Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization

Civilization IV: Colonizaton: My First Colony
Civilization IV: Colonizaton: My First Colony

Do not be fooled by the Civ IV part of the title to the updated to the classic Colonization.  You do so at your own peril; well, your colony’s peril.  Colonization is primarily a game of economics while Civilization is primarily a game of domination.  In Civ you work the tiles around your city and either get “money”, production, or food.  In Colonization you work the tiles around your city and get cotton, tobacco, ore, sugar cane, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.  And, while in Civ you simply use the production to build units and city structures, in Col you take all these raw products and produce finished products: cloth, cigars, tools, guns, rum, and coats.

Civilization IV: Colonizaton: The City Screen
Civilization IV: Colonizaton: The City Screen for my lung cancer city

My first attempt at Colonization was a disaster.  I got about halfway through the game before it got too unwieldy and I decided to try again from scratch.  Now I am the viceroy of a pretty successful Dutch colony.  My wagon trains traverse the landscape, whisking raw resources and finished products from city to city.  I’m sending colonists to native tribes to learn things like tobacco planting and cotton picking.  (Which, as Danielle remarked, still sounds wrong…)  And they have to go to the cities they are best for, so we don’t waste limited resources.

In a lot of ways, this is what I loved about the original Colonization over the original Civilization.  While both games involve a certain degree of micromanagement, it always seemed a lot more intuitive in Col than in Civ.  From the first Civ that offered the ability to have inhabitants be entertainers rather than working the fields (Civ 1 or 2?  Not sure) until now, I’ve mostly played the same way – just leave the cities alone.  Just grow them and worry about city improvements, climbing the tech tree, and having enough military units.  Back in Civ 2, whenever people would revolt and it would ask me – I would make some people into entertainers.  Nowadays, I mostly leave the specialist units as the ones that come with Wonders of the World.  After all, it was always a little tough to see just what effect I was getting from having people entertained instead of working the fields.  After all, why slow city growth when a larger city has more production capacity?

But with Colonization, it’s perfectly intuitive.  I’m producing X amount of cotton.  And my weavers are turning Y amount of cotton into cloth.  If X > Y, I’m fine up until the point that cotton starts to spoil because I have exceeded my warehouse storage.  If X = Y then things are perfect and it’s pretty rare to figure out this setup.  If X < Y, I have too many people working on cotton to cloth conversion and that colonist can better suit things working somewhere else.  Of course, things rapidly get more complicated than this.  Perhaps one city has enough food to support lots of people working to make finished products, but is poor in those products.  So a wagon train is built and shuttles the raw materials to that city to create the goods.  And then, maybe that city is inland so I need another wagon train to carry finished goods to the port city where it can be shipped back to Europe for money.  And, if this had to be done manually, this would be a game I would hate above no other.  But you can simply automate the wagon trains (and could in the first version, as well) to carry goods around all the different cities.  This is what killed Spore for me.  Spore needed some kind of intergalactic wagon trains to do all the annoying spice trading.  It really makes me think that perhaps the Spore team realized that there wasn’t much fun stuff to do in space and so they needed to occupy the player’s time grabbing spices and trading them all over the universe.  Seriously, what kind of people is advanced enough for intergalactic space travel, but not smart enough to create some kind of stock exchange to automate that crap?

Civilization IV: Colonizaton: Wagon Trains Everywhere
Civilization IV: Colonizaton: Wagon Trains Everywhere

Anyway, back to Colonization.  Really, the only thing I never liked about the original Colonization (and I haven’t had to deal with in new one) was revolution time.  First of all, this assumes that all colonies want to be their own countries.  Sure, this has happened a lot during history.  But sometimes colonies are OK remaining colonies (see Puerto Rico!).  But that’s just a silly argument.  The real problem is that I have always hated combat in these games.  This says volumes about my philosophies and fantasies about how the world should work, but really it was just about interrupting this system that I spent most of the game building up just to have a war and then the game was over.  In other words, whether Sid Meier intended to do this or not, Colonization is a commentary on the futility of creating complex systems.  They will inevitably be torn apart by war.  Or, to be put another way, why not attract a bunch of soldier immigrants and declare war immediately?  Why spend around 80-90% of the game building up an economy with Europe to then wage a war and have the game end?

It seems like a cruel joke on the player.  Most games have the player build up their attributes as the game goes along until they are able to use said attributes to win the game.  Perhaps you learn how best to shoot under cover.  Perhaps you gain units that will be useful again the main bad guy.  Or maybe you just learn how to think strategically within the game’s world.  (Similar to the point of going to University in real life)  But Colonization spends the entire game teaching you how to run an awesome economy and then asks you to militarily defeat the enemy.  It’s like training for ice skating by swimming.  In a way, the reality of the simulation intrudes upon the gamer’s sandbox-like fun.  The point of the game is to simulate historical colonies and their desire to win independence.  So the current endgame is inevitable.

