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Sid Meier's Civilization
Civilization box art
Developer(s) MicroProse
Publisher(s) MicroProse, Koei (SNES)
Designer(s) Sid Meier
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Windows, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, Super NES, PlayStation
Release date(s) 1991
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) ESRB: Kids to Adults (KA)
Media Floppy disk, CD-ROM
Input methods Keyboard, Mouse

Sid Meier's Civilization is a turn-based strategy computer game created by Sid Meier for MicroProse in 1991.[1] The game's objective is to " an empire to stand the test of time". The game begins in 4000 BC, and the players attempt to expand and develop their empires through the ages until modern and near-future times. It is also known simply as Civilization, or abbreviated to Civ or Civ I.



Civilization is a turn-based single-player computer game. The player takes on the role of the ruler of a civilization starting with only one Settler unit. The player attempts to build an empire in competition with between two and six other civilizations. The game requires a fair amount of micromanagement (although less than any of the simulation games).[2]

Along with the larger tasks of exploration, war and diplomacy, the player has to make decisions about where to build new cities, which improvements or units to build in each city, which advances in knowledge should be sought (and at what rate), and how to transform the land surrounding the cities for maximum benefit. From time to time the player's towns may be harassed by barbarians, units with no specific nationality and no named leader. These threats only come from unclaimed land or sea, so that over time there are fewer and fewer places from which barbarians will emanate.

Conducting negotiations with Stalin of the Russians

Before the game begins, the player chooses which historical civilization to play. In contrast to later games in the Civilization series, in Civ I, this is largely a cosmetic choice, affecting titles, city names, musical heralds, color, and also their starting position on the "Play on Earth" map (and thus different resources in one's initial cities). It has no effect on starting position, however, when starting a random world game or a customized world game. The player's choice of civilization also prevents the computer from being able to play as that civilization or the other civilization of the same color, and since computer-controlled opponents display certain traits of their civilizations this affects gameplay as well. The Aztecs are both fiercely expansionistic and generally extremely wealthy, for example. Other civilizations include the Americans, the Mongols, and the Romans. Each civilization is led by a historical figure, such as Mahatma Gandhi (Indians) and Joseph Stalin (Russians).

The scope of the game is huge — larger than most other computer games. The game begins in 4000 BC, before the Bronze Age, and can last through to 2100 AD (on the easiest setting) with Space Age and "future technologies". At the start of the game there are no cities anywhere in the world: the player controls one or two Settler units, which can be used to found new cities in appropriate sites (and those cities may build other settler units, which can go out and found new cities, thus expanding the empire). Settlers can also alter terrain, build improvements such as mines and irrigation, build roads to connect cities, and later in the game they can construct railroads which offer unlimited movement.

Choosing which technology to pursue

As time advances, new technologies are developed; these technologies are the primary way in which the game changes and grows. At the start, players choose from advances such as Pottery, the Wheel, and the Alphabet to, near the end of the game, Nuclear fission and Spaceflight. Players can gain a large advantage if their civilization is the first to learn a particular technology (the secrets of flight, for example) and put it to use in a military or other context. Most advances give access to new units, city improvements or derivative technologies: for example, the Chariot unit becomes available after the Wheel is developed, and the Granary building becomes available to build after Pottery is developed. The whole system of advancements from beginning to end is called the Technology tree, or simply the Tech tree; this concept has been adopted in many other strategy games. Since only one tech may be "researched" at any given time, the order in which technologies are chosen makes a considerable difference in the outcome of the game and generally reflects the player's preferred style of gameplay.

Players can also build Wonders of the World in each of the epochs of the game, subject only to obtaining the prerequisite knowledge. These wonders are important achievements of society, science, culture and defense, ranging from the Pyramids and the Great Wall in the Ancient age, to Copernicus' Observatory and Magellan's Expedition in the middle period, up to the Apollo program, the United Nations, and the Manhattan Project in the modern era. Each wonder can only be built once in the world, and requires a lot of resources to build, far more than most other city buildings or units. Wonders provide unique benefits to the controlling civilization. For example, Magellan's Expedition increases the movement rate of naval units. Wonders typically affect either the city in which they are built (e.g., the Colossus), every city on the continent (e.g., the Hanging Gardens), or the civilization as a whole (e.g., Darwin's Voyage). Also, some wonders are made obsolete by new technologies.

