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Subject: Designing a Civ Game: Collecting opinions. rss

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Francesco Cavallari
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Hi everyone, my name is Francesco, I'm Italian (living in Rome) and I'm working on a "total history" multiplayer civilization game which would last 3 to 6 hours.
Designing this game means that I have to do many choices. I'm still at an early stage so I can accept many ideas. This thread is to collect opinions from gamers. Here are exactly 8 questions, but please feel free to give me whatever idea you have about an epic scale civilization game.


1 - Viability of war & the issue of player elimination. In most multiplayer empire building/ civilization games, being a warmonger is a bad idea because if you fight many wars then you will weaken yourself. This makes big, epic wars rare and IMO isn't an accurate simulation of history. In the real world, wars are frequent and many civilizations were destroyed at the hand of conquerors. So I would like to make war a viable game strategy. This means it would be possible and rewarding to wage a full scale conquest war on another player in certain occasions. This would sometimes cause players to be eliminated by opponents before the end of the game or even at the beginning. Would you see this as a problem? How viable do you think war should be?

2 - What historical period would you like to see covered? Prehistory to present? Classical age to industrial age? In particular, should the 20th century be included? This would include complex issues such as fascism & communism, aircraft, nuclear arms, the Holocaust, the Internet, the space race, pacifism, environmentalism, religious fundamentalism and war on terror. All this would be extremely cool, but 1) would require many special rules that apply only to a small game-time span, such as one or two game turns; and 2) would generate controversy as themes such as religious terrorism and environmentalism are touched. Conversely, if the game ends earlier then there are less special rules for modernity and so you can save rulebook pages in order to better detail other areas of the game. What do you think? Should the game end at present time? At the end of WW2? Before the world wars? Earlier?

3 - I would really like to make actual world religions part of the game. Both 7 Ages and the latest Sid Meier's computer Civ do so. However, they take different approaches - Sid Meier makes all religions the same except for different names and symbols, while 7 Ages gives different religions different powers, for istance Islam gets glory points for attacking non-Islamic nations. I'm surprised that 7 Ages doesn't attract controversy for this - I know people who would strongly object to Islam being depicted as warmonging religion, and this is exactly the reason why Sid Meier didn't use special powers for religions. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be a way to give religions special powers without offending anyone, yet if you don't do so religions become useless game-wise. What do you think? Should religions have special powers? Shouldn't they? Should they be included at all? If so, which ones?

4 - Geography question: which areas of the world should be used as starting point for civilizations? The first answer that comes to mind is "the whole world", but this would be a problem as a player that starts in the Americas would be isolated from the other players for the first half of the game (until navigation technology is discovered). My idea is that you start in Europe-Asia-North Africa, which is where most historical civilizations developed, and when advanced navigation becomes available you have to discover and explore/settle/conquer the Americas. This isn't very politically correct (you can't be the Atzecs, who are going to get conquered by the players), but it would be fun as it recreates the sudden excitement of the age of discovery. What do you think about this?

5 - Geography question 2: how should the board depict the world? Should it reflect the actual world geography or should more important parts be larger than they really are? The board in the latest version of History of the World carries deformation to an extreme, to the point that it's difficult to understand what area represents what, but it makes it easier to arrange the bits, and a civilization game always includes many areas and many bits. Realistic geography would be easier to look at but would require an impractically huge board and small bits. Map deformation would also affect gameplay, as more populated and historically important areas are divided in more parts, for instance in a deformed game we'd probably have ten times more areas for Europe than Siberia. This could help to simulate the real world as europe can host more population than Siberia, but then it would detract from realism as it takes ten times longer to travel through Europe than Siberia. What do you think about all this?

6 - Real history vs. fictional history. There are two kinds of "Total history" games: those where you control a large number of historical civilizations (History of the World, 7 Ages) and those where you develop a single fictional civilization (Sid Meier's Civilization). The first approach is very fun, but then it's impossible to develop a civilization from stick and stones to industry (no real civilization existed for such long time span), while this is exactly what you do with a fictional civilization in Civ. Also, having to control several different civilization weakens the feeling that you are a nation's leader. What do you think?

7 - Here's a similar question: real world or fictional world? Or, how about a modular board that lets you play in a different world every time? This would be cool but it would be hard to recreate the real world using a modular board, which means that a recreation of real history is impossible. Again, what's your opinion?

8 - Last but definitely not least: Which advancements, wonders, random events, governments... would you REALLY like to see in a game?
 
