Civilization Part 1: Civ VI Hates Me

By Shamus Posted Thursday May 21, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 216 comments

I was originally going to title this post “I Hate Civilization VI”, but then I realized that this was a backwards way of looking at it. The hate goes the other direction. This game seems to have been designed to be deliberately hostile to my playstyle. 

Then as I did more research into the franchise, this series grew into being a sort of retrospective on how these games have evolved over the years. We’ll talk about Civ VI eventually, but it’s going to take me a while to work through all of these observations and digressions.

Like I’ve said in the past: I am a very casual fan of the Civilization series. I’ve played about half of them, but  aside from Alpha CentauriObviously Alpha Centauri isn’t part of the Civilization franchise proper, but it was made by Civ creator Sid Meier and is pretty much a Civ game game in everything but name. Also, it’s my favorite entry in the entire genre. I’ve never played any of them for a particularly long time. I’ve never done a deep analysis of the mechanics, I’ve never messed around with the higher difficulty levels, I’ve never spent any serious time with the multiplayer, and I typically play the games for a few weeks and then never touch them againAlpha Centauri was the exception, but the 90s were a weird time for me. I only played one or two games a year, so when I did get one I tried to make it last.. I’m something of an interloper to this genre, and I’m willing to bet a lot of fans would say that I’m playing the game “wrong”.

And that’s fine.

I’m making this clear up front because I’m (eventually) going to criticize Civ VI and I don’t want fans to feel obligated to defend their territory. I’m not demanding that the designers change things to suit my preferences, I’m just describing why I had a miserable time with Civilization VI. Everything I say here should be taken as descriptive, not proscriptive.

But before we commence with the bitching and moaning, let’s talk about…

The 4X Genre

Look, just because I genocided / enslaved six other spacefaring species doesn't make me a tyrant! I'm actually VERY generous and friendly towards the members of my own species!
Look, just because I genocided / enslaved six other spacefaring species doesn't make me a tyrant! I'm actually VERY generous and friendly towards the members of my own species!

Civilization games belong to the 4X genre. For you youngsters, when we talk about 4X we’re talking about a game where you…

  • eXplore the gameworld to find good locations to…
  • eXpand your empire so you can obtain new resources which you can…
  • eXploit to gain tactical and strategic advantages that will allow you to…
  • eXterminate your enemies!

(This is not to be confused with the Microsoft 3E strategy of Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish. Although, a lot of Microsoft’s behavior in the 1990s makes sense if you assume Bill Gates was treating the entire software industry like one giant 4X game that he needed to win.)

So the 4X genre consists of games where you explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. Generally, this can cover a lot of games. It obviously includes Civilization, but it also includes turn-based space games like Master of Orion. Simple enough, right?

Of course not.

Like all genre definitions, it’s a little muddy and there are additional attributes that everyone sort of takes for granted. For example, Rise of Nations would easily fit the 4X description given above, but that game is played in real-time and so it gets lumped into the RTS genre with the likes of Starcraft. And while we’re at it, a lot of RTS games also feature the 4X attributes, but they’re never called 4X games. So in addition to the 4 X’s, I think the genre comes with two additional baked-in assumptions:

  1. The game is turn based.
  2. The game simulates something on an epic timescale, not a single battle.

We could interrogate this further and talk about how 4X games also overlap with the city-building genre in games  like Anno, or with Grand Strategy games like Europa Universalis. We could probably probe these genre boundaries all day and not get anywhere, so let’s just back slowly away from this exercise and move on.

The Civilization Series

I want to put American McGee, Peter Molyneux, and Sid Meier on the same project, just to see them fight for top billing.
I want to put American McGee, Peter Molyneux, and Sid Meier on the same project, just to see them fight for top billing.

The games are properly called “Sid Meier’s Civilization”. I’m normally wary of games where the lead designer feels the need to put his name before the title, but this is one of those cases where the grandstanding is earned. Sid Meier is an absolute legend. It’s true that not all of his games are critical and commercial successes, but his hit-to-miss ratio is incredible. I can’t think of anyone else that’s designed this many classics, smash hits, award winners, and critical darlings. This is impressive considering just how fiendishly difficult this area of game design is.

Meier likes to design these games following the 33/33/33 rule. The idea is that 33% of the game remains consistent from the previous entry, 33% should be previous material with some extra tweaks or refinements, and 33% should be entirely new. That’s a tall order, considering how fiendishly complicated these games are. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to balance your RTS. Maybe your MMO or shooter needs a buff or a nerf here or there to keep things even. But that’s nothing compared to the mind-boggling complexity of Civilization.

Oh, it’s hard to balance the three factions in Warcraft / Starcraft? Well try balancing a Civ game where every match features eight out of dozens of possible factions / leaders with their own collection of unique units, buildings, and bonuses.

Does it take a lot of fiddling to balance the maps in your multiplayer shooter? I’m sure it is, but don’t let Sid hear you complaining about it. His games take place on procedurally generated maps of variable size, played at a variable timescale, and featuring a number of unique eras where different tiers of resources move in and out of importance.

Is it hard to manage player progression in your MMO? I’m sure it is. But that’s peanuts compared to the progression in a Civ game where events are shaped by the swirling forces of resource availability, topography, city-states, nations, economics, culture, religion, science, and good old-fashioned warfare.

On top of all of this, Civ games have this unique obligation to strike a balance between recreation and re-creation. You need to make the game fun, but that fun should in some way simulate or approximate the growth of nations over a period of 5,000 years.

You can see how important Meier is by looking at what happened when he left the series and they had to make a game without him. Yes, Call to Power has its fans, but there seems to be a general agreement among fans that it was missing the magic of Sid’s Civ. Meanwhile, Sid was able to take his genius elsewhere and make the best Civ-style game ever, even if it lacked the Civilization name. The franchise needs Sid more than Sid needs the franchise!

Like I said, he’s a legend.

Then again, he was apparently involved with the terrible Facebook-based Civilization World on the tails of the FarmVille craze. So… let’s just ignore how that undercuts the entire point I was just making, and move on.

EDIT: An hour and a half after this went live, RGP said in the comments below:

Minor correction, but Alpha Centauri was made by Brian Reynolds. Sid’s name was only on it for marketing purposes at that point. Brian has talked about this on the podcast Designer Notes on the Idle Thumbs network (which is a series of interviews with game devs that I highly recommend).

It’s been twenty years, and all this time Sid allowed me to believe that he made my favorite game in the series, when it was apparently Brian Reynolds. I’ll never forgive him for this!

My Time With The Game?

I'm not in love with the Dreamworks-flavored character designs.
I'm not in love with the Dreamworks-flavored character designs.

Civilization VI came out 4 years ago, and seems to have been embraced as a strong entry in the series. Since then it’s received two expansions: Rise and Fall, and Gathering Storm. Nobody needs my take on this thing. I doubt anyone WANTS my take on it. But you’re getting it anyway, because that’s how we do things around here.

For the record, I’ve barely played this game. According to Steam, I’ve clocked 60+ hours with this thing. In a lot of other genres that’s enough to play through the game multiple times, but in Civilization that’s barely enough time to get a feel for the mechanics.

For the record, I’ve played through the game about four times. But actually only twice. Or maybe I’ve played five games? Sort of? Look, it’s complicated. Here’s the chronology of my feud with this game:

First game:

I played pretty much a standard game on standard difficulty. After a couple of hours, it became clear that my AI opponents were impossibly far ahead. All of them. I was dead last. My empire was doomed, and I wasn’t sure what I did wrong. Rather than ride this out, I abandoned the game and started over.

Second Game:

I played on the easiest difficulty, with a gameplay length of “epic”. That slows down the pace of the game quite a bit. In the past, more turns usually translated into more of an advantage for the human player, since your long-term planning has more time to yield rewards. I played using the Rise and Fall ruleset from the first DLC, which introduces the idea of per-faction dark ages / golden ages. I aimed for a science victory, but despite pouring EVERYTHING I had into scientific research, I couldn’t finish the space program before the game ended in 2050, where Montezuma beat me on score. By a long way. That seems… shockingly unfair. Like, I had a good starting position, amicable neighbors, and I played on the easiest difficulty, but I STILL couldn’t finish the space program in time? What the hell? Is the space program just impossible!?

Also, I’m really bitter about this and I want those 9 hours of my life back.

Third Game:

Once again I played on the easiest difficulty, normal speed. This time I played with the Gathering Storm DLC, which does random weather events and climate change. This time I really tried to make sure I stayed ahead on score. It was barely possible. In previous games, the lowest difficulty turned the AI into addle-headed slowpokes who wound up stuck in the middle ages until the late 1800’s. Now they were keeping up with me all the way. Brazil overwhelmed me with a culture victory in the 1700s. I had enough technology and production that I could have prevented this by going to war, but I didn’t want to spend the next twelve hours of my life painstakingly grinding them down in boring-ass warfare.

I searched online to see what I was doing wrong, and once I found the truth I realized this game was a total waste for me. This game was specifically engineered to work against my preferred playstyle.

Fourth Game:

Pissed off, I downloaded a cheat and LOLed my way through the game, fiddling around with different systems. Surprisingly, the Gathering Storm rules DIDN’T act as a rubber-band system as I expected. I thought the game would punish success with flood and droughts, and reward failure with good harvests. But thanks to my cheating I was WAY ahead, and yet the storms were always pretty randomly distributed among the players.

Fifth Game:

Not really a proper playthrough. I just did another cheat run to gather up some screenshots for this series and experiment with the AI a bit.

So even though I’ve spent over 60 hours with the game, I’ve only done 2.5 proper playthroughs before ragequitting.

So what happened? Why didn’t I have fun? Considering how feeble the AI is in this game, how the heck did I lose on the easiest difficulty? What’s my playstyle and how did the game undermine it? Over the next few entries I’m going to talk about what I wanted, what the game gave me, and where it all went wrong. So if you’re looking for shallow and uninformed analysis by a fickle fan who barely played the game, then you’ve come to the right website.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Obviously Alpha Centauri isn’t part of the Civilization franchise proper, but it was made by Civ creator Sid Meier and is pretty much a Civ game game in everything but name. Also, it’s my favorite entry in the entire genre.

[2] Alpha Centauri was the exception, but the 90s were a weird time for me. I only played one or two games a year, so when I did get one I tried to make it last.



From The Archives:
 

216 thoughts on “Civilization Part 1: Civ VI Hates Me

  1. ivan says:

    Yay, this seems like it will be fun. What’s the general consensus on 5, btw? I have 16 minutes in that. I feel I gave it a fair chance before quitting forever.

    1. Joshua says:

      There isn’t a consensus? Generally, it’s more streamlined than IV, which makes people tend to love or hate it over IV (I’m in the love it camp). I guess a general consensus among both camps is that the expansions improved the game by adding depth.

      Not getting into controversial stuff like one unit per tile like got discussed on Monday, the final straw that made me switch over for good is that I absolutely loathed IV’s Diplomacy system, and vastly prefer V in that regard.

    2. Nick says:

      V it’s considered by many to be the best on the series. VI had giant shoes to fill and in the first years was heavily criticized for it’s deviations from V art style and mechanics. As far as I know, with time passing and the two expansions, VI is now considered a good and solid game on the franchise, but V is still the darling for a big portion of the series’ fans

      1. Joshua says:

        I’ve generally liked each iteration’s change to the graphics and art style until VI, where I didn’t care for the cartoony aesthetic.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I’m the opposite. Civ 6 has[1] an actual art style, whereas all the previous games were the most realistic graphics they could make at the time[2] on the budget they had, and it all smears together anyways so I can either not visually distinguish things easily, or it just looks like a boring greyscale newspaper image. ^^;

          [1] I haven’t actually bought the game, but the screenshots in Steam and the faction-leaders’ images on the wiki seem to indicate the cartoon-ish aesthetic fairly well. I’m not paying another $80 CAD when I already bought 5 on Steam, and 3 before that (and lost the disc in an apartment-move)…

          [2] So they always age as well as a slice of pizza under a sketchy couch.

          1. Khwarezm says:

            I don’t really understand why the art style of Civ VI is so controversial, it looks fine, even good to me on the whole, with some things I might change (mainly that the leaders all suffer from a crippling case of Dreamworks face and the Governors in Rise and Fall really do look a bit too close to a generic mobile game).

            I don’t know why people are preoccupied with realistic graphics for a game like Civ, its so heavily abstracted in so many ways already that I think it works better to play into a more heightened and exaggerated artistic style, just like the heightened and exaggerated way the games interpret human civilization, rather than pretending to be anything close to down to earth. The way the game map plays into the appearance and function of both actual literal maps and board games was a good direction to go in.

