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Subject: Civ game = Empire builder? rss

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Christian Marcussen
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Hi.

Following many of the discussions here on the geek it seems the terms civilization games and empire building games get used for more or less the same games.

In my original understanding of the term civ game development from one age to another was integral. However it seems that many people use the term for games having some kind of tech tree even if it does not lead to literally a new age. As such I have seen people mention TI3 as civ game, while to me it's more of an empire builder.

I do recognize that in a way the difference between going from age to age as opposed to progressing is just semantics, and practically there may be no difference when playing the actual game. It just seems to me that there is a difference in feel between gaining a set of new technologies and going to a whole other age.

So what do you think? Are civ games and empire builders really the same? If not what do you think are the defining differences between them?
 
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James Davis
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marqzen wrote:
Hi.

Following many of the discussions here on the geek it seems the terms civilization games and empire building games get used for more or less the same games.

In my original understanding of the term civ game development from one age to another was integral. However it seems that many people use the term for games having some kind of tech tree even if it does not lead to literally a new age. As such I have seen people mention TI3 as civ game, while to me it's more of an empire builder.

I do recognize that in a way the difference between going from age to age as opposed to progressing is just semantics, and practically there may be no difference when playing the actual game. It just seems to me that there is a difference in feel between gaining a set of new technologies and going to a whole other age.

So what do you think? Are civ games and empire builders really the same? If not what do you think are the defining differences between them?


I think civ games, empire builders and some conquest games are al one sort, people just call them different things.
 
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Eric Jome
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Civilization games have tech trees. Empire builders don't.

Civilization games involve the march of civilizations through ages, learning new social, political, technological, and economic developments. Typically, this also involves the expansion of that civilization in geographic area.

Empire builders are games where players build empires, so expansion through a geographic area is the game. There may be limits to how units are purchased or perhaps you may only employ a certain unit after you have built a particular structure, but these are less grand sweeping discoveries of history and more military advances.

And I would say that yes, these genres could crossover and be confused easily, as many empire building games feature warfare technology growth.
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
Civilization games have tech trees. Empire builders don't.


Oh? So an empire-building game that covers, say, hundreds or thousands of years shouldn't have research and technologic improvement? These empires should just stay stagnant?

And the most ironic aspect of this assertion is that TI:3 is - at best - an empire-building game and most certainly not a civ game, yet it has - you guessed it - a technology tree.
 
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Ben Foy
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Adv Civ and TtA are Civ games but not Empire Building games.
Risk is a Empire Building game but not Civ game.
Empire Builder is not a Empire Building game but is a Railroad game (sorry couldn't resist)
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Ben Foy
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cosine wrote:
Civilization games have tech trees. Empire builders don't.


I think this statement is overly general. Stellar Conquest had a tech tree but I wouldn't call it a Civ game. I don't think futuristic, SF games like TI:3 or RftG should be called Civ games, either. But I have no problems with Fantasy 'Civ' games.
 
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Eric Jome
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DarrellKH wrote:

Oh? So an empire-building game that covers, say, hundreds or thousands of years shouldn't have research and technologic improvement? These empires should just stay stagnant?


Go back and read what I wrote again. I said there is crossover and that many games that look like they are about "building an empire" are really about building a civilization.

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And the most ironic aspect of this assertion is that TI:3 is - at best - an empire-building game and most certainly not a civ game, yet it has - you guessed it - a technology tree.


Again, I already stated that "tech tree" is a common feature of empire builder games, but their tech tree is usually small and simple or limited to one area, like military.
 
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J C Lawrence
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What would you call a game with a tech tree, "countries", no war and a dominantly strong economic system, but players don't own the countries, the technology, or in fact any of the country infrastructure (players just own products produced by systems they got the countries to build). During the course of the game the countries/technology will evolve from subsistence farming through the steam age.



So what is that? There are strong civilisation and empire building aspects, but they are just a side-show for the economic game proper.
 
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Eric Jome
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BFoy wrote:
cosine wrote:
Civilization games have tech trees. Empire builders don't.


I think this statement is overly general.


I said so in my original post. We're talking in generalities, not in specifics. Many games blur the distinction by including partial tech trees and such...

If the tech tree is a means to an end, it's usually an empire building tech tree. If the tech tree is the main way of scoring points in the end, it's usually a civilization game.

Civilization = civilization game because advances worth points even though some help with military or expansion

Axis & Allies = empire builder game because advances only useful for modifying the units for combat, no relationship to scoring
 
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Ben Foy
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cosine wrote:
BFoy wrote:
cosine wrote:
Civilization games have tech trees. Empire builders don't.


I think this statement is overly general.


I said so in my original post. We're talking in generalities, not in specifics. Many games blur the distinction by including partial tech trees and such...


Whoops, I meant to say that the statement is alittle too general for a good definition. I agree with what you said. It would be nice however if we could modify that statement to be a good definition.
 