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Nadine W
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For wars and player elimination - you can have players come back as a different civilization if the war eliminates them. They would be penalized by losing points or power, but that can be balanced to be a worthwhile strategy under some circumstances.
 
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1) Instead of elimination of a player, maybe domination is an option? Victors rarely eliminate a conquered tribe etc, and a lot of civs come to an end when the dominated tribes realign their loyalties, or when dominated tribes find another overlord. That way players could stay in the game (or a bit longer in the game, keeping the thread of elimination might make it even more realistic, getting a player on his toes, forced to follow most of the "suggested" actions whilst plotting a way out of it).

2) I personally prefer Civ games classical and stop at industrial. Probably a conflict scale issue, and because I dislike a changing ruleset over time, even more so if the ultimate rounds have the capacity to blow earlier rounds completely off the map (literally). If you are going to include later eras it would be odd to ingnore the "controversies" that have shown that we might learn from history, but are slow learners at best, and often only find ways to improve our bad habits by doing them on a grander scale.

3 - I would like to see them included by name, and I would like to see them included with individual strengths and weaknesses. Which ones will largely depend on when you start and when you intend to finish, and how accurate you want them to reflect historical reality. It might be interesting to have strengths and weaknesses that do alter over time, or (preferably) create a mechanism that captures this. It might be nice to start at a time when the current big ones were either not around, or not as dominant, and let players deal with the emergence of them within their territory.

4 - I would play on an expanding map, but one that would include China early on (either as a player or as an influence) , and maybe let players race to gain influence over newly "discovered" / opened terrain.

5 - Small deformities have never bothered me too much, and if you plan to play over a large period, the exact shape of things will have changed anyway through nature and the Dutch. When deformities become too big then it puts me off somehow. If certain parts of the globe only come into play much later in the game (it will largely depend on how you deal with time units), it might be worth considering creating a fairly realistic map that focuses on the early action, and maybe deal with "later" areas of influence in a more off-map way. Not a Civ game, but Merchants of Amsterdam found a way to have a lot of large-scale activity in Amsterdam at the centre, and the rest of the world existed in a more abstract way, but still highly recogniziable as the rest of the world, and it always felt very "real". I always thought that was neat. El Grande has also found a way to start with an area of focus, and (with the expansions) added map elements to reflect the expansion of Spain's influence beyond its borders. I liked the way they solved it a lot. Maybe the Americas and perhaps even the far East could be treated in a similar way. Given that China has had a lot of influence, but on the whole has stayed roughly in the same place, there might be an argument of making it a non-player influence element that then wouldn't need to be part of the board.

6 - I prefer the more realistic one, but instead of making players a leader of a civilization, which inevitably will only last so long, why not task someone with keeping the bloodline going through many civilizations? In other words, instead of guiding a civ from start to end, civs are what gets thrown at players, and the one who is most adept at keeping the family blood line in posts of influence through all of these would come out as winner.

7 - Real.

8 - Chocolate. Libraries. Traitors from within. Diplomacy. Sanitation. MTV. Ability for the ruling classes flee to freehavens or go into exile that (in game terms) would enable them to start plotting a return to the grand scheme of things. Philosophies. Illuminati (PLEAAZZE let me play the secret society with its own route to total dominance).

My two cents, have fun designing.

PS: MTV = The need for players to keep the masses at home happy and loyal whilst the rulers scheme along.
 
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J C Lawrence
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caballaria wrote:
1 - Viability of war & the issue of player elimination.


War is fine, but please make conflict deterministic.

Elimination is mostly fine, but I would suggest making it expensive and difficult. Echoing another poster's comments, you may consider using subjugation and dominance instead of elimination. In particular there are some interesting patterns which could be used that would allow an excessively efficient subjugated player to yet win...

Quote:
This makes big, epic wars rare and IMO isn't an accurate simulation of history.


I should perhaps note that I don't care about historical accuracy, simulation or theme. For me, all games are abstract at core.

Quote:
2 - What historical period would you like to see covered?


Don't care in the slightest, but I would find periods and areas which offer interesting systems (such as the partially directed graphs of polynesian proa shipping) interesting.

Quote:
3 - I would really like to make actual world religions part of the game.


I don't care either way.

Quote:
4 - Geography question: which areas of the world should be used as starting point for civilizations?


I'd prefer a variable map system. If the system is capable of expressing something Earth-like, then that's an advantage, but it isn't a requirement.

Quote:
5 - Geography question 2: how should the board depict the world?


See above comments on variable world.

Quote:
6 - Real history vs. fictional history


I don't care. I'd also be happy with a system in which players were civilisation investors with ownership rotating/moving as different players invest more heavily in the different presences (cf Imperial).

