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The Board Gaming Roots of Civilization VI

The Board Gaming Roots of Civilization VI

Civilization VI has been out for a few weeks now, and players everywhere have been developing their own empires in their virtual worlds.  And one very interesting element of this version of the game is that, while Civilization V was translated from a computer game to a board game, this time they had a board game designer develop the computer game.

Ed Beach has been developing board games since the 1990s, creating several very memorable titles, such as Here I Stand, and most of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series.  His tabletop background comes through on Civilization VI in subtle ways.

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The most obvious tabletop influence comes through in one of the new elements; the civics cards system.  While going through the ages in Civilization VI, players make choices along a civics tree in the same way they travel along the technology tree. The type of government the player has determines how many of each color coded cards they can have, (each color represents a type of civic, such as military, social, and economic) and the inserted cards provide specific bonuses to the civilization.  For instance, a player might play a red military card that reduces the cost of land units or slot in the yellow card, Urban Planning, to increase production in all the cities. Much like the tech trees steer the course of the units you throw at the board, civics cards influence the paths you take and reward you for using certain strategies.

This influence likely came from Ed Beach’s game Here I Stand, which utilizes cards for most of the choices made in the game.  Though it is a board game with a map of Europe and military units that move around like a regular war game, cards that are played by each player determine what actions will be most beneficial that turn.  Players receive additional cards by doing things that don’t directly relate to the military map, such as colonizing the new world.

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Religion in Civilization VI also seems to stem from Here I Stand, as religions fight for dominance within the borders of countries.  They are both independent of their hosting nations, yet they influence them and are influenced by them in both games.  In Here I Stand, markers flip back and forth between Catholicism and Protestant, spreading across borders into neighboring nations, and military forces are powerless to do anything.  Players instead have to play cards to counter the opposing religion.

Most similar of all, in Here I Stand players can partake in a religious debate, pitting religious minds against one another to influence the people of a city.  The same can be done with missionaries, apostles, and inquisitors in Civilization VI which can travel to cities that belong to other players and partake in “religious combat” with other religious units.  These opponents do not even have to belong to the player who owns the city.  In my own game, Indian and German apostles made one of my towns their battleground where they vied for power of their religions.  Having no religion myself, I stayed out of the fight, and wound up in a physical war with Germany while his religious units were able to remain in my territory.

Military combat sees one major element brought in from Ed Beach’s American Civil War series.  In Civilization V, units could not be on the same space, which was infuriating since units that could not defend themselves, like catapults, became easy targets.  Now units like the catapults are defined as support units, and they can be matched with regular units.  This was much the same way artillery was handled in Beach’s Civil War games.

This was true not only in stacking limitations, but in determining combat odds.  While the infantry and cavalry units were added up to determine the strength number of the stack, artillery units instead altered where the players would look on the combat chart.  It was almost as though the support units had a separate battle of their own, which more accurately reflects the way a real battle would take place.

The additions to Civilization VI are an improvement, and provide a certain level of familiarity to tabletop gamers.  They also add a level of depth that keep the game flowing, even during those long stretches of the game when borders are secured and the world has been explored.  It will be interesting to see how the game gets re-interpreted into a board game again, and whether they’ll have Ed Beach design it as well.

What civilization do you most enjoy playing?  Tell us about your experiences with Civ 5 or 6 in the comments below.

Image Credits: 2K Games

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