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Mark Thomason
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Okay, so a brief review of the game. I'm going to differ a little from the popular view, because quite frankly, I find this game to be underrated in general.

For those unfamiliar with the game, it was developed by a few of the members of the team working on Civilization IV computer games, and was loosely based on the computer game. Civilization IV is one of the more complex computer games out there, so obviously it's pared down to the essentials.

The game to date was only produced as part of a collection of computer games as an additional bonus for those of us buying the set. As it happened, I'm not sure if it didn't sell as well as they expected or what, but 1/2 Price Books and other stores ended up selling it after the first year or so for around $25 US, which included this game, complete versions of the previous versions of the computer game, and the base version (without expanstions) of Civ IV.

Personally, I already owned all these computer games, but after purchasing the pack for a couple of friends, I got to play the card game. Having played the game a couple of times, I went back and got myself a copy, because for $25 I'll buy the card game without any of the rest of the stuff.

Anyway, on with the game. There are two groups of cards; one type which are slightly larger than a standard deck of playing cards which form your hand, and another smaller set which are used more like tiles. A regular game-publishing house would probably have made these more like cardboard tiles, but for a budget game it's a workable design.

The smaller, tile-like cards, come in several varieties. First, you'll start with plots of land. Each player (2-4 players) gets 4 plots of land set out in front of them, of varying terrain. Each type of terrain gives 2 resources per turn, and there are three types of resources: Production, Food, and Commerce. (This is very similar to the design of the computer game.) Different terrain give different types of resource: Mountains give you 2 production, for instance, while Coast gives you 2 commerce (for the funds your citizens can bring via trade with other peoples). Rivers give you 1 commerce and 1 food, and so on. The goal of the players is to use the resources that your nation provides you to grow that nation and develop the plots of land to give you more resources, which you use to grow in other ways.

Each resource relates to a particular aspect of the game. For starters, food is what you need to grow your population. You spend a growing number of food to add population to your plots. Population cards (small, tile-like cards in their own pile) are played on (in a column or row with) territories. You start with one population, which you assign to any one of your plots. That population adds one resource of the type on the plot. So a population on a Mountain would give you 1 extra Production (total of 3 for that plot) while a population on a River gives you a CHOICE of either one extra food or one extra commerce. Each turn when you produce your resources as the start of your turn, you can choose at that point which type of resource to take for the population; you can choose food one turn and commerce the next, depending on what you need. This is the most fiddly aspect of the game; late in the game when you have dozens of population on 6 or 7 plots, the math of adding up your earned resources gets a little difficult to keep track of, and it is the choice aspect that causes the most difficulty. Population also each give you 1 point towards winning the game.

The second type of resource, Commerce, is used for another aspect of the game; Technology. 3 Technologies are flipped over at all times, with a deck instantly refilling blank spots when one is purchased. The prices are, in commerce, about the worth of 2 population, but vary for each. Each technology gives various bonuses to your civilization throughout the game, as well as progressing the game towards its end, and are worth victory points as well. The game ends when the last technology is purchased, and victory points from technologies, population, and wonders (to be discussed momentarily) are added up, highest score is the winner.

The third type of resource is Production, and it relates to the hand of cards you've got. This is a card game, remember? Production is used to build things on your plots of land, which give you various bonuses. At the end of each turn you draw 4 cards into your hand and then discard 2; these cards contain buildings, military units, wonders, and bonus resources. The buildings you play on one of your plots by spending production, and they give you bonuses either for your whole civilization or for the plot they are played on. Wonders are essentially very large buildings that can't be destroyed and give you bigger bonuses and are also worth victory points.

There are also a couple of bonus cards that are in the smaller tile-style cards, and the aforementioned plots are available, 3 at a time like the technologies, to be purchased for an escalating amount of resources; the additional land plots can be bought with any combination of the three types of resources.

Finally, Military units is the last element of the game. In addition to developing your little nation and researching technologies, you need to defend it. Or you might need to attack the guy who's ahead of you. The various units either defend, attack, or do both; some only defend against certain types of attackers, others defend against multiple types. To attack, on your turn you lay down the units you're attacking with, tell your opponent who you're attacking, and they lay down any defending units they have. If they have built the Walls building on any of their plots, they remove one attacker immediately, unless the attacker uses a catapult card to take out the walls first. When the defending cards are matched to the attacking cards and discarded, any remaining attackers resolve their ability. Some let you destroy an opponent's building, others let you steal a population, and some let you do both. This is an important aspect of the game, because anyone who's jumping quickly ahead of the others in their development is probably letting their defense slide a bit, which is what balances the game out.

While the first few games I've played ended up being somewhat unbalanced, and had the typical disadvantage of similarly designed games in that an early lead lets a player take off without being reachable, I've found this isn't really built into the game.

