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 IV*
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.
Action Girl: Boudica all the way. Unlike the other rulers (male or female), she is not at all interested in looking pretty; she's interested in looking like she could gut you like a fish. She's usually fondling a sword and is wearing very utilitarian, unflattering clothing.
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: In Civ 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.
Likewise, the minute you get two sources of a luxury in Civ5, a bunch of other leaders will offer you a Declaration of Friendship. Their sole motivation is to ask you to loan them that second luxury source for free. (A canny player will turn down the Declaration itself, as accepting Friendship but then denying a request is a hit to your reputation in the vanilla version of the game.)
One patch of Civ V fixed this considerably, with the devs listing it as "Add additional sanity checks for deceptive attacks.", meaning that they will no longer start wars that they can't possibly win. They also are more negotiable in peace treaties now.
The All-Seeing A.I.: Used completely straight in earlier versions. Mostly averted in Civilization 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 Civilization V, AI players frequently "covet your lands," despite having never visited your land and not knowing where it is.
Though that last one could be explained away with the AI having some sort of "Manifest Destiny" thing going and is simply upset with you for merely expanding to that area first.
Alliance Meter: 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.
One of the oddest examples of this is the Oxford University National Wonder in Civ IV. The significance of Oxford, and the reason it's one of the world's leading establishments today is that it was one of the first University set up in the world (at least in any format we'd vaguely recognise today). However, in the game, you need to have built at least 6 other Universities to construct it. Also, since it is a National Wonder, every nation can have one. At the same time. This means that there could be as many as 18 Oxford Universities in a single world.
The tech tree, at least in Civ IV, is however set up to make a few things happen "on time" in a normal game. Christianity is typically created around 30 AD and a Civilization will get the tech to find the new world (on a map type that supports it) around 1500 AD and to colonize it a few turns later. Nothing flat out stops you from progressing to these points earlier if you are devoted or get lucky with a great person though.
In Civ V, trapping is one of the techs you can develop in ancient times. The graphic for it, however, shows a fox looking through a chain link fence, which wasn't developed until the 1840's.
In IV, the "check spaceship progress" option lets you see your futuristic spaceport and the progress you've made on your spaceship. You can check this even after starting the game in ancient times - and the spaceport is every bit as futuristic, though there's no spaceship.
In the Gods and Kings expansion in 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.
One Civilopedia entry infamously described Julius Caesar as being the "first emperor of Rome." That was actually his adopted son Augustus; Julius himself was never anything more than dictator for life.
The Civilopedia entries for marines and ironclads imply they were both American inventions.
The Pikeman unit in Civilization V wields a halberd, not a pike.
Although historically, halberds were often wielded in pikeman formations. On the other hand, so were greatswords.
In Civilization IV, Cyrus and Darius look quite different, while they were directly related in real life.
In Civ 4 and Revolution, Saladin is the leader of the Arabian empire. In real life, he wasn't an Arab, but a Kurd. He did conquer parts of the Arab world during his reign, though, most notably Syria and Egypt.
Ascended Extra: After several games, Austria (among others) finally makes its appearance as a playable nation in the Gods and Kings expansion for Civ V. Many City-States eventually became full Civilizations and when the related DLC or expansion was released they were replaced as city-states to avoid confusion (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 in Civilization V in which the lead designer came from the modding community and is only around 25 years old.
Ascended Glitch: Gandhi's AI is tailored to put all his resources to building nukes. Contrasting sharply with the idea of a peaceful Gandhi, he has always been a warmonger since the first game, originally caused by a bug. All AIs had values for aggressiveness, likelihood of building nukes, and such. Most had values somewhere in the middle between 1-10, but Gandhi had his set to 1. However, countries with a "peaceful" form of government also got a -1 or -2 to these values — and 1-2 = 255 for the math used in that place in the game. So, Gandhi was perfectly peaceful until he discovered Democracy, which is when he instantly turns into a bloodthirsty maniac who always wants to build and use nukes.
