A reader upbraided me mildly for not having written about games lately. He was talking about computer games. I believe he and a colleague or two have developed some games or are in the process of doing that; but they havenít sent me a beta, so I canít review theirs.

I donít keep up with games, and am not a great game player by any stretch. But one game I have played (although I donít have it on any of my systems) is Sid Meierís Civilization.

The one I played didnít have a Roman numeral, as I recall. First edition books donít say First Edition in the front, because that would be presumptuous or bad luck or something. But later editions are numbered, and ďserialĒ movies are, and so it is with computer games.

Civilization is up to V now. The franchise is going strong. If only civilization, the concept and the state, were doing so well.

The series is produced by Firaxis Games. To run on Windows XP, Civilization needs a Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon X2 64, 2GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage free, a DVD-ROM drive for installation, and a highly capable video card or integrated graphics capability.

For Vista (SP2) or 7, it wants at least 2 4GHz Quad Core CPUs, 4GB of RAM, and of course a frisky, gaming-capable video board or mainboard implant.

A broadband connection is a must for interactive gaming. But you knew that.

Graphics are spiffed up a lot in CivV. This is a strategy game, so the more clearly images and controls are rendered, the better the play.

The research tree is optimized as to selection of technologies, and it is easier to see how innovations would fit into potential strategies, long-range or short-term.

This is the first Civ to utilize hexagonal mapping, as some war games have for years. (So does Chinese Checkersóthe one played on a real board with holes, and marbles.) Only one combat unit may occupy a hex at a given time. Cities, not just forces, have defenses.

The claim is that play is streamlined. Players can fight over possession of strategic resources, but not in mind-boggling, decision bogging numbers.

In general, the upgrades simplify play by enabling more rapid decisions and more intuitive execution.

Unified social policies are available in CivV. Other versions required that players make separate choices concerning religion, culture, form of government and type of economic system, inter alia. Now a social policy can be elected from a list of eight, each incorporating all those elements.

A lingering drawback or lack of realism is that a playerís civilizations may go to war somewhat unpredictably, or with no just cause. Wait, did I say that detracts from realism? Oops!

But try this one: peace also breaks out seemingly spontaneously, sometimes, not as a result of a victory or defeat. How often does that happen in our real life version of civilization?

Diplomacy? Thereís little of that broken out. Too bad. If there were more stress on those efforts, CivV would be a great tool for the State Department and the Commander in Chief. We could all chip in and send them copies. (Too bad there isnít a Blackberry edition.)

Civilization is a solid franchise, in my opinion. Played in DirectX 11, the new graphics features are nice as long as a recent, high powered video card is in use, along with the latest driver. Otherwise it is necessary to back up into DirectX 9, lest a memory leak trigger a crash.

I see GameSpot gives this version 9.4 on a scale of 10. Other scores are in that range.

Civilization V is available at Amazon for $49 even. List price is $49.99 (thereís that magical .99 that we arenít supposed to be able to round up from before deciding to buy!). Not such a great discount, but hey, it qualifies for free shipping.