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Free Civ (Civilization)
This post is about my favorite free pc game Free Civ at http://www.freeciv.org
This is a free version of a game based on Sid Myer’s Civilization II. Which is a game I have also spent much time playing in the past. I bought and played Civilization IV as well and like it. I don’t recall a Civilization III. Another great game by Sid Myer was “Alpha Centauri” Which is “beyond Civilization” where mankind sets out to colonize a planet in the nearest solar system 16 light years away. I’ve spent many hours playing that one as well.
Alpha Centauri (example)
What do I like about these games? Well its the game play. I’ve heard folks say the graphics sucks. That all depends on your perspective. The graphics is light and the game play is heavy. This type of game is similar but more complex than board games of the past such as Chess, Risk, Axis and Allies to name a few. It plays exactly like a computerized board game. Imagine Chess with 100’s of pieces! Imagine instead of a board that is 8×8 one that is 64×64 or much larger. Instead of being played in an hour or so a free civ game usually can take days to play. And instead of 20 to 50 turns try 400 or more.
In the case of free civ the game board can be laid out in almost any configuration you have seen in board games. I go with the traditional Civilization Diamond shaped board. The diamonds give a slight isometric perspective that is psuedo 3D. I believe you can do square or hexagonal as well in the game options. One thing about free civ is that the game is highly configurable with many many options. In this post I’ll tell you about a few I like.
Civilization begins in the year 4000 BC and continues turn by turn up to as far as you can go but generally 2000AD and further. In the early years a turn is 50 years long and as you reach 1900 the turns are shorter in years at only 1 year per turn. This is why you can do 6000 plus years in only 400 turns. Generally the game is getting close to being over by 2000 AD and beyond where technologies are maxed and only a few players are left. In free civ all players begin in the stone age with basic stone age abilities. Though there are options which allow each player to begin with a few random technologies. However you will quickly find that if you do not manage research your nation will be left behind and conquered rapidly. If you do not research properly then you must ally with a nation that is on top to keep from being eliminated.
In Civilization you are the head of state and make all decisions for your nation and its progress. I’ve heard this type of game called a God game but I’d rather not call it that. You are playing an emperor, president, general, dictator, king etc. And in free civ you may choose your government over time. Each type of government has various benefits which affect the growth and management of your nation.
The city in free civ is a huge part of the game. City management can become quit a chore. The free civ writers have made a great effort towards AI(artificial intelligences) assistants called Governors. Use the governors wisely and it will make game play much more enjoyable. Though don’t trust them completely, often I have to alter them or turn them off. Also they tend to select items for production that I’d not prefer at the time.
The game has a great set of reports which I use constantly. Research, Cities, Nations, Demographics are among the most important. The others are sometimes useful. The Cities report is very important and allows you to perform batch operations on sets of cities. It allows you precise control of selections of sets of cities based on all kinds of criteria. Number one most important city improvement is ‘city walls’. As long as no enemy can get to you no walls are needed but once you are found the walls must come up. Walls will work well until far into the future tech. If you don’t know exactly what you are doing going up against a walled city is suicidal in the first 3/4’s of the game which is about the first 300 moves or up until about the 1800’s to 1900’s.
The world wonders that your nation may construct over time are incredibly important. And through each age different wonders are more important than others. Once one nation constructs a wonder no other nations may construct it. To name a couple Great Wall, Pyramids, Statue of Liberty, Eifle tower etc. Wonders take many turns to complete, into the hundreds. However there are three ways to construct them much faster. One is to disband more expensive units in the city which is constructing the wonder. The best way is to use trade caravans or trucks to help build the wonder but you must first research trade technology. The third way is to finish off the construction by buying it with money. Usually wonders are far too expensive to buy from the start however.
Each of the civ games had various units that over time change because they are obsoleted by technological changes. I am going to provide you with a spreadsheet for analyzing free civ units for defending and attack strength with given modifiers. freeciv.xls. In free civ terrain, roads, railroads, cities, forts, walls, fortification (different than forts ‘dug in or entrenched’), veteran status and situations affect units movement, attack and defend stats. Its good to learn these as you can. Different civ games have had different and interesting units and just because free civ has a given set doesn’t mean it couldn’t have other interesting types of units and game rules. The problem is that if you get too many types of units and too many rules the game is no longer a game but work. Still its interesting to play the different civ games to see different rules and units. For example I think Civ IV had slavery and slaver units.Alpha Centauri has a completely new set of space age units.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) in free civ is pretty good, however I often think the “Normal” AI is cheating, and I’m sure the harder AI’s are cheating. This is because cheating is a technique used by AI programmers to increase difficulty level. I think they cheat by giving production bonuses mainly. Or by reducing production time. However you may select before game play the AI level for each AI and let me suggest you begin with Novice or Easy AI for all of them. If you want however you can make one Normal AI then if in the game you get see that he is about to end it you can let that process go through and loose the game or you can change the AI level for that AI during the game play in the Nations report. Another way you can cheat is to save the game, then leave the game and load it back, just before you start you can take the strongest player over and start it up as the strongest player, then give his cities to your player, again save and leave. Then switch players and start again.
