Oh Man, Civilized Again

i-03d54569e2b07bc4eb03866d1bee05b8-200px-CivIVboxshot.jpgThat Myers character has snared me in his net again. Did I say Myers? Sorry, M e i e r. Sid Meier. The Civilization guy.

It’s been years since I spent any significant amount of time on computer games. The other day, however, I picked up a copy of the 2005 hit Civilization IV cheaply on eBay, and now I’ve gotten sucked into it. I used to play the board game, I used to play it with house rules, I’ve even played it with house rules and a home-made alternative map, and I played the original PC game a lot too. I quit when I realised that the outcome of a game was largely determined by the size of the continent you started on and how many other Neolithic tribes you shared it with. Start alone on a sizeable continent and you win.

Myself and 9-y-o son have been finding our way around the new system, which has loads of new parameters that take some learning. I started out on the “Noble” level of difficulty, which turns out to be challenging: I’m more n00b than nobleman. The nasty Japanese just conquered one of my cities using war elephants (!), but luckily my other neighbour is Peter the Great of Russia who is proving uncharacteristically peaceful. I am of course the High Inca.

Like several games I’ve looked at in recent years, Civilization IV is loaded with graphics frills that you can barely see when you zoom out enough to get the big picture. I feel sorry for the people who designed and coded all that animation. Maybe with practice I’ll feel secure enough in the empire-building department to zoom in and savour the minute goings-on.

Dear Reader, are you or have you ever been a Civ fan? Let’s hear some stories and strategic tips and general comments!

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Comments

  1. #1 Rob Knop
    July 13, 2007

    Heh.

    I have played “freeciv” (the reimplementation of Civ II that’s available, at least, on Linux). But my primary and fondest memories come from playing the original Civilization on my Amiga 1200. (Technically, it was “Civilization AGA,” named for the Advanced Graphic Architecture that was introduced with the Amiga 4000 and Amiga 1200 in 1992 or something like that.)

    That was one of those games where I would say “just one more turn,” and keep saying that, and next thing I know it, the Sun is coming up. Oops!

    -Rob

  2. #2 Martin R
    July 13, 2007

    I know what you mean! When you quit a game of Civ IV it runs you through a number of post-game stats screens, and then it offers you the option of “Just one more turn”. (-;

  3. #3 Karen
    July 13, 2007

    I LOVE Civ! My brother got me hooked on CIV2 and still play it today. I picked up a copy last year of CIV3 (or III) but haven’t really gotten the hang of it yet. Now there’s a 4th edition? Oh great…more hours wasted when I could be watching television.

  4. #4 Martin R
    July 13, 2007

    There’s a 5th edition scheduled for 2008.

  5. #5 Bob O'H
    July 13, 2007

    Do you mean the board game based around the Mediterranean – the one a friend of mine described as “takes almost as long as the real thing”? I use to play that many a time.

    Bob

  6. #6 cephyn
    July 13, 2007

    Civ IV was great. But you know what’s better? Galactic Civilizations II, by Stardock Systems. Beats Civ in every category. Once I played GalCiv2, Civ4 sat gathering dust.

  7. #7 kai
    July 13, 2007

    Hi, I’m Kai and I’m a Civ II addict.

    My favourite part is exploring the continents; I wish I could play with no other civilisations so I wouldn’t have to mess around with negotiations and wars and stuff. Hmm, that’s SimCity then I guess…

  8. #8 Martin R
    July 13, 2007

    Bob: Yeah, exactly!

    Cephyn: Sounds cool! Is the galaxy 3D? Can you see planet surfaces?

    Kai: That’s like Seven Cities of Gold on the C64! Exploration is a lot of fun.

    I tried an old successful tactic in a game earlier today: I located and obliterated my nearest neighbouring culture ASAP while he only had one city. Good gambit, but unfortunately I then squandered a lot of resources on trying to kill neighbour no 2, and ended up getting wiped out myself by him.

  9. #9 cephyn
    July 13, 2007

    GalCiv2 is all 3D, and you build improvements on the planets – but there’s no like, flyovers of the planets, its just a view from orbit and then a flat world map.

    But you need to be really smart about your research, you must build your own ship units, and you have to be on your toes because the AI is far and away the very, very best to ever be in a turn-based strategy game. Hands down.

