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You Never Move Your Settler!
March 3, 2014 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Opening Strategy Splits Civ V Studio. Since the beginning of time, man has been bedeviled by the eternal question: "In Sid Meier's Civilization, is it better to found your first city on the opening move, or move around to find a more advantageous spot?"
posted by Cash4Lead (120 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've found myself moving my settler more often than not in Civ V. Usually I'm able to move the warrior to some high ground and get a better look around. I'll always move if I'm in a particularly dumb strategic location, like one hex away from the coast.
posted by borkencode at 7:55 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who saves, scouts around for the best spot, then loads the saved game from the first turn?
posted by skewed at 7:58 PM on March 3 [19 favorites]


Yes, you dirty, dirty cheater.

(Which is only fair, considering how the computer cheats so much*)(#@*@#)
posted by curious nu at 7:59 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


Also, the experiment described is ridiculous. They basically ran three games to 100 turns. They need at least ten with each strategy to at least pretend they have a valid sample.
posted by skewed at 8:00 PM on March 3 [12 favorites]


I was a godamned wizard in CIv 4 and could make up any number of civilizations but I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around Civ 5 so I'm always stuck going "wait are city states a good thing?"
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


Also, the experiment described is ridiculous. They basically ran three games to 100 turns. They need at least ten with each strategy to at least pretend they have a valid sample.

Quoted for truth.

Also, playing without other civs and with barbarians turned off pretty much means the results are only valid under those circumstances, i.e. never.
posted by thegears at 8:01 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, if they didn't want you to move around before building a city, they wouldn't let you. On the other hand, do you really want to waste a precious turn that can be used to build defensive units?
posted by SansPoint at 8:07 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


The initial position is not random; the AI tries to put you somewhere optimal. I wonder what the guy who designed that algorithm does.
posted by Nelson at 8:12 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


This is extremely relevant to my interests. I finally got a computer good enough to play games (my last one was seriously old) and the only game I've got right now is Civ 5. I've only played through one time but for that game I went with the "settle immediately" option. Maybe next time around I'll try moving around a bit.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:19 PM on March 3


Civ II for life.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:21 PM on March 3 [27 favorites]


As of 8:30 tonight (I'll be playing more in a few minutes) I'm at 1177 hours logged on Civ 5, according to Steam. I started playing with the first civ.

There are times I hate the guy who showed me this game oh so many years ago.

Also, Civ 5 does have a slightly handy feature (I don't remember it being in previous versions) where if you go to the game options on the first turn, you can restart with a new map and starting position, but all other options kept the same. This option is only visible on turn 1. The computer does cheat, quite a bit, and having a bad starting position is not a way to win the game.
posted by efalk at 8:29 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


And that's why... you NEVER. MOVE. YOUR SETTLER.

*arms fall off and blood spurts*
posted by mudpuppie at 8:31 PM on March 3 [17 favorites]


Civ II for life.

I concur, your excellency.
posted by darksasami at 8:33 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


23 years since the original Civ and there's never been an in-house colloquy on first turn strategy? I'm honestly shocked. I would have figured they'd spent much of that time optimizing world generation to consistently deliver nearly ideal placement.
posted by Iridic at 8:33 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


skewed: "Also, the experiment described is ridiculous. They basically ran three games to 100 turns. They need at least ten with each strategy to at least pretend they have a valid sample."

Good news: this thread remains open for 30 days
Bad news: One Civ 5 game a day for a month straight is really gonna strain social obligations
posted by pwnguin at 8:37 PM on March 3 [14 favorites]


I've only ever played Freeciv but I love it. How do the brand name drugs compare to it?
posted by XMLicious at 8:48 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I've only ever played Freeciv but I love it. How do the brand name drugs compare to it?

You know how no-name brand acetaminophen is basically just as good as Tylenol?

Yeah this ain't that thing.
posted by mightygodking at 8:58 PM on March 3 [31 favorites]


Hey this possibly gives me a chance to get rid of this - I have a free (gift) copy of Civ 4 on steam. If you're interested memail me.
posted by efalk at 9:01 PM on March 3


I gave Civ V sixty hours before going back to Civ IV. I think it's true that Civ is like Star Trek movies: you should skip the odd-numbered ones.
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 9:19 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Civ II for life.

I still have fond feelings for the boxy, 2D original.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:36 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Hmm, I prefer Civ III, does that make me an asshole?
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:37 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Not, but it makes you wrong. Civ IV BTS (and mods) = Greatest Game of Any Type Ever Made.
posted by Justinian at 9:44 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


I wish I could play Civ II on my Macbook. Is that even possible?
posted by Rumple at 9:44 PM on March 3


I still have fond feelings for the boxy, 2D original.

Kids these days...
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:44 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Not, but it makes you wrong. Civ IV BTS (and mods) = Greatest Game of Any Type Ever Made.

Ok, I'll be the arsehole who says that Alpha Centauri is The Greatest Game.
posted by all the versus at 9:48 PM on March 3 [33 favorites]


I agree with the objections in this thread; the experiment ran was in no sense sufficient to provide good data. You need to do it with barbarians on, multiple civs, and even then the optimal strategy probably varies with game settings, particularly difficulty level.

My heavily educated guess is that moving your settler is best at settings for noobs when you're playing at King or less and not moving your settler unless there is an obviously significantly better position within ONE turn of movement is best at Immortal or higher.

