For those who aren’t Civilization fanatics, you might want to skip this post…

It took a major price crash and a 4/5 hour download time but I finally obtained a copy of Civilization V at the weekend. Steam collapsed the price to a mere 25% of the original (+ all the Downloadable Content) and I felt the time was right to give it a try. It took quite a while to pull the game off of Steam and I was very grateful that I had the house to myself for the first part of Saturday as the usual competition for broadband space would have ended up in tears, probably mine.

So, impressions: There was a radical shift from Civilization 3 to Civ 4 and the same is true here. City health is out, religion is out, espionage is out, corporations are out, even traditional combat is kinda out. What’s in are hexagonal tiles, city-states, more individuality and customisation of civilizations, units that automatically embark/disembark across the seas.

What it feels like, at least according to this player, is a souped up board game experience or even a natural progression from Civilization: Revolution. It certainly feels less involved compared with those previous iterations in the series. Then again, the first Civilization felt like a game of chess gone haywire, Civilization II was marked by constantly updating buildings, terrain improvements and units. Civilization III featured the irritating whack-a-mole approach to pollution management in the later eras of the game whilst Civ IV needed a great deal more discipline on the part of the player in order to maximise the potential of their empires.

In some respects, the game seems to have taken a couple of retrograde steps backwards; diplomacy is harder than before as the game has gone back to a less involved diplomatic system with other players. Indeed, it’s easier to conduct relationships with City States than other players. You also don’t get a sense of why your opponents seem to hate you so much and what you might do to fix things. Also, there doesn’t seem to be room in the game for permanent diplomatic choices; the default should always be to continue rather than be prompted to end relationships. After my first proper play-through, I just couldn’t be bothered to suck up to my colleagues and ended up wiping them out.

My other main bugbear about the game is the way in which it almost plays itself. You cannot seem to mess around with how taxation is balanced, you no longer are able to micromanage cities in the way that was once possible. The advisors are far more…astute, telling you exactly what you should be doing and it’s harder to ignore them. Granted, you can turn them off but still… I stopped passing up free advice/assistance years ago.

However, there are some resounding positives in the game, the first has to be the reworked culture segment. In III & IV, culture was earned from buildings and this translated into expansion of city borders when a certain amount was amassed. Of course in real life Paris would rule Europe if this model were applied though there’d be very stiff competition from Milan, Rome and indeed London. This time borders are permanent and will grow with culture but you can expend gold to extend national borders which is means a little forward investment and cities that are likely to be border cities can expand without suffering from a moocher (an enemy city placed right next to the borders of yours which at least initially) will grab a strategic resource or two. Culture is also used in application of social policies, the reworked “civic” options which give each player the option to choose 30 social policies each bestowing a certain amount of bonus on a Civilization.

Another positive are how strategic resources are managed. Luxuries benefit the entire nation but strategic resources are more limited in how they can be exploited which kinda makes sense because if you only have access to one resource of iron for example, you suddenly cannot churn out a billion units that require iron – one unit per amount of resource. Of course this seems a bit silly with regard horses as they can be bred and would be the only resource that increases with time. Going back to the main point, the size and component of an army is highly dependent on the amount of resources you own which forces the player to think and act strategically.

City happiness has been overhauled – the number of happy folk is totalled throughout the empire so you can have one city full of seriously pissed off types but so long as they’re outnumbered by “Happy Towns”, they’re less of a concern (particularly when waging warfare). Each luxury resource makes four “people” happy, irrespective of the number of luxuries one has which enables greater trading options.

I tell ya, I looked back at some of the posts I made to the boards on civfanatics (because I know those at Firaxis used to read them for ideas) and with the introduction of Civ V, I think that almost ALL of my suggestions have been taken up in one way or another. Here’s what I posted when I played Civ III:

1. Unique Small Wonders [This of course happened in Civ IV Warlords but rather they replaced existing buildings rather than act as a separate building in their own right]

I like the idea of unique units and wonder why can’t each civ have a unique structure which brings a benefit to the civilisation. Some civs are outbalanced, notable the English, Americans, Russians as their unique units are pretty useless to most players and their civ-traits aren’t the best. The unique small wonders are like regular small wonders in that they can be destroyed if the city is captured and it is possible to rebuild them should they be destroyed. Each small wonder should be worth 3 culture points unless specified. I have thought of small wonders for many of the civs:

