Civilization (series)

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This article is about a game series. For the TV series, see Civilisation (TV series). For other uses, see Civilization (disambiguation).
"Civ" redirects here. For other uses, see CIV (disambiguation).
Civilization logo.png
Genres Turn-based strategy
Developers MicroProse
Avalon Hill
Firaxis Games (Currently)
Publishers Hartland Trefoil/Avalon Hill
Infogrames Entertainment, SA
2K Games (Currently)
Creators Francis Tresham, Sid Meier
Platforms Main series:
Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, iOS, Android, Nintendo DS, Windows Phone, Facebook Platform, PlayStation Vita
First release Civilization
Latest release Civilization: Beyond Earth: Rising Tide
October 9, 2015

Civilization is a series of turn-based strategy, 4X video games, many of them produced by Sid Meier (Sid Meier's Civilization). There are also several traditional (board) Civilization games.

All titles in the series share similar gameplay, centered on building a civilization on a macro-scale from prehistory up to the near future. Each turn allows the player to move his or her units on the map, build or improve new cities and units, and initiate negotiations with the computer-controlled players. In between turns, computer players can do the same. The player will also choose technologies to research. These reflect the cultural, intellectual, and technical sophistication of the civilization, and usually allow the player to build new units or to improve their cities with new structures. In most games in the series, one may win by military conquest, achieving a certain level of culture, building an interstellar space ship, or achieving the highest score, among other means.

Over the years part of the crew involved in developing the series became successful in producing their own strategy games, such as Bruce Shelley (Civilization I co-designer) of Age of Empires fame, Brian Reynolds (Civilization II lead designer and programmer) who went on to create Rise of Nations, and more recently Soren Johnson (Civilization III co-designer and Civilization IV lead designer and programmer with Spore).

As of February 2016, the series has reached 33 million total units shipped.[1]


Conducting negotiations with Stalin of the Russians in the original Civilization
The main game screen in Civilization II

In 1980, Francis Tresham designed the Civilization board game and published it through his company Hartland Trefoil, and in 1981, Avalon Hill obtained from Hartland Trefoil a license to sell the Civilization board game in the United States.[2]

MicroProse, founded by Sid Meier and Bill Stealey, published Civilization in 1991,[3] after licensing the right to use the name "Civilization" from Avalon Hill to avoid conflicts over similarities to the board game.[3] Meier was also the game's designer.[3] In 1993, MicroProse was bought by Spectrum Holobyte,[4] but the two companies remained separate. In 1996, MicroProse released the lauded[5] Civilization II, designed by Brian Reynolds.[3] Also in 1996 Spectrum Holobyte consolidated the company under the name MicroProse, but, in reaction to Spectrum Holobyte's decision to fire the majority of MicroProse's staff, Reynolds, Jeff Briggs, and Meier left MicroProse and founded Firaxis.[6]

Although Firaxis did not own the rights to the brand name "Civilization", the company still went on to design the acclaimed[7] Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, a "space-based Civilization-style game"[8] released in 1999.[9] Alpha Centauri uses a game engine similar to the one used in Civilization II[10] and its storyline continues from where the Civilization franchise ends, namely the colonization of a planet in Alpha Centauri.

Litigation over brand name and Hasbro consolidation[edit]

In April 1997, Activision acquired from Avalon Hill the rights to the name "Civilization" on its PC games and seven months later Avalon Hill and Activision sued MicroProse over trademark infringement because of the name "Civilization".[2]

In response to the lawsuit, MicroProse bought Hartland Trefoil in December 1997. This move sought to establish "MicroProse as the preeminent holder of worldwide computer game and board game rights under the Civilization brand".[11] In January 1998, Microprose counter-sued Avalon Hill and Activision for false advertising, unfair competition, trademark infringement, and unfair business practices as a result of Activision's decision to develop and publish Civilization computer games.[12]

In July, Avalon Hill and Activision settled their case against MicroProse out of court. Under the terms of the settlement, MicroProse kept all the rights to the Civilization brand, Avalon Hill had to pay MicroProse $411,000, and Activision acquired a license from MicroProse to publish Civilization: Call to Power (released in March 1999).[2][13]

Avalon Hill accepted the unfavorable settlement because Hasbro was already negotiating the acquisition of both Avalon Hill and MicroProse. Less than one month after the settlement, Hasbro finalized the purchases of both companies[2][14] which consolidated the Civilization franchise under Hasbro.

