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Rise of Nations (2003) is developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft Games. There's a single expansion: Thrones & Patriots which adds six new Nations to play with, a few extra Wonders to build, some new Campaigns to conquer, and introduces Government types to the game. Government's offer your forces special economic or military bonuses, depending on the nature of the politics you opt for. New players will want to go for the Rise of Nations Gold Edition that bundles the original game and expansion together.

Its main claim to fame is that it successfully crosses epic turn based strategy with that of a fast paced RTS. There are eighteen nations you can play, each with a distinct flavour. Simply put, its Civilization using the Age of Empires real time game engine.

For those unfamiliar with it, Civilization is a venerable turn based game that plays out on a world map, starting in ancient times where all players are little more than a wandering band of settlers with some big ideas, and finally ending over a thousand years later where the winner has either conquered the world or been the first civilization to land a colony ship on the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. Civ games can last anything up to twenty straight gaming hours - these long and protracted games work their way right through history and span the entire globe. They take a big picture view of the world, and look a lot like super sized board games with hundreds of playing pieces. (Actually, there's a board game version of Civilization available in games shops now - and sure enough, the box weighs a ton) Civ's develop technologies, found great cities and trade routes, and explore and annex territory. Along the way your they big note themselves by building some unique Wonders, such as the Pyramids, Magellan's Expedition or the Manhattan Project, scoring some lucrative bonuses and advantages for your civ as you go. While there is a strong diplomatic and cultural component, the object is still to resolve the game into a single winner through force. This is 4X Empire strategy, not speculative sim management. Most games are played out on a randomly generated alternative earth, with AI or human player nations scattered throughout. You can endlessly tweak starting conditions, geography, and game rules to play out an infinite number of alternative human histories. There's no preset story in a Civ game: the way the game's opening settings play out is the equivalent of an entire RTS campaign. The game has a omniscient perspective, seen from low orbit.

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