Civility Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s official web page or visit the game’s Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


civility_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 12 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 90 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Emotional Coping Skills
  • Pattern Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Lead your civilization to greatness or its downfall

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek rejected!

Overview

As a civilization grows, so too must it change. Change comes from within as well as without. As your civilization’s leader, you direct its growth from your seat of power in your capital city. But sometimes growth comes at a price. You are wise and know that war brings destruction, but also construction. Death opens the way to Life. The heavy burden of your civilization’s survival rests on your shoulders alone. Are you up to the task?

Civility, designed by Ryan Drews and Max Kreutzer and to be published by Bed Beard Games, will reportedly be comprised of 1 game board, 5 City boards, 5 Player boards, 2 Steal a Turn tokens, 2 Attack Anytime tokens, 1 Diplomat Token, 8 Bridge pieces (in 4 different colors, 2 per color), 3 Action dice (standard six-sided die), 4 Status tokens (in 4 different colors), 5 Army pieces (1 representing each of the 5 cities), 4 Saved-Die chips, 4 Saved Die dials, 6 Personal Status cards, 6 Perks cards, 101 Event cards, and 24 Status cards. As this is a review of a prepublished game, we will not comment on the component quality, but we are loving the component layout and design. Excellent stuff. We should also note that the game components we were provided are not “done” by any means and the final count of what will or will not be included in the game has yet to be determined. We were actually short on some of the game bits that should have been included, but nothing was missing that reduced playability.

civility_bits

A Quick Word on Cities

During the game, each player will be taking on the role of a specific city’s leader. Each city is represented by the Bridge and Army pieces on the game board, the City board, and the Player board. The City board contains 6 different Departments that represent key aspects of the city. Specifically, education, health, technology, army, government, and economy. There is a 7th value tracked on the City board called “Defenders”, but this is not a Department. At the beginning of the game, these Departments will start with a default value. The starting values for all Departments is different for each city. For example, the city of Early Man has a starting Army Department value of “1” and Medieval has a starting Army Department of “3”.

civility_city

The Player board keeps track of advancement levels made by the player’s city. All cities start at Status level of “0” and the goal of the game is to be the first to achieve a Status level of “5”. Like the City boards, all the Player boards are unique and provide different perks for each Status level achieved. For example, Early Man’s first perk achieved by obtaining a Status level of “1” allows them to destroy any Bridge piece at any time during the game once, while the Medieval perk achieved at Status level “1” is to hold 1 additional card (increasing their hand size limit). In this way, each city’s strengths and weaknesses are balanced out and provide each player a different starting point and subtle shift in tactics and strategy needed to obtain victory.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, fist unfold and place the game board in the middle of the playing area.

Second, each player will select a matching set of 1 City board and 1 Player board. A matching set of each will both represent the same city. For example, a matching set would include 1 Early Man City board and 1 Early Man Player board. The City board is placed in one of the four game board corners nearest to the player. An outline is provided on the game board to signify where City boards should be placed. Directly under their City board (and off the game board), the player will now place their Player board.

Third, each player will now collect 2 Bridges and 1 Status token of the same color, 1 Army piece (whatever best represents their city), 1 Saved-Die chip, and 1 Saved-Die dial. These are placed to one side and within easy reach of their owning player for the moment or they can be placed on the player’s City board. The Saved-Die chip should be placed with the green side face-up to indicate that the player does not currently have any die value saved.

Fourth, each player should now reset the 7 dials located on their City board to the starting Department values listed. Note that at the time of this review, the “dials” were not incorporated into the game design. Instead, standard six-sided dice (not accounted for in the game component description above) were used. Which, honestly, worked just fine.

Fifth, take the cards and separate them into their different decks. When completed, there should be an Event deck, a Status deck, a Personal Status deck, and a Perk deck. Place the Perk deck to one side of the game playing area (they are used later in the game), and shuffle the three remaining decks.

Sixth, place the Status deck, face-down, on the designated space located in the center of the game board. Draw and reveal the first Status card to the table by placing it, face-up, on top of the Status deck. If the Status card drawn is a battle-related card, it is placed face-up on the “Secondary Status” reserved space on the game board and another Status card is drawn and placed face-up on top of the Status deck.

