In which we attempt to release flags of all nations.
After finishing up our first multiplayer game of Civilization V, the strategy group was keen to try it again. However, this time the plan was to go bigger in all possible dimensions. After all, if a small map with a few players was fun, then a huge map with even more players should be… well… more fun.
So two Friday’s back we set out on our next campaign, upgrading our game parameters all across the board.
As noted, we went from a small map up to huge. We changed the speed of the game from Quick to Epic, which decreases the amount of time advanced per turn, but the time it takes to build things stays fairly constant relative to the number of years that pass. So if a monument took 5 turns to build at Quick, it might take 15 or 20 when set to Epic. But you get to move your units around during those extra turns. In any case, we were happy enough to try and stretch the game out. We also disabled the turn limit on the game. Nobody was going to win just on points. There was going to have to be a decisive victory.
We also opted for a more random layout with continents.
As for the other setting, we went with Raging Barbarians, because barbarians make everything more fun, right? Okay, maybe that isn’t a universal opinion.
We also opted for Complete Kills, which means that to be totally eliminated from the game you have to lose all your cities AND all of your units. That was done as a “just in case” option, should anybody die early. Though I am not sure that was entirely necessary in hindsight, but I will get to that. We turned on Random Personalities and Disable Start Bias, the first means that AI driven players may not act like their historical selves (cue Murderous, Pillaging Warlord Gandhi) while start bias means that the game won’t try to stick you in an area geographically similar to the real world historical origins of your civilization. (Roll on Snow Pharaohs!)
Then there was Quick Combat, which was frankly the only setting I was willing to go to the mat to get. Loghound had expressed a desire to see combat animations. I must admit, the animations can be quite nice. They are actually not so bad until you close in on the modern era, and then they become an intolerable burden. You only have to have an AI civ attack you with 20 aircraft every turn for a few turns before you’re ready to pull your head off in frustration. Expressed in such a way, Quick Combat was left enabled.
Finally, we decided to go with the dynamic turn time. If you set the turn timer to zero, it starts at two minutes and is supposed to increase slowly over the course of the game. Since there were time when some of us were feeling time constrained in the last game, we figured we ought to give that option a try.
We paused for a bit, as the game had an error up in the game start window which said, “WARNING: Unsupported number of players!” We were not sure what that really meant. Did we have too many human players? Could the CPU not support as many players as we had for a multiplayer game? The warning didn’t stop us from starting the game, so we just carried on and the game seemed to support that many players just fine. Later we found out that the error meant that the map size we had selected was meant for fewer players than we had starting the game… or, basically, pick a bigger map. It would have been nice if the error had just said that. And since the game assigned us the number of players we had listed when we chose the map size, the error seems not only uninformative but an indication of some mis-match somewhere in the code. Life in software. I am sure that error made complete sense to the person who wrote it.
We got all that decided upon, ignored the warning, and started the game.
More after the cut because words
The game counted down, systems ground to a stop, stuttered, and then staggered forward.
I got the loading screen telling me that I would be playing as the Mayans, telling me about their history and what advantages and special units they get, and then my copy of Civ V locked up.
Eventually I had to restart the system. However, because I never fully joined the game, it never really started, so it never really saved, and so we had to start a fresh game. That is why the name of the game in the screen shot above is “Epic Fail II,” as the first epic fail turned out to be a premature fail. We failed at epic fail.
There was a bit of hesitation as we set things up again, given that there was that warning and the game had locked up at my end. But we decided to just press on as before.
The second start went better, though it took long enough that Mattman thought he might have locked up. Eventually we ended up live and in game. I drew the Dutch this time. I found myself in a quiet little stretch of land and quickly settled my first city.
I started in on building and exploring… and killing barbarians. The raging barbarians setting is no joke. They showed up early and kept on coming. I think we all went with Honor as our first policy, as it gives a boost to your units when fighting barbarians, and we all spent a lot of time fighting barbarians.
I spent the next 2,000 years alone as a civilization, never coming in contact with anybody else, not even a city state. In part, that was because I was geographically remote from the rest of the civs, but it was also because of the constant barbarian onslaught. I couldn’t travel anywhere because I was constantly on the defensive. I did manage to slowly and carefully expand my empire, escorting my settlers to likely nearby spots.
Somewhere along the line, Loghound joined the game.
That was the night’s experiment. Loghound was going to be late arriving, so we started a game without him curious to see if we could invite him in later to take over one of the AI spots. Our previous experience sitting in the lobby with a saved game and having random strangers drop into the AI spots in our game seemed to be a good indication that this was possible, but you can never be sure until you actually try.
