Cardboard Children: Sid Meier’s Civilization

Hello youse.

Sid Meier’s Civilization. Oh yeah. Now I’ve got your attention. Speaking to a PC gaming audience about Sid Meier’s Civilization is like speaking to an audience of teenage boys about Sasha Grey. There’s an instant connection. Recognition. A smile. A remembrance of all-night sessions. Of good times, fun, frustration, disgust, guilt. And of desire.

In case you wandered onto this website while looking for that other RPS site (Robert Pattinson Sextape dot com), Civilization is a PC game that lets you grow a civilisation from its roots, developing it until you reach the modern era. You learn new technologies, create cities, construct amazing buildings and erect wonders that speak forever of your greatness. You play it all night long. You get big purple bags under your eyes. You realise it’s six in the morning. You put on weight. You don’t listen to people when they talk to you. You smell. You need to get a grip of things, son. Get out and meet people. I’m worried about you. If you need to talk, I’m here. You got that? I’m here. That’s Civilization. 96%

I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like Civ. It’s one of those games. You buy a PC, you play Civilization. It’s a holy thing. And this is the board game of that holy thing. So, yeah. It better be holy too, right? No pressure.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game is the FIRST and ONLY thing that should be on your Christmas list this year. Yes, I’m talking to you. You, PC gamer and constant reader of RPS, should be asking Santa for this board game NOW. You don’t have to read any further. You only have to trust me. Get out there today, to a Santa’s Grotto, sit on an old man’s knee and scream “CIVILIZATION!” into his face. Scream it until every child in the queue weeps with terror and a shopping centre security guard instinctively reaches for a gun he doesn’t even have. Because this is the game for you. This is the board game that every PC gamer needs. This was made for you.

I’ll be referring to the game as SMC:TBG(FIG) from now on, to save space. It means Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game (Fuck It’s Great!). And I’m going to tell you about how it plays, and then you’re going to want it. A knock-on effect will probably be that reading about the board game gets you in the mood for the PC game, and you start installing that too. Basically, I’m going to control your mind for the rest of the day. Sit back and enjoy.

Before I start raving about this game, watch this.

SMC:TBG(FIG) is a game for 2-4 players. You can expect a 4-player game to hit a five hour play time, if you’re taking your time and negotiating/trash-talking. At the start of the game, you choose from six playable civilisations – the Egyptians, the Russians, the Romans, the Americans, the Chinese and the Germans. You lay down your capital city, and place your starting armies and your little scout. From that humble beginning you will expand your power until someone has to leave the room to calm down a bit.

The world itself is randomly generated, and as you saw in the video above, there’s a “Fog of War” effect that means you need to discover what’s out there. I’m going to do something now that I’ve never done before in any of these columns. I’m going to lay out exactly how a turn plays. Each of these phases are carried out by each player in turn.

1.START OF TURN: At the start of the turn, the first player token is passed. And then the player can perform any Start of Turn actions enabled by Technologies or Culture Cards. The player can also do one of these beautiful things.
• Build a New City: A player can convert one of their scouts into a new city. The Romans can use an army to build a new city, because they’re Roman, and they’re like that. You can only build two cities until you research Irrigation. Which is very Irrigating. Irritating.
• Change Government: If you researched a new system of government in the previous turn, you can change shit up. Maybe you want to switch to a Democracy. Maybe you want to usher in some lovely Communism. Each government has different benefits. If you didn’t research the new system of government in the previous turn, you can only change governments by first sending your government into Anarchy, and then in the following turn switching from Anarchy to one of your known governments. Anarchy. In a board game. Amazing.

2.TRADE: In this phase, each player gains trade points equal to the number of trade icons printed in the outskirts of their cities. Almost every square on the game’s map has icons of some kind printed on it. And buildings also have icons printed on them. After you tally up your trade, you can negotiate with other players. Trade points and resources and promises and lots of other groovy things can be swapped with your allies, or extorted from them through the threat of terrible harm. All promises are non-binding. Amazing.

