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my kingdom for a kingdom
adventures with civilization iii
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)
pop culture

What keeps me here? Love, I guess. Fascination. In a way, ego. But mostly, it's a pure and simple addiction, a total absorption in a world of my own creation. My despotism. My empire. My brave new world.

I need help.

I am playing Civilization.

A video game.

I am twenty-nine years old. I have a master's degree. I am a woman. I am a white-collar professional with a sizable income, a nine-person staff, an apartment, an IRA. I don't fit the profile.

And yet here I am, toting around my laptop so that every available moment -- lunch hours, evenings, weekends -- can be filled to the brim with a video game.

A. Video. Game.

How did this happen?

To be fair, it's not exactly like I'm hooked on Grand Theft Auto, or Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, or BMX XXX. I barely know video games exist. They crop up from time to time in the back of my Entertainment Weekly, or during "Buffy" commercial breaks, or as lousy movies featuring third-rate "stars" like Milla Jovovich. I do recognize, of course, that there are people obsessed with video games. It's an active and vibrant culture... of acne-pocked 16-year-old boys gumming up their keyboards in their parents' basements.

Not me. Oh, no, never me.

At least, never before I was introduced to the world of turn-based strategy game play. I picked it up thirdhand, as my boyfriend learned the habit over my uncle's shoulder at, of all places, my grandmother's house. And now I scream at the Persians because they manage to found a city on the last open spot on the continent one turn before my settler would have arrived on that spot. F@&#% Xerxes!

Basically, Civilization is a hopped-up, graphics-rich, impossibly intricate version of the board game Risk. You are the leader (Elizabeth, Mao, Lincoln) of one of 16 civilizations (the English, the Chinese, the Americans). You start out with a few specialized units -- a Settler, a Worker, and sometimes a Scout -- on a dark map, and as you move around, the world gradually reveals itself. You find mountains, deserts, jungles, oceans. With your Settler you can build cities, and the cities then can produce more units (Warriors, Spearmen) or other features (Walls, Harbors.) You decide where to put the cities and what they build. But they can only build one thing at a time, so you have to decide -- do you want to build military units to defend and/or attack, settlers to go off and found more cities, workers to make the land more productive through irrigation and mining, or temples, which will expand your borders? Do you want to dedicate a city to the production of a Great Wonder, like the Oracle or the Pyramids, which will give the city certain advantages and also increase the cultural status of your whole civilization? You can't do everything at once.

(Oh, and all the units in play are fully animated, so when you assign a Worker to build a road, you actually see tiny clumps of dirt flying off his tiny shovel. Horses gallop across the map, victorious Spearmen celebrate, Scouts drink from an itty-bitty canteen. The fine details caused one observer of an Archer vs. Warrior battle to cry out, "What part of 'I'm Shooting You In The Head With An Arrow' don't you understand!?!?")

As the game progresses, your Civilization advances. You decide how much of your money goes to scientific research, and as you advance, your cities can build new and different items. In the beginning, they're simple. Horseback Riding allows you to build Horsemen. But as the years go on, they mean much more. Whoever discovers Gunpowder first can build an army of Musketmen for a big battlefield advantage. Interestingly, the discovery of Fission allows you to build two Wonders -- the Manhattan Project and the United Nations.

Does it sound complex? It is and it isn't. And I think that's what's so addictive. As your world begins, you're making these choices about one or two cities. You'll never want to send a Settler out without an armed escort, and you'll always want to build Temples early on to expand your borders. Depending on the size of the world you choose and how long you survive, your empire could stretch to over 30 cities on several different continents, and just keeping track of where you left that damn Bomber is hard enough. Just as you get one problem under control, another crops up. You discover a new island -- and in the time it takes to sail back to the mainland and manufacture a Settler, the French beat you to the punch. You're two rounds from finishing Sun Tzu's Art of War -- and the Babylonians finish it first. Everything's going along swimmingly when, out of nowhere, the Germans attack.

Some Civilizations (like those pesky Germans) tend to be more violent than others, as do some players. But destroying your enemies isn't the only way to come out on top. You can also win by taking over a certain percentage of the world's territory, or by getting elected the Secretary General of the United Nations, or by building and launching a spaceship to Alpha Centauri. But winning isn't the goal for me. I often quit a game long before a winner is declared. (Games start in 4000 B.C. and can run until 2050 A.D.) It's not whether I win or lose. It's how I play the game.