Art Deco: Civilization V uses this aesthetic for its menus and user interface.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Internet wonder from Civilization 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 Civilization IV gives you a big boost to spaceship construction. Problem with it is that it's so frequently so 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 Civilization V used to be this. It had a nice benefit, but 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 uranium which could be used on the earlier and quicker-to-build nuclear options.
Spain's civ bonus in V (gold bonus for natural wonders discovered, with a huge bonus if you're the first to) is a complete hit-or-miss. If you pull off a first discovery in the early game, it's essentially an auto-win because the game will give you so much gold that you'll instantly become unbeatable from now being able to buy anything and everything. However, since a Natural Wonder spawning near you is entirely up to RNG, its reliability is essentially nonexistent.
Badass Boast: The opening narrations of many of the civs in V have at least one of these, such as the Huns'.
Fearsome General, your people call for the recreation of a new Hunnic Empire, one which will make the exploits and histories of the former seem like the faded dreamings of a dying sun.
Benevolent Architecture: Benevolent starting location: if, in Civ 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 Civ 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.)
A majority of leaders in Civilization Vcarry swords with them when you meet them for diplomacy, but special mention must go to Askia and Oda Nobunaga. Askia carries an impressive-looking two-handed broadsword, and Nobunaga carries three giant katanas!
On the unit side of the scale, broadswordsmen fall on this category.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: In Civ V's diplomacy screens, leaders talk in their own native languages. While this is usually averted quite well, Attila the Hun's Chuvash is... very broken. Not only do most of his sentences have poor grammatical syntax*
Most of Attila's speeches were based off of his preset sayings in the dialogue box, like every leader. When his Chuvash is translated back to English, you get something that was barely close to what he said in the dialogue box.
, Attila's actor is definitely not a native speaker of the language as he pronounces most of the words incorrectly. As Long as It Sounds Foreign might also apply here.
Blood Knight: There are certain rulers who seem to really, really enjoy war. If you find yourself on a map with Queen Isabella of Spain, Shaka Zulu, or Montezuma of the Aztecs, expect them to attack you at some point, even if they have absolutely no chance of victory, and especially if they don't share your religion.
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."
Blow Gun: In Revolution, one of the barbarian tribes you can encounter has a spokesman who threatens you with a blow gun.
Cap: As of Civilization 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 once—for 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 Civilization 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 Civ 3 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 Civilization V (without expansion packs) 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.
In Civilization IV, Catherine is uniquely programmed such that she is the only AI leader willing to attack a civilization she is Friendly* meaning "on exceptionally good terms" with, if the player bribes her. (See Being Good Sucks above.)
Fairly common in Civilization V, and recently the dialogue was updated to show when the AI does it. Once you've been at war with a player, you can expect it to happen again 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.
Sometimes when they act friendly, you might think they're actually friendly, because you've gone out of your way to keep them satisfied with you, but behind the scenes they're angry at you for reasons you can't predict, like the famous "they think you're trying to win in a manner similar to them, and they don't like it!"
In II the foreign adviser occasionally suggests the player do this to the other nations.
Chewing the Scenery: Some quotes in Civ 5 where it's called for. "A horse! A horse! My...KINGDOM for a horse!"
Comic Book Time: 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. Also, in the Civ II "thingy" Test Of Time, you may notice that in extended original the time changes from 100s of years to singular over the course of 3000 B.C. to 1900 A.D. Makes you worry that it takes 1000 years to build A BARRACKS early game where a CITY in the late game takes only a few YEARS TO SET UP. EVERY. LAST. BUILDING. Worrying.
A Commander Is You: Starting with Civilization 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.
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 couln'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 Civilization II. and your castle in Civilization 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 Civilization 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.
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 Civilization V, which averts it for most civs, it's actually the Japanese's unique perk — their units don't get reduced stats for being damaged.
