Sorry for the big wall of text, but i had to say it. Spoiler : 1. Why I don't think Civ is about strategy People seem nowadays to always refer to "strategic choices" and mechanics when talking about Civ. But first I don't think there is that much strategic choice in Civ, particularly in higher levels. There is always an optimum way to play in order to win that cheating AI, and only one can occasionnally try different strategies in order to fulfill the victory conditions, for some marginal victory. The goal is to "guess" those optimum strategies, not building any from scratch on your own, you are limited by the game system and what you can reasonably do, and constrained by the AI bonuses and your maluses. Don't get me wrong you can call it strategy but it's more about daylife strategy than "grand" strategy. I don't think Civ is a "grand" strategic game at all. There have been grand strategic games by the past, but they were very elitist and not everybody could play them without invest itself deeply by reading a 300 pages book entirely. Civ is a mainstream game, where you can play immediately by moving units, building things, and interacting with the environment. The audience is just not the same, everything is kept simplistic, witnesses the very archaic main resource system, where you can't produce anything without hills and grow babies out of food. Not to mention the genuine unit system that is a "pushing units" one and the blatant lack of complexity and mindblowing innovation in any iteration. On top of all, Civ has always been a pretty easy experience, where challenge as seen above has always come from principally the AI bonuses and the path of its mechanics, but they are not insuppresible once you know the game. It's just about that : knowing the game. Then sure, it will take some games to become familiar with it, and each game is pretty long already, so it has a good lifetime. But it loses its interest when familiarized with it and when beating the highest levels, unless you play multiplayer. But multiplayer is just underlining the flaws of the game : wild and imperfect. Wild because the game obviously has not been thought out for multiplayer, with its so long games, starting biases and snowball effect, but also with its big failure to synthesis geopolitics, with players that are globally (at supposed equal starts) weakened by any war, not including unfair alliances (and silly : what are we doing when the alliance won ?). Not talking about the difference of players levels inside one same game, unbalancing the whole, or the difficulty for everybody to understand the true limits of fairness and ingamePolitics (if there are any !). No, I think that Civ is about fun. Or, more precisely, should be about fun. I've never seen any iteration of Civ digging down the base concept. It has always been about better graphics and Whatever tweaks. The base concept is mindblowing. The sequels ? I've seen some of them even withdraw some of the initial and funniest aspects of it, for example the powerfull wonders. Hard to keep in a game that forbid them in Deity though. So not only the game isn't reasonnably as mindblowing as its predecessors, due to the lack of mindblowing innovation precisely (and of course what could be called in its ultimate form "the weariness"), but it is also less fun for newcomers that should reasonnably be mindblowed by it. For example, is frustration fun ? The new systems have proven themselves only more and more frustrating. First the maintenance system, crippling greatly your economy without any way of control beside testing, and now the global happiness system, forbidding uninhibited expansion and war. (what should be the funniest parts of Civ, because it's its ADN) Developers don't seem to focus on the good things, making the games dull or frustrating. If they were focused on fun, things like global happiness would have never existed in such a game. They are more focused now on mechanics and forums debates about how Civ is unpredicatable and therefore playing is about opinions rather than true strategy. (as a proof, their last devblog entry : is not moving our first settler always better ? WAOW, that's so mindblowing... not !) So instead of babling about strategy and be kept in fascination before Civ own qualities, devs should put themselves in question, urgently. Civ is a game, not an apothecary subject. I really dismiss all those apothecary speculations, and never participate in them because they bore me to death. Like, could we add civilization X to the game, their UA would be +5% Y, and their UU have + 10 % strenght against Z. Come on guys, you can do better than that ! So, folks, Civ isn't about strategy, it's about fun. You can try to correct some mistakes by tweaking the next iteration, but it's at the cost to deter what was really fun. And that's what happened. Instead, I just suggest to dig down the base concept, it is to say civilizations that go through the test of time, rise and fall, expand greatly, fight greatly, it's all about the feeling