Sid Meier’s Civilization the Board Game Review

Sid Meier’s Civilization the Board Game has got to be my favourite new acquisition.  I’m a huge fan of Civilization the computer game, and have played from Civ II to IV religiously. So having a board game adaptation by one of the best publishers (Fantasy Flight) had me raring to play.  I have to say, it’s not let me down so far; though I will admit I’ve yet to play a 2 player game.

Appearance: Fantasy Flight has done a great job on the appearance here, with the pictures seemingly drawn straight from the computer game.  Everything’s easy to read and there doesn’t seem to be any major typos that we have seen.  There is, as always, a ton of chits so set-up time and break-down needs to be carefully done or else it could take a while the next game.  Overall, I’m quite happy with the pieces & the quality of the game.  As usual, you might as well toss the insert with any FFG game.

Rules / Ease of Learning: This is a complex game.  Let’s be clear about that from the start – just like the computer game, the learning curve is pretty steep.  I am not going to reiterate the rules here in detail, it’d take forever.  There’s a lot of information to grasp, though fans of the computer game will certainly have a head start on understanding the various rules and concepts.  To quickly summarise the game – players choose a specific race / governor (or are randomly given one) and start on their starting tile with their capital city.  They receive a Scout & Army Figure and 3 Army Units.  Exploration of the gameboard reveals new land tiles including barbarian huts & villages that can be visited / conquered for resources and potentially great people.  You also need to explore to settle in a new tile as there’s a minimum distance required for settling cities.  Players get a maximum of 3 cities in the game.  During each turn, players collect ‘Trade’ which is used for Research or hurrying Production of units / buildings / etc.  Researching gives access to new buildings, governments, units & special abilities.

Combat is resolved by playing unit cards onto the board with the defender going first.  Units can trump / first strike specific other unit types (i.e. cavalary trump archers, archers trump infantry, infantry trump cavalry) which means they deal damage before the other unit types.  Damaged (not killed) units stay on the board, and count towards resolving the battle.

Lastly, of note are the numerous winning conditions – Culture, Wealth, Military and Technology.  It’s worth noting that whoever reaches the winning condition first wins the game immediately.

Gameplay: So how does Civilization play? The first game or two is slow and slightly over-whelming.  There’s just so many cool technologies, with most of them looking to be really relevant to your particular strategies.  There’s also the slightly confusing battle system that needs to be explained, and the difference between Army Figures & Units.  It’s a strange distinction that can take a while for players to grasp and it’s particularly important since you draw your Units for all your Armies from a single pool.   In fact, with a beginner player in the mix; it’s quite often easy to win by going for a military victory and exploiting that lack of understanding.  Not that I’vee done that. 😉

Once players understand the rules and gameplay, the game certainly goes faster.  It probably ranges from 2 – 3 hours with experienced players, depending on number of players.  Potentially 4 with slower groups; but we’ve mostly found it to average 3 hours with our group.

It’s a ton of fun to play and there’s a lot different strategies open with different winning conditions.  Because the world map is random, which buildings and technologies have to change depending on where your 2nd and 3rd cities end up going.

The use of a Technology Pyramid instead of a Technology Tree is very smart in my opinion, giving a ‘feel’ of growth without the need for multiple charts to understand what is going on.

I do feel that certain leaders force players into specific victory conditions.  It’s hard to choose anything but a Military victory if you’re the Germans and the Romans have a great headstart to a coin victory.    It’d be nice if there were more Leaders to choose from as well.

I also feel that the game could easily have had a 5th or 6th player added if more pieces were provided.  There’s no real reason there can’t be that many players involved, and I’m a bit disappointed that they weren’t included in the first place. I guess it keeps the play-time under 4 hours consistently.

Conclusion: I like Sid Meier’s Civilization. A lot.  I think it’s the best Civilization game out there, and I’d choose to play this any day over any of the others I’ve tried so far.  Yes, it’s even better than Through the Ages in my opinion.  Yes, there’s random elements to the game, but it’s meant to  have them and so far, none of it seems too broken.

