Game on!

Tonight was board game night together with my friends. We played a newly acquired game called Smallworld, and I really like it. We played it the first time last week and all four of us agreed that it is definitely a contender for the “best board game” title, along with games such as Imperial (I haven’t played Imperial 2030 yet, but I heard it’s even better) and Puerto Rico.

The idea of the game is to play a number of races, each with a unique ability, to conquer as many areas on the game board as possible to score as many victory points as possible. Every race is also combined with a random “special power” which leads to many interesting situations. For example, in tonight’s game one of the combinations was “Orcs” with the special power “Dragon Master”. The orcs receive one extra victory point for every area they conquer which is already occupied, and the dragon master allows them to conquer any area, regardless of how many tokens there already are in that area. Needless to say, we found out that this was a deadly combination.

What really makes this game good is the many possible different combinations of races and special powers. It feels like the replayability is just so huge. No two games play out the same, and this is a really good property for a strategy board game.

Unfortunately I only finished in second place tonight, but at least we had a really good time playing.

A weekend with Civ 5

This weekend I spent a lot of time in front of the computer, playing Civilization V. As I mentioned in my previous post my first impression of the game was good, and that opinion still holds. I actually enjoy playing this game over any of the previous installments of the series.

The good stuff

So, what is it that makes this game so good? Well, first of all it still has that good old “just one more turn” feeling which every other Civilization game has. Still it manages to improve over its prequel mainly because it focuses less on micromanagement and more on the big picture, while still adding a lot more diversity. Take as an example the new culture system. In Civ 4, culture was basically just a number and an alternate way of conquering foreign cities. In Civ 5 it develops your civilization down different paths of social policies. This system allows for more customization of your civilization in a way that is very appealing to me. It’s not like in earlier Civ games where “Democracy is always the best choice”.

I also like how things like happiness is now global for your entire civilization. This just feels more logical, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time micromanaging every city individually. Same thing with culture and the tax system as a whole. I just hated having to alter my tax rates all the time.

Another thing that has improved in Civ 5 is the military system. The fact that you cannot stack military units leads to more interesting strategic decisions since the terrain has a greater impact. For example a narrow strip of land is now more of a natural choke point than it was before when you could just mass up an “army of death” and steamroll just about anything. In Civ 5 it takes too long to build a military unit to even get to the point where you can steamroll anything. Even with a technologically superior army, conquering a city is anything but trivial, especially if that city is located on a different island.

The bad stuff

Even though this game is an improvement over earlier games, there are some things I don’t like about it.

First of all, the performance is terrible. Even with a decently modern gaming rig the game just doesn’t run well after playing for a little while. It runs fine in the beginning but after a while the FPS drops to a level where it’s just not fun to play anymore. I found that running the game in DirectX 9 mode improved the performance to an acceptable level, however. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with nVidia’s DirectX 10/11 driver, but it shouldn’t be like this.

Gameplay wise, one thing that fails to deliver is the so-called “City-States”. The idea seemed promising at first but it just didn’t turn out the way I would have liked. The only strategic decision you have to make regarding the city-states is which to give your gold to and which to conquer. I would have liked them to be more integrated into the game so that you could for example establish trade routes with them and so on. Right now you only click a button every X turns, saying “Give X gold”, and that doesn’t improve the gameplay.

Conclusion

My initial judgement that Civ 5 is a better game than all earlier parts of the Civilization series is still valid. I like how micromanagement has been toned down in favor of more strategic choices. Even though many hardcore Civ fans might not agree with me, I just find this way of playing a Civ game to be much more entertaining, and that’s what a game is all about.

Civilization V

So, today (or yesterday to be correct) was the day that Civilization V was released and being a fan of the series I of course had to buy it. Logged in to Steam and purchased the game and 30 minutes later it was downloaded and installed. I have to say that Steam really makes life as a gaming nerd easier.

Having played a single game against one computer opponent I can say that it feels like this could very well be the best part of the series to date. I really loved Civ 4, and it feels like this game has all of the good components of its prequel, and some extra goodies added. This is just the feeling I got from playing one round, though, so my opinion can definitely change later on. Hopefully I wont be disappointed…