Civilization is a popular "4X"Long Runner game series. The original game was developed in 1991 by Sid Meier, and there have been four direct sequels, numerous expansion packs, and many spin-offs (Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Colonization, Civilization: Call to Power), as well as the much simplified Civilization Revolution for home consoles, the Nintendo DS and iPhone, and Civ World for Facebook. The game was originally inspired by a Board Game, and has since spawned two others. Many polls and lists of the best computer games ever developed have, at various times, listed several of the games in the series, often at #1.The general concept is that the player controls a civilization from the stone age through the present day into the space age. The first installments gave you two ways to win: conquering everyone, or sending a colony to Alpha Centauri. Later, three more conditions were added: get elected leader of the world by the United Nations, controlling a dominant chunk of the planet (which kind of renders obsolete the "conquer everyone" goal, which is probably why it was removed again later), or create a culture so influential that it engulfs everyone else's.All aspects of the civilization are under the control of the player, including exploration, technological advancement, expansion, material production, culture, religion, military development and deployment, foreign negotiations, and trade. The world was viewed from a 3/4 perspective until IV let you zoom in/out and move the camera around, and took place on square-shaped tiles until V moved to hex. The game's open-ended play, and the multiple settings (involving world size, terrain, opposing civilizations, multiple victory scenarios, game play speed and difficulty) mean that every game can be different from the previous one.It is (in)famous for leading to gameplay sessions that extend well past the player's original self-imposed deadline. So much, a joke 'Civilization Anonymous' website was made."Baba Yetu", the menu music from Civilization IVnote Technically, the re-arrangement of the piece for the album "Calling All Dawns.", became the first song from a video game to ever win a Grammy Award, which hopefully will spur the Grammy Awards into including an award for "interactive fiction" music scores and songs.
This game provides examples of:
Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Many, as a game which truly approximated all the headaches of running an Empire would only be interesting to professors and megalomaniacs.
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: In V, leaders that are losing a war tend to offer peace agreements in exchange for every city but their capital, all their resources for 30 turns, all their income for 30 turns, their entire treasury, and their wives and daughters as your concubines (well, OK, not that last one). Oh, and guess how hard it'll be to take that lone capital once the 30 turns are over. They do it to other AIs too, so the number of powerful nations on any given continent can drop quite quickly.
Mostly averted in IV, except that the AI negotiators know precisely what the relative values of various goods are, leading to weirdness such as knowing the value of trading world maps when they shouldn't know what's on yours.
In V, AI players frequently "covet your lands," despite having never visited your land and not knowing where it is or what resources it has.
One may, early in the game, witness the AI placing cities in almost dead tundra areas of no value, at the cost of better areas, and proceed to defend these places heavily. This is not the settler-happy AI function at work and it has nothing to do with the land's value at this time. The AI is aware of locations of all resources no matter the age. Later ages will reveal these resources to players with proper research. And that less than ideal location (or even an ideal location, the richness of the location in early ages is not the point here) ends up full of Oil, Coal and Aluminum nodes. The AI doesn't have the ability to harvest them yet, but will still value the areas that have them. If non-warmonger leaders are treating you vehemently for no good reason, either for your territory or borders, then it's a good guess that you're sitting on future riches.
Every game tracks your relationships with other civilizations using one, factoring in both opinions and existing treaties.
In V, each city state has one for each full-sized civ. It was refined in the Gods & Kings expansion to make more sense, with clear delineators for how pissed-off they were at you for doing something like trespassing.
Anachronism Stew: Somewhat unavoidable in a freeform game that features myriad historical civilizations, many of whom never existed in the same time/place as one another. Add religions and government styles to the mix and you have a recipe for oddness.
In the Gods & Kings expansion for V, militaristic city-states have the ability to give you unique units that you normally wouldn't have access to if you are their ally. It becomes quite bizarre though when you meet a city-state during the Ancient Era and they tell you that they know the secrets of, say, the Panzer. That said, they won't actually give you that kind of unit until you research the tech that would normally unlock it.
Ascended Extra: After several games, Austria (among others) finally makes its appearance as a playable civilization in the Gods & Kings expansion for V. Many City-States eventually became full Civilizations and were replaced as city-states to avoid confusion when the related DLC or expansion was released (Denmark conquering Copenhagen and having two cities with the name for example).
Ascended Fanboy: Aside from the first game, all the following games have been designed by people other than Sid, who has generally only acted as an overwatching executive producer. Most notable is V, in which the lead designer came from the modding community and is only around 25 years old.
Art Deco: V uses this aesthetic for its menus and user interface.
Awesome but Impractical: The Internet wonder from IV grants you any tech known by two other civilizations. This would be awesome but for the fact that it's at the very end of the tech tree for most players, meaning that either it'll be built after it's needed or the AI will get it first. However, there is a specific strategy that ignores all other endgame tech to get the Internet built early, making it actually useful.
The Space Elevator in IV gives you a big boost to spaceship construction. The problem with it is that it's expensive and requires a tech not needed for the spaceship (not to mention you have to build it in a city near the equator!) that you're usually better off building another spaceship part in its place.
The Great Colossus wonder in V used to be this. It had a nice benefit that was lost once a certain, rather early, technology was discovered by any player. It was later patched to have a slightly different effect and not become obsolete.
The Giant Death Robot in V comes so late that anyone aiming for a domination victory will probably get it before having an opportunity to build the GDR. It also requires valuable uranium, which could be used on the earlier and quicker-to-build nuclear options.
Benevolent Architecture: Benevolent starting location: if, in V, you're playing a faction that has a particular terrain gimmick, you're likely to spawn your first city in such a location (lots of forests for the Celts or the Iroquois, for example).
Being Good Sucks: Diplomacy is rather useless when playing I as, 95% of the time, the computer will threaten you with demands for free technology or money, even if their military power is non-existent. Without the Great Wall or the U.N., there is a very rare chance that they'll offer a peace treaty with you. (See Chronic Backstabbing Disorder below.)
Bilingual Bonus: Leaders in V speak in their native languages (mostly- see next bullet), but what they say usually doesn't exactly match the text box. Their actual lines tend to be either more poetic or more insulting than what is written out.
A less noteworthy example occurs in Civ IV where the units speak short phrases in their native language. However there is not as much of a bonus except for the odd idiom, most of them are direct translations of what the English and American units say.
Blood Knight: Back in the first game, when two civilizations shared each color, players often picked certain civs just to be sure they wouldn't ever encounter the more psychotic "twin" like the Aztecs or Zulu.
Blow Gun: In Revolution, one of the barbarian tribes you can encounter has a spokesman who threatens you with a blow gun.
Bold Explorer: Later games in the series often have a dedicated unit, usually called something like the Scout or the Explorer, whose purpose is to quickly and cheaply uncover unknown bits of the world without having to commit an often-expensive military unit to the same job.
Cap: As of V, strategic resources work this way. However, it doesn't drain your existing stockpiles, it just determines how many of a thing you can have at onceófor instance, if you have only four herds of horses, that's how many Horse Archers you can own simultaneously. This is not a great compromise, but it's way better than both III, when resources would run out at the most inconvenient time possible, and every other game, where they never ran out at all.
The implementation of resources in III didn't help with this. What you may expect is a Cap on how much the resource can be used before it disappears, and that, annoyingly, there's no counter for how much longer it will last. Actually, there is no Cap at all; each resource just has a small % chance of disappearing every turn, even if you just started using them last turn.
The icon on the Culture Bomb button in vanilla V (it was removed in the expansions) is a Cartoon Bomb.
Chaos Architecture: In I through IV, cities radically change their layouts over time as new buildings/wonders are added, often shifting around the existing wonders to make room. V makes it a little more realistic by only showing the city itself expanding without being close enough to see the actual buildings, and wonders remain in one place for the entire game.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Fairly common in V, and recently the dialogue was updated to show when the AI does it. Once you've been at war with them, you can expect another one just after the peace treaty expires, even if they've been acting friendly and forgiving. And if you liberate a capital for a defeated AI, they will often denounce you just a few turns later... although they are still forced to vote for you in an UN Vote.
The AI has particularly never taken into account industrial strength, wealth, and internal logistics as relevant to military affairs. Sure, you don't have a lot of strong units now, but in five turns, with your economy on a war footing... Suffice it to say, it's very easy to pull a "United States/Soviet Union in World War II" in this game.note Because both the US and USSR had relatively small militaries for their size before Japan/Germany attacked them, but were able to pull ahead quickly by tapping into their vast industrial capacity to pump out armaments like nobody's business.
In II the foreign adviser occasionally suggests the player do this to the other nations.
In addition to an extreme case of Video Game Time (it's possible for a battle's outcome to change due to a forest suddenly growing around the defenders), named characters (civilization leaders and Great People) are immortal, and change appearance to suit the era (except in V).
You may notice that over the course of a game, each turn slowly changes from taking around 100 years (during the BC period) to just 1 (around the 19th or 20th century). This means it can take 1000 years to build just one barracks early game, but a city only takes a few years to build every structure in the late game.
