On Saturday I participated in a gaming…event, one could say. A game of Mega-Civilization (MC). We had nine players and were there for 14 hours (though only 12 was actual gameplay time.) This could have been a nightmare for me, but instead I had a great time.
I’ve never played Civilization or Advanced Civilization (AC), which is a long game in its own right. Briefly, the way the games work are, the players start in a location and gradually spread out to claim territory. Eventually your population can support cities, which generate trade goods. Sets of goods can be cashed in to purchase advancements. There’s a trade round when you bark out what you need and swap goods with other players to build sets, but you can also trade calamities. If you’re stuck with a calamity when trading is over, it wrecks your stuff. The goal of the game is to get to a certain level of progress (number of advancements and number of cities) and then you calculate points from your cities, advancements, and how far along you are on the progress track. Most points wins. If you’ve played Advanced Civ, Mega-Civ offers, well, more of everything. Plays up to 18, more advancements, more goods, more calamities. In other words, it’s Civilization, but Mega so.
On paper I like civilization games, though often I don’t. I like games about technological advancement and building cities and stuff, but too many civ games end up being, as I’ve often complained, the history of armed warfare, plus grain. Many civ games will happily give you a single tech that functions as a “market” yet thirty-seven types of archers. Even one of the civ games I like offers “Mathematics” which does nothing except upgrade artillery units. So I always approach civ games with some trepidation, wondering if I’m actually looking at civilizations or just playing Risk, But Also Wonders. I was glad to find out that MC does not focus on combat. In fact, combat is expensive and constantly harassing your neighbors won’t help you much.
Okay, so our game convened at 10 AM. By quarter to noon we started play. The nine empires were: Eric (Iberia), Brian (Celts), Ray (Rome), Chris (Hellas), Tim (Hatti), Drew (Assyria), Jay (Egypt), Me (Minoa), and Ron (Carthage). Minoa, my faction, seems to be regarded as the lamest, which was backed up by me getting it because I was last to pick and Eric, whose game it was and who played before, offering to swap with me. But I stuck it out because I figured if I got crushed, I could blame that! Always thinking ahead, that’s me.
The first few rounds are pretty uninteresting, as it’s mostly just people spreading out and not bumping in to anyone. Soon, though Minoa was prospering. Minoa’s thing is, it’s surrounded by water, so you gotta get ships going pretty soon, but once you do you have a lot of choice locations to work with. Here I am establishing some cities (round tokens). You can see that I’m starting to rub up against Hellas (yellow) and Hatti (pink). We were getting along, though.
By about an hour and a half in, here’s how the board looked.
Green, in the upper left, are the Celts, who came right out the gate harassing Rome (hot pink). This kept both of them somewhat occupied, which was just fine by everyone else.
The importance of ships to Minoa meant my first advancement was going to be pretty obvious.
Now, I say how much I don’t like combat heavy civ games, but I monged a little war myself. I jumped into Turkey and swiped some land from Hatti. I considered this fair, though, since Hatti controlled Knossos now (due to a calamity they traded me.)
The game rolled on. Despite nine players, the rounds actually didn’t drag. A lot of stuff happens simultaneously, and even that which doesn’t, such as board movement, often happens so that at least two players can go at the same time. For example, if the Celts and Egypt are moving next, they can go at the same time, since they’re not going to be affecting each other.
The game has a lot of ebb and flow to it. At one point Egypt felt he was out of the game, but got back on his feet quickly. Calamities savagely beat at Assyria and Hellas, and both recovered. There are also some subtle balancing issues built in. If you have more cities than anyone else, you’ll get higher-quality trade goods, but since others aren’t getting them and you want to complete sets, you can’t trade them with anyone. In addition, those higher-level stacks have worse calamities in them, some of which can’t be traded. A lot of the calamities will benefit players not doing as well, so there are some catch-up things in place too. They’re a little clunky, but they keep the game from being one where you’re essentially shut out with 9 hours of play to go.
Eventually we were nearing the end. In our game, the final goal was three 200+ advancements (the cost of the card) and five cities. There were a number of close contenders. It looked like Iberia was going to get there first, as well as Hatti. I was close, but not close enough.
Carthage was also quietly sneaking in there. Ultimately Carthage got there first, after Iberia and Hatti both got hit with calamities that crippled them. I took shrapnel in one of Hatti’s calamities, which took out two of my cities. (If I’d had one more token on the board, I would only have lost one city, and also made it to the last stage.) That was the end of the game. When the points were calculated, Carthage won, and I came in sixth. Here’s the final board.
We finished almost exactly 12 hours later, at a quarter to midnight.
I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect from this. I’m not a big fan of huge, long games, and was mostly agreeing to play because Eric, whose copy it was, is a good guy who’s always up for playing whatever dumb thing I want to play, so I was being a pal. I mean, I didn’t think I’d hate it, just wasn’t sure if it would be my thing and if I’d be able to really focus and compete the full time. But I really enjoyed it. I’m totally up for another game of it sometime.
I liked the nine-player board. I liked that there was juuuust enough room, and that there were civs I never encountered on the board (though I could trade with.) Playing with a lot more I think would add more novelty than fun, and the full 18 would be strictly to say you’d done so. (Here is a report of a group that did so.)
Mega-Civilization was not an inexpensive game, so I know Eric wants to get more plays out of it. I’m totally up for being included in those.
Anyone want my bone wax?