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    The Column 42
    By GP
    May 22, 1999

    I've always been slow to jump on new trends. For instance, I haven't seen the new Star Wars Movie yet. I figure I will go see it when it's been playing for a while and I can make sure I get a good seat at a nice theatre on a convenient night. Now, I know a lot of people who were dying to see this movie the first day it came out. I suspect a lot of you are like this. The kind of person who needs to have every new computer (or car or guitar or what-have-you) accessory as soon as they come out. Or maybe the kind of person who pre-ordered SMAC and CTP months before they were released. The kind of person who couldn't bear to think that others might be out there playing "new and improved" Civ-style games before you.

    Well, it should come as no surprise given what I've said about myself that I still haven't purchased CTP or SMAC. Yes, I've followed the forum discussions of CTP and SMAC with interest. It was fascinating to hear people debate about what new elements should be incorporated in these games. Or in some cases to hear what should be left out of games. Anybody remember the eco-ranger debates in the old CTP forum or the stacked combat debates at the old Firaxis forum? Even before either game release, it seemed that the Civ community had divided into two factions: CTP or SMAC. Now that both games have been released, I guess I don't have much excuse for not ordering one or both of them. But my attention has been drawn elsewhere. I know you are probably thinking: School? Work? Sports? Girlfriend (yeah right!)? No the cause of my distraction is an old flame. It's CivII.

    Yes, I'm sure you trend-setters are probably appalled. What, still interested in CivII? Well, not exactly "still interested." I had grown tired of the game a few months ago. I'd been around the CivII forum boards for a long time, even before Apolyton existed. I thought I had heard all the interesting CivII topics, discussed to death. When you spend time on forums, you start to see all the interesting topics repeated. Sort of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. After the third time debating the worth of the Wonders of the World or after hearing the newbie say: "Gee nuke missiles are great for naval warfare -- no pollution", I figured I had heard it all. I was also getting bored with the game itself. Several months went by where I didn't play at all. No, this isn't "still interested". This is re-awakened interest. Many of you may not know this but there is a CivII renaissance going on in the discussion forums, primarily the CivII strategy forum. The first thing that started the rebirth of CivII interest was the release of MGE, the multi-player upgrade to Civ2. I can't personally comment on the experience of playing MGE. Remember, I'm the anti-trendsetter. I haven't even bought MGE.

    But it has been obvious by following the forums that MGE breathed new life into the Apolyton CivII community. Many of the best CivII players (crusty old deity vets) have had the opportunity to face off against each other. Nothing drives tactical innovation like actual combat. New members have had the chance to learn from the CivII Zen Masters or in some cases teach the old vets a thing or two. The hotly contested multi-player competitions have also brought people to take another look at the conventional CivII game (against the AI). The most dramatic new development in AI CivII has been the competition to do challenge games, such as the single city deity level win. This truly incredible challenge consists of winning the game (spaceship) at deity level while only having a single city. Conquering other cities is strictly prohibited. And extra cities from goodie huts have to be disbanded immediately or reset to eliminate them.

    The single city challenge started as part of a casual discussion on the CivII Strategy board when someone mentioned that it was possible to win at Chieftain with a single city and at deity perhaps it was possible with as little as 3. The challenge was to determine the minimum number of cities required for a deity level win. It was at first assumed that single city wins were impossible at deity. When someone reported that they had completed the single-city deity win, I was astounded. I had to try this myself. So I fired up the old CivII program. Well, it was incredibly difficult and I promptly got my tiny civilization destroyed by the imperious English Army. That was a shock to my system. I had gotten used to beating CivII with ease. Well, that got my competitive juices flowing. I dropped down to Chieftain and worked my way up the levels playing single-city at each level until I had mastered it. Along the way, I kept up with the comments that were being made on the CivII strategy board and tried to incorporate new strategies tailored to the single-city situation.The single-city game is very different from "normal" CivII. Of course in conventional CivII, there is a big incentive to expand your empire into a huge multi-city monstrosity. It took a while to get used to the idea that a smaller empire can be competitive. In single-city Civ, the worth of many of the Wonders is inverted from "normal" rankings. Empire-wide WoWs are no longer as desirable. Who needs SETI when you can build a single research lab more cheaply? Or the Hoover Dam when you can just build a hydro plant?

    In contrast, the value of single-city improvements increases significantly. Shakespeare's theatre, the Colossus and the science wonders are essentially required for most single city efforts. There is also a much larger emphasis on trade than on production in the single-city game. Essentially the way to win is to out-race the AI in Science. Therefore lots of trade arrows are required.

    Well, I finally mastered the single city deity challenge with a successful landing in 2013. Other players, more capable than me, have continued the challenge by competing for earliest single-city win. Currently the record stands at 1863. The single-city challenge has taught me some new things about an old game: the easy money of tribute, the value of trade special resources, the early hut-popping strategy, etc. Anybody interested in details of strategies, rules or anecdotes of single-city games, check out the CivII Strategy forum. Several old threads discuss the challenge so make sure to search back. Or just check out some of the other threads on new aspects of CivII. Viva la renaissance!

  • #2
    Interesting column. I have read it.