The life of a Civilian is short and terrified. With half as many health points as a Scout (only 50), no armor and the entire enemy team composed entirely of Sniper rifles, the Civilian must be handled with a completely different mindset from any other class. Be paranoid, be timid, and don’t move forward until its very clear that your bodyguards have cleared the next stage of the map out for you.
Let me back up a bit, in case you haven’t tried or heard of TFC’s Escort game mode before. Unique in Team Fortress history (at least until MvM came out), RED and BLUE are working together against a common foe. RED team consists of Heavies, Soldiers, and Medics who are hoping to escort the lone BLUE civilian to the white van at the end of the map. Opposing them is a team of YELLOW snipers who deal 50 damage on uncharged bodyshot. If the snipers kill the Civilian, they win the round, meaning the Civilian is basically a playable flag and this is an attack/defense map.
The official map, hunted, is long and windy, meaning that the optimal play strategy for the bodyguards is to scout ahead and clear the rooftops, windows, and other sightlines before the Civilian dare progress. If for whatever reason the Civilian realizes a sniper can see him, duck or dodge or dart behind cover or do whatever you can to deny him the shot, because it only takes one shot and you lose.
It’s vital that you have a microphone, because you’ll have to keep your team informed of what route you plan to take to the exit, ask a Medic to overheal you with the Medkit, or time a rocket jump with a soldier to propel you past a sightline in record time.
Your umbrella deals 18 points of damage per swing and suffers from melee hit detection. This means that you shouldn’t ever use it.
But poor civilian does get one respite; he’s quite popular for custom game modes when somebody needs to fill a weird or non-combat role. I’ve already dedicated a whole article to Escape mode. Soccer is great fun too, there’s a neutral ball flag (like from Push) in the center of the court that anyone on either team must run into the opposing goal. I usually play a goalkeeper, an invulnerable civilian restricted to the goalie box who OHKOs with his umbrella.
TFC also has a golf game you play with explosions, and an air hockey-style game where both teams try to use explosive knockback to get the ball into the goal. In both game modes, the ‘ball’ is an invulnerable Civilian someone gets to play. So he gets around. He also has the distinction of being the inspiration for my favorite TF2 game mode; Valve has stated that Payload was their way of recreating the Escort game mode while removing most of the problems.
So if you want to go back and try the beginning of the legacy that led up to Lil’ Chew Chew eating people on Frontier, the Civilian is your man. Your portly, squishy man who epitomizes teamwork more than any other aspect of TFC.