Quote:
7 - Here's a similar question: real world or fictional world?


See above comments on variable world.

Quote:
Or, how about a modular board that lets you play in a different world every time?


Please!

Quote:
This would be cool but it would be hard to recreate the real world using a modular board, which means that a recreation of real history is impossible. Again, what's your opinion?


This is a game, History is optional.

Quote:
8 - Last but definitely not least: Which advancements, wonders, random events, governments... would you REALLY like to see in a game?


I'd prefer no random events.
 
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-=[Ran Over]=-
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caballaria wrote:
... while 7 Ages gives different religions different powers, for istance Islam gets glory points for attacking non-Islamic nations. I'm surprised that 7 Ages doesn't attract controversy for this ...
I may have more to say about the post, but let me just get this out of the way. Islam has a 1400 year history of conflict with dar al-Harb. The reason nobody complains is because it's accurate.
 
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Francesco Cavallari
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rgmnetid wrote:
caballaria wrote:
... while 7 Ages gives different religions different powers, for istance Islam gets glory points for attacking non-Islamic nations. I'm surprised that 7 Ages doesn't attract controversy for this ...
I may have more to say about the post, but let me just get this out of the way. Islam has a 1400 year history of conflict with dar al-Harb. The reason nobody complains is because it's accurate.


Look, I agree with you, I think it's accurate and fair.

I'm just saying that *some* may disagree.
 
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Francesco Cavallari
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BigWoo wrote:
1) Instead of elimination of a player, maybe domination is an option?

8 - Chocolate. Libraries. Traitors from within. Diplomacy. Sanitation. MTV. Ability for the ruling classes flee to freehavens or go into exile that (in game terms) would enable them to start plotting a return to the grand scheme of things. Philosophies. Illuminati (PLEAAZZE let me play the secret society with its own route to total dominance).

My two cents, have fun designing.

PS: MTV = The need for players to keep the masses at home happy and loyal whilst the rulers scheme along.


I love the "Illuminati" idea.

Great ideas, please keep sharing.
 
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Matthew M
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clearclaw wrote:
caballaria wrote:
1 - Viability of war & the issue of player elimination.


War is fine, but please make conflict deterministic.


Why would anyone enter a war that they would lose if that were the case? It's not like history is lacking in examples.

-MMM
 
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marc lecours
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Hi,
One day I would also like to design a good civ game. I will buy yours if ever it gets published.
"Civilisation" was good but it did not really feel like history.
"Vinci" is a little dry for my tastes. I do not really get attached to the nations.
"7 ages" has all sorts of really great stuff. I love the maps, the cards, the civs, etc. But the whole is much too large and slow. "7 ages" light would have been a good game.
"history of the world" It is fun watching the civilizations come and go, but they are very programmed.There is not much difference between nations except for their initial number of soldiers. So the differences are one dimensional.

1. wars are a must in my opinion because the history books are just packed with wars. BUT you have to think of what each player is controlling. Are they controlling a civilization or a country? A civilization does not really conquer another civilization with war. Rather it is that within a civilization there are many countries. It is usually countries that make war with other countries of either another civilization or within their civilization.

I think people will have more fun playing the king or emperor of individual countries than be some abstract guiding hand of a civilization with many countries. With a king of a country you can roleplay.

Over a thousand years of history an individual war is a very small event. So it should be simple to do a war. Either make it deterministic or have a single die roll. (one die for each player is better, players prefer to roll the die for their country.)

1b) Player elimination is no good. When you lose a country you should take over immediately one of the non controlled countries.

1.c) If you change countries then the winner needs to be determined by a method other than eliminating everyone else. In history no coutry has succeeded in conquering the world. So you will need victory points of some sort. The problem is that you can have a runaway winner early on if he has a good point earning potential. Or you get people counting points and playing kingmaker in the later rounds. To give people a chance to catch up some games (history of the world) give more points in later rounds BUT this means that early rounds are not too important.

2. Variable periods of history. What is fun is to compare how the same rules can lead to different history depending on the period being portrayed. For example how castles and big horses lead to feudalism. Or how canons and muskets lead to the end of feudalism. Avoid the 20th century because there would need to be too many special rules. You may want to end in 1500 or in 1900. Have several start points including one far enough back to include Ancient Egypt(Ancient Egypt is a popular theme).

3. Religions are a good idea. Religions are a good way to represent civilisations and cultures. Languages would be OK too. But I think religions are better.