April 2011 Newsletter

4th Anniversary Sale

We are releasing the newsletter early this month so as to remind all of you that our 4th Anniversary Sale starts on April 1 and lasts for the entire month of April. There are numerous games on-sale with discounts up to 70% off retail on some games.

In addition, your Citadel Reward Points will be useable on top of the existing discounts, so this is a great time to get some great, cheap over-stocked games.

Site Updates

With the lower exchange rate that seems to be holding steady, we’ve revised the pricing on a large number of games including most of the highly popular board games in-stock.

Our series of imported board games have arrived including – Greed Incorporated, Indonesia and the World Cup Card Game among them.

Lastly, as a reminder for thos who live in the Greater Vancouver region, the Boardgaming for Diabetes event is being held from Saturday April 30 to Sunday May 1st. It’s a great charity event that we sponsor and I’ll be there gaming away on Saturday at the least if not Sunday.

Read more on our blog

Upcoming Games

Tons of great games arrived in March, so there’s only a few new games to look out for. The reprint of Catacombs and Alien Frontiers is expected soon. In addition Dominion : Cornucopia is releasing in April as well as the highly anticipated Lord of the Rings Limited Card Game.

More Pre-orders

Funding a store

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about different funding models, after a huge dose of the Dragon’s Den.  By the way, for all of you wannabe entrepreneurs, that’s a great show to watch.  Lots of good wisdom thrown around, with some really hard questions asked.  Questions that any entrepreneur should have to answer at some point.

It takes about $100,000 to start and run a store from my view point.  Figure about $30-40,000 in stock including a ‘slush’ fund for unexpected demand for games.  About 2 years operating expenses and $40,000 or so for 2 years worth of salary.  That should see you through the bad times and the unexpected costs till you see some good growth.

That being said, very few people have that amount on-hand.  There’s a variety of funding sources available, and I’ll list them here with my comments.

Government Loans & Grants – there are a few grants out there; mostly for women, visible minorities (generally First Nations) and those under 30.  Ditto with loans.  If you fall  outside of those categories, it’s difficult to get your loan or grant; but the amounts and the interest rates makes it quite worthwhile to look into.  Your Small Business Centre in your city will be able to help.

Employment Insurance – here’s an interesting fact.  If you are fired (or otherwise end up on EI); you can apply for a business development program.  They put you through a course that helps you develop your business plan while you are on EI and you have up to 52 weeks I believe to develop the plan & start the business.  However, if you already have an existing business, you are ineligible for this plan.

Bank Loans & Lines of Credit – at the very least, you should get a Line of Credit.  Cashflow is often uneven; so having the ability to quickly dip into the LOC to cover bills is really useful.   Just realise that with bank loans & LOCs, you require a good credit report and the willingness to sign your life away.  And even if you do, you might be required to put up further collateral (e.g. a GIC deposited with the bank, your house, etc.) before they will extend a loan to you.

Visa & Mastercard – I’m not joking.  They are often your best supporters.  Sure you sign away your life as well, but they don’t ask for collateral and can loan you even more than your bank would be willing to.  In Canada, a business credit card generally sucks.  Your rates are often higher as are your yearly fees and you get less cashback / reward points.  However, the side benefits can make it worthwhile for some people (car rental insurance, specific bonuses for traveling, etc).    If you intend to use your personal credit cards, definitely look into increasing your credit limit at least a year beforehand.  That allows you to go through 2 cycles of increase requests, which gives you a good bump.

Self-funding: What it says.  The money you take out from  your personal savings.  My only comment here is that it’s worth deciding how much you’re willing to invest and what the limit is.  A spouse is very useful for setting limits here.  On a secondary note – consider making a formal agreement with the company (if you incorporate) indicating the loan amount(s) and the interest rate you charge.  While you might get taxed on this ‘income’; it also increases your company’s expenses.