The reality is, if you play with a group who've all played once or twice, it becomes very balanced and every game I've played since my coworkers and I started playing this (in our downtime at work) has been extremely close right to the end. If you have a lot of food, you'll have a quick advantage at the start, but another player can quickly decimate your civilization by bringing in the military, and depending on which technologies show up when, and which buildings and wonders are drawn, someone with a more balanced strategy, or focused on either commerce or production can quickly catch up and make it a real race.

This game is enjoyable for most people; it's got strong elements of strategy but I would still consider it a light game. Most of the people I play with are not BGG gamers, but they get drawn into the game fairly easily; the feel of building your nation and watching it grow is quite palpable in this game. It's not a quick game, but when I'm playing with people who've played a few times, we're always calculating our incoming resource before it gets to our turn, so downtime is minimal and we usually finish a game in 1 hour. If you spend a lot of time calculating out your resources, and you wait for your turn to do so, it can easily span 2-3 hours, but this is really only due to inexperience.

Despite the military cards, it's not the most combative game, and most of the actions you'll take in the game have little to do with your opponents. In my book, this is a benefit, but this isn't a wargamer's game by any means. The military units rarely result in really strong attacks, because if you're keeping a lot of cards in your hand to build up an army, you're sacrificing a lot of bonus resources and buildings you could be using to grow your nation. I've tried several different strategies, and just about anything we've come up with has a pretty decent chance of succeeding, depending on how the cards fall and what strategies your opponents have chosen.

For a light, fun game, that looks more complex than it is, I highly recommend Civilization The Card Game. If you don't want the video games that come with it, I wouldn't suggest spending the list price (I think it was $60?) for a pretty basic card game though. The production values are limited - the cards are pretty but the materials aren't exactly high-end, but any time I suggest it, my co-workers are always up for the game, and most of them have now bought the game as well, even though some of them don't have computers that will run the video game.

Honestly, for what it is, and what it was designed for, I couldn't ask for more. It's not a $60 game, it's an inexpensive light card game intended for fans of the video game - but I've found that light gamers and non-gamers get into it just as much whether they've ever played the computer version or not.
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Jared
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Berthoud
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Always thought it looked interesting, considering most civilization building board games are rather long, and I do tend to like most card games.


To be fair to the rating, though - 6.48 isn't exactly a bad rating. That puts it in the company of Airships, Backgammon, Fifth Avenue, or Cathedral - none of which are bad games at all =)
 
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Bryan Maxwell
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Burtchville
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When I saw this review, my first reaction was "what? There's a Civ card game?" I was immediately interested. I went to the game's page and browsed a bit. I put it on my radar, so to speak.

I came back to your review, and when I saw that it came bundled with the Civ box set I bought a couple of years ago. I went to my PC games shelf, pulled out the box and there it was: Civilization: the Card Game.

I opened it up and there were the cards still in their shrink. My first impression is that the cards are very flimsy and some are a little off-center. But I can't really complain, after all I didn't even care that it was there when I bought the box set. It looks like fun and I'm looking forward to trying this with my wife.
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Alex DeGuy
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Mr_Nuts wrote:
When I saw this review, my first reaction was "what? There's a Civ card game?" I came back to your review, and when I saw that it came bundled with the Civ box set I bought a couple of years ago. I went to my PC games shelf, pulled out the box and there it was: Civilization: the Card Game.

That's hilarious! You never got to opening the game box for 2 years? So, did you open it at last, or is it still sitting there waiting? Maybe then you could sell it? I would like to have such box, but right now it's $120 on amazon and that seems a bit too much considering people were buying it for $20 two years ago.
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Aron F.
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Champaign
Illinois
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FinnTroll wrote:
Mr_Nuts wrote:
When I saw this review, my first reaction was "what? There's a Civ card game?" I came back to your review, and when I saw that it came bundled with the Civ box set I bought a couple of years ago. I went to my PC games shelf, pulled out the box and there it was: Civilization: the Card Game.

That's hilarious! You never got to opening the game box for 2 years? So, did you open it at last, or is it still sitting there waiting? Maybe then you could sell it? I would like to have such box, but right now it's $120 on amazon and that seems a bit too much considering people were buying it for $20 two years ago.


I just found out that I own a copy of this game too. The box for it looks just like the boxes for the CDs and DVDs, so I just thought it was a box of "extras".

Actually, I was looking for my tax forms (5 minutes ago), and this box (which was in the same room) caught my eye, for the first time in about 2 years. I was planning on opening it and trying it after finishing taxes, but now you have me thinking that it could be valuable!!
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Francisco J. Piña A.
Chile
Calama
Antofagasta
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Two years ago I was browsing for video games and this pack caught my eye immediately, being a fan of 4X games in general, and the Civ saga in particular, since 1998 or something. Then when I saw it contained a Civ card game, my first thought was "I gotta own this! It doesn't matter if the card game isn't any good, it'll add to the collectible value ".

In the end it turned out to be a pretty good game, quite fun and somewhat reminiscent of the mechanics of the computer game. I'm actually very pleased with this little game, and one which I plan to introduce to my recently formed new gaming group
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