Playing Civilization II: Test of Time

I have noted that the various versions of Civ have each had expansions, generally 2 of them, before a whole version came out. And that is true for Civilization II. Normally I don’t cover them separately, I prefer at this point to look back at the final version of each, after all of the expansions. But Test of Time is the exception.

Civ II was developed by Brian Reynolds and Jeff Briggs, with some help from Sid Meier, at Microprose. But shortly after the game was released, all three of them left Microprose (and if you care to you can read all about it in Sid Meier’s Memoir). And this involved Microprose getting bought up by other companies, rights getting tossed around, and such. Meanwhile the three main people from Microprose founded Firaxis. So Test of Time did not directly involve Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds, or Jeff Briggs. Still, when Civilization Chronicles was released (which I am glad I have), Test of Time was included. So it still part of the family in some sense. And I have spent many hours playing it, and very happily. The name of this, Test of Time, is a play on the original Civ opening screens which ask you if you could “build a civilization to stand the test of time!”

There are two things that set Test of Time apart from Civ II. First, the art work is different. This is purely a visual thing, which may or may not matter to you. Civ II had very bright colors, while Test of Time has more subdued colors. And the unit icons are different, and so on. There are some other minor differences, but you might not even notice them. The game play is really the same, up to a point. You have 4 possible game selections (plus a Scenario) when you start up Test of Time. The first is the Original game, which is just the Civ II you are used to, but with the new graphics. But it is the other three options that make this game something different, and all three hinge on a new game mechanic, never used again, to allow multiple maps within one game. You should think of these as layers. Each layer has to have the exact same dimensions so that when stacked a tile on one layer matches up with a tile on another layer. And of course there has to be a way to move from one layer to another.

Extended Original Game

Your first clue that something is different is when you see alien names for a few of the civs available. You could even decide to play one, though I don’t recommend it. The Alien civ is there to provide an added challenge when you get to Alpha Centauri. If you actually play as the Alien civ you will have a very boring game since you won’t have any opponents to play off of. Still, there will be one Alien civ in the game, that is the point. And you will see that the Alien civ may even build a Wonder or two. This Alien civ resides at Alpha Centauri, and you will ultimately meet if you land colonists there. But for most of the game this doesn’t matter other than occasional news notes of what that Alien civ has done. As in the original Civ II game you will build your cities, build your units, research technologies, and so on. You could even go for a conquest victory, but that would make no sense. The whole point of the Extended Original is to get to Alpha Centauri. I have played games where I conquered everything but one lonely opposition city so that I could keep going to get to Alpha Centauri. This unlocks a whole new tech tree, and now you battle the Centaurians, as well as any other opponents still in the game. So at this point suddenly you have shifted to a Conquest victory. You can unlock technologies that let you move back and forth between the two planets, but this only work in some tiles, You will eventually figure out that a land unit moving between the planets (layers) cannot move to a forbidden tile on the other one, like a sea tile. And of course vice-versa for a sea unit. Victory happens when you have wiped out all opposition.

Science Fiction Game

This game starts with a scenario of an Earth expedition to another star system that ends up in the Lalande 21185 system, and crash lands on the second planet, Funestis. OF course, the humans are split into factions that operate as separate civs in this game, much like Alpha Centauri, which was released around the same time by the original team from Microprose. There is also an non-human race crashed on the same planet. By researching the appropriate technologies the two races learn to communicate with each other, and then to move around the system. The first layer you unlock lets you visit orbiting platforms above the planet, which were built and left there by the original Lalandian inhabitants, then eventually to two other planets in the system. One, Naumachia, is a rocky planet. The other is a gas giant called Nona which is the original home of the Lalandians. Again, you have the Science vs. Conquest option for winning. Wiping out all opposition in the Lalande system will give you a conquest win, or you have a couple of ways to get a Science victory: either send a spaceship back to Earth, or build a “quantum gate” back to Earth.

Midgard Scenario

As a scenario, this is not intended to be something you play over and over, though you can if you like. But it was a good sandbox for developing the Fantasy game. In the Midgard Scenario you have a story heavily based on Norse, Slavic, and Celtic mythology (for example, Ragnarok appears in this scenario). You have 7 races in this scenario: Elves, Merfolk, Goblins, Humans, Infidels (also human), Buteo (birds), and Stygians (undead). The story in this scripted scenario revolves around an ancient evil wizard Volsang, who was locked away many centuries ago, and now has been forgotten. But he is growing in strength and just started marshalling evil forces to attack the world. You play one of the seven races and try to fight back. In this scenario there are 4 levels/maps: the surface world, the cloud world, the underground world, and the undersea world. As you can imagine, different worlds are most suited to different races, so your starting location will be determined by the race you choose to play.

Winning the scenario can happen in 4 ways. You can build a Siege Engine that conquers all evil, you can discover Bifrost from the Norse myths, or complete 10 quests (which also will reveal Bifrost, but without all of the research). Or you can just wipe out all competition. That is always available. And a note about the gameplay: you might think from the scenario set-up that the races will join together to defeat the forces of evil, but that does not happen. You are in conflict to some degree with all of the others in addition to battling Volsang’s minions.

Fantasy Game

This builds upon the Midgard Scenario, but removes the scripted element and the ten quests. You have the same seven races, and the same 4 layers/maps, but now it is open-ended in terms of game play. Every race has it’s natural starting point. For Humans, Infidels (a second Human group), and Elves, their natural place is the surface world. Buteos are a Bird race, so the Clouds is their natural home. Merfolk of course thrive in the Undersea world, while Goblins and Stygians are at home underground. But from the beginning every race has access to the Surface world. And as you progress you learn to access other worlds. And this implies that if you pick the Buteos or the Merfolk you will have a space all to your own for a while, whereas if you pick Humans, Infidels, or Elves you can expect a lot of interaction/conflict from the early stages. Victory conditions are building the Siege Engine, discovering Bifrost, or wiping out all opposition.


Test of Time is really just an expansion of the Civ II game, not a version in itself. At one time I played it a lot because the Extended Original offered even more playing time and some additional challenge. But it is not a big advance. The one thing that set it apart was the multiple maps feature, and while I enjoyed it, it has never been picked up in subsequent versions. I think you can conclude that it is not a game play feature that other developers wanted to work with. You can get Test of Time in a variety of ways. I have it in the Civilization Chronicles Boxed Set as well as in the original CD-ROM version. And you can find it at

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