Games I Used to Play: Sid Meier’s Civilization Series

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I thought I was done with gaming when my last desktop quit in 2011 and took away my Morrowind. Lol, little did I know. I’ve got a seven-year-old with an X-Box in my household now, and I’m the only other gamer in the house. Since he needs guidance and occasional help with boss fights, I’ve been spending some time with the video games lately.

Once a gamer, always a gamer, it seems.

I’ve thought for awhile that gaming is an area of pop culture that we aren’t tapping into properly with this blog. I mean really. Gaming ought to do well on any blog that lives primarily on comics, sci-fi, and zombies, right?

The problem up to this point with gaming posts has been the same problem I have with comics. All the games I am familiar with are so old, I can’t count on anyone caring about what I have to say about them. And comics contributors are WAY easier to find than gaming contributors.

I’m playing through some games right now that, if not exactly current, are things people will recognize. I’m not quite ready to start in on those today. Instead, I’ll tell you about some some antics I used to get up to with one of the Civilization games.

The Sid Meier’s Civilization series as a whole has consumed more of my free time than any other franchise in any media. It’s beat out Star Wars and Star Trek, and heck, even Tolkien, for my attention over the past 20 some-odd years. It’s arguably the series that got me hooked on gaming, so seems a good place to start.

The Civ games are turn-based strategy games that give you a high-level view of an entire civilization. You start with a settler, decide where to build your first city, then figure out how many military units and what improvements to build, etc. It’s the first fully-developed “god game” I ever encountered. The only thing that came close in the late 80s and early 90s was Populous, and Civ I made Populous look like computer checkers.

My overall favorite Civ game was Civilization 4, because I feel as though the creators finally got culture, religion, and forms of government right with that one. But the iteration of Civ that I played most (by far) was Civ II. Morrowind is the only game that’s ever even come close to touching the amount of time I’ve spent playing Civ II.

The feature of Civ II that gave it the ultimate replay value, even after I’d figured out how to win any game, on any difficulty, is this. It had a cheat mode which you could easily enable, and which allowed you to manipulate the Civ World in ponderous ways. And I never once used the cheat mode to win a game. I used it to do things to my games AFTER I’d won them. Here’s what I would do.

Set up a game on a pangaea map with as many civilizations as I could crowd in.

Conquer the world so that I ruled ALL the cities, except for one AI city on an island somewhere, which was surrounded by my navy so that I could see every ship coming in, and every ship going out of that city.

  1. Develop my cities and the land around them to the point of absurdity, so that by the 1940s or so, the world was filled with huge cites with solar plants and mass transits and stuff like that, surrounded by farmland and connected by railroads from one side of the world to the other.
  2. Dismantle all my nuclear weapons, collect my final score for the game, and save a copy for posterity, so I could go back later and see what the world looked like before I turned the cheat mode on.
  3. Turn the cheat mode on and take away the all the technologies from the glorious futuristic, world-spanning civilization I’d just built, reducing it to the stone age for the purposes of producing new units and city improvements.

Then I’d give ALL the technologies to the tiny one-city civilization I’d left standing on the island.

Give the one-city civilization a lot of military units, many of which were strategically placed to take the large civilization’s capital and several other cities in such a way as to cut that civilization in half.

Then force them into a state of war.

Of course, the small, well-armed civilization would take the capital of the large civilization and all the cities required to cut in in half. The large civilization’s capital would jump to the side of the line where it had the largest number cities. And then this would happen.

On the side of the line where the large civilization had the smallest number of cities, an ENTIRELY NEW civilization would spawn and break away from the big civ. It would enter the world as a neutral power. Its technology would be roughly halfway between the stone age and the space age, and it always had ten or 12 well-maintained cities, including a few ports.

Where once there was a monolithic hegemon and a one-city civ on an island, there were now three civilizations: A nuclear power with its capital on an island, a large military, and ten or twelve cities on a continent; a large, backward civ with 40 or more starving cities and just enough modern units to garrison them; and a civilization with 20 or so cities and early 20th Century technology.

From there, I’d let it run for days or weeks. I’d set it up so it didn’t pause at the end of the turn. Then switch the monitor off and let the computer run all day while I was at work, or all night while I was sleeping, and check it hours later. I referred to this activity as “ant farming.”

And without fail, this was the outcome.

