Civ IV: Spies like me
TomChick - News - 07/20/07 - Link

Listening to someone talk about his game of Civilization is kind of like listening to someone talk about a dream he had: he thinks its terribly interesting, but to everyone else, itís probably tedious. So Iíll try to make a point here.

Itís 1100AD and Iím the Dutch. Iíve been regularly behind my neighbors, the Arabs, by one or two hundred points. I canít seem to keep up with their population growth. Weíve got plenty of breathing room between us on this continent. Sharing the same religion (Hinduism, go figure) has made us steadfast friends. ď+7,Ē the tooltip reads, ďWe care for our brothers and sister of the faith.Ē How sweet.

So I figure Iíll see if I canít make good use of the new espionage stuff in the Beyond the Sword expansion. Iíve been outspending the Arabs in espionage by a rate of about 2-1. They have four huge cities, so I start sending spies up to poison their wells, which adds eight points of unhealth for eight turns. With any luck, I can stunt their growth and maybe even starve them down a little, giving me a chance to catch up. Itís slow going, since the longer a spy parks in a city, the fewer points it takes to conduct espionage actions. So, every turn, I get to cycle through my spies to see whoís maxxed out his stationary spy bonus. The interface doesnít help. Whoever did the espionage in Civ IV seems to have tacked it onto the side of the game with duct tape and old spackle. You know that late-game micromanagement that makes it such a pain to slog through the modern era? With espionage, you get all the joys of micromanagement earlier and more often.

As Iím twiddling around with my spies, one of the new random events pops up. In my borders, Iíve caught a rogue Arab assassin! My options are to 1) let him go, which will have no effect, 2) return him to Arabia, which will improve our relationship by one point, or 3) interrogate him, which will give me 500 points of espionage against Arabia and have a 50% chance of decreasing our relationship by 1 point.

So I let the waterboarding commence. The pool of espionage points I can use to poison Arab wells more than doubles. Itís a great moment of synergy between the expansion packís random events and the espionage stuff. Iím not terribly fond of how espionage works, as it runs pretty counter to all the elegance of Civ IV. But when all these pieces fall into place so nicely, it just further reinforces this gameís place as one of the greatest storytelling games ever made.

Now let me tell you about this dream I had last night...

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