Sid Meier's Civilization Retro Gaming Revisited

Created in 1991 by Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley for MicroProse, Sid Meier’s Civilization is a game that changed the game. The objective is simple, “Build an empire to stand the test of time,” but achieving the objective in this turn-based strategy game isn’t so simple.

It’s a complicated game and it was ahead of it’s time. It’s influence is so far and wide, there are games to today, based off of games that were based off off it. I’m not going to focus on it’s legacy, the truth is I just want to focus on the game itself.

Sid Meier's Civilization 1 Box Art

Sid Meier’s Civilization 1 Box Art

Boot up the game and you are greeted with the following…

In the beginning, the Earth was without form, and void.

But the Sun shone upon the sleeping Earth and deep inside the brittle crust massive forces waited to be unleashed.

The seas parted and great continents were formed. The continents shifted, mountains arose. Earthquakes spawned massive tidal waves. Volcanoes erupted and spewed forth fiery lava and charged the atmosphere with strange gases.

Into this swirling maelstrom of Fire and Air and Water the first stirrings of Life appeared: tiny organisms, cells, and amoeba, clinging to tiny sheltered habitats.

But the seeds of Life grew, and strengthened, and spread, and diversified, and prospered, and soon every continent and climate teemed with Life.

Starting out can be challenging

Starting out can be challenging

And with Life came instinct, and specialization, natural selection, Reptiles, Dinosaurs, and Mammals and finally there evolved a species known as Man and there appeared the first faint glimmers of Intelligence.

The fruits of intelligence were many: fire, tools, and weapons, the hunt, farming, and the sharing of food, the family, the village, and the tribe. Now it required but one more ingredient: a great Leader to unite the quarreling tribes to harness the power of the land to build a legacy that would stand the test of time:


Then you are asked a series of questions to answer for what type of game you are going to play.

Sid Meier's Civilization Start Screen

Sid Meier’s Civilization Start Screen

Difficulty Level…

  • Chieftain (easiest)
  • Warlord
  • Prince
  • King
  • Emperor (toughest).

Level of Competition…

  • 7 Civilizations
  • 6 Civilizations
  • 5 Civilizations
  • 4 Civilizations
  • 3 Civilizations

Pick your tribe…

  • Roman
  • Babylonian
  • German
  • Egyptian
  • American
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Russian
  • Zulu
  • French
  • Aztec
  • Chinese
  • English
  • Mongol

You Name…
By default it’s the leader of the tribe you chose, but make it your own.

[Your Name], you have risen to become the leader of the [chosen tribe]. May your reign be long and prosperous. The [chosen tribe] have knowledge of technologies X, Y, Z, and some other skills various skills like roads, irrigation, mining, etc.

So you’ve set up your game and you are ready to play. The year is 4000 BC and you have one unit, Settlers. Then you get a game note.

– – – Civilization Note – – –

Your first task is to find a suitable site and found your Capital City. The best city sites are near rivers, grasslands, coastal areas, or areas near special resources.

Sid Meier's Civilization Starting your Civilization

Sid Meier’s Civilization Starting your Civilization

You build your first city and then it’s decision time. What are you going to do next? This is one of those games where there is no ONE correct way. There is no guaranteed strategy. But to run the game willy-nilly with no clear cut strategy would be folly. Honestly, you just need to decide what you’d like to be. Would you like to be first in military might? First in technology? Would you like to have the largest empire?

For military might, you’d better start pumping out soldiers and focus your technology research on advances that will gain you better units. Focus on technology that will give you a military advantage, such as, Bronze Working, Chivalry, Horseback Riding. You’ll be able to move a more powerful army with these three advances in your pocket as soon as possible.

For technology, you’re going to need a few cities with great resources and you’ll need to keep one city as a safe-hold, building soldiers to guard you, while you research the advances that lead to the most other advances, such as, Alphabet, Code of Laws, Literacy, Masonry and Writing. Those five advances are the most basic advances for building and generating almost all other technological advances.

