10 players share stories from their funniest, strangest Civilization campaigns

PC gamers share their best Civilization stories: twisted tales of subterfuge, ironic nukes and victory by concert.

I first fell in love with Civilization after I was destroyed. 

On a giant, fractal map I cultivated a tiny, city-state-like paradise on a remote island, completely (and happily) cut off from the rest in the world. Turn after turn, I invested heavy into culture without building anything as much as a spearman to fortify the small force you spawn in with. My isolationist utopia was cranking towards victory, until one day I was discovered by Otto Von Bismarck and the rest of his German aircraft carriers.

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He declared war on me, and an incomprehensibly huge German fleet emerged from the enveloping fog of war. My island, stocked with all the world’s wonders and great people of nearly every designation, was shelled to death in about three turns. Just brutal, remorseless technocratic natural selection, and I was laughing so hard as all my hard work burned to the ground.

That’s the great thing about Civilization. History is brutish and unfair, but it can also be hilarious. With simple graphics and complex systems, Sid Meier's flagship franchise has given us so many vivid stories—grudges against famous world leaders, tales of terrible slides into despotism, classic cases of AI gone haywire—all from the privacy of our own bedrooms. With the release of Civilization 6, I reached out to some of Civilization’s oldest fans and asked them to tell me about their favorite memory on the tiles. 

Bless our proxy states

I was playing as Alexander/Greece in Civilization 5. I was hidden behind a huge mountain range that cut my empire off from the rest of the continent. Mongolia was one of three other civs just East of these mountains. There was a small valley that opened up my territory to the rest of the landmass, but it was controlled by a city-state. As the eras went by, I watch Genghis Khan kill every other Civ one by one as I hide behind this huge mountain range. Mongolia took over the entire continent by the industrial era. He then declared war on the city-state controlling the pass through the mountains. I gifted that little city-state at least a dozen units to help keep them alive during their war against Mongolia. I eventually hit the point where I had no military unit left because I was fighting a proxy war to keep Mongolia from controlling this pass.

The city-state eventually fell to Mongolia only a few turns before I won a science victory. I remember feeling remorse as I left the planet thinking about the city-state that kept me safe. I imaged the spaceship with the name of the city-state written on the front of it; Toronto. — YouTuber Drew Durnil

The reverse colonization

I've told this story on my channel before but it's the first one that pops into my mind anytime I think of fun Civ games. It was back in the Civilization 2 days and I started out all alone on a decent-sized island. With no need to put any focus into military I could go all in on tech and economy and thought I was doing really well, I could just imagine myself, once I learned to build caravels and could visit the other islands, marching through their primitive civilizations with my mighty knights. Once that day came I loaded up a couple caravels with knights (and a worker to improve my soon to be lands) and sailed off to discover across the sea. Turns out, all but one other civ was on one massive continent. With the tech sharing of the old Civ games they far surpassed me, and now that they knew of me, and how weak I was, my knights were no match for their tanks and artillery and I was quickly destroyed.  — YouTuber Nookrium

Image via MyAbandonware.

Nuclear irony

I was playing Civilization 2 as America, and was going for a domination victory. Japan was the other powerful Civilization remaining in the game. I had been at war with them for some time. The war was dragging on and I did not yet have nuclear weapons.

While I was transporting units across the ocean to hopefully close them out, they dropped a nuke on Washington.

In 1945.

The random irony killed me. I only wish I had captured as screenshot. — Reddit user JackFunk

The false flag

 My best story would have to be from Civ IV. I was playing a multiplayer game with two friends, and as you may be aware, Civ IV features a multitude of random events that may happen throughout the game, most of which we were unfamiliar with. One such event popped up around the renaissance era—stating that the dread pirate Blackbeard was ravaging the seas.Not long after, I happened to chance upon his ship... and easily sunk it with my own Frigates. That was a little underwhelming, I thought. But then the most unscrupulous idea occurred to me—my friends were still quite unaware that I'd made the villain walk the plank, and in Civ IV, you can build Privateers, which hide their nationality from other players. You can also rename units... see where I'm going with this?

And so, a great fleet of a dozen "Blackbeards" set sail from my ports, aiming straight for my "allied" friends, and started plundering their coasts, sinking their transports carrying settlers to newly discovered continents and blockading their ports. And they bought the ruse hook, lure and sinker! For maybe 30 turns our Skype voice chat was filled with rage at the horrible computer-controlled corsair wrecking their stuff, as I struggled to contain my giggles. — Reddit user TakFloyd

Image via Steam user Zigzagzigal

Attrition

This was in Civ V. I was playing as Harald Bluetooth and spawned on the coast. Immediately to the south of me, Montezuma and the Aztecs popped up. Even if I was sharing a continent with the Aztecs, that wouldn't have been TOO bad, except the diplomatic tooltip told me that Montezuma had "coveted lands that I currently own." Which probably meant my seaport.

This should have been a red flag, telling me to just say "fuck it" and restart the game. But I didn't do that.