Friends & Family: How friends & family help fund the business depends on the organisational structure chosen – if it’s an incorporated business, a partnership, etc.  In an incorporated business, you can issue shares (voting or non-voting) for the amount invested.   You then have to decide how they will get their money back (e.g. buyout clauses and dividends).  If you’re going down this route, talk to the professionals.  There’s quite a few options, and shareholder agreements are very important at this stage.

Direct loans on the other hand are simpler.  I’m not sure how it works if you’re self-employed; but with a corporation;  they get inputted like any other loan.  You’ll want to formalise the loan again (loan amounts, the loan term and interest rate paid – generally comparable to 3rd party loans) both to make it official as well as to reduce anxiety and confusion.  It’s worth noting that in the event of a bankruptcy, lendees will always be paid first before shareholders.

My personal take on loans from friends & family is to tread very carefully.  The fastest way to poison relations is over money.  Unless all parties understand that there is a HIGH risk of failure, things will likely end badly.

Angel Investors: True Angel Investors generally look for a higher return on their investments.  However, random acquaintances who are willing to invest could be considered ‘Angel’ investors, and these are potentially the best kind.  They don’t have an emotional stake in you; so they are viewing the business through a more clinical eye.  The actual method of investment (equity or loans) depends again on company structure and your deal with them.

Venture Funds: Just don’t bother.  The board gaming business is not one their interested in.   We’re too mature, there’s nothing new or exciting or ground-breaking here to provide them a good return.

Okay, that’s all I can think of right now.  Did I miss any?

Facebook, Privacy and Customer Service

Facebook has been getting a lot of flak recently for their privacy shenanigans – all of which, frankly, is more than fair.  As a user of Facebook, the issues with their lack-of-regard for our privacy is a personal concern.  As a potential advertiser, they are even more so.

It’s interesting really, that if you consider it – Facebook is getting into trouble for trying to provide the best possible customer service they can.  However, you need to realise that their customers aren’t their users – it’s their advertisers.  And advertisers, in general, want a lot of information.

The higher the ability to micro-target (e.g. for us – it’d be in general men, making over 40,000 a year, with no children or children over the ages of 8, who have played or bought designer board games in the last 6 months).   In fact, Facebook could potentially (and in some cases, were) giving that information out.  Being able to micro-target to that degree means that you’re likely to see a much higher conversion rate, which means a much higher number of sales for a much lower cost.

That’s actually a good thing for both consumers & businesses if both sides are in agreement.  Consumers get told about businesses / games that they’re interested in, businesses reduce their costs in marketing, hopefully passing on those savings to their customers.

However, Facebook is (and I use the present tense because I am sure they’ll go back to their old ways once the furor dies down. Again.) taking away the consumer’s choice in  this matter.  It’s actually bad – because in the long run, consumers get upset and the businesses conversion rates fall as they grow ever more cynical.

The only real way to make Facebook stop (other than mass immigration by users) is by advertisers (Facebook’s true customers) voicing their displeasure (i.e. voting with their wallets).  It’s one of the reasons why I’ve stopped advertising on Facebook a while ago.  Of course, saying that, I’m probably shooting myself in the foot because it is effective advertising.  You get a lot for what you pay for. Still, there are other avenues and other places to advertise – and it’s not as if I am exactly rolling in advertising dollars.

Merchants & Marauders : A Game Review

Merchants & Marauders is the latest in a small line of pirate games.  There just aren’t that many to pick from – Jamaica, Blackbeard and Pirate’s Cove are the only serious pirate games that come to mind.  Of the group, Merchants & Marauders stands out for it’s high replay value and overall fun gameplay.

Appearance: Merchants & Marauders is made by ZMan Games and it comes with some great components.  A ton of miniature ships, lots of cards, multiple player boards and one huge game board depicting the Carribean Island’s all come in high quality detail.  The artwork is good if not stellar, with depictions of the various pirates on the cards and good use of symbols for the various mission and quest cards.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Merchants & Marauders has quite a heavy rulebook; with multiple areas to cover – from actions in a turn to three forms of combat (Merchant Raids, NPC/Player Ship combat & Boarding Combat).  So there’s a lot to learn; but it all meshes together quite well.  In addition, the handy player-aids help with the explanation.  Just expect to take between 10 – 15 minutes at least to fully explain the game.  And double-check the rules for things you might miss since there are a number of small details that are easy to miss.

