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Sid Meyer's Civilization Board Game


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Noumenon

First Post
I demoed it at GenCon and immediately determined to buy it. I haven't yet though. But as someone who played all the Civs, it totally felt like Civilization and like a good board game too. For example, if you lose a battle, you don't lose your entire army and units, so you don't feel like quitting right there like sometimes happens in real Civ multiplayer.

The multiple paths to victory (tech, economic, culture) made me want to try them and also felt Civy.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
I've been posting on my blog about the new Civilization game, but I might as well post my thoughts here as well.

I've now played four games of the new Civilization boardgame from FFG. I've won three of them, and the original 2-player game I played wasn't finished (though I was on my way to a loss).

At present, I rate it as a "7": "Good game, usually willing to play". It's a very FFG-type of game which - thankfully - is in one of its smaller boxes rather than a coffin box. Strangely enough, there are hardly any plastic pieces, something that really improves the game. Despite the fact that I've won two of the completed games through a military victory, the game isn't all about armies: you can win in other ways.

However, the game is about armies in one way: you need to be able to mount a defense.

There are four ways of winning the game. Let's have a look at the first of them.

MILITARY VICTORY
If you capture an opponent's capital, you win the game.

Military in Civ is a combination of three factors, which are quite confusing to explain. They become clear through play, but getting the right balance between the three can be very tricky. On the map, your armies are represented by army figures: little flags. Having more than one flag in the same square on the map means that you've got a potentially stronger force. However, what this actually means in play is that you draw more cards from your "standing forces" deck to use in combat. You draw three cards for one flag, with each flag giving you an extra two cards.

Keeping your standing forces deck full of good cards is a key part of the game: you start with three cards in it, an infantry, a cavalry and an artillery unit. Once you get into combat, you draw cards according to the size of your army (number of flags), or six cards for defending a city. If you don't have the cards in your deck, you don't get extra ones. So, I think it's pretty important to get up to 6 cards in your standing forces so you can defend your cities well.

Battle involves players playing the cards in their hands alternatively: either by just playing to the table in a new "front", or directly attacking an already played card. There is a rock/paper/scissors part of combat where a unit that is "superior" to the opposing unit gets first strike damage and often destroys it outright without taking damage in turn. Destroyed forces aren't returned to your standing forces at the end of combat - they're lost and returned to the supply. This attrition is why it's very dangerous to attack another player: you weaken them so another player can just walk in and take their cities.

Cities are destroyed when they lose a battle, so this is a big, big penalty in the game. You can only have three cities in play at once! (And that presumes you've researched Irrigation). Losing your capital? The attacker has just won the game.

The third factor you have to worry about is your technologies. Certain technologies provide bonuses to the strengths of your units: you upgrade your Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry through four levels, and finally you can research Aircraft. Meanwhile, there are ancillary factors: the speed units can move at, whether they can cross water, and the stacking limit (which shows how many army flags can be in the same square).

In Saturday's game, I played against Nash, Richard and Sarah. The final victory was a military victory when I took out Sarah's capital. It should be noted that Sarah was very close to winning the game with Science, and I could probably have attacked Rich easily instead, but I decided to go for the more difficult victory. I had the better tech, and my initial victory knocked out enough of Sarah's forces so that I could then just stroll into her capital. Well, I say "stroll", but it required aircraft to get the range to get there.

In Thursday's first game, Derek and Paul were my opponents. They fought each other once, knocking down their standing forces enough so that I could stroll into their cities and they couldn't stop me. (Note to Paul: don't attack someone when the third player has an army adjacent to your opponent's capital!)

In Civilization, Military would seem to be most powerful when you don't have opponents that can stop you. I was able to take on Sarah's forces because Rich and Nash were weak. In a two-player game, military rises in importance, but in no game can you ignore it. In the second game on Thursday, Derek, Paul and I were well aware of how dangerous military could be, so we all had good forces - and no-one was game to attack. By the end of the game, Derek was ready to attack me, but I had enough culture cards to stop any such movement... and I used the time they gave me to win otherwise.

So, once you understand the importance of keeping your military up and you're aware of the MAD tendency of this game, you can start trying to win by another method...

If there's one thing that FFG got right about the new Civ game it is technology. And that's what you need for for the Tech Victory!

TECH VICTORY
Be the first to research the Space Flight technology.

Technology in Civ is about getting trade. How do you get trade? The primary method is based on where your cities are: the squares around them provide trade icons or production icons. You can upgrade the squares with buildings (which are made available through technologies!) which produce even more icons. If you're going for a Science victory, you really, really need to pay attention to where you found your cities so that you get as much trade as possible.