I wouldn't take the opinion of either the author of that piece or Jon Shafer's as being worth much. The former because he grossly overestimates the value of an ocean start if you don't get a bunch of sea resources (frankly, for a long time an ocean start was completely gimped. It may still be for all I know). The latter because Shafter designed vanilla Civ V which was so utterly broken and poorly conceived design-wise that it betrayed an utter lack of understanding of the fundamentals of Civilization.

Note that it's much, much better now though there are still some really questionable design choices; it's just that they managed to make the game so much fun that it overcomes those serious problems, plus years of balance patches have helped.

But the dude basically broke Civ with the base game.
posted by Justinian at 9:51 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Hmm, I prefer Civ III, does that make me an asshole?

It makes you very, very strange.

I'll throw in Fall from Heaven 2, a fantasy mod for civ 4 with completely berzerk levels of story and depth, as one of the truly great gaming experiences.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:51 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I keep hovering over the buy button for Civ IV. I have Civ V but the gameplay just doesn't work for me, and I keep returning to Civ on the ipad which is a distillation of the game to quick pure joy, like a shot of whiskey compared to a tumbler, and got me through some long sick days. So far I have been able to postpone the loss of all productive work by promising myself that I'll only buy it the next time I'm hospitalized more than a night. This makes me almost eager to fall seriously ill....

King of Dragon Pass and CivClicker are close to scratching the itch, but there is nothing quite like Civilization's gameplay feel - the satisfaction of balancing equations and throwing dice.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:52 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Is this the right place and time to say that I used to be able to consistently beat Civ II on the Deity setting? Because, there really needs to be more places and times where I can point that out.
posted by Skwirl at 9:52 PM on March 3 [18 favorites]


Oh, the biggest reason to move your settle ONE time before settling is to get on a hill hex. That's a huge dividend that pays off quickly. If you can get on a hill hex next to a mountain you are sitting pretty. Unfortunately a good hill+mountain start is difficult to come by.
posted by Justinian at 9:55 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Civ 2 on a Macbook should be pretty easy. It gets a gold rating at Wine HQ so you could use that. With a gold rating, this means other users have reported that it works perfectly or near-perfectly.

Or, if you use VMWare or one of the other VM products and have a copy of some Windows OS then you could make a VM and run Civ 2 in that.
posted by honestcoyote at 9:55 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I wish I could play Civ II on my Macbook. Is that even possible?

Perhaps this will work?

It must be strange to be the kind of very specifically famous guy that Ed Beach is. Usually no one has any idea who you are, but at a convention or two a year at a particular table with a particular set of guys from the deep corners of ConsimWorld you get to be a revered celebrity.
posted by Winnemac at 9:55 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I referred to the designer of Civ V as "Shafter" in a previous comment. This was unintentional. But accurate.
posted by Justinian at 9:55 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Civilization is one of the more inexplicable gaps in my gaming experience that I really should remedy, because it sounds pretty much tailor-made to be something I'd love - I really really like RTSes except I really really suck at real-time micromanaging, so Civ's turn-based play is probably right up my alley. Probably have to dive into IV or V on payday.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:56 PM on March 3


all the versus: Ok, I'll be the arsehole who says that Alpha Centauri is The Greatest Game.

It's true. It spoiled me on all other civ games, forever.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:58 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person on earth who played Civilization: Call to Power?
posted by Itaxpica at 9:59 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Another vote for Alpha Centauri. And, if I'm in a corrupt precinct and therefore allowed to vote twice, I'd also give a vote for the first Civ. I really love its simplicity.

Warlock is a more recent favorite. Basically the simplicity of the original Civ with modern graphics and Wizards. It's not deeply challenging but it is quite relaxing.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:01 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Oh gods, I just had to uninstall Civ V from my computer last night, because it was taking over my life. But now I need to know if moving my settler is better! Just...one...more...turn...
posted by hooray at 10:11 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


I just uninstalled Civ V because I realized that cultural victories are still deadly boring, even with all of the enhancements from the latest expansion. I miss expanding my borders and passively enthralling my rivals.
posted by lumensimus at 10:14 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


Civ IV BTS is the better overall game in terms of being entertaining through an entire playthrough. Alpha Centauri is genius conceptually but kinda breaks 1/2 to 2/3rds of the way through a game.

I have a very hard time finishing Civ V games. They slow down soooo much (even with Brave New World it's a snooze).
posted by furiousthought at 10:21 PM on March 3


Doesn't this depend on if you're playing tall or wide Civ? I'd imagine you might want to be a bit picky with a tall Civ (Venice, Siam), since you're only planning about 1 to at most 4 cities. Whereas, with a wide Civ (Romans, French), you probably put a city down ASAP, since you want to expand fast, and it's not important to get an awesome location, since you'll probably grow into it anyway.
posted by FJT at 10:22 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I loved Civ IV BTS, but Civ V with G&K and BNW really makes that enthralling, fun mid- and late-game that I like. I also think the nature of combat in Civ V is much more strategic and interesting.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:23 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Alpha Centauri was the best. The little dialogues for base facility completion and tech advances were just so well realized, and gave you a sense of a narrative and the character of these faction leaders through planet's history, even as your own narrative developed from the gameplay. I always liked the implication that the Gaians crushed Santiago's Spartan faction by melting their brains with psi-weapons.

Great, now I have to reinstall it. I hope all of you are happy.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:28 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


Another vote for Alpha Centauri.

That being said, I've usually followed a 'rule of 5' in Civ V- Found your first city in the first 5 turns of the game. Some flexibility but still an early start.