3b) I prefer if they have some special powers. No more than one caracteristic per religion. Keep your rules clean and concise and easy to learn! ! !

4 All parts of the world are important. In the game I would like to make , I would focus on the mid-east, Europe and North Africa.

5 Small deformations of the map are OK but there is a limit.

6 I much prefer a real history.

7 Real world is better for me.

8. Choose the ones that can easily be represented with a simple rule.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Octavian wrote:
Why would anyone enter a war that they would lose if that were the case?


So as to setup phyrric victories. At this level it isn't a question of who nominally wins, but rather whether it was worth it. This would make combat as a game mechanism actually interesting, not just simple boring probability manipulation.

Incite wars, set up other players to win them and so lose the game! Good stuff.
 
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Brad Brooks
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Octavian wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
caballaria wrote:
1 - Viability of war & the issue of player elimination.


War is fine, but please make conflict deterministic.


Why would anyone enter a war that they would lose if that were the case? It's not like history is lacking in examples.

-MMM


You might fight a losing war for collateral reasons. For instance the ability to suspend civil liberties, unify the populace, increase taxation, fund the military-industrial complex, spur innovation, etc.
 
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Francesco Cavallari
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rubberchicken wrote:
The problem is that you can have a runaway winner early on if he has a good point earning potential. Or you get people counting points and playing kingmaker in the later rounds. To give people a chance to catch up some games (history of the world) give more points in later rounds BUT this means that early rounds are not too important.


This one is a big problem.

You either give victory points early and then you risk having a runaway game where the winner is decided before the end and losing players have no hope to catch up and the game gets boring.

Or you give most points in the end and then you have kingmaking which is another problem.

The only solution that I see, is to balance the two things so that you have a little of both problems but not too much of any. what do you think?

 
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Tony Chen
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1. Actually, I think epic wars' being rare and unviable are, for the most part, accurate simulation of history. Have you read Sun Tzu's Art Of War? There's a saying in Chinese originating from that work that "The best strategy is to flee." Now whether that would make good gameplay is another issue.

2. End before there were vehicles/trains, or sooner rather than later. Personally I hate special rules for special scenarios in games because it feels like the gameplay is "scripted". Having different rules for differnt times in the game just feels artificial.

3. Religions played an important role in civilizations, so it would be nice to include it in some way. Special powers without being offensive? How about only Christian civilizations can build the Sistine Chapel, which does something, and only an Islamic civilization can have the leader (insert famous Muslim leader). And it is more costly to wage war against civilizations of the same religion (lowers the armies' morale/effectivity, the populations productivity, etc). And if a player controls the Pope, he has special powers over other Catholic civilizations.

4. Focus on one area.

5. Games tend to be inaccurately euro-centric. So instead of having an euro-centric representation of the world, I'd rather see a game that focuses on Europe or the Middle East.

6. Another reason why I would lean towards focusing on a smaller geographic area in a smaller time frame. But if you must enlarge things, I'd vote for fictional.

7. Real world?

8. A random idea, and one that probably doesn't fit your game, but maybe there can be some type of mock civilization game based on Mark Twain's novel "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"? That would be great. See the Yankee and Merlin dueling it out!

I'd like to add, that historical accuracy is nice, but not so important as to sacrifice gameplay for. I want to feel like I am playing a game, not simulating something scripted. So if historical flow of the game can be manipulated by subtle terrain/technology/etc conditions as opposed to blunt rules blatantly leading a player down a specific path, that would a huge achievement for the game.
 
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Phillip Heaton
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1. If you don't include wars, it has little to do with what actually happened. If a player's civilization is eliminated, have him start over with a new civilization or take over one that is currently unowned.

2. If I was doing it, I would start with the early city-states of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, say pre-Sumeria, and continue until the consolidation of the area under one rule (Persia in real life). This would give you plenty of "civilizations" to pick from, a reasonably compact area to play in and a specific event to go for.

3. The advantage of this period is that you could use real world religions without offending anyone, except possibly the Jews, since none of the non-Jewish faiths survived. Special powers would work well, and could be captured, as the "Gods" of the period frequently were.

4. This would simplify this question as well, since you wouldn't even need to represent Egypt, who rarely made its presence known outside of the Nile valley.

5. Actual geography (appropriate for the period - the rivers weren't as long back then).

6. Real history should be used.

7. Real world obviously.

8. Advancements. Depending on the era you start with: pottery, writing, stone buildings, bronze, iron, chariots, cavalry, code of laws (Hamarabi), irrigation, siege engines, polytheism (in that gods other than your city's god could be important) monotheism, medicine, architecture, the list goes on and on.