Infogrames and Firaxis[edit]

In January 2001, the French company Infogrames bought the Hasbro subsidiary Hasbro Interactive for $100 million,[15] which included the rights to the Civilization franchise, the rights to the Atari brand,[16] and Hasbro's handheld game console.[16][17] Following the sale, Hasbro Interactive was renamed Infogrames Interactive, Inc[18] and Civilization III (developed by Firaxis with Jeff Briggs as game designer) was released in October 2001 by the new company. In May 2003, Infogrames changed the name of Infogrames Interactive to Atari Interactive.[19]


Take-Two bought the rights to the Civilization franchise from Infogrames in 2004 for $22.3 million.[20][21] In October 2005, 2K Games, a Take-Two subsidiary, published Civilization IV, which was developed by Firaxis with Soren Johnson as game designer.[22]

Take Two bought Firaxis for $26.7 million including possible performance bonuses in November 2005[23] which resulted in Take Two owning both the developer and the publisher of the Civilization franchise.

In 2010, on September 21 and November 23 respectively, the Windows and Mac OS X versions of Civilization V were released.[24][25] In 2014, Firaxis revisited many of the Alpha Centauri themes from the 1999 game when they released Beyond Earth.[26]


The main Civilization games are turn-based 4X games, where players attempt to achieve one of several victory conditions against other human and control-controlled opponents though the actions of "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate". Civilization uses historical aspects from the development of mankind's civilization, and turns take place over a time scale that starts with the dawn of civilization in the millennia before 1 A.D., and continue through present times and beyond. On each turn, players oversee their civilization's government, determine what technology, culture, and civics the civilization should develop, engage in diplomacy with other civilizations, set production and place improvements within cities, and move their civilization's units across the game's world map, often engaging in combat with other civilizations' enemy units.

Games are played on either pre-defined or procedurally generated maps, creating a world with a vary array of terrain including mountains and oceans. Map generation can be set by several parameters, such as average climate or landmass types. Maps can vary in size, which will affect the number of civilizations that can be played by that map.

A representative city management screen, from Civilization III. The player can see what resources each space controlled by the city produces, the city improvements and units in the city, reallocate resources, and assign new production targets.

Players either select or are randomly assigned a civilization led by a historical figure, based on several factual reigns and empires, including the Romans, Aztecs, and Americans; the civilization choice provides certain unique bonuses, units, and improvements for that player. Players start at random locations on the map, and must found their first city, becoming its default capitol until changed by the player, and explore the map and lift its fog of war to find out what is nearby, including potential resources that can be used in production, and where other civilizations are located. Cities will generate several resources based on how large the city is which affects how many map spaces it takes up: food which is required to sustain large cities and allow them to grow; production units used to determine how fast a city can build new units and improvements, science and culture which affect progress along the technology tree, and currency which can be used by the player for several tasks including upkeep of cities and units, speeding up production of a unit or offered as gifts in diplomacy actions. Once a city is founded, the player can then start to produce new units or city improvements. Units include military units, commerce-based units such as caravans to establish trade routes with other cities, and civilian-based groups like workers to help improve the land areas around a city such as by constructing fields or mines. City improvements include buildings that help to boost production types, such a library or university to improve research output, or World Wonders, unique buildings that can only be built by one civilization that grants a large bonus to the first to complete it. Cities will grow over time, expanding to cover more territory on the map while requiring more food and money to maintain, and players can create units that will be able to found new cities, expanding their empire.

Units typically move a set number of spaces per turn, limited by terrain: swamps may slow down faster units, mountains are typically impassible except by air, and water spaces can only be traversed with sea-going vessels that can carry other units. Combat occurs when any unit moves into a space occupied by another unit that is not currently on diplomatic terms with that player. Each unit has attack, defensive, and health values, often factored by the type of terrain they are presently in and if the units are fortified. The results of combat are determined with a degree of randomness based on the attack and defense strengths. Defeated units are eliminated from the game, and if the attacks are victorious, that unit will occupy the space if no other enemy units are there. If this battle took place on a city's main map space, then the attacker unit takes over the city for that civilization, though some games in the series provide the option of razing the city as well. In this manner, a civilization can be conquered by taking over all of its cities, at which point that player is out of the game. In more recent games, cities can also be taken over through the influence of culture or religion from a nearby opposing city. Several units are available for performing espionage work, which are hidden from other players unless certain conditions are met. These units can gain information normally hidden to other players, steal technology and culture, or create unrest in an opponent's city to make it easier to capture.

The player also oversees the general aspects of their civilization. They set specific types of government that can affect production rates, growth, and other factors, though these government civics must be gained through research and culture growth. The player also manages the tax rate on cities, which helps to collect currency to pay for unit and improvement maintenance. The player must manage the happiness of their population, which can be impacted by government choices, taxes, nearby military units and actions, overcrowded cities, and pollution, and mitigated by special units and city improvements. Once a player has discovered an opposing civilization, they can send communication to them to request peace treaties, non-hostile relationships, or offer trades of currency, resources, units, cities, and technology; such trades can also be used to intimidate opponents to threaten to go to war if such demands are not met.