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Eric Jome
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clearclaw wrote:
So what is that? There are strong civilisation and empire building aspects, but they are just a side-show for the economic game proper.


I'd call it clearly a civilization game. Civ games have growth geographically, but it is usually only a mechanism for powering development. If you own more land, you get more resources, and you can buy more advances... that's civilization type. Sure, you might have a rudimentary military system for taking more land, but like the original Civilization, if that is pretty plain and abstract, that's not really building an empire.

An empire builder builds an empire. The focus is on the military conquest and infrastructure improvement. Your points or victory comes from there. The civilization builds a civilization. The focus is on the sweeping scope of the history of a group, with some development over time. Your points come from learning new things or building wonders or great accomplishments.

The classic Civilization computer game does a great job of confusing the issue. To win, you can be the first to reach the stars, a goal you can get without active conflict. Or you can subjugate the globe to your will with your mighty armies. It's "either or" there.
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Eric Jome
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BFoy wrote:
It would be nice however if we could modify that statement to be a good definition.


Take a crack at it, but it ain't easy because so many games crossover back and forth between the two.

In general, if a friend were to say "this is an empire builder game", I would expect a game where the majority of the action was war, seizing resources and space. If it was "a civilization game", I'd expect victory to come from advancing the learning and status of my civilization, but not necessarily by military might.
 
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Neil Carr
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If you delve into the fluff for Twilight Imperium then it can give quite a bit of feel as a civ game, as it is rooted in a great deal of fictional history. A great Empire existed, which then fragmented and fell into decline, and up from the ashes new factions rose to claim their time of greatness. Meanwhile, the remnants of those who had ruled all and fled the galaxy have now returned to reclaim what they had lost.

While it is only one age that is being spanned in the game, if you like the fluff then it can have the gravitas to feel like it spans epochs of time.
 
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Lajos
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clearclaw wrote:
What would you call a game with a tech tree, "countries", no war and a dominantly strong economic system, but players don't own the countries, the technology, or in fact any of the country infrastructure (players just own products produced by systems they got the countries to build).
(..)
So what is that? There are strong civilisation and empire building aspects, but they are just a side-show for the economic game proper.

I would call such a game a prime candidate for the 'must have' category of my wishlist.
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Christian Marcussen
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Thanks everyone for taking a shot at it. I think the terms are quite a bit clearer to me now, so I appreciate it. It helps to have some markers to keep in sight.

I might be doing a new Civ thread soon. Thanks.
 
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Matt Davis
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clearclaw wrote:
What would you call a game with a tech tree, "countries", no war and a dominantly strong economic system, but players don't own the countries, the technology, or in fact any of the country infrastructure (players just own products produced by systems they got the countries to build). During the course of the game the countries/technology will evolve from subsistence farming through the steam age.



So what is that? There are strong civilisation and empire building aspects, but they are just a side-show for the economic game proper.


I think I'd call it Roads & Boats.

Edit: Whoops. Couldn't see that picture. I guess you meant something else, but it sounds close.
 
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J C Lawrence
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cosine wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
So what is that? There are strong civilisation and empire building aspects, but they are just a side-show for the economic game proper.


I'd call it clearly a civilization game.


Okay. The main reason I don't consider it a Civ-game is that the players don't care about the subject civilisations. They really don't. A country is interesting to a player only to the degree to which they can exploit it and their interest in any one country over another is to the degree that one is more exploitable than the other. The players in this game are purely interested in commercially exploiting infrastructure that countries have already built, getting countries to build exploitable infrastructure, and selling new technologies to countries so that the country will build more commercially interesting infrastructure.

Quote:
Civ games have growth geographically, but it is usually only a mechanism for powering development. If you own more land, you get more resources, and you can buy more advances... that's civilization type. Sure, you might have a rudimentary military system for taking more land, but like the original Civilization, if that is pretty plain and abstract, that's not really building an empire.


In this case the countries are pretty minimal entities. They barely exist. The countries don't really manage resources or territory, just timing of access to infrastructure. A piece of infrastucture is available to every country it is in range of and so may "activate" for multiple countries. The result is that countries are primarily just scheduling entities (they control what infrastructure is available when).

Quote:
An empire builder builds an empire. The focus is on the military conquest and infrastructure improvement. Your points or victory comes from there. The civilization builds a civilization. The focus is on the sweeping scope of the history of a group, with some development over time. Your points come from learning new things or building wonders or great accomplishments.


In this case player points come from manipulative exploitation of the infrastructures in and across countries. At this level the countries are just tools to use (abuse and discard) in gaining economic advantage.

Quote:
The classic Civilization computer game does a great job of confusing the issue. To win, you can be the first to reach the stars, a goal you can get without active conflict. Or you can subjugate the globe to your will with your mighty armies. It's "either or" there.