Seventh, deal out to each player 1 Personal Status card, face-down. Any Personal status cards not used are removed for the duration of the game.

Eighth, deal out to each player 2 Event cards, face-down. The Event deck is placed to one side of the game playing area and within easy reach of at least 1 player.

Ninth, take the 2 Steal a Turn and 2 Attack Anytime tokens and place them to one side of the game playing area.

Tenth, from the 3 available dice in the game, make sure the total number being used is exactly 1 less than the total number of players. Therefore, a 4-player game will use 3 dice, a 3-player game will use 2 dice, and a 2-player game will use 1 die. Any die not used are removed for the duration of the game.

That’s it for game set up! Determine who will be the first player and hand them the Diplomat token.

Game Play

The game is played in rounds wherein every player is given 1 turn. A player’s turn consists of three steps. These steps are summarized here. At the beginning of each round, draw a new Status card if one is not visible.

Step 1: Perform Action

During this step, the player can take 1 action with any 1 die that is available by playing it to the Action Ring located on the game board, save a die for later, and use a die to power an Ability card. If there are no dice remaining, the player will instead draw 2 Event cards, but only if they were not saving a die from a previous round.

  • Take 1 die that corresponds to an action located on the game board’s center Action Ring space
  • Play 1 card along with 1 die of any value
  • Save one of the rolled dice for a future action
  • Do not play a die and reduce any Department level by -1
  • Take 1 die to complete a combo

Actions require a bit more explanation which we will cover below.

Step 2: Play or Discard Cards

During this step, the player can play up to 2 cards or discard as many cards from their hand that they like. If a player discards 3 cards, they can increase a Department level by +1. All played and discarded cards go to the Event discard pile.

Step 3: Draw Card

During this step, the player will draw 1 Event card and add it to their hand, but only if there were dice available to them during the round. The player can only have a maximum hand size of 4 cards. If they have more than 4 at the end of their turn, they must discard down to 4.

The next player going clockwise now has their turn. Once all the players have had their turn, a new rounds begins. The Diplomat token is passed to the next player going clockwise who collects the Action die and rolls them to the table.

The Role of Dice & Cards

Action Dice

The Action dice are used to claim specific actions on the game board’s Action Ring or paired to allow a player to play an Ability card. They are the “gas” that will drive the game “engine”. Their most common use will be using them to trigger actions on the Action Ring (see Dice Actions below). Less common will be using the dice to meet the requirements to trigger an Ability card or saving a die value for use during future rounds in hopes of being able to trigger very powerful actions and abilities.

If the player decides to save a die for later, they flip their Save-Die chip to “red” to indicate the player is saving a die value, takes their Saved-Die dial and marks the value being saved, and then takes the die and puts it anywhere on the Action Ring to indicate the die is no longer available. Saved die values can be kept indefinitely (but only one value at a time) until they are used to complete the Action die values necessary. Saved die values can only be used for those actions that require 2 dice. When saving a die, the player is unable to draw 2 Event cards during future turns when no dice are available to them. If the player likes, they can choose to release the saved die value at the beginning of their turn, flipping their Saved-Die chip to “green”, instead of taking any actions during step 1 of their turn.

Event Cards

There are 5 different types of Event cards. They are as follows:

  • Ability: these cards allow the player, once played, to use a die value to activate them. The Ability Event card describes what it provides and when, as well as any dice values needed to activate it. Some Ability Event cards only require 1 die and some require 2 to activate them. A player may have only 1 single-die and 1 combo Ability card in front of them at a time. Ability cards remain in front of their owning player until they are removed by the owning player or by an opponent.
  • Action: these cards allow the player, once played, to complete whatever action the card states
  • Battle: these cards are played during an attack only
  • Anytime: as the name of the type suggests, this card can be played at any time during the game and when the card’s action makes sense in context to the current game state
  • World Event: these cards, once drawn, are immediately revealed and resolved. For example, the “Feast” World Event cards allows everyone to roll a die and draw a number of cards equal to half the value rolled.

Status Cards

Status cards list a specific requirement that a player can attempt to fulfill on their turn. If they can and choose to, they increase their Status level by +1. The Status card is then discarded and a new Status card will be drawn during the next round. In this way, only one Status card can ever by claimed during a single turn. The one exception is if there is a battle related Status card in the “Secondary Status” space, which can be claimed during an attack.

