A while ago, the Guardian’s Games Blog did a piece on the best videogames to play when hungover. I rather disagree with some of the selections: the vivid colour pallet and slightly unwieldy controls in the Nintendo DS remake of Super Mario 64 make it a rather distressing experience when you are trying to hide from the infernal daystar. On the other hand, space-goth styled Eve Online needs too much number crunching and carries a high risk of losing your valuable in-game ship to player pirates if you don’t pay attention. Much to my distress, the brilliant Harvest Moon series of farming simulators has been concentrated on the GameCube, Wii and DS for the last seven or eight years, preventing me from using them as a hangover cure without investing in a new console.
I don’t begrudge these selection though. I’ve played all three games and enjoyed them and I understand why they often feature amongst people’s favourite games. My problem with the Guardian article is the omission of what is possibly the best game to play when you are hungover: Sid Meier’s Civilization IV.
Civ 4 is a good game at the best of times, with the addition of it’s expansions – Warlords and Beyond the Sword – it is an excellent game. It takes a number of features which were introduced in Civilization 3, but which didn’t work well as well as they should have – such as culture, borders and resources required to build units – and refined them. It also re-examined a number of the best features of Civilization 2, a game which regularly features highly on lists of the best video games of all time, and improved them, making managing individual cities far more interesting and some much needed personality to diplomacy. Civ 4 also a certain something over the more recent Civilization 5, although it’s hard to nail down exactly what “it” is.
What makes Civ 4 an excellent game for dealing with the morning after is its sheer simplicity. The game can be controlled using only the mouse and the screens feature clear menus and text, allowing you to slouch away from the screen to your heart’s content. Aspects that you don’t feel like dealing with, such as building roads, micro-managing cities or planning tech research can be semi-automated, allowing you to concentrate on your favourite aspects. If you are feeling particularly delicate, you can even turn off features such as the barbarian invasions to make the game easier (although it’s more fun to desperately rush the building of the Great Wall to prevent the barbarians getting near your cities).
With a random map, Marathon game speed (giving you 1,500 turns to complete the game) and playing against 11 other civilisations, a game can go on for most of a day. This should be more then enough time to either win a technology victory or to shake off the hangover, whichever comes first. The time flies past as you start to plan ahead and wait for your resources to accrue, only to have a neighbouring civilisation take over the iron resource node that you so desperately needed to build Swordsmen so you can take over their cities. You will feel accomplished when a carefully crafted military strategy works out and or when an opposing civilisation’s city swears allegiance to you on the basis of your advanced culture. You will find yourself muttering “One more turn…” as you forget about how bad your stomach feels, which is exactly why Civ 4 is the best game to play when hungover.
On Steam, £15 will buy you copies of Civ 4, the expansions and the remake of Colonization in the Civ 4 engine for both Mac and PC. An absolute bargin for hundreds of hours of gameplay.