A Commander Is You: Starting with III, each faction can be loosely mapped to one or more of the Gimmick options, although some also fit the Spammer or Brute Force options - but see also Separate, But Identical.
Most games will have their "Normal" difficulty give the human players and the AI equal advantages. Not even close.
In V, civ leaders with high Deceptive ratings can literally lie to you. For example, a leader's status might claim that they're Friendly when they're really about to declare war on you.
The Computer Shall Taunt You: If another civilization considers itself superior to you, they'll let you know it, and they can be quite smug and condescending.
Copy Protection: In the first game, there would be two instances in the early parts of the game where you had to look up a civilization advance in the manual. You were shown a picture of a random one, then given a large set of multiple-choice answers of which two advances were its direct prerequisites. (The in-game justification was that "A usurper claims you are not the rightful king!") If you were wrong, you lost all the military units you had outside of your cities.
Ironically, all the advances were also documented in the in-game Civilopedia (but you couldn't check it as you were being asked), and even if you didn't read that, the answers could often be worked out logically anyway. It would ask you things like "Which advance requires knowledge of Steam Engine and Bridge Building?" Uh... could it be railroad? Ya think?
Cosmetic Award: Improving your palace in the original Civilization, your throne room in II. and your castle in III was awesome, but never had any no impact on gameplay. The gimmick was dropped in IV and V.
The Cover Changes The Meaning: In V, every leader has a theme based on a well known folk tune from his or her respective culture ("America The Beautiful" for Washington, "I Vow To Thee My Country" for Elizabeth I, etc.) There are two arrangements for each tune - one for when you are at peace with the civ and one for wartime. The wartime tunes often change a decidedly pleasant and uplifting tune into something sinister.
Crapsack World: One player kept a game going for ten years as an experiment. He discovered, rather disturbingly, that the game seems to just naturally descend into a dystopia nightmare if it goes on long enough.
Creator Cameo: Sid himself appears in every game except V as an advisor.
Critical Existence Failure: Mostly played straight, but some versions of the game avert this by reducing the movement points and combat power of heavily damaged units. In V, which averts it for most civs, it's actually the Japanese civilization's unique perk — their units don't get reduced stats for being damaged.
Crossover: The Brave New World expansion for V features the XCOM Squad, an upgraded Paratrooper that can use their Skyrangers to move up to 40 hexes in one turnnote Paratroopers can only move 9 hexes per turn and have plasma weaponry that gives them a chance against the Giant Death Robot.
Cultured Badass/War for Fun and Profit: The Honor social policy tree in V after the 1.4.X patch. Adopting it would give a culture bonus similar to what Montezuma's special ability gives (and stacks with the former's ability, doubling the culture output) and finishing it would allow you to earn money for killing enemy units, making War for Fun and Profit a viable tactic for fighting oriented Civs like Germany, Japan, the Aztecs and the like.
Culture Chop Suey: To emphasize how they're not supposed to be any one specific race, the narrator and his son in the opening cinematic of V live in Mongol gers decorated with West African instruments and shields and wear Celtic/Arabic clothing, and the narrator is voiced by a British actor.
It's even worse (or better) due to the inclusion of the "heal instantly" promotion: units gain experience from taking damage and surviving, so if one has a high enough defense, gets reduced to one HP, and gains a level, they can be back to full strength immediately the next turn. In other words, attacking them only makes them stronger.
The Gods & Kings expansion has lowered the effect to only heal up to 50 HP (5 HP in the vanilla system). It also made cities quite a bit sturdier, with defensive buildings increasing the cities max health in addition to their combat rating.
Damage Over Time: In II, helicopters received minor damage for every turn they spent in midair — this was intended to simulate their limited fuel reserves without requiring them to return to base every time. Later games removed this.
Darker and Edgier: In-game, the modern/contemporary era in IV has an noticeably darker atmosphere, the soundtrack selection coming across as more brooding and ominous if not outright apocalyptic compared to the previous time periods. This is chiefly because the music selection comes entirely from the Minimalist music of John Coolidge Adams (b. 1947). Minimalism has an emphasis on the repetitive; this can go several directions, and Adams prefers to go for "hauntingly beautiful."
Damn You, Muscle Memory: V has a pretty bad one as the start of the game. In IV, you would select "Play Now", choose your options (civilization, map, etc), and start the game. In V, selecting "Play Now" takes you directly to the initial loading screen without giving a chance to change the options, perplexing given that most players would want to take a second to confirm their settings before starting a game that takes many hours to complete, unless they're "re-rolling" a new map.
Defeat Means Friendship: In the Gods & Kings expansion for Civ V, all civs get access to the Privateer (the Dutch get the Sea Beggar instead), which has a chance of recruiting any naval unit it defeats.
In the fan-made NiGHTS mod (no relation to that NiGHTS), every civ can recruit barbarians with any unit.
Death from Above: Comes in many flavors, most commonly bombers and nuclear strikes.
In II, the hit point system allowed units to be overwhelmed by enough less powerful ones, though the resource costs would usually make doing this an impractical option.
In IV, due to how reduced Hit Points also reduce combat strength, it is relatively common for two or three low tech units to gang up on and defeat high tech units. This, however, is arguably superior to previous versions in which a single die roll determined the outcome of each battle.
In V, every unit has 10 hit points. A stronger unit will lose less HP and inflict more, but every encounter between two melee units will take at least 1 HP from both units involved. Ranged attacks also do at least 1 HP of damage, and they don't injure the attacker. Long story short, five Ancient-era archers with the "logistics" promotion (which allows them to attack twice) are guaranteed to take down even the Giant Death Robot if they attack first.
This is fixed with the Gods & Kings expansion, in which units have 100 HP and damage values are adjusted to fit the new scale. It's still possible to do so, though certainly not quite to the same degree as before.
City sieges in any game can sometimes turn into this, especially if they have a lot of defensive buildings and/or a strong garrison.
Deadpan Snarker: V's Civilopedia points out some of the more complicated and absurd parts of history that it goes over for certain entries, and is by no means above poking more fun at them if it feels warranted.
By way of example, its entry for Fascism reads:
This form of government was quite popular in certain states in Central Europe during the last century but other states didn't much like it, and it was ultimately abandoned after some unpleasantness.
Some of the leader dialogue can get pretty snarky. Especially when they are declaring war.
Gandhi: I have just been informed that a large number of our soldiers have entered your territory. I strongly recommend a campaign of passive resistance as the best way to defeat them.
Brennus and the Celts are demoted from a playable faction in IV to being AI-only barbarians in Revolution, and then brought back (under Boudicca) with the Gods & Kings expansion for V.
The Babylonians, a mainstay of the first three games (and one of the easiest civilizations for new players to start with, given their religious and scientific bonuses) are not featured in IV until the Beyond the Sword expansion. In V, they are only made available through DLC.
Dichter And Denker: Germany under Frederick in IV is "philosophical" and "creative", while Austria under Maria Theresa in V fits this trope even more.
Difficult, But Awesome:Aiming for the Domination or Conquest victory fits into this bill in many of the games. Invading other people's cities and annexing them (or Rape, Pillage, and Burn or, in V, making puppet states out of them) fits the bill. It's fun to conquer every single city, but it requires a lot of micromanagement and strategy with your units. You're also going to have to deal with a lot of unhappiness due to overpopulation, angry citizens from occupied cities and city-states, and having diplomatic relations completely cut off and every civilization declare war on you for your war-mongering attitude. This is why "military based civilizations" (i.e. Mongols, Aztecs, Huns, and the Japanese) are considered to be high-risk/high-reward type of civilization.
Disc One Nuke: Many units are superbly strong when you first get them, but are eventually outclassed as technology continues. In III for example, the Swordsman boasts 3 attack and 2 defense and is the pinnacle of Ancient Times military technology, but once you get to the Middle Ages, Knights can outspeed them, Longbowmen outdamage them, Pikemen can stand up to them, and Swordsmen can't upgrade into more powerful units. You can also of course rush to a technology with intent to get a leg up on opponents with a new unit they aren't prepared to deal with, but of course that won't last.
Dystopia: It's possible to turn your Civ into one. Or the entire world, as evidenced by one player who played the same world for the past ten years, resulting in a world that chillingly resembles Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Gods & Kings added several Wonders, two of which, the Leaning and CN towers, can be spotted on the cover of V long before Gods & Kings was announced.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The original game had no worker unit, settlers did that job. Aircraft were units you moved around the map - make sure you get them back to a city next turn or they crash! Your civilization had no borders, just cities - that wasn't until III. Zones of control - The game was built to be incredibly picky about where you could put a unit in relation to an enemy.
Easy Communication: All of your soldiers and cities can be instantly ordered to do anything, even in the ages before radio.
Easy Logistics: Troops can "heal" (replenish their numbers) regardless of how far away they are from your civilization, and V takes this a step further with the "instant heal" promotion. Incidentally, the same game has a Logistics promotion, which allows ranged siege units to attack twice in one turn.
