Sunday, October 24, 2004

Clever people, those Romans.

They knew how to create an empire and hold it together.

This post will be a hopelessly inadequate report on TWO sessions spent finishing our epic, long format game of Civilization. The first session has been ably logged by Kozure here, and also by Easy, here.

Our second session began with the Medeival Age, and was very chaotic. The previous posts mention the barreness of the world that we were playing in, and it led some of the newer players to unwise military conflict. While the Shempezuelans and the Causcausians made unwise military forays (resulting in handicapping losses) the Kozurians and Tilitumblers were largely peaceful, trading with each other, expanding, and racking up a huge lead in terms of victory points. The Easylanders were hemmed in to a tight territory, geographically, and forced to pour resources into defending their land against the Shempezuelans, meaning that they couldn't get an effective expansion strategy going. The second session ended about halfway through the gunpowder age, and had Kozure and Tili well in front, with scores in the mid to high twenties, and the other three players clustered with scores in the low to mid teens.

Sometime in the two week gap between session two and three, the weak players with no resources realized that fighting amongst themselves would not work, so the third session became a game of "try to pull down the leaders", that being the only way to get any resources. Unfortunately for Kozure, Tili was more advantageously located, and he suffered the brunt of this tear-down-the-leader approach. Tili was able to end the game with a diplomatic victory, and fifty-some victory points. Shemp came second in the low thirties, so it was an extremely convincing victory for largely staying out of conflict with the other civilizations. Thanks to some highly unlucky rolling, Kozure dropped to third place (high twenties), followed by Easy (teens) and ????, with nine.

Whew. Now for comments on the gameplay.

1) The fact that Tili had a vast lead, and was able to purchase the UN card resulted in a very strange last round, where each player went all out on combat, knowing that there was little to lose. This means that the final standings didn't really reflect what would happen if Tili's lead hadn't been quite so gigantic.

2) I think all players would agree that there really needs to be some better way to distinguish the units of different ages from each other. They just look too similar at a glance, and this resulted in some (thankfully hilariously) one-sided conflicts. Coloured bases perhaps? Dots indicating age? I'm not sure what, but some improvement here would smooth out some of the rough patches of the game, for sure. The obsolesence mechanic itself is great, and allows for some real ups and downs in the course of each civilization's history. Just needs a bit of cosmetic tweaking to make things easier, in my opinion.

3) We also need to come up with some kind of chart showing which military units are current and which city improvements are available, and who should get the credit for each. Everyone had to ask the questions too many times.

4) I think that a lot of the problems players had with resource scarcity were particular to this session, and therefore not really a game mechanic problem. Playing again would be the only way to test this. I would note that Tili was the only player to place her two initial settlers on different continents from each other. It didn't work out initially, but it did give her a better shot at being near whichever lands turned out to be productive. I think that is a tactic to consider for next time.

5) This is all really just nit-picking. I loved the epic sweep of the game, and would gladly play a couple of months for an interrupted game, or on a day off. Unlike some other players, I would want to stick with a four-age game, because I feel like we didn't really get to see the modern age play out. Things were truncated by the Diplomatic victory.

6) I just accquired and started to play the computer game that started it all: Civilization One! Seems OK, but not as fun as the board game, since there is no human interaction.

There you have it.

Viva Shempezuela!, and looking forward to the comments. This game deserves them.


  1. I think this one gets a provisional 9. I'm not afraid to admit that I was obsessed.

  2. (Posted by Easy for Shemp)

    /The Shempezuelan Hordes have a tale, an epic myth of their origins, describing the way they were expelled from their first land, and driven out to barren, barren, South America. For many long Milennia, they remained determined to recapture their homeland.

    The thing is, they aren't sure where that mythic homeland was. Maybe it was California or Labrador;maybe Nigeria. Perhaps they originally hail from Western Europe;perhaps somewhere further afield. It matters not to the Shempezuelans - they hit on a solution! Try to take over the entire planet;if they succeed, they can be sure that they have retaken the ancestral homeland. Brillant! A failed plan, but a brilliant failed plan!

    The Shempezuelan Empire now occupies most of the Atlantic Rim, periodically threatening California and the North African Kozurian rump, because that's just what they do./

  3. (Posted by Easy for Luch/Hapi/??????)

    In ancient times, the Caucasus empire once spanned the vast and undesireable lands that are now the large and unproductive (but hey i'll take it if you'll give it to me) tracts of western europe.

    Toying intermittently with military expansionism, the Caucasus-ians soon learned that armies are damned expensive. Finding themselves thwarted in all but half of their conquest attempts, the Caucasus-ians wantered aimlessly around the wastes wondering how the damned Romans pulled it off before them....clever folks those Romans....

    After a prolonged period, they finally relinquished the iron-like fist grip on their good-for-nothing-lazy-unhappy-and-unproductive subject kingdoms and began to fortify themselves on the small peninsula that joins the continents of europe and africa.

    They enjoyed a fine time of peace and (well defended) horsies.

  4. Many a historian will someday look back on the EasyLandians as a cross between the American Indian and the Italian. They, like the American Indian, once had free reign of North America. Sadly, they were also largely run out. Was it because other than an oil patch in the north, and good vinyards along the west coast, the land was completely barren (and therefore not worth the cost of defending)? Or was it because they were pressed by the stubborn Shempezuelans in the south and the powerful Tilitumblers from the North and West? Finally, was it that they were so bent on reckless and fruitless armageddon that too many alliances were broken too early for such an impoverished nation to survive? No one can say. In the end, wine was their only solace as their expansionist dreams were crushed, like so many merlot grapes...


