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Very Positive Civ IV review from an educational point of view

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  • Very Positive Civ IV review from an educational point of view

    I apologize if this has been said before, but I just found this very positive review of Civ IV in a site devoted to educational games and thougt people here would like to know about it.

    General Description

    Civilization IV is a highly acclaimed turn-based strategy game for the personal computer released in 2005 featuring a vast amount of classroom facts and strategy problem solving. Every aspect of Civ IV relates to one educational concept or another, and Civ IV as a whole is one of the most beautifully polished video games of all time. The object of Civ IV is for the gamer to start with a small developing civilization among several and to build it into the dominant world force with the challenge and ability to rewriting history in their image. The player controls one of eighteen major historical civilizations, such as America or ancient Persia, as it progressed through history, and must grapple with all the problems a civilization typically encounters. The strategic ability of the gamer determines whether their civilization becomes the next great world power or is dominated by others. While history and culture are interwoven everywhere in Civ IV, an extensive knowledge of history is not necessary to enjoy playing. This is a turn based game and there is plenty of time to plot and plan. In fact, part of the fun in Civ IV is experimenting with the various civilizations and testing different strategies for success on a world scale. We recommend this excellent innovative game broadly to anyone who likes a good challenge and appreciates a game based on mankindís eternal struggle for greatness. Civ IV is a superbly crafted game with appeal beyond strategy game fans and history buffs.

    Classroom Facts

    Playing Civ IV exposes the gamer to concepts from science, agriculture, literature, philosophy, diplomacy, culture, conquest, politics, religion, and numerous others. There are so many classroom type facts woven into this game that it would be tedious to list them. Civ IV touches upon most aspects of historical civilization, with varied topics ranging from the emergence and usage of railroads in the late 19th century to the creation of Shakespeareís Globe Theater during the Renaissance. The comprehensive interaction among the dynamics of civilizations as portrayed in the game can be quite intriguing, and the challenge of implementing them enjoyable and illuminating. There is a wealth of knowledge within the game.

    A total of 18 civilizations are offered which the gamer may select by choice or randomly, each of which has a unique leader, or with 8 civilizations two unique leaders. Leaders have personalities and tendencies that are programmed to approximate those they historically exhibited. There are 32 resources in Civ IV that serve various purposes and grant certain effects. Some resources are "strategic", such as the rare uranium vital to nuclear technology, while others improve the commerce of cities, such as rice. There are 86 "technologies" that can be discovered with time and effort that have a significant impact on the shape of the world. Technologies may be physical, such as the use of "gunpowder" or "the printing press", or they may be conceptual, such as "democracy" or "the scientific method". It should be noted that after every technology is discovered, the famous multitalented actor Leonard Nimoy narrates a famous quotation from history that pertains to the technology. When "Fishing" is discovered early in the game, he recites the ancient Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime."

    The "civilopedia", Civ IVís version of an encyclopedia, can be accessed from the main screen at any time during the game. Like a tutorial, it contains information on all aspects of the game, but more, it contains a few concise paragraphs of historical and background information for the leaders, religions, buildings, resources, civilizations, civics and special projects. The gamer can access this information to learn more about the influence and consequences they had on history. This is easily the most appealing aspect of this game educationally, and knowledge of this history makes for a better game player, too, as the designers have cleverly offered the same opportunities for success and failure that faced presidents and dictators in the past. In Civ IV it is not necessarily the man who flexes his muscles, but the philosopher who strokes the chin that becomes the victor.

    Creativity & Imagination

    By the Player:

    Civ IV offers much opportunity to the creative player, starting with the game setup screens with many customizable options that can create a different experience each time the game is played. Each turn is filled with strategic choices, such what should each city produce; military units, cultural buildings, citizens, etc. One type of player may decide to build with militaristic intentions while another may be more inclined to produce buildings and units that contribute to the economy. There are endless possibilities. Once military units have been produced, as they gain experience in combat the gamer is able to decide on 41 different combat "promotions" to further specialize individual to match the players overall strategy. Importantly, Civ IV can be won through a variety of paths, and it is not necessary to dominate other civilizations through the military means. A nation that promotes peace and attempts to win economically can easily be the victorious civilization at the end of "history". Victory conditions include, time (the best score at the end of a set number of turns), conquest (eliminating rivals), domination by population or by land, cultural (with a set number of cities that reach legendary culture) diplomatic, (in an election triggered by the UN), and even by space race (the first to complete an provision a ship to leave the planet. In the standard game, the gamer chooses a civilization and is set in 4000 B.C. - "the dawn of mankind". History is rewritten through the decisions the gamer makes, and thus, the outcome is entirely a reflection of the players ability to strategies from a wealth of options and then execute their plan for success.

