Civilization & Advanced Civilization
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Long but rewarding
Yes, Avalon Hill is gone and this game is out of print - but perhaps Hasbro will reprint it some time, and in the mean time you might run across a copy by chance.
Civilization is something of a classic in its genre. You are controlling a race of people in the Mediterranean/Fertile Crescent area, starting about ten thousand years ago. At first your population starts off small, but exponential growth means that soon you have occupied all of your territory. You can grow further by constructing cities, which in turn generates commodities which you can trade with other players.
It pays to corner the market in a certain commodity because the value of sets of the same commodity grows quadratically. What you do with your commodities is trade sets of them in for advances in civilization, such as agriculture or democracy or architecture. Only by collecting these civilization cards can your people advance into the iron age.
Trade is the most important part of this game, so it is vital to not make enemies or you could find yourself the target of a trade embargo. This is what makes Civilization different from similar-looking wargames such as Diplomacy.
Civilization works best with more than four players, but there are rules for as few as two. The game's production quality is not wonderful - the board is functional but not pretty, the tokens are monochromatic cardstock and the civilization cards are just perforated paper. Still, there isn't really any other game like it, so if you and four other people are looking for a classic empire-building game and have a spare five to ten hours, this is definitely worth looking for.
(Avalon Hill also put out an expansion called Advanced Civilization, which greatly improves on the game.)
Yes, Avalon Hill is out of business and Advanced Civilization is out of print. But you might still be able to find a copy and perhaps Hasbro will reprint it one day.
Advanced Civilization is perhaps a misnomer for this expansion - 'Improved Civilization' might be a better term - it adds better game play and a much greater range of options for your civilization. Trade has been vastly simplified (a shortcoming in the original Civilization game), there are more commodity cards so that more players can play comfortably, there are replacement civilization cards, introducing a new category (religion) so that your civilization isn't just heading for Democracy or Philosophy every game. There are also more (and more balanced) disasters, with improved rules, than in the original. Finally, a new scoring system allows games to be as short or as long as players wish, although eight to twelve hours is a usual length for a full game.
Advanced Civilization is only playable with the base game of Civilization (which makes it doubly hard to get now that Avalon Hill is no more). This expansion comes with a hefty booklet - half of which is rules which players of the original Civilization will mostly know, and half of which is editorial material going on in depth about the civilization cards, disasters and how to play certain countries effectively.
As with the base game, Advanced Civilization plays best with five to eight players, although it can function with as few as two. The game can drag a bit, especially with a lot of slow players, but time spent playing this game can pass very quickly - I have lost almost entire days to the game without knowing it!
If you want a peaceful alternative to wargaming but still want the feel of a classic empire-building game, and you can round up a few playing companions and a spare few hours, this is definitely a game to be reckoned with. Get it if you can.
Avalon Hill released an IBM PC edition of Advanced Civilization. Downloads of a demo version are widely available on the Web.