back to article Sid Meier's Civilization

I remember 1991 starting on a sombre note, with my sister and I sitting in a bar doing shots under an Apocalypse Now poster waiting for the start of World War III, as we watched US bombers strafe Iraq. The end of civilisation? Well, not quite. Sid Meier's Civilization Civil engineering? Looking back on events of the time, …


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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge


    No mention of Freeciv?

    It is inspired by Civilisation and is multiplayer too.

    1. laird cummings


      FreeCiv is just... Not very polished, IME.

      Not worth it, frankly, when it's about an hours wages to buy the real thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        You are wrong!

        FreeCiv is the best and I've played all of them (Up to 4). The AI in freeciv is practically unbeatable, if you think it's not polished then you can change the "skin" and almost all game options are configurable through the server. You can actually play with identical rules of any of the other versions. The only thing that is missing is the palace building and that was kind of a pointless feature anyway.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        That may have been the case 10 years ago

        That was true 10 years ago when you could buy Loki (most of Civ addicts on Linux did). It is not true today - the only way to play it if you have a Linux desktop is to run freeciv.

        It is quite good too :)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Oh, the time I wasted on this game...

    I only 'discovered' the game in 1994, at the same time as having a dead-end job as an electrical draughtsman (I drew plug symbols on architectural drawings)

    Suffice to say, I spent 90% of my time at work playing Civilisation - and still managed to get my job done, it was so quiet.

    I had a second hand copy, missing the manual, so I had to 'guess' the inevitable question that popped up around about turn 3.

    I recall it being a deeply frustrating, but unbelievably addictive game.

    I never quite managed to finish it and launch a spaceship. I came close, but got wiped out in a nuclear holocaust.

    Probably the single most frustrating aspect was trying to placate the citizens - there was never any option to be an overbearing dictator and *still* succeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re: second hand copy

      I remember people playing this in the computer labs at uni without a manual. That anti-piracy question was easily answered when you could ask the person next to you to look up the answer in their civilopedia. Of course after a couple of weeks everyone just knew the tech without having to look it up.

    2. Yag

      Oh, the time I STILL waste on this game...

      Well... not really. But at least on its successors. One of my favorite is Call To Power II actually :)

  3. Kevoc
    Thumb Up

    Ah yes. I remember the days. And nights. And days...

    How much of my life did I sink into this game? Probably more than I did playing Doom, Doom2 and Descent combined.

    Undemanding hardware requirements and a small footprint meant that I could play this (almost) anywhere. I'd start a game on a Saturday afternoon and still be playing the same game on Sunday morning. Just one more turn...

    I still dig it out from time to time and it still sucks me in.

    I was never a big fan of Civ 2 (hey, lets do multi media!). I loved Civ 3 and 4 though and had many sleepless nights playing Alpha Centauri. Haven't bought Civ 5 (don't like the rule changes).

    A true classic.

    1. I understand now

      civ 4 was hard work

      Civ 5 seems to be simplified down. I find it more enjoyable than Civ 4 which i felt got a bit too labour-intensive to enjoy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Opposite here

        Civ 5 was too simplified for my tastes.

        They really ballsed up the 1 unit per hex thing and all the economic knockons form that decision.

      2. laird cummings


        I like the details - allows me to really fine-tune my Civ - What's my mood today? Do I want to stomp everyone down, or do I want to thumb my nose at them from outer space? Or maybe I feel like making the world bow before the awesomeness that is my Civ...

        Simplified usually means loss of detail, and that's not so cool.

    2. CD001

      Civ V

      TBH the combat overhaul is Civ 5 is the best thing to happen to the series since... well, ever. It's FAR more tactical now than it ever was - you no longer just create an enormous stack and go yomping but create a mix of long and short range units and use terrain (such as hills - or even mountains once you've got helicopter gunships) to your advantage. That, in itself, makes Civ 5 probably my favourite Civ game yet (and I've been playing it since the first version on an Amiga A500+).

      As an added bonus, the annoying espionage system from Civ 4 has been dropped.

      There are a few things I miss from Civ 4 however:

      1: The United Nations Resolutions - the UN is now just a crappy win mode for whoever bribes the most city states.

      2: Actual benefits from researching "Future Tech" - at the very least I'd love it to up the happiness of your civilisation slightly; the global happiness thing in Civ 5 gets a bit naff at the end-game when you've got lots of huge cities - you have to adopt some very weird cultural policies just to keep your civilisation happy; e.g. Honor (the "early game" combat policy) to get the happiness bonus from each "city wall" upgrade (walls, castles and so on).