3.CITY MANAGEMENT: Each player then performs City Management, and one action can be taken for each city in the player’s control. You can do one of these three things –
• Produce a Figure, Unit, Building or Wonder: By adding up the little hammer icons in your city’s outskirts, you can work out how many production points that city has. Then you can pay the cost to put a figure on the board (a figure is either an army or a scout), a unit into your standing army (a unit is a card that goes into your battle deck – the army figures merely represent your army, the unit cards are what you actually battle with), a building into your outskirts (buildings generally have more icons printed on them, and generate more trade, production or culture points), or a wonder into your outskirts (wonders have a high production cost, but give your civilisation special effects and look SUPERCOOL).
• Devote to the Arts: You do this to generate culture points from your city. Culture points allow you to move your civilisation along the Culture Track, which rewards you with Cultural Event cards and Great Persons. Great Persons can be placed into your city outskirts and give bonuses to your civilisation. You can also win the game by reaching the end of the Culture track. And you can say to the other players “You people are so uncultured!” before sitting wondering if “uncultured” is actually a word.
• Harvest Resources: If you choose to have your city harvest resources, you can produce one resource from any that are printed on your city’s outskirts. So, if there’s some silk printed on one of the squares surrounding your city, you can take one silk resource token. These resources are VITAL. They activate special abilities on Tech Cards, and can be a huge advantage in any negotiations with other players. “I won’t punch you if you give me a Silk.”

4.MOVEMENT: Each player then gets to move each one of their figures. Players start with a movement speed of 2, but this can be increased by researching new Tech, from Horseback Riding all the way up to the 6 square movement horror of Flight. When figures are moved adjacent to an unexplored tile, that tile can be flipped for one movement point, to show what the unexplored land contains. Huts and villages can be found on newly explored tiles, and these can be attacked by armies. Huts get “peacefully absorbed” by your empire, and a resource is your reward. Villages defend themselves, and you need to fight some uncivilised Barbarian types to claim the resources held within. If your army moves into a space with an enemy figure, combat begins and swearing fills the air. If your army moves into an enemy city, an attack begins, and the language gets even worse. Oh, and if you move your scout into a square in an enemy city’s outskirts, you stop that square from generating anything for that city, and can actually use it to generate lovely stuff for you! That’s called a blockade, and it really pisses people off.

5.RESEARCH: Each player then chooses one Technology to research. It costs trade points to research a Tech card. And this brings us to the Tech Pyramid. Here’s what I like to call “A Beautiful Bit Of Game Design”. To research Level II technologies, you need to build the foundation first. You need to know two Level I techs before you can build a Level II on top. And to build a Level III, you need to place it above two Level II cards. Which means you need at least three Level I cards down below. To achieve a Tech Victory, you need to research Space Flight, which is a Level V tech. That means you need a bottom row of five Level I cards, a second row of four Level II cards, a third row of three Level III cards, a fourth of two Level IV cards and a V on top. A pyramid. Always a pyramid. There are a lot of techs to choose from, so the decision-making is delicious. A real fist-biter. Tech cards allow you to build new buildings, level up your army units, learn about new methods of government, and activate special abilities that are often powered by resources. When you research a tech, you always lose ALL of your trade points. So, if you have 13 trade points and you research a Level I tech (with a cost of 6 trade), you lose all 13. However, if you ‘ve powered up your economy, you don’t lose every point of trade after you research. If your economy level is 5, for example, you would always have 5 trade points left after research. (This is why an economic victory and a Tech victory work well in parallel.) I hope I’m not confusing you all here.

So, yeah, that’s the game. There are four ways to win. You can grab your tech victory, by researching Space Flight. You can grab a military victory, by destroying one opponent’s capital city. You can get a cultural victory by advancing along the Culture Track to its end. And you can pull off an economic victory by generating lots of coin.

I wanted to explain the rules of the game (and I know it’s always a very dry read) purely because I feel that this game is brilliant from the rules up. When I read the rulebook for the first time (and it’s a great rulebook, much better than the usual efforts from Fantasy Flight) I couldn’t wait to play. The rules are so simple, and so clean, but they suggest so much depth. Kevin Wilson is the game’s designer, and he’s the guy who brought us Arkham Horror. But where Arkham Horror is wide, Civilization is deep. Arkham is complex, with a million mechanics clunking and grinding against each other, sending you stumbling over the surface of it all as you try to cope. Civilization is tight, and easy to learn, but you can burrow right down inside it, finding new routes everywhere you turn.

A 4 player game of Civilization is a beautiful thing. A civilisation at each corner, playing it cagey, with armies starting to poke their way out into the unknown. Every army advance is a step closer to enemy territory, and it’s through these movement phases that alliances start to suggest themselves. In my most recent game, I allowed the Germans to enter the Roman quadrant of the board as long as they promised not to leave the forest they were generating production from. A four square patch of forest, with scouts hacking away at the wood, and I had to watch them like a hawk. I knew that the Germans were building a powerful military, so I felt that giving them a patch of my land to ease their production issues would keep them off my back for a while. It was an alliance I had to make, because I was done for if they advanced. I was pushing for a Cultural Victory, so my cities were learning-heavy and military-poor. My “take my trees” strategy bought me a little bit more time.