Crippling Overspecialization: Some civs have this with either their units or their powers. The Iroquois ability to treat unworked forest and jungle as roads is great... until the endgame when you are missing out on mountains of food and production because you haven't worked half of your tiles. Another example would be the Hun unique unit the Battering Ram, which can One-Hit Kill cities, but can ONLY attack cities.
Cross Over: "Brave New World" features the Xcom Squad, an upgraded paratrooper that uses 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 and War for Fun and Profit: The Honor tree post 1.4.X, 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 son in the opening cinematic of V live in Mongol gers decorated with West African instruments and shields and wear Celtic and 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 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.
Damage Over Time: In Civilization 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 Civ games removed this.
Darker and Edgier: In-game, the modern/contemporary era in Civilization 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.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: Civilization 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 Civ 5, Germany will sometimes recruit encamped barbarians and the Ottomans will recruit naval barbs after defeating them. In the Gods and Kings expansion of that game, all civs get access to the Privateer (the Dutch get the Sea Beggar instead), which recruits all naval units at half health upon defeat. 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. The expansion for Civilization V Brave New World gives X Com units, which can paradrop to any point on the map.
Death of a Thousand Cuts: In Civilization 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 Civilization 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. City sieges would also sometimes turn into this, due to the high defense bonuses of city wall type improvements.
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 and Kings expansion, in which units have 100 HP and damage values are adjusted to fit the new scale.
Deadpan Snarker: Civilization 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.
Demoted to Extra: Brennus and the Celts are demoted from a playable faction in IV to being AI-only barbarians in Revolution, and then brought back (under Boudica) with the Gods & Kings expansion for V.
The Babylonians, a mainstay of the first three Civs (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.
Disc One Nuke: Many units are superbly strong when you 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.
Attila the Hun in V is designed as a Disc One Nuke character: free Animal Husbandry, devastating horse archers that need no horse herds to support, city-annihilating battering rams instead of spearmen. In the Ancient/Classical era he's a nightmare. Once everyone else moves past that era, though, he'd better hope he's grabbed enough land to keep up.
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 1984.
Early-Bird Cameo: In Civ V, Harald Bluetooth and the Denmark faction are available as a DLC faction, but interestingly glimpses of a Viking-type faction can be seen in the opening cinematics.
Gods and Kings added several new Wonders, two of which, the Leaning and CN towers, can be spotted on the normal Civ V cover, released before Gods and 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 Civ 3. 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 Civ 5 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, Civ makes healing a lot worse outside of your own lands. 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 Civilization 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: Pacal's reaction to the player declaring war on him in Civ V: Gods and Kings.
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.
The Eeyore: In V, Pacal. One of his greetings is asking if you have a message for him from the gods; "I can feel their icy breath upon my neck!"
Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon is similarly anti-cheery; even his trade proposal is a gruff, grumpy, "It seems you do have a reason to be here after all: to trade with me." Perhaps he's been having bad dreams lately...
End Game Results Screen: Your score is presented at the end of the game and is based on a complex metric based on the difficulty and how long it took you to finish. It's used for high score ranking.
Failure Is the Only Option: A lot of the diplomacy actions in Civilization 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 and 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.
Fragile Speedster: Some civilizations, particularly in Civ 5, have more unique early-game units and abilities geared towards early epochs, so they need to do their thing as best as possible early in the game. Atilla of the Huns, for example: everyone else gets Chariot Archers that require horses to build, and spearmen to counter the horses. Atilla gets powerful Horse Archers that do not require access to horse herds to create, and Battering Rams that are siege units that count as melee attackers, so they can directly take over cities after smashing their doors down. Atilla needs to expand and conquer fast early-game because his unique units get obsolete quickly, though. Kamehameha's unique ability, letting every one of his units cross oceans at the start of the game, is fantastic for early expansion, but also becomes obsolete when everyone else hits the Middle Ages.
Friendly Enemy: Alexander is pretty cheery and hopes you'll either be a good ally or a worthy enemy. He's programmed to be very expansionist, but he probably won't betray you, so long as you don't share a border with him. If you do go to war with him, he maintains the cheery attitude and if you're the declarer, he says, "Awesome, dude! Let's make it a good fight!" (in Greek.)
