The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Monday, October 28, 2002

In my current Civilization III game I am playing Egypt. When you play Civ III, you negotiate with other nations, face-to-face with their leader. All nations are represented by a ruler from actual history. This leader stays the same throughout the 6050-year length of the game. (And that is all you need to know about Civ III to read this post.)

Egypt's ruler is Cleopatra. Of the sixteen Civ III nations, four are ruled by women. I suspect a quota system to increase the number of women leaders; three of the four I consider inappropriate.

Here are my criteria: A Civ III leader should be a ruler who had an impact on the nation's history because he or she:

  • Ruled for a reasonable length of time.
  • Was a successful and dynamic leader.
  • Ruled when the nation was powerful.

Cleopatra fails on two counts, plus a bonus disqualifier: She was not Egyptian, but Greek. Egypt had been ruled by Greeks for hundreds of years, and by Persians and Assyrians before that. When Cleopatra reigned her country had been taken over by Romans, and all she could do was to change the terms of overlordship. A better choice for Egypt would have been Ramses or Tutankhamen.

Another female leader is the ludicrous choice of Joan of Arc for France. Joan was a teenager who never ruled France; she led a successful military campaign and was then burned at the stake. Why not Napoleon or Louis XIV or Charlemagne?

A better choice was Elizabeth I for England: She ruled for 45 years and was a strong and dynamic leader.

I think the worst choice has to be Catherine for Russia. Nothing against Catherine, but Peter the Great was the only possible selection. What did Peter do when at war with Sweden? He built a new city (St. Petersburg) on their territory! This guy rules the Civilization way -- give him a shout out!

I might as well list the male leaders and my opinions on them:

  • America: Lincoln

    This is the safe, non-offensive pick, but wouldn't FDR make more sense, both from a longevity standpoint and also given his leadership before and during World War II?

  • Aztecs: Montezuma


  • Babylon: Hammurabai

    Certainly reasonable.

  • China: Mao Zedong

    Somewhat offensive; the only mass murderer to make the list. There are no good alternatives from modern times; surely there were strong leaders from earlier ages, but I am not sufficiently conversant with Sinitic history to suggest one.

  • Germany: Bismark

    A perfect selection: Bismark was skilled and crafty, but not genocidal.

  • Greece: Alexander

    Alexander is certainly the most successful of the Greeks in that he controlled the most territory. But when I think of the Greeks I think of art and science, not a warlord who dropped dead before he was my age. I know little of Greek history so I have no other suggestions.

  • India: Gandhi

    A weak pick. Like Joan of Arc, Gandhi was a revolutionary figure but not a civil ruler. Maybe one of the Mauryan rulers such as Asoka would have been better.

  • Iroquois: Hiawatha

    I know nothing about the Iroquois.

  • Japan: Shogun Tokugawa

    Reasonable; none of the modern leaders stand out.

  • Persia: Xerxes

    Xerxes or Darius were the logical choices.

  • Rome: Augustus

    Can't argue with that.

  • Zulu: Shaka

    A very good choice; Shaka trained the Impis (spearmen) to stab with their spears rather than throw them; he is the only leader to be directly associated with the nation's special unit.

There is a Civ III expansion called Play the World that adds eight more nations. I will try to predict the new leaders. (Thanks to for their preview.)

  • Arabs: Lawrence of Arabia? Just kidding. I have no idea.
  • Carthage: Hannibal.
  • Celts: Arthur. (But Arthur was fictional; it should be Vercingetorix, a Gaullish leader who fought Julius Caesar.)
  • Korea: Syngman Rhee.
  • Mongolia: Temujin (Ghengis Khan), another mass murderer. No credit for this; it's obvious and I read it somewhere.
  • Ottomans: Beyazid, who expanded the Ottoman empire in the late 1300's only to be defeated by Timur, or Selim the Grim, who led the next expansion after Constantinople was captured.
  • Spain: Queen Isabella.
  • Vikings: Canute.

It would be interesting if the game gave you more options for the leaders. I objected to Mao, but why not have an "evil adversaries" option? Wouldn't you pay attention a little more if you were facing Stalin or Khomeini? Wouldn't you fight a little harder if you knew you could corner Hitler or Caligula in a bunker? Imagine a lugubrious Nixon as your neighbor: "I could threaten to declare war on you if you don't give America Ironworking. But that would be wrong."



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