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Freeciv Web Logo.png
'cause civilization should be free
Freeciv-2.1.0-beta3-sdl slack11.0.png
Freeciv 2.1.0-beta3, with the SDL client
Developer(s) The Freeciv project
Initial release 5 January 1996; 21 years ago (1996-01-05)
Stable release
2.5.6 / 20 November 2016; 4 months ago (2016-11-20)
Development status Active
Written in C, Lua, JavaScript
Operating system Unix-like, Windows, more
Available in 33 languages (some incomplete)
Type Turn-based strategy video games
License Freeciv; GNU GPLv3
Freeciv-web; GNU AGPLv3

Freeciv is a single, and multiplayer, turn-based strategy game for workstations and personal computers inspired by the proprietary Sid Meier's Civilization series. It is available for most desktop computer operating systems and available in an online browser based version. Released under the GNU General Public License, Freeciv is free and open source software. The game's default settings are closest to Civilization II, in both gameplay and graphics (including the units and the isometric grid).

Players take the role of tribal leaders in 4000 B.C. who must guide their peoples through the centuries. Over time, new technologies are discovered, which allow the construction of new city buildings and the deployment of new units. Players can wage war on one another or form diplomatic relationships.

The game ends when one civilization has eradicated all others or accomplished the goal of space colonization, or at a given deadline. If more than one civilization remains at the deadline, the player with the highest score wins. Points are awarded for the size of a civilization, its wealth, and cultural and scientific advances.


At the computer science department at Aarhus University, three students, avid players of XPilot and of Sid Meier's Civilization, which was a stand-alone PC game for MS-DOS, decided to find out whether the two could be fused into an X-based multiplayer Civilization-like strategy game.[1] The students—Peter Unold, Claus Leth Gregersen and Allan Ove Kjeldbjerg—started development in November 1995;[2] the first playable version was released in January 1996, with bugfixing and small enhancements until April.[3][4] The rules of the game were close to Civilization, while the client/server architecture was basically that of XPilot.

A Freeciv game with full world map revealed (Freeciv version 1.11.5, GTK+ client, tinydent tileset, islands map generator).

For the developers, Freeciv 1.0 was a successful proof of concept, but a rather boring game, so they went back to XPilot. But Freeciv was already playable and addictive enough to pick up other students as players, bugfixers and feature extenders.[5] It was useful enough to be picked up by popular Linux distributions, e.g. Debian.[6] Designed to be portable, it was ported to many platforms, which helped its survival.

In 1998, computer players were added[7] that could soon beat newcomers to the game with ease, using only minor forms of cheating. The game grew in popularity. A public server was installed that hosted games permanently, archiving them and publishing a post-game analysis webpage including per-player statistics and an animated map replay.[8][9][10]

Subsequent 1.x releases improved the GUI, improved the gameplay, and added many small features, without causing a major change to how the game was best played. Incessant city building turned out to be a critical success factor; developing larger cities did not appear worthwhile. As many regular players reached excellent gaming skills, diplomacy became essential, so team games slowly started to replace free-for-all games from around 2002.[citation needed]

Version 2.0, released in 2005, changed the game significantly: by modifying various costs and benefits and adding some new game elements it made it worthwhile for players to develop only a few large cities, full trade routes, and advanced technologies. This necessitated a distinct phase of rapturing under relatively peaceful conditions; hence, games were almost always played in teams and typically took longer to finish when compared to 1.x games.[citation needed]

In 2006 TCP and UDP port number 5556 was assigned to Freeciv by IANA.[11]

Freeciv is described as an example in The Art of Unix Programming.[12] Some studies and courses use Freeciv as a platform for experimenting with the design and programming of intelligent agents.[13][14][15][16][17]


hex tileset in version 2.0

Freeciv is very configurable, down to the specific rules, so it can be played in Freeciv (default) mode, Civilization mode, Civilization II mode, or a custom mode. One or several players act as game administrators and can configure the game rules. Typically modified rules are:

  • Number of players required before the game can be started. The maximum number of players is 126 in the latest version of Freeciv.
  • Speed of technological development
  • Whether there should be computer controlled players
  • Whether (computer controlled) barbarians should invade player settlements
  • How close cities can be built to one another
  • How continents and islands are generated and distributed over the map
  • The map size, where the maximum map size is 2,048,000 map tiles (128,000 before 2.4.0)
  • Map topology (rectangular or hexagonal tiling; whether it wraps horizontally and/or vertically)

In order to play a game of Freeciv, a user must start up a Freeciv client and connect it to a Freeciv server. Initially, the server is in pre-game phase; in this phase, clients can connect and game configuration parameters can be changed. At some point, the server may be ordered to start a game; in response, it creates game players (nations) and the game map, and assigns every player to either a Freeciv client or a computer player, as specified by the configuration. From that point on, the game will run until it ends or is terminated; the server can never get back into pre-game state.