The Fundamentalist: Isabella in Civilization IV. If you aren't whatever religion she is (usually Buddhist), prepare for WAR! There is an actual government type called Fundamentalism in Civilization II, and a Theocracy civic in Civilization IV. Civ 5 has several "Social Policies", of which one can have either Piety or Rationalism. You are forever barred from the other, likely for this reason.
The AI in Gods and 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 on sending their Great Prophets and Missionaries to convert your holy city to their religion.
Gameplay and Story Integration: 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.
Gender Bender: In Civilization 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 Civilization IV, as pre-industrial era spies, men in black robes, transform into women in skin tight stealth suits 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 Civilization 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 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 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 units) skip all of these effects can shoot any target in range, as long as the player can see it.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The fifth game has an achievement for being the first player to research horse riding while playing as Catherine. At first, this seems innocuous enough, but when one considers the (untrue) myth as to how she died, the term "horse riding" takes on a different meaning entirely.
Glass Cannon: 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.
In Civilization 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 Civilization 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.
Call To Power, which continued much further into the future than a normal Civilization title, took this concept to its logical conclusion. The problem got much, much worse before ultimately getting better through the use of advanced technology (and, possibly, ecoterrorism). Of course, by that point, the majority of your population will have likely already relocated to undersea cities and/or space, rendering the point somewhat moot.
Subverted in Civ V, by Nebuchadnezzer II of Babylon, who when you greet him will say "The fools outside think I am a god. That seems unlikely."
A few others dip into this as well, depending on what culture they had. Montezuma, for instance.
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 will have militaristic City-States donate units to you every few turns.
In Civilization 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.
Have a Gay Old Time: In Civilization II, when you changed governments, the newspaper would announce, "[Your Citizens] Are Revolting!" To which all the AI players' citizens would go, "Well, duh."
Herd Hitting Attack: Artillery in Civilization IV, and others with the Collateral Damage promotion. All units in the original Civilization and Civilization II.
Surprisingly inverted in Civilization III for the Greeks, when for some reason they make Alexander the Great, actually one of the few genuinely good-looking historical leaders, pretty scrawny and unattractive.
Call To Power features cryogenic freezing chambers. In addition to their normal benefits, they also provide citizens of a Theocratic government a happiness boost. Derive from that what you will.
Humans Are White: With the exception of special units, all units in Civilization III and IV are white. However, the Beyond the Sword expansion for Civilization IV added different skin sets for different civilizations (Mali has black swordsmen etc).
In an eerily literal example, one of the expansion packs to Civilization III includes a fascist government type; immediately after a civilization adopts fascism, it suffers a slight population loss for a few turns, presumably as 'undesirables' are, ahem, purged by the Secret Police.
Forced labor (present in several forms of government in the same game, and under the Slavery civic in Civ IV) has pretty much the same connotation. More liberal forms of government replace this method with the standard option to rush-build things by throwing enough money at it.
Razing towns kills its entire population. Although capitals can never be razed, so it's not possible to kill off entire races... in V. Before that, the games allowed, even encouraged genocide. Of course, you could always just assume that the displaced citizens are merely cast out into the countryside as their homes are burnt to the ground, which is still not all that great either.
Injun Country: One of the civilizations added in "Beyond the Sword" is "Native America"*
Their leader is Sitting Bull of the Lakota, their Unique Unit is the Cheyenne Dog Soldier and their Unique Building is the Haida Totem Pole
. This historical inaccuracy is justified in Civilopedia: it is explained that the "Native American Empire" isn't a historical empire, but a hypothetical result of the different Native American civilizations joining their forces.
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 the spaceship reaches Alpha Centauri, they win.
Or, more egregiously, by cultural victory. In Civ 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.
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.
Irony: The United Nations in Civilization II actually makes it easier to wage war on nations that aren't willing to fight.
