Sid Meier’s Civilization V

{Cliché}

“It’s past midnight, sweetheart,” Jessica calls from the top of the stairs. She’s using a mom voice, whose subtext is always “you know I love you, but you’re an idiot.”

“Just one more turn and I’ll be right there,” I lie.

{/Cliché}

It’s Sunday night, and I curse myself for living the walking commercial for a game. I have to be up early in the morning. But the Mighty Hiawatha needs my guidance. Without it, he’ll never teach that Bastard Napoleon who rules the world.

Civilization V isn’t just a good game. It’s a good game at the pointy end of 20 years of innovation in crack peddling.

---
Firaxis ran a short series of web advertisements before the launch of Sid Meier’s Civilization V, which actually isn’t a Sid game at all, but a game by his extremely young protégé Jon Shafer. In the ads, Civ players attend an AA style meeting where they confess their addiction, ending with a promise: No More Turns.

Now, all those addicts will fall off the wagon. And love every minute of it.
The headline changes are easy to tick off: it’s on a grid, units don’t stack but have range, the entire combat model was scrapped and rebuilt, and everything has hit points. The changes sound like wargame tweaks, and indeed, all of these changes work.

In wargame terms, Civ V isn’t particularly complex. Artillery, air support, ground forces and navys play expected and traditional roles. But without stacking, it’s extremely easy to build your “big” army with no more than half a dozen units - and of those, only a few will be involved in any combat. This makes the selection of those units critical, and their training moreso, whether it be in barracks and armories or out on the field of battle.

The XP system of Civ V won’t be on the box cover, but it’s emblematic of the dozens of subtle ways the combat now makes sense, and feels real. Hills matter. Terrain matters. Flanking matters. Unit matchups matter. And that means your decisions on each of these fronts becomes far more important, and victory incredibly satisfying.

-

“Whatcha doing daddy?” asks Jen, poking her head into the office. I guiltily Alt-Tab to my web browser.

“Oh nothing. You done reading for a while?”

I’ve been on the road for almost three weeks. I’ve crammed as much kid time in as I can, but when Jen said all she wanted to do this afternoon was curl up on the couch with a book, I did a little happy dance and went back to Civilization V. Cue the Academy Award for “Best Parent.”

“You’re playing a game aren’t you?” She reads through my lie like the pile of books she’s devoured this afternoon. “That’s good! You should play a game. Whatcha playing? Can I play too?”

“Sure!” I say. She grabs a folding chair and sits down next to me. I expect her to be bored in 5 minutes.

3 hours later, we’re co-leaders, making decisions for our fledgling American nation. She’s an endless stream of questions. Why can’t we be pious and rational? What does optics actually do for us? Time and again we consult the Civilopedia for the answers. At each major crossroads in research or wonder development, she insists that we check with our council of advisors.

“OK,” she decides mid-game, fighting a difficult two-front battle against city-states. “I think I’ve grown weary of all this fighting.” She throws her hand across her brow, in a gesture known as “Actorizing” in our house. How else can we win? We poke through the victory conditions.

“Science!” She says. “We can win by science!”

I try and let her down easy. “It may be a bit late. We’ve focused a lot on pure economic growth, keeping people happy, and fighting our neighbors.”

“Let’s try,” she says. “Can’t our mighty nation have a change of heart, and become the peace loving researchers who cure cancer and go to the moon?”

We dig into the cities, micromanaging our population towards two goals – research and the production of research facilities. 20 minutes later we’ve tripled our rate of research, and have great scientists appearing with free technologies on a regular basis.

We don’t finish the game - Dinner time comes too soon. But Jen goes to bed declaring Civilization the best game ever.

-

For all the changes, the core appeal of Civ V remains what it always has been: a sandbox for playing what if with the toys of an entire planet. Every ounce of that sandbox remains but unlike the radical simplification of Civ Revolution, Civ V is very careful about what it discards. Yes, Religion and Espionage are gone, but even for those who actually liked those mechanics, the loss is more than offset by the much more subtle “policy” tree, and the improved diplomatic model. Is it perfect? Of course not. The strong hand of Soren Johnson, Civ IV lead and as such perhaps the best strategy AI designer out there, is noticeably missing, as computer controlled enemies make the occasional boneheaded move late in the game. On the other hand, I'm not wiping the floor with it on the hardest difficulty just yet either.

But a less-than-incredible AI doesn't stop Civ V from being the most accessible version of the game ever made, not counting of Civ Rev. Thanks to the best user interface design I’ve ever seen in a strategy game (sorry Sins of a Solar Empire) 10-year-old Jen was able to grasp the core principles instantly, even without walking through the tutorials. More impressively, she walked away from that one game of Civilization asking interesting questions about history, science, war, religion, even geography.

I imagine it won’t be long before I walk into the office and find Jen, sitting at the computer, staring bleary eyed at the screen saying “Just one more turn, daddy.”

It will be very, very hard for me to say no.

Comments

Damn it, rabbit! I'm trying not to buy this game!

Rabbit, I wish I could present you to Congress the next time people start screaming about how horrible games are for children.

Coldstream wrote:

Rabbit, I wish I could present you to Congress the next time people start screaming about how horrible games are for children.

