We returned for our twelfth round of this game of Civilization V, which started back in early May. Joining me this week was Potshot and Loghound, it being Mattman’s turn for a week away.
I had a very simple goal for this round. I wanted to knock out two, or maybe three if we were lucky, of the AI civilizations. I figured that the fewer AIs gumming up the works, the more responsive the game would be. And we had two very likely candidates. Morocco, which had been hanging around without actually possessing a city since week 8, was first on the list. Last week I had spotted what I had hoped were his last few units and I was ready to dispatch them as soon as we got going.
See you in hell Morocco!
And then there was Russia, which had been reduced to a single city on a two hex island, hemmed in by Loghound and his Celts, and just waiting for the dagger to be driven home.
Yaroslavl Under Siege
The potential third empire headed for destruction was that of Montezuma and the Aztecs. With Potshot back it looked like we could renew our joint offensive and drive the Aztecs to the brink of destruction.
But first we had to start the game already. More after the cut.
We managed to assemble a group for the second week running, which isn’t as impressive as it sounds since we have already shown we will play if only two of us show up, letting the AI wreck havoc with the empires of those who fail to attend. This time it started off with Mattman and I, Loghound having let us know that he was running behind but would join as soon as he could.
Potshot, however, was feeling under the weather… the weather being an oppressive hundred degrees Fahrenheit is his part of the state, so much misery… and would not be able to make it.
This was going to make the game “interesting” for me. If Mattman or Loghound fail to show, it has very little impact on me. Most of the time I barely know what they are up to on their side of the world, aside from fighting barbarians and Russians. Potshot and I, however, have been cooperating allies in a war of conquest against the Aztecs. We left off last match stuck into the enemy, hostilities still on and with the Babylonians throwing in against us.
Our lunge into Montezuma’s territory
The AI is very, very bad at cooperation. And it isn’t just a matter of heightened self-interest. The team working for Sid Meier managed to capture the petulant selfishness of a grumpy five year old for the diplomatic relations aspect of the AI. So, when you look at why the AI civs are mad at you, it is things like, “You’re trying to be friends with Zurich, and they are MY friend! Go Away!” and “You have a city that I want!” and “You’re friends with China and I hate China, so now I hate you too!” along with “I won’t take this mutually beneficial trade deal because you were being mean to somebody else on the playground!” Plus there is the whole, “You have ideological cooties!” thing.
It is like the devs got in there and said, “Realpolitik? Screw you, Ludwig von Rochau! We’re going with Kinderpolitik!”
So that programming was going to be driving my close ally with whom I share a border and a whole series of open border and mutual defense agreements, not to mention the whole coordination of the war thing. I was clearly pessimistic as to how that would turn out.
As I said in a previous post, this is no longer about fun. This is a grudge match now to prove that we can stick it out and finish our epic game of Civilization V in spite of some poor choices made early on. Can we see this through until one of us achieves one of the possible victory conditions?
After nearly a month’s hiatus that had us on a variety of real world activities that kept even two of us, the minimum needed to advance this multiplayer match, from meeting up on a Friday night, it was time for a game. We were back at last.
Or at least three of us were. Myself, Potshot, and Mattman were able to get on last Friday to continue the struggle. Loghound was otherwise occupied, so the AI took over for him as the leader of the Celts again. However, this time around the AI seemed to keep to his past agenda of sticking it to the Russians.
So there was that going on.
Meanwhile, the rest of us spent quite a bit of the first couple of turns trying to remember what was going on nearly a month back.
Mattman was still trying to make his populace unhappy so that he could change ideologies. Still smarting from rashly declaring war on Loghound early on in the game, the scientific victory seemed like his best bet.
And Potshot and I were assessing our foothold on the Aztec lands.
Springboard to Victory!
We got that in our smash and grab campaign last time, after which we got Montezuma to accept a peace proposal. But it was a bloody fight and we both needed some time to build up forces for our next strike.
