think Civization II will always hold the soft spot in my heart. It was one of those games that defined me as a gamer, and that I look back upon with great affection, so I give the nostalgic nod to old school Civ.

But, just for the record, if you don't own Civilization IV, then you have made a tragic error in judgment that should be corrected post haste!

*image credit to Gamespot as you can tell from that little G in the corner

Comments

Civ II remains the only game I've ever stayed up all night for. I kind of wish I still had the box, since it was the shiny multiplayer gold edition one.

I was really excited about Civ III but I didn't think it exceeded II. But Civ IV fixed everything that I thought was wrong with the first three versions, which is saying something. All the little things that used to get in the way were gone, and you could actually play it in multiplayer and hope to finish a game.

My personal candidate for best Civ title:

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri!

grobstein wrote:

My personal candidate for best Civ title:

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri!

Prior to Civ IV BtS, I would have agreed with you 100%.

Now it's more like 50/50

adam.greenbrier wrote:

Does Civilization IV support local hot seat multiplayer?

It most certainly does support it. And in fact, when each player ends their turn, it hides the map, tells you who goes next, and waits until you hit OK to start their turn.

Elysium wrote:
I bought the dumbed-down 360 version to scratch the itch and for a while it worked, but it lacks the grandiosity of the PC games. I want to forge bizarre border agreements and create vassal states! I want to nuke every city on earth!

Personally, I live for the really incongrous moments such as seeing the announcement that "Judaism has been founded in Berlin!"

My personal favorite is "Gandhi has adopted Slavery." What a tricky one, he is.

LarryC wrote:

Civ IV is awesome in that it's NOT boring to play the goody-two-shoes cultural hog. It's SimCity mode Civ, but it is fairly interesting.

See, it's comments like this that make me think my initial evaluation of all the Civ games might have been correct. I gave Civ 4 an hour in goody two shoes mode, just like the other three, and found it unutterably dull.

It makes me wonder if even being the most evil of evil overlords will be enough to counter the suicide-inducing ennui of the gameplay.

I remember asking and getting this for my birthday. My mother bought it a few days before my birthday and 2 days after that we would go on vacation. I begged to play it before my birthday to no avail. The latter two days were filled with cold hard gaming in mid summer and all vacation long I thought of the game. It's one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had.

hidannik:

Do not fret. When I said "goody-two-shoes" in terms of empire building, I only meant it in the "not going to take over the world militarily" sort of way. You're still going to whip your slaves to death and you're still going to milk your people for all they're worth.

At its heart, Civ IV is a turn-based resource management game. I don't what you're doing to induce so much ennui, but I found Civ IV engaging and challenging - a nail biter every turn, almost.

If you're finding the going slow and boring, I fully recommend going to Civilization Fanatics forum and lurking for a while. TheMeInTeam has a thread pointer there that instructs you on how to play Civ IV fast - like, done in 3 hours, tops. I swear, the guy plays Civ IV like an RTS. Also, you might want to put in some time in the various threads that discuss win conditions and achieving them. The ultimate point of Civ IV is to manage all your resources in the best possible manner to win as soon as possible. When you're hugging the turn curve really, really tight, it can get pretty involving.

But it may not be for you anyway. Go to forum, browse around, and see if you like what you see about the game.

Yoyoson wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:

Does Civilization IV support local hot seat multiplayer?

It most certainly does support it. And in fact, when each player ends their turn, it hides the map, tells you who goes next, and waits until you hit OK to start their turn.

Elysium wrote:
I bought the dumbed-down 360 version to scratch the itch and for a while it worked, but it lacks the grandiosity of the PC games. I want to forge bizarre border agreements and create vassal states! I want to nuke every city on earth!

Personally, I live for the really incongrous moments such as seeing the announcement that "Judaism has been founded in Berlin!"

My personal favorite is "Gandhi has adopted Slavery." What a tricky one, he is.

What a coincidence that this was the Classic Game of the Week. Yesterday, I didn't check the site, and I have a friend over for the week who suggested firing up a hotseat game of Civ IV. It was one of those suggestions that reminded me why we're such good friends, and I was on-board with the idea immediately. Resolving to stop at 11:30 pm, inevitably, we quit around 12:30 am.

We're playing cooperatively in the game, and so far, we have crushed the treacherous Indians, who made the unforgivable mistake of being in a corner of our continent. (And Yoyoson, you'll be pleased to hear that we got that "Gandhi has adopted Slavery" message early on and also remarked on its contradiction.) I had begun besieging Saladin and his Arabian Empire before we had to quit for the night. And of course, I spent all morning thinking about how to pull off the invasion when we return to the game tonight.

This is why the Civ series is classic. It just gets in your head like nothing else I have played.

