Be warned: Sid Meier's Civilization V will steal your life. It's the strategy equivalent of Krispy Kreme, without the danger of Type II diabetes. It's digital Pringles, except the tube never empties. There's always time for one more turn. It might be 11pm, but Bayonland needs a gold mine. One more turn: the Pyramids are nearly finished in New Bayondon. One more turn: there's a giant death robot in Bayon-on-Sea. A giant death robot!
In a game that dumps you in 4000BC with a single settler and expects you to achieve outright victory – by which we mean world domination – by 2050, every turn counts, and every action taken must have the final outcome in mind.
Will you build wonders of the world and aim for a cultural victory? Construct research facilities and enter the space race? Or begin with a barracks and end up, six millennia later, with your own private army of Terminators? It's only midnight, one more turn!
If you want peace...
The final method of victory remains diplomacy, where you ally with your rivals to win their votes in the United Nations – the avoid-all-wars route. Perhaps conscious of the fact that no-one ever chose it in previous games, Civilization V has spiced up its world map with city states whose votes you'll need alongside those of more traditional countries.
City states don't expand, and they won't attack – at least at first – but they will make requests. Build Stockholm a road, find a source of gems for Budapest, or come to Oslo's aid under attack, and you'll be rewarded with its speciality – be it soldiers, cultural bonuses or food. Become an ally and you'll get support during battles; attack too many city states and they'll gang up against you like sad high school nerds with no more lunch money to give.
Whether you ignore them, befriend them or simply bulldoze them for their riches, the wide array of city states add colour and personality to the game that previous headline features didn't manage. Gone is the inadvisable take on religion, as are the methods of government, in favour of a new range of social policies.
They're earned through your culture rating, and give boosts to any area of development you wish to focus on. As with everything in Civilization V, there's a progress bar to tell you precisely how many turns you have to wait. Prop matchsticks in eyes; one more turn...
The interface has been refined to the point of console-like efficiency and, before PC gamers complain, it works brilliantly. Everything you need during a turn is visible either onscreen or in the quick-menus in the top corners, while further details can be accessed with single clicks. As usual, the in-game Civopedia has more info than most full game guides and is worth a read for historical education alone.
...Prepare for war
The biggest change is the move to a hexagonal game board, echoing the popular tabletop games that Civilisation has both inspired and been inspired by. Each spot now has six adjacent hexes, and no two military units can occupy the same hex.
Civilization V finally eradicates the intensely irritating "stack of death", in which one massed army of tanks could move from square to square obliterating everything in its path. Instead, battle is now far more tactical, with a need to place your melee units in front of your ranged troops, which makes choosing your angle of approach far more terrain-sensitive. Battles now take several turns, with both sides taking damage.