Having a coastal city (as I did in my most recent game) helps a lot; harbours provide 1 production and 2 trade, and once you've built 3 of them, you're getting quite a bit of trade. Barracks (+2 strength, 2 trade) are also really nice.

Another feature on tiles are resources: generally a city will be adjacent to one resource (silk, iron, incense, or wheat) which it can harvest instead of doing another city action (like building something). If you have silk and the Horse Riding technology, you can expend the silk to gain 9 trade (and give another player 6 trade).

At the end of your turn, you can research one technology. The cost in trade depends on the level of the technology: a level one costs only 6 trade, a level five (and victory) costs 26 trade. Yes, you can gain 26 trade a turn if you try really hard, and I was getting that by the end of my last game. I won militarily, but I was pretty close to a Technology victory as well. When you research your technology, you drop back to 0 trade: it's always a pain to waste trade that way, but you can also spend trade (at a 3:1 ratio) to gain production during your turn.

Technologies, once researched, form a "technology pyramid". Basically, you can only have a number of techs of a given level up to one fewer than the number of techs of the previous level. So, the minimum to win the game by Science is 5 Level I techs, 4 Level II techs, 3 Level III techs, 2 Level IV techs, and 1 Level V tech (Space Flight). The techs get significantly better as you move up the levels.

So, what do Techs do? The primary things are:
* Provide you with access to new Buildings
* Upgrade your military Units (infantry, cavalry, artillery) making them stronger
* Provide you with access to new Government types
* Give you new Resource Abilities you can use (Spend a resource to gain a game effect, such as 3 damage to opposing units, or extra trade, or extra production...)
* Increase your movement speed, stacking limit, or hand size

You notice the technologies you have and your opponents have: they matter. One of the really annoying features of the game crops up here. Each player has markers to show what level of military units they have which are placed on the market board so everyone can compare military levels. Unfortunately, the colours of the units (red infantry, blue cavalry and green artillery) are the same as three of the players, causing great confusion when you're trying to work out which marker to change. This is something that Steam paid attention to: the goods you move are different colours to those of the players. It's something that FFG really should have paid attention to as well!

At the beginning of the game, you won't have enough trade to get a new tech every turn, but in later stages of the game it changes so you'll being gaining a new tech on most turns, especially if you have three cities. (You need the Irrigation tech to build a third city, so it may be the most important Level II tech for the Tech victory... or any victory at all, come to think of it).

So far, once a civilisation gets ahead with their technology, they can be very hard to reel in. Sarah was well on the way to a Tech victory (two turns away) in my last game, so I took the most drastic opposition: attacking her and razing her cities. That really reduced the amount of trade she had available to buy techs! Another option would seem to come from the culture cards, which I'll discuss in my next post.

It should be noted that whilst Sarah had superior technology to me, I had better research in military technology at the time, which is one reason I was able to attack her so successfully. Keep your army updated: it'll allow you the protection that allows you the time to research Space Flight.

There are a few culture cards that allow you and an opponent to both gain a free tech, and there may be other technologies (and governments) that better allow you to go for the Tech Victory, but I haven't investigated them yet.

We haven't seen a game end yet with the successful research of Space Flight, but it's only a matter of time until it happens.

Technology and Military will likely be part of every game, but the other two methods of victory require a player to work at them. They're not obvious, although I have managed to win a game - my third - by virtue of the Culture victory.

CULTURE VICTORY
Be the first to reach the end of the culture track.



During your turn (the city management phase), you can spend culture - and trade in the later stages - that you've gathered to move up the culture track. The amount is pictured above the track: 3 culture for the first stage, 5 culture and 3 trade for the second stage, and 7 culture and 6 trade for the last stages. Each time you move up, you get a bonus of some sort: either a Culture card or a Great Person (which acts something like a building in the game, giving trade icons, production icons and occasionally trade or culture icons).

In my very first game of the new Civ, I completely misread how the track worked. I thought you got a culture card whenever you got to the little compass icons. You're actually meant to gain a culture card (of the proper deck) for each greyish space and then a great person on the compass options. Oh well - I tend to get the first few games wrong, especially in games as involved as this one. I haven't actually played the game 100% correctly yet...

So, how do you get culture? Well, the main way is using a city to gain culture. (Devoting it to the Arts). You gain 1 culture, plus one culture for each culture icon in its adjacent squares. As a rule, that's not very much culture, and you'd be far better spending time making buildings or armies. As I said, you need to work at it.

