Saturday, April 21, 2007

It's Civ in 7 hours!

Over the last few years, one of the holy grails was the "Civilization in 2 hours." Well, this fine morning Ben, Ted and I pulled out the original. The rules took around half an hour, then Ben took Africa, Ted played Crete and I led Italy.

Civ has plenty of systems. Your limited tokens represent people and treasury (and having a shortage of either can be devastating). The advances come in four flavors (Science, Arts, Engineering and Civics), and have a complex discount structure. Finally, you have the "Archeological Something Table." This shows turn order (for many phases) and advancement. Each turn, you move one space to the right. But a few turns have 'checkpoints' -- you need two cities, or three different colors of advances, or seven advances total, or 1000 points of purchases. Don't have the requirements? Lose a turn. In theory, countries could finish in 16 turns, but most countries get hung up for a turn or two 9at least). Each country, apart from having a different starting position, has its breakpoints at different times (and different thresholds for the final few spaces, which usually require 1100+ points).

I managed to take the early lead, purchasing the only Mysticism advance. [There are a limited number of each advance, but in a 3 player game, only Mysticism is limited. In a seven player game, there are normally only four of the basic advances]. This directed a fair amount of wrath my way. Crete used Clothe Making to increase his ships range, while Ben militarized with Metalworking and started plinking us. (Militarization just changes the order of when you lose units, so sometimes you save a unit, or force your opponent to commit another). By this point, we had encountered the other main system in Civ -- trading. There are cards valued 1-9, and you get one card from each stack up to your cities (so, four cities earns a card from the 1, 2, 3 & 4 stack). Most of these cards are just goods, but some are catastrophes. Some calamities hit the player who drew them, others can be traded. In fact, you can trade everything. You can negotiate trades as you like, with some limits on truthfulness (you can't lie about number of cards or total value, and you must trade at least one card specifically named). We mainly traded 'nicely' for the game, keeping things truthful. There's plenty of other things to consider.

By the mid-game (as judged by the AST victory track, closer to 1/3rd of the way by time) when you need seven advances to make the next age, we all got stuck. Ted got astronomy, so the Cretins rules the seas (what with their cloth). Africa over-ran Italy (ugh). Everyone had their own problem -- Ted had to keep ferrying people around (paying the cost of a navy), Ben needed to diversify his advances, and I had too many tokens on the board, which meant I had to move (and commit troops) first.

[I always liked that balance in Age of Renaissance, and now I know where they got it from].

After a few more turns, Ben started pulled ahead on the AST. But he had to surmount the 1,000 points of advances, which cost him a few turns. But he had space to fill up on Civics (which are worth the big points). At this point, he couldn't buy anything else (since you only have so many 'slots'), but was guaranteed to advance for each of the final turns, unless we destroyed all of his cities. Sadly, no earth was salted. Ted and I were both 2 spaces behind him on the AST, although if I'd had 1300 points instead of 1295, I could have moved one extra space. Ah well.

Fortunately, during cleanup we discovered that Ben had been using 55 tokens (instead of 47 for the 3 player game), so I declared that his win didn't count. As pharoah used to say, "So let it be written, so let it be done."

The game took us quite a while, perhaps 7-8 hours. I think with a bit of play we could probably squeeze two hours out of that, but probably not much more. And the game does want more people. If not the full compliment of seven, then at least five (see the comment by Chris Farrel). For day to day play, I suspect I'll be sticking to those games that try to pull this off in 2 hours, but Civ deserves its reputation.



At 6:42 PM, April 21, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

Fantastic session report! This type of game is what Saturday mornings/afternoons were made for. The mid-game pizza break helped restore the brain cells nicely, so it really didn't seem as long as it was.

I'm totally torqued I blemished my victory with a novice oversight! Curses!

I'd love to play this again sometime. Now to pick up a cheap copy somewhere...

At 9:04 PM, April 21, 2007, Blogger Carlos Pena said...

I somehow missed this session report a few hours ago. I's cool that some of us still appreciate the classics. I must admit that I have never played this game on the board, but it was one of the first PC games that I ever got.

Thaks, Brian, for the good session report. I would have liked to have joined you, but I did get a very good deal of work done on my yard today.

At 10:42 AM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Brian said...

Based on Ben's comment I went and found the AH AdvCiv PC abandonware. In some respects, very nice. I mean, it does make for a gaming fix. But what a mess! It probably takes 3-4 hours to play a game, and that's with 6 computer players.

Too many calamities, too many types of goods to trade. Bleagh.

At 11:57 AM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

Yep, its a pretty faithful implementation of Advanced Civ... which isn't necessarily a good thing. My favorite PC versions of board games from this era are still Colossus (Titan) and Realmspeak (Magic Realm).

At 12:27 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Great session report. Great game session, too.

I suppose it's true that Civ has a lot of interlinking systems, but it still seemed like a...not simple, let me say "smooth" game. Brian said that except for the length it's a euro. Within the first hour the rules had mostly disappeared. We had to check a detail here or there, but most all our efforts were directed toward *playing* the game. Good times.

I'm also struck by the production values. By our standards today, the bits are mediocre at best. This re-affirms my long-held belief that game play always trumps production values. Given the choice I'd rather have a game that plays great rather that one that looks great. Of course, the best world is one where both happen together.

I'd be very happy if we were able to have a monthly "long game day" for stuff like Civ, Here I Stand, etc. For the most part, however, my schedule dictates that my games will be in the 1-2 range.

At 1:03 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I definitely would be willing to wake up early for the saturday morning sessions if they are devoted to these longer games.

At 5:23 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Brian said...

I almost finished a game of Advanced Civ today (after about 6 hours!) only to have the program crash on turn 29 (about 2-3 turns from the end) and my save game was only T17. Argh! I think I had finally figured out enough of the rules to win (against the Standard AI).

There are some nice things about ACiv. I think the trading rules are easier to grasp (although the computer implementation leaves a lot to be desired). I like how all of the brown backed calamities must be traded or they hit the person ... a nice touch.

But man ... 32 turns? Our game yesterday probably took 22. (16 is the minimum, and I'm guessing Ben lost about 6 turns, one at each of the first breakpoints, and three at the final one).

And, I was playing with settings like "Don't show my the computers moves." (It still shows a lot of them).

At 6:26 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

Michael is still around!

Hey, if there's something you want to play on Saturday mornings, all you have to do is suggest it. I don't think 8-hour games are doable for me every weekend, but its possible for an occasional one. Did someone say TI:3?

I'm certainly supportive of others hosting as well, though I don't mind hosting either. Anything more than 4 players starts to get a bit cramped in the dog house though.

At 9:37 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Carlos Pena said...

At this moment I am trying to procure my house for a Saturday morning game session. More to follow. ANy good satisfying game will do, but if we do TI3, I promise to make the goodies and snacks (meals?) worth it.

At 10:16 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

One game of a longish nature I'm hoping to try some morning/afternoon is Britannia. I just need four people that share this interest and have 5 hours to burn.

At 10:17 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

Whoops... its normally a 4-player game.

At 12:19 AM, April 24, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

Ben, count me in for Brittania.


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