8. Random events. Raiders/invaders from the frontier, which would be how you bring back eliminated players. Bad harvest, which would only effect crop growers and could trigger wars for food. Religious ferment, which would push your civ to war with a neighbor. Civil war/usurper, which would cause your civilization to be more vulnerable. The Gods require, which would cause your civ to spend time and treasure on building wonders as opposed to strengthening more important things like your army or defenses or irrigation network.

8. Other stuff. No trade! Very few civs truly benefited from trade and treated it kindly - most tried to run it and taxed it to death. What trade there was, was run by merchants, not the King. Most Kings were concerned with feeding their people, appeasing the gods, defending what they had and conquering what they could. Trade wasn't that important to them.
 
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Clay Blankenship
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I've thought about this type of game a bit so I'll throw in my two cents.

1 - My personal preference in an epic boardgame would be not to have player elimination. You could make war limited in scope (defeat somebody in a war and you get some victory points and a few resources, and then declare peace) or allow some way of letting defeated players get back into the game. But this really depends on what you want to make the focus of the game. If you want to have epic military clashes, go ahead.

2 - My favorite periods are classical to the renaissance. The Industrial Revolution, the discovery of the New World, or the colonization of the New World are natural ending points. You are right that the 20th century adds a lot of complexity. Remember that it is epic in scope and don't try to include everything.

If you want to focus on a particular area, you could use classical Greece (focused on the different city-states), or Europe from the Middle Ages onward are good topics that haven't been covered quite as often as the classical Mediterranean.

3 - Good question. How detailed do you want to be?

4 - I like your approach very much.

5 - Axis and Allies does a good job with a map that looks fairly accurate but enlarges the more important areas.

6 - A hybrid approach to consider would be a system like Vinci's, where you can choose to start a new civilization whenever you want.

7 - The real world map has two potential problems: unbalanced starting positions and a lack of variety in how the game develops.

8 - I could list a bunch but the major ones are pretty obvious. I like having "great people" in a civ game.

One idea I've thought of is to have some government types that are more warlike and others that are more peaceful (or at least defensive). I am thinking of Sparta and Athens. I guess this is like the governments in the original Civilization computer game (democracies couldn't declare war) or the Civ IV computer game (you can choose civics that help your military or help your science/culture/production/etc.)

Tradeoffs--military buildup/attacking, building, exploring/expanding, culture...a civ game should be all about choices and different ways to develop.

I like Civ IV's special resource sites. Some resources give you extra health, or happiness, or money, and some help your military (iron, horses, coal). This also provides focal points for conflict on the map in a realistic way and maybe provides a tradeoff between expansion and internal development.

Good luck with your design.


 
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1) If you're talking a 3- to 6-hour game, you probably want to avoid player elimination. While that was acceptable by the majority of strategy gamers twenty or thirty years ago, I don't think that's quite true anymore. I imagine a system like one finds in Vinci or History of the World, wherein during the course of a game, a player will find himself controlling more than one nation or culture, jumping to another when the previous one gets to a point of stagnation. In this fashion, war is extremely viable. However, with the inclusion of a worthwhile mercantile aspect, and a realistic funding representation for prosecuting wars and maintaining garrisons, you could find a more historically accurate model wherein inefficient empires would inevitably crumble, while trading cultures with lesser geographic ambition could thrive, so long as they can keep peace with their neighbors.

2) Whether or not the twentieth century (and to a lesser degree, the nineteenth century) should be represented is really your call. The work involved in modelling the last two hundred years - even when done right (or perhaps especially when done right) - might prove to undermine the value of the preceding eras, yet take the most effort on your part, in comparison. IMO, avoid it unless you have what you believe to be some very good ways to handle it.

3) The reason 7 Ages got away with it has less to do with it being factual, I think, and more to do with such a boardgame having virtually no presence in the world market, compared to a computer game by Sid Meier. Believe me, if this boardgame was getting press and internet discussion like Meier's Civ games do, somebody with a foul disposition and violent tendencies would have already got pissed about it. Perhaps the best way around the whole mess is to a) identify different religions in an abstract fashion, such as Religion A, Religion B, etc., and b) give said religions different abilities within the game (while being careful to offset any advantages with some type of disadvantage). To say the least, good implementation can be a real challenge.

