Theory: The Best Game You’ve Never Played

I was honored recently to have the opportunity to play Advanced Civilization with Geoff Englestein. Professor Engelstein was a superb teacher (not to mention a most skilled player!), and Advanced Civ proved even more fun than its “Grail game” status had suggested. It’s an exceptional design, more ambitious even than most civilization games but nevertheless approachable, fast-moving, and fun.

“Fast-moving” probably deserves some explanation, given that the game is listed as being six hours long and is actually much longer. Advanced Civ is not long because it’s fiddly or burdensome to play. It’s long because it’s sweeping in scope. You’re playing across continents and thousands of years. The length feels like an appropriate design decision, rather than being a byproduct of uncontrolled complexity.

New Advanced Civ sets are pretty expensive at this point, but used ones are reasonably available, and the game is easily recreated in print-and-play form. Finding or building one is well worth the effort; I 100% guarantee you that the game has great lessons to teach, even if you have no interest whatsoever in its genre. (For example, Professor Engelstein pointed out that the game’s complexity is only revealed over several turns, so it’s a surprisingly easy game to teach and to learn.) Seek it out and play it at least once; you’ll be glad you did.

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