      3: Religions - they're just not in Civ 5 at all, which is a bit of a shame because they worked well in Civ 4.

      4: Different leaders with different bonuses per-Civ; just one leader per Civ atm and therefore one set of predefined bonuses per Civ.

      ... still, many of the big changes in Civ 4 that made it the Civ 4 we all knew and loved came in with the 2 expansion packs. The way things are going with Civ 5 there'll not be any expansion packs just a continual trickle of DLC which may eventually rectify any/all of these little gripes *shrugs*

    3. Goat Jam

      Civ 2

      Was that the one that was not done by Sid Meier? I recall one of them was done by Activison (I think) without input from Sid. It had a lot of flashy multimedia crap but didn't play like Civ should.

      As for Civ 1, I wasted months on that. Being an Aussie, I felt that what the game really needed was an Aussie Empire, so I attacked civ.exe (or whatever it was called) with a hex editor and converted one of the existing civs to Australian by editing all the names!

      Happy days.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Wow, what memories!

    I lost my first year at uni (90-91) to Tetris and my final year (93-94) to Civ and Doom. I didn't enjoy the course, but I can't deny the detrimental effect of these games had on my final degree classification...!

    I knew I'd been up far too long when I started to consider the horrible effects of using nukes on another civilisation.

  5. Tom 38

    Civ 2 is the best civ imo

    I still play it today - just the right level of graphics and gameplay. Runs a bit slow once you have an uber empire, but its so much better than 3,4 or 5. Alpha Centauri is also good, but I get fed up constantly having to redesign units when you discover new tech..

    1. laird cummings

      Advisor of Elvis

      The advisors in Civ II crack me up to this day - that's the one feature I'd absolutely love to see resurrected in newer editions.

      Oh, the 'nuke' animation was pretty cool, too - But secondary to the advisors.

  6. Graham Bartlett

    Missed it first time around

    Then got seriously hooked on C-Evo in about 2000-2001. Spun up FreeCiv last year for fun, and quickly realised why C-Evo took the ruleset in different directions! That said, I do wish C-Evo had kept the ability to reclaim sea tiles - seems a fairly basic thing to have left out. (C-Evo FAQ says that this is unrealistic, to which I can only say "Holland!")

  7. MikeyD85
    Thumb Up

    Explore the World

    Conquer my enemies and build a castle, like a boss.

  8. Julian C
    Thumb Up

    That's gameplay for you

    What this 20 year long franchise proves is that you can;t beat good gameplay, and I still remember the first week I lost to this game on my Commodore Amiga.

    Yes the latest version has fancy 3d animated scenery and units, but at the heart of it is the same basic, addictive, one-more-turn, play it in many different styles, as big or as small as you want it... gameplay.

    You can take all your first-person shooters, Real Time Strategy (I still grate my teeth at the contradiction in that phrase) and waving your hands around in the air modern stuff - just give me another 20 years of Civilisation with carefully evolved tweaks to gameplay and I'll happily pop my mortal coil then!

  9. Ralthor


    ... happy memories... picked up a friends ipad last weekend to discover the origonal Civ on it.. played for a few turns. Half an hour later he demanded its return. Still addictive. :)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Ahhh .... Civilization. How much do I love thee?

    I remember playing a hooky copy of this (on two floppies, no less) when I was at university. Between this, Wolfenstein and Doom I shudder to think how much time was wasted during the first year of my PhD :-) I think it's largely because of the original Civilization that most of the games I play nowadays are either turn-based or real-time strategy games.

    Unusually for sequels, the follow-on Civ games (and Alpha Centauri) were just as good, with the notable exception of Civ5, which turned out to be an absolute dog.

    Nuke, 'cos that's what I always aim for when I'm playing Civ4 :-)

    1. CD001


      The very first UN Treaty I enact in Civ 4 is ALWAYS the Non-proliferation treaty, without fail - the global warming effects are just a pain in the arse once you've got some nice huge cities going.

      Civ 5 has NO global warming, NO non-proliferation treaty and NO SDI Defence, in theory, if you love nuking people then Civ 5 should be _more_ your game than Civ 4... personally I hated nukes in Civ 4 because of the global warming ... Civ 5, I will often have a nuclear submarine, loaded up with tactical nukes, lurking around in an ocean somewhere :)

      Plus, Civ 5 also has GIANT DEATH ROBOTS! :D

    2. BoldMan

      Find the French civ and Nuke it

      Wasn't that the whole point of the game?

      1. asdf

        always wondered

        I always wondered why their flag wasn't just solid white to save time.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Civ 5 is the best so far

      What's wrong with Civ5? It's bloody amazing. So polished in every way and builds upon the greatness of the previous games.