Each civilisation has its own advantages. The Romans, for example, can advance along the Culture Track each time they build a wonder or a city. The Russians start with an extra army figure. The game is so beautifully balanced despite all the civilisation variety and the multiple win conditions. Never, at any point during Civilization, will you say “This isn’t fair.” It’s been polished and playtested until it plays like a dream.

One of the most amazing things about Civilization is that it is an epic-scale game with very little downtime. The game plays quickly, with the one-action-per-city limit ensuring that no player is umming and aahing over a decision for too long. The turns fire round so swiftly that if you take a break to go to the toilet, you’ll probably be holding things up for a minute or two. By removing much of the micromanagement of the PC game, and zooming out a little to a wider view, the game manages to provide the civ-building joy without any admin headaches. It’s taken the fun aspects of Civilization and made them the focus of the board game.

Board games are only ever as good as the memorable moments they provide. And Civilization provides them by the bucket load. It’s the kind of game that gets you saying “Remember that time when…” Believe me – this game will create classic board game memories for you.

Here’s my classic moment.

My Romans were minding their own business, advancing as a culture, and being very peaceful and noble. Good guys. And the Germans, inevitably, moved out of that forest I had given them, and started in on my cities. I was doomed. In fact, everyone was doomed. When my capital city fell, and it would, the Germans would win. At the end of that turn, I had enough trade to research a Level IV tech card. I saw that Atomic Theory was in there, a card that allows you to nuke a city, if you have uranium. I had no uranium. But I had a plan. I researched Atomic Theory, and the Germans looked baffled. They could see I had no resources. In the next turn, in the Trade phase, I turned to the Egyptians and said – “Could you step out of the room with me?”

When you conquer a hut or village, you lift the hut/village token and look at the back. There’s a resource on the back, but you don’t have to show it to anyone. The Egyptians had three face down resources, and none of us knew what they were. I took the chance that one of them might be uranium.

So, I traded culture points for that face down uranium token, and placed it on my Atomic Theory card. I told the Germans that if they didn’t turn around, I would nuke one of their cities. The Germans, reluctantly, bowed to my nuclear deterrent and changed their plans. The game continued. The Germans lost, as we all did, to the Egyptians.

And my uranium? It wasn’t a uranium. It was a spy. The wrong resource. But all I needed was a token to bluff with. It felt amazing. And, most importantly, it felt beautifully thematic. I had defended my civilisation with the threat of nuclear war.

Civilization is deep. So deep. I don’t have enough room on this page to tell you about all the amazing things that you can do. I don’t have the space to tell you about the droughts you can cause, or the bluffs you can get away with, or the time those Russians put themselves into a near game-winning position by sneaking into opponents’ cities and stealing technologies.

And that Tech Pyramid? It’s an amazing thing. The perfect way to capture that Tech Tree thrill in board game form. You can see the pyramid building on the table. You can see the wealth of your opponents’ knowledge growing in front of you, and it gets you into a panic. Building that pyramid is key to every victory condition. Knowing which block to use will swing the game for you. Anyone who touches this game wants to become a master builder of that pyramid. I can’t wait to get back to it.

Please, please, pick up this game. It’s Civilization, for God’s sake. It feels like the PC game, but feels like its own thing too. A classic board game design, harnessing the best elements of one of the greatest PC games ever made. This is the Rock, Paper, Shotgun reader’s way in to board gaming. This was made for you. Don’t let it pass you by. You play it all night long. You get big purple bags under your eyes. You realise it’s six in the morning. You put on weight. You don’t listen to people when they talk to you. You smell. You need to get a grip of things, son. Get out and meet people. I’m worried about you. If you need to talk, I’m here. You got that? I’m here. That’s Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game. 98%

Thanks again to Ben Hogg at Esdevium for getting this to me so close to the game’s release. And make sure to check out Find Your Game Store to see where to send your mum to buy it for you.

See youse later!

P.S. There are other Civilization board games. This one is Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game. From Fantasy Flight. Just to be safe. Love you. Here’s a picture of my “uranium”.


  1. SquareWheel says:

    Confused by the reference, I looked up Sasha Grey.


    • Robert Florence says:

      Mission complete.

    • says:

      I knew about her from her D&D games, rather than from her porn. I’m pretty sure I get bonus nerd points for that.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Mentioning Sasha Grey was an instant win. The only problem: It’s impossible to continue reading after it.

      So I have no much to say. Uum… *cough* …oquietly backs away*…

    • Rich says:

      Thankfully my lightning fast browser closing skills, developed as part of a miss spent youth, just helped me avoid awkward questions from the one other person in the lab at this hour.

      In short: NSFW

    • jti says:

      I’ve even heard a music album she made, in a band called ATelecine and she also contributed on Curren 93 album Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain, here link to

    • Zogtee says:

      I had no idea who she was, so I image-googled her name. Thanks a lot, RPS.

