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A Retrospective Civ1 AAR

Discussion in 'Civ1 - General Discussions' started by Lone Wolf, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
    I've been playing more and more of the very first Civ lately. Despite having quite a few flaws associated with the first title, it's also quite elegant, and, unlike its immediate successor Civ2, surprisingly aesthetically pleasant... so why not to write an AAR about the game where it all began, the game that spawned everything from further Civs to things like Warlock, Endless Legend, and even Polytopia.

    I'll be playing on the King level, as Americans, in honor of the land where Civ1 was developed. Besides, there's definitely something immediately post-Cold War American in the game's shiny optimism.

    So, let us build

    The intro is definitely the best in the series. Civ3 is probably the second. Civ4 starts out well, but you'd think it's some sort of antiquity game, since it doesn't contain the sense of technological advancement at all...

    (For more on the topic, Sullla has an interesting essay on Civ intro videos at his website: http://www.sullla.com/introvideos.html)

    The Americans, true to their pioneer spirit, immediately start exploring the lands around Washington. I avoided the tribal village for the time being, since it can spawn hostile barbarians.

    There's a graphical effect of rivers flowing and waves slightly breaking over the beaches. It's amusing to think that the effect returned to the series only with Civ4.

    One of Civ1's particularities is that the very first turns often witness quite a lot of early eliminations, due to the way map generator creates continents and places capitals (early eliminated civs do respawn, but are often quite inept, either being eliminated soon again, or, due to bad coding, not building more than 1 city).

    We met the Romans west of us and exchanged technologies. Despite their threats, they were willing to sign peace with us.

    Entering a faraway tribal village, our Militia found the natives to be quite friendly, charmed by the American way of life. They taught us how to lay bricks on top of each other.

    Interestingly, the most primitive unit is called Militia only in Civ1. The rest of Civs prefer the name "Warrior", although it's not really much better... are Spearmen or Swordsmen not "warriors"? "Clubman" is probably the best name for them.

    After we found New York next to the village on the screenshot, we explored it, since villages in the city's BFC can't spawn hostiles.

    These Civilopedia tech spawns make me think of children's encyclopedias - with reason, since Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley were consulting them in the process of developing the game. It greatly contributes to the athmosphere of Civ.

    The Romans were unroaching on our Manifest Destiny. This couldn't stand.

    But first, more free trade. America will always spread the noble principles of free trade and exchange of ideas, even under Despotism.

    And then we decided that Caesar was no longer useful to us.

    Since the game doesn't include Carthage as a civilization, it makes sense for the Romans to have this city, given its importance in the empire... but it's still quite ironic.

    The Chariots (4/1/2) are really OP in Civ1. It's enlightening to track the fortunes of Chariot unit in all successive civs - in Civ2, it already got nerfed to 3/1/2, before becoming a rarely-built, niche 1/1/2 in Civ3, totally outclassed by Horsemen (except its UU's). In Civ4, they were somewhat boosted from Civ3 obscurity to become a niche early rush/anti-axemen unit. They kept the niche role in Civ5, but this time, they were a weak-ish mobile archer. In Civ6, afaik, they are a rather marginal pre-calvalry unit, again.

    By conquering Rome, we learnt the concept of "Kings". Interestingly, in Despotism, your Civ1 title is Emperor, making it, in a sense, superior to Monarchy. But then, Despotism is a surprisingly viable wartime government in Civ1, due to unit support production maintenance on your units in all other governments. Notably, the concept of sacrificing your cities' per-turn production for having an army was last seen in Civ2 - apparently, the system was judged as overly complex and not that fun.

    The last Roman city was soon captured, too.

    We discover the Republic, my preferable government in Civ1. There's something incredibly charming in this image of Sid Meier in a toga.

    Sid Meier was absent in Civ2, but made a return in Civ3 as the science advisor, something I always considered to be quite neat. In Civ4, there's a hidden leaderhead of him that appears in game files, but not in the game itself. Afaik, Civ5 and Civ6 contain no such reference to the "father of civilization", which is a pity.

    We continued to advance our Manifest Destiny by settling the other lands, but its native inhabitants, the Mongols, certainly weren't the type to joke around. Fearing for our small outpost of Philadelphia, we agreed to pay them tribute.

    Finally, our land was prosperous enough, with its spacious skies and amber waves of grain, to become a Republic.

    Civ1 Newspapers were really awesome. Sadly, the series pretty much abandoned them after that, but I'm sure that they inspired the newspapers in Victoria 2, which I also like a lot (even if a lot of Vicky players consider them a distraction).

    The sad fates of the Egyptians and the Germans confirmed to us that the Mongols are quite aggressive.

    Quite a lot of civilizations already out of the game - a common thing in Civ1, like noted.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  2. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
    With republican freedoms, came unrest and disorder. Good thing we Americans were a God-fearing people, listening to the religious instruction in the Temples not to be rowdy and subversive.