Personal Status Cards

The Personal Status cards are just like the Status cards except they can only be completed by their owning player and are kept secret until revealed. Personal Status cards cannot be used to obtain Status level “5”.

Perks Cards

These cards will see a lot of activity, so keep them handy. Perks are awarded to players and will most likely be passed around multiple times during a single round. Perks are awarded to the player who has the highest values in a Department. For example, the player who has the highest valued Technology Department will get the Technology Perk card that allows them to recall their Army piece back to their home port anytime during the game. These perks are left out in front of their current owning player and can be activated whenever the Perk card suggests. The player keeps the card as long as they fulfill the requirements to obtain the Perk. As soon as they don’t, it is lost and goes to the player who can fulfill the requirements. There is no limit to the number or Perks a player can have, but Perks cannot be claimed by anyone if the requirement is shared by 2 or more players.

Perhaps the hardest to achieve (and the most powerful) Perk is the Pacifist Perk. This Perk is awarded to the player who is the first to reach a Status level of “3” without being involved in a single battle (either as an attacker or a defender). If by some miracle they can remain out of a fight (I’ve played the game 10 times and have not once seen it go to any player), they have two Perks to select from that will remain with them for the duration of the game. These include the ability to gain Department levels twice as fast or suddenly turn their standing attack forces into Super Soldiers by doubling their Army and Health Department values during battle.

Insane and highly worth attempting to achieve.

Dice Actions

Located in the center of the game board is the Action Ring. This is a reserved portion of the game board where players will spend dice to activate a specific action. The actions are summarized here.

civility_actions

Draw a Card

This action allows the player to draw 1 Event card and add it to their hand. This action requires 1 die value of “1”, “2”, or “3”.

Move Army

If the player takes this action, they must move their Army piece either to their home port or to an opponent’s port. A “port” is the small box that is located next to the City board on the game board.This action requires 1 die of any value.

Build a Bridge

If the player takes this action, they must move one of their two Bridge pieces to an opponent’s port. Note that “Move Bridge” and “Build Bridge” are essentially the same thing. All Bridges start off the game board and cannot come on until built. This action requires 1 die value of “4”.

Recruit Defenders

This action allows the player to increase the number value of their Defenders on their City board by +1. The maximum value for Defenders is “6”. This action requires 2 dice to be rolled that show the same value (doubles), but only 1 of the 2 dice are used to claim the action.

Upgrade City

This action allows the player to increase the number value of any one Department of their choice located on their City board by +1. The only Department that cannot be upgraded using this action is the government. The maximum value for any Department is “5”. This action requires 1 die value of “5”.

Build a Bridge or Attack

If the player takes this action, they can build a Bridge piece as noted above or attack an opponent. To attack an opponent, the player must have at least 1 Bridge piece and their Army piece occupying their targeted opponent’s port, and the City being attacked must have a Status level EQUAL TO or  HIGHER than the player. The Bridge piece need not belong to the player, however. Any Bridge piece will do as long as the port does not contain the Army piece that the Bridge belongs to. This is referred to as “occupying a Bridge”.

A player must announce they are going to attack. When they do, no cards that could cancel said attack can be played (it’s “go time”). The one exception is the Anytime Event cards that allows the player to cancel it.

Attacks are determined one of two ways.

The first is if both players involved in the attack have no cards in their hand. If this is the case, the winner is determined by comparing the attacker’s Base Battle Level (which is the attacker’s current Army Department level plus their Health Department level) and the defender’s Base Battle Level (which is the defender’s current Defenders level plus their Army Department level, but only if the defender’s Army piece is located in their home port).

The second is if both players do have cards. Starting with the defender, any number of cards can be played from their hand face-down in front of them. The cards being played are either boosting the defender’s chances of defending against the attack or a bluff intended to trick the attacker that they are much stronger than they seem. The attacker then plays any number of cards to boost their attacking strength or can retreat.

