Friday, April 22, 2016

Civilization 5 Multiplayer

In the picture above, the Romans (purple) and the Aztecs (all I can think of is guava-colored) have attacked Poland (red), capturing the cities of Lodz and Wroclaw, respectively. The Polish army is coming up from the south, so while the Roman army attempts to reinforce Wroclaw with legions, the Aztecs set the city ablaze, an absolute measure to prevent the Polish from recapturing it.

This exciting episode occurred in 260 AD in a multiplayer game of Civilization V. I've greatly enjoyed maneuvering empires through history (or something distantly related to history) in the Civilization series, but one of the least appealing aspects of Civ V is the not-so-good AI. Computer-controlled civilizations tend to be predictable and incompetent, and higher difficulty levels give computer civilizations more resources, not more skill. Today, for the first time, I decided to try playing Civilization with strangers on the internet to see if it was any more exciting.

The scenario above happened about fifteen minutes into my first game. Civilizations had been randomly selected and I was the Romans. Early in the game, Poland settled a city (Lodz) very near to Rome in a spot my settlers had been heading for, which was annoying, to say the least. I wasn't the only one miffed by Poland's prolific settling: within minutes, the Aztec player sent me a message asking if I wanted to help him take Poland down a notch or two. It was only after I agreed to this sneaky alliance that I noticed another message in my inbox, from Poland. Poland was apologizing for settling my spot (he hadn't seen that I was so close) and even offered me gold as compensation. Unfortunately for Poland, I had already committed to the sneak attack, so I turned down the gold (I didn't want to feel too guilty) and told Poland that everything was okay.

Over the next several turns, the Aztecs and I built up armies and shared intel and resources-- I sent the Aztecs sugar to keep up happiness and the Aztecs sent me iron to build more legions. The Aztec player asked where I was from in real life, and I said Canada (it's one of those days). He said he was from Poland. As our in-game alliance grew, so did Poland's power. At one point, the Polish player asked me if I was building an army. I said that it was in my Roman nature to build armies. After that, I was sure to hide my legions from the view of Polish scouts so that he wouldn't know exactly how large my army had gotten.

On turn 77, the Aztecs and I both declared war on Poland-- Aztec forces attacked Wroclaw from the north and Roman legions came at Lodz from the south and east. The ambush was perfect-- Poland's entire army was off to the southwest in a war with a computer-controlled city-state. All of this leads to the screenshot above, and the meeting of three armies around the burning city of Wroclaw.

As all this writing suggests, I really enjoyed the multiplayer experience-- having human players makes every aspect of the game, from diplomacy to exploration to war, more exciting. Unfortunately, there are also some downsides; right after the Romano-Aztec attack on Poland, two other players (the Zulu and China) crashed out of the game and weren't able to reconnect, so we decided to start over. Still, I had a better time in that 20 minutes of multiplayer than I did in the last several hours I've played against computer players.


  1. Just an interesting side note that you may already be aware of from your prolific reading of The World Book in younger days: Wroclaw is the Polish spelling of Breslau, my home town. The original town in Poland was often under German rule. "We have seen the enemy, and it is us!"