    In order to properly resist the Mongols, we must research proper sea vessels to transport our armies of Catapults and Phalanxes.

    The Mongols considered it a provocation, declaring war on us.

    Since we were sending our troops so far away from our shores, we had to sign... certain acts and bills that - temporarily, of course - limited our glorious freedoms.

    But as we were sailing north to the Mongolian capital, the gray hordes approached Philadelphia...

    This did not defeat the free trade spirit of the American people.

    Caravan trade goods were expanded in Civ2 into an overly complex micro-heavy system where each city had lists of goods it needs and a list of goods it supplies. Due to being so micro-heavy, it was removed from Civ3. In Civ4 the only relict of it was the Great Merchant Trade mission, but caravans, slightly streamlined, returned to the franchise with the Civ5 expansions.

    And happily, there was an expedition on hand to reconquer Philadelphia.

    In Civs 1-2, you could gain your enemies' technologies by capturing their cities. Interestingly, at least in Civ1, you could choose a tech like that without researching any pre-requisites to it, as you can see here (Horseback Riding and Feudalism are pre-requisites to Chivalry). This led to civilizations in heavy, undecided wars rapidly trading techs as if they were allies, and probably was judged to favor the conquest style too much, since it was removed in later Civs.

    It didn't take too long for our boys to land on the Mongolian shores, smash their defending Phalanxes with our Catapults, and occupy Samarkand, triggering a civil war in Mongolia.

    Civil wars on capturing a large civ's capital were an inventive way the designers tried to get over the 7 Civilization limit, by re-introducing previously eliminated civs. Maybe that's why this feature was removed in Civ3, which allowed to have quite a lot of AI's on one map already.

    Yes, in Civ1, the Mongolian capital was Samarkand - despite their leader being Genghis Khan, the city list was clearly more inspired by Timur.

    The Mongolian Colossus observed our army on parade with a stony expression.

    BTW, Civ1 has the best city view of all civs in the series, especially considering its age. Some talented artists were working on this game. There's an interesting article on it that goes further, also touching on the clear visual style of the game:


    Unfortunately, Philadelphia was eventually destroyed by revengeful Mongols.

    Our advances in the north were hindered by a surprisingly strong Mongolian resistance.

    That's why an enemy capturing your cities is such a bad thing in Civ1 - they also take your techs.

    Still, no matter what, America would be #1! <insert Kelly cartoon here>

    Thank you, Pliny!

    Famous historians composing lists is still a feature that is present in Civ4. I don't remember whether it still exists in Civ5 and Civ6 - I haven't been playing them much. If it doesn't, it's another long-lasting bit of old Civ lore that was eventually disregarded.

    (Addition: these lists are still present in the later Civs. There's something so naively earnest about great historiographers making lists as their "greatest work", quite suitable to the overall spirit of Civ1).
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    jmas and BasilBerylium like this.
  3. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
    With the Mongolians decisively weakened by the capture of their capital and the civil war, we could be a proper Republic again.

    Unfortunately, the other side in the Mongolian civil war had no love for America, either. Why did they hate us?

    Fortunately, we had enough money to make them like us more.

    This could be used on the Mongols themselves, as well.

    Bribing cities like that was a surprisingly effective tactic in Civ1, and one the AI never used (Kerman and Tabriz were gained in the same manner). Perhaps that's why this method of gaining cities didn't, like many other things, survive in the series after Civ2.

    Sometimes, however, we had to rely on the old-fashioned way of city capture.

    The English joined in conquering Mongolian towns.

    Bremen had been founded as a German city, then was captured by the Mongols and went over to the Zulus after that. It was time for it to change hands again.

    We tried bribing our pink Anglo-Saxon relatives, too.

    Light red/pink, historically, was the color of the British Empire on maps, which explains its Civ1 color. It's certainly more appropriate than the orange of Civ2/3, or the totally ungainly white of Civ4.

    The Zulus were destroyed by the English again - the second time.

    And the Mongols were on their last legs, too.

    The English ended up declaring war on us, razing Hastings and stealing a tech.

    Civ1 AI, in fact, is quite aggressive and backstabbing, especially towards the leading player (meaning, most often, human). Periods of total peace in it were short. It's amusing to compare it with some Civ4 games where you pick Gandhi, Asoka and Elizabeth as your opponents and adopt their religion/spread your religion to them. These games can go too far in the other direction by not having any wars at all!

    We now knew where the perfidious Albion lay. It was time to conquer London the way we conquered Samarkand.

    In Civ1, upon researching Gunpowder (and Combustion, for the second time) all your barracks were obsolete. If you didn't sell them off, all benefit from them was gone. Civ2 adopted a more user-friendly approach by selling them off automatically, and later civs removed this obsolescence completely.