    By the Developers:

    Civ IV offers original and unique game play. The game is referred to as a "turn-based" game, in which each player in turn issues orders and directs production. Once each player, live or computer controlled, has made a set of choices the game one turn in time. A turn in the beginning of the game (such as in 500 B.C.) may be close to 50 years, where as a turn towards the end of the game (such as in 1976 A.D.) is only one year. Thus, the game approximates the "exponential" growth of knowledge that mankind has experienced throughout in history, and the player is able to accomplish more in less time as their civilization nears the present, and beyond. Advancement occurs on a chronological basis, and each "round" of history features a limited amount of turns and time, as it the gamer plays from ancient 4000 B.C. to future 2050 A.D. Background music is chosen to create the mood of the time period. For example, during the classical era the gamer is able to enjoy Mozart and Beethoven, whereas music from Jeff Briggs, (president and CEO of Firaxis Games), is played during future eras. In fact, both music and sound effects in Civ IV have been enhanced over prior versions. Each leader has theme music that plays during diplomacy, (ex. Marinesí Hymn for Roosevelt), land units utter phrases in their culturesí native language, Leonard Nimoy recites wise sayings for each technology, and ambient sounds can be heard, nation sounds near a nationís city and waves splashing near the ocean.

    Business Skills

    Money is central to Civ IV. Each square of land, known as a "tile," can provide units of production, known as "hammers" to its city. Hammers are used to produce buildings and units. Civ IV creates respect for wealth and its management, because no hammers means no production, and a civilization that is not producing is soon left behind by the rest of the developing world. In brief, a city without hammers cannot build. Trade is important in Civ IV. Thirty two different resources can be gathered and traded and they all have benefits. Resources fall into different classes, such as luxuries which includes wine and silk which are good for commerce and make citizens happy compliant workers. Other resources are highly strategic, such as iron which is required to produce swordsmen, or oil which is required for mechanized units. Resources can be transferred among a playerís own cities, if properly connected, and among other players, both living and computer, again if their civilizations are appropriately connected by roads etc.

    A healthy economy is important, because it can become necessary to change the output of many cities simultaneously, or even mobilize for war. When a player builds and produces with a strategy in mind, they have a better chance of success. Wealth can be used for many things, including to hurry production in cities, to upgrade the military or for trading. Each turn, Civ IV runs a profit and loss analysis and accordingly adjusts the balance of total hammers and resources held by a civilization. Wealth must be monitored and managed wisely to insure that a playerís civilization does not become an impoverished nation (out of wealth), with productivity grinding to a halt.

    A variety of units and buildings effect wealth. Merchants can be used in cities to increase revenue. Tax collectors can increase a civilization wealth, but only at the expense of other aspects of a city, such as scientific output. Wonders can be built that effect the economy.

    People Skills

    Civ IV is a great game for mulitplay (live vs. live) and cooperative play, (live players teamed against computer). Live opponents add all the unpredictability, cleverness and devious tactics we humans are known for, dramatically increasing the politics of the game. However, in Civ IVís case, even computer controlled civilizations will apply limited human tactics, such as demanding free technology in a bluff that threatens war when that civilization is actually no real threat. Of course, computer players in Civ IV tend to make considerable and repeated demands from opponents that are far weaker. The choice is often either to give in to the demands or risk war.

    In addition to trade it is possible to outright gift resources and even entire cities to other players, human or computer. Even the computer seems to enjoy gifts, and computer players come to like or dislike other players depending on their actions and the acts of their allies. Good allies can enter into "right of passage" agreements and even "mutual defense pacts." Civ VI is designed for trade and diplomacy which can mean the difference between success or failure.

    Civ IV is balanced well, and live players with practice are indeed craftier than the AI, as a clever live opponent can learn to defeat most AI strategies. Allís fair in love and war. Two live players can ally and declare war on a computer (or live) enemy and overwhelm the opposing civilization with might and cooperative strategy. Players can also form a defensive alliance with each other (or with a computer player) that may be rewarding in the present but lead to war in the future. Despite the fact that ability and power can be seen at any point in the game from a menu displaying power, live gamers still tend to bluff or become arrogant in their decisions and demands. When a rival civilization, (including the AI), demands something small from you as "tribute", it is sometimes wise to swallow oneís pride and give it to them. When gauging a two-front war on an enemy, strategy and teamwork can be crucial to winning a war (or coming out with better results). With a well timed strategy, two gamers can defeat many uncoordinated civilizations who are acting independently of each other. When making trades with other humans, there is a good number of politics involved, as one of the main keys in a trade is not necessarily to make it fair, but convince the other person that it is fair. Thus, a third party may be watching a trade occur between two civilizations that is completely unbalanced, but is powerless to do anything but complain. Of course they might attempt to complain, but them again, that merely leads to more politics. Diplomacy and teamwork are excellent in Civ IV.