            I also disagree that the previous games had particularly realistic graphics, honestly before V they seemed to be attempting a similarly cartoonish, caricaturist style, especially in I and IV, but didn’t go quite as hard with it as VI, probably because it was harder to do with the technology.

            1. Decius says:

              I dislike the character images in VI, so I don’t look at them. They’re on screen, but not important to anything.

            2. Echo Tango says:

              Dang, I forgot just how limited the graphics in 1 and 2 were. I think those ones are so limited that “cartoonish” or “realistic” were simply not options in a game that had so many small things (tiles, units) on the screen at once. Only games that had full-screen[0] (or nearly so) pictures of faces, would have had the resolution to have any differences; Even using neon colors would have just resulted in an unreadable mess. However, Civ 3 definitely feels closer to the “realism” side, compared to “art style” side of the spectrum. Consider this screenshot that shows the map tiles and some faces. It’s not like an oil-painting (lightly styled, or more heavily styled), a gritty tool-real comic-book, or children’s toy[1]. However, I’m apparently mis-remembering pretty much all of the games. (facepalm) Civ 4 apparently removed the advisors, and just has plain graphics for all the map-screen stuff. Civ 5 definitely has a stylish view on <a href="https://i.redd.it/hbqki9la8zr11.jpg"its advisors' portraits, even if the map-screen stuff looks pretty un-styled. So I guess all of the main-map stuff has always been fairly plain, but the advisors have occasionally been styled? I think they could definitely have styled up the main tiles and units more, with more exaggerated color-schemes. :)

              [0] Actually, other dos-era games had some faces in them. Civ 1 definitely could have done this, if they’d wanted.

              [1] OK, Slapshot is real-time, but you could still do this type of style in older games, with static sprites. You just need to pick your art-style. Look at freakin’ Metal Slug – totally styled! :)

              1. Chad Miller says:

                Civ 1 did have faces, during diplomacy: https://civilization.fandom.com/wiki/Mohandas_Gandhi_(Civ1)

                Agree about the general map look though. The military units were practically stick figures.

              2. Civ 3 also had the leaders’ looks change as they passed through the ages. A small touch for a lot of effort, maybe, but I missed it when I played Civ 4, although they did something similar with the music, adding instruments to each civ’s music over time.

            3. galacticplumber says:

              It’s not about realism. It’s about dignity. Going cartoonish makes things feel more silly or farcical where blank slate or simple allows for a completely different mood. This coming from someone who has happily played at minimal detail with no combat animations, with the game muted to listen to relaxing background music.

              Realistic isn’t good or preferred. Cartoonish is actively harmful.

              1. The Puzzler says:

                Maybe cartoonish matches the gameplay. Civ has always been silly if you compare it to real history. “Hindu Teddy Roosevelt built Stonehenge!”

                1. galacticplumber says:

                  Historically inaccurate or not, that doesn’t automatically make the mood silly. One of the core conceits at play here is that history as we know it is a product of circumstances, and that different circumstances will inevitably result in a vastly different landscape at any point of comparison you care to make.

                  Stuff being DIFFERENT doesn’t break that. In fact it supports it. Let there be points that feel sober, or worrying, or hopeful, or relaxed. The tone shouldn’t be a saturday morning cartoon.

                  This is not to say I’m against art styles in general. It’s just this type, for this work.

              2. Daniil says:

                I’m one of the people for whom Civ 4 was the last game in the series (I tried the later ones, and I admit that they have some interesting ideas, but the games just never clicked for me as a whole; they felt like something from a completely different series with a different design philosophy, which is fine, but not for me). However, I’m not sure that I’d call the leader heads there especially “dignified” either. Catherine in particular comes to mind, but some of the others could be plenty silly too in how they are animated (especially when disgruntled). I’m not sure that the Civ 6 leaders are substantially more cartoony, though I suppose that is an inherently subjective assessment.

              3. Khwarezm says:

                Lmao, really? Dignity? Dude, at the end of the day the Civ games are clearly absurd representations of real life history, where nation states are all pre-formed and ready to go the second agriculture is invented, where charismatic national leaders, frequently hopelessly out of place and time, lead a Civ unopposed for the entire length of history, and where the world you interact with is an abstracted board game with cities being represented by a few buildings and armies represented by 3 guys at most. I much prefer it when a game like Civ has a bit of self-awareness about its inherent absurdity, and doesn’t take itself too seriously as a result. The games have always reflected this to some degree, like in Civ IV leaders would make silly puns and jokes like Caesar saying he’s made you some salad when you meet him, a ranking system exists where Dan Quayle has been the bottom rank for since the first game, and heck the Gandhi Nuke meme that the games have embraced is more insulting to the actual man than anything Civ VI did on its own.

                I don’t know what you think is happening here exactly, its not like Gilgamesh is loudly farting when you talk to him or Cleopatra is getting out her knockers (something they basically actually had her do in Civilization Revolution). Its just a heightened cartoony style that, like I said, fits fairly well with the general exaggerated, unrealistic representation of human history and society, its not a particularly undignified representation of anything.

                1. galacticplumber says:

                  The fact that you quite literally can’t reproduce historical level of detail, much less do so in such a way that a normal person with a normal attention span can appreciate it is immaterial. Abstractions are a necessary part of any project at this scale.

                  That said I never got into civ IV for EXACTLY those reasons, and deliberately don’t throw Ghandi into matches in V, because that meme is stupid and annoying.

                  This is why V is the only good one. While there are silly things in the game, it respects your agency enough to let you decide if you want any of it.

                  1. Khwarezm says:

                    I still just don’t really get this, what is so undignified about the somewhat cartoony aesthetic you see in Civ VI? Is it just the fact that it implies the game isn’t meant to be taken deadly seriously? It sounds more like you have unfair preconceptions about art styles that are bit more cartoonish in nature, its getting into ‘No fun allowed’ territory where games like this can’t have much if any sense of levity.

                    The abstractions of Civ are really noticeable on basically every level, its not something I can compartmentalize away like I might be able to do for a game like Age of Empires or Battlefield, because of that I find taking a particularly po-faced and humourless approach to a series like this to be a fools errand. TBH Civ V kind of alienated me by seeming visually dull despite having technically better graphics compared to other Civ games and other management/strategy games, but I kind of place that in context of the aesthetic trends of the early 2010s (incidentally, my least favorite era in videogame history for the overall visual design tropes). Still, I have a strong preference for Civ VI’s look, with some reservations.

                    1. galacticplumber says:

                      And there’s an entire series of games that gave you what you wanted.

                      A subset of one game, as it still has optional nonsense, getting praised for being not nonsense is in no way unreasonable.

                      In an immersive sim wherein you will be playing for countless hours, and making plans for the far future tone MATTERS damn it.

                    2. Khwarezm says:

                      “And there’s an entire series of games that gave you what you wanted.

                      A subset of one game, as it still has optional nonsense, getting praised for being not nonsense is in no way unreasonable.”

                      What? Jesus, I’m having trouble parsing this at this point. A subset of one game? What does that even mean in this context? Are you trying to talk about the Civ series in its entirety?

                      “In an immersive sim wherein you will be playing for countless hours, and making plans for the far future tone MATTERS damn it.”

                      This makes absolutely no sense. There is zero reason why they shouldn’t play around with tone. The series started in 1991, its idiotically restricting to demand that they slavishly adhere to the same tone for 30 years.

                      Also it isn’t an immersive sim.

              4. Echo Tango says:

                Cartoons (or comics, etc) are not inherently silly. There are cartoons in horror, dread, sorry, or any other number of non-silly moods. You can absolutely have a more serious tone with a cartoon art-style.

                1. galacticplumber says:

                  Are you aware that words have connotative elements? Cartoons are not always silly. This is true. Enough of a majority have been for long enough that when someone says cartoony, people generally understand exactly what they mean.

                  Further still, Civ VI, the thing being discussed here, is definitely cartoony in exactly the way intended. Therefore, what even are you trying to achieve here?

      2. Javier says:

        “considered by many” r u srs? Civ 5 was the game of one-tile cities, improvements weren’t worth building, and archers attacking a city for 2000 years.

        1. MaxieJZeus says:

          Just remember: “Many” doesn’t mean “most.” So yeah, lots of people think it’s the best of the bunch. There are also a lot of people who checked out of the franchise after 5 came out.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      As someone who’s only played V, the general consensus between fans is that it’s “dumbed down”, while newcomers (like me) seem to love it.

      I wouldn’t call 16 minutes a “fair chance” for this type of game. Hell, it probably took me more than that to just explore a bunch of options without even getting to finish the first turn. But, again, I was a newcomer to the series. If you’re a fan of the previous ones, maybe you found something that you didn’t care for in that time that you felt ruined the experience. It’s perfectly feasible.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        As someone who’s only played V, the general consensus between fans is that it’s “dumbed down”, while newcomers (like me) seem to love it.

        As someone who played every entry when they were new starting from I up to IV, that sounds about right.

        (I have nearly 900 hours in Civ IV according to Steam, and I know I’ve played on it some before getting it on Steam. I’ve played about 20 hours of V, never touched VI)

      2. Joshua says:

        That’s what I generally hear, although I’ve found some things to be more complicated and interesting than IV, such as religion. Now there are specific attributes to each religion founded instead of them being more or less interchangeable.

        Also, I think the Civilization UAs and buildings are more complicated and interesting than IV’s combinations of two different attributes like Financial and Aggressive or whatever.

        Also, some things just seem less obtuse to me, such as Diplomacy as I mentioned elsewhere. I’d rather get a reputation penalty because I went to war with someone, voted down someone’s resolution*, or otherwise did something as opposed to the constant “Do X or we’ll hate you” you got bombarded with in IV. Reputation adjustments for actions, not inactions.

        And as much as I loved culture flipping cities in IV, I always found it absurd and ahistorical with how easy it seemed to be. It can happen in V, but only late in the game with ideologies and extreme unhappiness, and is still not that common.

        I think one major change with V compared to the others was setting Civics to be more stack on bonuses as opposed to explicit choices you must make. I could see how some people really like the concept of opportunity costs associated with having to select only one civic, even if I’m not one of them.

        *Except when people get mad at you for helping kill a resolution that was pretty much targeted at you. That’s kind of absurd. “Yeah, asshole, I voted Nay on the resolution to Embargo ME, are you surprised?”

    4. John says:

      There is no consensus. Or, if there is, then it has changed over time. There were a lot of people down on Civilization V when it was released because (a) it wasn’t Civilization IV and (b) it made some big changes to the series. Then there were expansions. Then a new Civilization was released. Now there are a lot of people down on Civilization VI because (a) it isn’t Civilization V and (b) it made some big changes to the series. Wanna guess what I think will happen when Civilization VII comes out?

      1. Retsam says:

        To amend your point “There were a lot of people down on Civilization [X] when it released because (a) it isn’t Civilization [X – 1] and (b) it made some big changes to the series, and (c) they’re comparing a game with multiple expansions to a game with no expansions.

        It seems that it’s usually when the first or second expansion comes out that people really start warming up to the new game in the series.

        1. Agammamon says:

          I disagree. I think there’s a general consensus (at least general among those who’ve been playing all three games) that Civ n+1 was an improvement on Civ n up until CIV V where it was rethunk and redesigned for greater accessibility.

          1. Retsam says:

            I played Civ III, and I remember backlash when Civ IV came out, too. Yes, there’s a lot more people who still prefer Civ IV for mechanical reasons over either of the 1upt sequels, but there’s also a lot of us who didn’t like Civ V when it came out, but came around to it eventually.

            1. Joshua says:

              I also remember some backlash against IV when it came out. People not liking the upgraded graphics and animations or something compared to III.

        2. Decius says:

          You have NO idea; Sid Mier’s Civilization changed literally everything from Civ 0, and fans of Civ 0 never moved on.

      2. Adam says:

        I guess the business models works for them, otherwise they wouldn’t have kept doing it (probably!). But it always feels weird that the sequels sit in a post-release early-access limbo. I now ignore it on release and will pick up a “game of the year” combination set on heavy discount when the game is “finished”.

        1. MaxieJZeus says:

          Maybe it also works for them because they get a chance to gauge the reaction and make changes and refinements after seeing the chatter? I seem to remember major changes being made to 4, and I know they made radical changes to 5 (particularly diplomacy) after getting some pretty scathing comments on initial release.

          That seems a reasonable strategy to pursue when you’re making a game that, as Shamus rightly observes, is very hard to balance. Let early adopters break it, and then you’ve lots of data to use when re-balancing it with patches and expansions.