    What I liked:
    1) The game successfuly captures the idea of international negotiations and resource building AND war.
    2) The mechanic of obsolencence is interesting.
    3) I think that the distribution and quantity of resources in the world has the potential to make each game very different ( a more resource rich game probably would have had less war and the city improvements would likely have had much more currency)

    My thoughts on playing the game again:
    1) I liked the game, but I enjoyed each session a little less than the last (simply because it was taking so long).
    2) If we were to play again, I would like to find a way to make it all happen in one session (whether this means a shorter game or full length game on a weekend, I don't know)

    My thoughts on how I would change the game if I could:
    1) The game would be helped tremendously by having the military units with some form of "coding" (for eaxample, all bases which are green are ancient, all bases which are squares are from the "infantry" track).
    2)I'm not sure what the "improved" versions of existing units add to the game, other than confusion. At the very least, all improved versions should have been only +1 (although, I suppose a dedicated chart showing the military units in order of growth, with associated dice and bonuses listed would help a lot)
    3) I think three ages would have been plenty. As it is, it is quite likely that every invention is purchased before the next age comes around, making the "history" essentially the same every time. Fewer ages with more cards in each would have allowed very different courses in history as some tracks were simply left behind. It would also have allowed obsolesence without SO much complication.
    4) Had there been room, I think it would have been useful to place markers on the "technologies" tracks to identify who had what, what had been purchased and who had the latest versions of each military units.

  5. I'm giving Civilization a 6.5.

    The main reason: Time. Given the choice between playing 9 other games or 1 of this one, I would personally choose 9 other games. Of course, I look forward to playing again and learning from my mistakes (or will I?... The Easy landers are a stubborn lot!))


  6. Sadly, the entire written history of the glorious and peaceful Kozurean Republic were wiped out when rampaging Shempezuelan Hordes burned the Republican Library in central Kozuria. The Shempezuelans, to add insult to injury, used the few remaining uncharred pages of the great tomes as toilet paper after having gorged themselves on the bountiful resources the Kozureans enjoyed. Poised to wipe out the last remnants of the invaders when the peace declared by the United Nations arrived, the commander of the 8th Kozurean Infantry Division griped "ahhh... nuts... we never even got to try out these shiny new machine-gun thingies".

    From oral tradition, the Kozurians were a peaceful and prosperous nation who thrived on the African continent from the very beginnings of recorded history. They traded frequently and invaded no-one, but did have a brief and violent period during its colonial period where it viciously wiped out the remaining "western barbarians" who had lived there peacefully for many millenia.

    An ill-fated attempt at the colonization of Australia resulted in the mysterious disappearance of every single settler. Rumours and the wild tales of a few scattered survivors found by an Tilibumblian expedition pointed to a horrible and virulent plague known as "The Blood-Vomit Dropsy" as the cause.

    A sudden (but not entirely unexpected) invasion in the opening years of the 20th century caused a rapid upswing in military production, with the shiny "Cheetah" tanks ready to throw the Shempezuelans back into the sea. With so much attention focused on fending off the dreaded Shempezuelans, Kozurea fell behind in both technology and cultural developments.

    Simultaneous with the attack on the west coast was an unexpected offensive by Caucasians to take back what they referred to mysteriously as "the Holy lands". Propaganda posters plastered all over the newly captured capital indicated that the Caucasians believed that the region, famous for its horses, was believed to be the rightful property of the northern layabouts.

    The mighty Kozurean Army of the Republic had just smashed the Shempezuelan invaders in the west when hostilities ceased. Like a sleeping giant, Kozurea's wrath was slow in coming but, once roused, shook nations.

    Or so they kept telling themselves as they kicked at pebbles and grumbled about coming in second.

  7. Will Tili, our runaway champion, make an entry on the history of her World Conquering nation?

  8. (posted by Easy for Luch)

    i am not sure if setting up the board with resources first would be any better
    it would be like Settlers, with people fighting for the obvious locations and then maybe sharing

    i'm trying to think up a way to make each region develop new resources
    perhaps as a city grows, it can exploit the territory it is in, and develop new resources.
    so, just one or two contries can become very productive
    (and you don't get stalemated have way through....time.... ;)

    i agree that there shouldn't be improvements in type of army within the same age.
    that would streamline combat alot. it seems irrelevant and confusing.

    i am torn on obsolescence.
    it stops a player from just playing risk, but, in really special cases (like mine) a player could have no resources to produce or trade, AND no army to speak of.
    and, like it or not, RISK is a valid strategy

    maybe the problem here is with production.
    its like Settlers, if your dice don't come up you are screwed
    i think a more complex production system is needed, so you always have something to work with

    this ties into a thought about the technologies
    it seems like if you played this repeatedly, it would get predictable
    people would always wait to buy this or that technology first
    if you had A WHACK of technologies (some of them affecting production for instance),
    then the game would be less linear in a replay situation.

    also, with a looser (read as loose-er), or restructured technology web, a game could go very quickly.

    maybe its too simple for its grand scale....?....or too complex for its simplicity...

    still, i enjoyed it quite a bit.