Civilization: A New Dawn Review

Civilization: A New Dawn - Cover

I wonder if the ideas bucket for making new media is a bit on the empty side. With films being remade instead of original ideas used, one has to wonder if Hollywood’s brains have just given up. It seems that the same is true for our cardboard world; video to board game conversions seem to be quite popular at the moment. We’ve seen the likes of Dark Souls, DOOM and Fallout amongst others, like the film remakes they’ve all fared quite differently. Personally, I thought Dark Souls was a pile of bobbins with a side of bacon, but DOOM was more fun than a barrel of particularly whimsical monkeys.

One recent victim of this outpouring of safe, committee-approved money spinners is Civilization: A New Dawn from Fantasy Flight Games. Fantasy Flight seem to have jumped on the bandwagon with both feet as they’ve made a few on the aforementioned list.

Civilization: A New Dawn: Gameplay Trading

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Sid Meier’s Civilization games (Civ for short) are a collection of territory control games where you grow your little civilisation (we’re spelling it correctly here in the UK) as you improve technology, get more powerful and ultimately dominate or make friends with the others on the map. Civ was always quite a complex game so the decision to make it into a board game (and this isn’t the first time Civ has been converted) is an interesting one.

Civ: A New Dawn puts you as the leader of an early civilisation, leaders can be chosen by players and each has a unique asymmetric ability. Your goal is to complete three public objective cards with a choice from two objectives on each so you can approach your victory in the manner of your choosing. Generally the objectives are things like “Have five cities” or “Build two Wonders”. Simple stuff, but they take time and planning to achieve. 

Civilization: A New Dawn: Objective Cards

Everything in the game is open information, so you can gauge how well you’re doing compared to the other players. Overall aesthetic feels pretty good too – everything is clear, crisp and feels tight. There’s little waste and as a man with chromatically impaired vision, everything stands out and isn’t hard to tell apart. Thumbs up for the graphic design here.

Gameplay is actually quite straightforward and card-based. Everyone has the same deck of cards each which contain four levels of five cards each. The five cards represent the type of activity you wish to perform, be it Culture, Defence, Technology and so on. They’re arranged in numerical order 1-5, left to right with the numbers representing the type of terrain. Plains being the lowest and mountains being more difficult. Simply choose which card to enact, then move it to the lowest position, sliding everything up. Job done. Position governs the limit to the terrain difficulty so you’re left with the decision between a fast rotation of the same action or wait longer for a more powerful action and this is what makes Civ the game it is.

Civilization: A New Dawn: Player Action Cards

Due to the simplicity of the action system, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Civ is a relatively light game; whilst you’d not be wrong in terms of mechanics (combat is simply based on terrain and a die roll), the strategy that sits behind all of this is the bit that requires a bit of brain power. Choosing the right action at the right time can be critical to your progress; do you bag some terrain and deny opponents or bundle for the limited map resources so you can develop your culture and build Wonders which grant permanent bonuses? Or simply take the direct approach and attack your neighbours for having the gall to trade with you? And don’t ignore the roving Barbarians…they can wreak havoc if left unattended…

Unlike other games such as Twilight Imperium, the tech tree is pretty much flat. Upgrading your tech is simply levelling up one of your cards. I mentioned the four levels of cards, well this is where they get improved. So you could turtle in your capital and then come out blazing after upgrading all your tech, or spread like cold sores around a student union covering the terrain with your own brand, smothering your opponents.

Civilization: A New Dawn: Gameplay Map

The flexibility in how you approach Civ means it’s very approachable and suits a wide variety of play styles, although this is somewhat hampered by the end goals. It does mean there may be competition for certain Wonders or to control more of the map, but that means each game will be different. You may go mental in one game only to camp in the corner minding your own business in another.

The flexibility doesn’t stop at the play style either; the map is generated at the start of the game by either using the pre-determined one or building it in turns (again, a bit like Twilight Imperium) so you can design your own bit of Eden or make life difficult for your opponents. The map size scales depending on player number (2-4) as well, so everything is kept relatively cosy and you won’t be far away from other factions at any time. 

Civilization: A New Dawn: Gameplay Cities

This review is tough to conclude on because it reads like I really like Civ and I genuinely do. The problem is, it’s not that exciting as a prospect. It sits on my shelf as a very well made, competent game and I’m glad I bought it. However, I definitely have better games for area control and general conquest. Eclipse springs instantly to mind as another 4X game, although Eclipse is far more complex. Civ definitely wins in the ease of teaching and play stakes and it’s much shorter than Eclipse, but for some reason, it doesn’t leap off the shelf at me when I’m trying to choose a game to play. That said, I do enjoy Civ and will definitely be playing it again.

So I’ll conclude by saying that Civilization: A New Dawn is one of those games that you need to be in the mood for. If you are, it’s a fabulous light 4X game that rattles on nicely and can be done in about 90 mins.

And let's be honest, powering up your military to bomb your enemies from halfway across the map is always fun no matter what mood you're in.
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