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Steam had a sale on Civilization games this weekend. Do you really need me to say more than that? I can be a real girl when the word “Sale” is thrown about. Throw a “75% off” into that and it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ve got my undivided attention at least for a little while.
And thus, I decided to dip myself into the Civ-pool… knowing it was probably going to be pretty epically disastrous.

I have friends (and a husband) who are heavy into these games and even own/play the board game on the odd occasion when they can lose entire weekends.
I’ve never been able to work myself up to it. I mean, I love strategy games. Love them love them….
But even if you love love board games and turn-based strategy games, Civilization rates somewhere around The Queen Mother of All Strategy Games and makes for one daunting experience.

Civilization IV

When I dug a little deeper into Steam, I discovered there were multiple versions on sale so I needed to consult an expert. I went to my resident expert on Civilization and on me – my husband.

True to form, he explained in terms I could understand – board games.
His explanation went something like this:

“Civ V is a good game but I liked Civ IV better. Civ V is like… Puerto Rico. Solid strategy and fun but a lot easier than previous versions of the game for new players to pickup on. Civ IV is like Twilight Imperium*.”

*epic strategy that takes a long term and more thoughtful approach to your turns

He couldn’t have come up with a better way to compare them. I love playing Twilight Imperium. Sure, I like Puerto Rico, too, but why limit myself? I decided to ahead and really get my hands dirty…. Civ IV it was….

While you’re finishing reading this post, just let the awesome that is the Civ IV theme song play….

Are you listening? Good.
Moving on.

First, let me say the tutorial, while helpful, still left me with a whole lot of questions. I suppose any good tutorial should. It’s not there to play the game for you, just give you the mechanics. Unfortunately, I have never played any of these games before and the tutorial forced windows to pop up for things. Flash forward to my first actual game, I had no idea how to find anything or really even start a move. In some cases, I found I could do something totally different than what was being suggested. It also doesn’t fully explain a number of features on the screen. Taking some time to click around and see what you’ve got to work with is a-okay.

Second, in line with the last line of that first section, it was hard to shake the notion that I wasn’t playing against a clock. Despite my husband’s cautionary warnings (sometimes as well as he knows me, he just doesn’t know me at all), I couldn’t quite grasp that, along with no clock, I wasn’t even playing against other real players who just want me to “hurry up and make a decision”. I could have taken as long as I damn well pleased to consider my moves and what to do next. I still felt this weird pressure to take my turns quickly. I’m looking forward to totally ditching that first game and taking some time to really contemplate my decisions and turns for the second go-round.

Third, my first game was an utter disaster and I’m pretty okay with that. How else do you learn, right? I clicked my way through turns haphazardly and skipped some of them….and suddenly, I found myself surrounded by other “players” who had 12 cities to my 3 (though, to be fair, Thebes was way ahead of its time and my people loved living there… mostly…)… and oh, wait, no, make that 2 because barbarians just came in and trounced Memphis. Yep…. sad face. Scouting and settling early and often, seems to be a solid way to start. This game is a long haul. . . a marathon, if you will. There’s plenty of time to create and build and research so making sure you have room to grow and lots of cities and towns to play with is, clearly, a smarter strategy. 🙂

In the end, I played that first game for about 2.5 hours or so, made some pretty bitchin’ war elephants, discovered a lot of religions, built a lot of bad ass buildings, and still had very little idea what the hell I was doing. After sleeping on it for a couple days, I’m ready to start over again and take a much more thoughtful approach.

Have you played Civ? What kind of disasters have your cities weathered? 🙂