The user can also start a game directly from the client: this automatically starts a Freeciv server, connects to it and starts the game.


Simplified Chinese in version 2.1

Freeciv's graphics system is configurable: originally, map display was always in overhead mode (like in Civ I),[18] isometric mode (like in Civ II) and optionally hexagonal tiling (like in Civ V) were added later. In both modes, look can be further customized by switching to an alternative set of graphics (called a tileset). The sounds can be replaced as well.

Freeciv supports human-to-human multiplayer gameplay and artificial intelligence (AI) computer players. While the game is turn based, human players move simultaneously. The AI players move separately, partly at the start of a turn, partly at the end.

In releases before 2.0, AI players could not engage in diplomatic relationships with human players. Under the current releases, AI players will engage in a very predictable, rules-based diplomacy.

Version 2.2.0 included a map editor, termed Civworld. It can create new scenarios, as well as edit the map currently being played. Basic scripting is available with Freeciv, but is not available in Civworld.[19] Version 2.3 increased the limit of players from 30 to 126.

Dawning fanfare

There are different clients available SDL, GTK+ (version3) and Xaw3D[20] The tests for version 2.5 started in 2014 and include a Qt client.

The Freeciv interface is available in over 30 different languages.[21] The addition of Gaelic was covered on BBC TV.[22]

Ports and variants[edit]

Originally developed on IRIX, Freeciv has been ported to many different operating systems: it is distributed with many Linux distributions, offers installers for Microsoft Windows, and has been known to run on Mac OS X, MorphOS, Solaris, Ultrix, QNX, OS/2, Cygwin, AmigaOS, AROS, RISC OS, Maemo, ZETA, SkyOS, various BSDs, and smartphones and tablets running Android.[23]

As of version 2.4, Mac OS X, and as of version 2.3, Windows versions older than Windows XP SP3 are no longer supported. Freeciv is available in the PortableApps format.[24]


Freeciv-web web client running on a browser

Freeciv-web is a version of Freeciv playable online in any modern web browser. It supports 2D isometric graphics or 3D graphics using WebGL. The game is a fork of the Freeciv project, with the goal of redesigning the desktop game into a version which can be played online. Freeciv-web introduced several new features, such as play-by-email support[25] freely available to anyone online, and support for playing the game on any real-world map location by choosing a map using Mapbox, which is not available in commercial games in the genre.[26] The game's default settings are closest to Civilization II, both in gameplay and graphics (including the units and the isometric grid). The proposal to create a web-version of Freeciv was made 6 April 2007 on the Freeciv mailing lists, and documented on the wiki.[27] Freeciv-web was originally created by Andreas Røsdal, but is now maintained by several Freeciv developers on Github.[28]

Freeciv-web is free and open source software. The Freeciv C server is released under the GNU General Public License, while the Freeciv-web client is released under the GNU Affero General Public License. Freeciv-web supports human-to-human multiplayer gameplay and artificial intelligence (AI) computer players. Its features are similar to the Freeciv C client, although not all of the user-interface has been ported from the C client yet.

Freeciv-web can be played online at[29] [30] All the features required to play a full game of Freeciv are in place, including rendering of an isometric map, technology research, and many dialogs for managing cities, units and other players. The game also supports scenario-games, and includes maps of the world, North America, France, Italy, Japan and the Iberian peninsula. While the game is turn based, human players move simultaneously. The AI players move separately, partly at the start of a turn, partly at the end.