However, healing takes a lot longer outside of friendly territory. Land units only heal at half the rate, ships and embarked units can't heal at all outside of either the "Instant Heal" or "Supply" promotions.
Elvis Lives: The King usually stops by for a cameo in each game.
In II he's an adviser!
In IV he's the icon representing the Great Artist in the Modern Era (even when the artist's name is William Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso!)
Encyclopedia Exposita: The Civilopedia, which contains just about everything you need to know about the game's structures, units, technologies, terrain and resources, with a smattering of Actual History scattered throughout.
Everyone Is Bi: Leaders who flirt with the player at high relation do so regardless of the gender of the leader selected by the player. Catherine the Great has been particularly notorious of this throughout the series, but in V this was taken Up to Eleven:
Averted with Harald Bluetooth, who will make passes at and take off his helmet for female rulers, but not men.
Evil Laugh: The military adviser in II has a decent one.
Evil Is Easy: Just don't engage in Diplomacy with other nations. EVER. It's certainly better than getting inconveniently betrayed or having to give them your technology and money. (See Chronic Backstabbing Disorder above.)
An Emissary from the _ wishes to speak with you. Will you receive him? Reject.
A lot of the diplomacy actions in IV lean in this direction, as you'll be presented with a request that will inevitably make either the requester or a third party angry. Next turn, that other party will make a similar demand in reverse. The price of neutrality (if you don't want to choose sides) is to be hated by nearly everyone.
Also happens in V to a certain extent. Your 'friends' will request spare luxury resources and gold on a regular basis, without giving a blasted thing back. Although agreeing will improve relations a bit, they can get pretty greedy. But if you decline even once, they stop asking forever and it's a permanent diplomatic penalty. And if you make a request yourself, they will almost always decline and mark it as a penalty anyway, apparently because they are a bunch of jerkasses...
Gods & Kings thankfully toned this down. Requests have a fairly lasting impact on relation, and they don't get mad if you decline. They also aren't quite as greedy with gold requests anymore either.
Gods & Kings continues this, especially with Theodora of the Byzantines and her bed-couch-chair-thing. Justified in this example, as Theodora was originally a prostitute (and according to the historian Procopius, she was a particularly 'active' one at that).
The Egyptian herald from II.
Cleopatra in the DS port of Revolution constantly makes flirty gestures (if the player's on good terms with her, at least).
There is an actual government type called Fundamentalism in II, and a Theocracy civic in IV.
V has several "Social Policies", of which one can have either Piety or Rationalism. You are forever barred from the other, likely for this reason. No longer the case in Brave New World, however.
The AI in Gods & Kings tends to act like this when spreading religion. If they have their own religion and you try to spread your religion in one of their cities, they get angry, slap you with a diplomatic penalty and tell you to send your missionaries somewhere else. (You can choose to ignore their warning, which will lead to more serious diplomatic repercussions.) However, they're completely okay with sending their Great Prophets and Missionaries to convert your holy city to their religion.
If one of your cities is converted to another civilization's, you can ask them to stop sending missionaries to your cities, and depending on the AI's feelings toward you, they may comply. (For a while, at least.)
In III. Maps may be randomly generated, but the Persians can look forward to starting near the Zulu and Romans every time, the Chinese and Japanese can do the same, and the French seem to always start near a supply of furs.
Happens by default in V, but you can turn it off when starting a custom game.
Gang Up on the Human: IV had an "always war" (and an "always peace") option in specific game setup. It was hard fighting all the other civs off on higher difficulties, but it was the only way to play against AIs without being nagged and hassled by diplomacy screens. This was dropped in V.
Note that "Always War," like the One-City Challenge, is quasi-Ascended Fanon: both were relatively common Self Imposed Challenges within the Civ community in the earlier incarnations of the game. It's still possible to play "Always War," but the game doesn't "officially" recognize it.
Gender Bender: In II, Leonardo's Workshop automatically upgrades all your Diplomat units to Spy units. The Diplomat is depicted as a little man in formal wear, the Spy as a Femme Fatale in a Little Black Dress. Happens again in IV, as pre-industrial era spies, men in black robes, transform into women in skin-tight catsuits upon reaching the industrial era.
In IV, it's actually a case of Sweet Polly Oliver, since upon being captured, the "male" spies still sound female.
Gender Flip: All great people in IV are represented by male units, though a significant number of them are actually women. Among other things, this gives Joan of Arc quite an impressive beard.
Genre Savvy: Artificial Brilliance and Artificial Stupidity fluctuate, but this does happen. In some games, if you ask for a Right of Passage/Open Borders agreement to move about another faction's territory peacefully, and use it as a cover to move in military units and declare war on them, when you try to negotiate Right of Passage/Open Borders with other factions they may reply to the effect of "oh no, we heard about what you did to the <civilization>".
Geo Effects: All types of terrain give various offensive and/or defensive bonuses to units attacking to or defending from them. Furthermore, all types of terrain produce specific amounts of Food, Gold and Production, which can be altered with "Improvements" such as farms, watermills, railroads, etc.
V's hex system now includes actual line of sight, and ranged units will need a clear shot at their target. If a hill, forest or mountain is one hex between the target and the unit, no dice. An exception is that a unit on a hill can shoot over a forest or hill, but not over a forest on a hill. Units with the "indirect fire" promotion (which is free for modern ranged units) skip all of these effects can shoot any target in range, as long as the player can see it.
Cannons (duh). Also, catapults and various other forms of artillery. Generally portrayed as a powerful offensive or bombardment unit with little to no defensive capabilities whatsoever, which make them easy to capture if left undefended by another military unit.
This is averted in II, where artillery is the strongest offensive unit and decent defensively. II doesn't have any unit capture, however.
In V, archers, catapults and other ranged units can now fire from further away than in front of the enemy's faces (usually leading in previous games to getting smacked down without an escort on the same tile). A necessary change as they're still as fragile as ever and units can't share spaces. Also in V, ranged units take less damage from other ranged units.
Global Currency: Undifferentiated gold (which is still used before you research "currency" and gain the ability to trade it with other players). This "gold" in an abstract representation of each civ's buying power. Strangely enough, in IV you can use the United Nations to enact a single global currency, boosting trade. This is probably because modeling currency exchange rates is well beyond the scope of the game's economic system.
Global Warming: Better watch that pollution, or your cities will sink! More recent games have backed off on this and will instead occasionally alter a terrain square to an inferior type, such as grasslands to deserts.
Gondor Calls for Aid: You may or may not be able to get your supposed allies to fight your enemies with you, but in V, allied City-States will also declare war on your enemy with you. They won't send their armies too far, but they'll cut off all trade with your enemy, and one Order social policy/ideological tenet will have militaristic City-States donate units to you much more often.
In the other direction, when a city state is under attack, it may quest you to secretly gift them units which will give you a good bit of influence with them. Fridge Logic in that you can "secretly" gift units that only your civ can make.
In V, sometimes when you defeat a civilization, their leader will congratulate you on your victory.
In III, if you win by Conquest, Domination, or Time, the other leaders will insult you and demand a rematch, but if you win by culture, they all love you and sing your praises for besting them.
Gunboat Diplomacy: Permeates through all the games. V Brave New World has it by name as a tier-3 Autocracy Tenet that makes city states become more friendly with you for each turn that they're afraid of your military might.
Hard-Coded Hostility: Barbarians: no civilization can have diplomatic relations with them, and they are hostile to every civilization.
Have a Gay Old Time: In II, when you changed governments, the newspaper would announce, "[Your Citizens] Are Revolting!" To which all the AI players' citizens would go, "Well, duh."
Hollywood History: There has not been a single game where Roman Legionaries have been properly depicted.
Hopeless War: Often, when you get close to winning, the tiny, incredibly outdated and outnumbered AI will attack you just as a last gesture of defiance. In V, they may even acknowledge the futility of the gesture, but just say that they hope to buy a little more time.
Human Resources: In IV, the Slavery civic allows the player to sacrifice population to rush production.
Humans Are White: With the exception of special units, all units in III and IV are white. However, the Beyond the Sword expansion for IV added different skin sets for different civilizations (Mali has black swordsmen etc).
Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: V's Giant Death Robot. Also the Assault Mech (Juggernaut in some translations) in the "Next War" scenario included in the Beyond The Sword expansion for IV.
Instant-Win Condition: Once an ending condition is reached, that civ wins, no matter how the actual situation looks at the time. There could be a massive column of tanks ready to flatten an enemy's capital, but if their spaceship reaches Alpha Centauri, they win.
Or, more egregiously, by cultural victory. In IV for example, you win instantly for getting your third city up to legendary culture, regardless of whether it's in the process of being destroyed.
Civilization V even mentions that if you want a Domination Victory, you'd better hop to it, since even if you've crushed every city around and brought their Capital to their last few health-points, they still win if they managed to launch their spaceship or completed the Utopia Project, even if half their city is burning to the ground.
Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: In the player's favor, for once. In earlier games, if you were alone in a land that was separated from the rest of a world by a narrow one-tile isthmus (which was common, due to the random fractal maps) you could put one single unit on it and thus keep the computer from settling "your" area unless it wanted to declare war. IV and V avert this by allowing friendly units to pass friendly units, and allowing units to embark to shallow water early in the game with the right tech.
The United Nations in II actually makes it easier to wage war on nations that aren't willing to fight.
In V, a diplomatic victory can be attained by buying off city states with gold, and getting enough science to build the UN (prior to Brave New World) also helps. Conquest of other civ's cities is a good way to get more of both of these. Fully conquering full grown civs is a further help as it decreases the votes needed to win.
Brave New World goes back to letting you self-vote, but the system is more complex in general.
When you're playing as Japan in I (SNES version) and II and you complete the 'Manhattan Project' wonder in Hiroshima:
The world's first Nuclear Test has taken place in Hiroshima!
A quote from V when you get one of the better military techs of the game (rifling) - "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it".
In addition to that, the Minutemen of Civilization V and the Redcoats of Civilization IV are depicted as musketmen and riflemen respectively, when the inverse was true in real life.
Item Amplifier: Some of the Wonders that can be built will amplify the effects of any city improvements you've also built (such as the Sistine Chapel which doubles the effects of any cathedrals you've built), or amplify unit abilities (Magellan's Expedition increasing ship mobility).
Added on to in V before Brave New World: Napoleon gets free culture per turn until Steam Power is discovered.
Jerkass: Any civilization that is Hostile towards the player in V. They will spare no moment at going on with long-winded insults at the player and just being an outright jerk.
I Warned You: When at war, and the AI civ offers you a peace treaty - often you will lose a unit immediately after turning that offer down.
Just One More Level: Some games directly invoke this by prompting the player with the option "Just one more turn" after they win the game or when they try to quit.
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: You can play this game far into the future as you like, rack up a bunch of "Future Techs", discover Fusion Power and journey into the stars. However, weapons technology will never pass the modern day era. Can be averted with player-made modifications or official scenarios, such as "Next War" and "Final Frontier" in the Beyond the Sword expansion for IV.
Know When to Fold 'Em: In contrast to the incredibly stubborn AI of past games (IV in particular), the AI in V won't hesitate to surrender if things are going particularly badly for them. It's even smart enough to change its mind about whether or not to declare war on you. If you spy an army approaching your border and get warned by a spy that Genghis Khan is planning an invasion, marching your own army up to the border can actually make the AI reconsider and pull back.
One big change that V introduced was City-States, countries with just one city who won't expand beyond the limits of that city. They're usually named after capitals or other well known cities of nations not yet present (like Geneva and Zurich from Switzerland). You could straight-up conquer them if they've got territory you want, but it's often to your benefit to do favors for them and stay on their good side, since they'll give you extra faith, happiness, food, culture or military units, as well as access to their luxury and strategic resources, and will declare war against anyone you are at war with. Either way, they add a complicating factor that wasn't seen before. There's also fun subversion to this; if they are at war with a proper civ and you donate enough units, they can conquer a city of that civ, and if the city is a former capital or has a wonder, they won't have the option to raze and will keep it instead.
There's also an achievement for beating the game with just one city. Typically, the only victory you can get this way is a cultural victory, but if you play your cards right, that one city will be all you need.
Most Italian cities and provinces were independent rivals that often warred with each other; it wasn't until relatively recently in history that Italy was one united nation. So a large number of city-states in Civilization V are Italian.
Let's You and Him Fight: In IV, the AI loves to manipulate you into fighting its enemies for it. It goes like this: A friendly AI civ declares war on an enemy. They invite you to join the war, and then once you're involved and have moved all your troops in, they'll quickly sign a peace treaty with the enemy, leaving you to keep fighting alone, weakening you both and making you look like a Jerk Ass.
Of course, if you don't agree to join in the war with your 'ally', it's a diplomatic penalty. And they'll hardly ever help you if you ask them for aid, except when you are so strong that you could probably win the war by yourself anyway. It's even possible for your former ally to turn sour on you, and think of you as a "warmongering menace to the world!" when the only war you ever declared was the one they asked you to.
Lighter and Softer: Revolution is this in a nutshell. V meanwhile tries bringing in a relatively more uplifting tone compared to IV.
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Combat-based factions like the Huns and Songhai get major bonuses in the early game, though their special abilities become less useful as the game progresses. Production, science, and culture based factions typically start off much weaker, but their bonuses and unique units often stay useful longer. The Iroquois, for example, is crippled in the early game (as clearing forest tiles will ruin their late-game production and destroy their "roads"), but once they unlock the Lumber Mill and the Longhouse, their production skyrockets to a level that few civilizations can equal.
Loads and Loads of Characters: The first game had 14 different civilizations, though only up to 7 were ever on the map at any one time. This has only increased with each sequel; as of Civilization V: Brave New World, there are currently 43 playable civs.
The original game took a looong time to build worlds. The "In the beginning..." sequence was included to help disguise this.
A fairly common complaint in V between turns, especially in the later eras on larger maps with all but the most powerful home PCs (at least at the time of release). One trick is switching to the strategic view, which has simpler graphics, before ending each turn. A patch in June 2012 (making way for the Gods & Kings expansion) has some people saying this has gotten worse, although a small number have said the patch has actually shortened the wait.
Lost Technology: In V, Ancient Ruins have a chance of giving a military unit a free upgrade. In the early game, you can get Archers, Spearmen, and even Swordsmen before researching them normally. It takes a turn for the absurd, however, when Ancient Ruins that have been sitting untouched since the beginning of the game can upgrade your Musketmen to Infantry, or your Tank to a Modern Armor. It's less likely to happen now since an official patch has made it impossible for a previously upgraded unit to receive this bonus.
This was slightly more or less (depending on how you look at it) pronounced in the earlier games, which did not have Civilization-specific units. Thus, your military typically consisted of something of an Anachronism Stew.
Magically-Binding Contract: In the earlier games of the series, the players were free to break treaties as they wished. Later on, some treaties were given a minimum duration - for example, after signing a peace treaty in IV, it is actually impossible to declare war against the same player for 10 turns.
On rare occasions, when declaring war, Alexander the Great will look the player in the eye and ask, "You didn't really think I was going for a cultural victory, did you?" Hannibal does this too sometimes.
Some of the reasons why another Civ isn't on good terms with you dip into this. From V: "They think we are trying to win the game in a manner similar to theirs, and they don't like it."
In IV, the AI will never trade away any techs required to build spaceship parts, because "we'd rather win the game, thank you very much."
Mega Corp.: You can found them in the Beyond the Sword expansion for IV.
Million Mook March: Large standing armies come at a cost not building anything else and support costs and thus not all that viable for non-pure military. They suddenly do become viable as soon as you access to "flight" and build an airport in a dedicated military city. This allows you to instantly transport a unit as soon as it is completed to any of your cities (or allied cities if needed) while the production center may not have any buildings all that useful to build at that point in the game.
V offers a few Policies that make a small army worthwhile, and the combat system generally favors small armies of high-tech units. However, you can have as many planes in the same city as you want (prior to the October 2013 patch), which invokes this trope if you happen to have enough oil or aluminum to support a large air force. (This bit makes the Arabs—who get double oil production—excellent for players who enjoy Death from Above.)
The Missionary: Present in games which model religion, allowing you to be more proactive about their spread if you wish.
Morale Mechanic: Morale translates into loyalty of the populace and thus improves productivity of cities. In Civilization, there are also "Morale" promotions for units, which simply improves unit strength. In IV, it's just a normal promotion choice. In V, it's given to units trained in the city that has created that civ's Heroic Epic.
Also inverted in V; military units lose combat strength based on how unhappy your empire is.
Moral Event Horizon: Invoked with City States in V, which will declare permanent war on any civ that has conquered too many nearby city states.
Multiple Endings: Multiple win conditions, actually. The first two games had the warlike method (conquer every other civilization) or the peaceful method (send a spaceship to another planet). Later games introduced diplomatic, cultural, or domination-based victory conditions.
Domination was taken out, and Revolution added Economic: Have 200,000 gold and build the World Bank wonder. Sadly this was not included in V.
The diplomatic victory has changed quite a bit. In IV, it was about getting enough votes to become supreme leader (good luck doing this in a multiplayer game). In V, it's mostly financial. City states make requests from time to time, and if conquered by another civ, you can liberate them to guarantee a vote from them, but in practice, most influence with city states is simply bought with gold, especially if other players are competing for diplomatic victory.
Gods & Kings added a lot more to City States, who can now have several requests active at a time and can be further influenced by Espionage (and Religion, with the right perk). Furthermore, civs can no longer vote for themselves. The AI will vote for whichever Civ they like best, so you can actually improve your chances by being nice to them.
Brave New World again changed things around for diplomatic victory. Civs can once again vote for themselves with all of their delegates. You get delegates from city state allies, and by getting the Globalization tech and then assigning diplomats instead of spies (and some bonus delegates to be gained in other ways). If you get enough delegates, you can win with them on the next world leader vote.
