Sunday, 31 January 2016

Return to Civilization



A busy and rather eclectic week of gaming. It started with a game of SAGA followed by a first play of Dragon Rampant. More SAGA followed by a quick game of Dead Man's Hand. Then a couple more first plays - Batman Miniatures Game and to close the week (and January), it was Civilization, the Board Game from Fantasy Flight. Rather lives up to my rather the pic 'n' mix attitude to gaming!





When there was a call out for players for a game of Sid Meier's Civilization at the Falkirk club's monthly Sunday meet I was keen to join in. Not only am I a big fan of the video game series, I have the board game in the Battleshed vault. Except I've never actually played it!

Why? Well, it was a present from my brother-in-law to The Teenager a couple of years ago. However, this is a Fantasy Flight game. And anyone who's played one will know they have a reputation for great games with high production values, but that often translates into a box crammed full of vast piles of tokens, cards and counters. 

This visual complexity can be intimidating. And Civilization can certainly seem that way as demonstrated by my brother-in-law and The Teenager who gave up trying to set it up after an hour! Since then, the game has been languishing in the Battleshed in the 'pending a re-visit' zone. 

A 3-way game was organised by David from the Falkirk club. Luckily, I remembered to loot the rules from my copy of the game for reference. David was sure organised though, with all the myriad of game components handily stored and sorted in a couple of hobby boxes. I must admit, the game still looked intimidatingly complex once all the paraphernalia was set out. And I play Firefly!

We randomly drew our factions; I got Germany, David the Greeks and our third player, Ian, the English. I really do think that is helps if you have played the video game though. At least you'll understand the concepts and its various elements and mechanics. 

Anyone picking up the board game without ever having played Civilization before gets a massive high-five of gaming respect from me! The board game does pretty much follow it's video game progenitors. In fact, by the time I'd played through 2-3 rounds it all quickly started to fall into place and soon enough all those myriad of tokens started to make sense.

The Market Board
Like the original games, there are 4 ways to win the game - Cultural, Tech, Economic and a Military victory. At the start of the game one of the key elements is setting up the Market Board

This is where the bulk of the tokens are deposited. This board represents the market and cultural areas. The market is where all the various specialist Buildings (Mines, Libraries, Barracks etc), Wonders and Military units can be purchased. Represented by tokens.

The Cultural section tracks the progress of the players progress (or lack of!) towards a Cultural victory. Represented by yet more tokens.

Then each player gets their Civilization sheet, which represents your chosen faction and comes complete with a fancy duel-dial mechanism which you use to track the amount of Trade and Gold Coin resources you're producing each turn from your lands and cities.

The Map
Each player then gets a map tile which belongs to their specific civilization and then unexplored map tiles are set up depending on how many players are present. Players place their Capital token, Army and Scout miniatures (which double up as Settlers) and selects their starting Tech and Governments.

The main turn sequence consists of 5 phases - Start of Turn, Trade, City Management, Movement and Research. There are of course lots of options as players work through these phases, making decisions based upon the available resources, their overall objective strategy and of course the shenanigans of other players.

It wasn't long into the game before the English started expanding into the central area of the map and coming in to contact with my German armies who I protested were only their on a training exercise!. Typical gunboat diplomacy ensued as both sides tried to secure strategic territory.

The Greeks were happily sitting back, quietly counting their gold coin whilst myself and Ian got embroiled in a couple of border skirmishes! In fact, the Greeks were craftily going for an Economic victory (this is definitely an alternative history!) where they only needed to accumulate 15 gold 'coins' to win the game.

All the familiar elements of the video games were there - producing speciality buildings and Wonders , scouting lands, local villages and dealing with barbarian tribes.

The Research tree is nicely represented too. Called the 'Tech Pyramid', tech cards researched by the players are arranged in a pyramid shape with level I techs filling the bottom row and then building the pyramid up to V techs. 

Combat has an interesting mechanic. Its done through 'unit' cards'. Players will have a hidden force deck which could me made up of various types of military units - Infantry, Mounted, Artillery etc. When fighting, players draw cads from the top of the deck depending on their force size and then a kind of rock-paper-scissors mechanism is used to resolve combats. It took a bit of getting used to but its sure adds some tense tactical military engagements to the game! 

There are many more options and abilities that players can use or develop - far too many to mention here - but what I found was that the core turn sequence was actually very straightforward and not as complex as all those tokens suggest. 

For our game, as suspected, it was the crafty Greeks who claimed the Economic victory, after previously offering to form a 'coalition of the willing' with my Germans against the expansionist English forces. Drat! Just as my economy was starting to pick up and I was preparing on a big push towards the Tech victory! 

Just like the video game, the faction you chose will have a lot of influence on how you play. You may even find yourself having to play despite your factions' inherent abilities if this conflicts with your chosen route to victory.

The core game comes with - ready....?

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Market Board
  • 4 Reference Sheets
  • 6 Civilization Sheets
  • 20 Map Tiles
  • 33 Plastic Figures
  • Nearly 300 Cards
  • 55 Combat Cards
  • Hundreds of Markers and Tokens
  • 6 Trade Dials
  • 6 Economy Dials

 ...and there are three expansion sets! It retails at around £40 and you get a lot for that!

Overall, I was so pleased I'd finally got a game of Civilization the Board Game. It is actually very straightforward to play, once you are past token overload! As mentioned earlier though, it does help if you've played the video game!