PS When Video Games Live came to the DC area, I got to briefly meet Sid Meier. Stood in line for about an hour to get his autograph and quickly thank him for the games he's helped make; totally worth it.

I miss the Saturday afternoon Civ IV matches, though I also realize sadly that I don't seem to have the time for them anymore.

My fiancee is pretty hooked. We've been playing the last few nights over the LAN. Very good timing for this article. The BTS improvements really do change Civ 4 in amazing ways.

hidannik wrote:
LarryC wrote:

Civ IV is awesome in that it's NOT boring to play the goody-two-shoes cultural hog. It's SimCity mode Civ, but it is fairly interesting.

See, it's comments like this that make me think my initial evaluation of all the Civ games might have been correct. I gave Civ 4 an hour in goody two shoes mode, just like the other three, and found it unutterably dull.

It makes me wonder if even being the most evil of evil overlords will be enough to counter the suicide-inducing ennui of the gameplay.

I too have found that being military is the only thing that keeps me interested, once the initial exploration and expansion phases are over.

I always disable all the victory conditions except Conquest. Last man surviving, wins!

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

Nah, I'm with you.

EDIT: the potential irony is not lost on me.

I downloaded the Mac demo for Civilization IV, and I'm a bit iffy about the game. I haven't played much more than the tutorial, but I don't know that the tutorial does a very good job of selling the game.

After some thought, my primary concern about the game boils down to this: in the tutorial, you're frequently told to skip four or five turns while you wait for something to be built. I understand that the game is slow and complicated, and I'm fine with that, but I'm not fond of games in which I'm encouraged to waste time. This might simply be a case of the game being remarkably less complex in the beginning stages of a civilization and that turns become more significant as more parts are added to the system. How often will a real game of Civ IV boil down to grinding away turns waiting for something to be built? How much do individual turns matter?

Clemenstation wrote:
crunchy wrote:
Clemenstation wrote:
crunchy wrote:
Minarchist wrote:

As a playable character in the game, I whole-heartedly support the choice of Civ II. To Waterloo!

Funny that my post would be next (see location!)

To the petting zoo in Waterloo Park!

Great place...right across from Married Student Apartments where I used to live!

Right across from Lester Street where I used to live!

I used to drunkenly wander down there at 3 am to micromanage the bunnies in their endless battle for supremacy against the guinea pigs they shared an enclosure with.

You will be happy to know that the battle still rages on...not unlike World of Warcraft, those bunnies are still in that battleground!!

adam.greenbrier wrote:

I downloaded the Mac demo for Civilization IV, and I'm a bit iffy about the game. I haven't played much more than the tutorial, but I don't know that the tutorial does a very good job of selling the game.

After some thought, my primary concern about the game boils down to this: in the tutorial, you're frequently told to skip four or five turns while you wait for something to be built. I understand that the game is slow and complicated, and I'm fine with that, but I'm not fond of games in which I'm encouraged to waste time. This might simply be a case of the game being remarkably less complex in the beginning stages of a civilization and that turns become more significant as more parts are added to the system. How often will a real game of Civ IV boil down to grinding away turns waiting for something to be built? How much do individual turns matter?

Maybe the first 20-25 turns are like that in each game, but they go pretty quickly. By the time you reach the endgame, a single turn takes longer than those first 25 combined. Individual turns matter a lot.

Minarchist wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:

I downloaded the Mac demo for Civilization IV, and I'm a bit iffy about the game. I haven't played much more than the tutorial, but I don't know that the tutorial does a very good job of selling the game.

After some thought, my primary concern about the game boils down to this: in the tutorial, you're frequently told to skip four or five turns while you wait for something to be built. I understand that the game is slow and complicated, and I'm fine with that, but I'm not fond of games in which I'm encouraged to waste time. This might simply be a case of the game being remarkably less complex in the beginning stages of a civilization and that turns become more significant as more parts are added to the system. How often will a real game of Civ IV boil down to grinding away turns waiting for something to be built? How much do individual turns matter?

Maybe the first 20-25 turns are like that in each game, but they go pretty quickly. By the time you reach the endgame, a single turn takes longer than those first 25 combined. Individual turns matter a lot.

It also depends largely on your play style. At the beginning, I would often only have 3 cities for most of the game. In those cases, a lot of turns were "wasted" as I was building 3 wonders that each took 60+ turns to finish.

Later, I adopted a very expansionist strategy where I would be constantly expanding with new cities and would have dozens of cities not including captured ones. Those games had very few "wasted" turns. I was always either looking for someplace to build a new city or having units, buildings or wonders finishing.

Honestly, I enjoyed both equally, but for very different reasons.