English – Houses of Parliament. Gives the 1 turn of anarchy in government switching that is granted to religious civs. Made available with Feudalism.
American – Mount Rushmore. Instantly bequeaths 1 great leader to the Americans but this is a one-time benefit only. If Rushmore is destroyed, it can be rebuilt for the cultural value only. Made available with Construction.
German – Beer Hall/Oktoberfest. Makes 1 unhappy person content across the same continent. Made available with Banking
French – Eiffel Tower. Provides an extra 10 gold per turn. Made available with Steel
Russian – Winter Palace/Kremlin. Acts as another Forbidden Palace. Made available with Military Tradition
Aztec – Quetzecopel’s Altar. Gives 6 culture points per turn. Made available with Mysticism.
Iroquois – Pipe of Peace. Calculated cost of peace treaties is now halved. Made available with Monarchy.
Romans – The Leaning Tower. Provides extra 10 gold per turn. Made available with Construction
Egyptians – The Sphinx. Increases tax revenues of city by 50%. Made available with Masonry.
Chinese – Confucius’s Academy. Reduces corruption on same continent by 25%. Made available with Code of Laws
Japanese – Tea Ceremony. 4 unhappy citizens made content in city. Made available with Chivalry
Babylonians – Ishtar Gate. Increases defence of all walls on same continent by 10%. Made available with Masonry
Greeks – Socrates’ Forum. Provides 1 free advance upon completion. Made available with Philosophy.
Indians – Taj Mahal. Provides extra 10 gold per turn. Made available with Monarchy.
Mongols – Pyramid of Tamerlane. Increases attack factor of Keshik by 1. Made available with Chivalry
Celts – Druid Temple. Gives 6 culture points per turn. Made available with Mysticism.
Ottomans – Silk Route. Any traded luxury item (bought or sold) will generate +2 gold per term each. Made available with currency.
Scandinavians – Hall of Heroes. Acts in conjunction with the Heroic epic. If the Heroic Epic doesn’t exist, Hall of Heroes will provide the same benefit as the Heroic Epic. If/When it is built, the Hall of Heroes will reduce the chance of a great leader appearing to 1/8. Made available with Feudalism.
Zulu – Xhosa Migration. A worker used to build a colony isn’t lost. Made available with Iron Working.
Spanish – The Treasure Fleet. All ships that have transport capacity have that capacity increased by one. Made available by Navigation.
Arabs – Jihad. Increases the attack factor of the Ansar Warrior by 1. Made available with Chivalry.
Koreans – Silhak. Corruption reduced 25% throughout cities on same continent. Made available with Education.
Persians – Satrap Academy. Acts as second Forbidden Palace. Made available with Code of Laws.

2. Terrain improvements [This didn’t quite happen but in Civ III: Conquests, there were enhancements made to the traits which kinda compensated. Randomly spreading forests & jungle DID make Civ IV]

With the Civilization advance Genetics, I would like to see food yield in desert and tundra squares increase by one as scientists can genetically engineer crops to grow better in such environments. Also, how about jungle and forests spreading randomly on unimproved terrain. A small wonder – Animal Cloning – could double food production on game and cattle squares.

3. Governments [These came in as Civic Options in Civ IV]

I welcome the 2 new government types as democracy really is the only way to go in a modern society in Civ 3. I think that Theocracy should be a government type with reasonable martial law factor, a poorer science rate and free upkeep for Guerrilla units but not the 10 free units per city or better science as in Civ 2. Perhaps + 1 culture for religious buildings and wonders could also be included. Theocracy is only available once Nationalism has been discovered.

I think a Green-Government would also be interesting to play. Nuclear technology is strictly forbidden for the government but pollution is almost negated and you get increased food production and happier citizenry in your cities. A green government could get cheaper solar and hydro power plants, as well as cheaper recycling facilities and cheaper mass transit. Green Governments are only available once Ecology has been researched.

