Sid Meier’s Civilization V is more addicting than crack. I am shocked, considering how over the years I’ve gradually lost interest in the strategy genre and didn’t think any game was going to pull me back. When Civ V caught my attention I wasn’t even sure I wanted to get it. I was on the fence until last Thursday evening when my husband called me on his way home from a business trip and asked if I could buy it for him off Steam. Boy, I love it when the tough decisions are made for me.
For a few nights straight, both of us sat enthralled at our computers after dinner playing the game, exchanging words only to share thoughts like “Cool, a Great General was born in my capital” or “Dammit, why is Augustus Caesar being such a dick?” Truthfully, I think a part of me already knew I was going to enjoy this game even before I installed it, probably while reading Anjin’s first Civ V post when it hit me just how much everything he described sounded like something I would like.
Anyway, what I’m writing now is not a review, but just an earnest testimonial expressing my appreciation for the game inspired by Anjin. His post also motivated me to have fun with my own game. Which is probably why after the tutorial, I thought it would be interesting to fore go war and instead try to win through “peaceful” means, like securing a cultural victory. I bumped the difficulty up a notch or two and started my game.
- The random selection handed me the Japanese. I began to build my empire right away, and dreamed of a future of policies, world wonders, and cities inhabited by a learned and sophisticated population. That all changed when I met Darius, leader of Persia, who immediately got on my case about building my cities too close to his empire. War was not in my best interest, so I put on my diplomatic hat and suggested a compromise: you stay away from me and I’ll stay away from you. The man refused, and I knew at that moment he was going to be a problem. You are going straight onto my shit list, Mister Darius.
- I admit I made some bad choices near the beginning. The progress was slow-going to say the least, but I stayed the course, until suddenly something inconceivable happened. Darius shows up on my doorstep again. And this time, he insults my kingdom to my face, implying that my people are a bunch of backward savages still knuckle-dragging and wallowing their way around mud huts. Right there and then, I resolved to give my life a new purpose – to become a royal pain in Darius’ ass. A cultural victory can wait, but right now I wasn’t going to rest until I annihilated him and his empire from the map.
- I realized then that I had a problem. All that time spent concentrating on cultural improvement meant that my empire was sorely lacking in the resources required to wage full-scale war. A shortage of iron, for example, prevented me from churning out those combat units. My attention turned to Montezuma, leader of the Atzec empire, who was my other neighbor on the continent we all shared. Monty had two things going for him — one, he was a lot more courteous than our friend Darius, and two, he had a lot of iron. The two of us had negotiated an open borders agreement a dozen or so turns back, so I decided to solidify our friendship with an offer of trade. Before long, I had all the iron I could ever want.
- With my new army, I made a clean sweep of the land, taking over every Persian city I came across. It was with much glee that I watched Darius squirm under my relentless attacks, begging me with offers of peace treaties. Too little, too late, Darius. Too little, too late. I watched his capital fall to my forces with satisfaction. The Persian civilization was no more, and the exultation of victory was made all the more sweeter when it was suddenly revealed that my people were the most literate in the world. Who’s uncultured now, huh, Darius? At least I have a culture.
- Something happened to me after that. I had my first taste of war and I found it suited me. I began to ask myself questions like, “Who are all these other idiots on my continent?” and “Why can’t I have it all?” I turned my baleful gaze upon Montezuma again, whose indirect help had led me to my victory against Persia. We still had an active trade agreement, but why let that get in the way of total domination? In short, I used Montezuma’s own iron to forge the swords and pikes that destroyed him. There’s a lesson to be learned somewhere in that, I’m sure.
- After I took over the Aztec, I went ahead and picked off the remaining independent city-states that still dotted my continent. My warmongering had not gone unnoticed, however. Around the world, other city-states were grumbling and proclaiming me as a menace that must be stopped at all costs. It only served to remind me that a whole other landmass existed somewhere out there, full of cities waiting to be conquered. My current empire wasn’t enough, I wanted more. Finally, on one fateful turn, I took some of my troops and loyal citizens across the ocean to explore a new world.
- Almost immediately, I met Napoleon of France. To my great chagrin, he had an empire that looked almost as big as mine. Declaring war on him before I’ve barely even made landfall was obviously a bad idea, so I struck a deal with him in exchange for open borders, so I could move around unrestricted. Along with this came a trade deal, allowing my citizens access to his bounty of luxury goods — gems for their jewelry, silk for their scarves, marble for their homes! Around my empire, my people rejoiced and celebrated “We Love The King!” Day in all the cities. Napoleon has done me a great favor in this regard, so I made a promise to myself to kill him last.
- As I made my way south, I encountered another great empire. Alexander of Greece came to greet me, but unfortunately he had no desirable luxury goods like the ones Napoleon offered, and we parted ways with only an open border agreement between us.
- I soon came to realize that France and Greece were the only two major civilizations on this continent. These two had probably been stepping on each others’ toes for a long, long time. A part of me knew it was only a matter of time before either of them would approach me for an alliance. Sure enough, both Napoleon and Alexander eventually offered to form pacts of secrecy against the other. I accepted Napoleon’s deal, partly because of my promise to kill him last, but also because Alexander had the smaller empire. Like forming an allegiance with the stronger contestants to gang up on the weak on Survivor, there was a strategic rationale behind my decision.
- The big day finally came. Napoleon declared war on Alexander, and we struck together. Napoleon came from the north while I steamrolled over the south, making quick work of Corinth, Athens, Knossos and Sparta. My priorities placed on war made for a pretty disgruntled population back at home, not to mention the hordes of unhappy citizens in the trail of occupied cities I left in my wake. While I waged my battles across the ocean, my cities back on the old continent worked hard at constructing “happy” buildings like circuses and theaters to raise morale. My people are mindless sheep, so of course it worked.
- At last, only Argos remained of Greece. I went in for the kill, but Napoleon beat me to it. Reluctantly, I let him take the Greek capital. After all, this minor victory was the least I could offer to my poor, clueless French ally before I swoop in to snatch his empire from under his feet. But first, my combat units needed time to recover and I had to oversee production in my collection of newly annexed and puppet cities. War with Napoleon was going to have to wait. Instead, troublemaker that I am, I decided to provoke France first by harassing the nearby city-state of Edinburgh, knowing full well that the two were friends. As expected, le petit caporal was not happy with me after that. I told him to stuff it.
- I descended upon France all at once, striking from all directions, by land and sea, with the goal of pushing myself into the interior of the empire where the French capital of Paris waited to be conquered. But there were a couple problems. First, Napoleon was no pushover. He probably had more combat units at his disposal than all my other opponents put together. Second, around the world my people were dying of starvation! I was so focused on the war effort, I had neglected the food shortage in my empire, especially in the older cities that had outgrown its food supply. With the raging famine and Napoleon killing so many of my combat units, there was a moment of real fear that I might actually lose.
- It was a struggle, but in the end I took Paris and won. I won’t go into the details; you all knew this was going to be a happy ending.
So, wow, what happened there? I started the game with the noble goal of winning a cultural victory, which got completely derailed even before the first couple dozen turns.
As you can probably tell, I had a lot of fun with Civ V. Despite that, I still have mixed feelings about the game. I’m certainly not afflicted with those urges to play it every single waking moment (like the ones you get with really great games), though once I sit down to it, I’m playing for hours. I need to play more to get a better feel for it, and start exploring other avenues now that my first game is out of my system. I certainly enjoyed myself though, and I can’t deny the pleasing satisfaction I derived from covering the entire map with my empire, tile by tile. I didn’t know I had that passion for battle in me.
I blame Darius.