Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Civilization Board Game

This past week we took a short break from D&D to play the Civilization board game, which one of our players picked up.  Such breaks can keep a campaign from becoming monotonous, in addition to providing a much different experience for "game night."  I'm not going to go into a full review (because quite honestly, I don't know the game well enough to do so), but I will offer some first impressions.

It was obvious from the second I walked into the room that this was going to be a complicated game with a lot of depth.  The "board" was actually made up of 16 (if I remember correctly) smaller pieces, and there were several different types of cards, many different tokens, and a player card for everyone that had multiple dials in addition to the traits of your civilization.  As we finished setting everything up, I started to get a vague sense of how the game played (though it wasn't until we were a few turns in that I really got the hang of it).  All told, the game has a lot of depth.  In addition to the general complexity, there are several different "tracks" that you can build up to win the game (military, technology, economic, and culture). 

In brief, each player (2-4) gets to choose one of 6 different civilizations (America, Germany, Russia, China, Rome, and Egypt).  The "homeland" tiles are placed in each corner, with the rest of the board tiles placed face down (these lands haven't been discovered yet).  Everyone starts out with a capital city which you can place wherever (though there is a recommended location on your tile), as well as 2 armies and a scout/settlement party.  Each tile is broken up into a grid, and each grid square has a terrain (mountains, forest, grassland, desert, and water), as well as different trade values, production values, and resources (iron, wheat, etc).  The turn is broken up into phases, and you go around to each player during each phase.  Start of turn phase you can activate certain cards, change your government, and you build cities (a lot of the time nobody does anything in this phase).  Trade phase is when you collect your trade points (move your trade dial up by however many points are adjacent to your cities/settlements) and you can trade resources with other players.  This is rather open-ended.  City Management Phase is a big deal, since this is when you can actually build your civilization up.  Each city you have gets one action, and you can use these actions to build in a square adjacent to your city center (for example, put up a library).  The different buildings have different resources, production, and trade values that you can take advantage of.  You can also build up your military (through artillery, mounted, and infantry cards, and eventually airplanes), or build another army or scouting party.  Construction buildings or adding units/building your military all key off of the production value around your cities (you can spend trade value to increase production as well).  Another action is to harvest a resource (for example, mine iron).  Finally, you can use this turn to devote your city to the arts, which moves you up on the cultural track and gives you access to different sets of cards with some nifty abilities.  After that there's the movement phase, where you move your armies and scouting/settlement parties.  You can use a square of movement to flip over a tile "discovering" new land.  New areas will contain huts and villages (huts you can take over without a fight and gain resources from, villages you need to fight to obtain).  When you move your scout/settlement party you can use them to obtain resources, or if they're placed favorably you can build a new city (which "absorbs" that unit) during the next start of turn phase.  The last phase is the research phase, where you can spend your trade value (if you have enough) to research new technologies.  Technology is leveled 1-5, and you need at least 2 of a lower level tech in order to research 1 higher level tech (in addition to higher trade cost).

So far the game is a lot of fun, but we didn't finish it despite playing for around 3 hours.  We're planning on picking it up this week, though, and perhaps getting a little D&D in if it doesn't take too long.  The civilizations in play are China (me), America, Germany, and Russia, and all of them have different strengths (which seem to favor at least 2 different victory tracks).  Interestingly, we're all going for different tracks, perhaps to subconsciously avoid direct competition.  I'm going for Cultural, Russia is going for Tech, America is working on Military, and Germany is focusing on Economic.  Of course you can't just focus on one single thing, and our game was somewhat complicated by "alliances" that were drawn early (China and Russia vs America and Germany).  Interestingly, my Cultural track gave me access to a lot of cards that allowed me and Russia to trade our Tech knowledge, giving me increased ability (some of the techs directly impact Culture) and moving him along the Tech track faster.  America and Germany have emphasized military a lot more, as has Russia to a lesser extent, but I personally have only expanded my military by 1 card, and haven't attacked any villages.  Risk, this is not :P

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