    • westyfield says:

      It’s really easy to tell who’s a teenager round here, then.

    • Carra says:

      Everyone knows her from her acting in Soderberghs The Girlfriend Experience of course.

    • ugg sale says:

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  2. pakoito says:


    link to


  3. FuzzyKitty says:

    I’ve been looking to pick up a Civ-type board game, but am a bit torn. How does this game compare/differ from Through the Ages?

    • ulix says:

      I havtn’t played Civ yet, but TTA is much more abstract.

      You don’t have a map where you move your units, but instead every player has his own “playing field” where he builds his civilization, through technologies and buildings.

      I guess that would be the key difference.

  4. alm says:

    All night Sasha Grey sessions?

    • BAReFOOt says:

      We’re sorry for your lack of stamina. ;))

    • DrGonzo says:

      She doesn’t do it for me either. But seeing she plays D&D does up the appeal somewhat.

      But all skin and bones and fake orgasms isn’t really my thing!

    • alm says:

      Sorry for the ninja’ing there Barefoot.

  5. Good_eye_sniper says:

    As always great read. Now I`m a long time Civ fan having played the PC game since 14, I`m really going to try and get my hands on this now. It looks and sounds like so much fun!

  6. coldwave says:

    Ahhh, Sasha Grey, I only watched her videos with Mute on.

  7. DrGonzo says:

    I actually already have this board game for once! Whoop!

    However, never been able to play it with any one. It’s even worse than Space Hulk for putting off my friends, too many rules unfortunately. Damn those shallow stupid fools. ( Edit – I was apparently muddling up my old crappy Civ board game with this new cool looking one)

    Also, loved Rob in Frankie Boyles show the other day. In fact I found Frankie to be a little disappointing. Rob was definitely the best part of the show.

  8. Gaba says:

    I alwafs found that “through the ages” was the best civ clone on a board game, haven’t played the new civ moardgame, but the old one (2002, from eagle games), wasn’t very fun. Will definetly try to pick this one

  9. Daniel Rivas says:

    After hearing in the video about his trip to Firaxis, I feel compelled to give this Kevin Wilson a big hug, and then maybe adopt him.

    He’s adorable.

  10. Robert Florence says:

    I want to clarify that I knew my uranium wasn’t a uranium. I just wanted a face down token I could bluff with. I still had to pay through the nose for the useless token though, because my girlfriend’s Egyptians were evil like she is.

  11. Brumisator says:

    I find it sad that the German Civ. is never lead by Hitler. Surely he’s better known than Bismark for expanding the german empire.

    • jti says:

      I hope that was just a sad attempt at trolling. Who said being a great leader is about expanding, and he did lose everything in a couple of years, not big at all. Anyway, you really should read about Bismarck more.

    • says:

      People always say that, and to be fair not all of them go on to rant about political correctness gone mad, but… well, it’s yet another case of everyone falling for the sodding nazi propaganda. Hitler was a terrible leader. Well, that’s not quite fair – he was charismatic and good at getting people to do what he wanted them to do, but the problem is that what he wanted them to do was terrible and incoherent nonsense that not even the underpants gnomes would consider a sensible plan. He wasn’t a great-leader-but-sadly-evil-but-even-though-he-was-evil-he-was-kinda-awesome, he was a shit leader who could inspire quite a bit of loyalty.

      Also, in related news about people falling for fascist propaganda, the trains in Italy didn’t run on time.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Plenty of the other leaders you can play are responsible for terrible atrocities, and their empires also collapsed eventually. For example, you can play Genghis Kahn who is probably responsible for killing millions of people.. So I think it would be strange to simply dismiss Hitler from being in Civ. Not that I think you should be able to necessarily play him. But to have the German civ suddenly over ruled by him and then they start trying to take over the world could be quite interesting.

    • Auspex says:

      When I was wee (9 or 10?) I went Germany in Civ II and changed the leader’s name to Hitler. I then destroyed every other civilization in the game and took over the world.

      My parents were slightly alarmed when they noticed this.

    • General Wo says:

      He’s probably too controversial. Then again, some of the other world leaders are also infamous for the amount of killing they did.

      The Varietas Delectat mod for Civ 4 adds a lot of these ‘controversial’ characters, including Hitler, Mobutu, Hussein, Reagan, Obama, Ahmedinejad, Kim Jong-Il etc. Take a look: link to

      Obviously they recycle animations used by the official leaders that come with the game, but it’s awesome to play as Obama and declare war on Ahmedinejad, forcing him to bring his buddy Kim Jong-Il into the war.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      If you can play as Stalin, I see no reason to not have Hitler other than for politically correct cry babies.

