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Civilization Guide: Persia (vanilla)

Darius I

Born in 559 BC after a successful rebellion against the Medes, the Achaemenian Persian Empire survived and thrived in a dangerous neighborhood for some 200 years. At its height it dominated the land from India to Egypt, from Iran to the Balkans. It was an awkward and ungainly empire, spanning three continents with citizens speaking dozens of different languages. At their best, the Achaemenian kings were lawgivers who treated their subject populations with clemency and fairness, interfering as little as possible with provincial internal policies as long as the subjects behaved themselves. At worst, the Achaemenian kings were incompetent bullying backstabbers.

Key Concepts
  • Golden Age - A period of turns where all tiles that produce at least one gold gain another gold on that tile. As well, you receive +20% production in every city
  • Natural Golden Age - These occur when your excess happiness fills up the 'happiness bucket'. The amount of built up happiness required depends on game speed and the number of cities you own. On standard speed, Natural Golden Ages last a base of 10 turns
  • gpt - Gold per Turn

Achaemenid Legacy
Golden Ages lasts 50% longer. Units receive a movement bonus and a +10% attack and defence strength bonus during a Golden Age.

The Persian Unique Ability gives you the ability to economically dominate in your game as well as gives your units extra 'oomph' while you are fighting during a Golden Age. It is one of the top 3 Unique Abilities in the game.

Golden Ages (GA) give you +1 gold per tile that already had a gold output, as well as +20% production in each city. With Persia, you have Golden Ages that are +50% longer, meaning that your natural Golden Ages last 15 turns (standard speed). The Persian Unique Ability stacks additively with Chichen Itza (+50% GA length) and the Freedom Finisher (+50% GA length) meaning that Persia can have 150% longer golden ages. In general though, the Freedom Finisher usually comes too late to matter for more than the last Golden Age or two.

The Golden Age extension also applies to unnatural Golden Ages, such as those gained through Representation, Reformation, the Taj Mahal and when you 'burn' Great People for Golden Ages. More on this topic later.

Satraps Court and markets are a must for Persia in all cities. As your golden age length is at least +50% longer, you will generate a lot of tile based gold, which is increase via the markets and banks. For example, if your Golden Age gpt is 100 and your 'normal' gpt is 30, you will gain an extra 5-15 turns worth of it, which turns into 350g to 1050g extra. All of that 'extra' gold can lead to more Research Agreements, City State allies, units, buildings, paying for a 'distraction' war between two AIs, and so forth.

The other side to the economic domination of Persia, from the UA, is that workers and settlers also gain the +1 movement during golden ages. This means that they now have three movement during a Golden Age, rather than two movement. This is very important as your workers are decidedly more efficient at improving tiles than anyone else's units. Saving worker turns adds up to economic benefits in many ways. A worker can step on to a hill or into a forest/jungle and work the tile in the same turn. If you need to shift workers from one area of your empire to another, or settle a new city, the three movement lets you get there faster. For open terrain, every two turns of movement = three turns for everyone else. For Rough terrain, every turn of movement = two turns of movement for everyone else as you can move through two tiles of forest or hill per turn (forested hills still stop you though). This snowballs over time, with a number of workers or settlers, to the point where you'll be able to get your whole empire up and running many turn ahead of anyone else, which allows more :c5production:, :c5gold:, :c5food:, or even :c5culture: sooner. As with everything, having an earlier advantage is very powerful.

The other side to the Unique Ability lies within the realm of combat. All military units gain +10% attack and defense and +1 movement during a Golden Age. This is very powerful as it affects both Combat strength (melee units and naval unit defense + ranged unit defense vs. melee units) and Ranged attack strength (ranged/naval/air unit attack and ranged unit defense vs. ranged units), including Naval and Air units. At a minimum, it lets you stand in open terrain and not need the Shock I promotion to overcome the -10% combat strength penalty (on defence) for being there. At a maximum it adds another +10% to an attack or defense, which, as you get towards higher base combat strength units, starts becoming a very powerful edge. In larger battles, every +% increase matters, since damage given and taken is based upon the relative strengths of the units in the fight, so in a tech parity fight (rifles vs. rifles, or pikes vs. pikes) you'll take less damage and give more damage than your opponents during a Golden Age than you would otherwise.