I am Xerxes. I am Gandhi. I am Shaka. I am Saint Joan, Queen Elizabeth, and Shogun Tokugawa.

The promotional video included in my $40 "Game of the Year" Civ III set refers to the game as "immersive." Addictive, of course, is what they really mean. The developer hosting the video happily gloats that "You'll curse our names, and say, 'You've ruined my life -- again!'" (It is, after all, Civ III.)

Well, my life's not ruined, but I sure didn't get much done last weekend. The only reason I'm wearing clothes right now is that it's possible to play Civilization and do laundry at the same time.

So what is it about this game that turns my Saturday afternoons from pleasant reading time to Let's-Kill-the-Zulu time? I think it's the combination of deep thought and total mindlessness. To put it another way, I have to make a thousand decisions, but not one of them truly matters. During my Christmas week vacation, I explained to my mother that a ten-hour stretch at Civilization was a huge relief from workplace stress because "I have no responsibility to anyone... except, of course, the Egyptian people." And in Civilization, unlike the real world, you make all the decisions for your country, and war is a game you can win.

I'd write more, but I have to get back to 1345. My neighbor Alexander demands tribute in the form of incense, a possibly hostile Aztec galley has pulled into the coastal waters off New York, and Washington has shut down in civil disorder only two rounds away from finishing The Hanging Gardens.

Abraham Lincoln is on the job.


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


six wrongs, half a dozen rights
taking a look at pop culture hindsight
by jael mchenry
topic: pop culture
published: 9.3.08

why hannibal lecter can't lick pikachu
or, when harry met jar-jar
by jael mchenry
topic: pop culture
published: 8.4.00


jack bradley
2.5.03 @ 12:58a

"I have no responsibility to anyone... except, of course, the Egyptian people."

This line alone makes me want to lift my moratorium on all video games in our home. My personality is too addictive and my time too dear for me to entertain another hobby. (Watching five seasons of Buffy in 4 months nearly caused both a divorce and an emerging life form to discover fire behind the toilet in the upstairs bathroom.)

Must...resist...siren... call...

robert melos
2.5.03 @ 1:50a

I often have those afternoons of "let's-kill-the-Zulu." I'm going to have to get a computer game and see how it works on there.

Seriously, compared to the many other addictions out there, this one is only mildly harmful. As a child, before the advent of laptops, I used to be consumed by books. I read constantly, in my every spare moment. My parents, and even my teachers thought of it as addictive. I say, as long as you get your work done, and don't do it while driving, go for it.

brian anderson
2.5.03 @ 8:35a

But you can read while driving.

Or, for that matter, read and play Civ.

Personally, I like to choose one of the scientifically-minded cultures, run my research budget into the ground, and create a cultural hegemony over all my neighbors. It makes me feel so ... American.

trey askew
2.5.03 @ 8:42a

Definitely feeling ya Jael. Although my attention span is way to short for the turn based games. But GTA: Vice City is well worth it should you get the chance! Oh, and Tetris....the whole reason I bought a gameboy right there!

juli mccarthy
2.5.03 @ 9:07a

Tetris and Boggle and FreeCell. Those are the only computer games I even know how to play, and they take up enough of my time as it is.

My daughter, on the other hand, has been known to hole up in her bedroom for several hours at a time playing Sims and Zoo Tycoon. This makes for interesting dinner conversations: "Mom, I built a monkey cage today and the tigers got in and ate my monkeys!"

jeremy mullis
2.5.03 @ 9:21a

I was addicted to the first CIV. My friends and family had to have an intervention. I can't imagine how into it I would get with the new graphics and such.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 9:23a

Juli, both Tetris and FreeCell were the baby steps that landed me in this mess. Because they require a little strategy. I'm afraid I'd never come out of my house again if I bought Zoo Tycoon.

joe procopio
2.5.03 @ 9:40a

You should see my anti-video game wife freak out over Halo. I can't get her to play anything else though. As long as there's guns and monsters, she's in.

I got into the Sims for a few weeks, but I also don't have the patience. I need guns and/or trash talk (football).