Am I the only person who enjoys playing the Shoshone in BNW? TO me, they're the ultimate risk-lover's civilization. You either fail miserably due to the lack of buildings, or you use your pathfinders to build an empire of six cities before the clock even reaches 3000BC. Playing the Shoshone is the ultimate pell-mell race for ancient ruins. I like it, but I can see how hardcore tournament players have already figured out a block for them.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 10:34 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Grimgrin: Alpha Centauri was the best. The little dialogues for base facility completion and tech advances were just so well realized, and gave you a sense of a narrative and the character of these faction leaders through planet's history, even as your own narrative developed from the gameplay. I always liked the implication that the Gaians crushed Santiago's Spartan faction by melting their brains with psi-weapons.

Hah, you really get the feeling the developers didn't like the jerkass factions any better than you did. You'll notice that Yang says precious little after about halfway. Miriam has a couple of quotes in the endgame, but the last two in the game directly contradict each other (teleporters destroy your soul! teleporters are awesome!), which seems about right for her.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:36 PM on March 3


I feel the need to mention that there is a variation getting some interest on the civ forums (fora?) where you choose to play as Germany (whose UA gives you a chance at converting a barbarian unit to your side when taking out a barbarian camp) and immediately discarding your settler, so that you just seek out ruins and encampments until you have enough of a rogue army to take combody else's city as your own.

There's another gambit (which only works on Terra maps) wherein you play as Polynesia (whose UA allows you to cross oceans immediately) and set off for the uninhabited new world millenia before others will get there, to grow your culture unimpeded.

Both of these are risky. In general, settle where you start.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:10 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


SMAC forever! Found that game at the same time I was obsessed with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy and got sucked in so bad. Plus the nukes in alpha centauri are so much more satisfying than any other Civ game. Sure everyone will hate you, but you can blow holes in the planet! And, after all, I could never give it up. The drones need me.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:39 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person on earth who played Civilization: Call to Power?

Or Call to Power 2 for that matter?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:52 PM on March 3


I nth SMAC as best Civilization, and suggest that anyone who hasn't played it pick it up. It's just so evocative and atmospheric. And the gameplay is well done too. Customized units, and the fun you can have with terraformers - the game actually simulates rainfall based on terrain.

"Go through, my children! The time of miracles is upon us. Let us cast off sin and walk together to the Garden of the Lord. With God's mercy we shall meet again on the other side."

Mitrovarr, considering that quote is from Miriam's "Last Testament", I think it's less "teleporters are awesome" and more desperation as her faction is crushed.

I agree that the game hints the Gaians crush the Spartans, but I don't remember why I think that, and I'm pretty sure Deirdre had the Mindworms hatch eggs in their skulls.
posted by dragoon at 12:19 AM on March 4


If there's not a river or good farmland within one move of the start hex, I just make a new game.

I'm also a SMAC fan, but even though I know it's impossible I wish they'd make a new version.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:21 AM on March 4


Is there any way to play Alpha Centauri on a mac? I am asking for a, uh, friend.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:21 AM on March 4


viggorlijah: “Is there any way to play Alpha Centauri on a mac? I am asking for a, uh, friend.”
Just spend the six bucks is the easiest I think.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:23 AM on March 4 [7 favorites]


Moving your settler pays off in the long run whereas settling on the first turn pays off in the short term. So whether you should do it depends on whether you have the breathing room to go for a longer-term game. Of course, on the first turn you probably aren't going to know anything about your opponents, which makes the whole choice somewhat of a gamble.
posted by Pyry at 12:28 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


The thing is, as fun as the entire game is, there really isn't a "long run" in Civ V. You win or lose the game in the first 50 or 100 turns.
posted by Justinian at 12:35 AM on March 4




Civ IV all the way. Put settler down on first turn, save and then get a settler from early village and BOOM, cultural takeover.

Hey, it keeps me happy.
posted by kariebookish at 12:48 AM on March 4


Ahh, the joys of discussing a yes/no question about a situation with myriad context-sensitive parameters. My answer: it depends. There, question settled (heh!)
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:56 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Itaxpica - I loved Civ: Call to Power! It's probably my favourite of all of the civ games and still play it regularly. Public works were an awesome invention and should have made it into the main canon rather than building one worker in 3000BC and using it until 1980AD. The game is flawed in some ways but compared to all the others I still think it's the best one. Now I'm going back to trying for robotics in 130 turns :-)
posted by BigCalm at 1:56 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Civ IV all the way. Put settler down on first turn, save and then get a settler from early village and BOOM, cultural takeover.

Well, sure, if you're playing on cognitively-impaired-preschooler-difficulty. Ain't no settlers in villages on Immortal, son.

Though this does put me in the mind of a game account I once saw posted on Civ Fanatics (which I am now completely failing to find) about a guy who wanted to see how early he could launch to Alpha Centauri by adopting this very strategy. Largest map size possible, easiest difficulty setting, and sent his initial scout and settler out looking for goody huts. Since goody huts produce mostly scouts and settlers if you pop them without a city founded, and units you get from goody huts can move on the same turn you find them, your gains are exponential, and he had something like 15 cities settled on turn 10. No unit upkeep or ruinous maintenance costs on Settler difficulty means he could keep settler/worker spamming without crashing his economy, and was able to roll over all 12 of his opponents with swords in another dozen turns. That magnificent sumbitch won the space race before the birth of christ, if memory serves.