    • Arglebargle says:

      DrGonzo needs to read more about Genghis Khan.

    • Vinraith says:

      Let’s face it, the primary criteria for being a Civ leader isn’t having been a good leader, it’s being well-known. That said, it makes a measure of sense to omit murderous fuckheads, especially those from recent history some of whose victims (or victim’s children) are still alive and remember what they did first hand.

      Which raises the obvious question of what the hell Stalin and Mao are doing in there.

    • Etho says:

      I think Hitler could be an interesting Civ leader, but only if he was treated as what he actually was, politically speaking, which is to say, a short-term, failed leader that let aggressive expansionism, xenophobia, and violent hate overpower any desire to actually improve the lives of the citizens he was supposed to be leading. Playing Civ as Hitler would be interesting, but I think it would have to reflect the fact that he was a really shitty leader.

      Genghis Khan, just for the record, probably saved more lives than any other single man, certainly in Asian history if not the entire world. Most of his territorial expansion actually came from unifying the various disparate tribes of central Asia that had been warring for centuries, not from conquering people. Oh there was a bit of that, but he also had a pretty strict policy of treating his enemies fairly. Overall, his reputation as a bloodthirsty monster is entirely undeserved. Which is probably why I’ve been conquered by Gandhi WAY more times than I’ve been conquered by Khan.

    • Will Morris says:

      And yet you can play as Mao.

    • Grey Cap says:

      Stalin and Mao (and maybe various other leaders who made it into Civ IV) commited atrocities, yes, but they were also *successful*. As in, stayed in office longish times, their deaths didn’t coincide with the military destruction of their country, etc. Hitler is famous for being evil *and* blowing his brains out in a bunker after losing everything. So two really good reasons for him not to get picked, hmmm?

      Whereas Bismarck was *great* at his job, one of the most impressive statesmen I know of.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      What do you mean, to a lesser degree Mao? Mao killed far more people (and that’s saying something).

      Alexander’s empire fell within a generation of his death, and he’s still “the Great.” Just saying.

    • D says:

      In Civ. V you play the Russians as Catherine the Great.
      But I too wondered why they hadn’t used Hitler for Germany. But then a minute later, I was done wondering. Comparisons to Genghis Khan are quite misplaced, as are comparisons to Caesar, Montezuma, Alexander and everyone else older than 200 years.

    • President Weasel says:

      Alexander’s empire splintered after his death, but the successor polities such as the Seleucid Empire and Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty lasted for hundreds of years, plus he left a trail of greek city states along the path of his conquest, some of which lasted longer still. You won’t find a German city state in the middle of the Russian steppe, and Hitler’s successor generals aren’t still ruling France.
      That’s the difference.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Weasel, I believe actually you will, but they date from Bismarck’s time and were mostly repatriated after WW2.

      Hitler’s 1000 years lasted for 7. He was charistmatic and an excellent domestic politician but was dealt a geo-political dead-man’s hand and played it liked a monomaniacal sociopath… (European power ploitics for dummies, don’t get caught between England/France and Russia, see also the Poland, Lithuania, Germany etc.)

  12. smokingkipper says:

    Ooooooooooo. We have had some excellent chaos of the old world evenings. This sounds like more of the same goodness

    Two questions. How fun is it 2 player? And does the whole random map mechanic work well?

  13. adonf says:

    Wait… they made a PC game based on Civilization ?

    • says:

      Nah, it mostly just used the name, the main inspiration came from elsewhere. Still caused rights problems though!

  14. Horza says:

    The original Civ boardgame is great also, one of my favourite boardgames ever.

    This one: link to

    Its only big flaw is that it takes ages to finish a game, easily 10h+ depending on how long the players spend yelling at/over each other during trade turns.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      And Sid Meier’s Civilization was inspired by that board game. And now there’s a board game based on his PC game. The circle is complete.

    • D says:

      I wouldn’t mind a PC game of Civilization: The Boardgame..

    • stahlwerk says:

      Peter Jackson’s: Lord of the Rings – The Novel

  15. Basilicus says:

    I’ve never been a huge Civ fan, but man, that Alpha Centauri was really something.

    Also, some sort of Sasha Grey comment. Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” is kind of a revelatory film that rips your soul out and points at huge flaws in the American perspective.

    • N'Al says:

      Seriously (note: very much different to ‘srsly’)?

      I thought ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ was boring tosh. Maybe I need to re-watch it…

    • mathew says:

      Gotta say I think the Girlfriend Experience was incredibly awful as well.