Longturn and Greatturn[edit]

Greatturn Earth World rendering – match GT05

Freeciv Longturn and Greatturn are specialized extensions of Freeciv featuring daylong game turns with large amounts of human opponents per map, allowing for optimal timing to build up strategic plans and readapt them to the circumstances of each turn. Matches can last anytime from a few weeks to months, and commonly involve 20 to 30 players in each one.[31][32][33]

Longturn's first game, now called LT0, started around 2004 on the Polish Civilization fanpage It was decided that the game is a bit too slow paced, so a new "3X movement" ruleset was devised – basically, all units had their movement points and vision radius tripled.[34] As of September 2014, the latest game was LT33.[35] Greatturn's first game, GT00, started in January 2013. As of September 2014, the most recent game was GT11 and the Greatturn community generally uses "2X movement."[36] Around 1 July 2014, the Greatturn website and servers were taken offline by its administrator. The website and game data were acquired from the previous administrator and the website was restored around 10 September 2014.[37]

Longturn and Greatturn are strongly focused on online communication. For example, Greatturn provides a website where each player can create and manage a personal private forum and select the membership allowed to access it for reading or writing messages. This infrastructure paves the ground for maximal cooperation between players allowing the arrangement of complex tactics and diplomacy.

Contrarily to the classic Freeciv, the settings of each match are not determined from within the server hosting the match. Rather, in Greatturn any parameter definition or other proposition is published to the website via the Greatturn voting system for public consideration and approbation; this allows everybody to participate in decisions and doesn't force polls to conclude in a rush. In Longturn, although a polls system was previously used, changes to settings or rulesets are now discussed in the Longturn forum.[38]

Golden Age of Civilizations[edit]

The Golden Age of Civilizations is an open source time-based MMO strategy game, inspired by Freeciv. Though the game is played in time and through weeks, at the beginning of each units are assigned movement time, which are spent as they move and act. Using up the movement time early may leave a unit without the ability to respond if an opponent approaches later. The units cannot carry extra movement time into the next hours or days, every units has a limit of accumulation of time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Freeciv:In the Beginning". 19 January 2007. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  2. ^ "Freeciv founded 20 years ago today!". Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "Freeciv 1.0a source code (1996); see DESIGN". 
  4. ^ "Freeciv 1.0k source code (1996); see CHANGES". 
  5. ^ "''Building Freeciv: An Open Source Strategy Game'', by Howard Wen, on, Nov 21, 2001". Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "the Debian change log for Freeciv". Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  7. ^ "README.AI (r4421)". 
  8. ^ "Pubserver". Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "old snapshots of ( Wayback Machine)". Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "old snapshots of archive ( Wayback Machine)". Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Service Name and Transport Protocol Port Number Registry". IANA. January 2006. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  12. ^ Eric S. Raymond (2003). "Case Study: Freeciv Data Files". The Art of Unix Programming. chapters 6+7. ISBN 0-13-142901-9. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Ashok K. Goel; Joshua Jones (2011). "Metareasoning for Self-Adaptation in Intelligent Agents" (PDF). Metareasoning – Thinking about thinking. Chapter 10. 
  14. ^ Patrick Ulam; Joshua Jones; Ashok K. Goel (2008). "Combining Model-Based Meta-Reasoning and Reinforcement Learning for Adapting Game Playing Agents" (PDF). 
  15. ^ Ian Watson; Damir Azhar; Yachu Yang; Wei Pan; Gary Chen (2005). "Optimization in Strategy Games: Using Genetic Algorithms to Optimize City Development in FreeCiv" (PDF).  Archived 20 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Brian Schwab (2009). AI Game Engine Programming. pp. 234–240. 
  17. ^ T. Lau, University of Washington (1999). "CSE 590AG: Applications of Artificial Intelligence". 
  18. ^ "a review on Free Games Net (1998)". Archived from the original on 3 January 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  19. ^ "Freeciv Editor Page". Wikia. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  20. ^ "Debian – Package Search Results – freeciv-client-". 
  21. ^ "Freeciv - Translations". Wikia. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  22. ^ BBC Naidheachdan (11 September 2011). Freeciv now available in Galic. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  23. ^ "Freeciv". Google play. 
  24. ^ "Freeciv Portable". 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  25. ^ "Freeciv-web play-by-email.". The Freeciv-web Project. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  26. ^ "Freeciv-web real-earth map.". The Freeciv-web Project. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  27. ^ "Freeciv web client documentation on". The Freeciv Project. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  28. ^ "Freeciv-web on github.". The Freeciv-web Project. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  29. ^ "". Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  30. ^, archived from the original on 23 July 2011 
  31. ^ "Greatturn presentation page". Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. 
  32. ^ "Greatturn introduction (Spanish)". 
  33. ^ "Longturn website". 
  34. ^ "Longturn introduction page". 
  35. ^ "Longturn games list". 
  36. ^ "Greatturn match archive". Archived from the original on 15 March 2014. 
  37. ^ ""Under New Management" – Civland Freeciv Forum". 10 September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  38. ^ ""No more polls" – Longturn forum". 

External links[edit]