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Civicus Dice Game Preview

This is a preview of the game Civicus Dice Game which is currently on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter campaign ends on July 8th, 2015. If you are interested in Civicus Dice Game check out its’ Kickstarter page.

Update: Civicus has been successfully Kickstarted.

To preface this preview I would like to say that I played a print and play version of the game which does not include the final components for the game. The components will be considerably better in the final version and there may be some slight rule changes before the final product is produced.

At first sight, Civicus might just look like a normal dice game like Yahtzee where you need to roll different dice combinations in order to score points. Civicus is much more than just a simple dice rolling game though. The game also includes area control mechanics and there are multiple paths to scoring points. If I had to sum up Civicus Dice Game in a couple words I would call it a simpler travel sized version of Settlers of Catan.

How to Play

I will quickly go over the rules of the game. I won’t get into all of the details since you can find all of the rules on the Kickstarter page as well and a print a play copy so you can try the game using your own dice and markers. If you like the game though I would highly recommend backing the project since the game will be much easier and more fun to play with the final components than having to find and use your own components.

Like many games, the object of the game is to acquire the most points by the end of the sixth round. Players alternate turns with the first player taking the first turn while the second player takes the next two turns and so on. When the first player completes the sixth round the game is over.

Each turn includes the following three actions and then the score for the round is calculated:

  1. The player can either add one camp to the map for free, remove one camp from the map, or move one camp to a different location.
  2. The player rolls their dice to acquire materials.
  3. The player uses their materials to build things, research technology, or acquire exotic goods.

The Civicus game board is made up of various different hexagonal spaces. Each space gives a different benefit to the player that has control over the space. The spaces that have dice printed on them give the player one of those colored dice for their next action. There are also spaces for farms, markets, temples and sacred sites which give the player bonus points (which I will get to later).

At the beginning of a players’ turn they get to pick a spot between two of the hexagonal shapes in order to place one of their settlement pieces. This creates a camp for the current player. On their first turn players are likely going to want to place their camp on a spot between two dice spots in order to get two dice to roll in the next step.

Control is a pretty big factor in Civicus. In order to receive the benefits from a hexagonal space, a player must be in control of that space. If only one player has a camp/village/city touching a space, they have control over that space. If two players have a camp/village touching a hexagonal space, the players will battle for control. The players count up their control over the region (1 point for each camp and 3 points for each village that touch the space) and whoever has the highest total controls that region and gets the benefit from the space. If both players tie, neither get the advantage from the space.

Once a player has placed, removed or moved their camp, the player grabs dice that match the colors of the dice symbols that their camps/villages/cities currently control. The player rolls their dice and receive the corresponding resources shown on the dice. In their final action the player gets to use their resources they received from the dice to buy various benefits.

The most likely use of resources is to build camps/villages/cities. Players can build camps in any location that is not forbade by one of the placement rules in the game. Players can upgrade camps into villages and villages into cities. When upgrading from a camp to a village the camp piece is moved to one of the adjoining corners where three hexagon pieces meet. If a player builds a village in an area that already has camps on one of the adjoining sides, those camps are returned to the corresponding players’ settlement supply. Upgrading from a village to a city gives the player more points and give them complete control over the three spaces that is touches. All camps and villages that are on one of the spaces that the city touches are removed from the board and the pieces go back to the players’ settlement supply.

Other than building camps/villages/cities, the players can do three other things with their dice. First they can trade unwanted materials for other materials in a 2-1 or 3-1 switch. Any diamond (exotic) rolled can be used as either a wild which can act for any other material or it could  be traded in for a diamond “token” which is used to score points. Finally if a player has no other uses for their dice they could trade them in to upgrade their technology with gives the player points.

After a player has used all of their dice, their turn is over and their score for the round is totaled. Players score points in four different categories: subsistence, commerce, theology, and technology. The simplest to score is technology which give you the amount of points associated with your current level of technology. The theological score is calculated as the number of temples you control times the number of sacred sites you control. The commerce score is calculated as the number of markets you control times the number of exotics (diamonds) you own. Finally the subsistence score is the total of your settlements (1 point per village and 3 points per city) times the number of farms you control.

After the sixth round the players total up the number of points they scored in all of the rounds and whoever has the most points wins the game.

My Thoughts

Regular readers of this blog will probably know that this site has a complicated history with dice rolling games. We have played quite a few dice rolling games in the past and most of them aren’t particularly good. Being a dice game I was cautious about whether or not I was going to like Civicus. The one fact that gave me hope for the game was that instead of a typical dice rolling game that has very little strategy to it, Civicus looked like it had at least a decent amount of strategy to it. It is also not hard to see the similarities to Settlers of Catan and that got me excited about the game since Settlers of Catan is one of my favorite games. While it is not as good as Settlers of Catan (which is a classic in my opinion), Civicus is a good game that should appeal to fans of Catan.

For those familiar with the Settlers of Catan card game, I would say that Civicus is kind of a mix between the card game and the original game. Civicus is like the Settlers of Catan card game (except it uses dice instead of cards) since it takes the basics of what makes Settlers of Catan great and simplifies the game into a more streamlined product. Unlike the Settlers of Catan card game though there is still the area control aspect from the original Settlers of Catan. As a whole I could call Civicus a light to moderate strategy game. Players need to make smart decisions in order to win the game but the game also doesn’t become a brain melting exercise where you have to contemplate every possible choice.