    5. Narkis says:

      My opinion, which I believe is shared by many but is not the consensus, is that Civ4 is the overall best game of the franchise, while Civ5 is the best for newcomers to the series.

      1. Javier says:

        >Civ4 is the overall best game of the franchise

        Agreed though I have a special love for Civ 3. The combat was a nice compromise between the randomness of earlier games and having actual hit points for units, the world size was appropriately huge, there was a nice balance between tech, trade, and conquest without any one feature dominating, and there were no overly gamey aspects like “culture takeover” where some number fills up and you steal half of your opponents cities. Civ 3 even had seeded RNG so there was no save scumming a problem away.

        It was a big disappointment to me when Civ 4 came out and the ‘Huge map of Earth” was a fraction of the size of Civ 3 (darn graphics limitations) and the combat was much more forgiving to the point where having superior numbers guarantees a victory every time.

        Well it was probably too hardcore overall so I don’t blame them for streamlining.

        1. Narkis says:

          I agree that Civ3 is second best. I have very fond memories of playing multiplayer with my father when it was new. I’d say the series evolved over time with Civ1<2<3<4, and Alpha Centauri and 5 being good at doing their own thing.

          But I can't agree about Civ4's combat. In Civ3 combat was all about comparing a unit's numbers. A Knight and a Rifleman both had an attack of 4, so they were equally good at attacking anything. But in Civ4 they added unit-specific bonuses and a promotion system that allowed you to further customize your units. An Axeman could destroy a far bigger number of Spearmen than their 5 vs 4 strength difference would suggest due to his innate "+50% vs melee" bonus. And you could enhance that even more with promotions, creating melee-murdering machines. But those bonuses would be useless against an Archer or a Horseman. If you kept that in mind and created well-balanced stacks using combined arms, your armies would be far more effective than their raw numbers would suggest. Especially on defense, where you it was very possible to consistently recreate the Thermopylae.

      2. newplan says:

        It’s only not the consensus because people get tired of old games and move on and if you liked Civ4 better then civ simply isn’t for you any longer.

        You can play Civ4 forever technically but if you’re craving a sequel you know you’ll never get it.

    6. Agammamon says:

      I think Civ4, maybe 3, was the peak of the series. 5 and 6 were ‘streamlined’ – which is fine if your focus is getting ‘mainstream’ players in but from the perspective of a guy who likes simulations I kind of expect the simulation to get better (ie, more detail under the hood, more options for building and tech). Civ 6 doesn’t really do this.

  2. RGP says:

    Minor correction, but Alpha Centauri was made by Brian Reynolds. Sid’s name was only on it for marketing purposes at that point. Brian has talked about this on the podcast Designer Notes on the Idle Thumbs network (which is a series of interviews with game devs that I highly recommend).

    1. Asdasd says:

      Classic Auteur theory. Take the credit due to the whole team doing one of the hardest things possible, creative collaboration, and give it all to one guy (and it usually is a guy). Bonus points if he doesn’t even work on it! (‘Cred Stealington Presents… executive produced by…’)

      Thanks for the tip on the podcast by the way. I’ve been looking for a new one, and a chat with the designer of Alpha Centauri seems like a great place to start!

      1. Carlo_T says:

        I think the most absurd current use of this marketing strategy is the “Tom Clancy’s” series of games – many of them are not derived from his stories at all, and some (such as The Division) were developed after his death, which I find fairly morbid.

        1. Sarachim says:

          Don’t lots of “Tom Clancy” books also have nothing to do with Tom Clancy? My understanding was that he licensed his name out pretty shamelessly.

    2. John says:

      I was going to say more or less the same thing. Brian Reynolds was lead designer on Colonization, Civilization II, and Alpha Centauri, meaning that he has designed more “Sid Meier’s” games than anyone but Meier himself. It’s not even a secret. Alpha Centauri has a prominent “by Brian Reynolds” credit right on the title screen. He is also responsible for Rise of Nations. (Go figure.) Reynolds is an expansive and enthusiastic talker. In addition to the Designer Notes episode, which is fascinating, I would also recommend the listening to his appearance on the Alpha Centauri episode of Three Moves Ahead.

      For the record, Sid Meier has been lead designer on exactly two of the Civilization games, the original and Civilization Revolution. Meier has said that after the first game he wasn’t really interested in the concept any more and that he only took on Revolution because he thought that translating Civilization for consoles–Revolution being the only console-exclusive Civilization–would be an interesting design challenge. With the exceptions of Meier and Reynolds, no one has ever been lead designer on more than one Civilization game and it’s quite common for Civilization designers to leave Firaxis after finishing one. Reynolds left after Alpha Centauri to go make Rise of Nations. Soren Johnson left after Civilization IV to go work on Spore. Jon Schafer left after Civilization V to, among other things, work on his own kickstarted game. I am sorry to say that I can’t recall who designed III or VI, but I would not be at all surprised if the pattern held.

      1. RGP says:

        Jeff Briggs Lead Civ 3 with Soren as co-lead, I can’t remember who directed Civ 6 but I know he’s still at the company.

        1. John says:

          Briggs, that’s it. I knew that Reynolds started on III but left early in the project. I also knew that Johnson worked on III in some capacity but I didn’t know that he was co-lead.

      2. stratigo says:

        Soren Johnson’s studio also just released a new civlike game into early access that’s pretty solid.

        1. John says:

          I was going to mention that but I couldn’t remember what it was called. Old World? Something like that? I don’t know too much about it except that it’s supposed to have been influenced a little by Crusader Kings II.

          1. Douglas Sundseth says:

            Yes, Old World.

            It’s been quite a bit of fun so far. Feels like a Civ game, but it’s a much deeper dive into a narrower era (Classical Mediterranean) with lots (lots) of events, managing personalities, tactical combats, ….

            It seems to need a huge amount of processor power right now (it’s early access, so with luck that will get better), and starts to bog down in mid-late game if you’re doing anything else at the same time.

            If you like the stuff I like, then it will be just the sort of thing you like. 8-)

          2. Daniil says:

            It makes the OUTRAGEOUS addition of leaders dying and being replaced by new characters as the game goes on, as though ancient kings were anything less than immortal gods. Sacrilege.

            I’d describe it as a cross between Civilization and Rome: Total War 2 (though it’s been ages since I played the latter, so I forget if it has much of a dynasty or event system… maybe CK2 is still the best comparison).

      3. Ofermod says:

        I feel like Colonization was a really good game that is sadly underappreciated.

    3. Sarfa says:

      Addition to this- one of the ways the series sticks to the “33/33/33” rule is by having each new entry of the series have a different lead designer. Typically the lead designer of Civ N was someone who worked on Civ n-1, but so far no two games in the series have had the same lead designer.

      The only entry in the series where Sid Meier is credited as being one of the designers is the original in 1991.

  3. Lino says:

    I’m not demanding that the designers change things to suit my preferences, I’m just describing why I had a miserable time with Civilization VI.

    So, what you’re saying is that Civ VI is a terrible video game, and if Sid Meier doesn’t change it immediately, you’ll start a petition on change.org? Sounds reasonbale.

    Would you like me to go on Twitter, and start insulting him, or do would you like to do it yourself?

    1. Kincajou says:

      I’ll get the pitchforks

      1. Syal says:

        Have we unlocked that tech yet?

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Not yet, but we do have torches…

          1. Hector says:

            Civ2 players know that torches are the weapon of fanatics!

  4. Joshua says:

    “This game was specifically engineered to work against my preferred playstyle.”

    Really looking forward to this series and finding out what this is. I did read that they deliberately designed the game to punish people who played in a Civ V style. I’m not sure what that means, although I also read the game is supposed to be played wide and not tall, despite the district system.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I also want to know. Maybe the wide-not-tall means dabble in a little of everything, building some things in various cities when it seems fun? Do they have hidden mechanics to punish heavy-optimization playstyles? Punish too many things in any one city? Armies should be spread all over the map?

      1. Mephane says:

        Wide vs tall in the context of 4X games specifically refers how the player approaches the expansion of their territory and investment into science, tech etc. “Building wide” means to acquire as large a territory as possible, have vast armies and huge amounts of resources. “Building tall” on the other hand is the Wakanda approach – don’t expand beyond a size that feels comfortably manageable, focus on science, technology etc to have the upper hand in these areas.

        4X games typically favour building wide, some even actively discourage building tall, however some do try to find a balance between the two and keep them both viable (e.g. Stellaris).

    2. GoStu says:

      From my experience with Civ 5: “Tall” play of settling 4-6 cities and then pouring most of your resources into developing them and getting a technology lead was probably the most straightforward and reliable means of winning.

      Whether you chose to execute your victory as a Science victory by launching a spaceship, a Culture victory by building ALL the Wonders first (because you have tech the others lack), a Diplomatic victory by impressing the hell out of city-states and sealing the deal with gold, or just using advanced bombers and paratroops to seize all the capitals… tall play worked.

      Going “wide” and settling >6 cities, going for lower individual populations but larger overall production… well, it’s definitely possible to win that way, but I found it noticeably harder. There’s per-city-settled penalties to science and culture, you actually need the room to plant those cities, and it tends to piss off the neighbors. If you want a big empire, it’s almost easier to start small, pour more effort into tech, and then simply take it from a neighbor later.

      The AI’s consistently as dumb as a sack of hammers. In 5, there’s no difference between ‘Settler’ and ‘Deity’ in terms of decision-making prowess, the difficulty is entirely in how deep of a discount the AI gets on things and how many units it starts with, plus a couple things like how much base Happiness the player has. The challenge is to overcome the AI’s head start, if any. It’s particularly bad at the one-unit-per-tile combat so almost any player will have an edge there.

      In multiplayer games… well *now* they use heavily modded rulesets. But looking at multiplayer games from before those mods got too far off the base game, the 4-City Tradition builds tend to be quite common. You only play Liberty if your starting land is bleh and you won’t be raising huge cities on it – you use Liberty’s fast-expand and per-city bonuses to settle a handful of small cities and then go to war. Liberty players will NOT keep up long-term on growth alone. You only play Honor or Piety starts if you like losing.

      —-
      Civ 6, in my more limited experience, is biased the other way. It’s hard to get those higher populations per city, and even when you do there’s only so many productive uses of citizens per city. Better to settle another spot. This nigh-invariably brings you into conflict with other players on the map (whether AI or other humans) because there’s only so many viable city placements.

      I found that I basically never got a relaxed “just sit here and enjoy my nice lands” game out of Civ6 – I was always having a bit of a clash with the neighbors.

      1. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

        I am interested in this discussion, too. I loved Civ 4 and Civ 3. Civ 5 was fun, but mostly what I liked about it over Civ 4 was the graphics. Civ 6, though, left me cold 45 minutes in. I tend to play a blended game -a core of major cities, then smaller cities on the periphery for strategic reasons (like securing a particular resource -Aluminum in Civ 4, quite frequently.) But something about Civ 6 just didn’t facilitate that.

        1. GoStu says:

          Yeah, building a solid “Core” to your empire of 4-6 cities leaves you with many other victory options on the table.

          Pushing out and annexing a little surrounding territory is a sound move for victory; it kneecaps the other players and also gives you buffer room against things like atomic bomb launches and paratroops. It’s still possible to lose cities to crap like Nuclear Missile + XCOM Squad but basically nothing stops that. Even if it’s a multiplayer game – if someone in the lead has enough power to pass Nuclear Non-Proliferation before other players get nuclear weapons, the game’s over and headed for a Diplomatic Victory assuming the other players don’t have the good sense to concede.

      2. Joshua says:

        I mostly agree with this 4-6 city strategy thing, except I’d also add capturing additional cities through warfare but leaving them as puppets.

      3. Phill says:

        It is pretty easy to have a nice peaceful game of civ 6 most of the time, if you know on free important trick (and the fact that so much of your relationships with the AI hinges on this is a problem. I love civ 6, but its diplomacy mechanics are pretty poor),

        The trick is this: the turn you meet a new AI, send them a delegation. It costs 25g, so you need to keep cash on hand in the early game. If you do if straight away, they will be willing to declare friendship the next turn much of the time; if they have a natural inclination against you you may have to take a while.

        If you *don’t* send a delegation the very first turn they meet you, they will probably refuse to accept one in the future unless you’ve done stuff to improve your relationship with them and not pissed them off. Then you end yolo Sith the usual problem that thay progressively hate you more and more as the game progresses.