4) Isolation of a culture should not be a problem, provided you do not follow the somewhat surrealistic development template used in the Sid Meier Civ games. That is, avoid a system whereby an isolated culture advances at the same rate as a culture exposed to other cultures. Technology is, after all, the result of an exchange of ideas, and this is the flaw in how it works, in the Civ series of games. A nation or culture surrounded by other ones is constantly exposed to new ideas, which in turn lead to other ideas, which in turn lead to more ideas by your neighbors, and so on. Also, a nation with no organized neighbors does not develop militarily, either, as there is no impetus for such development. An isolated culture would normally only build and maintain sufficient military to protect its borders, and protect its leaders from their subjects, and is unlikely to encounter new military approaches, weapons, and methodologies, which would force them to evolve. In summary, the key to allowing for isolated cultures is to reward those cultures who are not isolated, by giving them some sort of "bonus" in their efforts for technologic and military improvement.

5) My personal preference is for a map system which at least allows for a world that can potentially resemble our own, but also allows for other possiblities; that is, a geomorphic map system that somehow reflects formation of large landmasses and large oceans.

6) The problem with games of this type that follow real history too closely is that they become "scripted", and thus suffer in replay value. My own hunch is that if you provide for civilizations that possess key characteristics of certain historical nations, but you also get the geomorphic map system down pat, you'll have a very interesting game. What would have happened, for instance, if the Inca Empire had evolved only 500 miles away from the Greeks or Romans?

7) See 5 and 6, above.

8) That's a list far too long for this thread, and will necessarily be constrained by what time period you choose to cover.

Best of luck, and I strongly recommend playing the civlization games found on BGG, before finalizing your own design, in addition to Sid Meier's Civlization games (at least Civ II, and ideally III and IV, also.)



 
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Wade Broadhead
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Great thread. Good ideas so far and it seems like you're getting tons of feedack.
Having thought about this a lot here is my 2 cents.
I love epic historical or non historical games, and my first design was a civ light while waiting for the release of Tempus. After coming up with some good ideas it was just so vast in terms of all the facets and balance issues. I also decided that it’s tough to write a good research paper without first writing some good concise essays, so I started working on smaller projects with smaller amounts of interaction and items. It's hard to imagine the amount of balancing and interaction adjustment needed for a game of this scale.
What I found in the meantime while designing games of smaller scale was that perhaps the civ/empire building game I wanted wasn’t a straight Civ game.

I'm working on Old World, New World now a simple exploration, colonization game, and even with boiled down units, money, victory points, and simple tech trees it's a lot of work getting the balance down, then getting it down to where even your most hardy play tester friends will give it a go. I'm getting the feeling that many people want to play a really good 2(maybe 3 max) hour essay, and a few good people want the 4-6 hour epic marathon. I figure designing the great 2-3 hour strategic game will give me enough experience to design the longer game, if needed.

Ok, now answers to your questions. I’ll take a different non-straight historical tact…
My original ideas was a historical fiction, similar to earth but without the constraints on the map and peoples perception of history. I was looking for mechanics that would keep players involved at every step of the way and increase replayability. A non real world also allows for some cool mechanics… my ideas were
1) buildable world like Tempus
2) Tribes are placed on the board
3) players bid to choose their tribe/people *these 3 keep people involved and help them create their world)
4) neutral tribes can be conquered or assimilated by force or cards/units

Key concepts I like to see…
1) I would advise you to aim for 4 hours or less, a game can still be fun and epic and end in an evening.
2) player/civ/tribe flavor whether its special abilities or just the artwork/bits/cards, I like to feel tied to my “peeps”.
3) Communal actions. Don’t be afraid to borrow some things from successful games like San Juan etc. World history especially is a good place for communal benefits. You could work this in with trade. Unlike what others have said, as an archaeologists, I saw what a large impact trade has played in the scope of the world history. If in doubt read about the Spice Trade. You could have a simple mechanic that allows you to trade in produced/harvested goods at home for x$ or xVP but more at a foreign port, although they also receive some $ or VP. This will make for more interesting decisions. If people want a wargame they’ll go someplace else. A civ game should have a some cool mechanics that relate to the depth of time you’re covering, like Vinci or History of the World.
3) Warfare-necessary with elimination, but make the mechanics work against an overtly aggressive strategy. My idea was that you must convert your paws/workers to military units thereby loosing some economic strength.
4) Hidden information. I love hidden information and whether its secret objectives or hidden abilities until people use them, it always makes for a more interesting game. It may be difficult to work in with an epic world history game though.
5) Different paths to victory. My idea was that at the end of each turn the person with the most military points, economic, and civilization points received bonus points: they were not all equal. Civ was higher than economic, economic higher than military. Each player was ranked, so you could try and dominate one or balance all 3. BUT if you neglected military too long someone could swoop in and seize you’re nicely build civ buildings. Anyway, this was just an idea for balance and the military war problem.


