Civ Mistake

As you may know, I have an embargo of sorts on buying brand new games. Not only are new games more expensive, but there rarely is any benefit to buying it early – assuming you are physically capable of waiting for a week or two, you will have a lot more information about whether a given game lives up to your expectations or not. And even if you’re sure that it will be everything you dream it to be, it’s possible the game will be a bug-ridden, unplayable mess those first few days/weeks. Remember Fallout: New Vegas? Or basically any Bethesda game, I suppose.

So anyway, I pre-purchased Civilization: Beyond Earth.

In my defense, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a seminal classic that still occupies a lot of my mindspace decades after the fact. Those quotes, man, those quotes. I still have a .TXT file on my computer that is full of profound nuggets of wisdom, many of which were transcribed from that game. Sure, most are real-world quotes that the game simply appropriated, but this was the means by which I was introduced to them for the first time. It sort of reminds me of how much Magic: the Gathering expanded my vocabulary and the fact that I experienced Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven for the first time in that bizarre intestinal parasite level in Earthworm Jim 2.

In any case, Beyond Earth was selling for $12.50 off on GreenManGaming. So… savings!

After re-watching some of the coverage for the game, it occurred to me that it looks a lot like Civ 5, which I have owned for months without ever having booted it up. And now that I have booted it up, I am beginning to sweat my decision a bit. Because, so far, my experience with Civ 5 is mirroring my experience with Crusader Kings 2 – namely as games that other people seem to enjoy way more than it seems likely or even possible.

Full disclosure: aside from Alpha Centauri, the only other Civ game I have played was Civ 2… on the Super Nintendo. I played the hell out of it and Alpha Centauri both, but these games aren’t my wheelhouse per se.

I did a sort of beginner’s match in Civ 5 and just started a second game on normal difficulty/Civ spread. With things approaching 1000 AD, I am sort of wondering when the fun starts. The problem from my perspective is that I don’t seem to actually be making any decisions very often. I’m perfectly fine playing the “long game” in strategy titles, but I’m not particularly fine with spam-clicking Next Turn for 200 years. Moving a War Chariot around looking for Barbarians isn’t exactly cutting it.

What I cannot quite figure out is whether this whether this is a sign of A) me doing something wrong, B) Civ 5 being a departure from prior games, or C) my own evolving tastes. I mean, I think it used to be that having a dozen cities was par for the course in older Civ titles, yes? Now I’m in the Classical age and just founded my 3rd city after some hemming and hawing. The beginner match I played was basically me rolling over my opponents militarily – with numerous interesting decisions to make each turn – but the warnings I kept getting every time I annexed a city and the penalties are leading me to believe that offensive units are only useful against Barbarians and Gandhi.

So, Civ 5 fans, am I doing it wrong? If it matters, I have all the DLC loaded already.

Posted on August 27, 2014, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Hey, I’ve played mostly Civ 4 and a ton of 5 so I don’t know exactly how the newer titles compare to the older ones, also I am one of those players that “seem to love CK2 and EU4 way more than it is likely or even possible”. So my advise might come from that ballpark in your eyes.
    Anyway did I get it right that you are in the classical age at 1000 AD? This sounds like you did something wrong tech/ policy wise. If it is a lot of cities you want I recommend going for the Liberty policy that gives you a free settler, worker and great person, this is awesome for early expand.
    And to get quicker on tech my favourite opening is going Potter > Writing and Great Library > Free Classicall Tech. At this point I usually had 2 or 3 cities and sit at that until I also have built the National College.
    In case you want to play even more expansionistic you can always give your cities a Monument > Worker > Settler build order and support them with national Food-trade routes for growth.

    Someone who likes to play broad empires can most likely tell you more about expansionistic early game though as I only play OCC (One-City Challenge) after I hit the 200 hour mark.

    Also when you say you are looking for choices what type of choices are you looking for? Since to me there are lots of them ranging from Religion, Diplomacy, Policies/ Ideology, World Congress to Espionage and Trade, as well as city customizing.

    I do however once again point out that I play Civ 5 in a very peaceful manner which givves me more reactionary choices as I found that the AIs battle logic to be rather dum making the conquest route be more a game of maintaining happyness and decide who to attack next.

    As for cities and war. Cities are much more powerful in Civ 5 than they used to be so it stands to reason that taking them over should also be costly (in happyness) but this is mostly in the short term though if you like to tank your happyness enough you get rebellions which add their own flavour to the game.

    TLDR: I think it is a combination of A) and B) plus that you have not reached a stage in t he game when some of the other decisions are given to you such as world congress spies and ideoogies.


    • When it comes to “choices,” I simply mean things to do/think about before hitting the Next Turn button. Watching a plan unfold is good, but waiting 5 turns before I need to click anything else is less good.

      I’ll have a follow-up post soon, as I have invested a bit more time in the game.


      • I see. I think in that case that Civ 5 clearly falls into the “Watching a plan unfold” camp. Of course there are a lot of moving pieces to put in place but most of those require some waiting as well (like Policies). Though in more pacifistic games I find thinking about the geopolitical situation gives me pause before hitting next turn, if you are aggressive you likely control that situation so one needs not think about it so much.


  2. You can set in the options to auto-advance the turn if there is nothing to do. I find this necessary on epic or marathon games. If you get a bunch of cities the problem becomes different, where you have to choose 2 or 3 productions every turn and you just don’t care that much. Some way to automate cities would be wonderful.


  3. I have played every CIV game since the start of the series. You have identified one of the major flaws with the latest iteration; a lack of meaningful decisions. There are many other flaws, but this is one of the biggies.


  4. The anticipation of Beyond Earth also caused me to dust off Civ V a few days ago. (Brazil aiming for great person spam/cultural victory, for what it’s worth)

    You’re not completely off the mark, it’s definitely more strategic than tactical. I still miss Civ IV’s handling of some things – for example, I think that its diplomatic AI, with those mid-game religious power blocs, made more sense than Vs. I also do feel that horizontal empires are penalised too hard in culture and to a lesser extent tech. Until the late game it feels like playing a sub-optimal variant.

    As roguekish wrote, a lot of the turns in the peaceful game will definitely entail following a plan while monitoring the parameters and potential offramps. Early mid-game, for me, anyway, involves a lot of rethinking of what to build next, whether the AI is eyeing space I want, how to prioritise terrain improvements, where to dump cash, whether or not city-state quests are attainable (since alliance bonuses, especially the food from maritime nations, can have a strong impact) and where I am on the culture and faith curves. I find the scouting and dancing with barbarians to be pretty stimulating early on, too, especially in BNW.

    It’s important to set the difficulty high enough for the AI to actually pressure you, too. I find the King to Imm spectrum to be most fun. Deity feels like it requires following one of a small handful of successful recipes (here’s looking at you, 4C Tradition National College rush) to win.


  5. Civ5 is a much slower experience than Civ4 and earlier games in the series because it allows only one unit to occupy a tile. Under one unit per tile rules, each unit must have sufficient space to maneuver, else units will pile up into the proverbial carpet of doom. The number of units a map can support is therefore limited to the map’s tile size — a map with more tiles can support more units because it takes more units to form the carpet of doom. Civ5 maps, however, are too small to support many units, so the developers had to slow down unit build rate to compensate.

    There are various other issues with Civ5 — incompetent AI, lack of meaningful decisions regarding tile improvements and city positioning, an over-reliance on penalties, and other such. But fundamentally Civ5’s biggest problem is the tile rule. The core design is built around limiting the number of units a player can build to the number the map will support, and all the other design decisions reflect that.

    I found Civ4 to be much more interesting.


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