In V (vanilla), a diplomatic victory can be attained by buying off city states with gold, and getting enough science to build the UN 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.
When you're playing as Japan in Civilization I (SNES Version) and Civilization II and you complete the 'Manhattan Project' wonder in Hiroshima.
The world's first Nuclear Test has taken place in Hiroshima!
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: Napoleon gets free culture per turn until Steam Power is discovered.
Jerkass: Montezuma is generally regarded as one of the hardest leaders to win over, or to work with if you do get him on your side. He has been known to publicly denounce you and declare war while you're his ally. Slightly justified in V where his unique ability is earning culture upon destroying enemy units.
As soon as Gandhi has the technology available to make Nukes, expect nuclear fire raining from the skies in a bit. At least in the earlier games.
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.
Katanas Are Just Better: Played straight in III. The best time to be playing Japanese is during the Medieval Era in that game. Once you get access to the Samurai, you can hack and slash your way through any and all other Civs using a pure Samurai force, until the gunpowder era finally renders them obsolete.
Play somewhat straight in 4, as well. Instead of replacing knights, samurai instead replace Macemen, who are the best melee units in the game. Against other melee units, the samurai's strong attack and First Strikes make them damn near unstoppable. Against knights, which serve as the medieval cavalry unit, it's a whole 'nother story.
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 Beyond the Sword. The non-canonical Civilization: Call To Power averted this trope by introducing two new Ages: Genetic and Diamond, featuring advanced plasma and fusion-based weaponry.
Land of One City: One big change that Civ 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 of famous small nations (like Zurich). 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 trade goods. 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.
Let's You and Him Fight: In Civ 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: Civilization Revolution is this in a nutshell. Civ V meanwhile tries bringing in a relatively more uplifting tone compared to Civ IV.
Loads and Loads of Loading: 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 and Kings expansion) has some people saying this has gotten worse, although a small number have said the patch has actually shortened the wait.
The original game took a looong time to build worlds.
Lost Technology: In Civilization 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 Civilization 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.
A Million is a Statistic: Inherently, based on the nature of the game. In Civilization V, this saying is read aloud when you reach the Modern Era.
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 but high-tech units. However, you can have as many planes in the same city as you want, which invokes this trope if you happen to have enough oil or aluminium to support a large air force. (This bit makes the Arabs—who get double oil production—excellent for players who enjoy Death from Above.)
Misplaced Accent: While having the civilization leaders speak their native languages in Civilization V was a nice touch, several people criticized some of their accents as historically inaccurate: Napoleon loses his Corsican accent, George Washington has a Bill Clinton-esque modern American accent rather than anything from the 18th century, and Catherine speaks perfect Russian despite being born as and raised by Germans.
Ironically enough, Austrian leader Maria Theresa averts the mistakeabsolutely every other such game makes. She speaks in a proper Viennese (Austrian) German dialect, rather than (German) High German.
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.
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 5.
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 and 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.
Munchkin: Some AIs, especially in Civilization 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 strenghts. 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 Civ 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".
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.
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 Civ IV. Though Nimoy wasn't hired for the expansion packs, and their narration ends up quite jarring.
W. Morgan Sheppard in Civ V.
Necessary Drawback: In Civ 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 Brave New World for Civ 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.
Neutrality Backlash: 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.
Neutral No Longer: 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.
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.
Beyond the Sword introduced the "Greed" and "Corporate Expansion" quests, which codify this.
In Civ 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.
IV's version of Nobunaga was based more on Toshiro Mifune than the historical figure himself.
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 sufficiently offended presented with any deal she doesn't like, Catherine the Great may "slap" "the player", complete with Star Trek Shake, while if your relations are good (heh heh) 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 Civ V, late-game you gain access to machine guns. They count as ranged weapons but can only fire one tile away (unless they have the extra range promotion). The benefit is they can attack without taking damage themselves (at this point you're probably using tanks or artillery for real long-range combat).