 
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Francesco Cavallari
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I have to say thanks to all those who shared their thoughts so far.

You're giving me great feedback.
 
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castiglione
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I think player elimination is fine but not in a game that's 3-6 hours long.

If you're doing a civilization game, you could have an "eliminated" civilization become a diaspora of sorts which can have an influence (and still collect points) and maybe regain their ancestral homeland as the game progresses.
 
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castiglione
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Another thing you might want to consider is the economic cost of warfare and how that affects a civilization, even in victory.

If a civilization is at a level where they're just bashing people's heads in with rocks, there isn't much of an economic cost to war with the exception of the dead resulting in a reduction in your "work force".

However, if your civilization is at a level where they are building complex war machines, suddenly maintaining an army and the possibility of having your war machines destroyed in battle becomes more and more expensive (which basically results in you using your war machines in conflicts in which victory is pretty much assured and not against powers with comparable technology unless things go really bad).

This type of mechanism might put a natural "brake" on war.
 
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Donald Wells

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Another question you should answer (and the answer will provide some guidance for the questions you list) is this: which aspects of civilization do you want to emphasize? That is, which do you want players to engage with in depth, which do you want to remove entirely or leave abstract, and which do you want somewhere in the middle?

 
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Lance McMillan
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1 - Viability of war & the issue of player elimination.

In general, being able to "attack" other players is essential, otherwise the game devolves into a tedious study of "Accountancy and Bean Counting Through the ages." About as exciting as doing your taxes.

How much detail is appropriate to include in the warfare aspect of your game depends a lot on your time scale. If turns are a year or two long, then modeling warfare in a somewhat detailed manner (moving individual armies and fleets around) is fine; but if you're going with decades, or even centuries, for your turns, then the idea of discrete campaigns doesn't fit -- you're dealing with either mass migrations of people or changing out the government of a region, not troop movements.

I disagree that you should necessarily "weaken yourself" by being a warmonger. What you should be doing is having the player make a conscious choice about the focus of his/her effort. It's the old "guns or butter" adage -- you can either grab new territory, or improve the status of your existing territory, but not both. The best way to deal with the issue is to have your rules oriented in such a way that they have to choose between development or expansion -- with the resultant outcome that if they decide to expand their opponents are likely going to be coming back at them with stronger/better stuff because they were able to build more and better "stuff" while you were fielding armies to expand.

As for player elimination, I'd caution you to avoid it at all costs. It's okay to have position elimination, where for instance your Persian Empire might be overrun by the Macendonians, but you get to come back next turn as the Romans or Vikings. But if you have players getting knocked out of the game and having to sit there for hours while the remaining players continue the game to the bitter end, you're going to lose a LOT of potential audience.

2 - What historical period would you like to see covered?

No particular preference, although I think Ancient history has been overdone. I think that early modern/early industrial, starting with the discovery of the new world and running through to the start of the 20th century, has not been adequately explored to date.

3 - Should religions have special powers?

Special powers, no -- distinct differences, yes. I'm more in favor using religions as constraints/limitations on the freedom of action for a player than giving him the ability to use religion to expand or develop faster.

You also need to be careful about allowing "historical determinism" to intrude into your game. Just because monotheism in the form Christianity and Islam became the dominant world religions doesn't mean that your game HAS to have things turn out this way. What about having, say, polytheism in the form of the Aztec religion, or animism in the form of the Mongols becoming the predominant religious faiths? What about having Roman polytheism survive into the modern era after successfully supressing the minor heretical Jewish sect that Christianity started out as? And regardless of whether it's the Roman pantheon or the Christian trinity that wins out, does it make any real difference in the outcome of Eurpopean civilization essentially dominating the globe?

Lots of things you need to consider here.

4 - Which areas of the world should be used as starting point for civilizations?

Go with Eurasia for the start, as it's pretty integral to itself. You have to include the northern part of Africa, because there was so much contact between that area and Europe (and to a lesser degree between it and Asia). But don't include Africa and the Americas as starting areas; in fact, I'd argue that you shouldn't even have fixed geography for those "undiscovered" regions. Use some sort of "expandable" mapping system (hex tiles, cards, whatever) that are randomly revealed as the New World(s) come into play; that way players won't *know* that there's all that gold in South Africa or silver in Peru, or that there' s no Northwest Passage to the Pacific through Canada. Make the sense of "discovery" feel real, not contrived (as it is in so many other games).