But here’s what I would like to see – an expansion pack:  After Revolution.  Sort of an analogue to Civ IV:  Beyond the Sword.  If there is no elegant way to have a diplomatic, space race, or cultural victory (all possible victory conditions in Civ IV), perhaps there can be a new experience after revolution.  After all, the developers long ago realized with the Civ franchise that there were many players who preferred to play what is known in the gaming world as a turtle strategy.  Have strong enough defenses that the enemy cannot defeat you militarily while leaving the enemy alone.  Then winning via space race or cultural victory.  It still says a lot about the opinions of the game developers that most victory conditions will give a lower score than conquering all other races via military offensive.  But, at least the options are there.  Dan gets a thrill out of destroying enemy cities.  For me, the whole event is a nerve-wracking time until I have defeated the enemy.  Have I miscalculated?  Do they really have much stronger units than I?  It has taken me all these years to become a more aggressive player and I still am nothing compared to Dan (and maybe the majority?).

This gameplay style extends to all the games I play, even where it is less suitable.  I get a bit of game-related joy from climbing the tech tree and building advanced units and buildings.  So even in Age of Empires or World of Warcraft, I tend to eschew an early kill/win of the other players by building up my fortress and unit mass.  Even then, I may lose, but at least I had the fun of building things up.  It is telling that at the end of the game, I often have 25% or more or my unit slots taken up by workers, busy with deforestation as though their mission was to scorch the Earth.

But the point is that I’m not a huge fan of the combat.  And it’s not because I always lose to Europe in Colonization; I often win.  I just don’t enjoy that phase of gameplay.  As I mention for the third or fourth time now, I have spent the better part of 10 or more hours building up my economy and optimizing my cities.  I don’t want to wage war and then start again from scratch!  So, join me in momentarily envisioning an expansion pack I am sure will never be released (since Civ 5 comes out this year).   If my colony MUST declare independence because that’s what happens historically, then I’d like to continue the narrative.  Like the USA (in real life), you would have to make peace with Europe so you could continue to trade with them.  Also, perhaps you could provide military assistance (units or guns) to other colonies who are inspired by you (like real life South America) and want to overthrow their European overlords.  Also, perhaps the game now becomes a trading game where there’s a trade-based victory condition.  Perhaps, become the world leader in coat production or something.  Part of the reason this game has probably never been made is because it would be hard to come up with a second victory condition, but I would be all over said game.

Anyway, issues with the endgame aside, I’m having a good time with Colonization and I hope it eventually gets released as a total conversion of Civ V or Civ VI.

Post Script:
Between the time I wrote this and it was scheduled to appear, I finished up my Dutch game.  I discovered one bit of broken-ness in the game during war, although I may just be ignorant about a button or option.  Whenever an enemy approaches, wagon trains stop in their tracks if they’re within a certain amount of tiles of the enemy.  This is good in that it keeps you from losing all your wagon trains because they blindly drive right within the range of enemy units.  However, I could not figure out an elegant way to reassign the wagon train to its former trade route.  And with over 20 trade routes going on, it wasn’t easy to figure out what they used to do.  I guess I can rename the wagon train, but that’s a bit clunky.

Civilization IV: Colonizaton: Revolution!
Civilization IV: Colonizaton: Revolution!

As I anticipated, war broke the fun for me.  Suddenly, all trade stopped (as enemy units approached) and cities just ended up with tons of raw materials.  And it wasn’t fun to fight the war, although I did emerge victorious.  I learned that dragoons are useless for defense and soldiers are useless for offense.  I don’t remember how the original Col was, but I thought I remember dragoons just being an improved solder and that you wanted to make all your soldiers dragoons if possible.

Once I got the hang of the game and using dragoons to attack, I swiftly ended the game.  As far as I could tell (at least at the easiest difficulty level), the enemy does not increase his military force at all once revolution is declared.  This leads to the game getting a little game-y and, therefore, broken.  (I do especially hate being reminded that I’m playing a game when I’m doing these sims/strategy games (it’s ok in Mario))  Because if you are generating too many liberty bells throughout the game, the king is increasing his military.  So the best strategy is to play until you’re ready to stop playing and start the revolution and then build up your liberty bells extremely quickly so that he doesn’t have time to increase his military too much.  Also, you don’t want to have too many cannons already built up or too many units acting as military.  (Because that scares the king and he increases his military)  You just want a bunch of guns in the armory and a bunch of horses in the stable.  Again, as I mentioned above with the whole revolution aspect, I think they basically “broke” the game to make it more historically accurate.  After all, most of the colonial army was a militia.  Everyone went to the armory, got soldiered up and then fought around.  And I really hate this.

