Interesting podcast on "board game" versus "simulation" style strategy games


Jul 15, 2007
I've just listened to an interesting podcast about the pros and cons of "board game" versus "simulation" style strategy games. One of the participants is Soren Johnson, the designer of Civ 4.

There is a discussion about the Civ series starting around 1:05:00. One of the presenters makes quite an interesting statement: "I would hazard a guess that Civ 7 will have more focus on characters, just because every time I've talked to Ed Beach about where he thinks the franchise has room to grow, he's brought up characters" Other contributors disagree that the ability to change leader would be a good idea for Civ 7. Soren then says that he is not envious of the designers of Civ 7, which I thought was quite amusing.

Anyway, I thought that was interesting given that we know that Ed is continuing to lead on Civ 7. I have previous stated that my preference is to nudge Civ 7 in a direction that is slightly less boardgamey and slightly more immersion focused, but I would still be very cautious not to move it so far that it loses the essence of what the Civ series stands for.

What are everyone's thoughts?
I don't play Europa Universalis so I don't know how much my interpretation is valid, but here are my thoughts after listening to the podcast:

In Civilization games, the player has access to all parameters, can easily understand what's going on, giving him full control. In the podcast, Soren Johnson insists in making information transparent considering that's what leads to "interesting decisions". Interesting decisions are about fully understanding what's at stake if we choose A or B, both having pros and cons with long lasting effects, so we basically choose a path to follow, one choice after the other, leading to entirely different possible outcomes, all being potentially interesting and leading to a different gaming experience.

Paradox games such as Europa Universalis have a lot more parameters, many being hidden, and the idea isn't to keep track of everything going on but rather to focus on specific aspects depending on the situation. The point for the player isn't to control all details (the game is supposed to simulate them in a realistic way out of tons of parameters), it is rather to figure out what are the "important decisions" that needs to be made. An important decision differs from an interesting decision as being objectively "the best" alternative, the fun being about finding it out, like a puzzle to solve.

What was interesting in the podcast is that, despite those entirely different approaches, the interviewer didn't succeed to oppose Johan Andersson and Soren Johnson as much as he intended. My gut feeling after hearing the podcast is that, ultimately depth isn't necessarily about more micro-management, but rather something that should emerge at macro-level, replaying the game leading to different gaming experiences, and they seemed to actually both agreed on that.
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