I always ended up with a war-torn world of two or three powers perpetually at war, with the starvation that accompanies global warming and nuclear fallout reducing the population of the cities by a point or two per turn, until finally all the cities had a population of one, and no one had any units other than garrisons, and no way to produce new ones.

It would sometimes go through a phase where it looked like a 1984-type world for a day or two. But if I let it run long enough without intervening to refresh militaries and such, it always ended the same way.

Post-apocalyptic.

It was a little disturbing, but it was a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday Chatter: Imagine Yourself as a Dungeons and Dragons Character!

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These Tuesday chatters are about conversations. Two weeks ago, I asked for feedback on the blog. Got some. Last week, I invited people to promote themselves. Many did. Both threads are still open, and you’re welcome to leave comments on them.

This week, I opt for pure silliness. If you ever played Dungeons and Dragons, think honestly about what sort of person you are, and imagine what your character sheet might look like. I’m going first.

ratqueens

 Ability Scores

We all know D&D runs on ability scores and skill points. Here’s my stats.

Most of what I do is Intelligence- and Charisma-based. I’m not assigning my highest stats actual numbers. But I will say, I find it difficult to actually roleplay a character with a 19 Intelligence or a 17 charisma, so my stats probably aren’t all that. Wherever they land, these are my two highest scores.

I wish my Wisdom and Dexterity were higher. My direction sense is so terrible I’m notorious for it among my family and offline friends. I’ve failed at both juggling and various musical instruments so many times, it’s not even funny. I understand music theory and am able to play by ear well enough, but my fingers simply do not cooperate. That said, I have pretty good reflexes.

Whomever rolled me up put the lowest ones in Strength and Constitution. Even when I was in my teens and working out religiously, I was not that strong. And I’m not actually sick that often, but when I miss a CON check, I pay a hard price. My Constitution may be higher than my Wisdom and I just don’t know it because skill points.

Alignment

The Nine Alignments of Batman

The Nine Alignments of Batman by CompGeekDavid.

Chaotic Good is the sexiest alignment, but I am not that. I try to conduct myself as a Neutral Good, but really, if I am honest, I’m Lawful Neutral. Bit of a calculating Stoic here. We can explore the implications of the Utilitarian Principle on the thread if you like, but this is all I’m saying about my personal alignment on the front page of the blog.

Equipment

So, what would I spend my 50 to 200 starting gold pieces on?

Aside from some armor and three serviceable weapons, one of which is designed to be concealed and one of which is made of silver (because D&D is physically PERILOUS, yo’!); spell components (because you KNOW I’m casting some spells, whatever else I do); and food (because starvation is the LAST thing you want to be dealing with if your DM is worth a damn). Aside from those, here are the things I must have in my backpack before setting out on an adventure.

  1. Writing equipment. Scroll case full of paper. Quills, ink, etc. A blank journal if I roll the starting money well.
  2. A small knife. So small, it’s not much better than a fist in combat, but it is not primarily a weapon. Is a tool.
  3. Rope. Rope is just essential.
  4. Chalk. It weighs almost nothing, and one time getting lost in some bizarro dungeon-maze will teach you just how valuable three sticks of chalk can be.
  5. A collapsible pole, if I can afford it. Alternately, a pole with sections that you can screw together and screw apart.
  6. A mirror for looking around corners and identifying vampires and making sure my hair is cinematically correct before every battle.
  7. A 2-lb bag of marbles. You would be surprised just how often you find yourself retreating down a flight of stairs, pursued by a gaggle of large, flat-footed bipeds in this game. Marbles have other uses, too. They’re awesome for voting and gambling, if you pick the colors right.
  8. Handkerchiefs, tobacco, and smoking apparatus. Because Tolkien.
  9. The means to make fire and a couple of flasks of oil.
  10. A holy symbol and some vials of holy water. Even if you aren’t religious, sometimes there be undead. And sometimes you get into a situation where all you can do is pray for divine intervention and hope you live through it.
  11. A change of clothing.

That’s it. Don’t need no stinkin’ bow. (Got Magic Missiles and a lot of even nastier spells for ranged combat. Color Spray. Sleep. Entangle. All very low-level spells. You know what I’m sayin’ 😉 ) Torches and lanterns: Also not required, because Infravision and Continual Light.

hobbit-map

I almost did a section on my skills, but if I do that, we’ll be here all day. All my skills are about the subtle use of words, carefully considered body language, and knowledge.

