Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In which Christopher pays lip service to the importance of Thanksgiving before spending an inordinate amount of time writing about the games he plays

This is a busy time for me. Finished the bachelor party and Thanksgiving, next up are the wedding and Christmas. I'm regularly context-switching between two [fun] projects at work, one of which is currently crystalizing.

Thanksgiving was nice. I got to play some with Truman, our replacement for Sadie. It's fun having a young dog again, he has a lot of energy and love. I really miss Sadie a lot, but I also enjoy running around with a spry young thing.

Our family has developed a few traditions since moving to Illinois nine years ago. My favorite is our pre-dinner walk. Every year we go to a new park and go on a mini-hike. This year it was incredibly cold, very high winds, and yet we bundled up and trundled off with the dog. Just gave us one more thing to be thankful for when we got back indoors. Another is the late-afternoon movie. In past years it's been Harry Potter; this time it was the first Wallace and Grommit flick, Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I've enjoyed the earlier W&G shorts, this one was just as good.

I think it's odd that I see my family two or three times a year, and two of those times are within a month of each other. Does that happen to anyone else?

The day I got back from Chicago, I continued my Civ 4 game. I was on the verge of abandoning it - I had overexpanded and had to deal with a hostile England on my borders - but I found that the patch had come out and wanted to test it. I ended up beating the game late last night. Following are yet more thoughts on this game.

  • First off, the patch is great. Version 109 completely removes the stutters I experienced in wonder movies, so I can now enjoy them. The game feels like it's running more smoothly overall.
  • This was my first cultural victory. I identified three promising cities (Paris, Orleans and Lyon) and made sure they had enough cultural improvements in place. Then, around 1820, after I had discovered Biology and Mass Media, I switched my science down to 0% and culture up to 90%.
  • The big thing with a cultural race is that you need to be most concerned about the city that's farthest behind. In this case it was Lyon. I made sure all my other cities had lots of gold improvements (grocer, bank, etc.) and put my biggest cities (including Paris) onto building wealth. I generated massive amounts of cash, which I used to rush units for some wars, but more importantly rush improvements for Lyon.
  • Improvements that multiply culture are HUGE. You want Broadcast Towers (or, in my case, the Eiffel Tower), Broadway, Hollywood, Rock & Roll, and cathedrals. I didn't figure this out until too late, but you can build one cathedral (in my case, Confucian Academies) for EACH three temples you have. I'll definitely do this earlier in the game if I try for culture again; I rarely built temples because I didn't need the happiness. (Note that only temples in your own civ count.)
  • I also came to really appreciate the value of Free Religion. I was going to ignore this because I didn't have any cities with more than 1 religion, and didn't need the science boost. However, when you don't have a state religion, religion no longer affects your relationship with other civs at ALL. Wiping that -4 off my chart allowed me to stay at peace with two large other civs.
  • However, it also works the other way around. Late in the 20th century most other civs had also switched to Free Religion / No State; I then switched back to Confucianism and Pacifism to boost my Great Person birth rate and get those Great Artists.
  • The game can move REALLY quickly late in the game when you aren't at war and are going for culture. I had no units to move and most cities were building Culture or Wealth, so I just kept hitting Enter (and occasionally F4 to keep up on my neighbors' status).
  • However, it drags when you're at war. Late in the game I fought against Germany and Mansa Musa. Neither ever posed a serious threat to me; I took out their navies early and then would spend 20 or 30 turns blockading their major cities and reducing their defenses to rubble. I also fought a few land skirmishes against Germany, and for the first time ever got a unit up to Level 4.
  • I didn't win until 2010 (shortly after Alexander built Apollo), so my final score was pretty mediocre. However, there IS a victory movie for a Cultural victory. Either there wasn't one for Diplomatic or I totally missed it.
  • I've enjoyed playing as Hugh Capet (i.e. Louis XIV), but I'm thinking I'll pick someone else for my next game. I picked both Frederick and Louis specifically for their Cultural trait, but I now think that this isn't as powerful as I'd initially thought. It is EXTREMLY helpful in the early portions of the game, since your cities almost immediately grow their radius, and the cheap theater gives an even more powerful boost. However, it is almost useless later in the game; the extra 2 culture a turn are almost nothing, and the theater is cheap enough anyways that the boost isn't too helpful. (The Colosseum is pretty useless anyways on lower difficulty levels as you probably won't need the happiness.) I'm thinking Mao next turn, I believe he's Industrious and Philosophical, which would combine the other two traits of Louis and Frederick.
I'll be taking a little break from Civ until at least after the wedding; my co-workers talked me into buying World of Warcraft last week and I want to give that a shot before giving up on it. No chance in heck I have time for both that and Civ, and Civ doesn't charge me $15 every month. Right now I have a Gnomish Rogue named Cirion on WindRunner, and a Night Elf Druid named Seberin on Khaz'goroth. If you happen to be on either server, say "Hi" if I'm ever on.

From what I've heard, WoW changes a lot the higher up you get, so I won't let my present boredom with the game prevent me from playing at all. I'll probably shoot for reaching level 20 by 2006 and see whether it's fun yet. Right now it's incredibly rote - you just fight over and over again, with just a few other quests thrown in. I'll save my thoughts on WoW and MMORPGs for another post.

Back to Civ: I know of one other person who has the game (Hi, David!) and a few others have mentioned that they might be picking it up. I'm serious about wanting to try an MP campaign sometime. Please let me know if you decide to grab the game, and we can start discussing how to make this thing work.

I'm leaving on Thursday. I will wake up at 4:30, walk out of my apartment at 5:30, take a series of trains (VTA, Caltrain, BART) to get me to SFO by 7. I will get on a plane at 8:30 AM PST and get off around 7:00 PM EST. But 2.5 solid days of fun with old friends and new will follow, as we all recognize with joy the union of Wade and Bernie. May their love grow ever stronger and their lives ever longer!

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