The subject of Civ-lite games has been brought up here many times before so I’m not looking to necessarily cover any new ground here. Really this is just a collection of my thoughts before going to bed after playing another of the completely soulless attempts at the genre recently. I’ve decided what many of these games really lack is that great randomizer of history. Something that neither dice, cards, auctions, nor a fucking rondel can mimic. The human factor. Which as many here already know is often completely absent in modern board game design. However, there are certainly some notable exceptions in this genre, which I’ll get to further down.
If you can draw a card that causes a plague to spread then you could probably have bought hospitals to prevent it. If you can roll a die to discover you’re being invaded or there’s a revolt then you probably also had the opportunity to strengthen your military. If you suddenly need to increase your population then maybe you also need to place more “workers” in the fields to feed it. Everything can be balanced or accounted for and usually is nowadays. For some people that’s a good thing as they want to build up their perfect little civilization with no pesky surprises. Shit, some of these games you don’t even play on the same board as everyone else or there’s no board at all and you just place your stuff in front of you so you have complete control over everything that’s happening. Maybe this feeds some kind of god complex, that’s for others to debate. Regardless it sure doesn’t represent the way civilizations actually built up. Humans did that through interacting with each other.
Yes, interaction. That favored word of F:ATties everywhere. Like I said there are some notable exceptions. I personally feel that Settlers Of Catan and Mare Nostrum are among them. Both would be difficult, if not impossible, to win without trading/interacting with the other human beings at the table. There are no rules or game mechanics in Catan that can force someone to accept a trade even if it’s in their own best interest. That is where the human factor comes in. That is something you can’t plan for or buy some building that lets you ignore it. You just have to deal with it. So I guess what I'm getting at here is that any Civ-lite game that doesn't have a human element isn't worth playing, imo.