we have from it, it has never been about gameplay for itself alone. Gameplay games like Minesweeper, Chess and the like are so cold and boring ! Stop luring yourself, Civ is a "sandbox", nothing more. And that's as a "sandbox" that we, video gamers should enjoy it. Crazy phenomema, mindblowing innovation, that's what I'm expecting of Civ sequels. I don't want the focus to be on gameplay uniquely, because it's so impacting on how the whole game feels, making everything less hearted, more mechanical as the reproduction of the initial or the previous opus, just "not to lose the point of the series". It's becomming embarrassing. No matter if everything is not perfect. Civ5 is still really imperfect in many aspects. Why not, instead of a predictable imperfect experience, wouldn't we have a fairly innovative and focused on fun (the streets signification) imperfect experience ? 2. How Civ is fun Civ is what is nowadays defined as a 4X, it is to say eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. While it's unsure to me how equal or representative all those 4 verbs are, one can say something for sure : it is Civ which invented the genre. Does it speak for itself ? Not entirely in my opinion. The two verbs i doubt represent Civ perfectly are Explore and Exploit, while I would easily see the essence of a game like Civ as Expand and Exterminate perfectly, when refering to fun at least. a. Explore The exploring part is anecdotic for the most part, at least in Civ5 and for an old player of the series. Objectively, we can say that exploring occurs only at the very beginning of the game and that once everything is discovered, the exploring part simply disappears. So it has not a good life time and one would have difficulties to define the genre by it. On the other hand, I feel that exploring in Civ, and particularly in Civ5, lacks interest. Not only "brain munching" one (there's little strategy in choosing one tile or another when it comes to uncover what is not known), but also candy one (to put it clear : point and fun). As an illustration, I will evoke the middle game discovering of another continent : while it was full of promise and marvel in reality, the mechanics of Civ5 make it anecdotic, if not totally useless or with unpleasant perspectives (possible runaway, boring management of troops for conquest, colonisation nearly impossible -for many reasons-, etc.). Don't get me wrong, I think that the term Explore has its place in the definition of the genre, with unknown, danger, excitation and marvel, but that if Civ1, 2 and in a least measure 3 and 4 achieved to represent things in the right way and made us feel all that in the beginnings of each games by subtile touches of humble art (pictures and musics) and also by the wilderness and cryptic ways of the firsts computing and genre days (cryptic graphics, cryptic game and rules as no one have seen such a game before - as cryptic as the reality for savages), the last iteration of the series, with its pompous description of pompous leaders and civilizations, threw the witness so far from humanity first steps as wild tribes, not to mention the general anachronic design, that one may fail to be teased by exploration, especially if it's an old player that knows perfectly the codes of the series. (goody huts, barbarians, other civilizations -in my first game of Civ1, I wondered if there were even other civilizations, because for me it was just a program and not reality...-, etc.) More than simply a feeling that one can get accustomed to, I think that exploration should be vastly emphasised. For example, by magnificating the land around : There should be more variety of lands, shape and colours, a little like when we go from one world to the other of a plateformer like Mario. Also, the plants and resources should be more varied (primitives can find uses for nearly every type of plants around ; not just "grand historical" resources should be included, and yet in this domain Civ5 fails), not to mention animals that should look like a living part of the surroundings, by making them move on the map for example (and not only "barb animals" like in Civ4) or allow the player to interact with them without too much micromanagement. Generally, you can allow the player to interact more with this environment, be it tribes that can be your equal at start and evolve according to the shape of the land, the resources, their neighbours (including you) and why not special events, and that may bring you significative contributions at the point you may consider to live into symbiosis with them. (a little like city-states but a lot less arbitrary and more alive) More generally, Civ5 seems too much rough in this regard, with simple blocks that pain to prove their use to every player or in every game. I think that developers should not be afraid to dig down and put more details into the base concepts of the game, because they are what make it fun and what it has been built on since the beginning. b. Exploit I admit I have difficulties to know