My D&D characters are pretty frightening when I manage to keep them alive to 10th level.

So, what I am I when I translate myself into the language of D&D? Not a book wizard and not a fighter of any sort, obviously. Also not a cleric because I have no patience for religious discipline. And not a bard, though I’ve worked at the bard skills a bit. Rogue/Sorcerer FTW, I say. More Rogue than Sorcerer.

What sort of D&D character are YOU??? Inquiring minds want to know.

Seems appropriate to include an Imagine Dragons video with this one.

Blogging A to Z Day 25: Video Games

If I’d discovered a way to get paid for playing video games when I was in my late teens, I would be one of the wealthiest people you would ever meet right now. For years, I spent most of my non-writing computer time playing video games. I haven’t been into gaming in years now because work, a grandson, and blogging doesn’t leave any time for them.

Here are the games I spent more time playing than the rest when I was a hardcore gamer.

  1. Morrowind – My favorite game ever.
  2. The early games in the Fallout franchise – Especially Fallout 2.
  3. Civilization Games – My favorites were Civ II and Civ IV.

Morrowind is one of those games you either love or hate. It’s the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series and the only one I ever played. It was released in 2002 and I picked it up year later at the used game shop. Fell in love with it immediately, and it’s pretty much the last game I ever played.

Several things make Morrowind special. It’s set on a island so huge and detailed it takes a single player months to explore. It has a linear storyline and quests, but you don’t have to actually complete any quests or the storyline to enjoy the game. And the game doesn’t end once you finish the main quest. It’s basically a huge sandbox that allows you to do pretty much anything you want.

It has an excellent system for creating custom spells, crafting magic items, and making potions. And it’s one of the easiest games to modify that I have ever encountered. The modding community gave this game a lot more longevity than it would otherwise have had. Want a huge palace or a companion to travel with you? There are mods for that, and for just about anything else you can think of.

Fallout is set on a post-apocalyptic earth which was laid waste by nuclear war in the 1950s. The first game begins 100 years after the war. The player character has grown up in an underground vault, is given a quest which requires him to venture above ground, which is now a wasteland peopled by bandits, mutants, and paramilitaries.

The Fallout wasteland is one of my favorite settings ever. This series is distinctive for its striking iconography and darkly humorous storylines. The first Fallout was simple, and too short, but I remember thinking at the time (1988) it came out that I’d never seen anything quite like it. Here’s the intro to Fallout 2, voiced by Ron Perlman, to give you a sense of what this world is like.

The Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise has probably gotten more of my time than any other. I played these games off-and-on from 1991, when the first one was released, until about four years ago when I stopped gaming. These are turn-based strategy games in which you build cities, use them to produce units to defend your civilization and build more cities. The game begins at the 4000 BC and runs to 2050 in most versions.

You can win civilization in several ways: by sending a spaceship to Alpha Centauri, by total military conquest, by domination — which means ruling a certain percentage of the world’s population and territory — or by being ahead in points when the game ends at 2050. You can play on randomly generated maps of various sizes, and choose the number of opponents to play against. My favorite thing to do was upload a pre-generated map of the actual earth and play with as many opponents as possible, because that makes for a long, interesting game of shifting alliances.

I could go on and on about civilization, but I’m already over my word count for an A to Z posts. So, what about you? Ever been into gaming? What are some of your favorites?

Let’s Play Torment: Ep. 6!

Hi! This is the last Planescape post until the end of April. I’m going to use the time to get ahead on writing and to try out some different writing styles.

This post is screenshot-light, and uses more of the in-game dialogue. I’ll continue to include screenshots, but they take up a lot of space, so I’ve gotta choose between dialogue and pictures.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you again at the end of April. Now, back in Sigil…

The Nameless One and Morte freed the Mausoleum from the foul grip of a necromancer. Unfortunately, they had to kill the man to do it. Sigil can be an ugly place, but Nameless has begun to understand the city and its portals… or so he thinks.

Nameless steps through a glowing blue portal and back to Sigil. He bumps into a haggard old woman, who scrambles away from him. Her eyes are not on Nameless, however; she stares at the shifting portal behind him.

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