Civilization 5 will bring us the biggest change to the game since the beginning of the series. Since Civ2 the "stack of doom" has been haunting the series. While the original Civilization had the most effective way to deal with this problem (When the first unit of the stack got attacked, and lost, all units of the stack were gone, unless they were in a fortress). Despite the collateral damage introduced with Civ4, stacks of doom remained of major importance. Especially when the stack included some properly promoted machine gunners or something similar. One did not need a lot of strategical insights to win a war when a SoD had been created. A large number of different units was enough. And then the biggest stack wins. Not that there is no strategy involved at all, but the great generals of the past would shiver by the limited strategical options Civ2, 3 and 4 would have to offer them.
With Civ5 this is all over! Finally the SoD has been dealt with. The solution is as easy as the Civ1 one, but a lot more elegant. Stacks are not allowed at all anymore. Every tile (Hexagon) can only contain 1 (one) military unit! (1UPT = 1 unit per tile). The strength of this unit depends on the bonus it gets from the units it's flanked by. (artillery gives an advantage, a closeby great general does so, ranged units behind it give a different type of advantages, etc). Suddenly it matters how you line up your army! You need a mix of everything in the right formation. But not only the right formation is good enough, when one of your key units dies you need to bring a replacement as soon as possible, to avoid that your vulnerable ranged units are toasted. Some units must be deployed first before they can be used. This blog has not the intention to explain all the details, but you get the image. Now it suddenly does matter a lot less how much units you have. What matters is how you place them, move them and promote them. And that's fantastic. It's something completely new for the Civilization-series. It's a huge step forward. But it also worries me.
This kind of strategy works fine for board games (Stratego) or turn-based computer games (Civilization IV). But what about simultaneous Multiplaying? Ever since multiplayer was (officially) introduced to the series, it has incorporated simultaneous playing. While the game is TBS at heart, for multiplayer there are only a very few die-hard fans who prefer to play that way. Simultaneous playing has always had it's difficulties, especially when war was involved. It then turned into a speed-click-fest for normal games, and the infamous "Double Move" drama was introduced for pitboss games.
While the speed-click-fest always has been an issue for the multiplaying community (the most famous civ blog, "fastmoves", borrowed it's name from it!) I cannot even imagine the troubles this new combat system will introduce for multiplaying. While for the usual single player game the strategical options will be increased, multiplaying may turnout more then ever to be about speed clicking. Who attacks what unit first from which angle, who is able to fill up the new whole in the defense first after the battle has finished? What if the connection lags? You can lose your ranged units because you weren't paying attention, while you have good melee units lined up to move forward and defend them. Suddenly this may all be about speed! Imagine a game of Stratego where both players can move all their units all at the same time....
Now not much is known yet for Multiplayer in Civ 5. We know that it will ship with a Pitboss server (which will be released later, just as with the Civ4 Pitboss). And maybe the Common Pitboss Community rules can be the solution for the other game styles as well. When war starts the involved players are suddenly forced into a turn-based order. It delays the game a bit, but it increases the fun a lot. No more heated heads. Young ignorant boys that lack any understanding of strategy will suddenly be beated by ancient old ladies with actual knowledge of the game! No longer will a failing mouse stop you from conquering a city. Civ at heart for multiplayer games. But while it's easy to implement such a rule for pitboss games, it won't work that easy for normal multiplayer games. That's why we must hope that Firaxis will introduce this Turn Based War option for Civ5!
Civ V + 1UPT + MP + TBW = The best possible combination any multiplayer strategist can dream of! Bring it to us or face the consequences! Our words are backed with Nuclear Weapons! Consequences Schmonsequences!
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