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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #33: Sid Meier's Civilization IV

Admit it, you can hear Nimoy's voice right now

Here we are on Groundhog Day, so it makes sense to talk about the game I have played over and over more than any other. We're talking about another entry in the rightfully-celebrates catalog of über-designer Sid Meier, perhaps the crowning jewel in his portfolio, the juggernaut Civilization series. In particular, the fourth installment, known by the fond diminutive Civ IV. You know how some benighted souls will point at Tolkien and claim snootily that his work is derivative of so much fantasy canon, and then you have to explain this is the dude who started it all and the lion's share of that canon is derived from him? Well, this is like that. Sid Meier's Civilization practically invented the zillions of copycat empire-building games that would follow. The first installment came in 1991, followed by a vastly improved version in 1996 improbably titled Civilization II. Man, I played the living hell out of that game.

In 2005, Civ IV landed, and was a proverbial great leap forward. All of the elements that had made earlier iterations awesome were still there, but the depth and breadth and complexity of the gameplay were dialed up past eleven. Choose your empire from among the great leaders and cultures of history. Begin in 4000 BC with a single settler on an unspoiled world (even on Earth if you like) and commence building cities, exploring the landscape, encountering rival societies, and beginning the arduous climb through the epochs of human history. Discover new technologies, construct specialized buildings, erect world wonders. Found a religion and spread it throughout the known world. Absorb your neighbors with cultural influence or invade and conquer them with military force. There's so much granularity and endless worldbuilding that it's impossible to convey in a short profile. Suffice it to say that the game was - is - immersive, comprehensive, and addictive. This is the game for which the phrase one more turn was invented, the game that has you realizing it's hours past any responsible bedtime. God, I love this game. If Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory about earning expertise is to be believed, I am both proud and a little abashed to proclaim I am an expert at Civilization IV. There is an excellent chance I will play it today.

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