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.

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Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War!

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No comics today 😦

I figure that having comics every Wednesday for almost two years gets us a little leeway. I’m about to mouth off here, people. You can endure a monologue from me, or you can find yourself another blog to read. This is where we are.

So, first. We’ve not been posting as often as we would like to post lately.

Second, I haven’t been around to answer comments.

Third, this blog is absolutely not going away.

A year ago, more or less, I made this blog a political no-go zone. I am considering lifting that restriction and allowing contributors to speak their political minds on this blog.

Just so you know, this here pop culture blog is supported by a huge gaggle of feminists and other left-leaning people.

What if we decide to bring the politics back onto this blog? Slowly, carefully, and liberally? What about that?

Leave us a comment, if you have an opinion.

And have a video!

 

Harry Potter 101: Wizards Don’t Learn Math

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Abra Cadabra, Lord Voldemort.

What is Harry Potter?

Harry Potter’s a wizard.

No, I mean, like, the series.

Oh! Harry Potter is a book series, written by J.K. Rowling, about a secret world of wizards.

Harry Potter is an ordinary eleven-year-old who lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, the Dursleys, until he finds out he is a wizard, and goes to a wizard school called Hogwarts.

Why’s he live with his aunt and uncle?

His parents are dead. Lord Voldemort, the most powerful, evil wizard ever known, killed them, when Harry was just one year old.

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Which is not to say he doesn’t have fun with it.

Wow.

Yeah, that’s kinda Harry’s reaction to all that, too.

Why did he kill Harry’s parents?

He killed a lot of people, to be fair. Harry’s parents were just the last before he disappeared. And he killed them because he wanted to kill Harry.

Why’d he want to kill a baby?

Magic.

C’mon…

No, really. And I can’t say much more, without spoiling a few plot twists. But the basic answer is: magic.

Okay, smart guy, how does a baby beat the biggest, baddest wizard around?

That’s complicated, but the simple answer is: the spell Voldemort used rebounded from Harry and hit Voldemort instead. Harry walks… well, crawls away with just a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.

That’s pretty metal.

Hellz yeh.

Does it give him any special powers? Aside from wizardry, I mean?

He can talk to snakes, which is weird, and never very useful. It does some other cool stuff that becomes important in later books.

How long is this series, anyway?

Seven books. They start out standard sized, about 300 pages, until the fourth book. From there, they grow until the last, which I think is an 800 page whopper. The first two are basically kid’s books – I’d have no problem letting a 7 or 8 year old read em. The third and fourth are more young adult. By the fifth and sixth, though, the books get pretty dark, so if your kid wants to read them, check them out yourself, first.

That’s a lot of reading. Can’t I just watch the movies?

You can, and some of the movies are actually good. As the kid actors grow up, they get even better. But Harry Potter is all about the weird, fun little details, and most of those get dropped from the movies.

What kind of details?

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House Elves like Dobby, simultaneously the best and worst doll you could give a child.

Like goblins and house elves and centaurs, and how wands work, and the Ministry of Magic working with Muggles and… a lot of nerd stuff that’s probably boring you. But trust me, it’s awesome

Wands? Really, like goofy sideshows, “Hocus Pocus!”? And what’s an effing muggle?

A muggle, sir or madam, is a non-wizard. There’s also Squibs (wizards who can’t use magic), muggle-borns (wizards born to muggles), and pure-bloods (wizards born from wizards).

Ugh…

And a wand’s important. It’s like the wizard’s lightsaber, except it uses Phoenix feathers and Dragon heartstrings instead of jewelry. It’s pretty metal, too. Unless you’re saying Dragonforce isn’t metal…

I would never say that.

Good.

And I think there was something about the government in there…

Yeah, the Ministry of Magic. The series takes place in England, and the Ministry governs the wizards and tries to keep them out of sight of the muggles.

How can that work? Wouldn’t somebody just take a picture of some kid levitating and post it to Instagram?

Probably, and I want to see that sequel, but not in the series. The series begins (in-universe) in 1991, and ends in 1998, the year the first book was published. So, give it like a decade, and muggles will probably be all up in the wizard’s business (if you’re reading, Ms. Rowling…)

All right, all right. Now I’m rereading this… I mean, reviewing our conversation, and you said Harry goes to wizard school? So this is what, Magic Times at Wizard High?

Harry goes to school with about a thousand other wizard kids from age eleven on, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A big part of the books are about classes and sports and friends, wrapped around the plot.

Isn’t a school full of adolescent wizards, uh, dangerous?

For Harry, it’s practically a deathtrap. For everyone else, it’s just mostly dangerous. But Harry would be dead a lot if not for his best friends Ron and Hermione.

How in the world do you pronounce that name?

Ron. RAH-AHN…

No! The other one!

Oh, yeah. Hmmm… HER-MY-OH-KNEE. I think. Or HER-MY-KNEE, for short.

There is no way that name is worth struggling over. 

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Don’t sass Hermione. Ron is Harry’s best friend, and he’s got some great snarky and bright moments, but Hermione holds them together. She’s the brains and badass wand-slinger of the series. There’s an article over here, all about her (NSFW and spoilers).

I still don’t know. I mean, I haven’t read them, and they’re really old now. Is there any point to going through them at this late date?

I think so. I still read through them occasionally, and I usually find something new to enjoy. But I’ll put it this way: If the idea of rebellious wizard-Jedi, led by Gandalf, in a war against Magic Hitler doesn’t sound appealing, I don’t know what to tell you. Except that Hermione’s in it, and she is totally awesome.

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At some point, they really should have renamed the series after her.