As I wrote back in May, when that new Star Wars online multiplayer deal comes out, a certain portion of the population will just disappear completely.

erik myers
2.5.03 @ 9:47a

But we won't miss that portion of the population that much.

Civ, to me, feels like a big cultural chess. Especially because I'm to the point now where I can get it going on my computer and actually walk away while things are happening and go back in 5 or 10 minutes to do a couple of more turns.

'Course.. these are big honkin' 10-nation games. The computer turns get excrutiatingly long.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 9:58a

Erik, I've been playing more tiny-world games for that reason. Just to get through turns in a reasonable amount of time. Also, after I get to the point where I'm not afraid of anyone attacking me (on Chieftain level, naturally) I turn off the animation of everyone else's units and the turns go faster.

sarah ficke
2.5.03 @ 10:17a

I too have become addicted to Civ. I've only played it twice, mind you, but I think about it much much more often. It puts me in a quandery. See, part of me says that every minute I play Civ. is a minute I could spend writing or doing something more worthwhile with my time. Of course, I may not, but I could.

And at the moment, the question is: do I take my laptop with me on the train this weekend and immerse myself in Civ. or do I leave it at home in hopes that it will force me to do something else?

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 10:22a

"The point where I'm not afraid of anyone attacking me?" HA! When your best trade partner, with whom you've gone to war against the Aztecs, decides to stab you in the back, you learn there's no such point! Alexander was foolish, declaring war because of some mutual protection pact, but not actually attacking. Within six turns, Greece was remanded to the history books.

Why do I love it? Because it's a game to exercise mental dexterity, not just how fast you can mash your thumb on a button, or how many codes you can enter on your controller. You can't memorize a pattern and expect to reach the next level. It's me vs. the world, and sometimes even vs. my own citizenry. But when the cheers roar, and "We Love The Saint" day is declared, and a new wing is added to my palace, I feel like I've accomplished something. Certainly I've achieved more than just getting the nail gun or rescuing the princess.

steven goldman
2.5.03 @ 10:25a

The 13-year-old inside still drools at the prospect of owning GTA: Vice City and GTA3. It's completely without merit...but it's also fun as hell to take out frustrations with the city by carjacking, pulling off hits and sabotage for the mob, and generally causing mayhem via the cheat codes.

The Grand Theft Auto games are the total antithesis of the Civ games, Jael. Avoid them unless you can laugh at beating up old ladies and giggle at the prospect of driving a tank through city streets.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 10:32a

Russ -- what level are you playing on? And are you perhaps a little bitter at this whole turncoat affair? I'm just guessing.

My palaces are funky. I always combine all 5 types of architecture, so it's some kind of Partha-cath-pago-Itza affair. With caryatids.

sarah ficke
2.5.03 @ 10:35a

I used to laugh at the old Carmageddon where you could run over cows and football players.


I wish I still owned that.

I've found that playing Civ. makes me think more about history. Not necessarily in a more intellingent way, but when I was reading a book about the kings and queens of England I found myself picturing a Civ. map with little troops and armadas moving on the screen. And I noticed that the same things they did to piss of the French made the Japanese irritated with me in the first game I played.

trey askew
2.5.03 @ 10:37a

Steven, if carjacking some speedo wearing punk out of his convertible and cruising to pick up your money from the strip club you own while listening to Flock of Seagulls is wrong...I don't wanna be right!

erik myers
2.5.03 @ 10:38a

See, I enjoy having the long turns. It feels more like a game of chess. I can see what the enemy is doing, I can plot my moves. I can go do the dishes while the pitiful Greeks are trying to send settlers across my land. When I get back, I sit down, do a sweep of my (vast) territory to see what's been going on and then play through 100 years or so, get up and do something else.

I've now, on the easiest level, won at least once, every type of victory in the game. The conquest victory felt really good, though. Nothing like rolling tanks through Aztec lands in the middle of the 1700's while they're sitting on horseback saying, "What is that?"

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 10:51a

Sarah - I have some of the same reaction. Not necessarily that it makes me think about history, but world affairs. For example, if I can't trust my neighbors, I have to spend a lot of time cranking out Pikemen in case they attack me, but if I know they're going to stay on their side of the line, I can focus on churning out J.S. Bach's Cathedral.

