The age-old question of Civ games: Roads and rivers in center of tiles, or edges?

Centers of tiles Edges of tiles
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Pros and cons

  • Centers gives you STRAIGHT things (on a hex grid, it’s the only way to get straights!)
    • Roman Roads
    • Canals
    • Large rivers
  • Edges gives you meandering things (on a hex grid, centers only give wiggles at very large scale)
    • River valleys
    • Realistic medieval roads
    • Modern roads in mountains and hills (tend to wiggle crazily)
  • Movement is simplified with centers: If you’re on the tile, you’re on the road/river
  • Inhibition of movement is simplified with edges: Civilization games have traditionally given a move penalty AND a combat penalty to any tile-to-tile move that crosses an edge containing a river

My leanings…

One thing in particular that struck me from looking at the pictures:

Straight roads look so terrible that every single Civilization game since Civ1 has artifically wiggled them when rendering!

In particular, with 3D games (Civ4, Civ5 especially) this actively damages gameplay – it’s much too hard for the player to see at a glance which tiles are connected by roads, and to what extent. So much so that they cry-out for a “disable the wiggling effect on road-rendering” setting.

Also: I’m happpy to solve the “movement” problem by saying that if you’re in a tile that borders a road or a river, you are assumed to be “on” that road/river, with special-case handling under the hood that handles cases where two roads/rivers border the same tile. It increases the connectedness “for free” – but that’s how Civ games tend to do it anyway: encourage the player to put roads everywhere!

Thoughts on a postcard…

4 thoughts on “The age-old question of Civ games: Roads and rivers in center of tiles, or edges?

  1. wojtek

    How about a combo?
    1. Rivers on edges – because of the cross penalty, and the look.
    2. Roads on centers – because of the movement (move faster/easier when _on_ a road), and the look (I think roads are better this way).
    Of course you lose the beauty of unification.

  2. adam Post author

    Which, of course, is how Civ games tend to do it.

    ..and the have suffered for last 20 years the inability to have boats (river) in the game b/c no code for them to move on map!

  3. Atridas

    Naturally, rivers go to edges (they “divide” tiles) and roads to tiles (they connect tiles).

    If you put rivers on tiles, the scale of the game changes, as now a river is way bigger, but you are on point saying that this enables fluvial transport.

    Wich comes back to why you don’t want roads on edges: what tiles do they connect?

    PS.: I’m doodling here with hexes, and you actually can make it work with roads on edges connecting distant tiles as if they where neightbours…

  4. Andrew Crystall

    Hmm. My favored civ (SMAC) does have essentially straight, middle-of-the-tile roads.
    And for that matter, middle-of-the-tile, (but far more visually) wiggly rivers.

    (Rivers give the same move advantage as roads, as I recall, too)

    Of course, SMAC tiles are relatively small, unlike the “modern” Civ’s.

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