As with workers and settlers, efficiency in movement is critical in battles. Units with two movement base now move three, so that attack will launch itself forward 1.5x-2x faster than before, allowing you to cover more ground and win more battles and territory. Siege units can move, setup and fire on the same turn in open terrain. Archers and Crossbows with logistics can move and fire twice. If needed, you can also retreat through two rough terrain tiles/turn, allowing you to get away even from horse units.

One point to note is that the movement point addition is delayed by one turn due to the game mechanics for movement points. So the first turn of a Golden Age will give you +10% combat strength, but you'll still be at your normal unit movement speeds. The flip side to this is that the turn after your Golden Age ends, you will have the extra movement point/unit, but will not have the +10% combat strength.

Cost: 56 :c5production:
Combat: 8 :c5strength:
Speed: 2 :c5moves:
Promotions: Heals at Double Rate, +100% vs. Mounted
Replaces: Spearmen (at Bronzeworking)

The promotion 'Heals at Double Rate' allows Immortals to be in the battle more often, while spending less time in the back healing. What this means is that your Immortals, or Immortal based units, will heal 2 hit points/turn outside of your territory, 4 hit points/turn inside your territory and 6 hit points/turn inside your cities. This particular promotion is the same as the Fountain of Youth healing promotion, so you will not gain extra healing from being near it. As well, the Medic promotion healing is added after your normal healing, and therefore it is not doubled.

This is a major bonus and allows you to have your Immortals take the fire from enemy units while fortified and let other units mop up. When assaulting a city, in the early game, this means you can soak both the city attack and an archers attack with a single immortal for a number of turns before retreating to heal. This allows you to use ranged units to bring down the city defences and shift other Immortals to get a surround on a city before launching your attack. Once you take the city, even if you raze it, you'll be able to heal within 2 turns (4/turn, assuming not at 1 hit point left) and then move on to the next target.

Adding the March Promotion will make your Immortals near unstoppable. You can attack and heal on the same turn. If you're defending your territory, this could mean that your Immortals, or Immortal based units, will always be at full health even while attacking every turn. Given the switch to siege units doing most of the damage to cities post-cannons, it may be best to consider the Cover promotions as well as Siege after taking March. Once the late Renaissance era units start appearing, melee units shift roles to protecting their ranged units and soaking damage. Having a unit that heals twice as fast and has some Cover protection vs. ranged attacks can mean the difference between a quick steam roll and a rout.

Satraps Court
Cost: 200 :c5production:
Special: +2 :c5happy:, +2g
Replaces: Bank +25%g (at Banking)

Happiness (and +2g) from a Bank replacement is very nice combination with the Unique Ability, given that excess happiness generates Golden Ages, and the Persian Unique Ability provides extended Golden Ages. Satraps Courts also work very well with a Puppet Empire as the puppets will always build markets and banks, but rarely build colosseums and theatres. So you can sneak some happiness into your puppets, while they provide you even more gold for the empire.

Immortal Counter Rush
One great benefit to having Immortals is that you can quickly dispatch a rush against you, then push forward and do some serious damage to the offending civilization who dared challenge you.

As Persia, it is usually a safe bet to take Mining as your first technology. This gives you ten turns to find out if there are close civilizations. If there are civilizations within 10 tiles of your capital, and they 'covet your lands', you can generally expect to be 'visited' by their units sometime soon. There are some exceptions though (civs with Medieval Unique units tend to wait), but in general, it's worth planning for the attack. If there isn't a close civilization, then you can move on to other techs and 'standard' build plans. At the very least, your workers can mine and chop forests, or be one step closer to Masonry for Marble or Stone resources.

Your next step is to grab Bronze Working for your Immortals, and start making them. One or two is enough to 'counter' the rush, but you'll need 6 units (including the scout/starting warrior) to be able to fully force the AI into relenting its attack. This has opportunity costs though, as you'll be giving up on early empire building in favour of living and potentially adding a puppet or four to your empire. Not a horrible trade, but early wars can set you back if you can't gain a good advantage from the expense.

For Social Policies, it's best to take Honour then Warrior Code right away. The Great General and production boost for your Immortals is very important. After that, you should grab Discipline (+10% Combat Strength for an adjacent unit) and then Military Tradition (1.5x XP gain).

Defending your Capital
The most important aspect of this counter rush is to not lose your Immortals. You need every single last one of them to be able to effect the 'counter rush', so losing even one can cause the AI to rethink how much it will give you. It might also allow it more time to rebuild an army, at which point it won't go quietly.

