It can be a challenge for game designers to make a short civilization game. A great civilization game makes you feel like you accomplished something, whether that be conquering your foes or building a magnificent empire. However, that can be hard to achieve in under an hour and requires a good balance between immersion in your kingdom and simple mechanics that keep the game flowing. Roll for the Galaxy and Tiny Epic Kingdoms prove it can be done, and Granna hopes it has similar success with CVlizations, a two to five player card game that centers on constructing the framework of your society.
The CV stands for curriculum vitae, the résumé’s lengthier cousin, and is a nod towards the game’s goal of writing your civilization’s accomplishments that keep your populous happy. You do this by collecting resources that allow you to purchase developments. Developments provide happiness, which serves as the game’s victory condition. You win if you have the most happiness at game’s end.
Every player begins with their own set of nine cards. These cards allow you to collect resources either directly by collecting wood, food, or stone, or indirectly through trading, cunning, or thieving. You also have the option of slacking, which gives you an instant happiness bonus to add to your tally. Finally, a special doubling card can be played, which executes the other card you selected twice.
During your turn, you will select two of your cards. One is laid out in front of you face up while the other is placed face down. The impact of the cards you selected depends on how many other players picked the same card. Each card has a value for one, two, or three or more players. For example, if you are the only player to use the quarrying card to collect stone in a turn, you would gain two stone. If two players selected quarrying, they would each get three stone, but if three or more players collected stone, they would only get one each. Some cards become completely worthless if too many players select it at once, so it is wise to pay attention to what resources may be needed by the other players in a round.
Timing your cards comes into play as well. You can only use a card once during a three turn age, so knowing when to play a card for its maximum effect is important. Remembering previous card plays will at least give you an idea of how popular your card may be in a subsequent round.
Once cards are played and resources collected, you are able to buy a development. Every development is worth some happiness toward victory, but some do offer other bonuses such as additional resources or more happiness depending on later card play. Each development also falls under a specific category like tool or ideology. Some developments can score additional happiness by collecting several of the same category.
The developments offered are a mix of traditional civilization game technologies such as the wheel or stock exchange, while others are more whimsical like canine domestication and fortune telling. Those comical technologies, along with the Far Side looking card art, lets you know this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The game flows through three ages, which sets up a frantic finish as the most costly and rewarding technology shows up in the final age. Once complete, you score up the happiness of all your developments and any bonus happiness received during the game. In a gaming rarity, the game generally takes less than the stated 45 minute playing time, making this a light, quick civilization game.
The components are mostly well made. The food, wood, and stone are all nice wooden pieces, and you’ll have trouble getting Pac-Man out of your head with their choice for the shape of the food. The cards are thin but firm, and the artwork is lighthearted. With all this, it is astonishing then that Granna would be so lax in their choice of happiness tokens. They are thin, cheap laminated counters that do not fit the overall presentation very well. Considering that these are the game’s victory condition, their poor quality really stands out.
For those looking for an introductory civilization game, this may be worth considering. The game is certainly not as overwhelming as some other civ style games; however, the long term value of CVlizations is an issue. The lighthearted nature of the game can be entertaining at first, but the jokes and silliness will eventually wear thin. More striking is the lack of any real strategy in this game, a trademark of the top empire builders. Outguessing your opponents comes down to luck as a much as it does cunning. If you want to have that feeling of satisfaction from forging greatness from nothing, this may leave you yearning for more.
Designed by: Jan Zalewski
Published by: Granna
Players: 2 to 5
Ages: 8 and up
Time: 45 to 60 minutes
Mechanics: Action programming, hand management