I used to love Sim City.  It had a place in the video game part of my heart nearly as dear as Civ.  Then, with Sim City 4, things got crazy complex.  We all enjoyed this because it appealed to every reason why we enjoyed a freakin’ city planning game.  It was neat to be able to tweak it to our heart’s desire.  But, unfortunately, it became too complex for the game designers.  There were all kinds of weird bugs around how the city grew and how the sims took mass transit.  (or even highways – which I often found more than useless)  And so I found online a way to design your cities so they could grow into a metropolis.  I was thrilled because I could never get my cities big enough to get all the population-related gifts.  But it ended up killing the game for me.  The strategy ended up producing ridiculously abstract cities that all looked exactly the same.  And if I’m going to do that, it suddenly becomes tedious to play.  There’s no creativity, I’m just playing a pattern to win.  So it left me in an ugly place.  On the one hand, no one is forcing me to build my city that way.  On the other, I know my city’s population is artificially crippled if I don’t.

In the end, I like Col and I’ll probably start up another game in a few days.  But I don’t enjoy it as much as Civ 4.  I think they got that one much more right.  Then again, they’re on their fourth try (and boy did Civ 2 have some issues!)  while Col is only one its second try and it isn’t even it’s own full game (it’s a total conversion of Civ 4).

Civilization IV: Colonizaton: Victory!
Civilization IV: Colonizaton: Victory!

Getting back into Civ4

I played some Beyond the Sword this weekend.  First game was my first civ game in what has to be at least half a year.  I’ve just been busy with other hobbies/games.  This was the first time I was actually able to have a Corporation.  I built the Sushi and Cereal corporations.  Pretty interesting concept.  And I founded one or two cities in my neighbor civ and they opened branches all over their land.  (More money for me!)

I did my third best score in Civ 4: Beyond the Sword.  You can download the file and add it to your hall of fame/shame.

Eric XV Civ 4 Beyond the Sword Save File

Civ 4: Beyond the Sword

Will be out either tomorrow or wednesday. Gamestop says tomorrow and Best Buy’s website says Wednesday. I played one last Warlords Game and did pretty well. I think this was my third best score in the expansion pack. So you can download it and play this last turn and add it to your high score if you want something to beat or something to laugh at. Eric XI of the Chinese would be happy!

Civ4: Warlords Absolute first impression

There is a new, war oriented opening movie that kicks butt! The opening screen no longer plays the happy Lion King-like theme, but a more ominous one. Instead of a nice happy world in the background to the main menu, we have an impatient looking warrior who likes to twirl his sword. Impressive!

My Best Civ4 Game Ever

Before I get to playing civ4: Warlods, I wanted to share my best high score ever in civ4. It was as the Eric-Chin IV of the Chinese. My final score was 7217 (the next one is 5699! as the japanese) and I finished in 1988 AD with a Domination victory in Chieftain difficulty. I might have finished earlier and had a higher score if I had realized I wouldn’t have my domination victory with the civs I was fighting. If only it had been a Warlords game, I’m pretty sure I could have had some vassal states which would have allowed me to have finished earlier! I can’t wait to buy, install, and play Warlords. To add this game to your hall of fame, just right-click the link below and click save as. Play my last round and it will record my score.

Eric-Chin IV

A little Quickie

I played a civ4 scenario for the first time last night. I played the American Revolution as the British. The map was really neat to play on, as they duplicated the eastern US pretty well. Each side starts out with about half of the cities on the map. Various actions cause loyalists to join the British or Colonials to take up arms. Also, accurately enough, the British are reinforced by German Mercenaries. From time to time British reinforcements arrive in Canada.

When the game started I took NY then lost it a few turns later. Many turns after that New York was back in the hands of the Empire. I then turned my attention against Philadelphia. I took Philadelphia as well. During all this, none of my Canadian cities were attacked, nor Fort Pitt. I had a lot of attacks on my Southern cities, but never lost them. Since no one was attacking my northern cities, I had them build some theatres in case I could use culture to get the Americans back in line. In the end, I won a score victory, but the Rebels still had most of their cities. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to try out some of the other scenarios.

Eric-Chin III of the Chinese’s Reign Ends

The computer kept declaring war on me and finally I got sick of being on the defensive. To speed things up, I declared war on EVERYONE! It still took a few turns! This time I’m playing as my original civ, the Japanese. Let’s see if I can lead the Japanese to victory at Warlord setting.