  • If the attacker retreats, the defender takes 2 cards from the attacker’s hand and keeps all cards played during the attack.
  • If the attacker does not retreat, all the cards played are revealed and the attacker’s and the defender’s Base Battle Levels are changed based on any cards played

The player with the higher total value wins the attack.

  • If the attacker wins, they increase their Government, Economy, Education, and Technology Departments by +1, choose any Department but Government the defender must now reduce by -1, and the defender’s City reduces their Defenders value by -1.
  • If the defender wins, they choose any 2 Departments except Government to increase by +1 or 1 Department to gain +2 in, and reduces their Defenders value by -1. The attacker reduces their Army and Government level by -1.
  • If there is a tie, victory goes to the defender, but only if their Army piece is not currently located in their home port. If it is, the tie goes to the attacker.

Regardless of the outcome of battle, and unless otherwise stated above, all cards played will be discarded and the attacker’s Bridge and Army piece are returned to their home port. If the attacker occupied a Bridge during the attack, the Bridge piece is returned to the owning player’s port.

This action requires 1 die value of “6”.

Attack Anytime

This action allows the player to take 1 available Attack Anytime token (if none are available, the player cannot take this action). This token can be kept and then discarded at anytime during the game to attack any opponent. Attack rules are the same, but the player need not have a Bridge or Army piece located in their targeted opponent’s port. Once the token is used, it is returned to the side of the game board. A player can have no more than 1 Attack Anytime token at a time.This action requires 2 dice with values “2” and “4”.

Steal a Turn

This action allows the player to take 1 available Steal a Turn token (if none are available, the player cannot take this action). This token can then be turned in prior to a specific opponent’s turn. The player then takes their opponent’s cards and plays their turn for them as if they owned their opponent’s pieces. The one exception is if the player initiates an attack. If they do, the player’s turn ends and their opponent takes back all their cards and finishes out the attack by themselves. Once the token is used, it is returned to the side of the game board. A player can have no more than 1 Steal a Turn token at a time. This action requires 2 dice with values “1” and “3”.

Winning the Game

The game continues until 1 player reaches a Status level of “5” on their City board.

To learn more about Civility and read the full rules for the game, visit the game’s official web page or visit the game’s Kickstarter campaign.

Prediction

Civility is not a complicated game, rules wise. In fact, the game play itself is very straight forward and the amount of decision making is pretty small – especially if you are the last player to take their turn during a game round. That being said, there is a wicked bit of complexity and lots necessary player aggression lurking just underneath the surface of the game’s face. Here is a game where “power” is shifting constantly, which means a player could be cruising along during one moment and then smacked down the next. Therefor, the game’s level of complexity comes not from the rules, but from the game play. A player must be able to quickly adapt to the ever shifting game environment and keep their head straight when the calm before the storm turns into a raging tempest without warning.

I predict this chaotic nature and the aggressive behavior required of the players to compete is going to be a bit too much for our younger and less experienced Child Geeks. I don’t think they will have any problems learning the game, but the erratic ups and downs are going to be difficult for them to emotionally and mentally cope with. Being able to shift tactics and having multiple strategies in mind is going to be a must, and the Child Geeks just aren’t there yet. Their paths to victory seldom fork more than once and they are dependent on structure and repetitiveness. This game has none of that, which forces the players to swim forever in the choppy waters of compromise and variability.

For the Parent Geeks, I think the game will only appeal to those who like more than just a casual game at their table and I bet I don’t find one single non-gamer who will be able to catch their breath during the entire game. For the Gamer Geeks? This is going to be gold. There’s a lot going on in Civility that will appeal to some of the most elite of elitists.

Teaching the game is actually very straight forward, and if any of the players have played games where dice are used as resources, the amount of effort needed to instruct players is almost zero. The game rule that will require the most focus will be the Status cards and the Saved-die actions, which for some reason always tripped up our players. The second most common question we were asked was timing. For the most part, lots of these questions can be answered before they are asked if you take the time to give some examples of play.

After teaching my oldest little geek how to play the game (I am going to excuse my 5-year-old from Civility as he wouldn’t do well with all the aggressive game play), I asked him his thoughts on Civility so far.