Oh, hey, look, it's been more than 60 days since I last played... time to go neglect my familyrediscover Civ!
posted by Mayor West at 4:37 AM on March 4 [8 favorites]


Also, Civ 5 does have a slightly handy feature (I don't remember it being in previous versions) where if you go to the game options on the first turn, you can restart with a new map and starting position, but all other options kept the same. This option is only visible on turn 1.

That's in Civ IV too (BtS at least, probably all versions), though not in multiplayer.

Am I the only person on earth who played Civilization: Call to Power?

God what a weird friggin' game. I like to dis III, but CtP is the true redheaded stepchild of the Civ family. IIRC I never even touched CtP2, though I think I did buy it.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 4:43 AM on March 4


"I'll throw in Fall from Heaven 2, a fantasy mod for civ 4 with completely berzerk levels of story and depth, as one of the truly great gaming experiences."

Yeah. FFH2 is as close as anything's come to satisfying my jonesing for a modern Master of Magic fix.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:43 AM on March 4


Anyone else have problems with BNW running on their computer? My Windows computer is a few years old but I bought it specifically to be able to play Civ V (which it does very well) but BNW just slows the game down to a painful crawl. I finally gave up on it and went back to vanilla Civ V.
posted by octothorpe at 4:44 AM on March 4


Yeah. FFH2 is as close as anything's come to satisfying my jonesing for a modern Master of Magic fix.

Call me nostalgic, but I just load up DOSBox and play MOM with the community patches that are still being put out.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:06 AM on March 4


Am I the only person with a couple thousand hours in Civ V that never plays above King? I don't want to be challenged. I want to relax and explore all the different ways in which I, and my sidekick, can take over the world.
posted by DigDoug at 5:21 AM on March 4 [7 favorites]


Pyrogenesis: "Ahh, the joys of discussing a yes/no question about a situation with myriad context-sensitive parameters. My answer: it depends. There, question settled (heh!)"

I think you meant to post this in the pizza thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:35 AM on March 4


I only move that initial settler if there's an obvious advantage to doing so, like gaining access to a coastline. It makes no sense to spend several turns scouting for a better location, since you'll probably be able to found your second city at a much better spot once you've done some reconnaissance of the area.

So to me, the better question is: when do you stall the growth of your first city and start building that second settler?
posted by antonymous at 6:31 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


DigDoug: that's me too. I seek my intense challenges elsewhere.
posted by argybarg at 6:36 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


There's a new SMAC-influenced game out - Pandora: First Contact - but I haven't had a chance to play it yet...

(And I always headed for the nearest sea resource, which might have been fatal, but I am Athens and I love to fish.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:07 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Question for the SMAC-uninitiated: why is a new version impossible?

So to me, the better question is: when do you stall the growth of your first city and start building that second settler?

This question is why I think Liberty is a better policy track than it's generally given credit for. A free settler and a free worker means I have time to focus on early-game wonders and don't stall out my growth, and then I get a Great Prophet or (more likely) a Great Engineer at the end of it all.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:18 AM on March 4


You magnificent bastards. I had just settled down to thoughtful programming, and you guys lay a Civ post down on me? WHY.
posted by corb at 7:29 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Question for the SMAC-uninitiated: why is a new version impossible?

If memory serves, EA hold the license to publish Alpha Centauri, but Firaxis is now owned by Take Two Interactive. So, although not impossible, it is unlikely that you would get a Firaxis-developed Alpha Centauri game.

On the other hand, a first-person shooter set in the Alpha Centauri universe...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:32 AM on March 4


(Meanwhile, Brian Reynolds, the designer on Alpha Centauri, set up a new studio after leaving Zynga and is working with Nexon to make a Civlike, although how Civlike a free-to-play game can be is probably a reasonable question.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:35 AM on March 4


I predict I'll be firing up my copy of Sid Meier's Pirates! later today.
posted by ersatz at 7:53 AM on March 4


guys I have only had Civ 5 for three weeks and I already have 52 hours on it and now THIS?!

why do you hate my family
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:56 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I feel like I've stumbled in to an AA meeting here.

Civilization: Not even once.
posted by Theta States at 7:58 AM on March 4 [12 favorites]


TFA is wrong in claiming that moving the Settler is the first decision. I think the first critical decision is choosing who you're going to play as. Running the game (I fired up III {Long Live Civ III!}) the first real choices involve configuring the world.

Actually, much like WarGames, the critical first choice is whether to play at all.
posted by achrise at 8:06 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I postulate all MeFi threads eventually reference one of the following:

- Dune
- WarGames
- Threads
- rougue-likes
posted by Chrysostom at 8:36 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I have much love for Civ - and regularly flip back and forth between IV and V at the moment (although I am afraid of getting the latest Civ V expansion as Civ V: G&K slows my game down to a crawl; to the point where I make sure I have a book or something else to work on beside the computer so that I don't get frustrated waiting for a turn or move to process).

Move/don't move is so context dependent I don't know how you could do a fair study of it. It depends on difficulty level (at lower difficulties, moving early is easier as the AI doesn't have the huge production bonus), resource availability to the first city both on first turn and ten turns later when the borders pop, along with what technologies will be necessary to exploit it.

