If a Game Doesn’t Let You Adjust Blade Tang on Swordsman Units, Is It Really a Civilization Game?

The game I have been playing lately on the iPad is Civilization Revolution. This is a big honkin’ deal for me.

Back in college, I gave the original Civilization computer game a spin, but I was terrible at it. Once I got more than three cities I had a hard time keeping track of them. I’d forget about a city and discover them centuries later, their houses overflowing with canoes because I’d never ordered them to make anything else. Simulations in general I have a tough time with, as there’s only so much micromanagement I can do before I feel like I should have a health plan and 401(k) with this. The last simulation game I was halfway competent at was SimCity 2000, and do you know how long ago it came out? Hint: the title is misleading.

So I grabbed Civ Rev on sale with some trepidation. The other day I decided to dig into it and discovered, hey, I can actually play this! It’s streamlined and dumbed down so I can handle it. I can even keep track of multiple cities, though sometimes I don’t know what I want a city to do so I have them work on something dumb until I need a different thing.

I played twice in a row and won pretty solidly, though I was playing on ickle babby level. After one more time on the easiest setting (to finally understand some of the controls), I plunged into toddler level. I noticed the increased difficulty right away (especially when the AI players decided to try and prevent my victory) but still won.For my next game I plan to jump up another difficulty level.

So far I’ve had two cultural victories, a technological victory, and an economic victory, so the next part may seem like an odd complaint, but it’s something that bugs me about civilization games in general (mostly board games). For too many designers, “civilization” means “history of warfare”. I get that war is a big part of history. But it’s not exclusive. Too many civ games are, essentially, The Great Wars of History and Also Some Grain and Monuments. If you’re a gamer who doesn’t get a stiff one when thinking about war, there are few “civilization” games to interest you.

Civ Rev mitigates this somewhat. As I say, I have so far won with non-military victories. It’s also cool that if your nation gets cultured or technologically advanced enough, other cities will join you without shedding any blood. It’s how my Aztecs ended up with Minsk and Munich. So that’s nice. Nevertheless, although there’s only a single “Library” or “Market” you construct, there are umpty-thrillion military units you can build, and many technological advances, despite having tons of other theoretical uses, do nothing except give you a better military unit. I really don’t care about the differences between horsemen, pikemen, and knights; they’re all “soldiers” to me.

As I say, I get that conflict is going to happen. But if I want to play a wargame, I’ll play a wargame. I don’t want to play a wargame.

But anyhow, Civ Rev is a delight to play on the iPad. The controls are pretty good, and it’s fairly easy to see what’s going on. Apparently other versions of the game have a “Civopedia” that goes into more detail about the technologies and such, but if the iPad version has that, I haven’t found it. It would be nice if the tech tree gave you a little more info instead of wee tiny icons. Part of the reason I’ve played so much on the kiddie level was that I was mostly familiarizing myself with the controls and figuring out how to do certain things. There’s a tutorial, but it’s super basic. A game takes about two hours, at least on the easy levels. There’s multiplayer, I guess, but I haven’t touched that yet.

Of course there are also some in-app-purchases. Some nation-specific military units (naturally) and wonders, plus other stuff. Every now and then a great person appears that they want you to buy. For four bucks I bought what was supposed to be all the stuff, but I guess it’s only some of all the stuff because there’s still stuff it wants me to get. It doesn’t matter because you can do just fine without those items.

I’m really excited about finally being able to play a game like this, and I can’t wait until I can be the one telling someone to hand over the secret of Navigation or face an ass-whupping.

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