Anyway, everybody was back in town and ready to go last week. Mattman even had a few a few pictures to share in an attempt to convince us he had actually been in Hawaii, and which gave me the in for my choice of titles.
The utility president, it’s all Ku
Mattman claims that the hotel in the background is some place near Waikiki, though staring at it long enough I have half convinced myself that the former U.S. embassy in Saigon is visible. Still, probably nicer than East Timor. And I don’t think I have seen the President looking that happy in quite some time.
So we were online, logged into Steam, and in Civ V for our first turn, and it was an epic first turn. But I expected that it might be. Both Loghound and Mattman had to figure out what the AI had done to their empires.
For Loghound, who had only missed a week, it was not too big of an effort to get his empire turned around. He was a bit miffed that the AI had basically put down a mine on every hill it could find, turning great swathes of his countryside into an industrialize mess.
Mining blight in the golden hills
But otherwise he was able to get things back on track.
Mattman though… Mattman had been gone for three weeks, giving the AI plenty of time to work its magic.
Our game of Civilization V goes on. I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday. Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become. I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.
Remember Chuck Hestonia!
But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!” A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through. But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.
We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale. While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing. So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here. Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation. And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.
But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.
First, this is not the MMO group. MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)
The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening. Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.
And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient. Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock. So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.
With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)
Total War: Rome II
Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option. I know people who like the game. Gaff has played through it. I have played a couple of the past games in the series. If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything. I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four. Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take. But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.
Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale
Company of Heroes 2
I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II. I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else. As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match. Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing. And Gaff likes it.
Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other. Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other. The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not. Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.
Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well. Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key. And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink. But are we ready for a shooter? And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?
Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.
Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies. This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it. This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously. Alcohol might be required.
Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?
Ticket to Ride
I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list. This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board. It is one of my favorite games on the iPad. But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage. While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience. So it has that going for it. But are we up for board games?
As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II. While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing. It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.
Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it. The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine. And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons. The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.
We had something of a small turnout for our game last Friday. It was just Potshot and I, with Mattman still on vacation and Loghound busy until late that evening. Still, part of the idea behind this epic length game was that people could drop out from one week to another and have the AI take over for them so the game could continue to progress. And, if it had to be two players on, then Potshot and I were probably a good pair, as we had been working together on our continent, unlike Loghound and Mattman, who went to war about as early as they possibly could, leaving at least Mattman somewhat weak in a neighborhood of hostile AI players.
We started off the game, wondering what might happen now that both Loghound’s Celts and Mattman’s Chinese empires were being run by AI players. The AI players tend to be somewhat bizarro world in their behavior, and the AI did not waste any time getting straight to it.
The Celts, with whom Loghound had been mercilessly hounding Russia last week, taking city after city, launched almost immediately into a public denunciation of the Chinese because… I don’t know… eff Mattman? The Russians then forms a mutual admiration society with the Chinese…
and then with the Assyrians…
and then… I don’t know. They all sat around and glared at each other I guess. China advanced far enough to choose an ideology and went with Freedom… and then the people of China overthrew the Freedom ideology and demanded Autocracy, or so reported the People’s Daily.
Freedom just isn’t in the cards for everybody I gather.
There were only three of us online and in the Google hangout last week. Mattman either decided to enjoy his vacation or he read last week’s post and took it the wrong way. Hrmm…
But for those of us online, the game started getting more interesting. After much laying of groundwork last time, all of us seemed ready to get stuck into things.
Potshot and I left off wondering where our first expeditionary force ought to land. As we started off, Potshot declared for “Operation Torch,” a reference to the 1942 allied landings in North Africa, which included Casablanca amongst its rather dispersed objectives. In the game, Morocco was to the southwest of us and I had already started forming up the beginnings of a landing force with Casablanca as a target.
Landing north of Casablanca
I actually had to fight my way against yet more barbarian hordes in order to grab a foothold on the island that Morocco occupied, so in initially I was probably helping Morocco out. Then I planted a city on his island to act as a forward redoubt in case things did not go well.
