Advanced Civilisation

Avalon Hill, £22.95
Reviewed by Mark Green

Civilisation has been my favourite game for ten years. You can imagine my horror when I discovered that Avalon Hill were committing sacrilege and marketing an Advanced (sic) version. How can you improve upon perfection? Time to write a letter to the House Committee on Un-American Activities...

The box, still sporting the Alec Guiness likeness, was reasonably weighty, but the contents which spilled out were unimpressive for a £20+ price tag. No board, no game as such, just some add-ons and a new set of rules.

The first feature examined was the new set of Civilisation cards. These completely replace the old set. There are eight of each title so there is no fear of failing to gain any desired card. That makes sense, just because five other nations have Engineering there is no reason for it to be unavailable to me. This I felt was a reasonable change, although I was never unhappy with the original feature.

There are also more Civilisation cards included in this version. A fifth group of religion cards includes such things as Deism and Monotheism. The Military Science card allows you to move last in turn order, regardless of Census count. Roadbuilding allows you to move two areas within your territory. Architecture has been upgraded to cost 120 points and allows you to use treasury to finance half the building of one city per turn.

At this point you discover the radical change to the rules; there is no eleven card limit on holdings - you could possibly hold a full set at the end of the game. This seems to be an American case of 'more is better' but as most games involve trying to be the richest, fastest or strongest this can hardly be criticised. It changes the flavour of the game a lot; no longer are the Civilisation cards a struggle for a rare commodity, now it is a race to be there 'fastest with the mostest'.

The victory conditions have been changed for the better. Each player scores for Civilisation cards, trade cards in hand, position on the AST track, cities on the board and treasury. Thus position on the AST is not quite so critical and it removes the disability under which Egypt/Babylon laboured in the old version. What it also means is that if you play to a time limit (four or five hours, say) rather than to the bitter end, there is wider scope for establishing the winner rather than just the AST, previously the sole determinant of victory.

The trade deck is completely revamped. The inclusion of timber, oil, wine, silver and so on is like the old expanded deck, but the addition of more disaster cards keeps the balance right. The new disaster cards are very good; Slave Revolt cancels the city support value of some tokens, Treason turns a city over to another player and the entertaining Barbarian Horde ravages your lands from off the edge of the board, though it doesn't affect Crete logically enough. My biggest criticism of Advanced Civilisation is the fact that the trade deck is not complete, you have to use a dozen cards from your old set which are usually a different colour and now rather dog-eared! This cutting corners on production is unbelievably annoying.

The rules for trading have also been changed. In the new system you can trade three cards at a time and merely have to honestly state two of them, This simplifies trading and seems to speed it up, although the wheeler-dealer aspect of the original rules was my favourite mechanic. Three of the disasters may not be traded, but the rest can be. What's more, they can be traded again! Receiving Iconoclasm [One large box of Iconoclasm. Sign here, please sir.] and Heresy is not so bad, as long as you can pass it on again before trading stops! This works well but whether it is better than the original rules.... well, I don't have a definite opinion as yet and would like to try the Advanced game with the old trading rules to compare and contrast.

Having played the Advanced version several times, I must say that I quite like it. The victory conditions are good, the extra Civilisation cards are interesting and the trade deck works well (especially with 6,7 or 8 players). The skimping on the trade card production was a crazy idea and the price is high for the physical contents of the box. The game is certainly changed, partly to the good and partly for the worse. At the end of the day you must try it out for yourself; the jury is still out on whether we will continue to play Advanced or revert to the original. Whatever, Civilisation is the King of Boardgames and Advanced Civilisation must rank at least a Prince.

Mark Green

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