    Problem Solving

    Strategy (the big plan) and tactics (local plans of action) constitute one big problem that is continually under review and in the control of the player. Each turn, the player should consider how their strategy is faring, and whether they should modify or change it completely based on what opponents are doing, (especially early in the game). Each city can be thought of as a discrete problem area to be developed and reevaluated each turn. In the event of war, a new set of problems is presented including the balancing of a military economy against a peace time economy, (classic guns or butter). Each turn the overall budget is checked, and if shrinking requires adjustment to city output, reduction in research, or some other tactic to resolve the matter. If playing under a turn based time constraint, for instance 5 minutes per turn, there may be too many items to consider independently. Players will begin prioritizing and/or shifting their attention among problem areas, perhaps even multitasking. Higher level problem solving will take place.

    Fortunately Civ IV comes with screens that act like advisers and summarize the main categories of civilization management. Thereís a lot to consider, but live players arenít expected to micro-manage, (unless they want to). In fact, city governors will make production suggestions or follow a pre-set production policies. Perhaps the best part of Civ IV is that the game player can use the city governors, advisers and game options to automate the parts of rulership that the player would rather not deal with directly, leaving the "fun" parts which the player enjoys.

    Although a civilization will not necessarily be weak if they donít have a strategy or focus, they will certainly not be strong. Dominant powers usually concentrate in one area, such as building a strong military. As an administrator, the player can "govern" each city and choose whether to have citizens farm, work in factories, produce culture, or produce commerce. The basic game is not time sensitive, so the player can relax and make the right choices backed with thought.

    Finally, Civ IV lends itself to complex politics among game players, live and/or computer, as alliances are made, strengthened and perhaps broken. Each player should consider what alliances would be beneficial, and they should also monitor alliances created among other players.


    Civilization IV is earning top ratings from essentially all the critics and fans. Civ IV is a top game in terms of popularity.

    Extra Credit

    Civ IV features national diversity, as the civilizations that history has shown to be great are diverse both geographically and ethnically. As previously mentioned, Civ IV features seven religions, and the manual makes a careful notice to readers that the game is carefully designed not to offend anyone by reason of including religion in the game. We noted an interesting comment during one load screen that stated, "Snacks are good in moderation." We approve. Civilization leaders occasionally deliver their lines with educated humor and wry irony that are cleverly understated but unmistakable. Civ IV may even inspire a few persons to sit back, relax, and open up the dusty history book.


    As the title indicates, this is the fourth version of the Civilization series, and it is by far the most refined in terms of mechanics and content. Civ IV feels as though nothing was spared in development to make it the best civilization game ever released. Civ IV runs well on the computer. It is worthy of note that the multiplayer coding was completely rewritten for Civ IV and we found it very reliable. Bravo Firaxis! Graphics, now 3D, are more detailed and accessible. In fact, all the screens and the game presentation in general appears to be extremely well though out. Considering the numerous aspects of a developing civilization which are controlled by the game player, something that could be quite overwhelming, Civ IV has succeeded in making the complex manageable, informative and fun.

    "Never trust a man who puts your profit before his own profit." - Grand Nagus Zek, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, episode 11
    "A communist is someone who has read Marx and Lenin. An anticommunist is someone who has understood Marx and Lenin." - Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

  • #2
    I think it's a stretch to call Civ4 an educational game or even a 'strategy' game. I play chess everyday, and compared to Civ4, chess is a mental workout when one concentrates on getting early checkmates and attriting your opponents while avoiding trades, but Civ4 puts the brain on holiday and trains it to be weak just the same as watching sitcoms on TV does. The reason I think the Civ games are brain melters and not strategy is because they are so loaded with micromanagement and tedious repetition. I got rid of my copy of Civ4 after 3 days last new years holiday cause even with heavy modding, I couldn't make it interesting or less tedious. For Sid games, I'd say Colonization was the best he made cause it was simple, good graphics and choices made in it were not so repetitive. I just got an Amiga emulator and started playing Colonization recently and it's a billion times more interesting than Civ4 or any other civ. The problem with the civ series is they tried in vain to make it more great by adding in staggering amounts of micromanagement and a repetitive boring tech race instead of making a smarter AI to challenge the player.