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 11:08a

Jael -- Bitter? Nah. Frankly, I knew the day would come, once Alex went from "gracious" to "annoyed" in the space of one turn. That's why all my border cities had been building Mech. Inf. for twenty years.

True fact: In prerelease versions of Civ3, one of the technologies that could be built was "Biological Warfare." The developers took it out post-9/11. Nuclear weapons (tactical and strategic) remain, though I've yet to play a game where another nation used them.

steven goldman
2.5.03 @ 11:18a

Trey: right on, brotha. (I suspect we're the minority around here.)

sarah ficke
2.5.03 @ 11:19a

My problem with Civ. is that I get bored shortly after I hit the industrial revolution. I'm fine up until my boats become ironclads and my cities build smokestacks, then I lose interest.

tracey kelley
2.5.03 @ 11:19a

I'm with Jack: I so don't need to see this game. My inherent addictive personality would freebase this, I just know it.

Nope. Nuh-uh. Not gonna do it.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 11:25a

Russ - what I don't understand is how Shaka can be "polite" and still declare war on me, unprovoked. I'd appreciate a yellow light at least. This is my least favorite thing about Warlord level. I can hand out incense and dyes and gems until my face turns blue, but the militaristic societies (at least the Germans, Russians, and Zulu) will inevitably send the troops in.

You know what else annoys me? Automated workers walking onto someone else's land and a pissed-off Caesar popping up to ask me "Why the troop build-up near Veii?" They're not troops and they're not building up. I wish the AI could tell the difference.

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 11:28a

What are we going to do tomorrow night, Jael?
The same thing we do every night,: try to take over the world!

sarah ficke
2.5.03 @ 11:29a

Is that why that happens? I always wondered, as I said politely "No, we'll move" which troops they were, since I didn't have a moving horseman for miles.

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 11:35a

Oh, the AI has come a long way just from Civ2 to Civ3. I appreciate the fact that you no longer have to set up trade routes between your own cities, f'r instance, or fly your planes back to base after a mission. (I had a habit of running out of fuel and SPLASH! went my stealth bombers...)

But yes, in some areas, common sense takes a nosedive. When another nation's city expands its influence, and my worker (in no man's land) gets caught in the new borders...before it's even my turn...and then out comes His Bitchiness, Mr. Gandhi.

But more grating are the combat losses -- tanks destroyed by riflemen... bombing runs and naval bombardments which achieve nothing. WTF?!

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 11:40a

What really chafes is the logic behind development. If I've progressed in technology to the point where I'm building Aegis-class cruisers and modern armor, why do my cities default back to producing swordsmen? If one city is overcrowded, and another is sparsely populated, why can't citizens be relocated? If I take over another city, couldn't I capture it with its infrastructure intact, instead of being reduced to Granary and Barracks? I mean, really -- if it's 2003, it shouldn't take 50 years to build a library.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 11:46a

Bombardment is useless. Catapults, artillery - they fail half the time and haven't got the range to be useful.

Relocating citizens would be awesome. Especially because my automated workers inevitably irrigate instead of building mines when they have the choice, so if I'm not paying attention, I have cities that grow to 6 before they're even halfway done with the Temple that would a) expand their borders and b) make them happy.

heather millen
2.5.03 @ 11:53a

OH NO! They've got you too. I'm you before this sad and uncontrollable addiction. I just don't get it. But this column made it sound pretty damn cool.

Especially the part about your responsiblity to the Egyptians. Classic.

matt morin
2.5.03 @ 11:59a

I think this discussion thread is proof you've all gone insane.

erik myers
2.5.03 @ 12:09p

I mean, really -- if it's 2003, it shouldn't take 50 years to build a library.

That's one of my big problems with the game. By the time the late 90's are coming around I'm generally conquering one culture or another, and when I get their cities unless they had over a 12 for population I get a granary and a barracks. Their population skyrockets once my automated workers move in and give them traintracks and irrigation overnight, but it takes them 50 years to build a temple so the city is not going to be worth anything to me that late in the game.

When I went for my conquest victory I razed any city that didn't have at least 10 population when I was moving in.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 12:59p

Matt, I'd bet you anything you'd be just as addicted as the rest of us if you tried it. It really appeals to analytical and competitive personalities. Plus, the more free time you have, the more it eats up.

