Many (many!) years ago, I read Andre Norton's Time Traders:
*> "So Ross had no chance to speak to Kurt. Instead, he was drawn into the knot of men who, having finished their meal, entered a small arena with a half circle of spectator seats at one side and a space for contestants at the other. What followed absorbed Ross as completely as the earlier scene of the wolf killing. This too was a fight, but not a physical struggle. All three contenders were not only unlike in body, but as Ross speedily came to understand, they were also unlike in their mental approach to any problem.
They seated themselves crosslegged at the three points of a triangle. Then Ashe looked from the tall blond to the small Oriental. "Territory?" he asked crisply.
"Inland plains!" That came almost in chorus, and each man, looking at his opponent, began to laugh.
Ashe himself chuckled. "Trying to be smart tonight, boys?" he inquired. "All right, plains it is."
He brought his hand down on the floor before him, and to Ross's astonishment the area around the players darkened and the floor became a stretch of miniature countryside. Grassy plains rippled under the wind of a fair day.
The choices came quickly from the dusk masking the players. And upon those orders points of the designated color came into being as small lights.
"Red—caravan!" Ross recognized Jansen's boom.
"Blue—raiders!" Hodaki's choice was only an instant behind.
Ross was sure that sigh came from Jansen. "Is the unknown factor a natural phenomenon?"
"No—tribe on the march."
"Ah!" Hodaki was considering that. Ross could picture his shrug.
The game began. Ross had heard of chess, of war games played with miniature armies or ships, of games on paper which demand from the players a quick wit and a trained memory. This game, however, was all those combined, and more. As his imagination came to life the moving points of light were transformed into the raiders, the merchants' caravan, the tribe on the march. There was ingenious deployment, a battle, a retreat, a small victory here, to be followed by a bigger defeat there. The game might have gone on for hours. The men about him muttered, taking sides and arguing heatedly in voices low enough not to drown out the moves called by the players. Ross was thrilled when the red traders avoided a very cleverly laid ambush, and indignant when the tribe was forced to withdraw or the caravan lost points. It was the most fascinating game he had ever seen, and he realized that the three men ordering those moves were all masters of strategy. Their respective skills checkmated each other so equally that an outright win was far away.
Then Jansen laughed, and the red line of the caravan gathered in a tight knot. "Camped at a spring," he announced, "but with plenty of sentries out." Red sparks showed briefly beyond that center core. "And they'll have to stay there for all of me. We could keep this up till doomsday, and nobody would crack."
"No"—Hodaki contradicted him—"someday one of you will make a little mistake and then——"
"That'll be the day! Anyway, truce for now."
The lights of the arena went on and the plains vanished into a dark, tiled floor. "Any time you want a return engagement it'll be fine with me," said Ashe, getting up."*
And then, many years later, I played Sid Meier's Civilization...