        I find that I can usually be friends, and later allies, with every civ in the game. Unless I forget or can’t afford a delegation that first crucial turn (or decide to go conquer a neighbour for their land, but that only wrecks my relationship with that 1 civ).

      4. Sleeping Dragon says:

        The “tall vs wide” is also my best guess. I’m definitely a “tall” player whenever possible and VI was not to my liking for this very reason.

        1. Warlockofoz says:

          I can switch between them (taking wide to mean using the space you can get but not to the extent of cramming in every city you can legally fit), but it still felt odd to me in V sometimes that I’d look at a huge expanse of rich, empty territory just past my opening cities and think ‘ugh, have to keep the AI out of that’…

      5. Joshua says:

        I think the limit of 4-6 cities is based around making one-city civilizations viable? In theory, you have to compare the trade-offs of all of your culture/science costs being higher vs. being able to generate enough culture/science from the new cities to compensate for that, and past 6 cities it’s hard to overcome that deficit. They may have thought it too hard to otherwise compare a civ with one city vs. that with 20.

        So, most of the spacing in the map is based around enough room to make these 4-6 cities as you say, because doing more than that would put you in non-optimal placements anyway unless you deliberately reduce the number of civilizations for a given map. I’m mostly ok with this, although it does tend to make the idea of later expansion suck, such as when doing a Pangea map that still spawns a few islands that might be worthwhile. It might have been nice if they would have given you the option of a “Colony” establishment for the purposes of gaining resources, something that worked like a puppeted city from the start.

      6. Bubble181 says:

        This sounds more or less right, yes.
        It’s also part of why I much prefer V over VI.

    3. Liessa says:

      I’m interested to see this as well. I started a couple of Civ VI games and got fed up with it pretty quickly, so I’m wondering how much Shamus’ reasons overlap with mine.

      1. Michael says:

        My reason for getting fed up with Civ VI is that it’s painfully obvious that the AI couldn’t play its way out of a paper bag. If you’re ever in a position where you equal the AI, you cannot help but win because they will never do anything that makes any sense. The difficulty levels just change how much the AI gets to start with (“you start with one city; the other 6 players each start with two!”), which is not satisfying.

        I got a religious victory completely by accident once when I was the only civilization to found a religion.

        It doesn’t sound like that’s the problem Shamus was having, though.

        1. EmmEnnEff says:

          Is there a single civ game where this has not been the case?

          Every civ game is about climbing out of a hole, because once you’re on tech/economic parity, the game is in the mop-up phase.

          1. Michael says:

            Well, in Civ I most of what the difficulty setting adjusts is that it gives the computer better multipliers than you have. Growing a city costs less food. Researching a technology costs fewer light bulbs. It also reduces the size of city at which your citizen start to be unhappy.

            So playing on a higher difficulty means, conceptually, keeping up with a computer that moves faster, and carrying a heavier entertainment load. The same play that will give you a win from parity on Warlord difficulty won’t give you a win from parity on King.

            It does look like Civ VI does this too, but… the AI is just hopeless at accomplishing anything. :-/

  5. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Starcraft isn’t a great example because it’s one of the rare game where *every single unit* except basic workers are different between the races. Other games including Civ have most of the tree similar between factions with a few special units/abilities. I’m not saying balancing Civ is a cakewalk, but StarCraft is still the masterclass for me.

    1. Joshua says:

      True, although Civ adds the depth of balancing out over different spans of time, not really something done with RTS, which try to make the games competitive regardless of the length of match. This is a system that D&D progressively shed since 3rd Edition since it’s supposed to be a cooperative game, but works well in Civilization games.

      If you get an early advantage like the Guns, Aztecs or Greeks, can you use it to secure a dominance that last will last through the rest of the game? If you are a Civ with late advantages, can you use them to regain control later on? For the record, I tend to think Civs with mid-game advantage succeed the most, but YMMV.

    2. Asdasd says:

      Also, I’m not sure how noticeable it is whether Civ is balanced or not? Surely with all the more prominent variables, like starting position etc, it’s difficult to tell whether a few custom units x00 years down the line are what really gave a player the edge?

      Mind you I don’t really dabble with the multiplayer side of it, where I guess it’s more readily apparent to the community who the best leaders are and what have you.

      1. GoStu says:

        There’s definitely some civs that are VASTLY more powerful than others, at least in 5. I can’t speak too much to 6.

        You can’t really judge the effectiveness of a Civ in the AI’s hands though – for example the AI gets great mileage out of Greece because its ‘personality’ for Greece is actually a strong well-rounded approach that leverages the AI’s innate bonuses very well, not because any of Greece’s units or abilities are very strong.

        For players, the top few civs in Civ5 are:
        – Poland (ridiculous number of free social policies is an immense amount of very flexible power, plus a nice gold-making building on the side)
        – Korea (huge Science bonuses from specialists and great person improvements in general, and nice defensive units)
        – Babylon (huge Science bonuses from very early free Scientist, and superb early defensive unit/building)
        – Maya (significant Science bonus from shrine replacement, and bonus Faith as well. Free great people is just a cherry on top)

        Those are widely agreed upon as the top-tier civs, capable of winning even the hardest difficulties, more-or-less regardless of start position. As long as it’s not total garbage (like open tundra with few deer) you can pull out a win.

        The rest trend downwards from there, and the strongest things are usually civilizations with some bonuses to population growth (that fuels everything else), or very dominant military units for their eras. The Aztecs can grow immense cities and are best when putting the Floating Gardens to work to get vast amounts of food. England is terrifying because crossbowmen are one of the most powerful units to attack with for their era, and having an upgraded version is scary – and ditto for their nightmarish Ships of the Line. In multiplayer games, if England is in the game, nobody else is likely to settle on the coast; Ship of the Line spam is that unbeatable when combined with England’s other naval bonus movement. England’s extra spy also plays the long game on tech-espionage well OR helps with diplomacy.

        The worst civs for multiplayer or high-level play tend to be the tourism/culture-focused ones. I’m sorry Brazil, but your extra tourism isn’t going to matter much because it doesn’t come online until too late… and the AI can keep pace with you for a long time because they get all the Culture wonders out first. (Other players just WON’T lose to a typical Tourism victory – they’ll never let you have the borders/trade/religion bonuses you need to make it work)

        1. Narkis says:

          Civ 6 is is even worse. If Sumeria or Scythia spawn next to you, you WILL get conquered and there’s nothing you could possibly do to avoid it. Their unique units and bonuses are that overpowered for an early game rush. Unless they were balanced in the years since I last played, but I somehow doubt that.

          Just to explain what I mean by that: In both Civ 5 and 6 ranged units are more powerful than melee ones due to their ability to concentrate fire and damage their opponent without suffering a retaliation, breaking the symmetry of 1upt. Scythia’s unique unit is a Horse Archer replacement for the early Horseman. This is already strong. In addition, the Scythian’s ability is that their units heal when killing an enemy, allowing them to more quickly overwhelm an opponent. And to top it off, they also have an ability that when they train a cavalry unit, they get a second one for free. I don’t need to tell you why having double the army at no cost is strong.

          There was a hilarious exploit at release with that last ability: You could sell units for a decent amount of gold. There was also a policy that doubled cavalry production. Combine those with Scythia’s ability, and you could have an economy based entirely on building and selling horsemen, giving you hundreds of golds per turn and allowing you to buy everything you want from almost the start of the game. It was fixed early on, of course (by having you get no money when disbanding a unit), but it shows how little they cared about balance if they missed such an obvious exploit.

          1. GoStu says:

            Re: Scythia and other OP stuff

            Damn, I didn’t play 6 long enough to see those bonuses in action, but that’s obscene. Even just the early horse-archer can be a (historically-accurate) terror; I have enough memories of trying to deal with Keshiks or Camel Archers in Civ 5 that I can remember exactly how nightmarish that situation gets. (Hun Horse Archers were also bad)

            Making a unit that’s super-strong AND doubling production of it AND giving the whole Civ a heal-on-kill really does sound unstoppable. I’m not sure that’s *quite* a guaranteed win for Scythia (clearing a whole 8+ player map is hard) but I’m certain it’s a guaranteed loss for someone with the poor fortune to spawn next to them. Even if all they did is go balls-to-wall defensive unit production, I think a unique thing like that coming at you at double production pace is gonna be unstoppable.

            Regarding the balance between Ranged and Melee units in 5: I think the system probably could have been salvaged with some tweaks to the respective strength of units. If the assorted Unit Strengths of infantry and cavalry had gone up a bit then they’d be taking less damage per shot and dealing way more back once they got into range.

            I believe what the designers probably looked at was potential for melee-exclusive promotions to get out of control: I’d done a few silly things with Sweden where I had infantry with both Cover promotions, both Medic promotions, and March waltzing around; they have +66% defense against ranged attacks and heal every turn for 25 HP. In practice this is almost impossible to really pull off though, the promotions take forever to get. I tried it with the Aztecs as well with upgrading Jaguars to preserve the +50 HP for a kill feature, but getting March takes forever. I’d probably need a Marathon paced game to do it, and they’d probably still find a way to kill my super-jaguars.

            1. LCF says:

              Have you tried it with the Zulus from Civ 5?
              As they get promotion faster, that might be doable.

              1. GoStu says:

                It might work. The Zulu can get some unique promotions but on-balance it’d possibly be worth even detouring into them. With a long-paced game and a strong start, one might be able to make it work, especially once you get Impis in play.

    3. Eric Fletcher says:

      #wellactually the basic workers are (slightly) different too (Shields vs Healing vs Repairable), not even counting their integration with the race specific “making buildings” mechanic.

    4. Decius says:

      Having everything be different is easier to balance- you set up the cycles of counters, adjust costs so that you can use the right counter and trade up, and if you accidentally leave a loophole where a unit can defeat its hard counter using superhuman micro, it’s a feature.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    Meier likes to design these games following the 33/33/33 rule. The idea is that 33% of the game remains consistent from the previous entry, 33% should be previous material with some extra tweaks or refinements, and 33% should be entirely new.

    Hey, wait a minute. What’s the missing 1%, then? Bugs? DRM? A secret message embedded into the game’s code that will lead those who find it through a perilous treasure hunting? I MUST KNOW!

    1. Asdasd says:

      That space is reserved for the secret room with the pictures of the dev team and a rude message about Paradox.

    2. MaxieJZeus says:

      Bugs. Definitely bugs.

      As in, “bugs in the update that by coincidence was dropped the very day Shamus made this post, and which broke the game I was currently goofing around with.” Grrrr.

      EDIT: And it turns out that the new update generates a crash report every time you launch the game! (But it still launches for some reason.)

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        Okay, now I feel stupid. Well, stupider than I usually feel.

        But (full disclosure), in this case the bugs were introduced because I had a couple of mods running that changed the UI, and these apparently need to be updated.

        In my defense, the vanilla UI is so awful that it does need those mods.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Bugs. They also cover all three other categories – old bugs carried from previous games, bugs that affect old systems in new ways or new systems in old ways, and new bugs on new features.

      1. Lino says:

        Wait, I’m confused now. If all the bugs fall into one of the other 33%, how can they all be concentrated in the 1% that’s left?

        1. Syal says:

          That’s a bug.

          1. Decius says:

            It’s a feature.

  7. Randy M says:

    Looking forward to the series. I haven’t been able to really get into the last couple releases like I did 4 and I’m hoping you’ll put your finger on what bothers/ bores me.

  8. tmtvl says:

    I want to put American McGee, Peter Molyneux, and Sid Meier on the same project, just to see them fight for top billing.

    American McGee is the smallest name of the three, Sid Meier’s the biggest, and Peter Molyneux is the biggest liarego.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Sid Meier’s Diaspora, by American McGee

      — a Hideo Kojima Game

      1. Mattias42 says:

        Don’t forget Clive Barker, too!

        Honestly, really liked both games with his name on ’em, though. Jericho was flawed in execution but just smock-full of cool ideas, but Undying is just downright a forgotten classic.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      Then Ubisoft barges into the room and Weekend At Bernie’s the corpse of Tom Clancy into first place.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Is Take-Two okay with other publishers busting in on their stuff? They don’t seem like it.

  9. Geebs says:

    I haven’t played a Civ game properly since 2 (loved the music in that one) apart from a bit of Civ 6 on the iPad (mostly spent wrestling with the interface). The later ones seem to have a much steeper learning curve, and I have much less time these days.

    The thing that always baffles me, and puts me off right from the start of a playthrough, is this: why do recent Civ games always begin with about 6 turns of doing nothing? It’s not interesting, it makes me feel like I’m getting something badly wrong (but there are no tutorial tips to suggest I should be doing it differently), and it feels strange that my nascent civilisation spends several thousand years with their collective thumb up their agglomerated butt trying to train up a warrior. Can anyone enlighten me?

