So I’ve played enough games now that I’m comfortable giving some quick impressions on my latest purchase. To coincide with the launch of Civilization V in 2010, Fantasy Flight Games also released a boardgame, simply called Sid Meier’s Civilization. In 2011, the game received its first expansion pack, Fame and Glory, although so far there doesn’t seem to be any hints or rumours of a second. I bought both the main game and the expansion at the same time as I figured there was no point beating around the bush, plus I have a core group of four others that I play with, so I needed the extra space F&G afforded me.
In a word: It’s good. It’s also long. Generally speaking, if we start a game at 7, we can have it done and dusted between 12-1, depending on how things are going. The first session we tried with five people, we were nowhere near finishing when it came to midnight, and two of our number had to go home. The second 5-player session we tried, again, we weren’t finished by 1am and decided to call it quits, although looking at the lay of the land, one of our number might have been able to win it in the next turn. I’ve also played two 2-player games, in the first one I got trounced, and the second one wasn’t finished because we had a late start and it was a weekday.
Yeah, that’s another thing – so far I haven’t really been playing that well. I’ve won plenty of Spartacus matches, RISK, Game of Thrones etc… but for some reason I can’t seem to get a handle on this game. It’s definitely about momentum – you need to get a second city up and running as quick as possible, and you can’t suffer any set-backs (like taking on some barbarians and losing, which can and does happen). Also, you have to play to your faction’s strength as much as possible. True to the PC game, there are multiple ways to winning – Culture (uses a track you simply have to get to the end of) Technology (be the first to research the Level V tech), Economy (You have to collect 15 coins) and Military (You have to be the first to take someone’s capital). Each faction in this game lends itself to certain tracks, and provided you get a good economy set-up going, you can open up others to you as well quite easily. If you don’t play to your faction’s strengths though, you can fall behind and/or get your ass handed to you very easily (which is what happened to me in one of the one-on-ones).
Still, this flexibility make sit a very interesting game, but you really have to commit from the off or you just meander about not really doing anything. There are a lot of rules as well, so it can be hard for people to keep it all in their head. It’s quite easy though to ‘disable’ some elements of the game from the expansion however, if you need to. If you only you could disable victory types, like I often do in the PC game (Domination all the way, baby).
The only long-term problem I see with this game is that, eventually, people are going to know what strategies they prefer, and in turn what factions they prefer playing as. I can see this leading to a situation where everyone just chooses the same factions over and over, and so in turn you know what their strategy is going to be from game-to-game. Also, if you don’t get momentum going quickly, you’re essentially a non-entity from the beginning, and that’s without any having even touched you. In other games, I’ve easily come back from a weaker position or still been able to significantly affect the outcome of the game, but in Civ there’s not as much scope for that – military conflict is dialled down because it’s only 1/4 of this game essentially, and while there are some tech/culture card effects that could be considered ‘offensive’, it’s down to whether or not you actually acquire those cards.
In the other boardgames that I’ve played so far, you’re not so … locked? I mean in Spartacus every House as its own play style, but there’s a lot of luck involved and it also depends on what assets you ultimately end up acquiring. A Batiatus player may never have more than say, two gladiators (which makes his abilities hard to use), but he could still win the game through some shrewd playing. same with Glaber and Guards, or Tullius and Slaves. Civ is a lot more ‘hands-off’ in the sense that someone could just sit there, and still win, and if no-one is in a position to do anything about it can be a bit depressing as you feel impotent.
Still, it’s a good boardgame, and I reckon we’re going to get many, many good play sessions out of it. I hope they do decide to expand on it with more releases.