Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame
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Finally, a boardgame version of the award-winning PC strategy game. Create a civilization to stand the test of time! The game begins in 4000 BC where the players found the first small city of a fledgling people.
Each player's civilization:
Will your civilization rise or fall? Play Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame and create history!
It takes investment of time and energy to learn to play this game, and find others who are willing to put in that time and energy themselves, so it is not an obvious choice for a game...but people choose it.
Probably the strongest support for this game comes not from board-gamers but from original 'Civ' (computer game) fans, but that doesn't detract from the boardgame at all - the pleasure, tactics and strategy employed on your PC are even more effective and enjoyable on your dining table. You can actually laugh in the face of your enemy.
This game is enthralling, holds the interest of everyone I've known to play it, and many a time have we blinked and suddenly it's been 4:00am. If you put in the effort to give this game a try, you will become just as addicted as you were to the PC game - in my case more so. Go out and buy it, you only need one between 4 or 6 of you, and I heartily assure you, it's worth it.
Simply the best boardgame for strategy lovers. Everything that Axis & Allies has, but, even better since you don't go through the same game over and over. Every game can be totally different in terms of where you start, what strategy can lead you to win, etc.
The best money I might ever have spent.
I have played this game 3 times now - all using the advanced game rules. We used the changes in the errata by Glenn Drover and cut the money for monopolies in half.
And it makes a wonderful game which more of the players was so eager to play again that once a week just seemed to little and wanted to skip work a day or two...
I think that the boardgame actually does a very good job capturing the spirit from the computer game. Of course - it's not possible to squeeze all the elements from the computer game into a boardgame, but it feels and looks like the real thing.
One thing in particularly I love about the game is that playing the right way, long time war doesn't benefit your civilization. Buying the right technologies and expanding your civilization by building new settlements or capturing a critical city from another player and then holding on to just that one is the key to victory. You will have to use your gold carefully to get those precious victory points. (Regular cities isn't worthless - they count as victory point and upgrading them later in the game give you a little more money + additionally critical victory points).
All in all I think this is a great game that I want to play as often as possible (It's a long game, so you better plan ahead). It's a great alternative to traditionally German games which often last a little to short to give the feeling of 'this is MINE - I build it, I want to see it flourish'. I definitly would recommend this game to others but note that they also should get the errata.
Last a tip: Get the technology sheet and the unit cards from Boardgamegeek. It helps keeping score of technologies and units a bit easier.
If you play computer games, then you'll recognise Sid Meier's name. He is the leading designer of computer strategy games, with a CV that reads as a computer cut and paste of the best of Reiner Knizia and Wolfgang Kramer.
Sid Meier was inspired by several board and computer games to design a seminal computer game called Civilization. Among the games that he garnered ideas from was the Hartland Trefoil classic of the same name. The main difference between them was the amount of detail that the computer game covered.
Now Eagle Games have come up with Sid Meier's Civilization: the Boardgame. So what type of animal is this? Well, it is a cut down version of the computer game and, perhaps not surprisingly, has the feel of the computer game, but with much of the complexity left out. I must admit I couldn't see how this would work. The computer game (of which I am a big fan) has a huge level of detail and plays over tens of hours. How would a computer game work in board game form? Why would anyone do it? The answer to the second question seems to be with a market of millions of people who have heard of and played the computer game, perhaps these people be interested in the board game. The answer to the first question is what I aim to cover in the rest of this review.
The components of the game are sumptuous starting with a huge multi-coloured 46" by 36" board depicting a map of the world. You need a large area to play on, as well as plenty of space for civilization cards, city cards and money tokens. Not only that but you'll need three hours to cut out the 784 pieces from their plastic bases. Military units come in five different types across four eras. The lowly swordsman progresses via man-at-arms, through musketman to evolve as a machine gunner, while the evolution of the horseman to tank, catapult to howitzer and galley to battleship follow similar patterns. All of these are modelled in fine detail and are produced in one colour, which looks to me like a dark khaki. In order to distinguish the ownership of these units, each player has a set of flag bearers in their own colour. The final important unit is the settler who cannot fight, but explores regions and then builds settlements. This leads nicely to the next set of models, which are the settlements. These also come in four sizes, representing the growth of settlements into thriving cities.