If you want to have the largest empire, it’s all about defense and exploration. You’ll need to get the Mapmaking advance as soon as you can. This will get you the ability to navigate the waters and that will give you an advantage. Once you can leave your continent, you can build cities on multiple continents, building your empire ever stronger as you extend your reign to all the reaches of the world.

Alright, so you’ve picked you overall strategy, but your cities require their own strategies as well. Building soldiers for defense or exploration is fine. Do you want to build a barracks? It’ll take a while to get you soldiers, but they’ll be better. If you want multiple cities, you’ll have to create settlers, but creating settlers will take away from the population of the town they are created from, slowing down you building process for a while. It’s a balancing act, in conjunction with your overall strategy.

Civilization Greetings from Ceasar of the Roman Empire

Greetings from Ceasar of the Roman Empire

You’ve chosen your strategy and you’ve built a few thriving cities. The technology race is very important. It helps you to upgrade your city, your soldiers and gives you a bargaining tactic in peace negotiations with other civilizations. However, it can also make you a target. Nations that are not at peace with you may try to strong arm technology from you, but you can do the same, so it’s a give a take, throughout the years.

As time goes on your populations will reward you with palace upgrades, but the game also has a copy protection system… built in! Every so often, throughout the game you’ll get a Civilization Quiz. The setup is simple, “a usurper claims that you are not the rightful king! To prove you are of royal birth you must answer this question: Which civilization advances are required to learn the advances pictured below.

Now it does tell you what pages in the Civilization Game Manual the answer can be found on. Answer right and you continue your reign, answer wrong and “word of your lack of knowledge spreads from town to town. Throughout the realm soldiers return to their homes.” It doesn’t end your game, but it can greatly hinder your progress. So to me, this is one of the first and best, in-game security features that has ever existed.

Now, in 1991 copying this game wouldn’t have been hard but it wasn’t as easy as copying one CD or DVD. I had the game back then and if I remember correctly, it was five or six 3.5″ floppy discs to install, which would have required you to copy that many or lend them all to somebody. But if you didn’t copy, give or lend them the game manual, you could potentially set their game back not just years but decades.

The game graphics looked great for 1991, although at the time, personal computer games were mostly text based. t was the range of different graphics and textures all laid out in 256 or 16 color mode. Seems like such a small amount when compared to today’s gigabytes dedicated to graphics, but what MicroProse Software, Inc were doing at that time was simply eye opening.

The sound, very much depending on your hardware. You could set it up at the beginning by selecting your sound mode:

  1. No sounds please
  2. IBM sounds
  3. Tandy sounds
  4. AdLib/Sound Blaster
  5. Roland MT-32 MIDI board
  6. Custom sound driver
Sid Meier's Civilization 1 Title Screen

Sid Meier’s Civilization Title Screen

From there it was basic MIDI type sounds that let you know of battles won and lost, technological advancement and other events. Again, I go back to the fact that this game was loaded onto computers by quite a few 3.5″ floppy disks, so the graphics, the seemingly endless simulation, the sound, it was all something to get excited about in 1991.

Since it’s inception and release, the game has created a loyal following of fans, who have continued to make a success of every successive game within the franchise, Civilization II, Civilization III, Civilization IV, Civilization Revolution, and Civilization V, as well as similar games, Colonization and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.

The franchise, the legacy, it all spawned from the original Sid Meier’s Civilization.

“Civilization I is the 2.6 MB DOS game that started it all. What was originally a take-off of simcity became a gaming masterpiece that would go on to conquer the gaming industry, leaving a best-selling series of games and an unforgettable legacy in its wake.” -from CivFanatics website. I don’t know if you can say it any better than that. So I won’t try.

Yes, there are more modern version of the game with better graphics and sound, but if you still have a machine capable of playing the game that started it all. It’s still an amazing play and I think, if you have the opportunity, you should play it, if only for nostalgia because it is still mighty addictive.