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: 9/8/2010 8:05:32 PM

Oh dear, it's based on Revolutions.  There goes any chance of me preordering it.

Personally, I'm fine with the card combat system, but I was hoping the release would coincide with Civ V (8 days!) with hexes, one unit per space, ranged combat, etcetra.

Published: 9/5/2010 12:01:15 AM

oops! double post!

Published: 9/4/2010 11:43:34 PM

civ revolution? of ALL the civs he picked THAT one? I think im going to cry...

Published: 8/30/2010 9:33:06 PM

I think I died a little inside when he referenced civ revolution out of ALL the civ titles... just shoot me now...

Published: 8/30/2010 11:17:39 AM

Love civilization...can't wait for the game!  Civ: Revolution, although toned down from the typical pc version, was great in my opinion, because it distilled the essence of Civ, and made it more accessible to people.  If that is his inspiration for the board game, I'm happy with it, because it will allow me to play with a wider range of people.  Didn't get the chance to play the demo at GenCon, but watched a little bit of it, and it looked fun.

Card combat doesn't really seem to be an issue either.  We've gotten used to it in Runewars and I've been hosed by dice in enough games that it doesn't really bother me :)

Published: 8/27/2010 11:12:20 AM

This will be added to my collection. It looks more full of meat that the last version of this game. Though, I do like the last version with the added houuse rules my friends and I had added.

Published: 8/27/2010 10:51:00 AM

I'd love to give this a try when it comes out and will buy the game if it is good=:)

Published: 8/27/2010 8:28:18 AM

looks good, makes my civ addiction even more powerful with the upcoming release of civ5

Published: 8/27/2010 6:26:13 AM

Card combat does not convince me at all and IMO FFG goes in the wrong direction by making all their main games card combat driven. Eg. Starcraft boardgame would have been good and had very nice graphics and minis, but the card combat system ruined it, so I sold it on ebay. I prefer good old dice based board games and there goes my money.

Published: 8/27/2010 1:40:42 AM

Of course i will buy it regardless. But i'm dissappointed by all battle card mechanics released so far.

Published: 8/27/2010 1:18:48 AM

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

Of course Civ Revolution was a primary inspiration, it had the largest amount of examples of condensing game ideas (for good or bad), if you kept everything from the computer games in, the resultant board game would make the original Civilisation board game feel like a game of "Start Player". 

From the Demo we received at GenCon (from KW himself), the consolidation changes made sense, including those kept or adapted from Civ Revolution. 

There is probably a solid enough game (again based on the short demo) here that you could add the parts you wanted to keep back in if you wanted to.  If you do, do the rest of us a favor and play the game unaltered ~10 times so that you can compare play times of the unaltered version, to your "full", or at least "fuller" version.


"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)"

The card combat probably has as much to do with Sid Meier's own design thoughts on the randomized combat results for "his" Civilization games, as it does with FFG's recent proclivity for card combat in their games (Middle Earth Quest, Dungeonquest).


The only real issue I can see from a design analysis perspective is that a military victory being dependent upon successfully assaulting only one other player's capital city, leaves the game severely suspect to kingmaking.  This could potentially make running the game in a tournament very difficult.

For my own play I can just use the opportunity for kingmaking as another litmus test for which players I would or would not want to play with.

Published: 8/27/2010 1:05:38 AM

I'm looking forward to this game...^_^

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