    1. Narkis says:

      Well, Civ games start you with a warrior so that you can have something to move around while you wait for your first city to build anything. But this is inherent to the genre. I’m not sure why you specify “recent” Civ games doing this, when all have been guilty of a slow start.

    2. Syal says:

      I think it’s to sell the concept of exponential growth and a feeling of “look how far you’ve come”.

    3. Joshua says:

      Well, one of the changes in V (can’t remember if kept in VI) is that your cities can now defend themselves without having to keep a unit in them. So, when you start you can immediately move your unit around to explore and look for ruins instead of garrisoning the unit and hitting Next Turn 40 times.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        In the earlier games that’s generally the correct strategy anyway. You just have to scout in such a way that you’ll know if you need to start building military units for your defenseless cities (or just build military units while your first one scouts)

        1. Joshua says:

          On reflection, IIRC, IV just has animals spawn a little bit after the game begins. They can attack your units, but will obviously not be taking over your cities. So, it’s not until the actual barbarian humans arrive around turn 20 to 30 or so that you have to worry about leaving no units in your cities.

    4. Decius says:

      Because of the choice between settling the first spot you have and exploring to pick a slightly better spot. You can reasonably spend up to five turns before founding a city (so 3-4 of exploring), and if you improve your position more than a little bit you break even pretty quickly.

      Learning how to figure out which locations are good is most of what separates the top 5% of players from the rest.

  10. Javier says:

    Do you move your first settler? Are you a wide vs tall player? Are these questions and more waiting to be answered?

    1. Michael says:

      Do you move your first settler?

      Can this actually work?

      1. GoStu says:

        Yes, moving for a couple turns can often be very worth it.

        Your city will only ever be able to work tiles within 3 hexes of where it’s settled, but it takes a bit of time or some gold investment to get those tiles. If you move your settler from its starting position to, say, get some Wheat or Cattle or Deer (mixed food/production or just seriously high food) in the tiles you can work RIGHT NOW it speeds everything up.

        There’s also some meta-speculation about stuff like tundra; if you see tundra in the immediate vicinity of your start point, it’s probable that moving away from that will pay off. Tundra tiles are nigh-worthless and rarely have anything worth working.

  11. Narkis says:

    This game was specifically engineered to work against my preferred playstyle.

    Not entirely correct. The game is terribly designed and terribly balanced with a terrible interface and mechanics that were randomly thrown in with no thought whatsoever on how they would interact with each other. So you get opaque systems that work at cross-purposes with each other, and the game was accidentally engineered to work against a reasonable playstyle.

  12. John says:

    I just wanted to note that if you’re really interested in Civilization or Sid Meier’s work more generally, you can get an excellent overview of his career by listening to the exhaustive four-part interview he did with Soren Johnson on the Designer Notes podcast. They cover Civilization in Part 2, which you can get here or through whatever magical means you prefer to use to obtain podcasts, but I’d recommend listening to the whole thing. Meier is a wonderful, humble speaker and if anyone does deserve the title of video game auteur, it’s him. He may not have a lot to do with the Civilization series any more, but the earliest “Sid Meier’s”-branded games, Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization, were close to one-man games.

    1. stratigo says:

      every time I hear about what sid meier does in firaxis these days makes him sound like a wizard. He hermits in his tower 90 percent of the time just tinkering, and then every once in a while descends to reveal a wondrous creation or solve a pernicious issue from on the the dev teams. Then he goes back into his tower to tinker ineffably.

      1. John says:

        I know he’s said that he prefers working on smaller games with small teams. I believe him. Civilization was basically just him and Bruce Shelley, after all. I think that’s why we’re getting mobile games like Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol now. I’m not sure what he’s been up to since the release of Sid Meier’s Starships, which I own but, to my shame, have never played. Perhaps the fabled never-to-be-satisfactorily-completed dinosaur game?

  13. Hector says:

    I loved Civ6 for all the reasons others disliked it, and hated it anyway. No joke here. I may go back eventually but we’ll see.

    Many people complained about the art but I think that is largely a redirection from other changes. The style suits the gameplay and exaggeration is useful. Other changes, like workers and unbounded cities are definitely new but overall good additions. They change things up but I think in a positive way. The trouble, however…

    You aren’t really building a civilization anymore, despite in theory that being the point. Civ6 is more than ever a competitive boardgame and the elements are just ways to gain advantage, where the sole determination of success is the final score. Civ has long struggled with this, but by 6, it seems like every decision should be made solely with the idea of victory path in mind. Most other games in the series had a more sandboxy flavour with ways to reward players when they did fun or cool things.

    Plus, the DLC situation is a nightmare and I simply dont want to deal with it.

  14. MikeK says:

    In a nice coincidence, Civ VI is currently available free from the Epic store.

    1. Hector says:

      Still overpriced.

      1. tmtvl says:

        If it’s free on Epic and 60$ on Steam then the only way to avoid paying too much is shelling out the 60.

        1. Decius says:

          Is EGS still evil? It’s hard to tell anymore. On the one hand, free games. On the other, exclusives.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Valve contributes various tech to the wider gaming ecosystem, EGS bribes publishers to withhold games from certain platforms. I’d say EGS has a net negative contribution to the gaming ecosystem and it should be shunned.

            I know that objecting to shitty business practices rather than encouraging them is basically the opposite of what gamers do, but I can always hope eventually people will start realizing the error of their ways.

        2. Hector says:

          I was making a joke, but if you’re going to take it seriously, my guess is that’s it’s a way to try and sell overpriced DLC for a game that likely doesn’t sell very well at the full cost.

  15. Paul Spooner says:

    Looking forward to this. I played Civ and Civ II back when they were new, and have a lot of nostalgia associated with modding and sharing strategies with my friends.
    When this is all over, I’d love to hear your thoughts on MoO2. That’s another staple of my jr-high years that doesn’t seem to have ever been surpassed.

    1. Hector says:

      Stars in Shadow is an interesting, low-budget take on the formula.

      1. Decius says:

        Low budget, and more critically it tries to superficially imitate and succeeds at superficially imitating MoO2.

        MoO2 was well above the standards of its day, but those standards have changed.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Personally, I always liked Sword of the Stars, with its 4 (6 with the expansion) races to choose from. I never had any friends with a copy to play online with, but single-player it seemed pretty decent. :)

  16. Adamantyr says:

    I love Alpha Centauri as well! I actually found it easier to accept that the Civilization games simply because the factions were more believable than a “culture” that is unchanging for thousands of years. Maybe I’m too nitpicky I don’t know…

    The only Civilization game I truly enjoyed was Civilization IV, mainly because of the music, voiceover work by Leonard Nimoy, and the general play was pretty good. I was a bit infuriated though when my modern day regiments were getting their ass kicked by natives with spears.

    All of these games are massive time sinks. I’ve often start playing one with a hot cup of tea or coffee next to my keyboard and I’d suddenly realize at some point that the drink was cold, the sun was coming up, and the pressure behind my eyes was a lack-of-sleep headache waiting to pounce.

    1. Scerro says:

      The time sink aspect is the number one reason why I can’t stand the Civ games. You always think you’re an hour away from cleaning up the game, but it then takes you 12 hours more. The worst part is the whole 12 hours on the end half you’re not enjoying it, you’re merely trying to slog through it because it seems so close to being done.

      1. By numerical count, the vast majority of the death toll I’ve inflicted in all the genres of video games I’ve played over the years are probably all the cities I’ve nuked in Civilization endgames just to get them off the map because I wanted to win already.

      2. GoStu says:

        In my last few go-rounds with Civ I’ll just play until I’m morally certain of victory, and then I’ll scrap the game.

        If I’m number 1 in technology, population, land, production, money, and soldiers… I don’t need to play another 4-12 hours to see the game’s victory screen. I know it’s a win.

  17. Matt says:

    While I played a fair amount of Civ II and Civ III, my favorite 4X game was Galactic Civilizations (and it’s sequel) from Stardock. It was also the first time I got into modding – creating my own techs, ships, and civilizations.

    1. Javier says:

      Stellaris blew away everything for me. It’s like every sci-fi idea ever stuffed into one game.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        If they could only remove the grind…

  18. zookeeper says:

    The massive problem for me in 4X games tends to be the AI. Once I realize that in order for the AI opponents to be anywhere near challenging on higher difficulties, it cheats immensely, it somewhat sucks the fun out of the game. The game is presented as symmetric, but then the AI doesn’t have to play by the basic game rules. As far as I know, this is the case in all Civilization games.

    The other issue I have is that I despise 3D world maps in the genre. Old 2D Civ games were fine, but the usability of the 3D maps is so bad I can’t really forgive the games for choosing them. The maps are smaller, you see a smaller piece of them and the visual information of what’s where is a whole lot less clear. Another sad example is Shogun: Total War. The first game was great, the world map was beautiful and functional, but then in Shogun 2 it was a hideous 3D nightmare where you can’t immediately see what stuff each province holds, where units can move, and navigating the map is more awkward. Oh, and Galactic Civilizations. The second installment had a 3D map and performance was thus so bad that late game was a nightmare. And the 3D added nothing.

    Thanks for reading, I needed to vent this somewhere.

    1. Narkis says:

      Galactic Civilizations 2 was the only 4x game I’ve played with an actually good AI. And the genre seems to be regressing lately. Civ 4 had a better AI than 5, 6 and Beyond Earth.

      1. John says:

        I think that Galactic Civilization’s reputation for good AI is exaggerated. Because of its setting and structure, Galactic Civilization is in many ways much simpler than most other 4X games. There are many things that the AI simply doesn’t have to do, and so the player never gets the chance to observe the AI doing them badly.

        As a space game, Galactic Civilization 2 benefits from being terrain-less. I was going to say tile-less, but upon further reflection that might not be true. Given the way I’ve seen fleets move, there may well be tiles that are simply invisible to the user. The important thing is that space is big, and there are no obstacles to the movement of ships and fleets but planets, stars, and starbases. There are no roads to decrease movement costs or forests to increase them. There are no oceans or mountain ranges. Every obstacle that a ship might encounter takes up no more than one tile and there are almost never any obstacles in adjacent tiles (unless the player gets creative with starbases). There are no chokepoints to exploit or be confounded by. Pathfinding must be many times simpler in Galactic Civilization than in Civilization proper.

        A second simplifying factor is that Galactic Civilization has heavily abstracted combat. Ships travel in big, blobby fleets and combat is always auto-resolved. Unlike Master of Orion, there’s no tactical combat mini-game for the AI to be bad at. It might need to worry about, say, keeping enough ships near vulnerable planets or starbases, but it never has to worry about things like keeping an effective infantry screen in front of its more powerful ranged units. In short, combat in Galactic Civilization is an almost purely strategic affair. The only thing that the AI really needs to be decent at is having enough ships with the right kinds of weapons and defenses.

        None of this should be taken to imply that I don’t like Galactic Civilization. I do. In fact, I think I might like it more than I like Master of Orion 2, the game which it would so very clearly like to be. But it’s not nearly as ambitious an undertaking as something like one of the more recent Civilizations.

        1. Decius says:

          Building game mechanics that you can build an AI to handle is a valid choice.

        2. Narkis says:

          I’d like to ask a question, and please believe me when I don’t mean it in a hostile manner: Have you actually played Galactic Civilizations 2? Because it was abundantly clear the game had tiles, the ship movement was in tiles, and there was even a map option that made the tile outlines visible. I find it difficult to believe that someone could miss it.

          Now, in addition to Decius’s point, which is very valid, you are underselling GalCiv 2 but switching your comparisons between MoO2 and Civ so that it seems inferior to both when it is in fact a mix. It has less terrain than Civ4, true, but MoO2 doesn’t even have a comparable map outside of combat to make pathfinding an issue. GalCiv 2’s combat is simpler than MoO 2’s tactical combat, true, but it is far more complex than Civ4’s, having fleets, a ship designer, and a rock-paper-scissors system of weapons and defenses. And you didn’t even mention its major strengths, the economy where you allocate your budget between military production, civilian production and research, or its diplomacy that has more features than MoO2, about the same as Civ4, and the AI is delightfully competent.

          1. John says:

            I have, but not for several years now. My memory is admittedly imperfect, but the existence or non-existence of tiles is irrelevant anyway. It’s the non-existence of complex obstacles that matters, and I notice that you aren’t disputing that.