Probably the only way to attempt it would be to have two players of the same experience/mastery independently play the same start position - one moves, one doesn't - and see where they are at 100/150 turns in. Or the same player, on two different computers, doing the turns simultaneously? And then do it across multiple difficultly levels, a myriad of different start positions, and then with a different combinations of competing AIs. Civfanatics used to run Game of the Month competitions that might be a way to get a useful data set, because I can't see any other way to figure this out - you'll never get two identical players and I think trying to get one person to play two games simultaneously would create a mental health problem that we would never get past the ethics committee.
posted by nubs at 8:42 AM on March 4


I predict I'll be firing up my copy of Sid Meier's Pirates! later today.

Imbriglicated!
posted by zombieflanders at 8:50 AM on March 4


The only time I really move with the first settler in Civ V is if I am playing the Spanish Gambit. Otherwise I will move the warrior/pathfinder (if Shoshone) to see if there is a more advantageous position nearby, but usually I will have a settlement going by the second turn. On higher difficulty the AI gets a big advantage from the onset so you need to start going in order to catch up.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:19 AM on March 4


guys I have only had Civ 5 for three weeks and I already have 52 hours on it and now THIS?!

That's barely 2 hours a day. I'm not sure you really love Civ enough.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:00 AM on March 4 [8 favorites]


I postulate all MeFi threads eventually reference one of the following:

- Dune
- WarGames
- Threads
- rougue-likes


Nah, only the ones posted when Cortex is on duty.

As for civ, lately I've been cranking up a history podcast, setting the difficulty to prince and randomising every other variable. I like being forced to adapt my strategy as I discover more about the situation.
posted by Diablevert at 10:09 AM on March 4


So many Civ 5 fans. More discussion here than MeFightClub!

If you've never played Civ 5, ignore the bitter nonsense above about how Civ 5 has problems. It's the best game in the franchise, particularly with the gameplay expansions. You want the base game + Gods and Kings + Brave New World. The minor DLC (like maps and leaders) is not important. The "Complete Edition" is currently $50 on Steam but it all goes on deep sale regularly.. $15 for everything a few weeks ago via Humble Bundle, for instance.

And yeah, the problem with a SMAC sequel is licensing. No reason they couldn't make a Sid Meier's Tau Ceti designed by Brian Reynolds, though. Hey, a fanboy can dream. The key feature of Alpha Centauri nothing else has explored is the idea of the planet itself fighting back, feedback effects of all your building and terraforming on the terrain. I'd love to see that idea explored effectively.
posted by Nelson at 10:12 AM on March 4


I haven't had a real computer for a while, so I'm stuck with playing Revolution on Xbox. Since you get bored with that quickly, I started messing with the game as much as I could.

One thing I did was delay founding the first city for as long as I possibly could. On the second easiest difficulty setting, I delayed founding my first city until 1900 AD and was able to barely eek out a Economic Victory. It was interesting how it played out; all my growth came from cultural conversion of rivals' cities that were very close to my much-delayed capital.

On medium difficulty, I was able to win a Domination Victory after delaying settlement until 1300 AD. To be fair, this was with the Americans, who are overly buffed in the late game. I was forced into the domination track, actually, because I needed to put the entire energy of the nation to capturing Paris before they completed the United Nations wonder. I then had to immediately turn around and take Moscow as they were about to launch their space station. The French and Russians had already done the heavy lifting against the Egyptians and the Aztecs, so I was able to wrap up around 2050 AD. I lost doing the same with the Mongols. I only was able to win with the Spanish this late if I got to Atlantis (which is only possible for them this late because they start with Navigation).

Another thing I did to mess with the game was found my capital as close as the game allows to another civilization's capital (two squares away in Revolution). Doing this on higher difficulties to the French, and to a lesser extent the Egyptians, dooms your civilization, as the French start with a Cathedral and the Thebes comes with an ancient wonder for free. Your second city will be converted before the Industial Era. Even on easier settings, my civilization and the "host" civilization fall behind their rivals, as they choke each other off. It really pushes the AI to expand though, when I did this to the Japanese, they already had overseas colonies despite only having Galleys, as I gave them no where to go back "home".

Oddly, I found that the AI doesn't attack your inital settler very often, unless it's in their territory. I was able to camp one square outside Berlin for a thousand years before attacked.
posted by spaltavian at 10:14 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


guys I have only had Civ 5 for three weeks and I already have 52 hours on it and now THIS?!

well also I have a job

I admit that I did figure this interval program out to deal with the weekend civilization binges:

Step 1: Own a four + year old MBP

Step 2: Play Civ 5

Step 3: Do pushups until it stops loading

Step 4: Do squats while the other civs play (mix it up with dynamic stretching during the barbarians/city states)

Step 6: Profit! Conquer!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:47 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


If you've never played Civ 5, ignore the bitter nonsense above about how Civ 5 has problems.

I'm not bitter and I do enjoy playing Civ 5 a lot, but it is different from the earlier entries in the series in ways that some players don't like. I personally don't like how hard the game pushes back against expanding by settling new cities (by making the social traits more expensive and certain national wonders harder to get) To me part of the joy of Civ is watching my cities crawl across the world slowly gobbling it up. But if I want that I can just go play Civ 4 (or 3 or 2 or SMAC) so I don't mind the change so much.

Civ 5 is gorgeous, even if you, like me, are stuck with the stupid Steam bug that prevents it from running with directx11. The art deco menus are cool, the terrain is so pretty. I love looking over my empire (which is part of why i find it frustrating that the game discourages building huge empires.)