      Civ 3 was the dog - it was just a chore to play. A different team created it and Sid Meier wasn't involved, which is why Alpha Centauri was a better game. I couldn't get into the Alpha Centauri that much though because it just wasn't Civ. Thankfully normal service was resumed for Civ 4.

    4. laird cummings

      The warm glow...

      ...of nuclear decay!

      A good 'nuke the whole world' ending is quite fun. Especially when you've stockpiled enough to blast every remaining foreign city two or three times in a row...

  11. Greg J Preece

    This game is my cocaine

    I love Civilization with a passion. I have lost large sections of my life to it. It's the only strategy game I've ever really gotten into, and the complexity of the gameplay still astounds me. Seriously addictive, too.

    I bought the Civilization Chronicles boxset in my last year of University. I immediately gave it to a friend and said "under no circumstances are you to return this to me until after my exams." I knew what would happen if I were allowed to open it. It's just that addictive, and the only reason I kinda understand WoW gamers.

  12. tony72
    Thumb Up

    Great series

    I remember getting a pirate copy of Civ for my Amiga back in the day. I guess this is a case of piracy leading to purchases, because I went on to buy Civ II, III Conquests, IV, and V (bought Civ V just recently on Steam, but haven't downloaded it yet). I never got on with IV, but I still play III - for some reason it just never gets old.

  13. Jolyon

    I love SMAC

    So called because that's how addictive it is, I presume.

    As we can't really include Master of Magic then Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri still for me the best of these - terrible graphics engine crippled PCs at the time but now it flies along.

    Only game that comes close to taking as much of my time as this series of games would be Championship Manager.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm one

    I'm one of those weirdos who fell for Call to Power 2, every Civ game since has been sadly lacking lawyers, corporate branches and a decent combat system. With the never ending irritation of watching your hard built tanks dissappear one after another against a fortified defender, There are only 4 of them, send all the tanks at once damn you!

    >.> as to Civ 5, why the hell did they remove zones of control? I mean seriously you add what makes it a potentially interesting war game (no stacking) and then make it pointless by removing zones of control so the horse/wheels walk around your infantry and kills your artillery o.O

    1. Nick Thompson

      Zones of control exist

      Zones of Control

      Combat units exert a “Zone of Control” (ZOC) over the tiles around them. When a unit moves

      between two tiles within an enemy’s ZOC it expends all of its MPs.

      From the Civ V manual page 53.

      I've never had much trouble using this to prevent people taking out my artillery, you just need to make sure you have enough units (or the terrain is such) that they cannot flank you.

  15. Red Bren

    If you got a degree in the 90s

    Then you didn't spend enough time playing Civ!

    If they port freeciv to android, I'm going to lose my job and my marriage!

  16. Andy Farley
    Thumb Up

    The daddy.

    I always got to the point where I was searching for the last enemy city, then built the Apollo wonder to show me the world and found it hidden away in some previously explored niche.

    I borrowed it off a mate and it was my first genuine play through the night and phone in sick game. Sit back, realise your back is killing and your eyes are gritty, check the time and realise you're not going to be much use for the rest of the day. Good job we had youth on our side.

    The fun you can have with chariot spamming. The joy the first time an enemy city defected. The WTF?! when yours did.

    Amazing game.

    Here’s hoping you can cover CM:BO next time.

  17. Armando 123
    Thumb Up

    Love this!

    We still play Civ at the house; the boys are addicted to it (and now they're interested in history). My wife, who was a history major, thought it was silly until she tried it, after hearing the rest of us talking about it. Now she's hooked, badly. We might need an intervention.

    I still think my favorite Civ moment came when I was playing Civ II and changed governments, causing anarchy. The "advisors" wanted to talk to me, and, well, search on youtube for this if you haven't seen it.

    1. Goat Jam


      Search youtube for what exactly?

      1. Armando 123


        for the civ ii advisors under anarchy. Sorry, seemed obvious to me.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Classic and still modern!

    Very nice game indeed. One aspect I liked as well was that while playing you actually got a rough taste of common civilizations too.

    I never did care for the sequels because I don't think you should try to change a good formula (to me it all looks like "the quest for more money") but when a revamped version of the old classic was released for my PS3 I immediately grabbed it.

    A little dumbed down but still a brilliant game IMO.

  19. geekclick

    My Amiga rocked.. the beat of Civiliation.

    Didnt realise it could be found on the fondle slab, @Ralthor my wife will not thank you for this :)

  20. Tom 13

    I enjoyed many a Civ 1 and Civ 2 games.