You can increase the number of culture icons around your city by building certain buildings or getting Great People. The Temples (two Culture icons) are the easiest early source of early culture, but you're basically spending one of your precious city actions each turn to get the culture you need for one increase, rather than building up your army or trade (for tech increases). It's dangerous ignoring your army and trade, so this generally means it's very hard in the early game to gain culture - and later in the game, it might not be worth it.

Some civilisations have special abilities that make gaining culture easier: the best for it may well be China, for each time you explore a village or hut you gain 3 culture. So, it can really speed you through the early culture track, and that's the civ I played in the game I won by a culture victory.

Apart from building up your culture around a city, it's probably far better to research culture-producing techs. Spend an incense to gain 3 culture is a pretty nice deal in the early part of the game. Spend an incense to gain 7 culture is really good in the later stages. However, that leaves you with the problem of gaining incense. Early game, you might have gained some by exploring the huts and villages around you; in the later game, you're going to need to spend one of those city actions to gather ONE incense.

I haven't explained city actions properly: Basically, during your turn, you can take one City Action for each of your cities. The action can be to build something (a wonder, building, unit, figure), to gain culture, or to gather a resource. As you only have (at most) 3 cities, you don't have much to do on your turn. This is really, really good, because it speeds up the game significantly. (My second and third games, both three-players, lasted 2-1/4 hours each; my last game, 4 players, lasted a lot longer due to AP from some of the players).

So, gathering culture is pretty difficult. However, if you can do it - and it's a lot easier if you have the right wonders, great people and techs - you can advance up the culture track really quickly. Unlike technologies, where you're limited to one advancement a turn, you can gain quite a bit of culture really quickly. This is how I won my third game: I advanced to five spaces away from the culture victory, and then got the last five culture spaces in two turns. Derek tried to stop me with his armies, but he wasn't able to do it in time.

Part of the reason he wasn't able to stop me in time was the culture cards I've been getting. If you want to interact with your opponents in Civilization, there are three main ways of doing it: through direct military confrontation, through resource abilities on tech cards, and through culture cards.

So, when Derek built up his army, I used culture cards to immobilize it for a turn, or move it four spaces away... all of which meant that he wasn't able to reach my city in time.

Culture is a lot more subtle as a way to win than Military or Technology, and although it provides you with ways of disrupting your opponents through the culture cards, it feels like a weaker strategy. Of course, it also has the benefit I alluded to earlier: if your civ is set up correctly, you can really speed through the gaining of culture. How effective it is with experienced players is something we'll have to find out through more play.

If Military and Tech victories are the most obvious in the new Civ boardgame, and Culture is achievable if tricky, the victory condition that is the least obvious to me so far is the Economic Victory.

ECONOMIC VICTORY
Gain 15 coins.

What are coins and what do they do? Well, coins appear on some squares on the map, some techs, and some great people and buildings. Each coin that you have access to gives you a base level of trade: when you reset your trade after buying a tech you don't go below the number of coins you have. And if you get 15 of them, you win the game. That's about it, really.

Except that a few culture cards and tech cards care about the number of coins you have. For instance, Military Science (a level 3 tech) gives every city extra hammers for every 3 coins you have. That's really nice... if you can get it. And that's the problem with the Economic victory: gaining coins is something that is by no means obvious and is quite difficult to do if you haven't planned for it. When you're working against the clock provided by the Military and Tech endgames, do you really have time to spend on your economy? Especially because you'd think the "trade" you use for technology is your economy...

You should gain the majority of your coins through technologies, but as there's a limit for each type of gain - one requires the spending of resources, another trade, yet another culture and another requires you win battles - the economic victory touches on each of the other aspects of the game. As such, it is the least focused of the strategies: if you get it, it is something that you both need to plan for and then move into each of the other strategies a little bit...

As such, it is something that inexperienced players won't stumble into, and I'm yet to be convinced of its validity as a strategy. Obviously, you need more games than I've yet played to see it in action!

THE "MAY I?" BLUNDER

The new Civilization game gets a lot of things right, but there are aspects to the game which really, really irritate me. The primary one of these is the cards and resource abilities that allow you to cancel another player's action. It adds a level of timing to the game that just doesn't feel right, and it slows down the game appreciably.

When I play long games like this, allowing a player to get on with their turn as quickly as possible is very important. This is not a game for people who suffer from Analysis Paralysis! To a large extent, each phase except for movement can be played almost simultaneously. City Management does have things in it that can affect another player's turn (such as a resource action to obsolete another's wonder, or causing a disaster in their territory through the play of a culture card), so simultaneous play isn't quite achievable, but nonetheless, you can often speed through your turn. "Buy building, buy unit, use resource ability, done!"