            Galactic Civilization 2’s combat is absolutely not more complicated than
            Civilization IVs. Two fleets fly straight at each other, the computer generates some pseudo-random numbers, one fleet vanishes, and the other takes damage. The computer makes no decisions. There is no AI involved. The combat in Civilization IV isn’t all that much more complex, to be sure, but in Civilization IV the computer does at least have to think about how to maneuver doomstacks through terrain before combat occurs. The combat in Civilizations V and VI is significantly more complicated because of the one unit per tile rule as is the combat in MOO2 because of the tactical mini-game.

            It’s true that the Galactic Civilizations AI has to decide what weapons and defenses to slap on its ships, but the algorithm “look at what other guy has, choose obvious counter” is hardly the stuff of genius, nor is it unique to Galactic Civilizations 2, lifted as it is (and as so much else was) from MOO2. The strategic question of what to build and when isn’t really all that different from what goes on in Civilization or any other 4X and I never saw any evidence that the Galactic Civilizations 2 AI was any better at that sort of thing than any other 4X AI.

            Look, I’m not claiming that the GalCiv2 AI is bad or that it’s somehow worse than other 4X AIs. I’m claiming that it’s about the same as those other AIs.
            If it seems better, that’s because GalCiv2 is designed in such a way that the AI doesn’t have to deal with the kinds of activities where most 4X AIs make their most obvious mistakes.

            1. Narkis says:

              I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Fact of the matter is that of all the 4X games I’ve ever played, and they’ve been many, GalCiv 2 was the one where I felt the AI to be the most competent in general, and I didn’t find the game substantially less complex than others of its kind. There’s not much more that can be said at this point.

  19. 0451fan0451 says:

    I suppose the game also hates you because Epics now just giving it away right as you just bought it

  20. Gaius Maximus says:

    I first played Civ I at a friend’s house in third grade and immediately fell in love. For several years after that, Civ and computer games were basically synonymous for me. I felt every new version was a definite upgrade over the last until V. I honestly can’t decide whether I like IV or V better. But despite my love for the series, I just could not get myself to even buy VI. I hate the cartoony look and I hate, hate, hate, the idea of cities taking up multiple tiles. If you had to design your city on the city screen but it only took one tile on the map, I might have been able to live with it, though I would hate not being able to build 20 wonders in my capital any more, but spilling cities all over the main map just makes the scale too ridiculous for me to swallow. It’s bad enough in V when you can only have one swordsman in a hex the size of New England, or you can have an archer standing in Pennsylvania and firing arrows at Boston, but the city thing is just too much for me. Maybe I’ll come back for VII, depending on what it looks like.

    1. MaxieJZeus says:

      This is one of those things, I think, where you have reconceive for yourself what exactly is going on with districts. I agree that it is ugly and weird to think of the cities’ guts being spilled out over the countryside in the form of districts. But I’ve quickly stopped thinking of them that way, and just regard them as landscape improvements (like farms, mines, etc.) that have to be built in order to support the infrastructure of libraries, amphitheaters, etc., that — so I pretend to myself — is really inside the city.

      Aesthetically, my main objection is that the art style is very hard to “read” when glancing at the map, and the Wonders are far too big for the landscape. As a practical matter, I am not fond of districts because it (to this newbie) it feels like you have to plan out your city before even start to build it instead of letting it develop as the game proceeds.

  21. Scerro says:

    Ah, Civ. A game that always starts out so promising, but literally is the definition of dragging out the end.

    The main issue I have from what I played with Civ 5, is that Production > Everything else. While other victories seem plausible, none come close to production and an eventual science victory. Now, that wouldn’t be [b]that[b/] bad, except 8-12 hours in you think you’re an hour from being done, and then to actually play the game to it’s conclusion takes another 8-12 hours.

    Also, just a tip. Never play on slower playtimes. It’s literally just a stretch for the game and more “end turn” buttons pressed in the end.

    Now personally, if you want a GOOD turn based tile game, pick up Endless Legend. It’s built with a fantasy aesthetic, but it’s far, far more malleable and each race is essentially choosing a victory type and abusing the hell out of whatever bonuses they get to get there. Plus, matches once stacked don’t drag on, they end. That 1 hour away victory you think you have? Well you’re actually gonna get there in an hour or two. Doesn’t waste your time like Civ.

    1. Joshua says:

      The only thing I can see for slower playtimes is that it allows for more warfare options. AFAIK, everything else scales to match the time frame except unit movement, so you’ll still be hitting the same technologies around the same periods in history, more or less. However, on a slower playtime, there are a lot more options to move units around without them becoming obsolete in the process, especially a concern in a larger world. I would certainly not want to do a Marathon game time when trying for a Diplomatic Victory.

    2. GoStu says:

      I find the slower game-paces help balance combat & domination with some of the other victory conditions, as having troops leave your lands and be obsolete by the time they arrive is less of an issue. Enemies have less leeway to build/buy troops just as your forces knock down the door as well.

      Definitely a slower game though with a lot more “End Turn” presses.

      1. Joshua says:

        Look at the timing of our comments, lol.

  22. David says:

    I didn’t expect liking Civ6 to be such an uncommon opinion here, but I do like it a lot. I usually play on Prince or King (Prince being the “normal” difficulty with the ai not getting any bonuses or penalties), but I also like watching a few youtubers who play on Deity (ai gets absurd bonuses and is super aggressive). I’ve been playing Sid Meyer’s Civ since 4, though I did previously own Civilization II: Call to Power (not made by Sid Meyer), which had some concepts that I like (like map layers underwater or in space that unlock with certain techs) though it was way too hard for me at the time (never won, even on the easiest difficulty).

    Regarding the tall vs wide thing, which it sounds like may be part of what Shamus has a problem with, one of the new civs released today, the Maya, is specifically designed to play tall, and probably go for a science victory. I’m planning on trying it out over the weekend, and I would start already but I need to be awake for work tomorrow.

    1. GoStu says:

      I can’t comment with 100% certainty about 6, but I know in Civ 5 the tooltips are lies.

      The only difficulty the AI doesn’t get bonus-cheats on is Settler. Every other difficulty above that is based on them getting deeper discounts to science/hammer/gold costs on things, and on the even-higher difficulties like Immortal and Deity they start with more units too.

      A Deity AI in 5 starts with something nuts like two settlers, a worker, at least 2 scouts, a couple warriors, etc.

      1. David says:

        I was going based on the wiki, so if that’s wrong, oh well. But yeah, deity ai gets a lot of bonuses, which leads to a specific playstyle that the people I watch pretty much have to follow to survive the early game

  23. Retsam says:

    I’ve played Civ since III (technically I know I played II at least once). And it seems like I’m the only one in this comment section for whom Civ VI is actually their favorite? In general, I think I’ve pretty much liked every Civ more than the one that came before it:

    I like the “culture as its own tech tree” approach – it makes culture feel more important early game as “rushing culture” is actually important for unlocking certain wonders or buildings.

    I also like the the boost system, where performing various actions will give a 40% bonus to a technology or civic, I like that it adds a more directly gameplay-connected aspect to science than just building the right buildings to pump out science.

    And I really like the district and wonder placement system. I think it helps make city placement more interesting, there’s more to consider, and more reasons to actually specialize cities.

    I’ll admit, I’m not super hot on the implementation of the Dark Ages/Golden Ages system: I like the general idea, but the points you gain to unlocking them are a bit arbitrary and hard to control – I’ve had things go really well, yet get classified as a normal or even “dark” age because I just wasn’t doing the exact things that gave boost.

    But I do like the second expansion – climate is a genuinely new and interesting quirk to add to the series.

    I’m a bit surprised at just how negative the opinions are here. I shouldn’t feel like a lone voice in the wilderness for saying “this 88-on-Metacritic game is actually good”, but after reading every comment, I think the only person whose had a positive opinion on Civ VI in this thread is Echo Tango saying “I like the art style of Civ VI”. (Edit: also David who posted while I was writing this)

    I don’t know if this is just generic “people are more prone to complain than to gush”, or people specifically being attracted to the headline, or specifically the demographic of this site tending towards criticism (and maybe a little “old-school”ism).

    Not a big deal, (not the first time I’ve felt disproportionately positive compared to the average commenter here…), but just a bit surprised at how much the comments in here don’t match with my general perception of public perception of this game. (Also interesting to compare to the discussion in the reddit thread about the game being free)

    1. MaxieJZeus says:

      I am one of those who think 4 is the peak of the franchise and am at best lukewarm about 6. But I will happily admit there are things I like in 6, including the culture-tech tree and the research-boosting actions. I would like the districts more if the art style wasn’t so exaggerated and the landscape features hard to “read” when looking at the map; and I would like them better if the game was more rewarding to “tall” play, because that’s the kind of game that sort of micromanagement is suited for.

      I also really like the government system of government types and policies, which adds a huge amount of flexibility to the game and feels like a real breakthrough to me.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I can definitely sympathize with the “hard to read” part of Civ 6’s interface. Looking at several random[1] screenshots, there’s no borders drawn on the individual tiles, and the various improvements seem to bleed over a bit into adjacent tiles. It’s only with the resource-icons nice and centered, or the hexanogal-squiggle of an enemy border, that you can actually see the shape and size of things. :)

        [1] The first page or so of the googles.

        1. Michael says:

          Just turn on tile borders in the settings. The only reason you’d have them off is if you wanted to take a pretty screenshot.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      Depending on how this whole Epic Store thing plays out, I may end up playing Civ VI soon. If so, you can count on my proven inability to dislike any game to have me standing with you.

    3. Bubble181 says:

      I’ve played all Civ games since I at least a bit, as well as AC and both Call to Power games.
      Yet, my personal favorite is V – the one constantly claimed is ‘only good for newbies’ and ‘an introduction to the genre’ by diehards. So I’m definitely aware of the whole ‘unpopular opinion that the numbers say should be popular’ thing.
      That said, VI does have some improvements, like, as you mentioned, the culture path and boosts, that I like. Districts sounded like a good idea but never really clicked with me in practice.
      Mostly, though, it just really, really discourages playing tall and turtling or playing peacefully. I want to dazzle the world with science or culture, not brutally crush or under my heel.

  24. Vel says:

    When Civ VI first came out it was fine, but with one of the updates the game decided that you could be AT MOST 9 tiles from another civ when the game started, even if you had only two civs on the largest available map size. For a while you could fix this by editing the number in one of the config files, but then they patched it again to ignore that number and still put you 9 tiles from every AI capital. Because who wants the first three X’s, when we could get right into the eXterminate from the get go, with awesome axeman-on-axeman action!
    I like Civ when I get to play around with expansion and empire building for a while, and then fight in the modern era when the units have gotten interesting. I find it very boring to slam endless waves of warriors into each other, and don’t enjoy any of the civ games that are designed to force warfare early & often.
    This is why I only like odd-numbered civ games.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      This is why I only like odd-numbered civ games.

      So long as you don’t make that same choice with Star Trek movies, you’ll be fine.

    2. Phill says:

      I’ve had plenty of games where I’ve not had any AI anywhere near me at all, so if that was once the case, it doesn’t match up with my recent experience.

    3. Ofermod says:

      I’ve never had that issue with Civ II.

  25. Dalisclock says:

    Shamus, it’s uncanny but your playthroughs of CIV6 look a lot like my playthroughs of CIV5. As in it seems like no matter how well I do, the AI is always doing better. Which means I don’t understand how the game works or I’m “not playing it right”.

    Which pisses me off because I really like a lot of things about CIV5 but other then how I can’t seem to figure out what it wants from me to win. Which is one of the reasons I haven’t bothered with CIV6 yet.

    I also dislike the “There can only be one” mentality, complete with the idea that even if you’re a close 2nd when the game turns are up, it’s implied your civilization is now in ruins. Because IRL there is only one Civ on earth and no other cultures/nations exist beyond that.

    1. Joshua says:

      Sorry to hear that, Dalisclock. I’d love to give some tips, but aside from watching over someone’s shoulder when they play, it’s hard to give much good general advise that isn’t pretty generic because there are so many variables in play such as world type, difficulty level*, civilization of choice, playstyle, etc. Are you losing out on valuable Wonders because other Civs are getting to them first? Or are you spending too much time on wonders while other Civs are filling up the map with their cities? Are you constantly running into deficits in money or happiness? Are you too aggressive about going to war and building too many units that drain money, or are you hesitant to avoid conflict and don’t discourage other Civs from taking up good land/resource positions or risking them declaring war on you? What are you doing with City-States? How many cities are you going for (as said above, 4-6 under your direct control seems to be ideal for Civ V)?