So leave your first Immortal in the capital, with every other one on tiles beside your capital where it cannot get surrounded, but might provide a flank bonus. The Immortal in the city will heal 6 HP/turn if it rests there, so you should never chose a target that will have you move the Immortal out of the city. Always attack full health, or close enough, units with your Immortal first. Then use the cities ranged attack (or an archer) to hit the unit and clear it out. This should leave your Immortal in the city, allowing it spend the next turn healing. Most fights will not do more than 5-6 damage to your Immortal (terrain dependant), so it will be able to fully heal every other turn. (attack, heal, attack, heal, etc)

Do beware the Random Number Generator though. Sometimes you might accidentally do an extra point or two of damage and have your Immortal leave the city. If this happens, use the city and other Immortals to pick off the weaker enemy units right away (full deaths, not partial) and hope there's not too many ranged units around. In general, try not to use your Immortal on a unit that has 6 HP or less, or where the combat dialogue shows 'Decisive Victory or Major Victory'.

Counter Rushing
By the time you've cleared the enemy units near your city, you should have 3-4 Immortals available with your scout and/or starting Warrior. If you've saved your gold, you should buy Immortals with it now (sell Open Borders, but not the luxuries). Effective scouting (finding City States) and a few good luxuries near you should be enough to gain at least one Immortal this way.

Bring your army over to the enemies closest city (the 2nd city works best, but a low defence capital can still work). With proper flanking, you should be able to dispatch the enemy warriors/etc along the way. Once it is down to just the city (and likely an archer in it) fully surround the city with your Immortals and other units. Use the warrior or scout to protect the Great General. Do not attack the city until you have all of your units around it. Fortify each Immortal (don't forget to pillage along the way if possible) around the city, taking care to ensure that whatever unit is being ranged attacked by the city/archer is fully fortified right way (even if you take longer for other units to go around it). Once set up, attack the city with every unit. If the unit which was being ranged attack is below 7 health, do not use it on this round. unless you are 100% sure it can take the city. (not usually on the first turn) Next round, complete the attack on the city and take it. Be careful to not to leave weakened units close to any military that they may have nearby.

If you dislike the city location, raze it. If you plan on pushing into a longer war with other AIs, then raze it. If it happens to have 2+ luxuries, already improved, then puppet it. For the most part, if you want to keep pushing with your Immortals, you'll need to get into a very quick Golden Age. Adding new cities to your empire increases your Golden Age 'happiness bucket' as well as saps your excess happiness, so it's usually best just to raze everything for the moment. If there's two copies of a luxury item, and you can trade one for a new luxury, then it can be worth keeping the city.

If this was the second city, then bring your forces around to the capital and check for a peace treaty. While you might be able to finish the AI right here, it's actually better to let them hand everything over to you first. All you need to do is get a cluster of your units (6ish) near their capital and they will make peace (unless they have a new army already). Preference goes to getting their luxury resources, so that you can get into a quick Golden Age and use your military advantage on your other neighbours. Never take other cities unless you already have everything else from them. If you are planning this path, then your capital should still be kicking out Immortals to boost your army size. Gaining an extra 8 happiness/turn will speed up the time to your first Golden Age, at which point you unleash the Immortals upon everyone.

The following list shows the speed of entering a 'fast' golden age, vs. the types of unique luxuries near your capital, in order.
  • Two Mining Lux (Gold/Gems/Silver) - This is the fastest way into a golden age as you pass through Mining on the way to Bronze Working
  • Mining lux + Marble - Masonry is usually only 10-12 turns to research at this point
  • Mining + Calendar (or Trapping) - you'll get the mining lux up and running quickly, but must spend 20 turns waiting until the calendar (or trapping) lux is ready.
  • Double Calendar lux (cotton, wine, sugar, incense, dye, silk, spices) - these ones tend to come in groups. 20 turns to get to Calendar is slow, but you'll get two for one improvement potential
  • Double Trapping lux (Ivory, furs) - A very rare combination, but possible in 20 turns. If you have plenty of deer as well, this turns out to be very nice.

While there are other combinations (calendar/Masonry, trapping/calendar, Sailing), they are not conducive to entering a Golden Age early enough to warrant an Immortal rush. Getting double Sailing resources, or a split Calendar/Trapping resource set should tell you to move your starting settler, or just not rush. They come too late, given the tech times, or in the case of Whales/Pearls, take away gold/hammers from your Immortal production time, which is short.