New Civ4 Game Started

I’ll post my file from my last game soon. Just started a new civ4 game with 2 new elements. First of all, I’m playing pangea so boats are irrelevant. Second, I’m playing Germans which have some differences from previous civs I’ve played (Japanese and Chinese). One primary difference is that the German special unit comes much later in the game. The Chinese get theirs very early, allowing me to kill the Japanese very early on before wars take too long. Japanese get their Samuarai mid-game which can be good as you’re trying to expand that last bit of land. But I chose Frederick because of his creative side which gives extra culture (I’m a big culture person and always win a bunch of cities from the opposition on culture) and philosophical which helps in Wonders. Execellent! I’m still Cheiftan, but I think next game I will go to War Lord. I still won my last game by a large margin.

Playing Civ4 on the New Computer

At first, Civ4 seemed not to play much better on this computer with twice the stats of my old machine. Yeah, the game didn’t take 15 minutes to load, but it wasn’t as close to instantaneous as I’d hoped. But then I slowly began to see the places where Civ4 was much better on this computer. The first thing I noticed is that the Wonder videos are no longer out of sync with the sound, so I was able to watch them and enjoy what the programmers had put together. Then I noticed that the scrolling was much, much smoother than it previously had been. Finally, I was able to talk to other civs without that causing me to have to wait 3 minutes for the other civ to load up. I finished yet another game, this time as the chinese, and I’ll be uploading that soon.

Reasons you shouldn’t use Linux

My wife asked me a poignant question a couple of weeks ago, “If Linux is SOOO awesome, why don’t you stop using Windows?” I told her that I couldn’t play civ4. “I thought you said it was ready for use and equal to Windows,” she continued. And I realized, there are probably some others who prosthelyze about how awesome Linux is. While I think Linux is amazing, and can do some great things which are hard or impossible to do in Windows, it is not for everyone.

Linux is not for you if:
You are a hard-core gamer
Some games like Quake, Doom 3, and Unreal Tournament have released their game for Linux as well as Windows and/or Mac. If you aren’t a first-person shooter fan, you’re out of luck. Projects like Wine and Cedega, a fork of an early version of Wine, can help with running some of your Windows games. I know that Wine, at least when it was in alpha, runs Sim City 4. Cedega runs a lot of the popular games like World of Warcraft and some others. Some people claim these projects are bad because the game designers only see that we are buying Windows games and don’t know that we’re playing them on Linux. Others claim that Wine and Cedega could be used by game designers to port their games with less problems. Finally, a third camp says it’s no one else’s bussiness if they want to run Windows programs on their Linux computer. Wine has come out of alpha, as I reported last month, so future releases won’t break what already works. I’m very excited for what can be done with Wine.

You are a professional photographer/image designer
The GIMP is a wonderful program and works really well. There are basically only 3 things keeping everyone from jumping the bandwagon. First of all, it does not allow images to be edited in 16 bit mode; absolutely essential for images to be edited without losing quality. Second, the RAW plugin doesn’t hold up when compared to Photoshop’s RAW program. Third, it doesn’t yet handle XMP tags as wells Adobe’s programs. Once those three issues are settled, tons of people will be able to stop shelling out hundreds of dollars for Photoshop. It’s not that Adobe is evil, but it’s a lot of money for those of us who want to do advanced photo and visual editing and don’t make a ton of money off of it.

You Want to Author professional-looking DVDs
Actually, there isn’t a good windows program to do this – I’ve looked! At least, it must be very expensive, because they don’t carry it at Best Buy.

Now, if what you want a computer for is:
-word processing, email, web browsing, card games (solitaire, etc), light photo editing, spreadsheet, presentation software, programming in C/Java/C++/perl/or ANY language, watch videos and DVDs, listen to audio files, design 3D models, and many other things, LINUX IS FOR YOU! YOU ARE READY!

My wife hasn’t tried Linux because she doesn’t like changing. She knows everything in Windows and doesn’t see a reason to switch. However, I am COMPLETELY confident that, if I installed it, she would know what to do and would be able to do everything she wants to do. She is not a compter geek, although dating/marrying me has brought her a LOT more computer knowledge. But I am SURE she would be able to use it without any problems.

Would you like to give Linux a chance? You can without getting rid of Windows! Check out a live CD such as
Knoppix
Damn Small Linux
Gnome Live CD
Ubuntu Live CD

To learn more about Live CDs, check out Techn0manc3r’s post.

Civ4 Computers Fighting

I was surprised that, by only raising the level of difficulty by one, the computer opponents in civ4 began to fight each other. In this instance, it was to my advantage because Washington of the Americans attacked Peter of the Russians, who I was planning to attack anyway. I think I will play my fourth game also at this difficulty level or I fear they may annihilate me. I’m not quite ready for that yet.

However, that may be quite some time from now. I’ve stopped playing civ4 pretty much because it keeps crashing. I can only play a few turns at a time and that’s just no fun at all – especially since it takes about 14 minutes for a game to load back up on my computer. I guess that’s what happens when you have the minimum requirements.