    I didn't play on the tough levels. For Civ 1 I always played the Aztecs on the Earth globe, and smashed DC before they were able to build their first military unit. Then I happily colonized all of the Western hemisphere only having to worry about barbarians. When it came time to move into Africa or Europe, I sent my diplomats to buy them out.

    In Civ 2 I found I could play the Americans in a similar fashion. And it always amused me to complete the pyramids in DC.

    Later versions broke those strategies and I found them too war centric.

  21. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Absolutely fantastic classic

    Had this on the Amiga. Every win would just make me want to go for an even better win. Another of the big culprits (and probably the biggest) of my playing-till-dawn sessions. How many times have I said to myself those famous last words:

    "OK, just one more turn"

  22. Gary B.


    Why are so many people ragging on Civ5? Yes, it does change a lot of the rules, but that really just means you can't use the same strategies you used in Civ4 and below, which is partly the point of the redesign of the rules. Civ4 was really just Civ3 with newer graphics and a few added rules on top, but you could still pretty much use the same strategy. I find Civ5 forces the player to consider other options than just going for straight military dominance.

    1. laird cummings
      Big Brother

      Military isn't always the name of the game

      Playing Civ IV, I most often win by either cultural domination - Simply economically and socially out-expanding my opponents - or by Dimplomacy. After all, if you're well on the way to a dominance victory, you already 'wag the UN' and it's easy enough to bribe for the fill-in votes needed.

      Next most common is Space Race, and only after that comes the 'sudden surge of hostilities' leading to a domination win.

      I save the 'nuke 'em 'til they glow, then use 'em for disco lights' endings for days when I'm feeling perticularly cranky and irritable - Nothing like a little maniacal giggling to improve one's mood.

  23. Salamamba
    Thumb Up

    CivNet & CtP

    noteable absent from comments so far: CivNet & Call to Power.

    Civnet - we played multiple networked games on the Uni comps - with the first player to finish starting the countdown to next turn - giving a premium to the agility of a small empire.

    CtP - great concepts, still more advanced than Civ5 in some ways, but let down by gameplay. I still look at it sometimes and think, if only...

  24. redhunter

    "Just one more turn"

    This phrase could be trademarked by Sid Meier. I can't think of how many times I said to myself "just one more turn and then I'll go to bed" only to realize it was already getting light outside. In retrospect, I probably had one less child with my wife due to this game.

  25. Rich Woods
    Thumb Up

    Just one more turn...

    I was unfamiliar with the time '4am' until this game came into my life.

  26. Craig Vaughton
    Thumb Up

    Sleep Thief.

    How to kill time and not realise it?

    "Just one more turn...", "I'll just capture that city and I've wiped out the Indians..." Then with a peek out of the window of the room where the PC was it still looked dark, trip across the landing to the bathroom before bedtime and you wonder what that dim light is that's starting to break through the frosted glass, that would be the SUN!

    Oops, another grouchy day at work after <4 hours sleep.

    It was a slippery slope after Civilisation: Railroad Tycoon, Command and Conquer, Alpha Centauri all conspired to deprive me of sleep.

    Excellent game and now I feel really old as my son is playing Civ IV.

  27. Diginerd
    Thumb Up

    Loses it's charm abruptly...

    This brings back memories, awaesom game and truly addictive.

    Having played for hours every day over a couple of months (Uni Student + summer break + no commitments = bliss), I reached the point where I struggling to find a way to improve my best score.

    Then it happened... Got into fight with the (soon-to-be-ex) girlfriend, and next game went on a global rampage that would have made the real Mr Khan giggle like a scoolgirl. When I'd wiped out the last competing nation the game ended and I had beaten my previous high score by a factor of 5, and the game only lasted 2-3 hours.

    Once the penny dropped that the utopian dream Sid Meyer was pushing didn't jive with the rewards of being a brutal dictator I got bored pretty quickly.

    Was fun until then!

  28. I Like Heckling Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Serriously addictive

    I discovered a demo of the game on a PC magazine freebie disc in 92, and bought the game so I could play it on a computer at work out of hours.

    I've never been so addicted to a game series, and I've bought them all... playing Civ V right now, even tried the knock off clones like call to power 1 & 2, tried Alpha Centauri but didn't enjoy it as much.

    The down side is losing so much time on the game... I remember waking up one Sunday morning, making a cup of tea and sitting down to play the newly released Civ III, and then realising that it was 12hrs later and I'd not showered, eaten or moved from my chair at all... and there was a cold cup of tea still sat on the desk. That's a little scary, and so I now limit myself to sessions no more than a couple of hours long... which means playing a marathon game from start to finish can take a couple of weeks.

