News for August 2010
Remaking History 16
A Designer Diary for Sid Meier's Civilization: the Board Game by Kevin Wilson
Civilization | Published 26 August 2010

This week present the first article in a series of Designer Diaries on the upcoming game, Sid Meier's Civilization, brought to you by designer Kevin Wilson (Arkham Horror, Descent: Journeys in the Dark).

Just about every game designer wants to design a civilization-building game at some point in their career. For me, it was sort of a holy grail, something I’d been wanting to do as early as 2006. So, when Christian came to me and asked if I wanted to design the new Sid Meier’s Civilization: the Board Game, of course I jumped on the chance. What better opportunity to design a civilization-building game than with the hottest license in the genre, after all?

The first thing I did was look at all of the various versions of Sid Meier’s Civilization that were available. It was tough work, playing and researching all those video games, but I persevered. In the end, I borrowed most strongly from Civilization: Revolution, although my design would eventually pull in elements from many of the different versions of Sid Meier’s Civilization, and use lots of graphics from Civilization V. Piecing things together, I arrived at a simplified system that did pretty much everything I was looking for. There were lots of technologies, wonders, goody huts, barbarians...all the things that really make Civilization terrific in my opinion – things that devoured countless hours of my youth while playing Civilization I, II, and the other games in the series.

So, with that decided, I began breaking the game down as completely as I could and started taking copious notes. I started making lists of features, units, wonders, and technologies. Then I made a list of my priorities for the design, and the first thing on my list was multiple paths to victory.

Multiple Paths to Victory

List in hand, the first thing I started thinking about was the multiple paths to victory. I wanted players to have many of the same options for victory as the video game – provided that I could design them in without creating an unwieldy beast. A lot of Civilization’s charm is the variety of different player types it supports simply because of its victory conditions. Players can build a massive military and rampage across the board or concentrate on creating a shining beacon of culture for the rest of the world to admire. In the end, I went with the four victory conditions from Civilization: Revolution – military, tech, culture, and economic.¨

The military victory seemed pretty straightforward, but I knew that I couldn’t lift it straight from the video game. The time investment required to conquer all of the other players’ capital cities was simply too great. So, instead, I decided to make it so a player wins the game after conquering only one other player’s capital. This kept the game to a reasonable length and cut out player elimination in one stroke.

For the tech victory, I knew that I wanted the player to have to research Space Flight, just like in the video game. However, I wasn’t sure whether or not the player should also have to build the spaceship, so I left that up to playtesting to determine. In the end, testing showed that building the spaceship wasn’t necessary, so I left it out. The tech tree was an interesting challenge to design in general, what with its intricate prerequisite system in the video games, but I’ll talk more about that in a later article.

Culture was tricky. I knew I wanted to have it be more or less based on a victory point track, but I wanted to do something more interesting with it than that. Also, I didn’t want an enormous track full of empty spaces cluttering up the play area further, so I started experimenting. In the end, although the culture track looks like a standard VP track, it gives out culture event cards and great people with every space a player advances along it. I knew I had it right when even Germany and Russia were grabbing the occasional culture event card just because they were useful and fun.

Finally, I came to economic victories. This was probably the hardest victory condition to implement for the board game. However, it was integral to the identities of several of the civilizations I wanted to use, such as America, so I gave a lot of thought to how I could include it with minimal rules overhead. Finally, I settled on a simple method of amassing coins, both from the map and through jumping through various hoops found on certain tech cards. After watching a number of players attempt to dabble in the various strategies only to lose to the more focused players in the end, I designed this victory condition in such a way to help the dabblers win. After all, I try not to punish players for enjoying the game when I can.

Once I had the four victory conditions decided on, it was time to start getting into the nitty gritty of the design. But that’s a story for another time. Join me again next time as we start to examine the different victory paths and the things that make each of them fun and unique in more detail.

Designed by Kevin Wilson, Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game is inspired by the legendary computer game series created by Sid Meier. 2-4 players take on the roles of famous leaders in charge of historical civilizations, each with his or her own abilities. Players explore a module game board, build cities and buildings, fight battles, research powerful technology, and attract great people by advancing their culture. Choose your path to glory!

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Comments (16)

Published: 8/26/2010 11:00:00 PM

Love that mixing strategies is a path to victory in itself! 

David Spangler
Published: 8/26/2010 4:45:08 PM

I have to admit, I'm sorry not to build the spaceship, though I can understand Kevin's reasoning for leaving it out.  Watching it take form was always one of the pleasures of the computer game.

I'm looking forward to this one as well.

Published: 8/26/2010 4:43:59 PM

Omg he was mainly inspired by Civilization Revolution ?!  bad choice! :(

Now it really doesn't surprise me that even the combat system is so dull in this new version :(

(card combat again, go figure rofl, seriously i'm sick of this)


Published: 8/26/2010 4:06:29 PM

This game can't come soon enough.  Wish I was going to Essen =(

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