The game can be won by destroying all other civilizations, reaching the end of the modern era with the highest score or by winning the space race by reaching the star system of Alpha Centauri. This may lead up to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.


Meier admits to "borrowing" many of the technology tree ideas from a board game also called Civilization (published in the United Kingdom in 1980 by Hartland Trefoil (later by Gibson Games), and in the United States in 1981 by Avalon Hill). The early versions of the game even included a flier of information and ordering materials for the board game. There is now a board game based on the computer game version of Civilization.

Meier was the third major designer to plan a computer version of Civilization, but the first to actually carry out that plan. Danielle Bunten Berry planned to start work on the game after completing M.U.L.E. in 1983, and again in 1985, after completing The Seven Cities of Gold at Electronic Arts. In 1983 Bunten and producer Joe Ybarra opted to first do Seven Cities of Gold. The success of Seven Cities in 1985 in turn led to a sequel, Heart of Africa. Bunten never returned to the idea of Civilization.[3] Meier's designs of Pirates! and Colonization both contain elements of Bunten's The Seven Cities of Gold. Don Daglow, designer of Utopia, the first simulation game, began work programming a version of Civilization in 1987. He dropped the project, however, when he was offered an executive position at Brøderbund, and never returned to the game[4].

When the first version of Civilization was being developed, it was designed to run on an IBM PC computer, which at the time was transitioning from 16 color EGA to VGA, which could use 256 different colors. The decision to limit the number of different civilizations to 16 was made to make Civilization compatible with both display standards: 16 civilizations for the 16 colors available to EGA.[5]


Intellectual property status

As of late 2004, Atari, the latest publisher of a Civilization game, sold the intellectual property of the Civilization brand to Take 2 Interactive Software, who will distribute Civilization games under the 2K Games label. Take 2 went public with news of the sale on January 26, 2005.

Multiplayer remake

Sid Meier's CivNet was released in 1995 and was a remake of the original game with added multiplayer, improved graphics and sound, and Windows 3.1/95 support. Gameplay was almost identical to the original game. There were several methods of multiplayer, including LAN, primitive Internet play, hotseat, modem, and direct serial link.

Sequels and clones

There have been several sequels to Civilization, including Civilization II, Civilization III, Civilization IV and Civilization Revolution. An open source clone of Civilization has been developed under the name of Freeciv, with the slogan "'Cause civilization should be free". Currently it can be configured to match the rules of both Civilization and Civilization II.

Similar games

The original "Civilization" computer game was one of the earliest computer games, written in 1972 on an HP2000 at Evergreen State College. When the source code was lost, two of its original authors independently rewrote it and renamed it Empire, see Classic Empire (computer game) and Empire Classic (computer game) for details. In both Sid Meier's Civilization, and in the original Empire games, players start with a single unit on an unknown world map, explore the map, capture cities to expand production to create various land and sea units. Empire lacks the concept of technological advance, but both games have the concept of expanding production capacity over time, with more sophisticated units being created later in the game, and similar basic strategies. "Empire" variants derived from these games exist on Unix based computers to this day as multi-player and single-player games.

In 1994 Meier produced a similar game called Colonization. Colonization, while very similar to Civilization, never became as popular. It has been criticized on several theoretical grounds, particularly because winning the game seems to necessitate the extermination of native tribes and because it ignores slavery and other historically important features in the creation of many nations and empires.[6] Civilization III, however, recognized slavery in the game play.

The game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is also by Meier and is in the same genre, but with a futuristic/space theme. Many of the interface and gameplay innovations in this game eventually made their way into Civilization III and IV. Alpha Centauri essentially picks up where Civilization left off, with the space ship arriving at Sol's closest neighbour.

In 1994 MicroProse published Master of Magic, a similar game but embedded in a medieval-fantasy setting where instead of technologies the player (a powerful wizard) develops spells, among other things. The game also shared many things with the popular fantasy card-trading game Magic: The Gathering.