    Every Civ4 fanatic I’ve introduced GalCiv2 to has put down Civ4 and played it rabidly. It’s the level of depth and complexity that the Civ series should have evolved to by now, but hasn’t. They made a step in the right direction with Sid’s Alpha Centuari…but then pulled back for Civ3 and Civ4.

    GalCiv2. I HIGHLY recommmend it – and you can get it through digital download from galciv2.com. You can play it today!

    I know I sound like a schill, but I have no affiliation to stardock – i just REALLY REALLY love the game. call me a fanboy – I don’t care. Its just that good.

  10. #10 Martin R
    July 13, 2007

    Sounds great!

  11. #11 paddy
    July 13, 2007

    In December 2003 I bought Civ 2 for the PC. One week later, bleary-eyed and weird at 4 in the morning, I took the CD from my computer, damaged it fatally with a screwdriver and put it in the garbage. Only then could I sleep.

    Civ is worse than Heroin. Don’t go there! Although if you want a multi-user game of FreeCiv, just let me know…

  12. #12 Caledonian
    July 13, 2007

    I’m a huge CIV enthusiast. CivIV has a lot of great features, but a few nagging flaws – I don’t like the way the second-tier combat units were balanced, for example, and the civic-technology pairings are somewhat unfortunate. Nevertheless, the game has some brilliant ideas and is generally quite fun to play. The Great Person mechanic is inspired.

    I expect the soon-to-arrive CivV to draw from the best of this game.

  13. #13 Martin R
    July 14, 2007

    Paddy: “Civ is worse than heroin. Don’t go there!”

    Caledonian: “I’m a huge heroin enthusiast. Heroin has a lot of great features,”

  14. #14 Martin R
    July 14, 2007

    BTW, Leonard Nimoy does a fine job of the game’s many voice-overs, but for one thing: has he always slurred his Ss like this, or is it the dentures? Sic transit gloria mundi.

  15. #15 Johan Lundstrom
    July 14, 2007

    Civ 4 is an excellent, excellent game, even when counting in issues like the really weird interface design and the horrendous memory leaks – patch it now if you haven’t yet.

    I win reliably on Monarch difficulty, and unreliably on Emperor.

  16. #16 Anne-Marie
    July 14, 2007

    After a really heavy load of classes last spring, I decided to reward myself by buying a computer game to play during free time this summer, something I hadn’t done in ages, and Civ IV was my top choice (WHEN is Spore going to be released, by the way???), I loved the earlier versions when I was younger…

    Alas, the evils of Microsoft. Vista apparently remains unCiviliized.

  17. #17 Caledonian
    July 14, 2007

    Spore is currently scheduled to be released sometime in the 2009 financial year.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

  18. #18 Martin R
    July 14, 2007

    Johan: many thanks for tipping me off about the patch!

    Anne-Marie: If I understand correctly, Vista is simply a humonguous pile of bloated crap code that spends half your machine’s processing power “managing digital rights”, that is, working for the media industry instead of you.

  19. #19 Marcus
    July 17, 2007

    Im a huge Civ-fan aswell, but I cant give much tips eventhough I spent too much time playing it. Its like a drug and Im surprised the swedish government hasnt regulated its use yet.

  20. #20 Martin R
    July 17, 2007

    I’m getting better and learning a lot. For instance, I now know that sitting around an enemy city with your troops is a great way to provoke the troops inside to come out of cover and attack you. And that the walk-from-A-to-B algorithm sucks, so that when I need to move units fast I have to guide them every step of the way by hand. And that trade keeps the neighbours friendly. And that hanging around their borders pisses them off.

    I still haven’t figured out the best way to seize a city before the advent of gunpowder, nor how to find the iron I need to train swordsmen.

  21. #21 Amanda
    July 17, 2007

    I was addicted to Civ for ages … but then I discovered World of Warcraft …

  22. #22 Wouter Lievens
    August 31, 2007

    I’ve been a fan of Civilization since Civ II came out. And I still suck at winning the game at higher difficulties, mainly because I don’t play aggressively enough.

  23. #23 Martin R
    August 31, 2007

    A friend of mine is a gaming demon. His M.O. is to take all cities on the map except one, which he keeps like a potted plant to avoid winning the game by annihilation.