Multiple victory paths are available to players; the following victory conditions are general routes available in most games while other routes can also exist in others. The conquest victory route requires the player to wipe out or take over all capital cities of the other civilizations on the map while still retaining their own. A player may also attempt to win through a diplomatic victory. By establishing friendly ties with other civilizations, the player can achieve victory by having their allies vote appropriately once the United Nations facility is established. Technology victories can be achieved by progressing through the technology tree to study space travel and constructing the parts required to launch a generation ship to Alpha Centauri. With culture elements in newer games, players can achieve a cultural victory by accumulating enough culture over other civilizations and building necessary structures to guide their civilization to a utopia-like state to claim this win. Finally, a player can achieve victory if they have the most points after a set number of turns have been reached; points are based on several factors including the size of the civilization, their progress towards technology and culture, and currency at hand.

To help newer players, the Civilization games include a number of artificial intelligence advisors that suggest which units, city improvements, and technology and cultures they should invest in based on the current state of the game.

The Civilization games can be played in a single-player mode, and both local and online multiplayer modes, along with a number of computer-controlled opponents. Some games provide a means to play asynchronously, where each player is given a set amount of time, such as within a day, to decide their actions and send results to a game server, when then determines the results of all actions and returns this information to players.

Civilizations and leaders represented[edit]

Throughout the various different Civilization games, about 50 different civilizations and over 110 different leaders have been represented. The following tables below delineate the appearances of various civilizations and leaders.


Titles in the main Civilization Series
Title Release Notes
Civilization 1991
CivNet 1995 A remake with improved graphics and sound, and support for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.
Civilization II 1996
Civilization II: Conflicts in Civilization 1996 The first expansion pack for Civilization II.
Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds 1997 The second expansion pack for Civilization II.
Civilization II: Test of Time 1999 Includes the original Civilization II plus new scenarios and improved features, including an alien landscape.
Civilization III 2001
Civilization III: Play the World 2002 The first expansion pack for Civilization III.
Civilization III: Conquests 2003 The second and final expansion for Civilization III.
Civilization IV 2005
Civilization IV: Warlords 2006 The first expansion pack for Civilization IV.
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword 2007 The second expansion pack for Civilization IV.
Civilization IV: Colonization 2008 A spin-off based on Sid Meier's 1994 game, Colonization.
Civilization V 2010
Civilization V: Gods & Kings 2012 The first expansion pack for Civilization V.
Civilization V: Brave New World 2013 The second expansion pack for Civilization V.
Civilization: Beyond Earth 2014 A spiritual successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri built atop the Civilization V engine.
Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide 2015 An expansion pack for Civilization: Beyond Earth.
Civilization VI 2016


  • The Explorer (1997), includes Civilization and the Colonization spin off.
  • Civilization II: Multiplayer Gold Edition (1998), includes Civilization II and its two expansions: Conflicts in Civilization and Fantastic Worlds.
  • Civilization III: Gold Edition (2003), includes Civilization III and the first expansion, Play the World.
  • Civilization III: Complete (2005), includes Civilization III and its two expansions: Play the World and Conquests.
  • Civilization Chronicles (2006), includes all the games from the main series from the first Civilization to Civilization IV.
  • Civilization IV: Gold Edition (2007), includes Civilization IV and its first expansion Warlords, as well as a bonus poster illustrated by artist Greg Hildebrandt.
  • Civilization IV: Complete (2007), includes Civilization IV and its two expansions: Warlords and Beyond the Sword.
  • Civilization IV: The Complete Edition (2009), includes Civilization IV, its two expansions, Warlords and Beyond the Sword, and Civilization IV: Colonization. It does not feature any DRM (copy protection).
  • Civilization V: Game of the Year Edition (2011) includes Civilization V and all DLC prior to the Korea and Wonders of the Ancient World packs released through Steam.
  • Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gold Edition (2013) included the original plus the Gods & Kings expansion with all the DLC released between them both.
  • Sid Meier's Civilization V: The Complete Edition (2014) includes the original plus the Gods & Kings and Brave New World expansions with all the DLC released between them.