So that he can tell them that games are like crack but that at least they're somewhat educational crack? I'm sure that'd go over well.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Coldstream wrote:

Rabbit, I wish I could present you to Congress the next time people start screaming about how horrible games are for children.

So that he can tell them that games are like crack but that at least they're somewhat educational crack? I'm sure that'd go over well. ;)

No civilisation left behind!

Nice article. Really enjoyed reading it.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Coldstream wrote:

Rabbit, I wish I could present you to Congress the next time people start screaming about how horrible games are for children.

So that he can tell them that games are like crack but that at least they're somewhat educational crack? I'm sure that'd go over well. ;)

I don't think that's quite right, though.

It's possible to get over an addiction to cocaine.

Is your wife really called Jessica?

rabbit wrote:

This game sucks so you can save your money.

. . .

*sigh*

Every single time I read a rabbit article detailing his gaming with his kids I get jealous. Not because my life sucks or anything, but because it just sounds so awesome.

As I tweeted, I hope I can raise any future children of mine are well as he has

AP Erebus wrote:

Every single time I read a rabbit article detailing his gaming with his kids I get jealous. Not because my life sucks or anything, but because it just sounds so awesome.

As I tweeted, I hope I can raise any future children of mine are well as he has :)

Playing games with your kids is awesome, though they will pester you to play higher age-rated games all the time.

This would be a dream come true getting to play this with my 9 year old daughter. I'll give it a crack and see how it turns out.

Beautiful to read. Well done, Rabbit!

stupidhaiku wrote:
rabbit wrote:

This game sucks so you can save your money.

. . .

*sigh*

Why couldn't he have said that?
WHHHHYYYYY!!!
*opens Steam*

I'm afraid to even start this with my son, he's already playing RTS games all the time (if I let him), this would be like replacing crack with heroin.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Damn it, rabbit! I'm trying not to buy this game!

QFT. Goddamn it. Ok, let's settle this: instead of spending around 50€ on the Xmas Steam Sale, on games that most likely I'll never play, I'll do myself a favor and get just this one.

Just this one. Justthisonejustthisonejustthisonejustthisone. On Xmas. Come on resolve, don't fail on me now!

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Damn it, rabbit! I'm trying not to buy this game!

For Certis' sake, man!

Coldstream wrote:

Rabbit, I wish I could present you to Congress the next time people start screaming about how horrible games are for children.

So he could explain why his daughter dropped out of the fourth grade?

This article made me want to go track down the Fed Ex truck that my copy is sitting on right now.

I think I'm going to be "working from home" this afternoon.

oMonarca wrote:
MrDeVil909 wrote:

Damn it, rabbit! I'm trying not to buy this game!

QFT. Goddamn it. Ok, let's settle this: instead of spending around 50€ on the Xmas Steam Sale, on games that most likely I'll never play, I'll do myself a favor and get just this one.

Just this one. Justthisonejustthisonejustthisonejustthisone. On Xmas. Come on resolve, don't fail on me now!

I will be holding out to the xmas sale. Somehow I'll find a way, but I'll do it.

That's a fun read, while I wait for Civ5 to unlock. It's 7:25am on the 21st, but it says I have to wait 3 hours for activation, dammit! I'm glad I didn't wait for midnight activation. I truly hope to have these kinds of moments when I become a parent.

I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season....

Awesome writeup, skippy. I'll miss religion but can't wait to check out the new combat system.

I totally agree with early indoctrination of kids for strategy games.

I also remember what someone said after I gave a friend Civilization (the first one) for his birthday.

'Friends don't give friends Civilization'

Oh I would just like to say that I'm thrilled to see the back of both religion and espionage.

I've got to get up at 5am for work tomorrow. I've got 2 options.

1) Don't buy Civ V (CiV? look at me, I'm clever); go to bed early; be well rested for the sales demo I'm giving.

2) Buy Civ V; "one more turn" it until 6am; be late and sleep deprived for the sales demo I'm giving.

Who am I kidding, I don't really have any options. *opens Steam*

Man, every time I read one of your articles involving your kids, I get jealous. I hope I have half as many great bonding moments with my eventual kids through games.

Dunwich Snorer wrote:
Coldstream wrote:

Rabbit, I wish I could present you to Congress the next time people start screaming about how horrible games are for children.

So he could explain why his daughter dropped out of the fourth grade?

So she could go to college, maybe.

I recently reinstalled and have been playing Civ IV to help me resist buying Civ V until the Xmas Steam sale.

rabbit, you're not helping.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Damn it, rabbit! I'm trying not to buy this game!

Yeah, I was gonna wait a bit.

.
.
.
.

preordered

sigh

oMonarca wrote:

Just this one. Justthisonejustthisonejustthisonejustthisone. On Xmas. Come on resolve, don't fail on me now!

BlackSabre wrote:

I will be holding out to the xmas sale. Somehow I'll find a way, but I'll do it.

mwdowns wrote:

I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season. I will be strong. I will wait until the Holiday Season...

Just keep telling yourself: "Just one more day, and then I'll buy it." If days run like turns do when dealing with Civ, it'll be the holiday season before no time.

I already bought it, but I admire your respective courage, and wish you all good luck holding out another three months. I would advise staying away from the Civ threads here in case the game is as awesome as all the reviews have described and we keep raving about it for the quarter of a year that you've all decided to refrain from partaking of this apparently delicious feast.