What I like about Civicus is that it is very accessible but still has enough strategy to satisfy a lot of gamers. Even though the rulebook will likely go through some slight alterations before the final product, I already find the instructions to be easy to follow. The current instructions are five pages long which is mostly due to the many illustrations which I found to be very helpful. Civicus is the type of game that may take a couple turns to fully understand but you should have no problems afterwards. According to the box art, Civicus appears to have a recommended age of 13+ but I think children a little younger shouldn’t have too many troubles with the game.

Another strength of Civicus is that it is a quick game. With the final components and knowing all of the rules ahead of time, I would say that a game would take between 15-20 minutes to complete. This makes Civicus work great as a filler type game. Settlers of Catan is a fantastic game but you need at least an hour to complete a game. If you were looking for a Settlers of Catan type of game but don’t have the hour plus needed to play Catan, Civicus would work perfectly. Also based on the pictures on the Kickstarter page, Civicus looks like the type of game that would work great as a travel type game.

While the game is quick, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a decent amount of strategy. Being a dice game there is obviously some luck involved in the game. Whichever player rolls better will have an advantage in the game. For example I rolled a bunch of diamonds (wilds) which helped me out a lot. Even though there is quite a bit of luck with rolling the dice, Civicus does a good job reducing the amount of luck involved. The luck of the roll is reduced because of the various different ways you can score points in the game. With four different ways to score points, most rolls should benefit you in at least one of the different categories.

While I didn’t test the game enough to know how balanced the different scoring options were, they appear to be pretty balanced. You will very likely score your most points through your settlement score but that is not your only option in the game. If my dice roll supported expansion I would probably use them for that purpose. You won’t always get the right rolls to expand though. In most dice games these would just be wasted rolls. In Civicus though you can explore one of the alternative scoring methods. For example in one game I kept rolling diamonds so I went heavy into commerce acquiring 7 diamonds. The amount of points I scored from the commerce track was the difference between winning and losing that game. As a last resort you can use your dice to upgrade your technology level.

The only complaint I had with the various ways to score was that I felt that it was too hard to get theology points. I don’t see theology as a viable main strategy in the game. It just seemed too hard to control enough sacred sites and temples to score a lot of points in that category. Theology seems like more of a category used to squeak out a couple points which might change the outcome of the game.

One thing I was a little disappointed with was that there didn’t seem to be enough competition between the two players fighting for control over positions. This could be due to my brother and I not being the most aggressive players in board games. We usually don’t go after one another since both players usually suffer in those situations. I think in one game we fought for control either two of three times. I kind of wish the map would have forced us to have to fight for control more.

One thing I think may remedy this issue would be to add one or two more settlement pieces. The settlement pieces are limited on purpose in order to force players to decide between focusing on camps/villages or cities. We ended up running out of settlement pieces too quickly though. With the limited supply you pretty much have to choose between one of two strategies. You can either use your settlement pieces to build cities which have greater control but you won’t control as many spaces on the board (since you have to use two of your pieces) or you can use your settlement pieces to build camps and villages which don’t give as much control but allow you to take control of more areas.

Another thing I would like to bring up is that the game is currently only a two player game. The game works well as a two player game but I think it would work better as a three to four player game. One of the stretch goals for the game ($20,000) is for a 3-4 player expansion. I think the game would work better with more players since it would become much more cutthroat. The one problem with only having two players is that if one player decides to go after building cities, the other player is free to grab a bunch of territory using all six of their pieces to grab spaces since the other player won’t have enough settlement pieces to stop them. With having more players, no one will be able to dominate one strategy since each player will likely mess with the other player’s plans.

My biggest “complaint” with the game is actually with the components themselves (this will be fixed in the final version of the game). If you didn’t see before, the preview copy of the game that I played included only print and play components. For those who are not familiar with print and play components, essentially you get a PDF copy of the rules and components and you have to print them out in order to play the game. These are typical for games that haven’t gone into full production yet so they don’t have the final components available.

In order to play the print and play version of the game you need to use normal six sided dice. This presented some problems because instead of just looking at symbols on the dice for each type of material, you need to look up the number in a chart to see what material that number corresponds to. This added a decent amount of time to the game since it took a while to look up each dice. This problem will be fixed in the final version of the game though since the Kickstarter page says that the game will come with special dice that have the symbols printed on each side so you won’t have to reference anything in a chart.

The only other small issue I had with the components is that I felt the map was a little too small. There are enough spaces on the gameboard but I felt the spaces could have been a little bigger. The small size made some of the symbols a little hard to see especially when pieces are put on the board which sometimes obscures part of the board. Once again the board may just be a little smaller in the print and play than the final version. This is not a huge problem though and doesn’t affect the game that much.

The Kickstarter page for the game has a picture of what appears to be the final components and they look pretty nice. The game has some nice artwork which is colorful and nice to look at. You shouldn’t put much into my complaints over the components since they are far from final components and it looks like all of these issues will be fixed with the final components.

Overall I had quite a bit of fun playing the Civicus Dice Game. I am looking forward to if and hopefully when the Civicus Dice Game gets Kickstarted. While it is not the type of game that I would play all of the time, it would definitely be one of the games I would consider if I wanted to play a light to medium shorter strategy game. If you like Settlers of Catan and are looking for a game that is similar but shorter, I think Civicus may be that game for you. If you are interested in the Civicus Dice Game and would like to find out more about the game or you would like to make a pledge check out the Civicus Dice Game Kickstarter Page. Remember the kickstarter campaign ends on July 8th, 2015 and is expected to ship in November of 2015 if it is successfully Kickstarted.

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