Civ 5 also had a very opaque and broken diplomacy system initially, which has been improved somewhat with patches and the expansions but still can seem pretty arbitrary. Good luck ever getting an advantageous deal out of the AI on anything but the easiest difficulty. The combat AI is also supposed to be terrible, but I'm not good enough at the game to have noticed since the AI destroys me at the higher difficulty levels.

So I completely agree with Nelson that Civ5 is fun and you should grab it whenever it's on sale, but is it the best? Eeehhh I'm not sure it dethrones SMAC or Civ4 in my heart.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:50 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


You do have a job. It's playing Civ 5.

You people have me watching a SMAC Let's Play while I grade. I hope you're all happy.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:10 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Fair enough, Wretch729, and that's thoughtful critique and not bitter nonsense. I really appreciate the way Civ 5 slims down the game, makes it less of a micromanagement chore. Leaning towards fewer cities is a key part of that. So is the doing away of giant stacks of units. Simplifying on its way to finding the fun, although for you maybe it ruined some of the fun of a giant sprawling empire. (It is possible to make giant sprawling empires work btw, although maybe not on the highest difficulty levels.)

The map is so beautiful, I love how it contains the story on it. Over on MeFightClub we've played through a couple of games together, starting with the same saved game file. It's fun to compare notes on how the world history diverged. The CivFanatics crowd does this regularly with the Game of the Month, fun to play along even if you don't compete.
posted by Nelson at 11:10 AM on March 4


I personally don't like how hard the game pushes back against expanding by settling new cities (by making the social traits more expensive and certain national wonders harder to get) To me part of the joy of Civ is watching my cities crawl across the world slowly gobbling it up.

I would second this; prior to HumbleBundle ruining my career and love life, I had only ever played Civ 2 (Gold) for insane amounts of hours in high school. It's taken considerable time to adjust to the idea that settling cities is almost a bad thing (especially since you need different placements on some maps to take advantage of trade routes or coastline access) and since the AI seems to often generate one other enormous empire that still gobbles up technology and advances, not that I'm bitter or anything. But I'm only on my third round, so, still learning. I do like a lot of the updates, but it's a very different way of approaching the game.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:15 AM on March 4


Does anyone have a link to a good strategy guide for Civ V? I got tired of playing it a while back because I wasn't in the habit of playing with an eye toward an end-game.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:20 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


mudpuppie: there's a lot of good stuff here.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:22 AM on March 4


If you've never played Civ 5, ignore the bitter nonsense above about how Civ 5 has problems. It's the best game in the franchise, particularly with the gameplay expansions.

Assuming you mean me, I said the vanilla game when it was released had big problems. And it did; serious ones which resulted in what was essentially a broken design. It's not nonsense and I could show exactly how it was broken with math and everything. To pick one example, ICS was a solved problem in Civ IV but the initial design for Civ V brought it back in a big way. And that's a busted design.

But we're several years, many patches, and two full expansions past that and as I think I made clear, those criticisms no longer apply. But they do go to whether Jon Shafer can be said to have a great grasp of how to balance a Civ game and what the optimal strategy is!

I personally don't like how hard the game pushes back against expanding by settling new cities

It actually doesn't push back very hard. Not like Civ IV which really hit you hard for overexpansion. Generally speaking in Civ V you get more out of new cities assuming you build them properly than the increased cost of the social policies. Hell, for a long time (see the first part of this comment) the best strategy for Civ V was to slop out as many size 2-3 cities as you could in a grid with like 3 hexes between cities.
posted by Justinian at 12:27 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


The minor DLC (like maps and leaders) is not important.

The maps are not important but some of the DLC leaders are really great and breathe life into the game by changing up the gameplay. I love the Incas for instance. It turns what for any other Civ would be a terrible location for a city into a superb location. So much fun.
posted by Justinian at 12:28 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I personally don't like how hard the game pushes back against expanding by settling new cities

This is why I've been less and less interested in each successive Civ game since Civ2. I play at relatively low difficulties as this zen-like affair where I slowly build up, conquer (almost) the whole world, and then optimize it. So preventing me from having a world-spanning empire of a grazillion cities is just mean.

It's fun if you're me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:06 PM on March 4 [11 favorites]


Man, I just realized that I haven't played Civ since Civ III. Looks interesting, but I think I walked away because it took just too much goddamned time. (Then I played Age of Empires, then walked away from that when it started freaking out my computer.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:11 PM on March 4


Yeah but the infinite small cities was so ugly! My casual aesthetic style of play is never going to be competetive on the higher difficulties but I feel like it was especially hard in civ 5, which wants you to really commit to either going tall or wide. Also it's not that the social policies are so important as that I MUST COMPLETE THEM ALL. Admittedly this problem is with me, not the game.

And curse you Nelson for making me want to get sucked back into mefightclub. It sort of dropped off my radar when I got bored of Minecraft but y'all were (are still, presumably) a nice crowd.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:12 PM on March 4


I love Civ V, but it absolutely suffers from a number of problems. It's the most accessible major release in the series, which is good, but it has the design issue where the skills and strategies you internalize to get decent at it are in opposition to the ones you need in order to get really good at it, which kind of stratifies the community. The variance between different leaders is wildly uneven, like they didn't really know for sure what degree of difference and strategy they wanted until BNW was in development, but by then they couldn't just change everybody for whatever reason. Combat AI is too squishy, diplomatic AI is completely unreasonable. Warmonger penalties are currently off the charts, which sucks a bit of the fun out of things unless you're just going full-tilt domination and don't care.