    • Jake says:

      I thought it was a good film, and Sasha Grey put in a really good performance, she was believable in the role of a jaded prostitute in a way that I can’t imagine many other young actresses would be.

    • Basilicus says:

      Haha. I spent the first third of the film thinking it was a disappointment as well, but at a certain point everything started clicking together. First off, it’s a brilliant portrait of a woman who’s managed to disconnect herself, through her work, from a solid interaction with the world, and if that’s not already a comment on American work culture, I don’t know what is. I don’t think Grey gave a brilliant performance as much as she was used well in the film.

      I think the film has 3 interesting viewpoints:

      1. It’s a vicious indictment of American consumerism and the lengths we go to in order to frame our public personas as successful. Grey becomes defined by prettiness as the few anchors to an existence or purpose outside of her job are worn away over the course of the film. Her dream of opening a cafe become less and less real and more and more a goal to make her own lifestyle easier on herself, and that’s as good a definition of what it’s like to be a workaday American in this economy as any.

      2. It’s a critique of the right-of-center perspective on sexuality that dominates American culture. The film certainly finds a healthy demand for her. It’s ending is brilliant because, for all else that – rather than outright falling apart – simply refuses to change in her life, she still does succeed in making some of her customer’s lives easier to cope with. She becomes defined, in effect, as a sin eater, able to consume the stress and difficulty in other people’s lives; unable to address the same in her own in any real, adult fashion; and pushed further and further away from any vestige of self-definition beyond that which her job provides.

      3. I wondered for a long time about the political discussion dropped smack dab in the middle of the movie, where characters are betting on Obama or McCain, and I began to see a mirror image of American political culture, the needy marks’ dependency on and relation to Grey’s character can become an analogue to our self-sold expectation of fulfillment from Obama. The reviewer who spends a night with Grey’s character and offers an atrocious review of her talents becomes the newsmedia and Grey herself is left to start accepting the kind of deals she wouldn’t at the beginning of the film, much like Obama himself. This whole line of analysis may sound silly, but I think it carries weight and makes for an interesting filmic prediction. I say this as a very liberal American who was very excited to vote for Obama and who now squishes his mouth to the side and furrows his brow every time his name is brought up.

      As a film, The Girlfriend Experience also does a brilliant job of playing with the style and delivery of 90s auteurs like Hal Hartley who never really took off and whose styles became extinct-on-arrival. I thought it was an interesting mode in which to film because the style itself references an indie movement that was unable to succeed anywhere outside of its own time and place, i.e. New York City in the 90s. As if the plot itself and character herself don’t do enough to trap themselves in place, the style (albeit transposed to 2008) does everything it can to make you realize she’s trapped in this time and place. The best she can do is stay the same, which is impossible given the fact she’ll age and her beauty will wear down, and the place itself – through the way it’s filmed and how the film defines ‘American’ in 2008 – is only just holding its own tenuous grasp from succumbing to the inevitable wear and tear of the times.

      I’d go so far as to say The Girlfriend Experience is one of the most important ten or so films to come out in the last decade. I’ll admit it’s horribly inaccessible, but it’s an incredibly deep and incredibly rewarding film. I’d say it’s one of the most cynical things I’ve ever seen if not for that last desperate, but somehow strangely reassuring, scene.

    • mathew says:

      Fair enough!

  16. RadioactiveMan says:

    In my head, its always been “fire-axis”. “Fir-axis” seems weird. Anyone else?

    • Starky says:

      Always been Fi-Raxis / Fye-raksis (like axis) to me. So almost exactly the same as you say it, just slightly different emphasis.

    • Phydaux says:

      I’ve always thought it was Fireaxis. I didn’t even notice it was spelt Firaxis until this video :P

  17. Rikard Peterson says:

    Civ 6 = Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game: The Computer Game?

  18. Scroll says:

    This looks incredible, I never get mulitplayer games of Civ going so playing the board game instead sounds like a fine plan.

    Also to note I’ve already taken my first step as I’ve purchased and played my first game of Chaos in the Old World. It was only really a test game to get used to the rules and only with one other player. We made mistakes, we corrupted and conquered a peasant uprising. It’s convinced me to start having board game nights at least monthly, if not weekly.

    I’ll probably ask my local shop (Which I found from your link) to see if then get a copy of Civ. I’ll be getting Battlestar Galactica soon hopefully as well.

    You’ve probably cost me hundreds of pounds and also delivered hundreds of hours of joy and treachery.

  19. Bassism says:

    Wow, this looks very, very cool. My christmas list shall consist of this game.
    The only problem now is to convince somebody to buy a 60 dollar board game and not look for it in Walmart.

  20. sinister agent says:

    America seems a curious choice. I’d have thought the Turks, or at a stretch, maybe the French or English would’ve made more sense.

