I bought this game ten years after it was released, and was addicted to it in a way no more recent game has been able to do. It is a very simple game to pick up and play for the first time, but its complexity is so deep you can be playing for many, many hours on end. In fact it is not unusual to start playing as soon as you get out of bed on a Saturday, have a brief rest, gat back playing and then realise that your weekend is gone. There really is something incredible about how involved you can get in this game.
The basic plot is this; you are given one band of 10,000 nomads, who are put in the middle of an earth-like planet except they know nothing about the layout of the land or if anyone else is living nearby. In these first tentative steps, where one turn lasts 20 years, it is best to build a small number of cities, well defended but put in place the fundamentals of a prosperous economy; irrigation, roads, mines etc. Then we can decide to colonise uninhabited lands, trade with other discovered civilizations, or declare war on them. Not that the other computer players need encouragement to make war. It is best to avoid contact until you are in as state to defend yourself. If all goes well your people will have built dozens of orderly cities around the globe, and have sent ships to the stars.
It is the level of choice which sets apart this game. Whether to defend your civilization heavily or try to use your resources to get rich, whether to use settlers to irrigate, or construct cites, or whether to use nuclear weapon to win a war, regardless of the massive pollution.
Although a simplified and slightly unrealistic way to show the growth of civilization from nomads to spacemen (wars do not last centuries for example), this is a very deep and involving game which I would recommend to all, either in its original, or in one of the similar sequels.
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