      Most importantly, how is the AI “winning”? Are they ahead on points the whole game, or just reaching a victory condition before you? From your description, it sounds like you are getting to the end of the game and one of the Civs does something to win. Is that correct?

      *Difficulty level can make certain strategies bad or unnecessary. For example, Byzantine’s ability to get an extra Religious belief is pretty nifty at probably King or lower difficulty levels, but many experts would tell you that they are a trash Civ at Deity level because so many other Civs will establish religions first, leaving them with slim pickings even if they get a chance to establish a religion, which may not be the case. Conversely, if you were playing at Settler level, spending a lot of effort on pursuing Happiness above other options may be counter-productive since it’s so easy to remain Happy that attention could best be spent elsewhere (although you’ll get more frequent Golden Ages).

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        Do you have any comments or observations about this post at the Civfanatics forum:

        https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/the-basics-of-winning-in-civilization-vi.653968/

        That’s the post I’ve been using the past day or two as I give Civ 6 another shot.

        1. Joshua says:

          I’m sorry, the post above was regarding Dalisclock having issues winning in Civ V. I have only played Civ VI for less than two hours (wasn’t enjoying it and wanted a refund from Steam), so I am not qualified to offer advice. Amazingly, the military advice in your article seems pretty spot on for both games though.

      2. Dalisclock says:

        It’s been a couple years since I’ve played so I don’t remember much. My first game was quite pleseant and I made it through most of the game without a single major war, all the way to the modern/post modern endgame. I had Brazil as a completing power, who eventually out competed me and won the cultural victory. I was Babylon and was going for science victory but didn’t make it in time.

        The 2nd time I tried again for science with Babylon but this time one of the other powers(don’t remember but one of the military ones) gobbled up the rest of the map and kept pressing my borders while I desperately tried to get a spaceship launched while keeping the horde from breaking through. I remember having a notable problem with the city states all getting co-opted by the big rival power, much to my annoyance.

        I don’t remember much other then that but I knew about playing tall at least by the 2nd one, though I’m not sure if I actually pulled it off. I can’t remember what I did wrong but each time one of the rivals built up an insurmountable culutral/military lead that I couldn’t reverse by the modern era. I do have a tendency to turtle if I’m allowed to and build up my infrastructure over conquest, especially since it feels like CIV5 doesn’t reward you much for conquest unless you’re a military/expanistist themed civ.

      3. Dalisclock says:

        Since my edit window timed out, I’m going to elaborate I played on the “Normal” difficulty(King?), which is my default starting any game. After learning it only affects the Bonuses the AI gets(How much it gets to cheat), I’m tempted to bump it down the next time I play, since the computer getting cheats doesn’t really strike me as “Better Challenge” but rather “The AI gets a head start because they’re dumb”.

        CIV is far from the only series/game that does this but since it’s most germane to the discussion here….

    2. GoStu says:

      My experience with 5 is that you want Food. Food is what matters. Surplus food gives more people, which gives more science, more ability to work hills/mines/forests for Production, and (less importantly) more Gold as well.

      There’s a lot of very bad options presented to the player as though they’re reasonable. Of the four social policy trees the player can choose to open with Culture in the Ancient Era (Tradition, Liberty, Honor, Piety) there’s only two that are actually viable in any way. Tradition leads to a nice happy strong “tall” empire with 4ish strong cities, and Liberty is an aggressive fast-expanding style that works differently but is playable, if a little harder to execute. Honor and Piety are absolute garbage in comparison and will lead to agonizingly slow starts – but the AI loves to start with them, and gets away with it because it’s got bonuses the player does not.

      The game over-values gold in general; it’s roughly 1/4 as valuable as raw Production near the start of the game and later trends towards being ~1/2. You’d never learn this because the AI players coat their territory in Trading Posts, and if the AI’s controlling a city it prioritizes gold over anything else (like in a puppet city). Also, the AI just settles garbage cities sometimes.

      Some broad tips for improving your Civ5 game:

      – Settle with food tiles in mind. Wheat, Cows, Grain, Bananas, Salt… these are what you should be looking for first and foremost, because those tiles will support the citizen working them AND generate surpluses.

      – The AI city-controller prioritizes production too low. Once you’re generating a food surplus, you might have to buy a hill so you can get a mine on it. You do want to settle cities with some hills nearby, otherwise you get this flatland mess that can’t really build its way out of a production deficit. You might also have to spend Gold to acquire the tiles you need for this.

      – You want at least one new luxury per city settled, unless you’re in a desperate position.

      – Gold is a tertiary concern. Food and hammers, hammers and food: that’s what you need. Gold only really gets good to either avoid early-game science penalties or late-game when you have a lot of it and use it to effectively “concentrate” production.

      1. Joshua says:

        I would have to agree with most of these. The AI’s focus on gold generation (especially with those crappy Trading Posts thrown all over the map) is rivaled only by its focus on too much Melee, not enough Ranged.

  26. wumpus says:

    I always assumed that it was ‘Sid Meier’s Civilization’ to distinguish it from the previously existing Avalon Hill boardgame of the same name. (Which they did eventually make a very buggy PC game out of.)

    1. John says:

      Nope. Sid Meier’s Civilization was the third “Sid Meier’s”-branded game, following Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon. But even if Sid Meier’s Civilization had been named that in order to distinguish it from the Avalon Hill game, it didn’t work. I’m pretty sure Avalon Hill sued Microprose, Meier’s studio, anyway. There’s always been a bit of controversy over the similarities between the two games.

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        They’re as similar as chess and checkers, i.e., games where you move pieces around a grid. [/sarc]

        I’ve played a lot of both games and like both of them, and I can tell you that from a gameplay experience they are complete opposites. SMC is Roddenberry-flavored: things get better and better and better and better and better and better and better the farther you get into the future. AHC, though, is like Tetris, a galloping exercise in catastrophe management. That game is set up to try to kill you, and your job is to please God not die!

        1. Michael says:

          SMC is Roddenberry-flavored: things get better and better and better and better and better and better and better the farther you get into the future.

          Let’s not forget how Communism sharply reduces governmental corruption in almost all your cities, and Democracy completely eliminates it from all of them.

          1. Dalisclock says:

            Democracy, at least in the early games, had the downside of your congress declaring peace treaties behind your back during wars, which is really annoying when you’re winning and peace treaties only benefit the CIV you’re trying to beat into submission.

            Communism didn’t have this, which is why Communism ended up being a better choice if you wanted to fight a war without getting interrupted by your own government.

            1. Michael says:

              Democracy, at least in the early games, had the downside of your congress declaring peace treaties behind your back during wars, which is really annoying when you’re winning and peace treaties only benefit the CIV you’re trying to beat into submission.

              Only if that’s what you wanted to happen. You would be overruled if you turned down a peace treaty, but in order for the other civilization to propose a peace treaty, you would have to agree to speak to them, which you don’t have to do. Your congress isn’t capable of declaring peace behind your back. It’s only a downside if you have no idea what you’re doing.

              1. Dalisclock says:

                I didn’t realize that. It’s been a very long time since I played CIV2. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  27. Nimrandir says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this. However, I have virtually no experience with the genre (I didn’t have a computer until 1998, and by then I was entranced by the Infinity Engine). I messed around with Colonization for about an hour, then I dumped it for Pirates!, which came on the same compilation disc.

    I considered picking up Civ V, since several comments had mentioned it as a good point of entry for newcomers. Sadly, it’s not available on GOG, so I went to look it up on Steam. That’s when I saw the $30 price tag for a ten-year-old digital game, and I decided I could enjoy this series without playing along with any entries in the franchise.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      You and anyone else looking to play along might be interested to know that Civ VI itself is Epic’s current free giveaway.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        The real issue is whether or not my GOGbox laptop meets the system requirements. That and hopeful savings were why I looked at Civ V.

        I’m probably okay on everything but the video card, since my laptop only has integrated graphics. On the other hand, I’m not sure I have the patience to install the Epic launcher and keep it installed for a single game.

    2. Liessa says:

      Steam has regular sales for Civ V where you can get the entire game, including all DLC, for about 90% off. I don’t think they even expect people to buy it at full price any more.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I may put it on my wish list, to keep an eye out for a sale. I doubt I’ll get lucky enough for a full-on giveaway, though, like I got for Crusader Kings II.

        1. Joshua says:

          Make sure you get the DLCs if you do. They do make the game more enjoyable.

    3. John says:

      I first played Colonization–the original DOS version–about six or seven years ago. It was one of my first purchases on GOG, actually. It’s good! It took me a while to wrap my brain around it, but I love it now and play it whenever I want a break from the usual 4X shenanigans. The key, for me, was understanding that Colonization is much more of an economic-management and worker-placement game than it is a 4X. (It may look a lot like Civilization, but that’s just the art. It’s actually running on an entirely different engine.) Your goal is not to paint the map your color but to acquire, one way or another, a big enough military to withstand the king’s army during the end-game revolution. The map of the randomly generated New World may be huge, but in practice you can safely ignore most of it. I usually play with four to six cities when the map could easily accommodate hundreds. It’s not a perfect game. For all that the bonuses that each country–the same four countries as in Pirates!, as it happen–gets are based on that country’s actual colonial history, the game plays out as a sort of a cartoonish version of the American revolution no matter which country you select. Still, I highly recommend it.

  28. Kincajou says:

    So… I have to admit that I shamelessly still love and miss the civ2 fmvs for your council.

    Why they didn’t keep them in the sequels to cater specifically for me is something I will never understand! (I thought we had something civ!)

    1. Bubble181 says:

      I still miss the throne room you could upgrade piece-by-piece.

    2. Daniil says:

      Those were great. King of Dragon Pass/Six Ages reminds me of them somewhat (though not the FMV aspect; but having opinionated advisors).

  29. jerkface says:

    Since we’re talking about CiV 6, it’s actually free right now on Epic Gamestore. I know people have this vengeance against the store front because it does all the things that Steam also does except it’s clearly much more sinister this time, but still, free game is free game.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      I know people have this vengeance against the store front because it does all the things that Steam also does

      Even with this discussion having been done to death at this point, strawmanning complaints about EGS is more annoying than the complaints themselves.

  30. Lars says:

    Egosofts X-series is considered to be a 4X game, even though its real time, a space sim like Elite and the story doesn’t span through centuries. Genre definitions are bonkers.

  31. ivan says:

    Unrelated to this post, but here, Shamus, you’ll like this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HVy1iAlz7M&t=6690s

    It’s someone dealing with Mercer Frey as though the quest is for a Thief instead of for a showboating Fighter.

  32. Douglas Sundseth says:

    I’ve played every (mainline) Civ game plus Alpha Centauri, and I suspect I’ve put more than 500 hours into each. (That’s only a guess for the early entries, of course.)

    I have loved every one of them, both in spite of and because of their individual quirks and mix of excellent, pointless, and counter-productive changes.

    Every game is its own puzzle to solve, usually with murder.

    For some reason, though, I kind of bounce off the scenarios. Perhaps they’re just too scripted and not sufficiently sandboxy for my tastes.

  33. Carlos García says:

    Heh, just now this game is free in the Epic Games Store, so I’ll be able to install it and give it a run to know more about this game and understand better what you’ll say of it.
    And here I was thinking 4X meant the four dimensions as a way to mean you played about something of grand strategy spawning a lot of space and time spans. LOL

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Just came here to make the same comment. Not going to get it because I refuse to give Epic my cell phone number.

      1. ivan says:

        They require a phone number to give you a free game?

        1. Nimrandir says:

          It may be part of the account creation process? I can’t remember what all I had to enter when I set things up to play Dauntless with my son.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          They recently (like last month or so) started requiring 2FA for some of the game downloads.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            Phone numbers are not a secure second factor!

            1. Warlockofoz says:

              They’re better than nothing, but I suspect the real reason is to make it harder to use a script to make accounts to claim the free copies for later resale.

  34. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

    This is like the perfect time for this review due to the Epic store deal as others have mentioned.

    Now I have beaten CIV VI but I play a lot like Shamus. I muddle through on the easiest difficulty setting, except I muddle to victory. Then I drop the CIV game and don’t really play it again.

  35. Lanthanide says:

    Meier likes to design these games following the 33/33/33 rule.

    Is the remaining 1% bugs?

  36. Mark says:

    Shamus, I hope you weren’t kidding around about reading all the comments that appear on this website, ‘cos since you mentioned Alpha Centauri I have to slip you this link:

    https://paeantosmac.wordpress.com/

    A guy went through and wrote commentary on SMAC through the lens of examining all of the technical advances and base improvements and secret projects. It’s really good.

