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Social Policy: Tradition (vanilla)

A closer look at the social policy branch


Tradition is one of the three social policy branches available in the ancient era. Choosing the tradition tree opens three policy choices: Aristocracy, Legalism and Oligarchy, with the remaining Landed Elite and Monarchy requiring Legalism. Although the game claims "Tradition is best for small empires," its finisher is one of the best policies in the game for any empire, though the prerequisite policies are less than stellar.

The Policies
General Use

The Policies


Adopting Tradition greatly increases the rate of border expansion in cities and also grants 3 :c5culture: Culture in the :c5capital: Capital.

In addition to the 3 culture per turn in the capital, this reduces the exponent in the cultural border expansion formula by 0.25. This significantly cuts the amount of culture needed to gain tiles, especially later ones; the 5th expanded tile costs about half as much as without tradition, the 15th about one third. Note that taking tradition purely to get other branches "faster" via the +3 culture does not work. The 3 culture never makes up for the exponentially increasing social policy costs.


+15% :c5production: when building Wonders and +1 :c5happy: Happiness for every 10 :c5citizen: Citizens in a City.

This production boost works on national wonders as well as regular wonders. The percentage gain stacks additively with other boosts such as marble's +15% :c5production: or a workshop's +10% :c5production:. The value of this policy is entirely dependent upon how many wonders are going to be built; in an OCC culture game where most time is spent building wonders it can be a huge boon. The happiness portion adds one happiness for each multiple of 10 a city reaches. Having twenty population 9 cities provides no happiness, having one city with population 30 provides 3 happiness.


Provides a free culture building in your first 4 cities.

Grants the highest culture divided by :c5production: cost building available to be built in each of the first four cities founded or captured. This is generally the earliest technologically available with exceptions for monastery and civs that get unique buildings that produce culture (see list below). Note that this goes by the base raw building culture, so although monasteries end up providing more total culture they are granted after both opera houses and museums. If four cities have not yet been founded or captured, the next cities founded will start with a monument. If there are no culture buildings available in your first four cities, legalism will provide nothing. With less than four cities, capturing a city after getting the policy neither grants that city a monument nor counts against the four total. See the tips on Abusing Legalism below. As with most culture related policies, due to exponentially scaling policy costs Legalism is generally only worthwhile if further policies in the branch will be taken.

Spoiler Buildings from Legalism in order of precedence :
Mud Pyramid Mosque (Songhai's temple replacement)
Burial Tomb (Egypt's temple replacement)
Opera House
Wat (Siam's university replacement)
Mughal Fort (India's castle replacement)
Broadcast tower


Garrisoned units cost no maintenance and cities with a garrison gain +100% :c5rangedstrength: Ranged Combat Strength.

If a city contains a garrisoned unit this changes the bombardment formula such that the damage is doubled (which is slightly different than adding 100% combat strength). This requires some micromanagement to use effectively when using ranged units inside the city; first garrison the unit, then city bombard, then do the ranged attack with the unit which takes the unit out of garrison.

Landed Elite

+10% :c5food: Growth and +2 :c5food: in the :c5capital: Capital.
Requires: Legalism

Increases in the capital excess food by 10% and raw food by 2. Can be used directly for growth or be used to shift a citizen to work a production tile without impeding growth. The +10% stacks additively with other modifiers, such as the branch finisher or a we love the king day boost.


+1 :c5gold: Gold and -1 :c5unhappy: Unhappiness for every 2 :c5citizen: Citizens in the :c5capital: Capital.
Requires: Legalism

This can provide a significant amount of happiness and gold with a large capital. The gold gained is modified as normal, such as by a market's +25%. Note that the 50% unhappiness multiplies with other unhappiness reducers, for example each population in India's capital produces 0.25 unhappiness under monarchy.


Adopting all Policies in the Tradition tree will grant +15% :c5food: Growth and +2 :c5food: in each city.

Increases excess food by 15% and raw food by 2. The crème de la crème of the tradition branch, this policy can be used to increase the growth of all cities, or used to let new cities work production tiles and still grow to size two at least, or can be used to sustain specialists.

General Use

Tradition is one of the staple branches for a culture victory. Aristocracy provides a boost to wonder production and legalism can be used to jump start hermitage production the moment acoustics is researched. It can be a decent choice as a branch to finish straight off. Compared to straight liberty, it excels in situations where high production tiles are available to put citizens to work and enough early gold is available to purchase settlers rather than build (eg playing as Spain or Songhai).

There are a couple basic strategies for finishing the branch optimally:
  • Straight through: Rely on a culture ruin to get to the opener, take legalism for a monument, then landed elite, aristocracy or monarchy depending on whether a wonder is being built, finish with oligarchy. Not building a monument frees up a few turns to get started on a granary or worker. Don't fret about not getting a better culture building as this is the fastest way to finish the branch.

  • Slight dallying: Delay legalism via mixing with another early policy branch until it will provide temples in a few cities. This is a great approach for Egypt or Songhai (with their temple replacements). With Egypt take Tradition -> Liberty -> Collective Rule, get a few cities set up taking other policies, and when they all have monuments built fire off legalism for a pleasant +8 happiness boost. With Songhai taking Tradition->Honor->Aristocracy->Oligarchy->Legalism can work out: the goal is to fund settlers via camp clearing. This works especially well on epic or marathon speed settings.

Abusing Legalism

Legalism's free culture building can be very useful in a few situations:

Egypt can gain its +2 :c5culture: +2 :c5happy: Burial Tomb by having monuments and the philosophy technology. This can provide a very early 8 happiness boost, making Egypt formidable at rapid early expansion.

Siam's +3 :c5culture: +33% :c5science: university replacement, the Wat, can be gained by having the education technology as well as monuments, libraries and temples built in the first four cities. With improved wine or incense around a monastery will be gotten instead, and with the acoustics technology an opera house takes precedence. Opening with tradition and waiting to take legalism allows Siam to set up a minor infrastructure investment for a large return; gaining 4 free Wats after education provides an immediate significant research boost.

Culture Victory
Any civ going for a culture victory can get a significant culture boost by saving legalism until acoustics is researched. A four city setup with all the prerequisite culture buildings can instantly have four opera houses, allowing immediate building of the hermitage. This can save a significant number of turns.

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