Post-counter Rushing
If you have your heart set on keeping the Immortal train moving, and can hit a golden age fast, then do your best to keep kicking out Immortals as well as some archers to support them. Eight to ten Immortals backed by 5-6 archers can do some serious damage to the first 2-3 civs you run into, depending on timing. If you wait too long, then the enemy will start having stronger units (Roman Legions are painful) or massive spam (German LKs are easier to produce than Immortals). Use your flanking and archers to clear out units and take down cities quickly. Once an enemy has lost its army, it will take it a number of turns before it can fight back again. You don't necessarily need to wipe out every civ near you, but it's nice. Leaving them with only one city and having them hand you everything is just fine for now.

Continue down Honour to get to Professional Army fairly quickly. Use an archer or two to go barb farming for culture, if possible. As well, tech up to Civil Service so that you can upgrade your Immortals to Pikemen. Try to have at least 8 Immortals ready to upgrade. +2 combat strength/unit doesn't seem like much, but the new 10 :c5strength: base means that every +10% bonus = 1 more :c5strength:. So the Golden Age + Great General + Discipline = a 14 :c5strength: based unit, rather than an 11.2 :c5strength: unit. Terrain, flanks and other modifiers drive up the combat strength even more, so that you can fight effectively, even against Longswords.

To keep the good times rolling, burn every Great General you create through fighting. Keeping the golden age going means faster movement and harder hits. Though, once you've managed the upgrades to pikes, you might be able to stand without being in the golden age, but who would want that?

If you can terrorize 3+ civs near your borders, at least to cut them down to their capitals, if not gone, then you should have enough space to do whatever you want with the rest of the game. Get to Rifling and upgrade again then start another golden age and continue the push. You are going to be at a small disadvantage during the Civil Service->Rifling period though. Unless you want to add Longswords or muskets to your army, you will be vulnerable to an AI that has a Longsword or Musket UU. Prioritize your initial targets to ensure that is not an issue.

- Culture ruin before finding an AI -
If you haven't checked every close border for an AI, getting a Social Policy early can be a drawback. If you take Honour, but then find no AIs, you've put yourself on the wrong path. If you take Liberty, thinking you can expand, but get DoWed on turn 16 anyways, you missed your chance to get more Honour policies. When this situation happens, taking the Tradition opener can be best. It allows you to rapidly expand your borders, and get the early Honour policies if you are attacked, else you can stay peaceful and work on your capital.

- Chichen Itza -
If you do happen to Immortal counter rush, do not expect to get the Chichen Itza on higher difficulty levels. If you happen to be very lucky, then one of your neighbours will build it for you, and then you can continue on and use the 'Forever Golden' strategy to continue in the game. Else, you'll just have to live with only +50% extra Golden Age length, which isn't that bad.

Examples and Screenshots from Civilization Specific Strategies

Forever Golden
One fairly common, and easy to reproduce, strategy for the Persians is the 'Forever Golden' Strategy. This strategy involves some setup and timing, but once mastered, will leave you with over 100 turns of Golden Age to cruise to the goal of your choice.

The core of this strategy is to generate a massive gpt over a very long period of the game, and then use that gold to dominate your enemies, or coast to a peaceful victory buying up every City State on the planet.

There are two key Wonders and two key Social Policies required for this strategy to work.

  • Chichen Itza - +50% longer Golden Ages. +4 :c5happy:
  • Reformation - Immediately enter a 10 turn Golden Age. +33% culture in cities with Wonders
  • Representation - Immediately enter a 10 turn Golden Age. 33% reduction in the # of cities influence on Social Policy costs.
  • Taj Mahal - Immediately enter a 10 turn Golden Age. +4 :c5happy:

The Plan
You very first target is to get to Civil Service as soon as possible. Growth/expansion/National College/Great Library all help towards this goal. Once there, build the Chichen Itza immediately. On lower difficulty levels, you will have some time to 'wander' and grab some other techs, but on higher levels it's best to get here immediately. After Civil Service, you need to set yourself up to get over to Printing Press (Taj Mahal) and eventually Economics. (greater gold tile yields) You might as well grab the Hagia Sofia and go up to Education now, (Porcelain Tower and Notre Dame help) and then start the push to Printing Press.

Ensure to sell off as many luxuries as you can, rather than hoarding happiness. You do not want to enter your first natural Golden Age until you are ready to take Representation and/or Reformation. Expanding will help increase the time until the next Golden Age, but ensure not to over expand else you won't be able to grab your two key policies in time. You should sign Research Agreements where possible to help you get to Printing Press faster.

