Civilization Series Part I: Civilization III

“I never learned how to tune a harp, or play upon a lute; but I know how to raise a small and inconsiderable city to glory and greatness.”
– Themistocles

The Basics
Game Name Civilization 3
ESRB Rating – E for Everyone
Suggested Age – Middle School and up
Genre Turn Based Strategy
Educational Values – Planning, Critical Thinking, Diplomacy, Resource Management, Land Use, National Council for Geographic Education standards 1, 11 through 16
Applicable School Subjects – Geography, Government, English, Economics, World History, US History
Price – $10 – $15 USD
Platform – PC
Where to buy, Steam
Would we buy it? – Yes! We have been avid players of every Civilization game. They are fun, dynamic, and absorbing.

These cities need roads between them.A large empire.

About the Genre
Civ3 is a Turn Based Strategy game. That means players can only take action during their turn, as opposed to a Real Time Strategy games where decisions and movements of all players are simultaneous. In a turn based game, the player makes all of their own decisions, movements, and orders then clicks “Next Turn” to give all the other players a chance to make their own decisions. Turn based games can often times be very lengthy.

About the Game
Rome was not built in a day. The same applies to the game Civ3. The player begins the game as a nomadic tribe who are ready to scout the world and establish a city. Upon building their first city, the player must make decisions about what to build in the city, how to defend it, and where to expand.  Expansion takes place by creating settlers, and building additional cities. As a civilization grows, it’s border expands and eventually runs up against civilizations. This can create competition and/or cooperation between players and computer controlled players. Depending on the gamer’s choice, the two civilizations can be trading partners, allies, or enemies.

As their civilization expands, the player can focus on building up their cities or creating military units to attack rivals or defend against them. The trade off is that as military units are built, city growth is slower and less productive, but fewer units make a civilization vulnerable to attack. In addition to civic improvements: granaries, walls, banks, etc. there is also the option of building a Wonder of the World. Constructing these wonders take a great deal of time and resources, but they improve your entire civilization once completed.

To win, one must build a powerful civilization that balances technology, industry, economics, and military over several eras in history. Victories can be achieved by several conditions including military conquest, diplomatic unity, or scientific discovery.

The In Game Encyclopedia has a great deal to teach.

What the Game Teaches Us
Cause and effect is one of the most important concepts in the game.  A player who does not expand quickly may find themselves surrounded by competing empires, leaving them unable to expand or support his empire. Hopefully the player will learn from this mistake and expanded rapidly in future rounds. This example shows the how Civ3 provides the opportunity to learn about the concepts of land use and critical thinking.

There is a growing amount of literature coming about the effectiveness of simulations in the classroom. They teach concepts holistically, rather than in separate units. Civ3 is no exception, as the game progresses, the player learns about economics, science, industry and government. If the player only focuses on one aspect of the game they risk making their  civilization vulnerable. Instead of teaching by discrete units (english, math, physics), Civ 3 forces the gamer to consider multiple factors at once.

Civ3 covers a wide variety of learning topics in the history and geography. Using the National Council for Geographic Education as a standard, Civ3 covers standards 1, and 11-16 which deal mainly with human patterns, systems, and influence on the environment. Many teachers have already used Civ3 in the classroom to educate students on World History, US History, and World Geography. My students have an even greater appreciation for geography after playing this game, as they realize how much terrain, environment, and shape matter in empire building.

For my geography classes, I have made several simple scenarios to teach the significance of geography in civilization planning. In one scenario, students have to connect all cities by road and then evaluate the significance of trade and resources for civilizations.  To do this, they need to evaluate terrain, distance, water features, etc, and plan around each of these obstacles. Having my students go through these simulations teaches them more about practical geography than a simple lecture.

General Feelings on the Game
Civ3 is extremely fun. There are dozens of variables that make each round unique and provide a high level of re-playability. This game still has followers nearly 10 years after its release. We still love this game, and love playing it. The multiplayer aspect of the game, while slow, was very well designed and works well for extended games with friends and family. Kevin even plays ongoing games with his students and they love it.

We recommend Civ3 for middle school students and up.  While this is not an overtly violent game, there are aspects of war and ….that might not be suitable for younger audiences.  Also, some of the concepts may be too advanced for elementary school levels.

Civ3 will help you think strategically, it will teach you about history, and it will give you a good time. Play it with your kids, your friends, or just play it by yourself. But check out Civ3.

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