Cut to a few turns later (still in the Ancient Era), and suddenly, out of the blue, the Aztecs declare war on me with the intent to invade me. My Viking army is constantly being zerg rushed by Aztec Jaguar warriors and other troops. I beat them back every time, even with a military as pitiful as mine. Despite this, Montezuma refuses to make peace with me. Ever.

It is now the medieval era. Both the Vikings (myself) and the Aztecs have been fighting against each other in a fruitless war for 2000 years. There can be no peace. Only constant, senseless bloodshed conducted in the name of both Odin and Quetzalcoatl. My people face a constant Aztec onslaught, wondering each turn whether they will survive for much longer. No matter how many of his troops I kill, Montezuma always comes back with more jaguars, spearmen, and siege engines. He refuses to negotiate peace. Ever. This war can end only with the destruction of one side, and it probably won't be his. — Reddit user Willie5000

Attrition

 I remember playing Civ 3, going for a science victory and generally minding my own business. I didn't really explore all that much and considered myself safe, since my small island nation was isolated and defended by mech infantry at the time when everyone else was fielding muskets.Well, lo and behold, I get [a declaration of war] by the Zulu. I pretty much scoff at the notion and proceed as usual, waiting for them to send some sacrificial units that I can easily blow to kingdom come. A turn passes, then several, then I forget about the war entirely and switch back to building stuff.

And then I lose the goddamn game.

How, you ask? Well, my small island nation had some fog of war in the far left corner. Nothing there but empty tundra, so who cares. Apparently, Mr. Shaka used that spot as a disembarkation point for what I can only assume were an INFINITE number of cavalry. I just sat there and stared at the never-ending line of cavalry units running at my cities and getting slaughtered, over and over and over again, occasionally chipping some hp from the defenders until they won. I counted at least 30 units before I lost track. I still don’t know how many he actually had.

To this day, the very first thought in my head when somebody mentions Civilization, is that damn sound loop of: “pa-tup pa-tup, pa-tup pa-tup, blam blam, boom, bleaaargh, flop.” — Reddit user Grumpy_Hedgehog 

The Siberian war machine

When I was a kid I broke my leg playing hockey. I was going to be laid up all summer and I was really bummed about it. My brother surprised me by buying me Civilization 1. On my first game I was playing as America on Earth. I took over all of the US and Canada and thought I was doing just oh-so-great. I had a solid garrison of archers and spearmen in every city, tons of tile improvements, etc. Suddenly a civ I haven't met unloads about four dozen freakin tanks onto the shores of New York, and THIS GUY and his epic 8-bit music pops up telling me I'm about to die.

Turns out that if left alone, the Civ 1 Russia on Earth could leverage Siberia like crazy since it was all "forest" rather than ice or tundra tiles. So Stalin had many dozens of cities and tanks while everyone else is fielding knights. The red armies of Mother Russia overran my paltry forces in days and that music has forever after given me chills.

It was then that I knew I'd be hooked on this game series for life. Played every version, including Alpha Centauri, and I've loved them all. So far Civ 6 is as outstanding as I had hoped. — Reddit user JonesitUp

Mandatory fun

I was playing a ring map with some friends as Egypt.

I was basically wonder spamming (Egypt's unique ability lets them build wonders faster) and was getting close to a cultural victory. Ultimately it was me and one other guy playing the game, once the less competitive people dropped out.

I was something like 99% influential over him when I got a Great Musician. Normally you can send a GM into another Civ's lands, but I didn't have an open borders agreement with him. Knowing I was going for the culture win, he refused to make that deal for obvious reasons.So I did what any culturally enriched dictator would do—I declared war on him and held a CONCERT BY FORCE.

YOU WILL SIT AND YOU WILL FUCKING LISTEN TO THIS BEAUTIFUL MUSIC GERMANY

I won the game as a result and we died laughing in the process. RIP. — Reddit user Patientbearr

The Trojan horse

I was playing vanilla Civ 5 with Japan (me) China and France and some other civilization that I can remember.

So we were on this big continent, China made a bunch of cities so its territory took like 3/5 of the continent, France and I shared the last 2/5. France was above me and China was below me.

During the whole game I was trying to go in the pacifist route, going for a cultural or technological win so I had little to no army, so I tried my hardest to get China to be friends with me so it could protect me just in case. China was at the modern era when we were still in the Renaissance with France, and had a bunch of Helicopters, tanks and a lot of other units.

France declared war on me for some reason, probably wanted a bigger territory but thankfully China came to the rescue and absolutely destroyed the French, who only had its capital remaining. France offered a peace treaty to me alongside a bunch of gold per turn and stuff so of course, being the pacifist that I was, I accepted. China didn't, however, and asked me to open my borders so it could destroy the French civ. Once again I said yes.

So China moved all of its army in my border to get to the French civ and suddenly declared war on me. The AI used the fact that France was above me to trick me into letting its army in my border. I was amazed at how smart the AI was (or how stupid I was to trust China) and I got destroyed in one turn. — Reddit user RobbertFruit

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