Getting Civilized

A Civ VI map
An example of a cluttered Civ VI map.
When I was in college, a friend of mine introduced me to a video game named Civilization. It blew my mind.

My computer was bare bones. I didn’t have a CD-ROM drive, or even a sound card 1, but Civ installed via floppy disk and didn’t need a sound card for the presentation to work. It was just pure awesome. Players began a single settler on a mostly darkened map, and proceed to found a civilization which progresses through the ages.

We spent hours playing, and then when Civilization 2 came out my friend and I migrated to that. Civ players have a mantra which identifies devotees, “Just one more turn.” And that was true as we stayed up until the early morning hours shepherding our civilization through it’s latest trials.

I mostly moved away from the series after Civilization 2, and thought my days of playing the full version of Civilization had ended. I enjoyed playing a lite version, Civilization: Revolution, on my iPad – and thought it would have to do.

Until this Christmas, that is.

When making out a “wish list” for Christmas I saw that the Nintendo Switch had a version of Civilization VI for the console. I added it to the list, not thinking much about it, but was delighted to find a family member had picked it up for me. And then I went on to the iOS app store and found the iPad version on sale for $14.99 through January 3! So in a day I went from not playing “full” Civilization, to being able to play the game on two separate platforms. It took a while to get used to the expanded game mechanics, and I’m still adapting to the new play style, but I am every bit as hooked as I was back in the early days of the series.

What I Like

If Civilization 2, which was the high point of my Civilization experience, had one knock it was that the game eventually devolved into little more than all-out war. Conquering the world could be satisfying, but by the end of each game process became repetitive, “Produce units, move units, attack until you can’t.” Civilization: Revolution suffers from the same problem.

Civilization VI takes on elements from across the series and gives players multiple ways to take the world stage. Players can make a superior culture by encouraging tourism, take the ideological edge by evangelizing their civilization’s religion, or take part in the space race. I’ve yet to explore the game play mechanics of religion and tourism, but my brief exposure has left me intrigued by the possibilities.

All out wars of conquest, a staple in earlier versions of the series, are next to impossible to wage. It idea of War itself is much different in the game. Conflicts seem to be more localized, and the front shifts in a more realistic way. This sense is created by an inability to stack units. In earlier Civilization games, one would simply create a massive amount of super offensive or defensive units, and stack them all together on the same game space. From there an enemy could be stopped by superior defensive units, or pounded into submission by an endless stream of offensive units traveling along the same path. In Civ VI this is impossible. Units can’t be stacked, and so both offensive and defense wars require a great amount of strategy. Not only to do city centers have to be protected, but also any improvements which surround the center. It’s a fundamental shift in the way the game works, and makes war a dangerous option, rather than a brainless inevitability.

What I don’t like

My biggest knock on the game is how cluttered the map becomes as the game progresses. City improvements, districts, and even Wonders fill every hex of the map, often with defending units super-imposed in the same space. While this shows how development changes the natural world, and is something every main Civilization game has had from the beginning, Civ VI’s map clutter becomes so overwhelming I have sometimes had trouble finding what I’m looking for.

Two other minor dings on the game are the slowness with which cities tend to grow, and the speed of the AI moves once a player says their turn is complete. Neither of these is intolerable, but there are points where it can make the game feel as though it were dragging.

My Conclusion

I’ve been sucked in to the world of Civilization once more. “Just one more turn,” has come back.


  1. The early 90’s was the dark ages for PC Compatibles. Kids, ask your parents. 

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