“Wow, a really neat sounding game! Can I be any of these civilizations? I am so totally going to crush you…” ~ Liam (age 8)

Yes! This is exactly the kind of response I am always looking for. Enthusiasm and energy will go a long way to keep my little geek going after he gets the wind knocked out of him repeatedly. Let’s play the game and see how he and the game fare.

Final Word

As predicted, Civility kicked the Child Geeks’ butts. Emotionally, some of them took the game play a bit too personally. No one cried, thank goodness, but we did have to pause the game several times to let a few of the Child Geeks excuse themselves so they could cool down. This is not a Child Geek game by any means. It can be highly aggressive and can feel very chaotic – even unfair. According to my son, “I can’t play this game anymore. It makes me angry.” All but the oldest of our Child Geeks who played the game left before the game was over and none of them asked for it to return to the gaming table. It should come as no surprise that the Child Geeks voted to reject Civility. On a positive note, all the Child Geeks demonstrated they understood the game, but had problems putting their knowledge to practical use during game play. We are suggesting a moderate learning curve which can be reduced if the Child Geek has had a moderate amount of dice management resource game experience.

My little geek roars in frustration upon being attacked...again

My little geek roars in frustration upon being attacked…again

The Parent Geeks were very mixed when it came to their endorsement approval. The more aggressive Parent Geeks who enjoy games where players are competing against each other directly really enjoyed Civility and thought it was a simply fantastic and very engaging game. For those Parent Geeks who prefered games where you played to the game board or player interaction was seldom, Civility was greatly disliked. According to one Parent Geek who enjoyed Civility, “This is one of those games that will keep me thinking about it long after I am done playing it.” And here’s a quote from a Parent Geek who didn’t like the game and was responding to the first quote, “Yes, me, too. As in having nightmares.”

The Gamer Geeks enjoyed themselves right from the start. Civility demands a lot from its players, but asks for it in a very easy to play and straightforward manner. The game play is simple, the choices can be exceedingly difficult at times, and the only thing louder than the dice hitting the table was the swearing when they were being claimed and assigned actions. This is also a game where the lead player is attacked mercilessly, which made our games with the Gamer Geeks exceedingly aggressive. If you are playing with individuals who are highly competitive and very game savvy, Civility is going to be a difficult game to win. One Gamer Geek likened it to being in a cage fight with lions, tigers, bears, and angry spouses. Not the kind of place you want to be in unless you think you can survive and are prepared to take a punch. According to one Gamer Geek, “This is a really good game that wants you to be a good player – and if you aren’t – chews you up and spits you out. I can respect that. Hell, I admire it.” The Gamer Geeks all voted to approve of Civility using less than civil language to express how much they enjoyed it.

Civility is not a friendly game. There will be times you will not like the game or the people you are playing it with. Odds are you will think dark thoughts about the other players both during and well after the game is over. Civility is about survival and only the smartest and most adaptable of players are going to do well enough to advance. The key to Civility is keeping down low and being able to get up fast. Being able to jump on opportunities is a must, and taking risks is really risky. Even advancing is risky, because the moment you do, you become a target. Only the strong get attacked and those who are advancing the fastest are the first to be aggressively put down.

Pure awesome. And there’s a lot of replayability, too. Each City and Player board set has a very different feel to it which makes your choices different. Depending on what City board you are playing, you won’t necessarily care about certain Departments, but that’s part of the fun of managing your civilization. We had an opportunity to play with the 7th city that is part of a Kickstarter stretch goal that was populated by only zombies. Every turn, the Departments (which start out at their maximum value) dropped in value and only through a MASSIVE BRAIN FEAST did all the Departments suddenly jump to their maximum again. That made managing “Z-Town” (as it came to be known) a wonderfully complex and entertaining experience, as well as a highly aggressive one.

I’ve played exceedingly more complex game that didn’t demand half of the energy I spent playing Civility. I feel drained after playing it, used, abused, and so terribly happy. Sick, I know, but this is a game that really challenges you and I love a good challenge. There is no “system” to learn here, no strategy guide to be had. Every game I played was different, visceral, and one hell of an emotional ride. I greatly enjoyed my time with it, felt really bad for those who didn’t (you could see it in their hurt, dead eyes), and would highly recommend Civility, but ONLY to those players who enjoy aggressive games where everyone is looking at you as a target and a threat.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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