Munchkin: Some AIs, especially in V, play to win. For example, if they have nukes and you're about to win by peaceful means, they are likely to declare war and drop those nukes. But at least they don't exploit any bugs.
And they usually play to their strengths. Alexander for example will put his City-state relations bonus to good use by befriending as many as possible, even if he isn't going for a diplomatic victory.
My Rules Are Not Your Rules: When playing on the higher difficulty levels in V, the AI doesn't actually get smarter but instead relies on simply ignoring the game rules that limit the player's own success to do as it pleases.
The main way of controlling the player's expansion is happiness. Playing on the Prince ("normal") difficulty, the AI only gets 60% of the unhappiness that the player does, and gets more happiness to start and an extra point of happiness for each luxury. This roughly translates to allowing an AI Civ to be twice as large as a human one with the same level of happiness, on normal, the difficulty where "The AI receives no particular bonuses". The extra happiness the AI receives was toned down a bit in the Brave New World expansion.
In earlier games, it would simply decide "now's a good time to instantly build a wonder". Nowadays, the cheating is mostly relegated to numbers; a lot of them.
Higher difficulties also give the AI a pretty blatant starting boost, most notably giving it scouts to start with, and on the highest difficulty, another settler.
The Dreadnought and Juggernaut in the Next War scenario included with the Beyond the Sword expansion for IV.
Landship, in the case someone is lucky enough to discover Ancient Ruins with a Cavalry unit during the Renaissance era in V.
Narrator: In more recent games, they've had most of their descriptive text be read aloud, following in the footsteps of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Though in this case, they only have one person doing the job:
Leonard Nimoy in IV. Though Nimoy wasn't hired for the expansion packs, making the new narration (by Sid Meier) rather jarring.
W. Morgan Sheppard in V. Unlike Nimoy, he did come back for the expansions, and even does the voice-work for the marketing featurettes in Brave New World.
Naval Blockade: You can do this in some of the games. It prevents the blockaded city from working water tiles or gaining income from trade routes.
In V, Culture and Science are at loggerheads for how they progress. You get more science per turn based directly on your population, while cultural progression (and therefore, the cultural victory) become harder the more spread-out your empire is. One compromise is to conquer rival cities and puppet them rather than annexing them, since you will get the science bonus from their population but not the hit to cultural progression.
The civics and similar mechanics in previous games generally had an advantage and a drawback. The social policies in V avert it, as they were designed not to have drawbacks, besides the opportunity cost of not choosing the other available policies.
In the Brave New World expansion for V, trading with other countries gets you some nice profits, but if you're more advanced than them, it'll also leak science points to them as their traders pick up a few tricks from traveling to your country. Also, trade caravans can be attacked.
Generally speaking, trade routes always benefit both countries, though the owner gets most of the gold.
Building Settlers to found new cities and expand your civ's potential for long-term growth has always involved slowing or stopping your cities' natural population growth in some fashion or another.
What happens in IV if you try to stay neutral in a war between two other countries. Your points with both countries will go down.
Generally in effect for V especially when a very rare request is made by the AI for you to denounce another civ. If you don't do it, they will rant at you in perfect spirit with the trope and possibly even declare war.
In II, a Spy planting a nuclear device causes all civilizations to go at war against the perpetrator.
In V, city-states become permanent enemies to a civilization which keeps attacking and conquering city-states.
New Tech Is Not Cheap: IV uses this as part of their approach to the series' traditional tech tree. While you don't have to research all of the prerequisites for certain technologies, doing so reduces the research costs.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: In Revolution, granting certain upgrades gives the unit a title, so you can wind up with unit called a "Ninja Samurai Knight Army." And it is just as awesome as the name would suggest.
No Blood for Phlebotinum: If you don't have a resource and can't get it through trade or peaceful expansion, the only options left are either do without it or resort to violence.
The Beyond the Sword expansion for IV introduced the "Greed" and "Corporate Expansion" quests, which codify this.
In I, Democracy will completely eliminate Corruption in all of your cities but your people will get very pissy (2 Unhappy People) for every military unit that you move outside its home city. Democracy will also prevent you from breaking or refusing peace treaties with other factions, meaning that you can only fight when they break the peace or by never engaging in diplomacy.
Non-Entity General: Both played straight for the player's leader (although you can choose your leader from among all the available ones, AI players react to you the same way regardless), and averted by AI leaders, some of whom are much more trigger-happy than others (we're looking at you, Isabella), and all of whom have personalized and sometimes entertaining interactions. For instance, if presented with a deal she doesn't like, Catherine the Great may slap "the player", complete with Star Trek Shake, while if your relations are good, she may favor you with a flirtatious wink. Tick off Sumerian badass Gilgamesh, and he'll grab your throat, bring you up close for a Death Glare, then hurl you back.
No Range Like Point-Blank Range: In V, late-game you gain access to machine gun/bazooka teams. They count as ranged weapons, but can only fire one tile away unless they have the extra range promotion, which is the same as melee units. Since it's technically a ranged attack, however, they don't take any damage in return, unlike melee units, who always take some regardless.
Because of this, one of the best-known player mods to II is the so-called "Fascism Patch", which, in addition to doing a great many other things (bugfixes, better-looking units and so on) replaces the Fundamentalism government type with Fascism and gives the player appropriate units including the Stormtrooper (elite infantry) and the Dive Bomber.
And there's the World War II scenario in II; it has scripted AI, so the Axis and Allies will repeat events that happened in real life in the first few turns, like the Axis occupying Holland.
On the other hand, the only built-in scenario for III dealing with World War II (in the Conquests expansion) was the Pacific Theatre.
The "World War II: Road to War" mod included with the Beyond the Sword expansion for IV solves this problem by including two versions of each scenario — one with Hitler, and one in which he is replaced with Franz von Papen. The former is presumably taken out in countries where Nazi symbolism and direct references to the Third Reich are banned.
One of the new Wonders introduced by the Brave New World expansion for V is Prora, a giant vacation resort...built by the Nazis. It even requires a Civilization to follow Autocracy in order to build it.
The intro movie for V has a Arabic Chieftain explaining a dream of world domination to his son. For some reason, both speak with heavy English accents. Of course, since he dreams of his people being samurai, building the Great Pyramid, storming a castle, and being Norse invaders, the two are likely suppose to represent a generic vision of humanity rather than a specific civilization.
The "Next War" scenario in the Beyond The Sword expansion for IV features biological missiles. They can wipe out almost entire stacks of units, even when they're sufficiently fortified. Ironically, however, they can't affect cities, neither do they warrant a worldwide declaration of war on you when used, thanks to how the game's system works.
Obvious Beta: When V first came out, it had a lot of bugs and balance issues, routinely crashed to desktop for many machines, and had obtuse, sociopath AIs in an over-reaching effort to make them more like human players. Patches fixed many of the crashes, fan-made mods such as VEM took care of the balance issues and bugs (and much of VEM was later implemented into official patches), and the AI has found a balance between the above and the manipulable point-based relations of IV.
Any embarked unit is instantly killed by enemy naval units moving onto their tile, unless they have Defensive Embarkment. (No longer the case as of Gods and Kings)
Units stationed in cities are instantly killed if the city is captured or nuked.
Civilian units attacked in melee on land are either captured or killed instantly, depending on type.
One Stat to Rule Them All: Food and population growth is the highest stat value in the Civilization games, particularly in V. By having more population, you have more people working, more wealth being generated, and population growing. Not to mention, in V, several buildings (such as the Library) scales proportionally based on population. It's not uncommon for people to build 2-3 cities on one playthrough and win because of this (since building multiple cities in V with few people has higher unhappniess penalty than having few cities with lots of people).
Said true about it's relationship with Scientific Growth in V. By having more population growth, you also have more scientific growth being made as well. By having having fewer cities with more population, you're going to have a stronger technological advantage over other civilizations since having more cities means higher technological cost and more unhappiness. This is apparently one of the main reasons why putting heavy emphasis on science is important, since Artificial Stupidity causes the AI to suffer technological penalties for having more cities and instead are blessed with a a cheating economy so that they can put emphasis on building a lot of weak units while ignoring to properly build their own cities. It's usually better to have few, but strong units than trying to build as many units as possible.
Order Versus Chaos: Late-game, V has three mutually exclusive ideologies (expanded upon in Brave New World): Freedom (representing capitalism), Order (representing Communism) and the Omnicidal Neutral between the two, Autocracy (representing Fascism). Freedom empowers individuals, so it's got lots of abilities regarding specialists and Great People and wonders, while Order empowers the state, making it good for squeezing efficiency out of a huge industrial empire. Autocracy is about empowering the uncontested leader and pushing their civilization above all others, particularly through war, so it's got tons of military-related abilities.
Overt Rendezvous: In the intro to the Beyond The Sword expansion for IV, an image of Lincoln giving the Gettysburg address Match Cuts to his memorial, where two spies are passing along photos of Soviet missile sites.
