A user contacted me asking about Civilization Central America. Since I am one of only two users who list this game as owned, he wanted some thoughts on the game to help him decide whether a purchase was warranted. I typed up the following comments as my replies. This isn't really a review because the comments aren't at all systematic or comprehensive. They may give an idea of what this fan variant is all about, though, and I think they are worth posting as a general comment since the forum is entirely empty at this point.
I am pleased with the quality of Civ Cental America. (I'm assuming you are talking about the one produced and sold by Camelot Games. Note that if you are looking at one for sale on eBay, Camelot Games also sells them for less through their website.)
In case you aren't sure, here's what you get for the fairly high price:
--laminated map of the northern portion of Central America roughly centered on the Yucatan peninsula.
--laminated Trade Goods and Census mat
--laminated Chronological Advancement Chart
--10 laminated player mats (one for each civilization)
--a couple pages of rules
--die-cut counters for the the 10 civilizations, including pop/treasury counters, cities and boats
--deck of trade goods and calamities cards
In case you are expecting this to be a "complete" game in itself, it isn't quite. You'll have to download the rules to either the original "Civilization," "Advanced Civilization" or the fan-made reboot "Dawn of History" to learn how to play. All these are available free online. The game also does not include any Civilization Advancement cards. If you are used to using those from "Civ" or "Advanced Civ," you'll have to mock some up. The "Dawn of History" has a checklist of advancements that can be substituted.
The components are quite nice. The laminated pages are functional. Certainly not as nice as mounted or, in my opinion, even cardstock boards, but perfectly usable. The main mapboard is nowhere near as beautiful or thought-out as the original game. The shapes of the regions are much simpler polygons, rather than being all different shapes. This appears to have simply been an issue of convenience in making the map. I believe that the map contains the same number of spaces and same total population support as the original map with the Western Extension added.
The counters are very nice for a small publisher. They may be slightly thinner than the old AH counters. The images are cool, the colors are vibrant and they were were well die-cut.
The trade goods & calamities cards are actually better quality than the old cards. The goods are also quite interesting: turkey! Turqoise! The cards have pleasant pictures on front and back.
Now to gameplay. I've played this only one time, and I believe we had eight players. The rules provided with this game are geared toward playing Advanced Civ and, even more, the Dawn of History super-game. I have always been a classic Civilization player and have never felt the need to move up to the "Advanced" version. In fact, I don't own Advanced Civ.
So what we did was try to back-engineer this game to be used with the basic Civ rules. I'd say that overall we had a great time playing all day, but it took some work and I'm not certain it was any better than playing the classic board.
The Central America board is in some ways the opposite of the classic Mediterranean board. The classic is like a doughnut, with land all around a central sea. Central Anerica is a spit of land with sea on either side. (The Pacific does not extend very far along the farther north and west portion of land represented on the map, however.) Although it may sound like this would make for a more fluid board position, my single experience was that it was hard to "break out" of your territory. Additionally, civilizations begin the game in preset areas on the board and in one of several positions along the edge of the board. Whereas in classic Civ you can stab into the heart of someone's empire from just about anywhere with a boat, in Central America there is a coastal buffer zone that makes attacks difficult.
So, I don't know. I've only played once. If I had 6 or 7 friends say that they wanted to play Civ all day this coming weekend, I'd probably pull out the classic board rather than Central America.
This is something that nobody needs at all. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the components (especially the cards). If you have a group that plays Civ often enough to want a new board, go for it. I feel like this map might be at its best when using only the central, most dense portion of the board (3 or 4 players). That's something that wasn't ideal with the old Civ, so that might be a bonus. (Of course, I haven't tried that out; just looking at the board positions.) If you are a person who is new to or unfamiliar with the old AH Civ or Advanced Civ, I'd recommend picking one of those up off eBay before jumping in on Central America.
below is my second reply to the user, who inquired why the Civilization Advancement cards were not included and my thoughts on some other Civilization expanions
My experience is limited with the Western Expansion map. A gaming friend has it and we have used it, but only to increase player count. It certainly looks cool!
I have never used the Expansion Trade Goods. I'll note that Civ Central America has an expanded trade goods set: two goods for each pile, with two calamities per pile. My guess is that these will somewhat speed up play because there is just more money in the game and players will rarely not be able to draw a good from a pile. Note that if you play Civ with more than 7 players, I think the expanded trade goods and western expansion map are almost necessary.
As for Advanced Civ, I haven't played it either. The one friend in my group who has it tells me that it is largely about making warfare more viable, including naval battles. He never liked it because it didn't make sense to him to have wars in a game with 500-year-long turns. For gameplay the big change from basic to Advanced is that civilizations are no longer limited to having only 11 civ advancements. They can have as many as they want. This concept was taken farther in the "Dawn of History" game rules, in which players are given a checklist of the advancements and not actual cards to display. So there is no limit on numbers owned or numbers available. That's why the civ advancement cards aren't included in the Civ Central America.
I used to play basic Civ in high school all the time. Now I might get to play it about once a year. So I'll probably just stick to old-school style, possibly playing the Central America board every once in a while just for the novelty of it. Unfortunately, the Chronological Advancement Track isn't exactly compatible with basic Civ in that it doesn't specify a point number for victory for each civilization. The Dawn of History (and maybe Advanced Civ?) used a different scoring metric involving the number of cities on the board, spaces advanced on the track, civ cards and trade goods. In our one play of Central America, we kind of used that system, but if I were to play it a lot, I'd like to figure out which are the 1200-point civs and which are the 1300- and 1400-point.