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 5:04p

That's the inherent danger, though. You find yourself making free time to play. The hours in which you did productive things, such as eat...and sleep... are suddenly lost to demands of state. Since the Civ3 screen slyly covers the desktop of my computer, I can't see the little clock in my menu bar until I quit playing. Kinda like the way there are no clocks or windows inside casinos, so you can't tell how long you've been gambling. And then you save and quit for the night, the screen clears, and the clock glows in scornful accusation: It's 2 a.m., Mr. President.

erik myers
2.5.03 @ 5:30p

The thing about saving and quitting, though. One of the reasons that it's so sneaky.. is that unless you have everything completely automated, there's never a point at which you say, "Oh, my turn's over. This is a good time so save my game and quit."

Notice also, that after you save your game, the option to quit isn't handy. You have to go looking for it, again.

Oh.. they have this soul-sucking thing down.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 5:44p

And it asks you "Are you sure you want to quit?" in a dialog box titled "Oh No!"

One more turn syndrome is killing me.

I'm just starting a new game right now. I hate it when some good Civ gets a continent all to themselves while I have to scrape out half an island. So I (Elizabeth) finally got a toehold on the Roman continent... and they went from Polite to Cautious, asked me for a map I then immediately gave them, and declared war on me without even waiting another turn.

I'm starting over as Cleopatra. Religious and Industrious are a powerful combination.

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 5:45p

I'm trying to learn the habit of saving just prior to a significant strategic move -- such as changing governments or initiating a war. That's the benefit to a game over real life: when you screw up, you can go back and do it over again. Though in truth, when I go back and try again, the computer is waiting for me with an wholly original way to cause me to fail.

russ carr
2.5.03 @ 5:50p

There isn't a lot of grey area in the choices given to you: "Remove your forces at once or declare WAR!" "You're right, sir! They are SCUM and we should destroy them!" You're frequently reduced to a choice between milquetoast and rabid grizzly.

jael mchenry
2.5.03 @ 6:06p

I do try to save before I declare war... but when the other guy declares war, it's already too late.

I keep thinking I'm going to go back and try again with saved games, but I've very rarely done it. The exploration and settling phase is my favorite part of the game, so those last, oh, 1500 years can sometimes lose their charm.

david damsker
2.5.03 @ 6:24p

I sit in front of a computer alot during the course of a workday. Then, I come home at night and am on again for personal stuff. The last thing I need is a gosh-darn game to keep me on the computer even more than I am now. I'm starting to develop pains in my right elbow. I imagine society will become more and more dependent on computers, to the point that EVERYTHING will be done on them. (My elbow dreads the future)

mike julianelle
2.5.03 @ 9:57p


robert melos
2.5.03 @ 10:39p

After reading this discussion revolving around games where you get attacked, the people you trust stab you in the back, and basically you're in charge of building things up while struggling against others, it all sounds too much like what I deal with every day at work, in the real world, in real estate.

Although, I'm with Trey and Steven on Vice City, and that's only after hearing the description of the game. Also Trey's statement is so funny, you just know I'm gonna be looking for this game.

And Juli, does the zoo game have graphics of the monkey being eaten? I might opt in for that one as well.

jael mchenry
2.6.03 @ 12:27p

It is an awful lot like life. But you can quit, walk away, cheat, and/or start over without any repercussions.

I may have played up the negative aspects, too. Russ mentioned the positive ones, like the rush that comes when your cities start celebrating "We Love the King Day." Another favorite feature: build two cities on either side of a weak foreign city, build Temples and Libraries and other things that increase your culture, and eventually the residents of that city will revolt against their own civ and join yours. It's awesome.

russ carr
2.6.03 @ 12:28p

Jael -- you mentioned above, how the "polite" Zulu can just up and attack for no particular reason? I just came from CNN's website, having read yet another account of North Korea's arrogant posturing, and I can't help but draw a parallel. North Korea is like (pick your Civ) the country that drives its tanks or marches its horsemen up and down your territory, occasionally wandering in for no particular reason. When you ask them to kindly return to their territory, they declare war...not because of anything you've done to provoke them, but because they were looking for the first available reason.

So here we are, in the real world, telling North Korea, "Look, we'll talk to you. Let's work this out diplomatically." But they drive their tanks and rattle their sabers and yell, "No, the U.S. wants to invade! We will give you war! Nyah, nyah! We fart in your general direction!" They are the mosquito in the giant's ear.

