Friday, 3 July 2009

Civilization, second clash

Previous blog entry on Civilization is here.

On 29 Jun 2009 I played a 4-player, 5-hour game of Civilization at Carcasean boardgame cafe, with Han, Chong Sean and Wong (Han's colleague). We actually managed to complete the game in one night. We had expected to play it over two sessions. We played from about 7pm to 12am. Han originally wanted to do a 5P game. That would probably push us to 1am, if we wanted to finish the game in one sitting. The players from another table (playing different games) kept coming over and asking, "What? You're still at the first game?".

With 4 players, we played a different two-region combination from last time, when we only had 3 players. A bit more space for expansion and city building. This time we also corrected some rules that we had played wrong. City sites are basically not accessible by people, unless they are going in to battle. Else they'd just die of starvation. This creates restrictions to movement, limits space availability and also forces you to think more carefully where to build your cities so that you don't hinder yourself.

We also played the Civil War disaster correctly now, and it was now even more devastating. It was the most feared disaster, so much so that we'd rather postpone building our 5th city, so that we wouldn't be the one to pick it up (it has a different card back and is always in Stack 5, so we know it when it turns up).

Han (white), being game owner and game teacher, generously offered to start at Crete, which is a tough place to start. It's a two-province island, and you are forced to buy a ship early in order to expand. This is balanced somewhat by having a lower technological advancement requirement to win the game (1200, as opposed to others which can be as high as 1400). Wong (blue) started in the northwest, Chong Sean (black) north, myself (green) east. I was Babylon. Babylon's colour is actually not green, but I wanted to play green, my designated colour. Too bad my green was not close enough to the game board to allow me to pull some stealthy moves...

Slightly more expanded. Han (white) had two ships and had landed in Greece and Turkey. I only ever built one ship, and it was in that little pond on the eastern edge. I only used it for one turn to ship one person across the pond, before dismantling the ship. And that very turn I found that I was $1 short to buy a tech I wanted, the very $1 that I had paid to maintain the ship. Arrgghhh...

Han, Wong and Chong Sean. I brought a calculator to Carcasean (where my empty seat is), knowing it would be handy.

I didn't want to build on the Mediterranean coast, fearing Han's navy. He was the main aggressor in the game, due to his tough starting position. Wong was quite cornered in the northwest section of the map. Both Han and Wong were slower in gaining techs and building cities in the earlier stages of the game. Chong Sean and I did better. We built cities quicker and had more goods to trade, and to buy techs with.

The view from Babylon.

Han's fearsome navy making an amphibious assault.

The trade card decks. The red one in Stack 5 is the Civil War disaster card. To avoid picking this up, Han and I actually postponed building our 5th city, so that it would be Chong Sean who would pick up the card, since at that time he was the only one with more than 5 cities. The Civil War is that bad.

My green people and city were at these locations because of the Civil War disaster that hit Chong Sean. Because of the civil war, some of his armies and cities left his empire and joined mine. I ignore these defectors and they eventually got killed by disasters or other empires. I don't even remember which.

I was hit by civil war too, and it crippled my empire for a few turns. From a mighty 9-city (if I remember correctly) empire, I dropped to just 3 or 4 cities. And Wong gained many of my people and my cities. Unlike me, he continued to grow his people and used them for waging war. It took me some time to finally rid my homeland of these heretics. Him attacking Chong Sean in the north helped me indirectly. He probably pitied me and didn't attack me much. I guess appearing weak (actually I was very weak) was a good thing.

On the right, the only ship I have ever built. I only wanted to use it to ship a small army from the northern shore to the southern shore, to occupy that capacity 2 province.

One big battle between Han (white) and Chong Sean (black). Han sent a huge stack of armies to attack Chong Sean's city on the beach, and Chong Sean also sent in reinforcements.

