The Greatest Game of Civilization V No One Played

There’s an incredibly dynamic game of Sid Meier’s Civilization V coming to a close that has grabbed the attention of thousands of fans and there’s not a single human player in it. Civilization subreddit regular "thenyanmaster" has put together an AI only world domination game pitting all 42 civs against each other. No one could have guessed what happened next both within the game and amongst fans. You can watch the massive campaign unfold here.

What started as an experiment caught the attention of Reddit and even the devs at Firaxis Games. Ed Beach, a designer on Civ V and lead designer on the Gods and Kings and Brave New World expansions, has been following the ongoing game religiously. Here’s what he had to say:

As the lead AI programmer for development of Civ V vanilla, I spent many weeks where my primary responsibility was running AI-only games and watching their progress, both on-screen and through our copious AI log files. So over the past five years, I’ve seen countless AI kingdoms expand, wage war, and then either flourish or perish. However I was never as bold as our Reddit community member “thenyanmaster.” I didn’t have the audacity to try and put all 42 of our civs into their true start locations and see how THAT would play out. It’s a brilliant idea and I’ve been following every episode religiously. Lots of questions remain. When will the first nukes start to fly? Who will get the first XCOM troopers? And how long will we have to go before we see an empire finally control the lion’s share of capitals? I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Inspired by thenyanmaster’s idea, the Civ reddit community has now started their own version of the game. We got in touch with thenyanmaster, also known as Jasper K, to learn more about this epic and influential experiment.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Jasper: I’m a 16 year old high school student living in the Northeast USA. I’m a big fan of strategy games, and Civilization is one of my favorites. The first game in the series I bought was Civ IV when I was 10 or 11. Later, I bought Civ V on steam just after Gods and Kings came out, and I have been enjoying it ever since.

Where did you come up with the idea to set up a massive AI-only 42 Civ world domination game?

Early in January I saw an interesting series gaining support on the Civ subreddit. It was DarkLava's AI-only game. He put 12 civs on a huge map and let them duke it out. I thought it would be cool to take his idea and take it to the next level. I decided to put 42 civs on the True Start Location Earth map, with only domination victory enabled, to see who would come out the victor. I’ve split the progress of the game into 15 parts so far and I don’t think it’s ending anytime soon.

When you started this game, what did you think was going to happen?

Honestly I wasn't sure. I knew I would see many wars and I thought a few favorites would break out, especially those civs that are known for being warmongers. As for the internet's response, I had no idea it was going to get this big.

And just how big has it gotten?

Well, the first part of the, as of right now, 15-part series has almost 50,000 views.

What actually happened once you started the game?

There has been some crazy events in the game, including success from civs that I thought would never do well due to their location (Korea, Poland, The Netherlands, Spain) and failures from others (The Huns, Babylon, China). One of the more interesting things that happened in the game is the story of Morocco. They were crippled in an early war but were not eliminated completely, as their enemies left the capital standing. Now in Part 15, Morocco still remains, with severely obsolete units and almost no land. However, they still exist, which is really interesting to me. As for the response to the series, I was completely blown away. So many more people are enjoying this and are being entertained by this than originally expected.

How have Civilization fans responded to your game?

The support has been overwhelming. When I posted last week about having trouble running the save, many, MANY people provided advice and even offered to take over the filming with their machine. The subreddit has made this series even greater than I could have, thanks to the analysis in the comment sections and even mini fanfictions about the events. People have made maps about the state of the game, and even a timelapse of the mini map has been created.

Who do you think is going to win?

The Shoshone. They have been top 3 in most of the demographics and have consistently shown they have what it takes to conquer the world.

What's next for you?

I plan to keep playing this game until my computer cannot handle it. After that, who knows? Maybe I'll start a new one, if people still are willing to view it.

How can other Civ fans set up a similar game?

For now this requires the use of a mod known as In Game Editor. You need to start a game normally with the mod, and use it to reveal the map. You will be able to see all AI troop movements and city captures. Then, spawn yourself a submarine in the ice pack at the north or south of the map, and delete your original warrior and settler. Then you can click next turn to advance the game and view all of the AI actions. Be warned, this is very taxing on your computer. Please do not attempt if your machine is not potent enough to handle it.

We'd like to thank Jasper "thenyanmaster" K. for taking the time to answer our questions. If you're looking for more information on the new AI-controlled game of Civilization V, consult the Civ subreddit FAQ here.