A Civilized Solution

23 05 2011

The main thing that’s stopped me from writing here is a crippling lack of ideas. So when trying to think of something to write, I did what all socially-inept nerds do; I played Civ (that’s short for Sid Meier’s Civilization, for those of you who have girlfriends) and tried to ignore all my problems. Civ V in particular.  Civ V is the latest version, and fairly unpopular by the series’ extremely high standards. But it’s the only one I’ve ever really enjoyed, mostly because its so much simpler than the other games. It manages to make conquering the world feel like a joy,  rather than a chore. So while I was revisiting my old save games an idea struck me, and I looked around in panic due to the sensation being so unfamiliar. After confirming that it wasn’t my cat jumping on me, I realised that I’d thought of something, and that something was not a bad pun.

“I could write a Civ diary!” I yelled, before reprimanding myself for proposing something that involves both commitment and effort. While it is hardly an original idea, it seems a good place to start if I intend to write on a weekly basis. Writing about something I enjoy doing, and being able to do it every week without feeling bad for not thinking of anything new? Deal. So I sat at my computer, put on my gaming uniform (pants) and undertook what is in all actuality quite a meagre task, but try telling that to my misplaced sense of pride.

To try and imbue this diary with a sense of the unexpected, I started a game with a random leader and a random map type. Playing on a replica of Earth is all well and good, but as soon as you work out that you’re on the south-coast of Africa the game loses its exploratory charm. The map would be huge though, no matter the type of terrain, as if you have an option for playing on a really big map then you’d be stupid not to do so. The difficulty was set on normal, to compensate for my limited skill and intelligence,  then I clicked “Start Game”, in an expectedly anticlimactic fashion.

The loading screen told me that I was to take the place of Montezuma, the mentalist who ruled over the Aztecs in the 12th century. This is a shame, as while I approve of playing a crazed despot, Aztec city names are really hard to spell. As usual with Civ I started with a band of warriors and a group of settlers.  I founded my first city – Tenochtitlan, which has the memorable benefits of sounding like Shitland, at the mouth of a river leading to sea. My warriors were quickly sent out exploring, which they did with admirable positivity for something so far out of their job description. I set about training some scouts and then started researching pottery, as pots tend to come in handy during the sacrificial slaughter of my enemies. No need to stain the carpet.

The only thing of interest to happen for a few turns was my warrior-come-explorers discovery of some ancient ruins, inside of which they found some advanced weaponry. Considering that I’m already in 3950BC it surprises me that an even ancienter society had better weapons than me, so I came to the conclusion that  I just had piss-poor fighters. But no matter how much better at fighting they now were, their job was still to wander round the coast, marking herds of elephants down on the maps they drew. The abundance of elephants was the only remarkable thing in my new surroundings, which can only bode well for my ritual slaughterfests. If the harvests are good when I cut the throats of humans, imagine how good they’ll be when I murder elephants! I can only imagine that this is what through Thomas Edison’s head before he topped Topsy. I then found some more ruins, but these only had survivors in, who quickly settled in my capital and set about working the land. This may seem a good thing, but give a man a slave and he can appease the Gods for a week, give him a sword and he can please them forever.

Turn 7: More fucking elephants.

Turn 8: I met Askia, leader of the Songhai people! He seemed friendly, although his appearance in front of a burning city troubled me. Considering that as of now I have met no other empires, it is safe to assume that this man is razing his own villages to the ground. Nervous at the idea of another leader who rivals my intense dislike of his own people, I quickly said goodbye, and planned to kill him later. In less violent news, this turn also saw the completion of my scouts, the creation of whom now let me discover elephants at twice the frequency. My minions would now set about building a monument, which I intend to be a giant statue of myself. Then when I slaughter them at it’s base, it would prove both their love for me and my love for the gods.

Turn 15: I found the capital of the Songhai empire, Gao. Askia seems to be building his economy on cows, rather than my elephant based one. Our opposing philosophies will likely see us go to battle at some point, to prove who has the greatest thinkers. Or perhaps our irrational and warlike personalities will. One of the two. I also completed my discovery of pottery, which enables me to invite guests over to the palace without having to use the good drinking skulls. I set about learning the art of Animal Husbandry, which while currently useless to me, is a stepping stone on the way to capturing some elephants.

Turn 17-20: I met the City-State of Budapest, another place with an irrational but militaristic personality.  City-States are lone cities in Civ V, who never expand but can be valuable trade partners. They gave me a gift of gold, which does seem quite irrational. If they do that with everyone they meet they’ll be bankrupt before long. So while their irrationality means I’m not too comfortable with living so close to them, they’re small enough to bully and eventually they might let me have their spices. Aztecs love spices. After this the population of Shitland grew, which is nice, and just afterwards they finished my monument. Good timing, as an unused monument would be a sad sight. Next I met Bucharest, another irrational City-State. A cultured one, mind, although that seems something of a contradiction. They gave me twice as much gold as Budapest as I was the first great empire they met, which was very kind of them. If I had the option I’d have told them a joke about them sucking up to me but, alas, Civ doesn’t yet have that sort of advanced diplomacy.

Turn 22: While my warriors are off exploring the north, I sent my scouts down the coast to see if anything interesting was there. Until now all I found was some elephants and a mountain, which looked rather pretty, in a functional sort of way. But then, excitement struck! In a single turn they spotted not only some ruins, but a barbarian camp! Barbarians aren’t too strong, but my scouts would be no match for them. Would they be able to reach the ruins? Would they be destroyed by the barbarian hoard?! Find out next time, in another exciting episode of Duncan’s Civ Diary!