A Party Also Known as an Orgy: Cities celebrating "We Love The King Day" can get a growth bonus, depending on the game. From I through III, it was only available to Democracies and Republics; other governments got production bonuses instead. In V, it's available for everyone.
Path of Greatest Resistance: This is very useful to determine the point of origin of an enemy (Barbarian or Civilized) whose camp/cities you haven't found yet.
Politically Correct History: As mentioned elsewhere on the page, the Civilopedia and leader descriptions desperately try to portray all civilizations in an entirely positive light. They glorify expansion without necessarily mentioning what that entailed (say, for the Spanish or Mongols), and gloss over some inequality. For instance, Korea's Joseon Dynasty is praised as intellectually and culturally enlightened, while not mentioning how conditions were for females.
Popular History: For the most part, only wonders and civs that are well ingrained in the public consciousness end up in the games (before mods and expansions, at least). Within a civ, their unique units\buildings\improvements are more often what the civ is famous for in real life, with less emphasis on what really helped the civ develop and compete.
The Power of Rock: Rock 'N Roll is a constructable Wonder of the World in IV. It even plays The Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll" during the movie. Thanks to the Tech Tree, it usually gets finished around the same time a Diplomatic Victory becomes possible. Since building it allows you to export "Hit Singles," you can build global good will by giving them away for free right before elections are held, thereby literally winning the game via The Power of Rock.
In Brave New World for V, Great Musicians in the modern era look like a rock band, and their power is to go into rival territory and overwhelm their culture with a huge boost to your influence. The ability to win with rock is even more direct than in IV: pressing the button to perform a concert can end the game then and there. Besides victory, rock can also be the tipping point that causes revolutions in other civs, which can lead to entire cities defecting to your side.
Scouts are early units excellent for exploring, mainly since they ignore most terrain movement penalties. This is nice as they can find "goody huts" or ancient ruins before other civilizations can... except when they get the "Your unit arms itself with weapons found in the ruins" event, which effectively changes the unit from a scout to an early combat unit, good in combat, but losing the movement bonus which was essentially the only reason to have the scout in the first place.
To the joy of everyone, V fixes this problem by having these huts upgrade scouts to archers that still have all existing scout abilities (ignore terrain cost, see farther, plus any scouting promotions it has earned). Fans have coined this unit the "scarcher", and it keeps these scouting abilities after it is upgraded through the ages, so even as a machine gunner it enjoys the scouting bonuses, while normal scouts cannot upgrade at all and thus become thoroughly obsolete for combat.
Sometimes in V, if you're using a Warrior for some quick exploration and they stop on some Ancient Ruins, they can turn into spearmen. Great for everyone else! Not so great if you're playing as The Huns, which replaces spearmen with battering rams as their unique unit, leaving you with a siege unit that can't attack other units or properly protect itself. You best get that ram back to your city so you can put it to better use, lest the barbarians come and smash it to bits.
Privateer: This is a powerful ship type introduced the Gods & Kings expansion for V. They can gain gold from attacking coastal cities from the start (other melee type ships need a promotion first), and have a good chance of converting a defeated enemy ship into one of your own. A pretty versatile vehicle for the golden age of piracy.
III had a less powerful version of the Privateer that functioned pretty much like any other warship, but you could use it to attack another civilization's ships even when not at war, and it appears "colorless" on the map so other civs don't know it's you that's attacking them. On the other hand, any civ can also attack those Privateers without repercussions.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Some leaders act this way in the dialogue, although their behaviour towards you may not be that honorable.
In the Warlords expansion for IV, any sufficiently powerful civ can make any sufficiently weak civ into their vassal state. If the vassal grows powerful enough (there are exact numbers), it can regain independence.
In V, you can't make an entire civ into one, but when you conquer an enemy city you have the option between annexing it (which simply makes it on of your civ's cities, but generates a lot of unhappiness until a courthouse is built) or making it a puppet (which gives all the science, culture, and gold it generates to your civ, but you cannot control its production, for either buildings or units). Puppeted towns are also automatically set to focus on gold production, making them fairly useless for any other purpose.
Pyramid Power: Throughout the series, The Pyramids have always been one of the available Wonders of the World, and they always grant a fairly impressive bonus to whoever builds them.
Introduced in the expansions for IV. A lot of them are just random things that affect improvements and tile output (mine collapses, tornados, striking a deposit of jade), while others can change your relationship with your neighbors, such as a politically-arranged marriage collapsing or a high-ranking intelligence agent defecting. Other Random Events depend on your government, such as your hereditary dynasty dying out or an election being too close to call and being settled by the courts, giving you an incentive to try out as many Civic combinations as possible.
V uses this for city state requests, especially when they ask for a certain resource or want another city state eliminated. The Vanilla Enhanced Mod for V adds events similar to IV.
Randomly Generated Levels: There's a selection of such maps; Pangaea, Continents, Archipelago, Fractal, etc. The randomness makes exploration an important part of the early game, to scout the shape and quality of the land and also to find your neighbors and, in V, natural wonders. Some games\add-ons have preset maps too.
Reality Subtext: The more turns that pass, the fewer "years" pass between turns. This is meant to represent how social and technological changes accelerated throughout history, but it also hilariously mimics the fact that as the game grinds on, it takes longer and longer for just one turn to pass as the map gets overgrown with empires and armies.
Redshirt Army: "Nationhood" allows you to draft military units, but they are less effective than ones built the normal way and cost population.
Ripped from the Headlines: The Gods & Kings expansion for V (released in 2012) includes several references to the "Mayan apocalypse" conspiracies, since the Maya were added as a playable civilisation.
Rock Beats Laser: Due to the behind-the-scenes dice rolls, you can have some truly bizarre outcomes, like the common meme among fans of a spearman beating a tank. Each game after the first altered the combat equations in various ways without actually removing the problem. Fundamentally, it's about units having attack and (in some versions) defense values that fail to take into account basic concepts like range. Therefore, the Random Number God will eventually allow the spearman to get lucky.
With the right combination of bonuses, it doesn't even need to be a lucky roll. In II, a veteran phalanx (+50% strength) in a mountain-top (x3 defence) city, with walls (x3 defence) would win more often than lose against anything less than a tank.
Further, there are some "auto win" situations, as in IV, where ships and aircraft in base/port are automatically destroyed when a land unit occupies their square. Yes, this means you can take out a squadron of stealth fighters and a fleet of battleships with a club-wielding warrior (presumably they bash them into nothing while on the ground/port).
V does this on water prior to the Gods & Kings expansion. Any embarked land unit can be instantly killed by any ship moving on them.
In IV, on the lower difficulties, you are guaranteed to win your first encounters with barbarians. If you haven't used up these "free wins", you can create a barbarian modern armour with World Builder and your warrior will defeat it.
In the first two games, aircraft were moveable units. Hence you had surreal things like a phalanx beating a bomber.
Save Scumming: Across all the games, it's disturbingly easy to abuse the save feature to get favorable battle outcomes or avoid negative randomly generated events. Some versions try to prevent this by saving the random number generator's seed along with the game, so you get the exact same outcomes after a reload unless you do things in a different order. This option can be turned off, however.
This is pretty much bound to happen in any game where one player runs away with the science race. What could be more satisfying than crushing enemy spearmen with Giant Death Robots?
This problem was noticeably worse before the concept of technological eras was further developed in III. In the first two games, one could climb disturbingly far up just one or two branches of the tech tree before finally having to go back and research, say, The Wheel.
In II and earlier, you didn't necessarily even have to go back and research it. You could trade for techs without having all the prerequisites for them, so if you had all the follow-on techs, and didn't need the specific units or abilities that a particular tech gave you (chariots, in the case of The Wheel in II), you could ignore it completely. Which could lead to hilarious exchanges with AI civs: "We notice that your puny civilization hasn't even discovered The Wheel. We'll gladly give it to you in exchange for the secret of the Automobile."
While tech trading was taken out of V, it is possible to get units that would logically need a technology you don't have. For example, you can make Chariot Archers without Archery, steam ships without Sailing, or gatling guns without Gunpowder.
Resources can work either way in III: India's elite unit, the War Elephant, can be built without access to ivory (represented as an elephant on the map). Samurai require both horses and iron despite not being mounted units. Saltpeter is needed to build Musketmen but not Riflemen (the notion being that industrial production supplants native saltpeter as a source); however, on the other hand, a civilization that has oil but not coal still cannot build railroads (diesel locomotives apparently aren't a thing in III's 'verse).
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: IV has a demographics section, and most of it is alright. However, the size in square miles is ridiculously low compared to what it should be. For instance, in an Earth map that ships with Beyond the Sword, you can own all of China, Mongolia, Korea, Siberia and Afghanistan, and it'll give you 441,000 square miles. In real life, that's only the size of Colombia. Population amounts shown in the demographics tend to be fairly low as well.
Scoring Points: Each civ in a game is scored based on how many wonders, techs, and tiles of land they have. This doesn't always signify who has the upper-hand, but it's an ok indication of a civ's development, and decides the winner if the game goes too long. In V, the Future Tech, which used to give a powerful bonus each time it was researched in the earlier games, only provides points.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: If you're rich enough you can do most anything, including paying off faction leaders for technology, cities and resources, and rushing to complete city improvements in a single turn when normally they would take dozens.
