This article represents my impressions after the first play of a game. It will try and give an impression of the feel of a game over a dive into its mechanics.
Hail, Caesar. Look long and hard over the land that is laid out before you. For this land, is your land or at least it could be. With the right combination of technologies and tactics you can stretch your arm far and wide to trade with the exotic. Perhaps we will turn inwards with a more isolationist viewpoint. Did I mention the nuclear weapons? No, well let me go on.
Sunshine on a rainy day
Civilisation: A New Dawn is the latest take on the venerable computer games series from Fantasy Flight Games. It’s a game packed with elegance and smart decisions that might disappoint if you are expecting an hours long epic. Eschewing the more laborious approach of its predecessors, New Dawn nonetheless has an engaging puzzle at its heart: the Focus Bar.
Marked from 1 to 5, left to right, the focus bar has 5 cards nestled underneath representing the different paths your civilisation can: Culture, Military, Industry, Science and Economy. These actions sit through the whole game tantalising you with possibility whilst frustrating you with the puzzle they represent. For you see the higher a card sits on the scale, the more powerful its effect!
As you gaze out from your starting capital you will decide how to flex your power. Will you establish new trade routes, but only be able to move through the planes because the card sits at 1, for now. Strike out and murder those pesky barbarians that are threatening your border, after all your combat card is sitting in the 5 slot giving you the thumbs up!. Every time you make a decision the action you choose gets shoved down to the bottom and everything else climbs up, becoming a more efficient use of that card.
Technology upgrades, a fundamental component of CIV, are handled with a simple replacement of the cards under your focus bar. Each upgrade is not strictly better than its predecessor leaving you with lots of choice in how to proceed. You’ll discover all sorts of combos as you replace different techs and can couple them with Wonders, built in your honour of course, for even more trickery.
Combat is not inevitable but when it does happen it doesn’t distract from the flow of the game, allowing military pursuits to have the same emphasis as economy and scientific goals. You can go up against other civilisations, or the non-player city states about the board and resolve it with a simple dice roll in a matter of seconds.
Lessons from History
After I finished this game of CIV, I wanted to play it again: try new strategies, take new paths. My only real criticism would be that it could do with bit more variety in the decks, but an expansion is almost inevitable with FFG games. New Dawn is a beautifully elegant piece of design that honours its traditions without slavishly adhering to them and is simply one of the best games I have played this year.