Why would I want to cheat? After playing a game for 10 hours or more its sad to realize that I don’t get to play with the advanced technologies and units. It seems you pass through certain ages and never get to do combat with the units of that age. So its a way of changing the scenarios.
In free civ there are many nations to choose from or you may let the computer pick one at random for your player on start. There are ancient nations and medieval nations and modern nations. You may even find aliens and smurfs in the list. The main thing that different nations do is give different flags and city names. In some versions of civ one nation may begin with different technology than other nations. The nation without the technology to start must research it or steal it with a spy.
Free civ has great support for network play between multiple human players over the net or otherwise. You may even notice to play solo you have to start the free civ server. I have not played it much this way however because its difficult to find another player that is online when I am and has the same time available that I have. Though let me say that two players might play for a couple of hours then one would save the game. I think the game can be restarted at a later time so that it could be played over multiple sessions. There is a version of free civ called “Long Turn” free civ where only one turn per day is run. This means that a single game will take a year or more to complete. I have not done this but it looks like an interesting alternative. Google for “Long Turn Free Civ” I think you have to sign up and wait for games to begin. You could be in multiple long turn games at once. In this type of game you are playing against all human players I think.
Free Civ has an extensive help system both in the game interface itself and online in a wiki at http://www.freeciv.org. Use them. There is more to the game that I have not touched on such as different Government types i.e. Democracy, Republic, Communism, Monarchy, Anarchy and more. And some of the games in the series have different governments such as Dictatorship and Fascism which free civ does not have. I didn’t talk about taxes, science and luxury and citizen happyness. One comment about money, for the longest I didn’t build markets. If you are having trouble with taxes and are in the red every round add markets and trade routes. You can’t always raise taxes to solve the money problems, though I think our modern politicians seem to think that’s the only answer.
Some improvements to the game that I’d like to see are grouping of land and sea and air units for mass movements. The only way you may do that currently is with a transport ship or a carrier. I’d like to see the ability to set one unit to follow another unit. They don’t have to catch up until the leader stops. Or even formations for sea, and air units where one leads. Also why can’t the APC unit carry 2 to 5 foot units. Why can’t a special helicopter or plane carry 2 to 5 foot units and the plane could carry a few mounted or mobile units. The flight carry is emulated with the air drop feature later in the game. I guess they didn’t want the follow thing because any unit set as leader then becomes a carry transport unit in effect. But when moving large numbers of ships and planes across the map it can become quit a chore during game play. So I’m not exactly sure what a good answer might be. I guess though when following a leader the terrain modifiers would still affect units differently meaning either the leading unit must slow or the other units must catch up. This might be a difference between transport and follow.
I didn’t talk about worklist and production list. But its easy to setup list of build items for cities. Another improvement I’d like to see is that when you hover population it will show number of cities, and number of all citizens.
I haven’t talked about shields, trade and food. Each square around a city produces shields which is used to produce units and city improvements and wonders. Food makes new citizens. Trade becomes gold, science and luxury. And there is much more to know about these three in various situations.
Some of the important up front game options you may set that I like are size of the map, and distance between cities. For the longest I liked large maps and cities 3 tiles a apart. But the your city list can become quit large and the management task can become overburdening. I now like cities to be 4 or even 5 tiles apart. This waste some of the map in unused tiles but it lightens the burden both the computer resources and the player. This brings another point on lower end computers fewer cities or smaller maps is better. Fewer players is better as well. I have experienced white outs of parts of the user interface and a computer AI taking forever to move 100 ships or planes or land units around. Sometimes the game interface even locks up. The answer is fewer players, smaller maps and more distance between cities. Another option I like is to be able to colonize single square islands. Though these may only be captured with a few unit types when attacking. There are options for varying the type of random terrain generated that I like to mess around with as well. That breaks up the monotony of playing on maps that look exactly the same all the time. Once you get the game going
go to the options, local client, overview, borders layer ‘on’. This is a nice option which shows the tile ownership in player colors. It helps you to locate enemies when they get down to only a few cities.
Also I’d like to see a stats panel that shows graphs for all kinds of information that you may add to the view. This will compare your civilization to the others over time. Similar to say Microsoft’s Age of Empires game. I think the game does log to a log file if you like. So a person could review a game stats if he made his own graphing app. Also free civ recently went to a Lua api for making game enhancements which might be good for mods such as this. I have not looked into it and I am not sure when I’d ever get such time to write a mod for it. This Lua api is used in other popular games such as World of Warcraft for mod writers.
You may at the beginning set up teams between you and other players or AI, these can’t be changed at all once set not even through diplomacy. For example you can pair yourself with a few novice AI and pit yourself and those AI against a Normal AI just for fun. Also if you want to see the full overview map click the vertical control on the left to detach it from the main window then drag it open until the whole map is revealed. Most of the time I have it this way and drag it around if needed.
Good luck and have fun.