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Civilization Multiplayer: city elimination, simultaenous turns and timer

November 1, 2009 6 comments

City elimination, simultaenous turns and a timer are all crucial aspects of Civilization4 multiplayer. Here is why and in what way they provide a framework for setting up a human vs. human game of civ.

city elimination

Civ is a game that favours the defense over the offense, especially when it comes to defending cities. The first aspect affected by this is the amount of turns (hence real playing time) that is required in order to defeat an opponent in a conquest victory. With equal levels of technology and available strategical ressources the very rough ratio of units needed in order to take a city is two to one, point being that in a game between at least somewhat equal opponents in order to take cities one needs to build up a significant lead in army. Achieving this is a big challenge itself. Having achieved such a lead it´s possible to take a city or two. While doing so though the opponent is able to produce new units that will defend constantly while the attacker´s army that is actually doing the attacking is only getting smaller. Without a city elimination limit one has to build up this advantage in power over and over again. While often the first main attack can basically end the game in terms of in what shape the opposing empires are after it, that doesn´t mean the losing side will concede by itself. During an average around 100 turn multiplayer game different attacks in various forms can be tried, while still the entire available land mass gets filled with cities. Taking as an example a medieval start 3v3 Inland_Sea game with it is common that it´s not possible to destroy more then two cities of the opposing team over the course of 90 turns, while still the entire available space is filled with on average 8 cities per player. Without city elimination such a game could take much longer then the 2 hours it usually does. Of course this titls the game towards a more militaristic, but then as said civ is defensive in its nature. In single player (also some multiplayer variants like Ironman) it´s more about building up technology and production. While this sounds fine, it actually takes away parts of the game. With city elimination you still build up tech, sometimes get a couple of Great People to bulb technologies, but also build army. The aspects of civ get, one might say balanced, one would say pushed in another direction. Both is true, this is not about what´s better or worse – it´s a necessity of multiplayer to provoke interaction between humans in order to fight for the win instead of each player playing more for himself vast parts of the game.

Bascally all multiplayer civilization games played in a competetive armossphere have a city elimination limit. It´s almost always 2 for teamer games, mostly 1 for duels since getting the aforementiond advantage in army is even tougher there and also there are less ways of strategically attacking the opponent since the empires mostly jsut face each other leaving little room for surprising moves. The main exception is the Ironman where neither a turn nor a city elimination limit exist and which consequently lasts – depending on settings – 10 hours and more if played to the end, mostly space race. While Ironman is a very skill demanding kind of multiplayer civilization it is different in the way described above. It´s less about creative military warfare, more about optimally micromanaging the empire for maximum technological output.

simultaenous turns

While there can be exceptions (for example there is a regular and popular 1v1 separate turn tourney in the Polish community) multiplayer civilization has to be played with simultaenous turns otherwise it just would take too long to be played without a big time commitment, which is okay here or there, but shouldn´t be a condition.

What changes ? Most of the time nothing, you just save real time while building your empire. It gets interesting when it comes to interaction with the opponent. Players new to multiplayer civ often complain that the game becomes “real time strategy” whenever a stack suddenly appears in their land and hits a city the next turn. They don´t realize that a good net of sentries around your land and knowledge of what your opponent is doing are the key elements of the game. You need to know what might happen and be prepared for it – then you can act accordingly, because you are not surprised and the fact that you have to do that in a limited amount of time plays no more role. If you die to a “double move” (moving a stack twice in 8 seconds, once at end of turn, then again next turn after 8 seconds delay have passed) as it´s called by less experienced players, you would have lost the game anyway.

One factor that really is affected by simultaenous turns is the scenario where two opposing players try to move on the same tile at the same time, one being faster and the other then attacking a unit instead of grabbing a “safe” forest for the defense bonus. The fastest way to do this is by not moving by hand once the turn switches, but either with the help of “ctrl +a”, meaning programming the move of the unit (that has moved at least 8 seconds before the end of the turn) and then holding ctrl+a durng turn switch. The command is processed “before” you can do anything else in the end. Ctrl+a doesn´t always work, which depends on whether an opposing unit is positioned in a way which blocks this command. Another way is “fastmoving” (from where this site got its name ;)). It works in a pretty similar way, just is triggered differently via the NumLock keys, which can be used for moving units in civ. Fastmoves are processed slower then ctrl+a, but do alwys work when applied properly. If an opponent fastmoves, too – then it´s a bit skill (fastmoving properly requires some training) and …. luck who gets it. Experienced players know how to avoid situations in which they would have to fastmove in order to save something and try to get opponnts into situatoins where they themselves can fastmove with little risk but bigger possible gain. Very rarely it happens that between good players someone gets himself into a situation where fastmove is the only option – and mostly this is due to a mistake made before.

The only factor that really is a problem with simultaenous turns is the fact that if 2 players build a wonder at the same time or get liberalism at the same time or a technology that provides a religion or a technology that provides a Great Person … only one will actually receive it. The mechanic how this player is chosen is unknown among civ fans as far as I know. Depending on the settings this can play a bigger or smaller role. On average it happens rather rarely, especially in teamers. CTON and Ironman and especially OCC are more affected by it. Calculating the risks of attempting a wonder for example are a part of multiplayer skill though.

So summing up, simultaenous turns are a necessity. The “real time” part they bring to unit movement is most of the time a benefit to the game – in my personal experience I´ve never wished for separate turns. I find it fair and very skill requiring. The phenomenon of “same turn” wonder/religion/etc. sucks. There have been various ideas about how civilization 5 could fix this.

Here are some of mine, of which some could be mixed:

  • Whoever put more hammers overall into the wonder gets it. Same for put in tech for technologies. Could still be the same, what then ? If not perfect, better then now.
  • Whoever build/researched it faster overall = needed less turns gets it.
  • Both get it. Problematic for other players – would have to be tested for balance, but could work.
  • No one gets it. Not an option.
  • Both get a weaker version. How much weaker ? Tests required… Around 75% effect maybe… Tough tu tune down some wonders, but possible for everything I guess.
  • An Industrial player gets priority for a wonder over a non-industrial with wonders. Another trait gets this bonusfor benefits granted from technologies – for example Creative.

It´s not a terribly big issue (outside of OCC), but big enough to deserve a solution – which shouldn´t require the invention of a totally new game mechanic probably though.

timer

The timer is there to make multipler playable in a reasonable amount of time, not to mention to avoid a stuck game due to a player just going afk or playing horribly slow.

It should be as fast as possible, meaning you should be able to make all moves with your units and workers, micromanage your land, be able to think about strategy and analyze the situation constantly + some bonus time. The bonus time is bigger in competetive games for example during clan matches and smaller during normal games which are played in the civilization multiplayer league everyday and count for the ranking there.

A trained players plays with a timer almost on the same level as he would with infinite time, difference being very small, depending on the nature of the settings. In general the timer is fast or blazing, for modern and future games it´s medium. With the help ofthe GameMonitorMod, a mod specially developed by the mp community the timer can be increased in the later part of the game. As an orientation, in an ancint start with blazing an little to no lag, you have aorund 40 seconds in the beginning of the game for a turn, constantly increasing to significantly more then a minute. Once the basics are understood, this is plenty to weigh different options against each other and then still move units and manage cities.