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Civ 6: Just Kidding

I have already uninstalled Civilization 6.

I have gone over this before, but my history with the Civ series is deeply rooted in the past. My first experience was with Civ 2, which I played for hundreds of hours on the Super Nintendo, of all places. The very next Civ game I played was Alpha Centauri, which blew my teenage mind and honestly affected my intellectual trajectory almost by itself. Remember the real-world quotes that pop up once you complete a Wonder or research a specific Technology? They were so cool that I started writing them down, which led to collecting cool quotes wherever I found them, which led to reading the books in which they were quoted, all in service of finding more cool quotes.

After Alpha Centauri though? Nothing. Well… nothing until Civ: Beyond Earth, but we don’t talk about that one. FPS games satisfied my itch for immediate stimulation, and MMOs gave me long-term goals to work towards. Spelled out that way, my prior criticism of Civ 5 makes sense:

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.

There are a lot of subtle changes in Civ 6 that I enjoyed. The city districting system, for example, really grew on me. For one thing, it really made you think about where to place your cities strategically – you really cared about the terrain and what you’d be giving up for a district. For another, the fact that Wonders take up a tile all on their own means you can’t have just one uber-city with 37 Wonders piling up. There had never been a scenario in prior Civs where I unlocked access to a Wonder via Research and then was literally unable to build them. “Can’t build the Pyramids without access to a desert? I guess that makes sense. Wonder if there are any desert tiles around…”

Another feature I enjoyed was how Civics was on its own sort of research path, and the whole “policy card” thing. If you were gearing up for a war with your neighbors, you can make unit production faster, or focus on Trade Route bonuses, and so on. There was granularity there, with the design bonus of, again, preventing uber-cities that were good at everything.

Fundamentally though, a Civ game is a Civ game, and that’s where it lost me.

The whole “Just one more turn” byline exists because nothing ever happens in a turn. Or even over a couple. The most fun I have playing Civ games occurs immediately after world creation. You have reasons to move your scouts around, and the possibilities for city expansion are wide open. Things can still surprise you. There are barbarians at the gates, and hunting down their camps is a big deal.

Then, at some point, you hit the ADs and the game becomes clicking End Turn 10 times in a row. If you are shooting for a Science or Culture win condition, you literally have no reason to engage with other civilizations at all. Just sit around, wait for your cities to gain another population, wait for the Workshop to be completed so it can add X more Production to finish your Y project Z turns faster in the future.

Domination and Religious victories give you more things to do, of course. But that’s just the thing: the only way Civ becomes fun for me is with more moment-to-moment choices. In which case, why am I not playing a moment-to-moment game? Civ 6 is a terrible war game, compared with say, the Total War series. When you look at the Science and Culture victories though, again, it’s a whole lot of pressing End Turn and inevitably winning 300 turns later.

It’s entirely possible (and likely) that I’m missing the whole point with the Civ games. I mean, I did pound out something north of 33 hours in Civ 6 within a week, which is more than a part-time job. Obviously there are some components of the base game that I enjoy.

But that’s all there is for me: components. If you love the whole Civ package, that’s fantastic, I can see what all the fuss is about. I just… don’t. There is a gradient between instant gratification and the Zen-like abandonment of all earthly pleasures, and I find the spaces between payoffs in Civ games about 20 turns too far apart. There are options for shorter games, I think, but that’s not necessarily what I want either. Strategic density is more what I’m looking for.

And that’s something I’m going to have to find somewhere else.