There's a fine line between something - whether it be a book, movie, CD or game - being a slow-burner or just plain slow. You never really know until you've given it a decent chance to prove itself. With a book, you can normally tell by the time you're a quarter of the way through it. A movie can usually be given 20 minutes' grace. A CD can count on a half-dozen or so listens before judgement is passed.

But a game? That's difficult, especially in the case of one with as large a scope as Civilization. Considering that the game places you in the role of a ruler over a small fiefdom in the year 4,000BC and then leaves you free to develop it into a world-dominating nation with designs on space, it's got an epic air around it.

So judging how much leeway to give it is tricky, particularly if you're not convinced that a game where micro-management of your towns' (and, eventually, cities') economies is your flavour of political brief.

There is more to Civilization than that, of course, but this attention to detail permeates the game. Turn-based, you start with one settler who founds your capital city and from which everything else springs. Starting with basic warriors you can conscript soldiers, craftsmen, diplomats, scientists and many more types of unit.

You can't get your megalomaniacal mitts on all these right from the start, though, and that's where the glory of Civilization lies. As you progress, your citizens are able to research particular technologies that will further your kingdom's power. Early on these technologies amount to metalworking or developing an alphabet, but each of these make it possible to research more advanced technologies later on.

It's a strategy that gives you plenty to think about, as the ladders that each initial technology open up don't cross over. So if you fail to develop a monarchy, for example, you can't achieve a feudal system later on in the game.

This might not sound important, but if you're interested in keeping your subjects under control whilst ensuring a steady civil and technological progression, it's very useful. It's not the only way to proceed, though: you could engineer your very own communist workers' utopia, oversee a military dictatorship or plump for a simple democratic republic.

In short, if you're the sort of person who takes forever to decide on what to wear in the morning, this game is going to occupy you for weeks. Even if your decision-making skills are made of sharper stuff, there's plenty to keep you glued to the screen of your N-Gage. There's just so much you can do (and learn - it's all reasonably historically accurate) and, to a degree, it's also open-ended.

The game only ends under one of three conditions. One, your carefully structured society tears itself apart through bad leadership; two, you destroy all rival civilizations on the battlefield; or three, yours is the first civilization to develop space travel.

This means an average game of Civilization could last as long as ten hours or ten weeks, depending on your success and strategy.

Oh, and your patience. There are, undeniably, stretches of the game where boredom does creep in, such as when you've got nothing to do but wait for a technology to be researched or scout out hidden areas of the map. And you'll curse the clunky control system, too, which never comes close to being intuitive.

And we can't ignore the lacklustre visuals or the sparse sound effects, neither of which showcase the N-Gage's technical capabilities.

But you'll only come to rue these downsides during those occasional slow patches - the rest of the time you'll be too ensconced in running your fledgling empire. Civilization's sneaky like that: you don't realise how good a game it is (or that you're completely hooked) until you look at the clock and realise you've been playing it for three hours when it seemed little longer than 30 minutes.

Which, in our book, is the mark of a classic.