In 1999 Activision released Civilization: Call to Power, a sequel of sorts to Civilization II but by a completely different design team. Gamers that year had a choice between a new game with the Civilization name but no involvement of Sid Meier; and a "space"-themed civilization game without the name but clearly designed by the same team (Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri). Call to Power spawned a sequel in 2000, but by then Activision had lost the rights to the Civilization name and could only call it Call to Power II.


MS-DOS version of Civilization

Civilization was originally developed for MS-DOS running on a PC. It has undergone numerous revisions for various platforms (including Windows, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, PlayStation, N-Gage and Super Nintendo) and now exists in several versions.

Points of controversy

A contentious aspect of the game occurs in combat when a modern unit is fighting an obsolete or ancient unit. The ancient unit can sometimes win what most players consider to be an impossible battle. The most notorious example of this is the infamous "phalanx defeats tank" phenomenon in which ancient combat units could defeat modern ones (such as tanks and aircraft) due to status modifiers such as terrain, fortifications, and veteran status.

"Veteran players of Civilization were occasionally disconcerted when a veteran phalanx unit fortified behind city walls on a mountain would defeat an attacking battleship. Mathematically it was possible but the image just didn't sit right. How could ancient spearmen destroy a modern steel warship?"[7]

The problem plagued all versions of the game — including Alpha Centauri — but was greatly mitigated in Civilization IV in 2006, claiming that the new combat system was developed to avoid such situations, however, the problem is not totally removed from the series.


This game has been one of the most popular strategy games of all time, and has a loyal following of fans. The game (by means of all its versions and updates) has endured for almost two decades, with product being offered for sale the entire time in retail stores. This high level of interest has spawned a number of free and open source versions, such as Freeciv and C-evo, and inspired similar games by other commercial developers, as well.

In 1992, Civilization won the Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1991.[8] The game was reviewed in 1992 in Dragon #183 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[9] The game was reviewed in 1994 in Dragon #211 by Jay & Dee in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Both reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[10] In November 1996 Computer Gaming World's Anniversary Edition, Civilization was chosen the #1 of the 150 Best Games of All Time, and it was described as follows:

While some games might be equally addictive, none have sustained quite the level of rich, satisfying gameplay quite like Sid Meier's magnum opus. The blend of exploration, economics, conquest and diplomacy is augmented by the quintessential research and development model, as you struggle to erect the Pyramids, discover gunpowder, and launch a colonization spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. For its day, Civilization had the toughest computer opponents around - even taking into account the "cheats", that in most instances added rather than detracted from the game. Just when you think the game might bog down, you discover a new land, a new technology, another tough foe - and you tell yourself, "just one more game", even as the first rays of the new sun creep into your room... the most acute case of game-lock we've ever felt.

Civilization was named one of the sixteen most influential games in history at Telespiele, a German technology and games trade show, in 2007.[11] It was named #4 on IGN's 2000 "Top 25 PC Games of All Time" list.[12]

Civilizations in Civilization I

Civilization Leader Capital
America Abraham Lincoln Washington
Azteca Montezuma Tenochtitlan
Babylon Hammurabi Babylon
China Mao Tse Tung Beijing
Egypt Rameses II Thebes
England Elizabeth I London
France Napoleon Bonaparte Paris
Germany Friedrich the Great Berlin
Greece Alexander the Great Athens
India Mohandas Gandhi Delhi
Mongolia Genghis Khan Samarqand
Rome Julius Caesar Rome
Russia Joseph Stalin Moscow
Zululand Shaka Zulu Zimbabwe

See also




  • The Official Guide to Sid Meier's Civilization, Keith Ferrell, Edmund Ferrell, Compute Books, 1992, ISBN 0874552591

External links

Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

Box artwork for CivNet.
Developer(s) MicroProse Software
Publisher(s) MicroProse Software
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
System(s) Windows
Series Civilization

CivNet is an updated version of the original Civilization, ported to Windows and with added multiplayer support. Apart from a few new features, gameplay did not change from the original.

New features

King Builder This feature allows for the player to create a visual representation of his/her alter ego.

Map Editor As with Civilization II, a map editor was included so that the player could design their own maps, quite a useful feature, one that was lacking in the original civilization

Table of Contents

  • Controls


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