But then it does some things so right! The hex-grid is objectively better, and while a lot of people are still nostalgic for their Stacks-o-doom, the one-unit-per-tile mechanic is superior as well, I'd say. The map is gorgeous and the flavor really enhances the civ's different personalities and quirks (try not to smile while fielding one of Assyria's Siege Towers, or Poland's Winged Hussars, for instance.)

Basically, Civ V is where I want the game to be going, but it's just not there yet, which is kind of to be expected with something this naturally evolving.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:16 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


This is why I've been less and less interested in each successive Civ game since Civ2. I play at relatively low difficulties as this zen-like affair where I slowly build up, conquer (almost) the whole world, and then optimize it. So preventing me from having a world-spanning empire of a grazillion cities is just mean.

It's fun if you're me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe 34 minutes ago [1 favorite +]


Eponysterical.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:46 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I really like Civ V but two things that are completely pointless and useless are city states and diplomacy.

Does "denouncing" even do anything? I've yet to see any effect, but then again, that's how denouncing works in the real world as well...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:47 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Here is a good place to point out a bug in the first Civ: if you kept clicking on an engineer to assign "Build Road", and then before hitting next turn, you clicked on the same engineer to assign "Build Road", it would accidentally take that as two turns of road building (or 3 if you did it three times, etc). You could thus build a road unit in one turn, instead of the normal 4 or 5. Take THAT computer opponent.
posted by mbatch at 5:06 PM on March 4


Pyrogenesis, it lowers other nations opinion of the denounced nation and is a fair indicator they're going to declare war soon, I think?
posted by Sebmojo at 5:21 PM on March 4


The strategic view is also a massive step forward for the series. I end up play 2/3 of my game in the strategic view.
posted by Justinian at 5:35 PM on March 4


I really like Civ V but two things that are completely pointless and useless are city states and diplomacy.

City states are awesome. I send scouts to find as many as possible and friend/ally all of the cultural states to boost the crap out of my culture production.
posted by octothorpe at 7:34 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Eponysterical.

Well, they don't let me play Azad any more.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 PM on March 4


(my sort-of-sibling taught it to me)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 PM on March 4


"I feel like I've stumbled in to an AA meeting here."

I bought the first Civ within the first month it shipped in 1991. I'd just started at St. John's College, though as an older, married student and at that time it was only a minority of students who had computers, and most were Mac users, so there were few of us with PCs. But I was friends with a few other PC folk.

Anyway, I had the canonical Civ experience — unboxed it, fired it up, and then somehow it was the next morning, I'd not slept, and I had to go to class. You can't miss classes at SJC, it's a seminar school and participation is essential. You miss more than a few classes, you get kicked out. So for a few days I'm stumbling into morning classes.

And then I introduce the game to one of my friends. The next day, he comes red-eyed into a class we had together, looking at me balefully. But also appreciatively. He couldn't decide to thank me or curse me.

For the next few weeks, this basically was the pattern as the game propagated through the PC-owning johhnie community. People would show up to class without having slept, complaining that playing Civilization was like some kind of addiction.

Pretty much in all my years of computer gaming, which goes all the way back to the beginning of personal computing in the 70s, there's been a number of examples of games that had this effect but by a big margin, Civilization was the strongest and most universal. Almost everyone I knew back around 1991-1993 who was introduced to Civ found themselves playing it for twelve hours or more on their first attempt.

That game, more than any other, awakened in me a layperson's interest in game design and it is probably because of it that I've followed the game development community for, gosh, more than twenty years. Not so much in the last ten, admittedly.

But my interest was piqued because I believed then, and still believe today, that Sid achieved the perfect learning/difficulty curve in computer gaming. Maybe the only thing close to it is Portal. Everything you needed to know at any given moment was available for you to learn, and you'd be ready to learn it, right then, but without being overwhelmed with choices or information. The game begins with a self-evident set of a few choices and you make one of them. None of them are terribly wrong in the sense that they make no sense or you are humiliated because it was not a good choice. Some of those choices are better than others, but you don't feel either that the game is too obvious and easy or too obscure and difficult — it just organically gets precisely as more difficult as it needs to be to stay interesting. And so, somehow, you find that you've just spent fourteen hours playing a game after first installing it. Even if that's not the sort of thing you're likely to do. Even if you've hardly ever played a computer game before.

The really neat thing about it is that it's not meaningless. Blizzard with World of Warcraft perfected the compulsive grind, the inability to walk away from the game in pretty much the same way that people can't walk away from a slot machine. But that's not satisfying, there's very little learning involved with that. The addictive casual games we see these days are usually just iterations of this grind, it's its own justification.

But Civ presented us with a real learning curve, an increasing level of complexity and difficulty that was, nevertheless, neither too difficult nor too easy for most people. When you finally did walk away from that first fourteen-hour period playing Civilization, you had learned a lot about how to play the game, about all the things that happen and that you need to worry about. And you'd built, well, a civilization. It wasn't meaningless and it was satisfying.

And it was almost universally acceptable and enjoyable, from die-hard gamers to people who'd never installed a game onto their PC.

Those of you who are too young to have been introduced to Civilization like this may not truly appreciate what an achievement it was in game design. It was, in its own way, an inflection point in the evolution of video games.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:21 AM on March 5 [21 favorites]


But Civ presented us with a real learning curve, an increasing level of complexity and difficulty that was, nevertheless, neither too difficult nor too easy for most people.