    Still, seems like an interesting idea.

    • Delusibeta says:

      I imagine they chose the Americans because I hear the USA is quite a big market for pretty much everything.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Well America as a culture always was ridiculous (I mean as a starting culture not anything else).

      It has made me think though that these games need some sort of culture progression. I mean you start with the Celts in Wales and end up as the Australians in ummm… whereever… :)

    • sinister agent says:

      Well, in terms of impact on the world, the Americans are clearly deserving of a place – there’s not a corner of the globe they haven’t had enormous impact on, and that looks set to continue for the better part of the next century. Sure, they’ve not been around for as long as most other great historical powers, but that arguably makes their achievements all the more remarkable.

      I don’t think they really qualify as one of the ‘starting six’, though, certainly not when you consider longevity.

      Yeah, it makes sense that America is a huge market, but I really don’t think there are many people there who would buy a civilisation game but refuse to buy it if their country wasn’t in it. Buy hey ho, no big deal, I was just surprised.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      History of the World.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Lightbulb: As in: start with an old culture and later have the option to change your civ (like your system of government)?

      Could work.

    • CMaster says:

      In Civ 4, you could grant overseas elements of your empire (or just any non-contiguous part I think) independence, giving possibility for civs like The Americans or say, the Brazillians. Normally however someone random would just pop up of course.

  21. anon says:

    A little confused as to why the Germans didn’t make you show the face down token? If they said “show me” I can’t think of any good response you’d have. Missing something?

    • Robert Florence says:

      The rules suggest you keep conquered village and hut tokens face down.

    • Pantsman says:

      Even if the rules didn’t say that, the smart thing to do would be to never show your tokens until you use them. If you’ll show something if you’ve got it, then it’s impossible to convince someone you have something you don’t. If you don’t show anything you claim to have, even if you do have it, you keep the ability to bluff, as your opponent will learn that just because you won’t prove your words doesn’t mean they aren’t true.

  22. Cronstintein says:

    I have to say this looks awesome. Just need some people patient enough to play a 5+ hour board game!

  23. Meat Circus says:

    I’ve never played Civ 1 nor masturbated to Sasha Grey, I’m so fucking Indie it hurts.

    • Rinox says:

      Wait, I thought Sasha Grey was considered the porn version of indie?

    • Novotny says:

      Is it not more a case that people into obscure music pride themselves on it and tell everyone, whereas people into obscure porn generally keep pretty quiet about it?

    • D says:

      There are forums for everyone out there. It’s so true it’s not even funny.

    • Basilicus says:

      Grey is definitely the porn version of indie, but she became wildly successful. Like in all media, I’m sure there’s an even indier indie movement that insists she’s too popular to REALLY be indie anymore. She’s not unlike the Fleet Foxes of porn.

      Now we just need to find the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes analogue. Stoya, perhaps?

      This doubtless makes Taylor Rain the Billy Mackenzie and The Associates of her industry.

      Er, I mean, porn? What’s that?

    • sinister agent says:

      Indie? Pish.

      If they’re established enough to have names, they’re mainstream (and probably look and act indistinguishable from 3,000,000 other porn stars, but anyway). Yes.

    • Thants says:

      There seems to be an effort to portray Grey as sort of a Thinking Mans Pornstar, but if you look up her work it seems like she does the more depressing, misogynistic kind of porn.

    • sinister agent says:

      @Thants: I’m glad it’s not just me. Ten a penny, mate.

  24. FhnuZoag says:

    Now if the designers will make an Alpha Centauri expansion pack…

  25. Jake says:

    I think this column has proven that some people that like PC games also have some interest in boardgames and porn. Hopefully that can save someone a market research survey and maybe if we are lucky it will lead to some interesting new porn films: Sasha Grey’s Civilization (Alternate title: Sid Meier’s Analization) for example, where Sasha Grey plays a horny Queen Victoria. It could also feature a randy Gandhi, it basically writes itself.

    I think it’s about time we had pornos based on boardgames based on PC games.

    • sinister agent says:

      I am definitely going to use thre phrase “Randy Gandhi” at the earliest opportunity.

    • Blackberries says:

      I would absolutely support this. Though I am not sure I want to watch anything called ‘Sid Meier’s Analization’.

  26. BooleanBob says:

    Can’t believe this article is getting 90% comments about a pornstar and not how great that anecdote about the phantom nuke is.

  27. f8uds9afdsal says:

    Can’t believe this article is getting 90% comments about a pornstar and not how great that anecdote about the phantom nuke is

  28. bill says:

    That DOES NOT sound simple.