I was going to be late last time around. My wife and I were watching the pilot for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on HBO, which it turns out runs two hours. That was going to push me about 15 minutes passed the planned game start time.
But I figured that would be okay. I could let the AI run my empire for a while. Last time around Potshot and I had evicted our only continental neighbor, so aside from just bankrupting me again and selling off city improvements, I would probably be okay. So we finished up watching the show before I meandered over to my computer to see how things were going. Last week we finished up at turn 430. We try to stop at a round number and always finish that turn, so in this case, when we started the game up again, it would be the start of turn 431. Given our usual rate of advancement, I thought we might be somewhere between turn 440 and 450.
However, when I joined the game, it seemed that things had not been moving forward at all.
When things finally loaded up for me, we were still at turn 431. I had not missed a thing.
Well, I had missed something.
It seems that up to that point Mattman and his antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine had been trying to get into the game via the WiFi connection at the Dili Beach Hotel in East Timor. However, after a couple attempts at getting into the game even as an observer failed, the idea was dropped. Just because we were playing a world spanning game that featured 19th century technology did not mean that such things were going to integrate smoothly over Steam. Charles Babbage wept.
Three of us, myself, Potshot, and Loghound, got into the game about on time on Friday. Mattman had something going on and expected to be late.
Just a couple of turns into this round, I got what I considered a bit of an ill omen. There on the edge of my lands was an Assyrian scout.
Just what I needed, the Assyrians nosing around. As was noted last week, the Assyrians are a bit of a power in our world, at least relative to me. My military advisor had dire warnings about the Assyrians.
Beware the groove…
While they were not close by and hadn’t dropped a city in my midst… a favored tactic of Civ AIs since forever… I did worry a bit about any interest in my goings on. Assyria had been sitting on Mattman pretty heavily since early in the game when Mattman declared war on Loghound over city placement. Loghound had to drop out for a bit just after that and when the AI took over it denounced Mattman and his Chinese empire (and the AIs take denunciations seriously) made common cause with Assyria who in turn took a city from him and has been growling menacingly at Mattman ever since.
We setup our game for the usual time. Loghound, who had faced a trying week, was uncertain if and when he might be able to get on with us, but since the AI will keep the game going in the absence of individuals, we kicked off at our usual time.
Potshot, Mattman, and I were all online and in the Google hangout. Potshot started up the game and sent invites out for us to join. I hopped right in the game and clicked the “ready” check box. An odd aside, the ready control never works the first time I click it. It selects and unselects on the first click, but then works correctly thereafter. No idea why. But while I was doing that, Mattman was having some issues.
He was trying out Civ V on a laptop… an older pre-Lenovo logo, IBM ThinkPad laptop… in hopes of being able to join in on games while he is traveling for the next couple of sessions.
I remember my old ThinkPad T42 quite fondly. It was one of the nicer laptops I have been issued over the years. I miss having a 4:3 aspect ratio screen, as I tend to work on things that lend themselves well to lots of vertical space, but do not benefit much from a wider screen. But considering the IBM logo disappeared from the ThinkPad line at some point in 2007, and that Civilization games are traditionally tough on the generation of processors current when they ship (Civ V can bring my quad-core i7 to its knees when it feels like it), this seemed like it might be an exercise in the purest form of optimism.
While Mattman struggled to get Civ V loaded, Potshot and I started off the nights game, picking up at turn 301.
I started off the evening with one simple goal. I was going to break my isolation and come into contact with all of the other civs in the game. That would open up trade and diplomatic possibilities as well as filling out the “unmet player” spots on the scoreboard. There were still six civs with whom I had yet to come into contact according to the scoreboard at the end of last week’s round.
My hope was, with research leading to the compass, which would give me the caravel unit, the first ship that doesn’t need to stick to a coast line, that I would be able to sail out and find everybody else. Scouts were not working out, as I had them mostly deployed to keep the barbarians at bay. And the few I let go explore inevitably ran into more barbarians.