To summarise the game, each turn a new event card is drawn.  These event cards can range from new Navy or Pirate vessels, weather affects or world events (like wars).  After that, each player takes his turn doing one of three possible actions three times (except for the Port Action which can only be done once a turn).  Move, Scout & Attack and a Port Action.  In Merchants & Marauders, players need one action to move into or out of port or across a sea space.  Scouting is based on a die-roll and players may then, if successful decide to attack the scouted vessel.  There are 2 types of combat – NPC Merchant Raids (dealt with by drawing cards) and NPC Vessel & PC Combat that involves lots of dice rolling. Lastly, the Port Action allows players to buy & sell goods, recruit crew, acquire a Mission or Rumour, repair or upgrade their ship or buy a new one. To win the game, players need to acquire 10 Glory Points; which can be won from Gold ‘Stashed’ away, sinking certain Ships, buying a better ship or completing Rumours & Missions.

Gameplay: Merchants & Marauders is a solid game, with a lot to offer gamers.  With multiple captains and numerous event, Rumor & Mission cards, there’s a lot of replay value here.  In addition, the decision to play as either a Merchant or Pirate is viable as a winning strategy – in fact, it’s possible to win staying in either profession.  Of course, it’s a bit faster if you switch professions after a while; deciding on when to do so is part of the overall strategy and will often be dictated by the Missions & Events that appear on the board.

There’s a lot of theme in the game, from finding rumours that depict lost treasures or playing Privateer for specific countries.  I also like the fact that you can upgrade your ship, though the lack of difference between various ships in terms of movement across the board seems quite unrealistic to me.  In addition, the pricing on the ships seems somewhat strange and probably should have been adjusted.  Lastly, the ability to only upgrade ships based on what tokens are available on the board is annoying as well – I wish that there was more flexibility in that area.

Your first game of Merchants & Marauders is going to take at least 3 hours (if not 4) with 4 people.  With more experienced players, it’ll certainly decrease in time as turns can be extremely short and planned ahead in some cases (e.g. move out of port, move, move into port). However, the Port Actions will always be slow since players often have to draw / roll to find out what they can do.  In addition, combat can be a quite drawn out, if fun affair, with numerous dice being thrown by either player.  I do like the combat system between vessels though, it is a good depiction of naval combat with the choice of duking it out via cannons or boarding.

Of note is the fact that luck is going to be a big factor in this game.  There’s a lot of dice rolling for combat, card drawing for merchant raids, Event, Mission & Rumour cards are all random and even your choice of starting captain is random.  It’s quite possible to be utterly run-over by the board (e.g. having a country go to war on the first turn and on the 2nd have a Man-of-War appear right on you), but the game is fun enough that it’s still worth playing even after getting sunk repeatedly.

Conclusion: Merchants & Marauders is certainly a good pirate game.  It strikes a pretty good balance between not being too light (like Pirate’s Cove); while not getting too rules heavy.  It sometimes feel a tad bloated, with too many rules (did we really need both Mission & Rumour cards, couldn’t they have been combined?), yet still offers a lot of strategic possibilities.  Just bear in mind that there is a lot of luck to this game and that it isn’t fast and you’ll likely enjoy yourself immensely.

March 2011 Newsletter

Site Updates

GottaCon 2011 is happening on February 4 – 6, 2011 and we will be there as Vendors. We will also be running a couple of events – a Dominion & Race for the Galaxy Tournament.

In addition, we’ve added some Ziplock bags to the site so check them out. The Ding & Dents section has also some new great deals.

Read more on our blog

Upcoming Games

7 Wonders and Dominant Species is expected to re-release in March of this year. The Carcassonne Big Box 3 reprint is arriving February of this year.

The Mansions of Madness has been pushed back to a release in March due to printing problems.

More Pre-orders