Ah, yes, Civilization.
We do like Civilization here at PBK (or Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game, to give it its full Sunday name). Daniel reviewed it way back in August and he loved it. In fact, we honoured it by awarding it with our first ever review. Daniel waxed lyrical about just how grand it is for almost 1500 words. He loved the fog-of-war implementation, the clever multiple paths to victory and the frankly genius tech pyramid. You know you’re in for a good thing when the only real complaint is that the box isn’t particularly useful for storing the hundreds of tokens and cards included.
If there was one other grumble to be directed at the game it’s that there’s a strict 4 player limit imposed in the base game. Thankfully, the big news about the recently announced expansion, Fame and Fortune, is the option for a 5th player. While the news of the increased player limit is obviously welcome, I was also confused.
You see, for those who have never played the Civ, the map setup for a game of Civilization is different depending on how many players are involved, keeping the game focused and the empires close to conflict at all times. There’s a logical consistency to the three different setups. In a two player game the map tiles are arranged in a 2 x 4 rectangle, for three players it’s a 4 tile wide triangle and you place the tiles in a 4 x 4 square for a four player game, as shown below.
So, the question of how a 5th player might be included into the game has been playing on my mind a lot recently. (What? These are exactly the types of questions that should occupy the mind of every board gamer!)
Mercifully, this particular puzzle has been solved thanks to Fantasy Flight publishing the rules for the Fame and Fortune expansion, which include a rather funky map set up for five player games.
Rectangles, triangles and squares my tiny little brain can deal with, but this? No. While I’m not sure if this shape even has a name, it will throw up a few potential interesting scenarios.
With each player still being two or three tiles away from their nearest neighbour there will be plenty of tension and conflict over resources. However, unlike 2-4 player games, this set-up has a situation where everyone has at least one other player who they are unlikely to come into conflict with, due to the distance between them and that massive gaping hole in the middle of the board - their perfect trading partner.
In my book this is no bad thing. The best games of Civ are the ones where the table is alive with bartering and haggling. Points of trade, resources and even promises to attack a mutual rival; the trading step is the lifeblood of a game of Civ, the oil that greases the wheels of war and is the source of all of what is great about the game.
There are other additions included in the expansion of course. The chance to upgrade a city into a metropolis, tripling its size, and the option to invest in long-term strategies found in the new Investment Cards. There are also four new civilizations for players to choose from. Alas, us Brits are still vastly under-represented here. Elizabeth I (or whoever FFG decide should lead us) will presumably have to wait a little longer for the next expansion. Possibly one that focuses on the slightly neglected naval aspect of the game.
Anyway, Brits or no Brits, Fame and Fortune has gone straight to the top of my list of “upcoming expansions for games released in the past year”, along with Forbidden Alchemy, the curious looking expansion for the splendid Mansions of Madness.