    If you value the creativity and intelligence of your kids, do not give them Civ4. Much better would be to teach them chess and get them playing online against other people.
    Here is an interesting scenario to check out. The Vietnam war is cool.


    • #3
      Opinions are like...

      It comes to what you can draw from the game. There are people who find chess so terribly drab and boring that it won't exercise their mind in the least. Just the same, there are people who dive headfirst into a Civ game who enjoy and are challenged by the multiple layers the game offers (I find the comment about micromanagement suprising, as Civ4 allows the player to cut much of that out if they so desire compared to earlier games in the series).

      Speaking for myself, I enjoy both Chess and Civ4. Each has it's own appeal and challenge, and I draw something different from each. One person's trash, another person's treasure. *shrug*


      • #4
        We rated Chess....see how it compares.

        GRADE ( your comments and just for fun, we decided to do an informal rating of Chess using the GRADE rating system. First, the disclaimer: We spend many hours on each rating, but this is going to be informal and 'just for fun'.

        I suspect unscratchedfoot knows more about chess than I do, but I did learn to play in 5th grade, I have played many chess games, and I believe I know Chess well enough to do an informal rating. So lets go:

        General Description
        Chess is an abstract strategy board game for two players. It is played on a square board of eight rows (called ranks) and eight columns (called files), giving sixty-four squares of alternating light and dark color, which are referred to as "light squares" and "dark squares". Each player begins the game with sixteen pieces of light or dark color (invariably referred to as white and black), which are progressively eliminated (captured and removed from the board by opposing pieces) as the game proceeds. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king. This occurs when the king is under immediate attack (in check) and there is no way to prevent it from being captured on the next move. Source Wikipeidia

        Title: Chess
        Publisher: Many
        Developer: Origins not certain, Majority view - In India or China
        Year: If China 2nd century BC
        Genre: Real-Time Strategy
        Platforms: Board Game, PC

        Facts: 2
        Creativity: 10
        Business: 0
        People: 10
        Problem: 10
        Simulation: 5
        Popularity: 10

        Classroom Facts: Strictly speaking, playing chess does not expose the gamer to classroom facts, other than chess itself, which is one of the world's most popular games with numerous references in art and literature. Points: 2

        By the gamer: Chess is a great game for gamer creativity. While the rules of Chess do place movement restrictions on the game pieces, there aren't many, and the number of possible combinations is extremely high. Therefore, Chess is a game that forces the gamer to make creative choices if they expect to be successful
        By the Designer: Chess is extremely stimulating to the mind, with surprises and inspiration possible at every turn. Points: 10

        Business Skills: Unless the gamer is in a tournament for prize money, there is no business skill in Chess. Chess has no medium of exchange, no buying/selling/trade. There is sometimes intentional sacrifice of a valuable player, but it is a gift in the hope of gaining advantage and not actual commerce. Points: 0

        People Skills: While it is possible to play matches against a computer, or with ones self, Chess is essentially a multiplayer game of one on one. People may differ with me on this, but I see Chess as a high level match of wits that involves more than just what takes place on the board. Chess is usually played face to face, and interpersonal dynamics are a central part of the game. Points: 10

        Problems: Problem solving is the strongest educational strength of Chess. Chess involves intense multitasking from the first move, (if not before), considering offense, defense, and everything going on everywhere on the board, not only for the next move, but as many moves in the future as the player can mentally juggle. Need I say more? Points: 10

        Simulation: Chess actually is a simulation game, with roots in that include war simulation. It lacks the detail of today's war simulation games, but compensates with flexibility. No, we can't simulate the war in Iraq on a chessboard very well. Yes, Chess might be one of the original war simulation games. Points 5

        Popularity: Chess is one of the most popular games of all time, and anyone who disagrees has their head stuck in the ground. Points: 10

        So, how does chess rate?

        In Genre B-
        Overall B

        Chess rates well in our broad system, but not an A. Why? No business skills and almost no classroom facts hurt the score. Our rating system rewards games that earn points broadly. This is certainly no insult to the game of Chess. Remember, in every category that Chess rated well, it earned a solid 10.

        If GRADE actually rated board games, then Chess would not be in the RTS genre, but in the board game genre. We lack a baseline for the board game genre, but Chess would probable rate an In Genre A. Maybe we'll rate Monopoly next.