    Freeciv, the freeware Civ clone largely inspired by Civ2, has you build three tiers of barracks instead, which makes for a nicer feeling than having your city improvements be lost on tech research, even though it's mechanically similar.

    An English attack captured Karakorum - the Brits were nothing but a cunning enemy.

    The conquest of Nishapur was worse, since they took a valuable tech.

    But Operation Barbecued Lion was already on the way.

    Spying operations confirmed that while London supported a lot of units, they were all largely overseas.

    The result was predictable. Centuries watched our soldiers from the height of the Pyramids.

    The English retaliated by capturing Samarkand.

    Faced with such an enemy, we had to resort to other methods of influence than musket and steel.

    The Mongols attempted to attack us from their reservation up north. The results were never in doubt.

    This time, Darwin was an American. Take that, Brits!

    This powerful wonder that gives you 2 techs was still present in Civ2, survived in Civ3 under a different name (Theory of Evolution), but was nixed afterwards. Creationists who played Civ must've been quite pleased...

    Women's Suffrage is quite a powerful wonder in Civ1, since it eliminates "units outside home city cause unhappiness" mechanic in Republic entirely.

    Alan Emrich, the person who coined the "4X" genre moniker, had the following to say about it:

    It's quite amusing to see him pre-figure modern complaints about too much PC in vidya games, although, as you can see, he took it in a remarkably stoic manner (probably because he quite enjoyed the game). The full review can be found here:


    His assertion that Civ may turn out to be the greatest discovery in computer entertainment since the wheel has turned out to be correct, making him prophetic in more ways than one.

    Him noting that the game is a bit too military-focused is quite interesting, since it also can be considered a "PC" thing to notice. Perhaps the PC wars of 1990-ies were a bit different.

    We had lost quite a number of brave folks in our wars.

    Thankfully, they are coming to an end soon, with the help of other folks, the ones that run our banks and treasuries.

    They may not be quite as brave, but they get the job done.

    Civ3 and 4 kept the non-military opinion of gaining cities, but only though more limited culture flipping. Civ5 got rid of it entirely, before it being re-introduced in Civ6 with its "loyalty" concept.

    Most of the English starting island/continent was bribed like that, sometimes selling buildings when necessary (Civ1 didn't have the option to build Wealth, necessitating a continuous process of building and selling improvements in your cities to do it. Civ2 introducing it was the greatest QoL improvement in the series, one that's still with us in later civs).

    We also quickly eliminated the Russians (respawned Romans) who, as a result of AI flaws, had only one city.

    Finally, after quite a long while, we've found the last English outpost:

    We couldn't see this outpost before, since the game doesn't have the map trading feature. It was introduced in Civ2, but, strangely and bizarrely, removed in Civ5.

    And, with it...

    Is it better to be known as the Great Emancipator, or as the CONQUEROR? What do you think?

    The Japanese don't appear in the list of Civ1 civs, which was quite an omission. At least, Tokugawa appears on the scoreboard.

    The advisors are the Monarchy ones because I've accidentally signed peace with the English on the last turns, and had to revolt in order to be able to declare war.

    (In Civ1, the need to sign peace in Republic/Democracy could easily be circumvented by refusing to talk to the other civs, something I accidentally violated by agreeing to talk to Elizabeth, necessitating a change to Monarchy. Civ2 got rid of this work-around by making the Senate meet behind your back anyway, but later civs considered the restriction unfun and got rid of it entirely).

    It's quite interesting to realize that Elizabeth, my ultimate nemesis in the game, is, in fact, the only female leader in Civ1. Sid Meier must've noticed it, and the lack of non-European civs (to the point where even the Japanese, a common Civilization staple, are absent from Civ1) afterwards:


    I wonder what Alan Emrich would've thought of that.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2020
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  4. tuga2112

    tuga2112 Warlord

    Dec 10, 2007
    silly question.
    what does AAR stand for ?
  5. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
  6. Theov

    Theov Deity

    Feb 11, 2008
    Cool and interesting links included.
    Nice how you mentioned the other civs as well.
  7. Lord.L.

    Lord.L. Chieftain

    Apr 6, 2018
    Russia, Moscow
    What is the version? It looks so fine.
  8. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
    It's the usual latest DOS version, 474.05, but using the hq3x Dosbox scaler.
  9. Theov

    Theov Deity

    Feb 11, 2008
    It is really a great write up. It made me reinstall disbox and civ on my new laptop... I have it for halt a year now but havent come to play civ1 since due to do a busy life.
    I will defenately try to play a game here and there.
    Thanks again for the great read and nice links. I recommend getting a copy of Rome on 640k a day. It is really a great book for civ1 fans.

    I love a lot about civ1 so i used a lot of it in my civ3 mod.
    That ... and I always thought the science advisor was a woman.

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