Players start with a fixed pool of tokens and can bid for anonymous nations to play. A nation is represented by a pair of randomly-drawn tiles conveying special abilities, so no two civilizations are the same and some are definitely better than others. Once you bring a civilization into play (by taking territories on the map) it will start to decay, as you can't add tokens to it and you'll lose some in combat as others fight you for territory. Eventually you'll need to decide to let it go into decline -- sit out a turn and then start a new civilization on some other part of the board. Each civilization produces victory points each turn; high score wins.
This game was reworked by the Designer into the smash hit small-world