Recently, I was playing the game Sid Meier’s Civilization V, better known as Civ V. In this game, you choose one of 24 modern and historic civilizations, ranging from Babylon to India to America. When the game begins, you settle your civilization, and begin production of workers, military units, buildings, and world wonders. You also research new technologies to improve your civilization and unlock new structures and units. There are several ways to win – through crushing other civilizations, through a diplomatic victory (create the UN), a scientific victory (research and build a spaceship), and a cultural victory (create a utopia). The various civilizations have most things in common, but each has a few attributes, based on the civilization’s cultural identity. One of Japan’s, for example, is Bushido: warriors that fight as if they were at full strength, even when damaged. The Iroquois move through forest very quickly. The Aztecs’ Sacrificial Captives attribute gives them a cultural reward for every unit killed. The Spanish have a Conquistador unit which can fight and also found new cities.
Being one of the great ancient civilizations, Egypt is a potential player in the game. Our discussions of Egyptian archaeology over the past weeks spurred me to investigate how they were represented in Civ V. The Egyptians are led by Ramsses II, of whom the game gives a fairly extensive biography. It outlines his life, calling him the “greatest and most powerful pharaoh,” something that his enormously complex tomb in the Valley of the Kings would corroborate.
The game also gives a fairly in-depth overview of the history of each culture. Egypt’s speaks of wonders of architecture and the importance of religion, before concluding with some factoids. Many of these serve to set the record straight for Egypt – saying Napoleon didn’t take the Sphinx’s nose, and that slaves didn’t build the pyramids.
On to the bonuses. There are three: Monument Builders, the unit War Chariot, and the unique building Burial Tomb. Monument Builders is exactly what is expected of Egypt: it gives them a production bonus that allows them to build World Wonders (ranging from the Pyramids to the Louvre and the Pentagon) 20% faster than other civilizations. With all the pyramids and temples that litter Egypt, it certainly seems that the ancient Egyptians had some kind of advantage in building monuments!
The War Chariot is an upgraded version of the Chariot Archer unit that all civilizations have. It’s “historical info” section calls the Egyptians the “early masters of the chariot,” saying that Amenhotep II claimed to have penetrated three inches of copper on some targets when shooting from one. The discovery of chariots in Tutankhamen’s tomb would certainly imply that they were important to Egyptians throughout their history.
The third bonus that the Egyptians have is the Burial Tomb. It is a building that replaces the Temple of most cultures. It produces both culture (as the Temple does) and also Happiness for the city it’s built in. It requires no cost for maintenance and upkeep (which makes sense, as once it’s sealed, you don’t need to employ people to keep it clean and perform offerings and such). However, if the city it’s built in is captured, the conqueror receives a double-size Gold bonus for capturing the city. This too makes sense, considering the magnificent riches that such tombs contain.
Overall, Sid Meier’s Civilization V is well-researched and grounded in history. The bonuses for the Egyptians match their cultural legacy, and represent them in a good light. The developers did a good job with this one, incorporating history and cultural heritage seamlessly into a game, adding strategic wrinkles at the same time.