Adding in interrupt abilities that cancel abilities stops this free flow of the game. Instead, you end up with the "May I?" problem. "May I build this wonder?" "May I move this army?" "May I spend this culture?" Countering abilities work in Magic: the Gathering because there are only two players - you're always on top of what your opponent is doing. In Civilization, you've got a lot to think about already. Generally, in another player's turn I should be planning my own turn, not spending all my time trying to work out their game position and working out if its worth interfering in any of it.

There are already ways of interfering with each other in the game that don't require the "May I?" gameplay. Its inclusion in the game has dropped my rating of this new Civilization game significantly. As there are then abilities that cancel the countering tactics, you get a mess of abilities that detract from the main thrust of the game.
 

Noumenon

First Post
I haven't played the game yet, but regarding setup I am thinking that two egg cartons should be an official part of the game board. How else are you going to keep all those tiny little tiles and tokens separate? Rubber bands won't work. The setup should go much faster if you can just pull the markets, harbors, etc out of the egg carton in order and put them on the board. I'm also making little "startup kits" -- a plastic baggie with the red armies, red tech deck, red setup card, red military figure tiles. Took me an hour to punch out all the tokens and organize stuff, but at least thirty minutes of that will come off initial setup time -- fifteen minutes of sorting and fifteen minutes of figuring out what the setup instructions mean by "market resource tokens."
 

GreyLord

Hero
Just got this for Christmas. Just finished reading the rules and getting ready to play. From the rules it looks interesting...should have a better idea after a few games today (or if no one likes it, one game).
 

Felon

First Post
I've now played two incomplete games of Civ. In both cases, we've had about five hours to play. Nobody's pre-read the rules or cards or anything, because there's a nasty tendency to lose in interest in a game where it feels like one player knows all the secrets and tricks.

Merric makes a lot of good points, as usual. I would say that Rome is better-positioned to win culture, since they simply move up the culture track rather than gain three culture which they then have to spend during city management. And they get it whenever they build a city or wonder in addition to grabbing a hut or village.

I found that I was on my way to winning an economic victory without making much of an effort. Our group has fallen in love with Code of Laws, so the first four battles you win (probably against barbarians) nets you gold. I had eleven by end of game, and three techs that would let me crank out 1 gold per turn each. It seemed too easy, but that might have been just luck-of-the draw, since I also had three gold from great people and two from lands.

The combat confused us. We thought combat bonuses (from barracks, great generals, etc) actually added directly into combat strength for each unit. Way overpowered. We figured out better eventually. "Combat bonus" is kind of misleading--I'd have preferred something like "strategic advantage" or something like that, which conveys the proper implication that they're supplemental in nature. I like that a player can set himself up to minimize his losses by setting up new fronts rather than attacking. That way, you can conserve forces for a more important fight ahead. And armies are the cheapest thing to build in the game, so you can crank them back out without trouble.

There's other stuff that's not crystal clear either. For instance, the Pottery tech has a +1 something on it that isn't clearly defined in the rules as far as we've found. I believe it's supposed to be culure event hand size.

The important thing to me is that there are a variety of strategies and the different feel to play without some being out-and-out better than others. Overall, great game.
 
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MerricB

Eternal Optimist
There's other stuff that's not crystal clear either. For instance, the Pottery tech has a +1 something on it that isn't clearly defined in the rules as far as we've found. I believe it's supposed to be culure event hand size.

It's culture hand size: check the back cover of the rulebook.

Cheers!
 

Thunderfoot

First Post
Sorry for the thread-jack, but does anyone know where I can get the original bookcase Civilization game the computer games were based on? Trying to look on the interwebs brings up the new FFG game almost exclusively (which is kind of ironic, a board game based on a computer game based on a board game.):lol:
 

Croesus

Adventurer
Sorry for the thread-jack, but does anyone know where I can get the original bookcase Civilization game the computer games were based on? Trying to look on the interwebs brings up the new FFG game almost exclusively (which is kind of ironic, a board game based on a computer game based on a board game.):lol:

Are you referring to the Eagle Games version, or the Avalon Hill version? If the latter, I have a copy I picked up on eBay some years back. If you're looking on eBay, I'd include "Avalon Hill" or "AH" in your search criteria. Here's the link to one of the current auctions:

Civilization Avalon Hill - eBay (item 130478629796 end time Jan-28-11 10:57:15 PST)

Hope this helps.
 

Thunderfoot

First Post


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