This VERITAS is about a game, a computer game. But how can a game find a place in a mailing list devoted to knowledge?! But is does, and for a good reason. After playing this game one gets an experience of history.
One’s sense of history improves. And it also increases your factual knowledge. In the rest of this article I will describe the game “Civilization” to you and try to justify its place in the VERITAS mailing list. ( I would like to thank my friend Abhishek Datta for introducimg me to this game which gave me a wonderful realization of how civilizations have evolved.)
First let me describe the game.
You are the leader of a civilization that you choose( I “became” Bismark of Germany). The date starts at 3000 BC. The world at this time is unoccupied. You see a map of the world and have two people in your control. Using these people you can create cities in unoccupied lands.
Soon the number of people increases and you can build more cities thus forming a kingdom. You have workers who produce stuff. You can create warriors to help you fight and defend. You have within your control the country’s economy, the people, the resources, the armed units…
everything.And you build them these things yourself. You have an economy and a budget and you can allocate resources to different things: defence scientific research, culture etc. Based on your allocation your country progresses in a particular direction. So if you devote more money to scientific research you would be able to achieve scientific progress faster( so you might be able to discover Newton’s laws of motion sooner).
If you devote more money to culture you will progress culturally ( you may be able to discover music before the other civilizations).
And all these allocations and decisions on what to produce when are dynamic and you can change them at any stage of the game.
This game is a turn based game and at each turn the date increases. So you may start at 3000 BC( ancient age) but you will experience the middle age, the industrial age and the modern ages as well.
In my case the game went right up to 2010 AD. And at each age the things you can do are different. In the ancient age you can discover the wheel, in the medieval age you can discover stuff like gunpowder. In the modern age you may discover flight( and thus be able to build an airforce or missiles). And the nice thing is that the background music and the dress of the people changes as time advances. In the ancient age the music is the tribal “humba-ho” types. In the middle age the music turns to a western classical one etc.
There are several kinds of relationships possible between civilizations. You could declare war, you can sign trade or diplomatic alliances and you can also form military alliances against a third civilization. You can also spy on other civilizations to gather information and maps!
And there are several ways to win the game: you can become the most culturally advanced civilization or you can win scientifically( by being the first to do a space conquest) or you could conquer all the other civilizations and attain a military victory.
If you declare war on a country then the rest of the civilazations observe you and may form military alliances against you and make life difficult for you. Also when you fight a war the morale of the workers and the general population goes down. If the war continues for a long time the people of your country may revolt and production goes down. If production goes down then it becomes difficult to pay for new military troops making it difficult for you to fight.
And if you fight against a country the rest of the civilizations remember this bad behaviour for a long time( hundreds of years) and you may find it difficult to do trade with them or form any alliances with them. The distrust against you lingers for a long time.
So this is a very very detailed game and can keep you occupied for several hours(or days). And I was amazed to see how accurately it models the behaviour of civilizations and their leaders and the amount of experimentation that it lets the leader do.
Below are some things that I realized while playing this game.
All these things may seem obvious but there is a difference between knowing something and realizing it. The game make you realize these things by making you experience history.
1) I had always wondered why Napoleon had not fought and conquered more lands….Why did he have such a long gap between his wars?! And the reason is balance. It takes a large amount of money and resources to form and maintain an army. And in a war this cost increases manifold because defeated units have to be replaced and conquered territories have to be protected with a good number of units. And all this costs a lot of money and when a war happens the production goes down and the money in the treasury decreases. So a war becomes a self-limiting exercise… even the richest country cannot afford a long non-stop war. Thank God for the unbearable cost of war that we have peace.
2) As a country gets bigger it gets very difficult to manage it properly. You tend to rely on people to do what is expected of them and not bother about the nitty-gritties. But then people are people… there is corruption. ANd yes in the game there is corruption that people in cities indulge in making the economy look so bad. And managing corruption is a problem… it makes you take time off the main aim of yours.
3) It is very difficult to catch up with an advanced country( or civilization). A country is like a huge ship that takes a long time to turn around. If a country achieves someting before another then it takes a long time for the other to catch up. And the difference between an advanced civilization and a less advanced civilization tends to increase with time.
4) It is easier to “dominate” the world culturally or scientifically than through a military conquest. If other states do not form alliances then world domination by an armed conflict is possible. However if communication has evolved and other states are able to form diplomatic and military alliances with each other then it is better to not think about conquering the world and you should invest in culture or Science.
5) The leader or head of the state does not bother about the individual or his happiness. When I played the game my only focus was the domination of my state over others militarily. The individual people meant nothing. “Give up your self for the state” was my guiding principle when I pushed my troops into one battle after another. I wanted to impose my ambitions on the troops in the disguise of nationalism.
This game will appeal to anyone who has a love for history. You must play it once to get a sense of how civilizations are created and how difficult it is to manage them properly.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
(Tennyson- charge of the light brigade)
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;