blog article by Shannon Appelcline that captures what I think a civ building game ought to include. I'm posting that here as a good summary of the overall goal of this project:
I would say that the following are elements that a Civ game needs to provide to really communicate the right feel:
* Growth: The player's empire gets larger both in its footprint on the board and in its population. Population growth creates additional capabilities but also brings pressure to expand. Territorial expansion also brings benefits but results in interaction with a player's neighbors, which can lead to conflict as space becomes scarce.
* Enhancement: The players have ways to receive additional abilities or upgraded forms of existing abilities that they do not possess at the game's beginning; their civilizations grow and progress as the game proceeds, and players can steer that progression.
* Differentiation: The particular set of enhancements that a civilization acquires is different for each player and, ideally, different in each playing; it isn’t necessarily forced upon the player by the game.
* Specialization: As players progress down a particular path of differentiation, it becomes either easier to continue down that path or more difficult to switch to following a different path.
* Multiple paths to victory: The scoring system accomodates the different cultural paths that players will follow, and allows a variety of paths to lead to victory. These allow a player to attempt to emulate different historical civilizations as well.
* Cooperative interaction: Generally implemented via trade, but the idea is simply that players can interact in a way that results in a mutual benefit as opposed to a diminishing of one player's position by the direct action of another.
There are a couple of additional elements that I think are important to the theme, and that haven't been incorporated into any game terribly well yet (which is why I'm trying to incorporate them!)
* Self-aggrandizement: What we know about the ancient world comes primarily from historians who wrote about what they observed or heard about, and from rulers who boasted about their accomplishments. By making sure that much about your civilization is recorded, you can insure that tales of your greatness will survive the test of time.
* Political control: Growing an empire involved conquering territories, but then the real work of managing and governing began, and some empires succeeded at this better than others. The idea that a smoothly-administered empire will be more successful should be communicated by the game in some fashion.
* Cultural diffusion: The idea that your culture can "rub off" on the foreign civilizations you interact with.