The Fair Shake

Sid Meier’s Civilization

Greetings readers. It’s 3 AM, the lights are out all around the house, and Carl is plotting how to finally take over the world by vanquishing six other civilizations, in the game Civilization!

OMG I love this Emerson Lake and Palmer song!


Civilization is a classic turn-based strategy game originally released by Microprose in 1991. 1991 was a very good year and I remember it well: the SNES was released, Terminator 2: Judgement day was plastered all across movie cinema screens, but I am digressing.

Unfortunately, he came back… twice.

The game puts you in the role of a ruler of a small band of settlers in the year 4000 BC. You must quickly build a city and establish your civilization. The  goal is to develop an empire. The ultimate goal is either to conquer the world by destroying your opponents, or, be the first to advance your civilization technologically enough to build a spacecraft in order to colonize another star system.

Welcome to Berlin. We have candy. (DOS)

In order to do this, you must manage your civilization and its resources. Where should a city be built? What kind of military units should we focus on? Should we put all our efforts into taxes and the economy, or focus instead on learning? What about the other groups of people you encounter? Will you pacify them by trading with them, and giving to their every demand, or will you obliterate them offensively as soon as possible? Will you pit two other peoples against each other, and destroy the victor of that war? There’s more than one way to play. Bear in mind, the other civilizations are doing exactly what you are! You may be stuck with horses while another group has tanks!

In game help is helpful. (WIN)

You’ll get income in several ways, either due to the size of your city and the population ‘working’, trade between cities, and of course, my favorite, enemy conquest. As time progresses, your civilization will ‘learn’ things, starting with the pottery which allows you to build granaries in your cities, progressing through things like gunpowder (allows militia units), and steel (allows battleships). The technologies are all interconnected through a tree structure, and you get to choose the learning path your civilization choose (pro-tip: try to get gunpowder, ASAP). In addition to the technology system, you may also spy on your enemies, stealing their technology. You can incite  a revolt, which could cause them to change sides to yours! You are not simply limited to attacking your enemies, but you may also work with them diplomatically.

Unlike real life, these advisors are actually helpful.

Graphically Civlization is, well, classic. The game map, movable units, and cities are all composed of tile based graphics. They are fairly simple compared to today’s modern offerings of simulation games, but this does not at all detract from the gaming experience. You’ll get  just as aggravated when an opposing civilization develops an ironclad warship before you do (doubly aggravated if they use one against you.) Anger will simmer in your heart as you see one of your cities turn red as a barbarian tribe conquers it.

These railroad maintenance guys are never out of work…

The sounds can range from almost non existent to somewhat extravagant, depending on the version you are playing. The Windows 3.1 version has .WAV sounds for the attacking and defending fanfares (for lulz, replace ‘losing sound’ with this), as well as various mechanized weapon sounds. Each civilization you encounter has its own ‘theme song’. You’ll learn to hate the Zulu one, just as I do, after a short time playing against them, as they are very aggressive in the game.

Despots, or extras from a Miami Vice episode? (DOS)

Game control and game-play experiences vary widely with each system. I find the SNES version almost unplayable in comparison to the mouse-based computer versions. Some games just don’t translate well to a console and I think Civilization is one of them. Stick with the computer versions.

Menus on the SNES are never a good thing. (SNES)

So why would I write about a game that most gamers are at least familiar with, if not avid players of the series? Most people seem to have moved onto Civ 2 through 5. This game to this day will suck me in for several hours, usually late at night, when I should be in bed, right up until sunrise on more than one occasion. The game starts out fast and turns go by at a brisk pace, but after a short time, when managing eight cities and their corresponding units, a turn can take several minutes, resulting in hours ticking by in real life over the course of several turns. Just one more turn, then I’m going to bed, honest.  You know you miss this game, or even better, you’re curious since you’ve never tried it before. Grab your drink and late night snack of choice, and settle in for a few hours of Civilization.