The latest release from FFG to head for our shelves is Sid Meier’s Civilization: the Board Game by Kevin Wilson (designer of such classics as Descent: Journeys in the Dark and Doom: the Boardgame).

The perfect civilization-building game has been something of a Holy Grail among gamers for some time now, and hopes are high that this game will fit the bill. It’s certainly looking like it has all the right ingredients. Based on the latest incarnation (Civilization V) of one of the most famous and influencial computer game series of all time, Civilization: The Board Game gives 2-4 players the chance to establish the most successful civilization, controlling powerful leaders from throughout history, leading great military campaigns, or perhaps becoming the cultural hub of the world!

But first, a bit of background—let’s have a quick look at the history of this classic turn-based strategy computer game series. Basically, each turn of the game allows players to move units on a map, build or improve cities and units, and negotiate with computer-controlled players; leading a civilization from perhistoric times into the future. The first game was designed by Sid Meier and Bill Stealey, and released by Microprose in 1991. Interestingly, there was already a boardgame by Avalon Hill of the same name, and after initially licencing the name, there were later some lawsuit shenigans over the brand. These were eventually resolved when the toy and game giant Hasbro bought up both Avalon Hill and Microprose. Currently, Take Two Interactive owns the developer and publisher of the franchise, and recently released the completely overhauled Civilization V for Microsoft Windows (a Mac version is coming eventually).

What about past civilization boardgames? The original Avalon Hill game, designed by Francis Tesham, was first released in 1980. It’s restricted to the Mediterranean sea area and a time period of 8,000 BC to 250 BC, and can take more than 8 hours to play— you can see why a ‘Civ-lite’ game has always been a goal for game designers! Side Meier says he never played the game before creating his computer game, but was in fact inspired by SimCity, Railroad Tycoon and Risk. Civilization has always been a classic, but quite a few other games have followed that, with varying success, have tried to take on the mantle of ‘perfect Civ-building’ game. Games like Antike, Through the Ages, Tempus, and especially Mare Nostrum are all well-regarded examples of the genre.

Stayed tuned for the release of Sid Meier’s Civilization: the Board Game next month. In the meantime, an upcoming article will have a look at the mechanics of this highly anticipated game! And be sure to let us know in the comments if you’re a big Civ fan and are looking forward to this release—do you think the game will translate well to a boardgame format?

by Universal Head

For more information about these games, visit Fantasy Flight Games and BoardgameGeek. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for some of these games at Headless Hollow.

Universal Head has been designing for clients across the globe for more than 20 years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites www.tekumel.com and www.battleloremaster.com. His blog site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for boardgames.