Sunday, 21 March 2010

V the Revolution

Parts of the blogosphere are abuzz with the news of the release of Civilisation V this year. I'm cautiously optimistic for a couple of reasons: that Firaxis are willing to trust the lead designer role to a relative novice to professional game development (but long time modder) Jon Shafer; and that what has been revealed of the design so far appears to be heavily influenced by Civilisation Revolution.

I periodically update my Civilisation Revolution house rules, so you may want to check back and have a look at the original article. The design is almost complete: I've solved the dilemma I had with allowing partial capture of cities by adding in an additional civic category (Philosophy) whose starting civic Superstitious prevents you from having your cities captured, and went from there. The inspiration for this is Norman Spinrad's Mexica, a novelisation of the conquest of the Aztecs which is well worth reading even if you're not a fan of historical novels. Cortez doesn't so much capture cities as bypass them to hold Moctezuma hostage.

In passing, I addressed a fundamental problem I had with Civilisation Revolution and the Democracy civic: a) it doesn't feel like how Democracy operates in real life - the myth of that democracies never go to war being part of the dark heart of America and b) once I choose Democracy in Civ Rev, I never consider another government civic. Democracy in these house rules becomes a slightly more historically accurate turtling strategy.

All that is left* is a balancing mechanism to make playing with less cities an effective strategy. I suspect this will end up being a culture boost of some kind, or perhaps making when your civilisation advances to the next age dependent on the inverse of the number of cities you have.

The other Civilisation news of the moment is summed up neatly in Soren Johnson's Fear and Loathing in Farmville where both sides of the argument have valid points. If you prefer the discussion in an audible form, the latest Three Moves Ahead podcast covers the same ground (Congratulations to them for reaching their first anniversary). Of the podcasts I listen to, Three Moves Ahead features the highest ratio of intelligent discussion to noise, mostly because its a relatively specialist area and features panelists with extensive knowledge of the strategy genre.

* With the minor exception of the fact I have no easy means of implementing these house rules. Civilisation in general has been strongly encouraging of modding with the notable exception of Civ Revolution. It theoretically should be simple enough to code from scratch - and there's at least one roguelike developer who's released a roguelike Civilisation game - or FreeCiv may be an easier path. The problem will be getting permission to release a game which is mostly designed by someone else.


Alex Mayfield said...

Have you considered contributing to FreeCiv? It's stuck in Civ1/2 land right now, some improvements to import rules from later games would probably be appreciated.

Andrew Doull said...

Alex: Fixed reference to OpenCiv in the main article to FreeCiv.

I suspect what I'll end up doing is forking off a variant of FreeCiv. At the moment, maintaining one major variant of a big game is enough work for what little time I have.

DMcCunney said...

"the myth of that democracies never go to war being part of the dark heart of America"

Democracies go to war all the time. What democracies don't do is go to war with other democracies.

Can you think of a major war in which the principal opponents were both democracies? I can't.

Tony said...

DMcCunny wrote: "Can you think of a major war in which the principal opponents were both democracies? I can't."

Peru-Ecuador war of 1941? As best I can tell, both sides were representative democracies. Also as best I can tell, the war consisted of Peru invading Ecuador because it perceived Ecuador of being weak. The two countries also clashed over border incidents in 1981 and 1995, but those incidents probably don't constitute 'major' wars.

I think there's other incidents in CA and SA history of two democracies going to war. Unfortunately CA and SA dictators like to cloak themselves in democratic trappings so it can be hard (for me) to tell what type of government a country had in 1904...

There's also Georgia-Russia 2008. Depends on whether you want to consider former Soviet republics democracies.

Probably a more accurate statement is that Commonwealth countries plus the US don't go to war against each other. This, plus the fact that until extremely recently only the US and ex-UK countries were both democracies and had the strength to fight globally significant wars leads to your conclusion... but there are far greater cultural ties than democracy between the the US and the Commonweath which make war betwixt them unlikely, IMHO.

@Andrew- I hadn't realized you periodically updated those Civ rules... doesn't your proposed 'Superstitous' civic promote spamming settlers, building one low value building (obelisk or granary I guess) and them buidling more settlers? Since you can't lose your cities except by a culture flip, once you ran out of territory to capture you could switch to either production or culture and have a ridiculously strong base compared to someone who was forced into a balanced build in order to have a defense. Or am I missing something?

Andrew Doull said...

DMcCunney: I'm tempted to mention the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, where the elections held by the Timorese led directly to Indonesia annexing the country, but it's not clear whether Indonesia was at the time a democracy in more than name.

Then there's the breakup of the former Yugoslavia states, where e.g. the Croatian war of independence was between countries which had had a history of elections at the state level (as opposed to Federal Yugoslavia), and shortly after they both held elections at the national level of the newly formed countries.

What constitutes a 'major war' is hard to judge when we have two examples in the previous century which have dwarfed everything before, and hopefully since.

Tony: You missed the fact that anyone with Horseriding can Pillage these cities, destroying one building in the process and then leave them vulnerable to a second attacking unit. You can't destroy the Palace through pillaging which protects your capital from being captured until you change your Philosophy civic. However, your expansions are all vulnerable.

I might have to caveat Superstitious to prevent you changing back to it once you stop being Superstitious however.

Andrew Doull said...

Tony: And yes. With Superstitious, enough gold, population and the Slavery economic civic, you can rebuild a building in your city every turn to avoid capture.

Slashie said...

Were you talking about RULER? It's open source you know, you are welcome to contribute

cratuki said...

I always assumed that America would be considered a republic. Democracy is what they had in ancient greece where everyone gets rounded up to vote directly on issues.

Andrew Doull said...

Slashie: Yes. But I have no time...

Cratuki: By everyone, you mean an extremely limited percentage of the total population. My home country was the first to have a fully enfranchised democracy.