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For those of you who don’t know, Civilization is a turn-based strategy game where you must strategically place cities and grow your civilization faster than your rival countries. The faster you develop your sciences and military, the quicker you’ll advance to high powered technology and weaponry. Obviously, the civilization with the advanced technology will eventually overpower all other nations and take over the world.
Or will they? That is the beauty of this “civilization simulator.” Is it possible to build a civilization that advances beyond all other civilization, but instead of world conquest, lives by a rule of peace and cooperation? Or can you develop a successful civilization that exists in seclusion on a large island somewhere?
Why Playing Civilization Should Be Free
The Civilization game series has developed a massive cult following. In fact, the ability to simulate political and military scenarios is considered, by many, as a true test of a person’s leadership ability and a geographic test about how the layout of land and resources can dramatically impact a country’s prosperity.
A few years ago, during a move to another state, I lost my Civilization CD. I never bothered to invest in purchasing the game again, but I’ve always missed it. Maybe you never bought the game but have always wondered if you’d like it? Well, I for one, was very pleased to stumble across a fantastic open-source version of the game called FreeCiv. The motto on the first launch page of this app is “Cause Civilization Should be Free!”
One reason that I usually avoid open-source games is because most of the time the graphics are horrid. However, the first thing you’ll notice about FreeCiv is that the graphics aren’t bad at all – which you’ll notice right from the start page itself. This is where you can choose to start a fresh game.
Game options to choose from include starting with a random land layout, opting for a pre-created “scenario game” global layout, or connecting to an ongoing network game. As far as I can see, there aren’t usually many Internet games usually available, but in the network game area you can hook up with a friend and play the game together (and try to wipe out the other’s civilization!)
When you first launch the game, you can configure how many opponents you have and how “intelligent” they are. This configures the difficulty of play. You can set the game to use the ruleset of either Civ1 or Civ2 as well. One thing you’ll notice in this version that you obviously won’t see in the commercial version of CIV is the script scrolling at the bottom of the screen, giving you a window to the workings of the program.
Once you’re in the game, the game settings really let you configure gameplay significantly. Change the overall size of the world map, the types of tiles throughout the world, and the military, sociological, economic and scientific behaviors and settings for your society as you play the game. I honestly do not remember the commercial version of the game being quite as customizable as this.
Being able to alter gameplay to this extent really makes it fun to experiment with different types of world and social configurations. Should your society be very angry when there are many military forces within city borders? How much should the population decrease after an attack? How hot or cold is the planet? All of these things that will alter the flow of the game and population growth can be altered.
Set up your country, leader and civilization style. Each country has a list of potential leader names based on their histories. Although, you can select any city style regardless. Choose from a modern nation, or pick from a medieval or ancient civilization. There are a lot of fun choices here.
Once you get started, the display is much like it was for Civ1 and Civ2. You start on a lit tile with the entire darkened world around you, ready to be explored, discovered and settled. On the left side of the screen you’ll see a small map of the entire world, under which you’ll find your civilization’s stats such as population, the current year, your gold levels and current tax information.
Beneath this is where you’ll find the status of the currently selected worker, explorer or other character. You start out with an explorer, a couple of workers and a couple of caravans. Split up or stick together, but your first order of business is to find a location that looks promising and settle so that your civilization can start to grow.
Moving characters is really simple. You can use the keyboard arrow keys, but the easier and faster option is just to click on the character with your left mouse button and then drag the mouse so that the target is over the location where you want the selected item to go. This makes it easy to move items that travel a long distance, like a caravan or an explorer, without the need to count how many moves are left on the current turn. On each turn, the character will move the max number of tiles it can until it gets to your selected target.
When you do start growing your cities, you’ll find that the city view is just as informative (if not more informative) than those on the commercial version. One thing I never liked when I originally played CIV were the symbols packed onto the map and onto the status screen. You had to estimate the values that those stacked symbols represented. Not in this version of the game. Here, you’ll see the colored information overlaid on top of the map, and the city information laid out in cold, hard numbers.
Whenever you click on a city, you’ll find all of the information about production of resources, happiness levels and more. City improvements are easy to see on the first screen in the right status box. As your worker or traveler is walking across the countryside, if you click on the “Work” selection from the menu bar, you’ll see all of the actions available for that worker type.
For example, in this case the worker is on a tile that only allows for a road or a mine, so these are the only options available. On tiles with a stream, you may be able to build irrigation, and on almost every tile you can create roads for easier travel.
As you play the game, you will come across other civilizations. This is where you direct the fate of your own civilization and that of the entire world. Will it be one of peace or war? Will your exploits be those of conquest or friendship with all other civilizations you come across? The diplomacy screen is where these peace treaties or war is made.
On the research screen, you’ll find the current selection and status of your technological research. You’ll see the number of turns it takes to complete research, and the number of turns left. Research really provides the driving force behind what your long term plans are. If you’re interested in war, you’ll follow the paths starting with the Warrior Code or Bronze Working, and then work relentlessly through the research paths for the most powerful and dangerous military weapons.
If you seek peace and happiness, you’ll focus on the paths of educational, religion and knowledge that furthers that happiness of a civilization.
If you’ve ever played the earlier Civilization series of games, you’ll love FreeCiv. All of the graphics are of high enough quality to easily compete with those early CIV games. I know I greatly enjoyed Civilization years ago, and I missed playing it – so in writing this article I played this free version for many hours…what fun!
Try FreeCiv for yourself and let us know what you think! Do you know of other great free strategy games? Share your insight in the comments section below.