News for October 2010
Pinkies Out! 11
A look at culture in Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game
Civilization | Published 14 October 2010

by Kevin Wilson

One of the truly revolutionary elements of Sid Meier’s Civilization is that you don’t have to play the game as a warmonger if you don’t want to. Many computer games depict violent activities. Civilization is unusual in that it gives you several peaceful alternatives to conquering your neighbors. Those alternatives include perhaps my favorite strategy in Civilization – culture.

A cultural victory represents making your civilization so enlightened and wonderful that other civilizations have no option but to acknowledge it as the greatest civilization in the world, forever cementing its place in history. Personally, I really like the idea of creating this utopia of art and science through my benevolent rulership.

Like tech, this was another place during the design process where I wanted to choose the most elegant model available. Rather than having to keep your people happy, accumulating culture simply makes your civilization better off, and if you accumulate enough culture, you win the game.

However, while tech came together very quickly for me, culture was a struggle for much of the early design process. I tested out at least five different major mechanics for it. I had the idea that I wanted culture to work like a victory point track, but in a more interesting fashion. What I finally picked was the current incarnation of the culture track.


The Culture Track from the game board.
Click the above image for an expanded view.

The track is divided into three sections. In order to advance a space along the track, a player must spend the resources shown above that section. For instance, to advance into a space in the first section, it costs a player 3 culture. To advance into a space in the second section, it costs a player 5 culture and 3 trade (we’ll take a look at how you acquire each of these resources in future previews, but suffice it to say, these costs provide compelling strategic decisions). Originally, it was a flat 5 culture to advance into each space, but I found through testing that the track worked better if it followed the growth curve of the game more closely. Anyhow, when you enter a space, you receive the reward shown in that space (either a culture event card or a great person), and if you reach the end of the track, you win.

So, what’s a culture event, you ask? Well, there are three decks of cards that correspond to the three sections of the culture track. Each deck has a mix of various action cards that can help a player out in a variety of ways. The first deck has the weakest events, while the third deck has the most powerful effects. Here are a few examples from the first (least powerful) deck:

And below you can see how events grow more powerful from one deck to the next. Here are three levels of similar cards (note the icon at the bottom of each card indicating which deck it’s from):

The culture events were a nice place to include events that I wanted players to be able to do sporadically (such as trading techs or killing figures without a fight) rather than all the time. When even Germany had a tendency to acquire a couple of culture event cards during the game, I knew I had that part of the design right where I wanted it.

As for the great people, I wanted them to be simple without ruling out the possibility of doing something more complicated with them later on, so I designed them to operate like a really good building that could be moved around sometimes. And while we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of resources next time, this list of the various great people should start to give you an inkling of what they’re good for.

The final major element of Civilization that is tied to culture is one of the most iconic parts of the computer games – wonders. Wonders are constructed like buildings from a shared market, and many wonders can be built for a discounted cost if the player building it knows a particular tech. Each wonder consists of a token to show where it is on the map and a card which has a special ability, such as the Hanging Gardens (below).

There are ancient, medieval, and modern wonders in the deck. All of the ancient wonders appear on the market first, then the medieval wonders, and finally the modern wonders. Ancient wonders are the weakest and least expensive, and they can be obsoleted through the use of certain techs by other players. An obsoleted wonder loses its special ability. Medieval wonders are more powerful, but can still be obsoleted by one higher level tech. Modern wonders, on the other hand, have the strongest abilities and cannot be obsoleted at all. Once modern wonders start showing up, the game is drawing to an end, one way or another. To allow you to compare a few wonders, here’s one from each era:


So, as you can see, culture in Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game offers a variety of options for a savvy player to take advantage of. If you choose to specialize in culture, I can promise that you won’t regret it. Pinkies out, ladies!

Designed by Kevin Wilson, Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game is inspired by the legendary computer game series created by Sid Meier. 2-4 players take on the roles of famous leaders in charge of historical civilizations, each with his or her own abilities. Players explore a module game board, build cities and buildings, fight battles, research powerful technology, and attract great people by advancing their culture. Choose your path to glory!

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Comments (11)

Marcwolf
Published: 1/18/2011 8:47:47 AM
#11

 What techs can  a play use to obsolete another player's Wonder?

waso
Published: 11/2/2010 8:06:25 AM
#10

Dude!!!
I love the Civilization games and seeing what's all included in this thing makes me want to droooooool! I can't wait!

Nephrinn
Published: 10/15/2010 11:11:28 AM
#9

FYI, the artwork is taken from Civ5 the PC game.

captainflakk
Published: 10/15/2010 9:02:50 AM
#8

Drool!  I can't wait to try this out.

fatolaf
Published: 10/15/2010 7:30:56 AM
#7

If this is even 5% as addictive as the PC games, then its going to be great..

Agree, the card artowrk is very good, but then again this is what I expect from FFG

alansa
Published: 10/15/2010 5:05:14 AM
#6

 awesome art!

Aquahog
Published: 10/15/2010 2:24:08 AM
#5

Looking forward to this. 

sepayne7l
Published: 10/14/2010 3:21:19 PM
#4

Also, 5-star vote for the Spongebob reference in the title.

allenkwest
Published: 10/14/2010 2:29:26 PM
#3

This game keeps getting more thrilling with each preview. You've already sold me on this game, so these are putting more sprinkles on top.

ffgfan
Published: 10/14/2010 1:19:25 PM
#2

Ok, this looks like a very intersting title. I like the arts on cards.

paradiddlebob
Published: 10/14/2010 12:49:27 PM
#1

 Yay, a game my wife will enjoy!

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