In this case there are several end-game triggers, but the details are mostly irrelevant. The winner is simply the most cash affluent player. Just money.

Still a Civ-game? I ask because it is often accused of being a Civ-Game and while I see why, I really don't think of it as a Civ-game and I'd like to understand the space better.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Lajos wrote:
I would call such a game a prime candidate for the 'must have' category of my wishlist.


It is still early days for Colonial Zoo yet. Yeah, the name is ripped straight from the literature on European exploitation and abuse of the colonies.
 
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J C Lawrence
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coolpapa wrote:
I think I'd call it Roads & Boats.


Roads & Boats was one of the inspirations but it is closer to Neuland and the 18XX.
 
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marc lecours
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I think it is about what you are doing during the game.

The game TI3 has all the aspects of a civ game except for the focus. If most of your time is spent choosing weapons to build, planning wars, devellopping weapons systems via a tech tree then your focus is on war and it is an empire game. Trade is to make money to buy weapons or to be a better war machine. In other words, TI3 has all the mechanics of a civ game. But yet it does not feel like one.

A civ game as such Civilization also has trade, tech tree, some limited war, population growth, disasters etc. What makes it feel different from TI3 is that you are not focussed on making war, conquering others, and protecting your territory. War is only a minor aspect of the game. The tech tree advances generally are not to help your war machine.

I don't think a tech tree as such is necessary for a civ game. What is necessary is a changing environment of advances over the centuries or millenia. You want the conditions in which your civilization must thrive to be changing. You want the 3rd millenia BC to feel different from the 1st millenia BC. This gives the game an epic feel. Over millenia, small wars are not that important. Probably the trading and disasters of the game civilization are too important to be historical. WHereas the wars are about right in that game. Historically wars greatly affected individual countries but not so much civilizations as a whole (only in the long term).
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David Winter
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I think the reason the line blurs is because mechanically both types of game can play out the same. Only the Theme of a civ game tells you you are progressing from epoch to epoch, your main focus is still on your single civilisation and the resources and technology that it holds, as in an empire builder.

Although the theme of a civ game is progression across a vast expanse of time, the focus on your personal development is the same as it would be in an empire builder, I've not encountered a civ game that thematically and mechanicaly forces the "feel" of progressing through time, to the extent that it could not easily be re-themed into a game where there was less time progression.

Games may feature varying levels of trade, diplomacy, combat and development and still fit into either of the two types.
 
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Eric Jome
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clearclaw wrote:
The main reason I don't consider it a Civ-game is that the players don't care about the subject civilisations.


Does players not caring about the railroads in 18xx mean it's not a train game? I mean, railroads are just operated for stock value and profits for the players. So, it's not really a railroad game, it's a stock trading game?

This is a feature, an innovation, where players play the game not a particular position in the game. I think it is very interesting and creative, but it doesn't deny the subject matter and style of the game.

Quote:
In this case the countries are pretty minimal entities.


Same is true in Civilization. Some tokens on a map with no numbers, no real meaning. Control markers really. They have a mechanical method of expansion and the most rudimentary combat resolution. The game is really in the trading of cards and buying advances... sounds like this game you're talking about to me.

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Still a Civ-game?


Yes. Totally. Advancement of a civilization. The only odd thing is the money as victory points condition, rewarding efficiency. Most civ games are about completeness, not efficiency.
 
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alan beaumont
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Are civ games and empire builders really the same? If not what do you think are the defining differences between them?

Sticking my philosopher's hat on, I naturally ignore all the examples and try to get down to basic terms. (And I have no idea which game TI3 is )

Bearing in mind neither of these exists:

A pure empire builder would be a game where you are essentially trying to win by grabbing resources. Tech doesn't evolve, you instead purchase units/resource builders to fulfil your aims. It's a brawl. Victory will generally be about overall dominance, or a specific goal.
A pure Civilization game is one where as you acquire new technology (through expenditure of resources or whatever), you get a different set of rules and options to play with. Thus, each empire will acquire differing sets of abilities, even if they ultimately converge, as technology purchases are available to all sides. Victory will generally be about development, rather than dominance.

(Obvious) Examples
RISK: Empire Builder. CIVILIZATION: Civ Game. (Duh)

So far so easy.
AGE of EMPIRES III. Almost a pure Empire Builder. Although the 'Buildings' appear to be Civ advances they are exclusive purchases. (This is a source of annoyance. "I'm sorry, you can't have a militia, the Spanish already thought of that")

Getting tricky.
STRUGGLE of EMPIRES. A Civ game masquerading as an Empire Builder, or possibly the other way around. The tiles include definite civ advances, although some are exclusive and all are limited and some are pure resource generators.
BUT the victory conditions are pure dominance (though spread over the 3 'wars'). It's an Empire Builder.

Now my brain is starting to hurt.
Hope this was interesting.
 
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