And, sure enough, it worked.
Loghound was able to join in late and was assigned to the Celts, who seemed to be doing fairly well. We pressed on to turn 130, at which point we called it a night. The score at that point was:
I am not sure how I ended up as high on the rankings as I did. Probably through obscurity. As you can see, after 130 turns, I had only run into three other civs, though frankly, it was they who ran into me in every case. So I was just in my little stretch of land, fighting barbarians and settling a new city now and again. I had no idea what everybody else was really up to… except for fighting barbarians. There was lots of talk about barbarians. Raging barbarians started to lose its charm about 50 turns in, and I think all of us had to spend time rescuing workers or settlers.
We kicked off again last week, and people were complaining that they could not remember what happened because I hadn’t written a blog post about the game. I said that I had broken out in hives due to some sort of allergic reaction to something I ate… which got no sympathy at all… and pointed out that nothing really happened so what could I have possibly written about in any case. (Word count to this point ~1,300)
We set off as we had the previous week, with Loghound delayed in joining us. So he got the benefit of the AI running his civilization for a while again, and it proceeded to make something happen. It declared war on Mattman… having apparently come into contact with Mattman. I guess. I was still over in my little corner of the world fighting barbarians.
Loghound joined us a bit later and negotiated peace with Mattman so they could concentrate on the barbarian menace… and the turn timer.
The turn timer growing over the course of the game seemed like a good idea in theory. In practice, it seemed to grow a little more quickly than I expected. By about turn 180 it was giving us a full seven minutes on the clock per turn.
That was far in excess of my time needs, which was on the order of 15-30 seconds. But, then again, I was off in the corner fighting barbarians, which doesn’t really take a lot of time. Still, I am not sure anybody else needed anything close to a full seven minutes per turn, and it wouldn’t have been a big deal except for how finicky Civ V can be about advancing to the next turn.
The game advances to the next turn when everybody has clicked the “Next Turn” button on their UI. Simple enough.
But the “Next Turn” button has multiple uses. Sometimes is says “Next Turn” and you click it and then it changes to tell you that you still have a unit that needs orders, or that you need to set production in one of your cities, or one of a few other possible results. You go and do that, then you have to remember to go back and click “Next Turn” again. There are also some actions you can take after you have clicked “Next Turn” that will cause your button to revert from “Waiting for Other Players” to “Next Turn” again, such as changing orders for any of your units or updating some city settings. But some actions don’t cause the button to reset, and when it does reset it can be subtle.
So it was becoming clear that we were spending quite a few minutes waiting for people to click the “Next Turn” button when all of us thought we had clicked it.
You can see who hasn’t clicked the button yet, so we began to nudge people who were still showing active when the rest of us had clicked already. Of course, the way that would work is that somebody would get poked for holding things up, and it would turn out that they were actually trying to figure something out. So the next time we were waiting on somebody, we would give them the benefit of the doubt, only to hear a minute or two later something like, “Oh, I’m the one holding things up, sorry!”
And even this would be tolerable, but for the fact that every so often the UI in the game gets stuck in the city production choice screen when you bring that up when you started doing something else first, and that left some of us (*cough*Mattman*cough*) unable to click for the next turn, so we all had to wait out the clock, at which point the UI would get unstuck. I don’t know why, I just know that it is going to be very painful once that turn timer is past the 15 minute mark for turns.
Meanwhile, we didn’t seem to be doing very well overall, either as a group or individually. By turn 200 or so I had managed to expand my empire to a grand total of four cities.
It turns out that nothing but barbarians isn’t a healthy diet, and spending plenty of time covering workers repairing pillaged resource tiles doesn’t improve things either. So as we came to the end of our evening, the human players were lagging behind the AI civs by an ever growing margin.
Sure, we’re beating Harun al-Rashid and I am still ahead of another AI civ… look at all the civs I still haven’t met yet… but the rest seemed to be pulling away.
Not that points are going to be a deciding factor in the game. We disabled the turn limit on the game that would give a victory based on points alone, but that is all the indication we really have as to how we are doing at this point.
We ended up calling it a night at turn 220.
That shows at least I am in first place in something. Being down at the bottom in approval might seem bad, but the guy in first place is also in last place when it comes to points. So maybe it isn’t such a big deal at this point.
But we do seem to be in something of a rut. As a group we seem to be spending most of our time just holding on and fighting off yet more barbarians. We need a plan or a strategy. However, unlike our last game, obvious next moves aren’t as clear. I think I need to get out and contact some of the rest of the civs or form an alliance with Potshot against Spain, which stands between us. We shall see.