After a few turns of that, I generally get pissed off enough that I do invade, and I don't stop 'til I've assimilated their whole nation. The Civ3 A.I. has at least one thing right -- the arrogance of nations knows no limits.

sarah ficke
2.6.03 @ 12:51p

According to Yahoo news, the U.N. is planning economic sanctions against North Korea. Somehow, I don't think that will help matters.

heather millen
2.6.03 @ 1:13p

I would now like to reiterate my desire to band forces with Jael to take over and rule the world.

It appears she's had adequate training.

russ carr
2.6.03 @ 1:16p

Hey, how'd this turn into my column's discussion?

There's a certain smug satisfaction, when you've played Civ3 to the end of competition (2050) and you see the bruised and bandaged visage of your chief rival. There's nothing quite like giving a tyrant the smackdown.

jael mchenry
2.6.03 @ 1:20p

When you win a Conquest Victory, your face is smiling, and everyone else's is bruised and bloody. When you win a Diplomatic Victory, everyone's face has lipstick kisses all over it.

Here endeth the lesson.

robert melos
2.6.03 @ 10:47p

It is an awful lot like life. But you can quit, walk away, cheat, and/or start over without any repercussions. -- jael mchenry

I think you're almost ready to become a real estate investor. Just take the "but" out of the above quote. The without repercussions part is debatable.

You do realize I'm already addicted to Intrepid Media. I don't know if I'll have time for another addiction, but I am starting to casually browse some of those electronics stores in the mall.

jael mchenry
2.11.03 @ 11:56a

It's a stunning amount of fun for $40.

Now that they know what I'm doing with my laptop here in my office til 9pm, my coworkers have threatened an intervention. We'll see how that goes.

Hammurabi is kicking some ass on an island-packed world at the moment. I've upgraded from tiny worlds to small, and boy is it a big jump. I did hop back down to Chieftain level, as I got tired of the French declaring war on me constantly for no reason.

erik myers
2.11.03 @ 12:47p

That's what the French do.

sarah ficke
2.11.03 @ 1:08p

Americans too.

I was going to play Civ. to pass the time on my 6 hour train trip, but the electricity on the train kept shorting out, causing me to lose my game just as I was about to found a city or discover something.

d b
2.11.03 @ 2:46p

Uh ohhhh ... as a longtime Civ II addict, everyone's descriptions of III are making me drool. It's probably for the best that I haven't gotten around to getting a new computer yet - my old one is too decrepit to run Civ III ...

I've always won by getting to space, rather than by world conquest ... but I remember starting a game shortly after 9/11 and rather bloodthirstily taking over the entire Roman empire on a rather flimsy excuse. Damn, did that feel good. (Of course the key to keeping the war going was overthrowing my government and re-installing a monarchy, so my Senate couldn't mess around signing treaties behind my back. Et tu, Dick Cheney?)

Regarding Russ' comment that he hasn't seen nukes used in a game, I am curious if anyone else has - I've had it done to my cities several times in Civ II (and have to admit, I've retaliated). I also played a game once where I failed to stop global warming (basically half the squares turned into swamp or jungle and cities started starving).

jael mchenry
2.12.03 @ 1:59p

Global warming has only affected me when other people don't clean up their pollution. I pop out enough workers to generally keep it under control. And with railroads they can always get there instantly.

I lost the Babylonian game, after building the United Nations, calling for a Secretary General vote, and then losing in a landslide to Joan of Arc. Apparently the only way to thwart the French is to be the French.

scott macmillan
2.13.03 @ 11:45a

Hi all. Just as a note - Erik, I hate you and Brian both for finally tricking me onto Intrepid with a Civ3 discussion. :)

Been a Civ addict since the very beginning, from Civ1 on up. I don't remember having seen nukes used in Civ3 yet, but my current game may tell the tale. 1930 on Regent on a huge map, and my Babylonian empire has just gone on a rampage through the neighboring Persian kingdom. I utterly -loathe- the Persians. They are finks of the highest magnitude.