Players start in the first of four eras, in the Ancient age and progress to future ages by acquiring Civilization improvements. (More on these later.)
Initially, the map board, which is divided up into areas in a similar way to Risk, is seeded with a civilization marker. It is available for discovery by your settler, who wanders around the world looking for the good places to colonize. The settler can then be turned into a new settlement, size one, called a village. The Civ markers are mainly resources, such as coal, iron, gems and wine and convey a benefit on the village that is settled there. Your initial decision will be to either spread as far as possible from each village or congregate your two villages together. You look at the Civ token in the spaces where you founded your starting villages and these generally provide a bonus for your village. The final starting consideration is to see what technology card you have acquired. This can be anything from extra units, via the technology of the Wheel, to an early wonder of the world, such as the Hanging Gardens, which conveys benefits one on your villages.
The expansion part of the game then takes place, with players moving settlers to new areas, and discovering what resources might by available nearby. Sometimes there are game benefits and new settlements are discovered which someone will then own, or disasters such as a plague, which kill the settler. These do not unbalance the game, but provide a risk to looking at what the Civ markers may yield. Players earn income from the settlements that they have. The settlements start as villages and then grow to towns, cities and metropolises. All settlements start with the population unhappy, which means that they produce less gold each turn. This is shown on the city (settlement) cards by the unhappy side being face up. There are only two states that the population can be in - happy or unhappy.
Several things can make the population of a city happy. First, if wine or gems are produced by an area, the citizens are automatically happy; secondly some wonders of the world grant a happiness point - making one city's population happy; thirdly, city improvements and finally, each person gets one free happy city. Each card features an improvement that each era can produce, so in the first era (Ancient), it is possible to produce temples, courthouses, colosseums and ziggurats. The same card shows a city improvement for each era, so the card showing the temple, also shows the cathedral, hospital and television station, for the Medieval, Gunpowder/industrial and Modern eras. These cards are double sided and on the reverse are the city improvements for productivity.
All city improvements are dependent on the right technology being known in the world by one of the players. So the temple only arrives when someone pays for the Ancient technology card Mysticism (which costs 40 gold), but then brings the owner of Mysticism a wonder - the Oracle, which confers a game benefit when combat is being resolved. In order to own the Mysticism wonder, someone must have discovered (= paid for) both the Ceremonial Burial and Pottery technologies. Fortunately, there is a chart showing the dependencies of the technologies.
It's worth mentioning the quality of the cards. The technology and wonders cards are all normal card size and shape and well produced. They are colour coded for the era, and feature all the information you need to know about that card, including a picture of the technology. The city improvement cards are smaller square shaped, with rounded corners and each side features a different city improvement along each edge. Again, these are colour coded for the era, which makes them easier to pick out when you are looking for the card you want. They fit behind the city cards, which are also the same size and shape, so that the edge you have in play is visible along one edge of the city card. This means that you need more accessible space next to the board as you build up more cities. This is a game that demands loads of space and so it is best to plan on this before setting the game up for play.
The next aspect of the game is conquest. Each era produces various types of military unit. These are paid for with gold, and become available through technology advances. Once one player obtains that technology, all other players do too and they can then buy the new units. So when a person gets the bronze working ancient technology, spearmen become available. These basic level units share the same plastic figure as the swordsman, who is slightly stronger in battles. When the iron working technology is bought by someone all spearmen on the board immediately get upgraded to swordsmen. The effect of this is to reduce the number of different types of plastic unit to create, and streamline promotion of units.
Battles take place when two players' military units meet. The resolution of these is to secretly choose one unit each, reveal them and then see how they match up. There is a bonus for cavalry type units over infantry, infantry over artillery types and artillery over cavalry, but this only influences the outcome, as the main aspect is the number of dice rolled. The weakest units roll one die, then one die +1, and so on, therefore getting the right combination in play when you fight battles is important. Battles are resolved until one army dies, so two evenly matched armies can cause near or even total annihilation.