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 special AI so that in the first few turns the Axis and Allies will repeat events that happened in the real world, like the Axis occupying Holland.
On the other hand, the only III built-in scenario dealing with World War II (in the Conquests expansion) was World War II in the Pacific.
The "World War II: Road to War" mod included with Civ IV: Beyond the Sword 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.
Most egregiously, the German version even omits Hitler's name in the aforementioned Fascism tech quote, and instead gives "a German dictator" as source.
Ironically, the Chinese version of Civilization IV replaced Chairman Mao with Emperor Tang Taizong, even though there is no such stigma attached to Mao in China.
The intro movie for Civilization 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 mod 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 4.
Omnicidal Maniac: Gandhi with Democracy in 1, because of the aforemented buggy AI.
One-Hit Kill: The Eco Ranger unit in Call To Power. Don't let that brightly-painted Flower Power exterior fool you. What it kills, in one hit, is a city.
One Hit Point Wonder: All military units were this until Civilization II, which introduced a Hit Points system to avert the "Spearman Beats Tank" problem. Civilization III simplified the combat system but reintroduced the problem. Civilization IV merged Hit Points and combat power into one figure, making Death of a Thousand Cuts a serious problem.
"V" generally averts this but there are several situations where units become One Hit Point Wonders (despite having 10 Hitpoints):
Any non-combat unit (Great People, Workers and Settlers) are instantly killed or captured if an enemy military unit moves onto their tile.
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 towns are instantly killed if the town is captured or nuked.
Finally, Japan's cultural power is that damaged units do not lose combat prowess. There is even an achievement to be earned by sending a 1-HP unit against an opposing unit and winning.
Order Versus Chaos: Late-game Civ 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, through war, so it's got tons of military-related abilities.
Overt Rendezvous: In the intro to Civilization IV's expansion, 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: In Civ V, a city celebrating "We Love The King Day" gets a bonus to its growth. I guess they really love the king. Some interesting Fridge Logic there, if you dare... is whale oil/incense/spices/citrus an aphrodisiac?
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.
Piñata Enemy: In V, Egypt's unique building, the Burial Tomb, gives extra gold to an enemy that sacks the city. Egypt also has a bonus to building wonders, which are never destroyed when a city is captured, and is the only civ with an achievement dedicated to it where the achievement is earned for an attack on the civ, rather than doing something as the civ.
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.
In V, the Dutch have polders which provide food. As soon as the Dutch learn economics, every single polder goes from having food crops to 100% tulip crops, a reference to the Dutch tulip bubble (in gameplay terms, the tulips just add a production and gold bonus and provide the same food as before). This is partially driven by Rule Of Cool or Rule of Cute since the rainbow-coloured polders look more interesting.
The Power of Rock: Rock 'N Roll is a constructable Wonder of the World in Civ 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.
Power-Up Letdown: Scouts are early units used to explore terrain. They ignore many movement restrictions. 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" which effectively changes the unit from a scout to an early combat unit, good in combat, but still losing the movement bonus which was essentially the only reason to made the scout in the first place. To the joy of everyone, V fixes this problem by leaving all existing scout abilities (including upgrades such as extended sight) intact when the weapons are gained.
And the resulting unit is always an Archer (or it's counterpart for some civs), which is not only stronger but also attacks at range.
Privateer: This is a powerful ship type in V (or at least, in the expansion G&K, which vastly improved naval combat). They can gain gold from attacking coastal cities, 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.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Some leaders act this way in the dialogue, although their behaviour towards you may not be that honorable.
In one of the Expansion Packs for Civilization 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 Civ 5, 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.
Random Event: Introduced in the Civilization IV expansions. 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.
Civilization 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 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: Civilization V: Gods and Kings (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 Civ 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 Civilization 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).
Civilization V does this on water. Any embarked land unit can be instantly killed by any ship moving on them.
In Civ 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 original Civ game, 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.
Schizo Tech: A particularly skilled player can roll over his spear-equipped enemies with legions of tanks. (Well, all except That One Unit...)