Second Place Is for Losers: In V, if your capital has been seized by storm and every other city you founded razed to the ground, you're treated to a picture of the crumbling remains of your once-proud empire, now crushed under the sands of time, and a message regarding your loss. If you lead a prosperous empire through the millennia but then get peacefully edged-out by someone else, you get the same picture and message.
In II, the AI can also produce military units at will, units with multiple abilitiesnote For example, they did not need a Diplomat to bribe your military unit; any regular unit could do it, stealth unitsnote For example, unlike run-of-the-mill units, stealth bombers and trade convoys could move past enemies without attacking; the AI will give this ability to ALL their units, and teleportation nukesnote If you had any of the 8 spaces around a city without some sort of unit on it, the AI could magically create a NUKE and teleport it to one of these squares and send it into the heart of the city regardless of special anti-nuke SDI units in the city. This could happen at the standard difficulty as well, but to a much smaller degree.
Diplomacy-wise in V, they can tell you to move your units away from their borders, giving you the option to declare war immediately, or promise to never declare. Picking the latter and then declaring war before the promise expires hurts relations with every other civ.
Trade deals are a pile of Heads I Win, Tails You Lose in favor of the computers, though it's not quite as bad in V with its expansions. If other civs dislike you, they will give you very grudging prices for anything you try to trade them; and if you're friends with them, they'll ask for a gift of gold or a spare resource. And if they have something you need!... Well! Hope you enjoy being rejected and accused of "making an arrogant demand" for the next 100 turns or so.
As of Gods and Kings the AI will usually suggest renewing expired treaties like open borders. Which is nice, except they will sometimes tell you that they no longer like the original treaty and demand you add more on your end.
Self-Imposed Challenge: So many people enjoyed limiting themselves to just one city that it has become an option under advanced setup since IV.
Sequel Escalation: Inverted with V, in its vanilla, pre-expansion form anyway: no religion, no units stacked on top of each other (except for one military and one nonmilitary unit), a less-arcane Social Policies system to replace the Civics, only one tile improvement allowed on a tile at a time (plus roads). The intent was to clear out a lot of the cruft that had built up in the series. Religion and more complex features were added back in by the expansions, but even then, they tended to be easier to grasp than they were in IV.
Separate, But Identical: In full force in the first two games, aside from a few minor differences in AI personalities. Installments after III moved away from this by giving unique units and buildings to each civilization and different traits to each leader, but all civs still draw from the same Tech Tree (with all that that implies).
Set Bonus: Exaggerated Trope. The new "theming bonuses" from Brave New World essentially work this way. Culture Victories now depend on Tourism, which requires the creation of Great Works of Media and/or the excavation of historical artifacts. Put them in various museum buildings (mostly world wonders, but also Museums), people come visit... voila, Tourism. But each building can get a bonus depending on whether the stuff in it is 1) from different nations and/or 2) from different time periods, and each building has specific criteria. Which you can only learn of after you've built them.
Every game is guaranteed to contain at least one reference to the king.
III will ask for confirmation when you change government types: "You say you want a revolution?" Your choices are "you know it's gonna be alright," and "you can count me out!"
If another leader in IV is pleased with a trade, they may respond with "Did I ever tell you that you're my hero? You're everything I wish that I could be." Or, "You are the wind beneath my wings, <player>!".
Also in IV, if you've been at war with someone else for a while, one of the "War Weariness" descriptions is "WAR... What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!"
In V the music for the Helsinki city-state is "Ievan Polkka" by Loituma, a Finnish song best known from the Leek Spin meme.
One of the top tier units you can get is the XCOM Squad.
Shown Their Work: Rhye's and Fall of Civilization, a historical simulator for the entire world, is ridiculously detailed, with pretty much every tile named after a city that really exists there, and they change according to the controlling Civ. It's a Game Mod, not something made by the developers, although one that usually gets included as a bonus in expansion packs for the game.
Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Nukes (the missiles, not the nuclear devices from II) do far less damage to the city than they realistically should, often only destroying several buildings and knocking off a point or two of population besides the fallout. Before Brave New World, they could never completely destroy a city.
Smart Bomb: Not a recommended move, but since Nukes have an area effect of wiping out (or heavily decimating) all units within one square of ground zero, one might use one in desperation if facing multiple stacks of units in proximity to each other, closing in on your territory and outnumbering and outgunning whatever units you have readily available for defense. The drawbacks being huge amounts of land pollution (also on all those squares) which you may need to clean up, and ensuring retaliation in kind (including by third parties disgusted by your use of nukes) if a nuclear war isn't already underway.
Strongly Worded Letter: In V, denouncements are more than this as they send a signal to other civs that they will likely have an ally in war against the denounced civ. There are a lot of other dialogues that do count as this though; if someone bullies a city state you are protecting, you can either forgive them, which lowers your influence with the city state, or say "you will pay for this", which keeps the city state happy, does not count as a denouncement against the bully, and basically does nothing except peeve the bully for a little while. Other actions allow you to respond "you will pay for this in time" if you want, but it has little if any effect.
Gods & Kings makes denouncements even more meaningful, as they undo certain diplomatic actions like embassies and declarations of friendship.
Suicidal Overconfidence: Zigzagged with the AI. On the one hand, if you've got a standing army of dozens gun-toting infantry and the AI is still using horseback warriors and archers, they're probably not going to be stupid enough to declare war on you. On the other hand, if you declare war on them and predictably steamroll their civilization off the map, they are stupid enough to not throw themselves at your feet and beg for mercy, and will still snort and posture when you approach for a treaty.
Sometimes, in V, the AI will actually admit how woefully outmatched they are, but note that they're just trying to slow you down when you're about to win, often by cultural victory.
Suspiciously Small Army: A "unit" can be anything from one ship or aircraft to 10 soldiers, depending on the game. Most players, however, seem to regard this as a non-issue, regarding land and air units to represent larger groupings (what seems to be ten Riflemen is actually a whole division of rifles; what seems to be one Jet Fighter is actually a whole wing of jets). For naval units, early units like Galleys seem to be groupings, but it would actually make sense for later units to be individual ships (those things are big and expensive enough, and tend to be built in smaller numbers anyway). (See Space Compression above.)
Sweet Polly Oliver: In the Beyond The Sword expansion for IV the ordinary spy at earlier ages is a woman disguised as a shepherd with a fake beard. When the age advances she drops the act and dons a Spy Catsuit.
Take That: After your score is computed, it shows where you rank among a list of historical leaders. At the top are people like Augustus Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Hammurabi, Charlemagne, and Winston Churchill. At the very bottom? Dan Quayle. Quayle's "The future will be better tomorrow." quote is also read by Nimoy in IV when you research your first Future Tech. V has a less but still somewhat silly out-of-context Bushism spoken dramatically by Morgan Sheppard: "I think we agree, the past is over."
Tech Tree: Generally containing upwards of 80 technologies. Of course, it does take 6,000 years to climb to the top of it. You start out in the stone age, and eventually wind up with rockets!
In V, Culture was reworked as a secondary Tech Tree with "Social Policies". If you generate enough culture, you can activate a new ability for your civ. It's balanced out by the fact that having lots of cities makes the upgrade threshold take longer to reach; in V, research is accomplished directly by having a large population, so a sprawling empire will likely have more technology and less culture. The Cultural Victory prior to Brave New World is accomplished when you completely max out five social reform tracks and build a Wonder, so Cultural Victory is usually accomplished by having a smaller but very well-developed nation.
The Theme Park Version: Revolution is definitely the "kiddie introductory Civilization game." Not that it's bad, per se, but it's very simplified and over-exaggerated, especially in art style and presentation.
Deity difficulty in IV. "Muahahahaha! Good luck, sucker!"
Sometimes, in V, your chief rival may declare war on you if he (a) doesn't like you and (b) thinks he has no other way to win, even if the outcome is gloomy. The dialogue box effectively says, "This is gonna suck...but I need to attack you!"
Too Dumb to Live: The AI is fond of insulting your "puny little empire" even if you own half the world and are poised to run over them with a legion of tanks. "Now I have a warrior! Ho ho ho!"
Sometimes the AI will still treat you like that after getting their ass handed to them in a previous war. Including eventually declaring war on you again and losing just as badly.
Even better, sometimes the AI will declare war on you from that state, only to dash their army to pieces against your technological superiority. At this point they frantically sue for peace, bribing you with gold, resources and even cities. To end a war that they started.
In V, if the computer believes it has the upper hand in a war through some nebulous logic that apparently reaches this conclusion even if you are rapidly blitzkrieging through their cities, it will offer you a peace treaty in exchange of essentially everything you own (money, resources, cities) except for your capital. To end a war you are winning. Perhaps itís betting on your hand twitching and clicking Accept by accident.
The Topic of Cancer: In the original game, developing a cure for cancer gave you one happy citizen in every single city, no strings attached.