    I’ve managed to get my family to play Carcassonne with great success, but I seriously doubt i’d get them to play something where each turn has five sub turns in it. Plus with so many possible actions, sub actions and rules.

    It’s hardly chess….

    (sounds good though… but it sounds like a PC game)

  29. WombatDeath says:

    OK, I’m sold. If anyone within a vaguely reasonable range of Epsom fancies giving this a shot, email me at alex {at}

  30. thebigJ_A says:

    I don’t know anyone to play this with.


  31. Nick says:

    This is the greatest revelation since you mentioned Bella Donna on Screenwipe.

  32. Bfox says:

    Anywhere I can get this where it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

  33. pupsikaso says:

    How big a table do I need for this? From the pictures you’ve posted, it looks massive.

  34. Jonathon Wisnoski says:

    I have never met anyone who likes Civ. Everyone I know, that I have asked, agrees that it is a great concept, but is really not fun in practice.

  35. Chaz says:

    To someone who’s board game skills never got beyond Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, it all sounds rather complicated to me. Is this one for board game aficionados, or could a bunch of board game virgins like me get into it?

    By the way, thought you were very good in Tramadol Nights the other night Rob.

  36. Gaytard Fondue says:

    How can you tell this article has something to do with Civ?

    It has users discussing if Hitler was a great leader or not….

  37. Manburger says:

    This is a awesome article. I’m now geniunely excited about SMC:TBG(FIG)! Rob, you are the man.

    “And my uranium? It wasn’t a uranium. It was a spy. The wrong resource. But all I needed was a token to bluff with.”

    That is badass. Nngh.

  38. edosan says:

    If anyone but Fantasy Flight made this game, I’d be intrigued.

    Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight’s method of game design involves taking an interesting base idea and adding dozens and dozens of weird little ideas and procedures on to it until the game becomes a wheezing, shambling mess.

  39. Zanza says:

    I have a Civilizations board game in my basement, and I think it was made by Fantasy Flight, but I think it looks very different from that one. The main thing was that the board wasn’t randomly generated. I’ll have to look at it again.

  40. pupsikaso says:

    You have a poor taste in porn, rab.

  41. Yorda says:


    Thanks for your review of the Girlfriend Experience. It seems like you have a background in film. As I was watching that movie I got that terrible feeling nagging at me that I was missing the larger point due to my own ignorance, and it seems that that was the case. :p (Actually I got all of it except the Hal reference, extinct on arrival is a perfect term for porn stardom too!)

    Just wanted to let you know I enjoyed it.

    pupsikaso, judging someone by their porn… LOL

    • Basilicus says:

      Thanks! I’m a film fanatic, did print reviews for a while, and I’m a huge champion of Soderbergh’s. Even got to ask him a few questions at the Che roadshow he did, which was a treat.

      That he put out the two parts of Che (starkly different from each other), The Girlfriend Experience, and The Informant!, essentially four very different films within a two-year span, has got to be one of the most impressive and overlooked directorial feats in cinematic history.

      It’s good to hear my comments are helpful. I’m looking to get back into profitable film criticism (so much more DIY now than four years ago), so your taking the time to let me know you enjoyed them is definitely rewarding.

  42. A-Scale says:

    I nearly piddled when I saw that this was only $40 bucks rather than 60 or 100, which I expected (I don’t play many board games). I’ve seen some positive and some negative reviews of this, so I’m going to hold off until all the votes come in, but I’m very excited.

  43. Daniel Andre says:

    As the other guy here commented, I expected the price to be double what it actually was, so I of course went ahead and bought it.

    First impression: “That’s a *lot* of pieces – now let me divide them up and put them in their designated boxe…. wait a sec”. For a game that has ONE MILLION different pieces, it’s INSANE that you’re suppose to just put everything in one big pile inside the box. Even Smallworld (link to has a box to put all the pieces in!

    I hope the game itself will be fun. Organizing the different pieces was not.

  44. adonf says:

    Great article (again), Mr Florence. I was about to complain that you inserted a video, but the article read fine without watching it, so: Phew !

    What’s wrong with videos ? Well first when I read an article like this I want to read it at my own pace, and I don’t want the boss to know that I’m not doing any actual work. Text is perfect for this, videos make it impossible. That’s my only complaint with RPS in general: too many videos in the middle of all that good reading…

  45. Jeremy says:

    Well, the 2002 Civilization: The Board Game from Eagle games was a HUGE disappointment, so I’m quite wary of this one. There are some comments on the BGG site about this that worry me somewhat – particularly the ones about one or two random incidents completely making/destroying someone’s chances in a four hour game.

    I’m still trying to find someone to play my Starcraft boardgame with me – and that one still seems totally awesome. When I get to play it.