precisely what it is about, as everything in Civ is done automatically, no action of the player required except good ol' workers actions, citizens placement and choice of buildings, gold purchases, techs, social policies etc... what is pretty honest all in all but I fail to see in every of them the "Exploit" part, which remains vague and nebulous for me. c. Expand Expansion has always been one of the keys of Civ : when you realise that other civilizations exist, controlled by an AI, suddenly a notion of competition appears, competition for land supremacy. And, if you can build only settlers among some other things, maybe expanding is the point of the game ? It's a shame that Civ5 does not encourage expansion with its limited global happiness and powerfull (essential ?) national wonders that require a building being built in every city. Not only it doesn't encourage expansion, but it may prevent it. Hard to admit for a series that is about expansion, isn't it ? The fact that you have other civilizations that will also expand, makes them threatening, not to say annoying. What to say then about a game that gives infinite global happiness to AIs when you fight for it ? They are even more annoying. But there's a mean to solve it : war. The fact that war means conquests if done properly, and that those conquests require happiness, a lot of happiness, you may as well not be allowed to do them. So not only Civ5 fails in the expansion and land supremacy resulting from the presence of other civilizations, but also fails in the mean to solve the annoyance of the AI expanding. Because in Civ5 AIs have infinite happiness makes them more annoying than usual, and because you may not be able to conquer them makes the whole beyond annoyance. All in all, Civ5, considered with its historical but not less central purposes, is a very annoying experience. To be honest, the frustration of seeing most of our cities not at full strenght within the corruption system of Civ1, 2 and 3 is far more preferable than this system. And it solves the snowball effect nearly quite as well. d. Exterminate As everybody knows, it's not really the essence of the game as domination is only one type of victory among others. Although, as you can build only military units among some other things, the idea of giving it a test may go through your mind. Or not : in Civ1 your first units sounded as defensive ones, like "Militia". Defense against barbs mostly, that appear quite early. Actually that's in Civ2 that I had the idea to do aggressive conquest wars, especially with the Legion unit, that was better in attack than in defense. That may have been also a solution to my expansion issues, I don't really remember. I remember though that war gave me a lot of fun, because it just seemed to be a huge, insane, disrepectful shorcut, stealing to others what I myself took time and love to slowly build. (It reminds me a sentence of Ghengis Kahn about the fun and the sense of freedom of killing and burning !) But that war to be only a test triggered by the supposed sensefull possibility of aggressive units, or a true necessity, does not disengage the fact that Civ without war is more or less boring, or at least lacks purpose beside just newcomers curiosity. (what's happening now ? Everything seems asleep, let's start a new game with better objectives, like expanding as far as I can since the beginning, etc. hence the purpose of unhampered possibilities of expansion) So it would be honest to say that the conquest part is finally a great part of the Civ experience, even if its gameplay purpose is not totally linked, as in Civ5. I talked about war being a shortcut above. In fact, it's like a cheat, especially with the peacefull/roleplaying AIs of the firsts games of the franchise. And that's what made it incredibly fun ! But there was no tutorial saying you had to do wars, there were only the units you could build, the barbarians, and the other civilizations. Never ever anybody said you to mass build legions in order to attack other civilizations cities ! (you didn't have to do it) Firstable, was it really possible ? Heh, you had to figure it out on your own. Of course, this does not require intensive thinking nor any management of any kind, but if the player is let alone in the face of a program, it's just more personal decisions he would do by himself, making great fun. In Civ5, you can play a great part of the game without building a single military unit, because of self-defending cities. This puts an incentive on aggressive wars, because if you can build units, it's obviously to conquer other civs : The "defense against babarians" bit is not the initial point of military units. Not to mention the fact that you are aggressed yourself early by other civs, which may be a game breaker and may focus in a go your next game on conflict. Yes to wars, no to a preset incentive on them ! TL;DR : I think the sequels of Civ in general failed to renew and even reproduce the fun of the firsts opuses. And no, Civ is not about "strategy" alone !