Anyway - one reason the AI will attack you for no apparent reason is that you don't have a large enough army. The AI can scent weakness, and if you don't have a large enough standing army, the more aggressive personalities will try to take what they can. I think that if you go with 2-3 unit per city, you should be relatively safe. Check that military advisor and if he says you're less than average against some of the other civs, you may be headed for trouble.

erik myers
2.13.03 @ 11:57a


[rubs hands together]

My influence grows, just like my cultural borders.

Just wanted to note that I've used nukes in Civ3, but I haven't seen other Civs use them. I haven't even seen other Civs be strong enough to build them. By the time that I start making nukes the other civilizations are just churning out their first tanks (if they're lucky). It would take them so long to build a nuke that they'd be a smoking crater before they'd get a chance to use them.

However, my spies have never reported any of their cities building nukes, so it's a moot point.

jael mchenry
2.13.03 @ 12:02p

Every time I try to plant spies, they get caught. What's up with that? Do the other Civs have to be "gracious" and therefore not paying attention?

Scott - I definitely have 2-3 per city, but not my best units (Spearmen instead of Musketmen, for example.) Do you upgrade units or leave old ones in place?

russ carr
2.13.03 @ 1:51p

Upgrade like a mofo. It's far easier to spend 20-30 pieces of gold to make the shift to infantry, f'r instance. You spent good shields to make those units; don't leave them to become obsolete.

More gripes against the AI: After I get gunpowder, it'd be nice if archaic units would be struck from the list of buildable stuff. I don't want some upstart city reverting to Swordsman when I'm building Modern Armor already.

sarah ficke
2.13.03 @ 2:50p

Heh heh heh. Welcome, Scott.

I'm a firm believer in upgrading. And I find that if I don't keep an eye on it, I'll accidentally leave a warrior in place in a city to be annihilated by some infantry.

scott macmillan
2.13.03 @ 4:26p

Hey Sarah. :)

Armies - I may be out of date with my 2-3 army estimate, Jael. Definitely compare your army to your opponents' ones. Even w/o a spy, your advisor will still tell you the relative strength of yours vs. theirs. I upgrade hardcore once I get to gunpowder weapons since the defense value goes up so much higher. If the AI has already done that sort of an upgrade, it might be magnifying the problem since it does pay attention to quality as well as quantity of troops.

Russ: I know that some units stay on until you are able to build the next unit of that "type". I'll see archaic catapults if I'm missing saltpeter and can't build cannons.

Upgrading: I tend to vary between using money or makign more troops for upgrades - I find that once I've hit the industrial revolution and I want to go to Infantry, the cost can be 80-120 per guy, versus having my factory cities just start pumping them out. Guess it depends on what you have more of. :)

erik myers
2.13.03 @ 5:31p

I know what Russ is saying, though. I've got cities that have both Modern Armor and Swordsmen on their lists of things to build. I think it has something to do with the fact that Swordsmen are non-upgradeable. They are the archetype of their warrior-type. Heh.

Maybe it's something that's fixed in the expansion pack?

scott macmillan
2.14.03 @ 10:30a

Oh! You're right. I have PTW, and in it most of those units have an upgrade path to Guerilla. Not really useful if you're pushing the envelope, but it does mean that if you're willing to throw a chunk of money at the problem, you can turn all those medieval infantry into Che-esque 6/6's. Viva la revolution.

jael mchenry
2.14.03 @ 3:55p

Oh, man, Play the World is the last thing I need. I can barely decide between the 16 Civs I already have, let alone the Celts or the Carthaginians.

erik myers
2.15.03 @ 10:08a

Ah, but if we all get PTW, then we can all play together.

[rubs hands together, again]

Then I can crush you all.

jael mchenry
2.19.03 @ 3:21p

Bring it.

jael mchenry
3.26.03 @ 12:11p

Okay. I've mostly broken the habit, but I tried something last night and it was insanely successful. I built no settlers, no temples, no workers, no nothing except Jaguar Warriors, Spearmen, Swordsmen, and Horsemen. (And of course Barracks.) I then set about killing everyone else on the map.

I nearly doubled my existing high score.


russ carr
3.26.03 @ 12:32p

So you only obtained cities by conquering them? (I'm reading no settlers = no new cities.)

I passed along my copy of Civ2 to a friend last week, and he played for the first time last night. In 3/5 hours, he "adopted a highly aggressive militaristic posture, exterminated one
civilization (the Gandhi-led Indians), pushed the Persians to the brink of
extermination, and crammed them and the Sioux onto a small island together."