Chong Sean hit by Civil War and I took over many of his armies in the north and northeast. My Babylonian empire was growing strong again, and I had almost wiped out Wong's blue pieces from my homeland. This was near game end. Wong had been hit by quite a number of disasters, and at one stage lost all his cities. This was a fatal blow, because losing all cities meant you actually had to go backwards one step on the civilisation advancement table, which is worse than stalling. Chong Sean was near his goal, but unfortunately his empire was weak now and he couldn't accumulate goods quickly enough to buy the last technology he needs. Han was close to winning, because his empire of Crete needed a score of 1200 to win, which is less than mine or Chong Sean's. He had more flexibility to buy cheaper techs. My mostly peaceful Babylonian empire had gradually recovered from the mid game catastrophe to regain its past glory. Making use of gold (which can be purchased at $18 if you have the cash), I managed to buy the last tech I needed to win. I think from the moment I had 4 or 5 cards, I already had to plan almost exactly which tech cards I needed to buy, else it would have been very hard to reach the required score for winning. Babylon had a good location, in a protected corner with good city sites, thus the higher score requirement.

My 11 technology cards at game end.

The game board at game end.

I quite like Civilization. I still think the most important emphasis is on trading and buying techs, and everything else that you do are to support these. How to handle disasters, e.g. who to target, who to drag down with you if you are hit, are important to hinder others and to minimise damage to yourself. Warfare and diplomacy are important, because you need to be able to expand and to build cities, in order to collect trade cards. But everything still eventually leads to your techs. I think this is a good thing, to make sure the game does not emphasise too much on the military aspect. Battle resolution is very simple. You don't gain a lot or very directly when you win battles. So waging war is always just a tool or just part of a greater plan, and not an objective in itself. I think it's a positive thing. One thing that I sometimes dislike about the Civilization computer game series is sometimes wars just get too tedious.

The only drawback (to me) is it takes quite long, and I think you need more players for the game to be good. I can't play this as a 2P game with Michelle. 3P is OK, but 4P or more is better.


Cecrow said...

I'm not sure how Civil War works in your edition, but in the AH version it's crucial to estimate who the Civil War benefactor is. If it's yourself, you're off the hook. If it's a player who has few available pieces remaining to replace yours with, again you're in good shape. Also watch to see who'll have to draw from the "5" pile first. Avoiding city construction should only be a last ditch effort.

The ultimate disaster hit I remember was a Civil Disorder + Iconoclasm combo. If you get stuck with both, they'll wipe out all nine cities.

Cecrow said...

And you've assessed warfare correctly; warmongers almost always lose at this game. Those units are much better spent on city construction and support.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I hope we played it right. When you are hit by a civil war, you get to pick the benefactor. You select 15 units worth of cities / armies, and he selects 20 units worth. These 35 units will be one half of your empire, and the rest will be the other half. You pick one half and give the other half to the benefactor.

In our game, both Han and I calculated that if we built our 5th city and get hit by civil war, we would end up with fewer cities and armies than before. That's why we decided to hold of city building until the next round, because we knew Chong Sean would definitely pick up the Civil War disaster that round.

Han said...

If i build the 5th city, i will pick up the Civil war that turn; but if you build and pick up that disaster, it wouldn't affect you as you have less than 35 unit on board (but the extra 5th city pickup only disaster and no trade good).

So, i convince you to let Chong Sean get it and the disaster split his empire in half and you are the benefactor, remember?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Was I in such a bad shape then? I thought I had more than 35 units worth of cities/armies. :-D

How did the benefactor rule work? The seceding empire goes to the player with the smallest reserve tokens? Or the victim chooses? Now I'm not I understood it properly.

Han said...

Civil War:

Victim selects 15 UP (Unit Point), Nominee (picked by victim unless got eliminated player) selects 20 UP. Player chooses which faction to keep.

Nothing happens if < 35 UP

If got Democracy, nominee choose 30 (so, your faction bigger now, 45 UP)

If got Philosophy (player with largest stock become Nominee, can be the victim), victim choose 0, nominee choose 15 (Basically means you only lose 15 UP unless you have largest stock then you lose nothing)

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Aah, OK. So the "largest stock" bit only comes into play when you have Philosophy.