There will almost always be some "wasted" turns early on because your cities aren't very large or efficient and you don't have very many of them to be concerned with.

adam.greenbrier:

Time and turns are simply resources in Civ. It matters, but sometimes you just want to run the time to get to where you're going. Civ IV is streamlined enough that it hardly ever turns into a click fest of "next turn" buttons, but it skirts the line sometimes. Faster game settings make each turn more important - if you're playing on Normal Speed, you won't be doing "next turn" clicks haphazardly, and practically never on Quick Speed.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

How often will a real game of Civ IV boil down to grinding away turns waiting for something to be built? How much do individual turns matter?

In the first couple dozen of turns, you might skip a turn or two while waiting for something to build. This will especially be true if you give your mobile units a destination that takes more than one turn for travel. After the initial startup, pretty much every turn matters.

wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

I'm very on the fence regarding the military aspects of Civ IV. It feels totally out of my control, what units engage and what the opponent engages with doesn't seem to make sense. Does BtS give more control over battle?

If I want a turn based game with combat I usually fire up Rome: TW which lives on my hard-drive.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

I'm very on the fence regarding the military aspects of Civ IV. It feels totally out of my control, what units engage and what the opponent engages with doesn't seem to make sense. Does BtS give more control over battle?

When you attack a stack, generally the unit with the best defense against your attack will be the defender (that is, if you're attacking with a mounted unit and their second-strongest defender has a bonus against mounted units, it'll defend). When attacking, the computer tends to start with the best offensive unit available, but I'm less certain about how that works. I'm not sure if the PC selects based on health--maybe just in a tie?

It's been a year or so since I fired it up, so my knowledge is a little rusty. And then there's the pacifist thing I do. (My strategy is to peaceably expand as rapidly as possible until I reach an isthmus, so defense will be easier. From there, I turtle and put as much into science as possible.

Dune II had me stay up all night playing.
XCom forced me to stay up all night playing.
Command and Conquer caused me to stay up all night playing.
And Total Annihilation made me stay up all night playing.

But Civ II is the champ. That game had me up two nights straight playing, no sleep. Unbelievably, as soon as I finished one game, I'd start another as a new faction. Luckily, it was a holiday weekend...

DAMMIT! This just reminded me I still have Alpha Centauri sitting up on the shelf. It's calling me. Must...resist...Wife and kids will leave...FOREVER...

(Hmm, then I'd have lots of free time to play it, though...)

wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

It's probably due to your high estrogen levels.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

It's probably due to your high estrogen levels.

Or perhaps it's due to the fact that I've matured beyond the the need to envelop and ingest the world around me as a way of asserting myself.

Tell me, do you also chew on your pens or fingernails?

wordsmythe wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

It's probably due to your high estrogen levels.

Or perhaps it's due to the fact that I've matured beyond the the need to envelop and ingest the world around me as a way of asserting myself.

Tell me, do you also chew on your pens or fingernails?

Next he's going to ask about your mother! It's a trap!

wordsmythe wrote:

I must be the only guy in the world who dislikes the military side of Civ games (except for the Colonizations). I'm diplomatic and space race all the way.

There's more of us apparently. I'm non-militaristic to the point of cowardice. The exception is Colonization for me as well. I loooooved trampling natives as Spain. Strange thing is in Europa Universalis III I don't have a problem going all-out-attack on anyone. Might have something to do with Civ combat model.

I quite like the cultural game, myself. It's fun ripping cities away from other civilizations as your Hollywood mantle gently surrounds and envelops them.

Still, you need a pretty hefty military to dissuade other civs from bullying you regardless of what model of victory you're pursuing, and if you have a large standing army it's very tempting to put them to use from time to time.

Clemenstation wrote:

I quite like the cultural game, myself. It's fun ripping cities away from other civilizations as your Hollywood mantle gently surrounds and envelops them.

Still, you need a pretty hefty military to dissuade other civs from bullying you regardless of what model of victory you're pursuing, and if you have a large standing army it's very tempting to put them to use from time to time.

While it causes me no end of consternation (and no small number of loaded saves), I do take delight in the fact that Civ's dynamics make effectively providing for the common defense such a short step away from amassing a horde to massacre your neighbors. It really is only a difference of a few units.

You could have been building temples instead of those last few units. But you've made your choice now, and it has impacted not only the millions of citizens of your own nation, but those of several surrounding nations as well. I trust you will sleep well in your recently upgraded castle.

wordsmythe wrote:

Or perhaps it's due to the fact that I've matured beyond the the need to envelop and ingest the world around me as a way of asserting myself.

Nah, I'm pretty sure that's not it.

wordsmythe wrote:

Tell me, do you also chew on your pens or fingernails?

Just my cuticles.