Civilization. It should really be called "Imperalism."

jael mchenry
3.26.03 @ 1:14p

Yep. I did actually build one city, before I successfully forced myself to avoid such things. Other than that, the Japanese were living in Zimbabwe and Bapedi, Paris and Tours, and after I discovered Map Making, all over Babylon. I had plenty of captured workers to build roads and cut forests.

Bad side effect: eventually I had to turn off my science research completely, because I didn't have much money, and eventually had to convert several cities to produce wealth to keep from going bankrupt. My army cost too much.

Wasn't there a Sid Meier game of colonizing America, and it didn't do well because you had to kill off all the natives to succeed?

jael mchenry
5.19.03 @ 5:13p

Oh, crap. There's a new expansion pack.

russ carr
5.19.03 @ 5:34p

Oooh. "Bombard the enemy and leave behind craters." Me like. Of course the port to Mac probably won't be out 'til 2008. I do like the addition of real-world challenges (eg: volcanoes). They need to work with those bright folks that brought us SimCity to work on those Acts of God type things. As it is, geography and nature don't play enough into the game.

RE: "Islamic Sultanate." I can see it now: "Paris celebrates We Love The Mullah Day!" Any of your civ's spies could be assigned the task of "Suicide Bomber," reducing population by 1 and Happiness by 2...

erik myers
5.19.03 @ 6:33p

Sweeeeet. Oh, I can see time flying down the drain.


jael mchenry
5.20.03 @ 9:39a

Volcanoes sound pretty cool. It's too bad the luxuries aren't more complex; having tobacco make your people happy but slowly kill them off would be great. And you could choose to trade it to the enemy instead of using it yourself, and give them all lung cancer.

russ carr
5.20.03 @ 10:40a

Climate should figure in better as well...something more than mere global warming. With relevant Small Wonders to offset. "Empress, Green Bay has built The Packers" gets you increased resources from all land squares considered tundra within your territory...

jael mchenry
5.21.03 @ 5:59p

Ohh, it gets better and better: application to beta-test Conquests.

russ carr
5.21.03 @ 6:04p

grr. Infogrames, which made the Mac port of Civ3, was bought by Atari, which then spun the MacSoft division off to a new company. I've been e-mailing back and forth for a couple of days with a tech guy for Atari, and he says it's a good thing for Mac users. I hope so.

don brenner
2.13.04 @ 3:58p

Try the new modes posted at the Civ Fanatic site..31 civs for ONE game. I write this because I need help..Ive now missed 4 days of work and am only down to 29 civs, I havent seen my son or wife in 2 days and gosh the dog looks hungry...arrrghhhhhh here come the HUNS with GUNS!! darn these pikeman

jack bradley
2.14.04 @ 1:19a

I think Don ( ^ ) is one of those guys we were worried about, Jael.

erik myers
2.19.04 @ 8:36p

I'm sure this is common knowledge somewhere, but I just found it for the first time:

I'm playing as the Ottomans right now. And you know how when the game runs out of city names it starts putting New in front of the ones you already had? Well, I just flipped into that and instead of New Instanbul it came up with Not Constantinople. It just made me smile.

russ carr
2.19.04 @ 9:31p

Oh, that rocks. For similar easter-eggy reasons: Never Ever Ever put a nuclear reactor in a town called Chernobyl. The game knows.

erik myers
2.19.04 @ 10:22p

That's hilarious!

You just had to tempt fate, eh?

russ carr
2.19.04 @ 10:46p

No, no...I just read about that one.

jael mchenry
2.20.04 @ 10:49a

If you play in Regicide mode, every civilization has a king. On Elvis' birthday, they all turn into Elvii.

Of, for, and by the geeks.

dave holland
2.29.04 @ 10:48p

I'm sure glad I stumbled across this discussion. It's encouraging to find out that I am not the only intelligent, educated (kinda scary how those two words don't always belong together) mature adult who spends insane amounts of time trying to lead the Persians to world dominance.

If you want to test your patience, try playing a European power in the Test of Time scenario with all 31 civs. You start with neighboring capitals within 4 or 5 spaces.

Gotta go, I have some Koreans to kill.

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