    1. Warlockofoz says:

      There went a night (with more to come, since I then, failed my save against buying a new copy from Gog…)

  37. Philadelphus says:

    As a big player of both Civ games and Paradox grand strategy games, I’m going to muse a bit about genre 4X and genre boundaries. I agree with both points given defining a 4X game (turn-based, and a long time-scale vs. a single battle or conflict), but have two additional considerations: evenly-matched starts, and random maps.

    I think 4X games have an implicit assumption that the various players are evenly matched. Roughly evenly matched, anyway; I don’t know what it was like in Civ I or II, but in III (the first I played) every civ got its own unique unit, and the differences between civs have only grown in later games. And strictly speaking, they’re not perfectly evenly matched (if such a thing is possible without every civ being identical), but in general you expect that all players start out with roughly the same starting position and have equal chances of some sort of victory*.

    Now sure, some civs will, just by luck, get better starting positions, which sort of feeds into my second point about random maps. One of things that keeps 4X games fresh, at least for me, is that feeling of exploring a new place. In fact, I think the eXplore aspect of these games is probably the most compelling for me. Anyway the randomness of maps also helps, at least in theory, in balancing the game: sure, in this particular game maybe my civ got a bad start and my neighbor got an amazing one which is why they were able to conquer me, but in the the next game maybe that’ll be reversed and it’ll be my turn to conquer the world. Or maybe I manage to eke out a victory anyway through superior tactical and strategic skill, and it becomes an underdog winning scenario. Either way, the randomness of the map is an integral part of the experience. If the map were exactly the same, you could come up with an objectively best build order for each starting position, which is impossible with random maps.

    Paradox’s historical grand strategy games, in contrast, don’t include either of these points (with one exception I’ll mention in a bit). The starts of the various dynasties/nations/countries/empires/tribes/whatever are balanced according to history, instead of against each other. (Well, at least in Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis, I guess in Hearts of Iron the various major factions are sort of balanced against each other to make for an engaging WW II, and I haven’t played Victoria to be able to say.) Also, the map is not random at all, but is completely set, with the one exception being the Conquest of Paradise expansion for Europa Universalis IV which allows you to randomize the New World (and the fact that you can get random resources in newly-settled provinces, but that’s not generally a big deal unless you get a gold deposit). CK and HoI don’t feature any eXpansion (in the sense of settling unclaimed lands), and even EU and I believe Victoria you can pretty much ingore it in favor of just eXploiting and eXterminating your pre-existing neighbors depending on where you choose. (Generally the Mongols don’t do a lot of colonization, for instance.) Thus, I feel Paradox’s historical grand strategy games definitely fall outside the usual idea of what a 4X game is.

    However, there is one Paradox game which I think at least straddles the line: Stellaris. It’s got a random map, players are nominally evenly matched†, and it covers hundreds of years of interstellar development. Given that the smallest discrete time unit is a day, you could even make a bizarre case for it being turn-based with an auto-end turn feature for the hundreds of thousands of turns in a typical game. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to call it a 4X game myself, but it’s definitely the Paradox game that comes closest to being one.

    *Again, this is invalidated by harder-difficulty AIs in Civ getting objectively better starting situations with free units, but there are difficulty levels where they get the same start as a human.

    †Yes, there are the advanced AI starts, and the Fallen Empires, but you can turn both of those off (I usually don’t use advanced AI starts myself) and it’s not like the Fallen Empires are another player, since you can’t be one yourself; they’re more like a slumbering bear to be awoken at your peril, at least until you become strong enough to take them on. And yes, the latest expansion Federations added Origins which are objectively of rather differing power levels, but in general the AIs only tend to pick the less-powerful ones in my experience.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Ah, I spent a good long while writing my post below and I sorta kinda covered similar territory there. I still think the majority of players play Stellaris more like they did the other Paradox games you’ve mentioned. I know players who have “finished” tens of different playthroughs who wouldn’t even know if Stellaris has victory objectives.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Yeah, that’s an interesting thought about victory conditions. I’ve put a few hundred hours into Stellaris, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever officially won the game when I was going for achievements that required me to wipe out all other empires/sapient life and thus get a conquest victory. Usually I get to a point where I’ve basically won (nothing left in the galaxy can threaten me, including the end-game crisis), and then get excited about starting a new playthrough and leave the old one as done.

    2. Michael says:

      I don’t know what it was like in Civ I or II, but in III (the first I played) every civ got its own unique unit, and the differences between civs have only grown in later games.

      In Civ I and II, the only differences between civilizations are in their strategy when controlled by the computer. If you make a peace treaty with the Zulus, Mongols, or Greeks in Civ I, they will break it shortly afterwards. The Babylonians and Indians won’t do that, and the English aren’t so likely to.

      Civ III is where civilizational differences were introduced. The single unique unit for every civilization is basically flavor. The real differences are the two traits everyone gets. e.g. Babylon in Civ III builds religious and scientific buildings at half the cost that civilizations missing the Religious / Scientific traits would pay. That model of civilizational bonuses has carried forward through the rest of the series, though in Civ VI each civilization gets unique traits rather than choosing 2 from the same menu that everyone else does. On the other hand, a lot of the bonuses in Civ VI are still of the form “build a particular improvement at half the normal cost”.

      I actually disapprove of the way traits have turned out. I think you should be able to pick the civilization you’re running separately from the traits you want. Maybe I think Persia is cool and I’d like to play as Persia with a scientific emphasis. (After all, there’s a popular history of Persia titled Empire of the Mind! ) You can’t do that. I was frustrated, way back when, that it’s impossible to play as the Greeks in Civ I unless you’re playing with at least 5 opponents.

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        I’m also frustrated by the game’s hardwiring of traits to particular civilizations. Civ 6, to its credit, does alleviate this somewhat with the introduction of Governments and Policies, which let you add and swap out some pretty powerful traits. But the civs still come hardwired.

        I think the franchise should expand on the Policies idea by letting the player pick a set of powerful traits at the beginning of the game, and letting them discard and replace those starter Policies as the game develops. Or, to take a clue from the Booster mechanic it also introduced, civilizations could score points toward buying very powerful traits that would be unique to them by performing in-game actions. For instance, right now I’m playing a game as Canada, which has the unique ability to farm tundra. Instead of giving this trait to Canada, how about making it a unique trait that can be purchased exclusively by the first civilization to build (say) three cities that have nine hexes of tundra within their borders? That way you modify your civilization to give it traits that would powerfully suit you in your particular circumstances.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Oh yeah, I completely forgot about the civilization bonuses in Civ III! And I spent so much time fantasizing about my personal balance mod (which never fully materialized) which would give every civilization three bonuses instead of two to prevent some of the overlap that the civs added in the expansions caused. Thanks for the info on the first two games.

        I’m quickly going to sound like a broken record, but that idea of picking bonuses independently of civilization is present in Stellaris and I think it works really well and would be an interesting idea in Civ.

  38. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I don’t think it’s really possible to balance games at this level of complexity. For the record I’m much more of a Stellaris than CIV player nowadays and I’ll probably be overselling that game a bunch in the comments for this series but something that came up as a criticism of CIV games in recent years is that they’re particularly focused on the concept of victory (and how victory is framed though that might veer too far into politics for this particular site). This is why the concept of balance seems so central, because the games are framed as a form of race, whichever victory goal you’re going for (and I think it’s indicative that one of the things that are generally recommended to players is that they should pick their victory early on) your objective is to get ahead of everyone else: more culture, more military power, more money, more science. Yes there are added complexities as the systems interlock with each other and because even if you, say, “race culture” you have to pay attention to things like your military, but ultimately the game is about getting to one of the goal posts ahead of everybody else. The idea that it is a race ties the concept of balance to the concept of fairness.

    On the other hand Paradox has a history of games in unbalanced settings where they have explored the idea of making playing the underdog, struggling against different challenges or even loosing an interesting experience. Nobody expects Europa Universalis to be balanced and people don’t pick the weak starting positions solely to see “how far they can get with it” but often just to make an interesting story.

    I actually somewhat wonder if “attempt at balancing” shouldn’t be added to the assumed “genre characteristics” of 4X.

  39. Misamoto says:

    So, what did you do wrong? I have 0 idea how you can lose on easiest difficulty. I’m at a skill level where “King” is a bit boring, but the next one is too much cheating from AI to deal with, but I can’t even imagine what AI does on easiest. Does it even build units?

    1. The Puzzler says:

      If you don’t want to start any wars, an AI that doesn’t build a military would be a more effective opponent.

      1. Dalisclock says:

        I once lost to Brazil on a culture victory in CIV5, partially due to being on good terms. We didn’t fight any wars, despite us being the two biggest powers in the game. I thought it was awesome, not realizing it meant they were free to build their culture up to unstoppable levels and when I realized it was a serious threat, I could only delay the inevitable. That was my first game of CIV5.

  40. Dragmire says:

    It’s funny, as I was reading this I was reminiscing about some Civ style games I used to play.

    I played a bunch of Civ 2 and 3 but I put far more time than them into Alpha Centauri and Call to Power II.

    Call to Power II had some stuff I loved, it had (very simple) battle screens for armies fighting each other and you could advance into future tech and have ocean cities. I was 12-15 at the time and it was so cool to me.

  41. Boobah says:

    My thing with Civ as a franchise is that the game conflates ‘nations’ and ‘civilizations.’ Sure, the Aztecs, Zulus, and Chinese are pretty obviously separate civilizations, but then you have the Russians, English, French, Germans, Romans, Greeks, and Americans.

    1. Retsam says:

      Sure, this is pedantically true, but “Sid Meier’s Nations And/Or Civilizations VI” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

      Next you’re going to try to tell me some nonsense like how America wasn’t founded in 4000 BC and overseen by the immortal President King Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt until the abrupt end of history in 2050.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Arnold Toynbee’s Civilization?

      I get where you’re coming from, as it always bothered me that you can refer to nations with a proper name like “England” or “Germany”, but civilizations (or at least non-nation-state entities) have to be “The Ottomans”, “The Aztecs”, or “The Zulu”.

    3. MaxieJZeus says:

      Oh, God, I’m glad to find out I’m not the only one bothered by this very thing! I rolled my eyes so hard when Civ 4 added the Holy Roman Empire as a civilization. That’s like adding NATO as a “civilization”!

      Like Philadelphus, I’ve also read Toynbee, and a long time ago I had the idea that the franchise should experiment by separating the idea of the nation (the city-conquering, space-faring entity) from the idea of the civilization (the cultural, scientific, religious entity) in gameplay. Cities would carry on much as before, but with this difference: when a city is conquered, it only changes its political allegiance, not its cultural allegiance. If your cities were all conquered, you wouldn’t be eliminated, but could continue to play for cultural, scientific, and/or religious victories, and you’d even have the chance to rebel and free your cities to resume existence as a nation. (Similarly, you’d still be competing with the Arabs who whoever even if you conquered all their cities.) The two levels would interact through Civics or Government types that would regulate the relationship between nation and civilization. A player with the “Universal Empire” civic (or whatever) would for instance get bonuses toward conquering any cities that share his culture.

      1. Daniil says:

        Or instead of rebelling, why not assimilate the conquerors and take over through culture? Worked for the Chinese, at least.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Well, I must come clean, I haven’t actually read Toynbee, I only vaguely know of his concept of civilizations from second-hand reading—though it does sound interesting, and this comments thread is making me interested in giving him a go.

        That actually sounds like a really interesting idea for a game, though. In fact, I’d almost want to go even further and have the nations be their own little entities entirely under AI control, with you playing a civilization that exists independently of any of them. Then it could maybe be about developing your culture/civilization as a whole to compete against others, regardless of what nation they belong to.

        Or maybe go really crazy, and make it some sort of asymmetrical game where you have people playing both the nation and the civilization levels at the same time, with differing victory conditions and abilities. No idea how that’d actually work, though.

  42. Abnaxis says:

    Super late making this comment but… well oops.

    I don’t think Rise of Nations isn’t considered 4x because it’s RTS, I think it’s not 4x because it’s missing eXploit.

    The part of 4x that’s eXploit comes from the rare strategic resources–e.g. steel or coal or uranium–which gate certain units and technologies and which are not guarantees to be in your territory every game, especially is you don’t eXpand.

    IIRC, RoN just has wood, stone, and gold, all of which you spawn right next to. It’s one hundred percent feasible to win a game of RoN (or StarCraft, or Warcraft, or C&C, etc) by rushing your opponent off one base and never expanding. In Civ, OTOH, that wouldn’t really be successful–you need at least steel and/or horses for an early game military rush, and you can’t count on those consistently bring close enough you your finding city.

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