Understatement: Historical background of Fascism (as described by V): "This form of government was quite popular with certainstates in Central Europe during the last century but other states didn't much like it, and it was ultimately abandoned after someunpleasantness."
Unreliable Narrator: The Civilopedia in IV claims under "Police State" credits it with helping Stalin not lose World War 2, while Stalin's entry says only Russia's sheer size and winter prevented a quick loss. (Of course, would you expect any less from Stalin?)
Unsafe Haven: III contains an unused video from the security advisor, telling you not to worry because the fortress is impenetrable.
Unstable Equilibrium: Present in all the games. An empire that manages to secure good territory early on can research faster and produce more units, making it easier for them to expand even further. The endgame is typically resolved between two or three strong empires while the weaker ones have already been wiped out or reduced to barely influential lapdogs with practically zero chance of winning.
Useless Useful Skill: Some of the Civics in IV were notorious for being worthless — most notably Environmentalism, which granted a bonus for a resource (forests and jungles) that you'd more than likely eradicated by the time you became able to use it. Environmetalism became far more powerful in the Beyond the Sword expansion.
In addition to allowing (read: encouraging) you to use slavery, Civilization also entices you to wipe out entire nations. If you manage to subjugate or genocide every race but your own, the game declares you a winner.
Some civilizations (particularly in V) are specifically geared towards dog-kicking, like Montezuma, who gains culture by sacrificing captured enemies, or Genghis Khan, who is designed to hunt down and destroy City-States. Also, the "Autocracy" policy track is specifically modeled after conquering the world by force and all of its policies are named after unfortunate things associated with fascism.
Variable Player Goals: Any civilization can achieve any of the win conditions, but some civs have particular traits that make achieving certain goals easier than others.
The first three games had a corruption mechanic which affected individual cities, affected by government type, empire size, and the particular city's distance from the capital. This is supposed to represent a sprawling empire's tendency to be plagued by expensive red tape, inefficiency, and graft.
IV replaces the corruption mechanic with city maintenance costs and Civics upkeep, largely representing the same thing. There's also a Bureaucracy Civic, which provides a significant boost to your civ's capital (and no other city at all).
V just gave up and made everything global; the empire itself is the basic unit of measure, instead of individual cities:
If you build a Colosseum, it adds +X smileys to your empire's Happiness total. This makes war a lot easier, since it eliminates the catch-22 of newly-conquered citizens who are too furious to build things that would un-furiize them. However, it does cause some Fridge Logic when you realize that angry citizens in newly-conquered, say, Shanghai are being pacified by the goings-on of a theater in New York.
However, it was later changed so that basic happiness buildings can't provide more happiness than there are people in that city.
On the other hand, other mechanics, particularly Culture, slant the game towards empires with a small number of well-developed cities. The more towns you have, the more Culture points each new policy requires; this slows down anyone who's going for a Culture Victory or who just wants the bonuses policies provide. Plus, the AI will get hostile if you encroach on (what they perceive to be) their territory.
National Wonders: Every civilization gets to build one, but they require that each city under your control build one of a specific structure first (Everyone needs a Library to build a National College in your capital, for example) and the more cities you have, the harder it is to build the national wonder.
Velvet Revolution: Using the culture mechanic allows you to bloodlessly take over rival cities by simply overwhelming them. Earlier Civ games had this as you expanding your border to envelop rival cities. Brave New World for V allows this to happen when you put so much cultural pressure on a rival ideology that their citizens revolt ("We hate being Communists! We're joining Autocracy instead!"). An (upcoming) balance patch will also allow you to conquer enemy cities by force but leave their population completely untouched and receptive to their new owners when you take them, if your culture is dominant over theirs.
Veteran Unit: Unit experience mechanics have been present in all iterations of the game to date. The first two simply had a binary distinction between "veteran" and "non-veteran"; later games have added increasingly more elaborate implementations.
Video Game Remake: Not any of the games themselves, but various scenarios from the games are updated versions of earlier scenarios—for instance, the "Mongol Conquests" DLC scenario from V is an improved version of the one in the Warlords expansion for IV.
I is actually a remake, of the original board game. Sort of. The board game had a fixed map, with predefined city locations and resources (and was an accounting nightmare as each city had to have resources collected and recorded manually). The computer adaption allowed for map generation, free city placement, and to have the computer do the bookkeeping for you.
Video Game Time: The years pass by in a strange way in Civilization: In the beginning, a turn ranges from 50 years to a couple of centuries, depending on the game speed, but slows down as the years go by. Even in later ages, unit speeds are ridiculously slow (a year to fly from one city to another!). However, it's an Acceptable Break from Reality in a game of this scope. To give you an idea, you can have a unit of cavalry serving you for over 2000 years.
While it isn't ridiculous for a unit to exist for 2000 years (with the soldiers in it being replaced), all the games have immortal leaders who lead their civilization through 7000 years of history.
Violation of Common Sense: You have the option of building a city on a Forest, Jungle, Swamp, Mountain (not possible past I), Tundra, or Arctic tile, which opens up a large avenue of really bone-headed and logic-defying possibilities.
In the case of Forest and Jungle tiles, the thick density of trees would severely cut down on the amount of building space for infrastructure. Swamps, hands down, are awful for laying a foundation for permanent, long-term structures. And it is very impractical and would take far too much labor to build a settlement at a mountain, inside or outside.
In V, founding a city on these tiles instantly removes those terrain effects, even if you don't have the necessary technology yet. You even get the production bonus you'd normally get from removing a forest.
War Elephants: In II, they become available when you discover Polytheism, for some reason. In III, they're India's special unit, replacing knights. In IV, they become available when you discover Construction, but you also need access to Ivory.
Three separate versions show up as special units in V; the standard War Elephant replacing the Chariot Archer for India, Naresuan's Elephant replacing Siam's Knight, and African Forest Elephant replacing Carthage's Horseman.
One of the wonders in I is Cure For Cancer, a monument that bestows +1 happiness.
In III and IV, every Future Tech increases the civilization's health and happiness. If you get enough Future Tech your citizens will have perfect health and a massive grin.
War for Fun and Profit: Something that the A.I. civilizations invoke in V. They will declare war against another civilization that they have military parity with, then rather than pour all their resources into beating down that civ, they will just fight it to a stalemate. After getting bored of this, it will then propose a peace treaty, with terms highly favorable to themselves and costly to the other civilization. In doing so, it gets to loose some of the military units it has been paying maintenance on, and get some nice access to luxury and strategic resources, and a fair amount of money to boot.
This can even happen without any enemy unit ever entering your borders.
Water Source Tampering: Poisoning a city's water supply is a potential espionage action in II. Succeeding reduces the city's population.
It's also possible in IV, and pulling it off slaps them with a massive health penalty for a time.
What the Hell, Player?: Try to perform certain illegal actions in the game, and you'll get some smart-aleck game notifications.
Trying to build a city at sea:
"It may surprise you to learn that cities cannot be built at sea."
Trying to airlift naval units:
"Ships cannot be airlifted, silly."
In a slightly more serious vein, in V you get this reaction from other civilizations (and City-States) if you're too aggressive towards City-States. This wouldn't be as big a deal if it wasn't for the complete lack of a way to repair your reputation once a City-State declares war on you. They decide you're a jerk, and that's the end of it.
On the other hand, a civilization has to go out of its way in terms of being a jackass for this to happen. Unless you're the Mongols, and you're supposed to be a terror to city-states. (The Mongols in V get a combat bonus to fighting city-states.)
Won the War, Lost the Peace: Taking cities through conquest is certainly rewarding, but it can result in large happiness and gold deficits depending on the situation. In V - Brave New World, all cities under a player's control, including puppets, each make techs cost a little more science to unlock, resulting in a tough choice between keeping a small city without much potential, or burning it to the ground for a temporary but large happiness hit. Too much unhappiness, and rebels appear and your own forces become less effective. Domination victory requires having a serious majority of all the land or taking every other capital city; running an epilogue with happy citizenry after winning this way can be difficult in its own right.
Zeppelins from Another World: Zeppelins are unlocked by the late-mid-game Physics tech, while heavier than air ships are unlocked later via Flight tech (not that far after Physics, but some turns' worth). Depending on the game's tech progress, these might not go out of style for a long time. Unit wise, Airships can only bomb ground and sea units for a bit of damage, which is helpful given how strong garrisoned units can be, though it's not much damage (only able to reduce them to 80% of their max HP), and have no counters (short of taking the city they are based in) before Flight (and if only you have that...).
A much more true-to-the-trope example is the "Empire of the Smoky Skies" scenario included with the Gods & Kings expansion for V. This takes place in a Steampunk-world filled with giant landships, sparking tesla-coils and, yes, Zeppelins. They basically take over the role of combat helicopters in the vanilla game, including their utility as anti-tank (or anti-huge-steampowered-monstrosity, as it were) weapons, and a vulnerability to fighter-planes (in this case, Red Baron-esque double-deckers). The upgraded version is even an Airborne Aircraft Carrier!