Once you are close 'enough', that is, within 20 turns of getting to Printing Press, trigger your first natural Golden Age. With Chichen Itza and the Persian Unique Ability, this will be a 20 turn Golden Age. During that Golden Age, grab Reformation (if you stayed 'small') or Representation, if you expanded. (exact choice depends on how many cities you have and whether the increase in culture output is greater than the decrease in Social Policy costs)

You should maximize your cultural output to ensure you get one of Reformation or Representation during that first 20 turn Golden Age. This could include taking Legalism for four free temples (if you started with Tradition) or Mandate of Heaven to convert excess happiness to culture. You can delay taking the 2nd one until you are close to finishing the Golden Age, though be cautious and take it early if you might not get another Social Policy in time. Each of those Golden Ages will be worth 20 turns more, for a total of 60 turns in a Golden Age. Add the Taj Mahal, which is built faster due to the +20% production from being in a Golden Age, (and/or marble/aristocracy) and you are now in an 80 turn Golden Age.

At this point, you should keep pushing into Economics, as well as make markets/mints and banks in every city, to increase your total gpt output. Economics is very important to get right after Printing Press as it will add 1g to each fur/ivory resource and trading post, plus add 1g to all deer. This last bit can be very important if you have a number of deer around as Golden Ages only add 1g to tiles that already had a minimum of 1g on them. Before Economics you would have 0g from deer tiles, (unless the deer is on a river) but after Economics (for the rest of the Golden Age) you will have 2g/deer.

From this point forth, you should be looking to go to war to generate Great Generals, or picking up wonders/policies that give you free Great People (the Louvre, Brandenburg Gate, Warrior Code). The Golden Age from 'burning' a Great Person is also increased by the Persian Unique Ability and Chichen Itza. So you will minimally get 6 turns of Golden Age (instead of 3) from burning Great People. Maximally, the first Great Person used, if you waited, will get you 18 turns more. (then 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, ..., 6)

Since all of your units gain +1 :c5moves: and +10% :c5strength:, generating Great Generals can be the most efficient way to do this (especially for a Domination plan). Otherwise, the Louvre gives you two free Great Artists, and as long as you aren't playing culturally, that could mean another 30 turns of Golden Ages for completing that wonder.

Social Policies
Social Policy wise, the direction you head depends on the Victory Condition you want to achieve. Once you start the Forever Golden Age, it should last you to the last few turns of the game, if you are playing efficiently. What comes here is a few thoughts on where you can head in the Social Policy trees to help boost your way to the end. It's not exhaustive, nor based upon a specific Victory Condition plan.

Finishing Piety and Liberty is fairly common with this strategy. The later Liberty finish means that you might grab a Renaissance or Industrial era wonder (Such as Big Ben or Brandenberg Gate), instead of a medieval era one. Finishing Piety increases your overall culture output (and drops policy costs), increases gold output by 10% in cities with Temples and converts 1/2 your happiness into culture. Mandate of Heaven is fairly useful in this type of strategy as you will no longer need the excess happiness to start Golden Ages. So converting it to culture can be a good way to use that excess happiness (especially if you can't sell off all luxuries).

All of your excess gold is well spent by going into Patronage and grabbing a number of City States. You will have more gold around, and therefore should be able to fend off the AIs who covet your City State allies. In a similar vein, a few policy choices up the right side of Commerce can really help out here. A 'free' bank for your capital during the golden age can net you up to +85% (with Theocracy) on all of that excess gold in your capital. If you expand very wide, then reducing the costs of expansion via Trade Unions means that for every city (3 tile road) you effectively save one road tile worth of expense. This adds up very quickly, the more you expand. Finally, getting Mercantilism means that, when combined with Big Ben, you can save 40% of the rush cost of buildings and units. For an empire built on a fountain of gold, rather than production, this means you're much more efficient with it, and therefore can do more.

The Persian civilization is one of the top civilizations in the game, mainly due to their Unique Ability. It always helps and is effectively combined with their Unique Building, the Satraps court. Getting into, then staying in, golden ages is a must for Persian play. Generating higher gpt for longer translates into more of everything you need. They also have one of the most effective Unique Units in the game, the Immortal. It's special promotion means that it is always worth building at least a few of them, since the promotion sticks around when the unit is upgraded.

No matter what Victory Condition you are playing towards, Persia will always be a dominate choice. Using either of the strategies detailed above, you will set yourself up for a mid-late game win and have the time, and gold, to do whatever you desire.

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