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Oh, the shame..
I feel compelled to listen to Rogue Traders, though I have no idea why..

Having set the bar pretty low there, I may as well go off on a geeky tangent.. I was watching Voyager earlier, and realised that Time is something that computer games rarely try to take on.. it just left me thinking..

In Civ4, the whole nuclear weapons thing is a bit shite.. So why not replace it with some sort of Temporal Incursion missile.. When used against a city, it wipes it off the map, and takes it out of history. All units created by that city cease to exist. The defence (available a while before the weapon is) would be to be able to create temporal checkpoints fairly regularly (as a city improvement), which would create a limit to how far back time could be reversed. Building a checkpoint would make it so that an attack could only revert the city back as far as when the checkpoint was built.

Capitals would have to be immune somehow, to prevent a single strike removing a whole civilisation. In addition, a World Wonder for a civ could automatically create checkpoints in all their cities every ten turns, so as to limit the danger.. A National Wonder could create checkpoints in all cities on a particular continent every twenty turns.

If you wanted to be really clever with it, you could go further into undoing the effects of cities. Terrain improvements created by that city's workers would vanish, and where your units were destroyed by enemy units that no longer exist, they would return to reality.

Of course, this gets into tricky territory, and you really have to work out how things would be. So let's say the AI profiles your behaviour, and attempts to simulate it. Patterns of expansion, level of aggression, preferred build orders, technology preferences, etc.. Then, if I remove a city from history, the AI backtracks to the point at which the city was created, and kills the settlers instead. Then it works forward, plotting how the game might have otherwise turned out. This would obviously take more processor power than is currently available, but still..

It would obviously introduce an element of risk. Imagine you pwnz'd a civilisation's second city, a springboard for its expansion.. in turn, you wipe out half the cities the civlisation, and their growth is set back a few hundred years. You then have to trust that the AI now controlling your civlisation makes the right choices in this revised world.

Alternatively, if you take a city back to a recent checkpoint, then the game would wind back to that point, freeze the city's production, growth etc., then work its way forwards again. In standard Sleeping Beauty fashion, while the city is frozen in time, it is effectively taken out of the game. The AI players would disregard it, though would still acknowledge the standard borders of each nation. That way, they would play everything out as though for that time, the city did not exist. A city with a checkpoint cannot be wiped out as a result of a non-checkpoint city being removed. So in the example above, if you did wipe out the civlisation's second city, time would advance forwards as if none of its child cities are built.. But as you reach the year in which the checkpoints were set, the cities would effectively reappear. In fact, all checkpointed cities will appear in the year the checkpoint was set, regardless of how history has gone.

So for example, in my game with TMA the other week, one of my cities got pwnzd and taken over. Let's say that I set a checkpoint in the city a few turns before it was taken.. A while later, I hit it with a Temporal Incursion Missile, and obliterate the last 30 years of its history. It reverts to my control, in the state it was in when I set the checkpoint. However, without the city there for those 30 years any more, in those turns between me setting the checkpoint and the city being taken, the enemy has come up with a different plan, and redirected its forces towards my other cities. Suddenly I get back my 30-year-old city, but by changing history the enemy has managed to take one of my other cities. What's worse, they've set a checkpoint, so I can't roll back to a time before then.

It really would be quite hit and miss, possibly only useful as a last resort in the event of losing a large war.. If you're doing okay, you really don't want to risk changing history for the worse.. Of course, the AI players might have different ideas about that, and hit you with several at once, completely changing the shape of your civilisation. I can imagine how that could get quite annoying, but in an interesting way..

Thinking about it tactically, if you protected all your new cities, but left a couple of old cities unprotected, you could always hope that the dice roll goes in your favour.. Your Beta and Gamma cities are left unprotected, and the enemy wipes them both out in one go. They never existed. Roll back to 3000BC and go forward from there. Your civilisation has another go at expanding - it's a bit stunted, but you expand in another direction, and make quite a go of it. The land your nation formerly occupied is now held by your enemy. However, as you near the present, suddenly the protected cities start reappearing. Suddenly you have effectively two expansions' worth of cities, and dominate the map as your protected cities reassert themselves.

Or, maybe you get wiped out in the past, and as each of your protected cities shifts back into time, it gets wiped out. Who knows?

It'd be a fun game to play, if a little frustrating (and impossible on the old processing power..)