Other video games[edit]

Freeciv 2.1.0 SDL client
Other titles in the Civilization series
Title Release Notes
Sid Meier's Colonization 1994 Created by Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier while still at MicroProse.
Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization 1995 The computer version of the Advanced Civilization board game.
Freeciv 1996 Latest release 2015[30]
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri 1999 Created by Sid Meier's team at Firaxis Games.
Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire 1999 An expansion pack to Alpha Centauri.
Civilization: Call to Power 1999 Created by Activision.
C-evo 1999 Latest release 2013, created by Steffen Gerlach[31]
Call to Power II 2000 Sequel to Civilization: Call to Power. Due to licensing issues, Civilization could not be in the title.[32]
FreeCol 2003 A clone of Sid Meier's Colonization, latest release 2015.[33]
CivCity: Rome 2006 A city-building strategy game inspired by the series.
Civilization Revolution 2008 The first game in the series designed specifically for consoles, iOS and Windows Phone; not released for the PC or Mac.
Civilization World 2011 A full Civilization game for Facebook. The game was discontinued in 2013.
Civilization Revolution 2 2014 A mobile exclusive sequel to Civilization Revolution.
Sid Meier's Starships 2015 A tie-in game to Civilization: Beyond Earth.
CivilizationEDU 2017 A modified version of Civilization V aimed to be used in the classroom as an education tool to examine the interaction between military, technology, political and socioeconomic issues. Development is in partnership with GlassLab.[34]

Board and card games[edit]

Titles in the Civilization Series
Title Release Notes
Civilization 1980 board game by Francis Tresham, published by Avalon Hill in the US (1981).[35]
Advanced Civilization 1991 an expansion of the original board game published by Avalon Hill.
Civilization: The Boardgame 2002 an officially licensed board game published by Eagle Games and based on Civilization III.
Civilization: The Card Game 2006 a card game designed by Civilization IV lead designer Soren Johnson and based on Civilization IV.
Civilization: The Board Game 2010 an officially licensed board game published by Fantasy Flight Games and based on Civilization IV.
Civilization: Fame and Fortune 2011 the first expansion to the 2010 Civilization based board game.
Civilization: Wisdom and Warfare  2013 the second expansion to the 2010 Civilization based board game.


Scottish science fiction and mainstream author Iain Banks has noted that he spent much time playing the game (appearing to refer to the first version) and that it was one of the inspirations for the concept of the 'Outside Context Problem' central to his Excession novel - the appearance of invaders or travelers who are so advanced that they are totally outside the society's frame of reference. In an interview, Banks specifically compares this to having a Civilization battleship arrive while the player is still using wooden sailing ships.[36] One of the two viewpoint characters in his novel Complicity plays Civilization compulsively.


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  6. ^ "History for MicroProse Software, Inc". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  7. ^ "Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for PC Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  8. ^ "Sid starts up. Again -". Forbes. 1997-07-25. 
  9. ^ "IGN: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri". 1998-11-21. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  10. ^ "Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  11. ^ "MicroProse Buys out Hartland Trefoil". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
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  15. ^ "Company News; Hasbro Completes Sale Of Interactive Business". The New York Times. 2001-01-30. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  16. ^ a b Press Release
  17. ^ "Hasbro Inc - 10-K405 - For 12/31/00 - EX-13". SEC Info. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  18. ^ "Civilization III: Home". 2002-05-08. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  19. ^ "Atari Inc - 10-KT - For 3/31/03". SEC Info. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  20. ^ Feldman, Curt (2004-11-24). "Civilization sold off to mystery buyer - PC News at GameSpot". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  21. ^ Winegarner, Beth (2005-01-26). "Take-Two takes over Civilization - PC News at GameSpot". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  22. ^ Firaxis Games: Games: Sid Meier's Civilization Chronicles Archived January 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Sinclair, Brendan (2006-01-31). "Take-Two reveals acquisition prices, hints at future lawsuits - PlayStation 2 News at GameSpot". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  24. ^ "2K Games Conquers PCs with the Release of Sid Meier's Civilization V on September 21, 2010 in North America". 2K Games. 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2010-07-23. 
  25. ^ Sid Meier's Civilization V Mac Arrives November 23 Archived April 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ "Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth". Retrieved July 31, 2014. 
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Civilization 6's New Game-Changer Features". IGN. Retrieved May 25, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Freeciv - Summary". Gna! project Freeciv. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  31. ^ Steffen Gerlach (2008). "Old Versions". C-evo. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  32. ^ Bruce Geryk (2000-11-20). "Call to Power II Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  33. ^ Mike Pope (2015-03-08). "FreeCol 0.11.3". SourceForge project FreeCol. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  34. ^ Francis, Bryant (June 23, 2016). "Firaxis partners with GlassLab for educational version of Civilization V". Gamasutra. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  35. ^ "Civilization Rules of Play" (PDF). Avalon Hill. 1981. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  36. ^ Excession: A Conversation with Iain Banks (interview originally published in SFX magazine, via '' website. Accessed 2009-01-04.)

External links[edit]