    Can't wait for Civ 6 in about 3-4yrs time.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Seems to be theme here, but I remember firing up Civilisation for Windows on an old 486 laptop I picked up for throwing together essays at university in the early 2000s. (To think what a 6 year old laptop nowadays could do!)

    Was hooked on it, though it wasn't as detrimental to my degree classification as the chep ale. (sic)

  30. K.o.R

    A classic which I no longer possess.

    My first PC came with this in the form of CivNET - basically the same game with the graphics tweaked a bit, no copy protection quiz, CD music, and the option for network (on Windows 95? Hah!) play. I foolishly gave it away with said PC.

    I would (probably) give a small kingdom if someone put the CD tracks up for download (I seem to recall the English theme was a variation of Mouret's "Rondeau").

  31. Sean Baggaley 1

    "Civilization completely kickstarted the turn-based strategy ... genre"

    No it didn't.

    Either that or I was hallucinating in the 1980s while playing Rebelstar Raiders and Laser Squad on the ZX Spectrum. These were far more accessible TBS games, and a lot of fun. Games like Civilization required masses of spare time to play, which—contrary to popular belief—many gamers didn't have.

    It's also worth considering that the "IBM compatible PC" didn't really catch on as a gaming machine in Europe until the appearance of games like "Doom". During the early '90s, most of the attention of European games developers was focussed on the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST (and the SNES and Sega Megadrive.) PCs were for offices.

  32. blearrgh

    Play as the Russians

    ... used to get two settler units at the start every now and again.

    I'm still amazed that I got my university degree whilst playing this. I remember wiping out most of a study vacation on it.

    You could also get into the files and change the opening text from that sombre creed they used while the game set up. That was fun for a few minutes.

  33. Mr Floppy

    Civ 2 was the easiest to cheat with

    You could just edit the files as they were just text. Defeats the purpose of the game unless you want to totally dominate and place partisans to besiege all the other cities. It also helps you settle in the artic tundras.

  34. Ben Rosenthal

    your fault

    Going to hunt down my Civ 2 disk when I get home, and it's all your fault!

  35. Graham Bartlett

    @Red Bren

    Hey, I got a degree in the 90s! It was Doom that nearly stopped me, though. (That and playing guitar.)

  36. pear

    Fun with civ

    I used to play this when i was 7 :D

    I loved changing the text files so that my demands were more brutal!

  37. John Gamble

    Will No One Think of the Settlers?

    I'm really surprised no one has mentioned the "super settlers" cheat in Civ 1. It made up for the AI doing things like taking over a city in one turn and building a Wonder of the World the next turn. That was a frustrating tactic, I'll tell you.

    In Civ 1, I usually played the Babylonians, and usually wound up in a nuke-happy war with the Egyptians after eliminating the other countries.

    I'm not sure why people complained about the change in game-play in Civ 5, *every* version of Civilization changed the game play - I couldn't cause revolts in Civ 3 as I could in Civ 2 (a major part of my strategy), but economic strategies worked much better anyway, and so on. As far as I can tell, the whole point of a new version of Civilization was to upset the strategy you became accustomed to.

  38. Evoflash
    Thumb Up

    Playability at it's very best

    Still worth a visit now and then.

    I put it right up there with Unreal Tournament as one of the most playable games of all time.

  39. Raphael
    Thumb Up

    Spent many an hour

    playing this, Infact I was just playing Civ IV yesterday. And did the whole "one more turn" thing until 3am.

    The Colonization series also isn't bad, but could do with allowing you more turns.

    (And FreeCol is heaps better than FreeCiv).

    DosDOX for Android should allow the older versions to run on my tablet......hmmmmmmm

  40. Darren Barratt
    Thumb Up

    CIV5. It's a bit of a grower

    Been playing since CIV1 (in fact, Mr Meier owes me a degree!), but have got to say that CIV5 is the best since the first one.

    Didn't like it when I first started playing, but stuck with it, and what first appeared to be a slow moving game relieved itself as depth. Much more tactical than previous versions.

    To make it perfect, they need to add the landscape deformation of Alpha Centauri and planet buster bombs.

  41. Jim 59


    If the 1991 Iraq invasion felt like "the start of World War III", I guess you are lucky enough not to remember the USSR under Brezhnev circa 1980, Greenham Common, CND, "Protect and Survive", "Threads" ...shudder.

    "...completely kickstarted the turn-based strategy (TBS) game genre". - Former players of Lasersquad , Rebelstar etc might have a different view. Good article though.

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