This is pretty much bound to happen in any game where one player runs away with the science race, especially in Call To Power. Screw tanks against spearmen - it's far more satisfying to send giant, missile-equipped robots after them. Or, go for the ultimate insult and use a space bomber to vaporize them.
This problem was noticeably worse before the concept of technological eras was further developed in Civilization 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 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 the Civilization III '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.
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 abilities*
For example, they did not need a Diplomat to bribe your military unit; any regular unit could do it
, stealth units*
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 nukes*
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 hurts relations with every other civ. They can also tell you not to spread your religion to theirs (if they have their own "world religion"), but you can't do the same.
Trade is an entire pile of Heads I Win, Tails You Lose in favor of the computers. 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 expect it cheaply. And if they have something you need!... Well!
Self-Imposed Challenge: So many people enjoyed limiting themselves to just one city that since IV it has become an option under advanced setup.
Sequel Escalation: Civ V reversed this, 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 expansion, 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. 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).
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.
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.
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.
The Stoic: Augustus Caesar in Civ 5. Everything he says, including a declaration of war or the announcement of his total defeat, comes out bored and monotonous. His body language isn't more vivid either: he sits on his throne and occasionally waves a hand as he speaks. It's possible that this is him after the Battle of the Teutoburger Forest.
Stop Helping Me!: The other civilizations love to butt in while you're deep in thought, planning, or an all-out war. There is not isolationist option for the game to play uninterrupted. In Civ IV you could set up a game with no AI to play against, but this was again dropped in Civ V.
If you accept an offer of friendship from Civilization A just to make them go away, you often find yourself immediately contacted by civs B, C, and D one after the other, each saying "I see you've become friends with A, I have done the same. Perhaps great things can come from this alliance in the future!"
The logic routines used by UI in CivV to decide which units you should give orders to first is... Well, suffice it to say that you should get used to giving the wrong orders to wrong units, and to watching your screen go whizzing halfway around the globe. Sometimes twice, if you managed to give a command to the unit you actually care about while the game tries to foist some Worker Unit on you instead. It's actually very annoying how often the game will announce you have a new unit ready and then activate a different unit instead of the one it just told you about, making you send warriors to resources and workers into warzones.
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 and 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 Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword 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.
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 reforms." 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 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.
This Is Gonna Suck: Deity difficulty in Civilization IV. "Muahahahaha! Good luck, sucker!"
Sometimes, in Civ 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 Civ 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 it’s 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 Civ 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."
Ungrateful Bastard: Tokugawa is a strict isolationist, and it takes ridiculous amounts of bribery to get him to even open his borders. If Japan is one of the rival empires in 4, you should probably just consider them an enemy and forget diplomatic measures - it's a lot cheaper.
Unreliable Narrator: The Civilopedia in 4 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?)
Unstable Equilibrium: Present in all Civilization 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 Civ 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.
The fourth 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).
The fifth 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.
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 IV: Warlords.
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.
Violation of Common Sense: In Civ I You have the option of building a city on a Forest, Jungle, Swamp, Mountain, 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.
War Elephants: In Civ II, they become available when you discover Polytheism, for some reason. In Civ III, they're India's special unit, replacing knights. In Civ IV, they become available when you discover Construction, but you also need access to Ivory.
Three separate versions show up as special units in Civ 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 Civ I is Cure For Cancer, a monument that bestows +1 happiness.
In Civ III and Civ 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 Civ 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.
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.
Water Source Tampering: Poisoning a city's water supply is a potential espionage action in Civilization II. Succeeding reduces the city's population.
It's also possible in Civilization 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.
For Civilization II:
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 Civilization 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.
Zeppelins from Another World: Zeppelins are unlocked by the late-mid-game tech "physics", while heavier than air ships are unlocked later via "flight" tech (not that far after physics, but some turns worth). Depending on the games 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 and Kings expansion of 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 CivV, 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 upgrade version is even an Airborne Aircraft Carrier!