Articles Gaming Scene CIV LITE DISCOVERED


Written by Michael Barnes     April 17, 2008    
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Holy crap, guys!  Was I wrong!  All this time I've been prattling on about this whole "Civ-Lite" thing was for the birds and I had a shocking epiphany thanks to one Stewart Woods, an Australian grad student doing a paper on social gaming.  He wanted to interview me and the first thing he wanted to know was about my first experiences with Eurogames...I thought about it a while, and remembered something from 14 years ago that kind of got buried under years and years of memorized rulebooks and trying desparately to forget that I ever played TEMPUS (thank you for that, Frank Branham, I'll never forgive you).

So join me and the Conquistadors of memory over at as I reveal to the world...Civ-Lite.

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Comments (15)
  • avatarbenny lava

    Dad-blamed rackle-frassin work web filters...I hate having to wait 'til I get home to read these.

  • avatarSka_baron

    Tell me about it...

  • avatarmoofrank

    Hmph! Tempus isn't that soul-scarringly awful. It is just...just there. Trust me, I can show you the face of Civ-Lite Evil if you really want to see.

    Settlers Knights is probably closer to Civ-lite. Vanilla Settlers is just a little too lacking in brutality, types of upgrades, and such.

    ...although the Settlers-derived Anno games lean more heavily toward special ability sets, exploration, and empire growth. They ditch the trading round, however. I like the Anno 1701 card game a lot, and am looking at getting the board game somehow.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Agreed- it definitely needs CITIES AND KNIGHTS to complete the circle...actually, Bill Abner edited my last line somewhat that made that a little clearer. Nice work, Bill!

    I think you did show me Civ-Lite Evil...wasn't that AGE OF HEROES?

    The ANNO games...I don't know, I like them and I don't...they feel kind of halfway there to greatness but so much is missing and I think Teuber kind of got caught up recycling some goofy mechanics over and over again rather than pushing on with something new...kind of like how Frank Miller got stuck on drawing dinosaurs for a while.

  • avatarMrZir

    I had a good idea of what the game was when you said that it wasn't Mare Nostrum.

    I also bought Honor of the Samurai, based on the artwork alone. I have only played it once and it seemed like a lot of maneuvering to get your daimyo killed frequently. I'll probably keep it for the artwork and try to house rule a decent game out of it later.

  • avatarAndy Kelly

    It's weird that you should say this now because I had the exact same epiphany about two weeks ago. In my freshman comp. class one of the students asked me about Settlers, and I heard myself saying, "It's kind of like a turn-based civilization building game."

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I just think it's funny there's this talk of it being this holy grail of game design and almost certainly because of the whole "cult of the new" thing people have forgotten that it's been done...and hey, I was wrong that it was impossible after all...just wasn't looking in the right place.

  • avatarmoofrank

    I'm pretty sure DragonEpic is the soul-scarring one.

    Is there a classic model for the multi-player highly political wargame? Civ doesn't have THAT much conflict depending on player mix. TI3 is probably the new model, but the best icon of the sort I can think of is Dune which is already quite refined.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    You know, I hate to admit it but I kind of thought that DRAGONEPIC was sort of cool...OK, maybe not cool because thinking about it was pretty terrible, but I liked how it combined kind of a CCG thing with a HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC thing...and then completely bungled it by a bunch of really bad, boring stuff. And it scarred my lungs, that vinyl board nearly killed me.

    Multiplayer highly political wargame...good god man, It's HERE I STAND. I've got 2 PBEMs ongoing and I've soloed it a few times (sans diplomacy) and it's absolutely brilliant. It fits that model _exactly_. It has six distinct sides all with separate goals and abilities _and_ they're all all codependent. It's not as smooth or refined as DUNE, but there's some really amazing stuff going on in it. It's one of those rare games that has shifts in scope that I really like- it focuses on big-picture stuff like the Reformation, obviously, but then there's little stuff like Henry 8's succession of wives going on and any number of events through the card play.

    I can't really think of a "classic" model myself...DUNE is too "weird" in a lot of ways to really fit that bill in the way that CIV does for the civ game. BRITANNIA, KINGMAKER...I don't know.

  • avatarIsamoor

    Gotta agree. Catan is Civ-Light. Heck, I don't even need Cities and Knights myself. Regular Catan has it all.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    On a fundamental level, it really does...except for that it doesn't really contextualize the devolpment and I think it's still a little too far on the abstract end.. I think what C&K really brings is that level of context and just enough "chrome" to really sell it as a holistic Civ game.

    I actually think SETTLERS is one of the most underrated games there is...yes, underrated. Every time I bring it out after a long hiatus I'm just blown away by it all over again. It really makes me wonder where the Euro designers dropped the thread from the things that make that game so great and so many others so bad.

    And it bears repeating once again...the CATAN card game is almost every bit as good. And you know what? It's the 2 player CIV-LITE!

  • avatarJuniper

    I'll be mocked for saying so, but the other great, light civilization-building game that came out of Germany is TIGRIS & EUPHRATES. There's no trading, sure, but there's plenty of epic conflict. One of the most desirable traits of a big civilization game is that powers grow, ebb, and transform dramatically over the course of a single game. T&E has this in spades, even though it lasts only 90 minutes. A single "external conflict" can radically change the state of the board, as monuments change hands and vast populations (er, I mean tile groups) are laid waste.

    Is it more of an abstract than a civilization game? I claim that any game about multi-generational sectarian civil warfare in that region of the world stopped being an abstract in March 2003, and won't become an abstract again at any point during our lifetimes. Pretend that the monuments are oil fields, and you've got the right idea.

  • avatarAarontu

    I totally agree.

    Settlers is the big cheese in my holy trinity of games, the other two being TI3 and War of the Ring. I love Civ-type games and themes, and Settlers really offers some of the best aspects of the "CIV genre" in an easy-to-understand 90 minute game.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I usually dismiss that kind of nonsense about T&E, Juniper, but you make a good argument...and _really_, if boil down the history of civilization to the conflict between "kingdoms" held together by leadership, economics, and religion then yeah...T&E really kind of does have that.

    I do think T&E is _still_ a brilliant, amazing game BTW.

  • avatarBigLizard

    I'll agree and also disagree. Settlers is a great game. My group plays it at least once a month, if not more. I'll agree that it is the Holy Grail of "civ-lite" games (note the small "c"), but one of the big appeals of Civilization (big "C") is the themes of specific historic peoples and places. So in that sense Settlers isn't the "Civ-lite" solution. Does it matter? Not really. When you think about it, the specific peoples/places don't make a lot of difference in "Civilization" except for initial placement of player pieces. I wonder if, in that sense, a version of Settlers could be developed that takes into consideration some kind of "real world" geography with set opening positions without ruining the game (since I've only played the basic game, I hope I'm not showing an embarrassing ignorance of the expansions). And I have played Settlers of the Stone Age. It's a whole new game unto itself, not an expansion.


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