4. Other stuff

I’ve had a few kitschy ideas to make the game quirky.
a) War memorials. You may build one of these per game. A worker can only build them in your territory. The worker is lost in the construction but they add +1 culture per turn. The building condition is any victory in battle against an enemy (non-barbarian) unit. [This happened in Civ V as the “Landmark” ]
b) Missionary units. They can be sent into cities in an attempt to culturally convert the city for a large sum of money. Only cities not connected any other may be converted. This will cut down the number of civs who dump cities on tiny unsettled portions of your empire in an attempt to get a foothold. Missionaries may only be built by Theocratic governments. [Civ IV]
c) Random spy reports. If you have built the Intelligence Agency and have a spy in a civilization, the spy will randomly report back to you during the game saying “x has 3 Cavalry in total” or “Berlin has 6 units fortified within the city”. Players could be charged for such information. [Sort of in Civ IV: BTS]
d) Diplomacy and espionage. You can buy spy reports from enemy civilizations. Only if they are allied with you though. [Not quite – but you could monitor how enemy civilizations in Civ IV were allocating their resources and who they may have been targeting etc]

For Civ IV, I wrote the below:

1. Increased Government/Civic options [The Civic Options didn’t get taken up per se but there are certainly hints of it in the Social Policies in Civ V. Also with the return of random events in Beyond the Sword, this encompassed the “ethics” part]

I think that an expansion of the legal category of civic options might be in order – include law and order. This would encompass the level of policing in a civilization and how law and order is dispensed. I envisage the options as being something like “Militarism” – default state where law and order is meted out by the army, “Advocatism” – where law is meted out by sheriffs & judges and have legal powers to raise a militia and deputise citizenry, “Inquisition” – where law and order is carried out by officials of the state’s religious body who owe their allegiance to their spiritual master, “Secret Police” – where law and order is administered by a body answerable only to the ruler of the country under a broad range of discretionary powers, “Jurisprudence” – where law and order is administered by dedicated professionals and an independent law enforcement body is in operation.

I would also like to see more options for government/civics – perhaps a new category of “ethics”. This would somewhat similar to the UN resolutions available but each question can be legislated on upon successful researching of various technologies.

The player has the option to vote on issues like capital punishment, birth control, women’s rights, controlled substances, secularism etc and if the civilization legislates for and against certain issues, it confers certain production benefits on a civilization but each ethical issue has a penalty also.

Example 1: Capital Punishment. If the civilization elects to retain capital punishment then the civilization increases the effect of jails 25% but increases unhappy people per city by one. If the civilization elects to abolish capital punishment, civil upkeep increases by a certain amount to help pay for a larger prison population but the civilization gets one extra happy person per city.

Example 2: Birth Control. If the civilization elects to promote birth control then the amount of food needed for the city to grow increases by 25% per population point but this leads to less civic upkeep. If the civilization elects not to promote birth control then the food needed for a city to grow decreases by 25% per population point but leads to greater civic upkeep.

2. More units! [Well, this happened though not all the units on the list made it]

I do like the range of units available in Civ 4 but I still think there is room for a few more. I would like to see (in no particular order), jeeps/armoured cars, dragoons, siege towers, howitzers, fireships, airships, dreadnoughts, parachutists, jetpacks(!).

3. More promotions! [This did happen except the chemical weapons part. But several modders picked up on chemical weapons]

One of the concepts I liked in Alpha Centauri was being able to indulge in nerve gas warfare. It would be good to have a “chemical weapons” facility building or even a small wonder so artillery and other units can attack using chemical weapons, mainly to reflect WW1 and WW2. This would be declared an atrocity and will be reflected in negotiations. Like Alpha Centauri, one is asked whether to use the chemical weapons in the attack before confirming.

4. Mountains [Alas this is my one failure to get anything done]

I think that not being allowed to move units into mountains isn’t fair – many a guerrilla campaign has been conducted from mountains, Alpine tunnels have been constructed so certainly in the real world, they aren’t impregnable. Maybe you can have either a special unit which can traverse mountains or a unit promotion which allows units to cross mountains. A small wonder – the Alpine Tunnel – could allow the building of roads and railroads in mountains.

5. Deserts [This happened in Civ V]

Deserts being completely unproductive isn’t fair. If a city has at least one desert square in its radius then a worker should be able to build solar panels/solar farm to help provide cheap electricity for that city thus giving each square one hammer and one gold.

6. More resources [More resources did crop up in Civ V]

Add goats to health resources to demonstrate that they are extremely valuable in some parts of the world, add giant kelp to sea squares as that’s an extremely valuable food and chemical resource, tobacco (despite the controversy) as a luxury resource but adds negative health to a city or the effects expire upon the discovery of a certain tech, camels might be nice for camel mounted units.

7. New Civ Leaders [Dido and Gustavus Adolphus are due to appear in the first Civ V expansion pack]

Japan – Saigo Takamori
Carthage – Queen Dido
Persia – Shapur II
Scandinavia – Gustavus Adolphus
France – Charlemagne
Mali – Maghan Sundiata