When someone purchases the first technology of the next era, a new era begins. This triggers various events. All un-owned technologies of the old era now cost half their marked price, wonders from the earlier era lose their powers, and more importantly, the city improvements are discarded, as well as a general increase in price for new units. So the timing of this can be important as the effects are large for each player. The game continues in this fashion for one, two or three era changes, when there are devices that stop the game. A short game is 2 to 3 hours, which I would say excludes the set up time, and is only achieved by players finishing after the start of the second era. The long game is concluded in various ways, just like the computer game, so diplomatic, military, total conquest and space/technology options exist to complete the game and you will need 6+ hours for this.
Civilization the computer game is utterly absorbing, so I admit I was sceptical when I thought how it would translate to the board game stage. But I have found the same degree of compulsion in the game that drives the computer version. I think this is because you are continually able to improve your position and there is always a short term goal just within your reach. At first, this is all about exploration as the surrounding areas are unknown to you. This soon develops into a need to grow more cities and settlers and then you realise that gold is really important and how can you make your existing settlements more useful? This can come in a number of ways, through adding technologies, city improvements, making the people happy and buying further technologies and improvements. The spiral continues. The compulsion with city development soon becomes tempered by the need to build military units. Some clod will decide that a settlement of yours looks ripe to be taken, perhaps to create a monopoly on resources and you soon face a small army marching towards you. The production cycle quickly switches into military units and you realise that you haven't got enough of them in the right places. Movement of units is slow across the map, and you can only build as many units as the size of your settlement, so too late you think about capitalisation of that settlement and revenge becomes an issue. Meanwhile someone else will be moving on the city development to a higher level than you, so perhaps it's time to point this out to the warmongers.
You may try to build your idyllic city somewhere distant from everyone else, like Tasmania. This may secure you a safe base for a while, but when someone discovers/invents sea moving transports, you become vulnerable once again. And while being cut off from other players has its virtues, you cannot easily interfere with their plans either, so a blend of being involved and distant with your settlements may prove more useful.
I haven't covered all the aspects to the game as there are just too many, but suffice to say that trading is allowed, (and depends on technologies), there is a simpler game (called the standard game), while there are seminal discoveries, which confer extra victory points on the player making that technological advance. I suspect, rather than know, that there will be areas of rules queries which the rules do not fully cover, just because of the variations in the game. These can be checked with Eagle Games (www.eaglegames.com) who are in the process of producing an FAQ. Their site also contains enough pictures of the game for you to examine and put together your own ideas of this game.
The game is fascinating, engrossing and enthralling, so you will quickly while away the hours. And you will need them to follow through the options on this game. This is the first of the drawbacks with the game, so if your fare is more geared towards the 60 to 90 minute games, Civilization: The Board Game will not be for you. You do need to understand what version of units your miniatures represent. There is no satisfactory way provided in the box, so some kind souls have provided player aids on the Boardgamegeek for you to help in this task. You also realise that some of the tables providing information could be shown on the game board. It is large enough to include them without distracting from the overall attractiveness of the map. Again someone has thought to provide an excel spreadsheet of the technology chart which you will search for from time to time. These aspects do not detract from the quality of the game, but in a game of this size and complexity you need good player aids to prevent unnecessary time being spent on looking something up which should be to hand.
As far as wants go I would like some scenarios to show set-ups at different stages of technological advance, so that the technologies in the last two eras can be played, as the feeling at the moment is to start from the beginning each time. This isn't beyond the wit of gamers to produce, but some idea of balance would be good, so the ideal would be to have these play tested first.
Whether you buy this will depend on taste and your preferred game length. Long ago, I used to play Civilization (the original board game) and would happily spend 7 hours playing it. More recently, of course the influx of quality German board games has resulted in a 4 hour session of gaming covering 3 or 4 games, and you feeling satisfied with the evening's worth. I want Civilization - The Boardgame on my gaming CV, not for the winning but certainly for the experience and those that I have played with so far share this view. Recommended.