To Those Who Make Civ IV Seem Easy

Civilization IV is a hard game.

And I don't mean hard in the sense of trying to make a difficult jump in a Mario game. I mean hard in the sense that there are dozens of different variables you need to keep in mind at any given time. I'm about 170 turns or so into my first game (out of 500 on normal speed, I think?). After a couple of brief wars, which I spectacularly failed, I have seven cities. In those cities, I need to regularly decide which units and buildings to construct, constantly monitor my workers to make sure they're doing the right jobs, make sure I produce enough research to advance technologically, make sure my empire's not going bankrupt, keep track of the AI personalities so they don't overrun me, and try to maintain a formidable military presence while also building infrastructure and wealth. Civilization IV is huge and extremely open-ended, and is proving to be more than a little overwhelming.

Which is why I greatly salute players like Sulla and Kylearan, who play this game all the time. In my constant reading about Civ IV, I regularly come back to their websites to read reports about games they've played, most of which were challenges on higher difficulty settings. They make it seem so effortless, yet I make many mistakes and stall out attacking a weaker civilization on the most average difficulty setting. Most of their posts are older, of challenges from a website called Realms Beyond Civilization. I don't know if they still play regularly, or will ever post commentary on their completed games again. But I really enjoy wading through their dense play-by-play walkthroughs of past victories. I don't know that I'm learning much myself, being such a novice, but it's pretty exciting and interesting to watch a pro take a fledgling civilization and turn it into a globe-spanning empire.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I've taken to heart so far is that the Civilization games are at heart economic simulations. If you understand that aspect of the game, you can be successful at the other parts. A successful economy in Civ leads to faster research, faster production, and even the ability to buy upgrades, units, and favors. It's a very powerful aspect of the game. Unfortunately, I'm mostly stumbling through everything, even though I feel like I understand the game in principle.

The learning curve on Civ is extremely high, perhaps more so given that I installed the main game and both expansions at the same time. This means I have numerous map options and settings to choose from, difficulty levels to master, scenarios to conquer, and a grand total of 34 civilizations and 52 leaders to choose to play as. Overwhelming is an understatement.

That's why I'm glad such a passionate fan community exists around Civilization IV, even more than three years after its initial release. Perhaps the best site for general information and strategies is Civfanatics.com. The community and forums are still very active, and there is a mountain of helpful information to search through. Sites like Sulla's and Kylearan's, despite being older and infrequently (no longer?) updated, inspire me with visions of the high peaks of success that are possible with this game.

Civilization IV is dense, complex, long, and utterly engaging. I may get tired of it quickly, and move on to other, more instantly gratifying games. But if I stick with it, I know that there is a small army of dedicated players out there willing to provide advice on my amateur tactics. Civ IV is a different beast from Civ Revolution, like comparing Mozart's Requiem to Mary Had a Little Lamb. Both are fun, but one makes me want to wail in confusion while the other makes me feel like a king.

Sulla and Kylearan, and others who have mastered Civ IV, I give you a tip of my hat.

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