Four Ecks

Courtesy MicroProse
Espionage and fabulous cloaks are the Darlok’s specialities.

A lot of my friends and co-workers have been losing quite a bit of free time to Civilization V. Had I the free resources, I’d be very likely to join them. Civ 5 is the latest in a very long and storied tradition amongst computer games, one I grew up with. The best way to describe these games beyond a generic moniker like “turn-based strategy” is to call them “4X” games.

The term was first coined by Alan Emrich back in ’93. “4X” or XXXX if you’re feeling saucy stands for eXploration, eXpansion, eXploitation and eXtermination. Basically, you explore the map presented to you in the game, expand your territory as much as possible, exploit resources and technology to get ahead and exterminate your competition, through canny diplomacy or straight-up explosions.

Emrich used this term in the preview of the game Master of Orion. It was the first 4X game I really latched on to, mostly due to my nerdy interest in sci-fi during my formative years. Playing it now, through the wonders of DOS Box, it still holds a lot of the addictive qualities I remember – straightforward gameplay, interesting races and plenty of technology to research. The MIDI music, graphics and combat systems are a bit dated, to be sure, and I’m glad that the sequel did some different things with ship designs, the interface and diversity in systems and events.

Playing these older games is satisfying the urge I have to try out the new Civilization, which I still might do when I have the means to pick it up while still keeping the lights & heat on.

Did you catch the Civ V bug? Have you played 4X games? If so, what’s your favorite?


  1. I am sadly duct taped to CIV V.

    So good.

    SO GOOD.

    Send help.

    — c.

  2. Have not gotten the new Civ yet, I’m waiting to get fallout New Vegas and try that before I launch into the grand time-consumer.

    I do enjoy the empire/expansion games…. I’d have to say my favorites are still Master of Orion 2 and Master of Magic. Oh and Star Wars:Rebellion. Started with a really old one called Empire, and after that was hoooked. Have not yet checked out Elemental which seems to be a semi-new one in the feel of MoM… from what I’ve read there are quite a few bugs that are being worked out.

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