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Topic: After Action Review: Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword
Maybe I’ve lived in Wisconsin too long but I can’t get away from
seeing parallels between Green Pay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and the Civilization
series. Both exploded like bombshells in their debut but are now getting old;
both have been declared used up but fans kept calling them back. With the add-on,
Beyond the Sword, Civilization shows, like Favre, that it
can still entertain and enthrall with some help from newcomers.
Fewer Long Bombs
Patched to version 3.13, Beyond the Sword is installed from an DVD
and, like all Civilization add-ons, is put in its own sub-folder and
requires its particular disk to be in the drive to play, Thus, players can choose
to play an older version with its particular disc if they don’t like the
changes to the standard game while still having access to new scenarios and
The new features don’t alter the general play of the game. The two new
major innovations, the espionage screen and corporations, are almost sub-games
and need not alter strategies. Espionage aids spies by diverting points from
culture and science to spying. Espionage points are allocated to other countries
for passive information gathering or to perform any of eleven different forms
of sabotage, fomenting, influencing and counter-espionage. A new Great Person,
the Great Spy, increases the number of espionage points available. Seven different
corporations, including Sid’s Sushi Co., will boost production when the
requisite resource level, tech, and great people are present. Expensive at first,
the executive unit can spread the corporate bonus to other cities.
This spy screen should be used by the CIA.
Other additions validate the add-on as something more than a collection of
scenarios. The Advanced Start option allows the standard campaign to start later
in history, giving players money to buy units and cities. The new tech, Aesthetics,
has been introduced while five other late stage techs have been enhanced. Twelve
new units, not counting the Great Spy and executive, have emerged with paratroopers
and tactical nukes being the most interesting. Three new leader traits have
been added: “charismatic” produces happiness, “imperialistic”
yields more Great Generals and settlers, and “protective” aids defenses.
The old “expansive” has been tweaked. Ten “new” civilizations
have been added. I set off “new” because some of them appeared in
older Civilization engines although the Khemer, Holy Roman Empire, and others
are original with this add-on. Of the six new leaders, only Lincoln is a re-run.
De Gaulle is a nice choice for a new Frenchman. All civilizations can erect
such new edifices such as a customs house and national security agency while
the number of civilization-specific buildings has grown. Only one new improvement,
forest preservation, appears but seven new Wonders make their appearance. Air
units now have defensive mode and can get promotions while siege, some civics,
colonies and trade have undergone fairly minor changes. A welcome addition is
a screen showing players’ customizable space ships. To get details of
all of the above, players must use the Civlopedia as the 54-page manual serves
primarily as an overview.
An empty gantry waits for its craft.
New to the Playbook
The most impressive things in Beyond the Sword are the scenarios and
mods. Some semantic explanation is required here. A scenario uses standard rules
but creates a more goal-oriented set of victory conditions. Mods, on the other
hand, use new rules and units for their game. Naturally, some scenarios are
modded so any distinction is largely academic even though Firaxis likes to categorize
scenarios and mods.
Two of the fifteen scenarios and mods take approaches very different from any
other twist of Civilization. “Afterworld” is a turn-based
sci-fi action game with one-person units. A special squad works its way through
an eerie basement, picking up enhancing objects while fighting off monsters.
Their ultimate goal is the usual world-saving gig. At the other extreme is “
an arcade situation where players’ units run back and forth killing ever-increasing
waves of wild things before the time limit runs out. Not my cup of tea but that
mod shows the system’s versatility.