Alternately (and this is strange, so bear with me), start with multiple unconnected maps with one or two players playing on each, that don't get connected until the routes to them become discovered. This way, you can have your Aztec player expanding/developing on his own, so that when the Europeans finally do show up to conquer him, they find that the Aztecs have an advanced agricultural system, already know how to make steel, and have a representative democratic government including much of the Midwest and Gulf Coast -- in that event, Eurpoean conquest of the Americas is hardly a sure thing. You could even end up with the Aztecs learning open ocean navigation from the Polynesians (and there is evidence that the two cultures did have limited contact) and then mounting their own colonization effort across the Atlantic.

5 - How should the board depict the world?

I don't have a problem with abstraction/distortion, but I know that many people do. The one thing that probably bothers me the most about any of the exisiting Civ games is that by keeping to a fixed/pre-determined map, there is no real feeling of discovery or the unknown. Even when using random resource placement on a fixed/actual map, the situation ends up with players already knowing where the key geographic lines of communication are going to be. Only very recently have humans had the technology to know where we are on the planet; as little as 100 years ago, many maps still had large areas denoted as "unknown." Read the accounts of Roman military campaigns and you'll find that they often didn't have a terribly good notion of the terrain around them -- even figuring out the route to the next town or city was problematic. When you design your game, particularly if it's not in the modern era, don't give your players the in-game equivalent of GPS and instant secure radio communications. Have provisions for forces to get lost, stumble into dangerous situations, and do stuff that the player didn't intend.

6 - Real history vs. fictional history.

I liked "Vinci" in that it gave the player the option to drop a civilization once he felt that it had run its course, so you weren't stuck with a dead-end position that wasn't going to be able to go anywhere. But I didn't like the fact that "Vinci" almost encouraged you to rotate through your civilizations as fast as possible to maximize your score; that individual civilizations were essentially pre-destined to "burn out."

I think that the game should allow players the *option* of dropping one position to start a new one, and to give some provision so that the new position isn't hamstrung by having to start from ground zero -- i.e. that it's viable, even powerful, from the beginning. But the *option* has to be just that, an option: a choice, preferably one of many, that a player has to make. It would still be a viable and effective strategy to stick with a single civilization from start to end during the game.

Using this idea, and assuming a 5-6 player game, I would think that your design would be successful in this regard if roughly half of your players, at one point or another during the course of the game, would exercise the option to start a new civilization, and that perhaps one might choose to do so twice. I'd also make it so that your new position was totally and completely independent of your old one -- no scoring points for the "rump end" of your older, no inactive, civilization.

7 - Real world or fictional world?

I've already covered this in my answers above: use a combination. Use "real world" geography at the start, but have "fictional world" elements come into play as the players expand outwards from their begining positions. For purists, provide an option so that expansion results in historical "real world" geography if they so desire, but if done properly I suspect that few will choose the "real world" alternative after trying it the other way.

8 - Advancements, wonders, random events, governments...

This final question, to me, reeks of pre-determinism. Just because steam power didn't come into common useage until the 1800s, doesn't mean that it couldn't have done so far earlier -- the ancient Greeks had the basic principles, they just didn't apply them. Does bronze making *have* to precede iron making? Why was the horse the most common form of domesticable transportation, why not the camel, or the llama, or the elephant? Don't pre-suppose that Rome has to be the dominant empire of the Mediterranean basin; why not Carthage, or Egypt, or Greece? Must the disaster producing volcanoes in your game be Vesuvius, Santorini and Krakatoa -- couldn't they be any one of dozens of others? Who's to say that an obscure Jewish carpenter has to be crucified to found a major world religion; couldn't he just have easily escaped, led a successful uprising against the Roman empire, and then founded a theocratic kingdom (the legendary "Kingdom of God") that ends up surviving into the modern age?

There are so many wild alternatives to the plodding (and predictable) course of actual history that you could use. "History" in your game shouldn't have to unfold along strictly historical lines. It can and should be full of surprises, unpredictable events, great personalities, and a continual sense of an amazing unknown design being constantly revealed. Above all, make the game "fun," and don't be obsessed with trying to "teach" your players history.
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Ramon Zarate
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Just a quick comment on player elimination:

I think a very interesting idea would be to make the eliminated player come back either in the form of a new emerging civilization, or as part of an independence war or as part of the shatters of big empires. It may be hard to design in a playable and fair model, but I think it can be done.

For example, if you take on one player with a high "cultural rating" then you risk actually splitting your empire in two, due to new ideals and oposition.

I'm tired right now, so I hope I'm making any sense at all.
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