So I just downloaded and played the first few turns of the first Civ online for the first time in forever, and you couldn't be more right. The first screen once you start playing shows you all of the key elements of the game; terrain types, unit icons, menus and so on. And you start with a relatively simple set of decisions; build a city here or look around? Then, do you build a militia unit for defense, a settler to expand, or a barracks for future military use? Then, which of five basic technologies do you research? And at each step, both computer suggestions on what to do (with the great mechanic of multiple advisors suggesting different paths, providing hints on how to proceed given the open-world nature) and the amazing help system.

It is a bit of a stretch to say that I passed the first university course I ever took - a classics course on the history of technology - on the strength of my knowledge of the original Civ tech tree and those Civilopedia entries. But only a bit of a stretch.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:52 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Sid achieved the perfect learning/difficulty curve in computer gaming. Maybe the only thing close to it is Portal.

Portal has this puzzle where you put a portal high on a wall, another in the ground and then you jump into the second portal and clear a gap. I figured it out when I first saw it, (video) walkthroughs agree that's the solution, and yet every time I fall inches short. It is so annoying.

Warcraft II had a great difficulty curve. I remember wanting to play the campaign a second time with cheats and next thing I knew, I was preparing a naval invasion in the last stage. I had been engrossed and forgot to use cheats.
posted by ersatz at 4:06 AM on March 5


Well said, Ivan. The great thing about Civ is that it combines being accessible - you can hop right in there and start building granaries right away - with strategic depth. It reminds me of the old slogan for Othello: "Minutes to learn, a lifetime to master."
posted by Chrysostom at 6:03 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


> takes too long to play

Does anyone else start games later in history to fight this?

If you want a quick, easy game, try what I call an "InfoSprint." Start a game in the information age and go for a Science victory. Finishing the Rationalism tree gives you two techs, and one of the wonders (Hubble Space Telescope, I think) another two. I'm not that good but managed to win at even the Deity level; in a regular long game, King has me barely hanging on.
posted by msalt at 12:28 PM on March 5


Portal has this puzzle where you put a portal high on a wall, another in the ground and then you jump into the second portal and clear a gap. I figured it out when I first saw it, (video) walkthroughs agree that's the solution, and yet every time I fall inches short. It is so annoying.

If that's the puzzle I am thinking of, jump in the portal, pop out of the one on the wall, fall back into the portal in the ground, soar out of the high portal fast enough to cross the gap.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:32 PM on March 5


Oh man, I just remembered that I once confused the hell out of my eighth grade civics teacher by arguing in class that one of the advantages of real world communism is that corruption was flat across all the cities in a communist country.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:24 PM on March 5 [6 favorites]


I've never played Civ, but love other games in the genre. Assuming I don't want to shell out 50 bucks for Civ5, what's the best old Civ game to jump into? Civ II seems to get a lot of love here, as does Civ 4. Alpha Centauri also is available on GOG for 6 bucks, which is pretty tempting. (I've got nothing against blocky graphics if the gameplay is great) Any advice/opinions?
posted by chrisamiller at 8:57 PM on March 5


Civ 4 with all the expansions is one of the few games I'm still bound to play at LEAST once a week.

Alpha Centauri too, it's got a great mood and feel.
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on March 5


chrisamiller SMAC is a good option, but as noted above various combinations of Civ games go on sale on Steam quite frequently. If you go that route I'd go with civ 4 just for Leonard Nimoy's narration of the tech blurbs.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:41 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


chrisamiller: "I've never played Civ, but love other games in the genre. Assuming I don't want to shell out 50 bucks for Civ5, what's the best old Civ game to jump into? Civ II seems to get a lot of love here, as does Civ 4. Alpha Centauri also is available on GOG for 6 bucks, which is pretty tempting. (I've got nothing against blocky graphics if the gameplay is great) Any advice/opinions?"

I just paid like 7 bucks for the Sid Meier Humble Bundle. Haven't yet played it, since I really need a better computer first and I don't think they like Linux much.
posted by pwnguin at 7:44 PM on March 6


I'd probably play Civ V more often if it wasn't so damn buggy and slow. It takes forever to load on my computer and then hangs half the time before it's done loading.
posted by octothorpe at 10:03 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I actually like Civ3 the best, at least after I disable the city limit in the custom-rules thingy. It has strategic advances over Civ2, like zones of control and strategic resources, and it has more special tiles than Civ2, but it doesn't have the almost-annoyingly-large array of special tiles that 4/5 seem to have.

What I'd really like in Civ6 is a massive probabilistic tech tree. One where you can't choose what tech to research but what vague direction to go, sorta like SMAC, but where you might have a probability of radical early advances, sort of like the ancient Greeks developing steam power instead of "discovering" it as a toy. Most of the time things play along normally, sometimes you're annoyed that you can't seem to get the advance that you want, and every now and then the game hands you huge gift.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:00 AM on March 8


ROU_Xenophobe: “One where you can't choose what tech to research but what vague direction to go”
Wasn't there another game like this? Galactic Civilizations maybe?

Which, come to think of it, if you'd like a Civ type game with a space theme, you could do worse than Galactic Civilizations II. I note that GalCiv III is coming out Real Soon Now™.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:41 AM on March 9


So my spring break just started, so I finally bought Brave New World. Oh my God, if you didn't like Civ 5's cultural victory before you need to get it. And playing as Venice! Can't get settlers, but can bribe city-states to become puppets! Amazing. Not quite the wonderful border creep of old. But still great.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:39 AM on March 15


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