I vaguely remember a short story (I don't think it was book-length) about some people who lived in an off-planet base, possibly on Titan, and a popular past-time for the major characters was a complex, competitive game that simulated economies, war, resource allocation, etc -- a lot like the modern-day Civilization games.

I want to say it was Poul Anderson, Frederik Pohl or one of the other more off-the-wall authors, and it seems like it was from the 60s / 70s timeframe.

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    Philip K. Dick's "The Game-Players of Titan"? It's not short story and I think it's on Earth though. – Ayshe Feb 19 '18 at 0:22
  • What do you mean by "off-the-wall authors"? – user14111 Feb 19 '18 at 1:20
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    I also thought of Dick's "Days of Perky Pat" which involves a game, but they are all on Earth, I think. – Organic Marble Feb 19 '18 at 2:45
  • It wasn't either of the PKD suggestions, but now I have some new reading material to chase down! – McGuireV10 Feb 19 '18 at 11:34
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    What popped into my head was "Triton" by Samuel R. Delany. It's a novel, though. There was a complex game described in the book (I seem to remember that you had to solve some kind of integral as part of your turn), but there were more pressing issues for the characters - like a war with Earth. – user888379 Feb 19 '18 at 14:17

I haven't read it in a long time, but based on your suggested authors, could it be Anderson's "The Saturn Game"? Although ISTR it was more like D&D than Civilization in that story.

  • Also supporting this answer, the OP stated "I don't think it was book-length". This certainly wasn't - it was a novella. – AJM-Reinstate-Monica Feb 19 '18 at 9:24
  • Interesting, but no, it wasn't fantasy. – McGuireV10 Feb 19 '18 at 11:29

Another long shot, but have you considered Philip K. Dick’s The Game Players of Titan? Here’s the Wikipedia link

  1. It involves Titan
  2. It’s about a game, which is called “Bluff” and has similarities with the Civilisation series of games in that it’s about conquering territory
  • Thanks, that was suggested in a comment earlier, but that isn't it. Interesting coincidences there, though! – McGuireV10 Feb 19 '18 at 13:41

Hmm, a long shot but is it maybe "The Player of Games" by Ian M. Banks (1988)? While it doesn't happen on Titan, the main character (a skilful player of board games) participates in tournament of a very complicated strategic game:

Although the actual rules are not given in the book, the game is primarily tactical and played on three-dimensional boards of various shapes and sizes. Typically the boards are large enough for players to walk around inside them to move or interact with their pieces. The number of players differs from game to game and also influences the tactics, as players can choose to cooperate or compete with one another. As well as skill and tactics, random events may influence gameplay (often as card or other games of chance), and sometimes may change the outcome critically.

The game consists of a number of minor games, such as card games and elemental die matching, which allow the players to build up their forces for use on the game's three giant boards (in order: the Board of Origin, the Board of Form, and finally the Board of Becoming) and a number of minor boards.

The game uses a variety of pieces to represent a player's units (military, resource or even philosophical premises). Some of the pieces are genetically engineered constructs, which may change form during the game according to their use and environment.

The tournament is very prestigious and the winner will be proclaimed the new emperor.

  • No, we're huge fans of Banks, definitely not from the Culture series. – McGuireV10 Feb 19 '18 at 11:25

Breaking the Game from the Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card matches at least your civilization type game part. It was published in 1979, so the tail end of your time frame. The rich can extend their life span by going into suspended animation, but this means letting someone play their civilization in the interim:

Herman Nuber has just woken up from a state of suspended animation brought on by the fictional drug Somec and is looking forward to returning to his virtual world conquest game. Unfortunately for him his position is being played by someone else and that person doesn't want to sell it for any price. When he discovers how poorly the person is playing he gets desperate and arranged to meet the other player...

PS "pastime" is a contraction of "pass time", as in something people do to pass time, not "past time".

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