The solo game doesn't encourage battle, but the option is there. Instead, you're pushed towards allying with various civilizations you run across, like Egyptians or part of Napoleon's followers. Alliances can lead to stronger attributes in any number of categories such as diplomacy, war, alphabet and research. Online though, that's a totally different story - there, it's all about creaming the other dude.
You'll be able to engage in several online modes, like a four-player free for all, 2-on-2 or a 1-on-1 duel. Voice and video chat could make these conflicts a little more exciting, but we're rather curious about the proposed "Game of the Week" idea. In it, a set scenario would be posted online, with a set number of units, resources and the like. People from across the globe can try it out and see who performs the best. Sounds like a way to truly tell who's the better leader.
Downloadable content isn't out of the question either, as on-hand producers told us new maps and new civilizations could easily wind up on the various marketplaces down the road. Well, when it comes to 360 and PS3 that is. The Wii and DS versions may or may not be online, but are both coming out several months after the standard console versions. All are due in 2008.
This Civilization is being built from the ground up to be a console-only experience, and with Meiers himself on the project, there's no reason to suspect this one of going awry. Look for more as the release date draws near, which, uh, is a very long time from now. Maybe play some Command & Conquer 3 until then?