tl;dr. This is a guide for Non-Deity players looking to break into the difficulty and Deity players who want to try something new. Intimidated by the rough Deity tech curve? No problem! This strategy allows, nay, encourages, you to fall behind early and stay there to your content. Narrowly, it is about how to win a diplomatic victory with the really bad Piety start on Deity difficulty. More broadly, it is about an under-appreciated playstyle of going "small" (as opposed to tall or wide) and playing from behind, on purpose. Even more broadly, it is about how to effectively spread religion, control the AI, and manipulate the ideological landscape. Ultimately, I hope this convinces some people that good starts are generally overrated in BNW and going “small” is a totally viable playstyle. This strategy was tested under Deity difficulty conditions, but should work on lower difficulties as well, with longer turn times. Readers beware. This will be long. A Guide to Playing “Small” with Piety Table of Contents --------- - Overview - Screenshots - Stats - Basics - Strategy - Tips - Troubleshooting - Build Orders - Theorycrafting - Conclusion Overview ---------- “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World First, a bit of background. I have always wanted to write a guide to AI diplomacy in Civ V, because I feel that this is usually the most important and underestimated part of the game. If you can control the AI, there's not much else you need to do to win. But, things keep changing significantly with AI behavior each patch, so it didn't seem worthwhile to write a guide. Now that it seems we're not getting any more major patches for Civ V, I thought I would share my experience playing as the great AI puppetmaster. I'm going to use one of my recent games as an illustration of the playstyle, so the discussion won't all be abstract. This has been tested through a half dozen successful games on deity difficulty post-fall patch BNW, with various bad starts and non-top tier civilizations. Anyway, in this particular game, my goal was to test the limits of the BNW AI diplomacy and how much religion I could spread from a 3-city Piety start. I've been playing around with a theory that there is a 4th way to play Deity: not tall, not wide, not semi-wide semi-tall, but... small. "Small" is where you don't grow, and you don't spread. You just hang out, not die, and then when the time comes... you win. The goal is to win a diplomatic victory, but science is also possible (see theorycrafting section for how to alter this strategy to win with a spaceship). To illustrate this “small” playstyle, I picked an average civ (Greece), avoided using its special abilities until late game, and focused only on faith output plus missionary spam, with no wonders. I sacrificed food, hammers, and science for gold and faith. For the first 100 turns, my international trade routes were providing more science than my cities. Then, turns 150-200, the Patronage policy (with only a handful of CS allies) was providing more beakers than my cities. Recipe for failure, right? Surprisingly... no. I started with only one rule, which is that I needed a start where my land would give me a real faith pantheon (so, not sun-god). Without this dirt, or a faith UA/UB, I would not recommend this strategy. This particular game was my first roll. My faith pantheon was wine, but this strategy would work with any faith pantheon. I was exceedingly lucky to have the opportunity to be Zulu's only neighbor (fun!) and have 4 of the 7 other civs also start Piety (fun! fun!). As a bonus, I was fortunate enough to have no rivers, mountains, or lakes near my starting location. Eventually, I will also find that there is not a single faith CS in the game. This would be a challenge. This would be a perfect test game. Make no mistake, for a peaceful game, there's not much you could do to make a worse start without also starting in the tundra. To top this off, besides AI diplomacy, I did exactly the opposite of what Deity players would tell you to do on these forums. Heck, I even worked Great Merchant slots exclusively until turn ~200, when I started working great scientist slots in my capital as well (while working Great Merchants). This is all to prove a point, that going “small” is viable, regardless of any dirt-related conditions besides the pantheon. My Greece run was not a good game. This is actually one of the worst games I've played. I picked this particular game specifically because it was so bad, to illustrate the power of going "small". Science wins with Babs are rather meaningless in my opinion. Yes, games are easier when you have an academy before turn 20. On the other hand, I think it's pretty impressive to hit Globalization in under 50 turns from the Industrial era from a ~300 beaker, turn 220, 3-city benchmark. Playing "small" will not get you the fastest turn time, but it will get you more delegates when the first vote arrives. If turn times is your thing (instead of diversity), then this strategy will endlessly frustrate you. The goal is a good victory%, not speed. I have recorded sub-250 turn times with this strategy (modify to hit satellites first, don't finish patronage, start rationalism 2 policies early). But, that's besides the point. The goal of this strategy is to win reliably, with bad-awful starts. As opposed to most other strategies, which are rather start-dependent, where your first 100 turns determines how good of a game it'll be... going “small” let's you match your wits against the AI, regardless of your starting situation. The only requirement is a faith pantheon-capable starting location. Ultimately, I won by a comfortable margin in my game, with belts and suspenders, 46 votes on the first World Leader vote. I did not have Forbidden Palace, for obvious reasons, and Russia destroyed a CS in mid-game. Other than that, there was nothing I could have done to make the victory more secure. I ended the game #1 in literacy, despite having chosen to not go Satellites first and bulb the spacestation (despite having a ready GE). Screenshots, statistics, strategy and discussion are below. Screenshots --------- Game Settings: Spoiler : Victory: Spoiler : Final World Congress: Spoiler : Final Maps: Spoiler : What “Small” Means (Turn 155): Spoiler : What “Behind” Means (Turn 219): Spoiler : Stats ---------- 275 turns to win, China was the only civ who finished Apollo (with two boosters) at this point. 63 total population by endgame. 1015 max beakers per turn for the end-game tech push to Globalization. 0 total world wonders built. On turn 250, I was 6th in literacy. On turn 220, I had not yet opened Rationalism. I was 8th in literacy and every other demographic statistic, besides approval. On turn 160, I finished the NC. On turn 160, I had influence (any type of non-base influence) with exactly 5 CSs (only 1 ally). I purposefully did not attempt to leverage Greece's UA, to show that any civ can do this. On the first WC vote, world fair was proposed and passed. I spent all my hammers on the project and only ended up with ~250, which is ~100 short of silver. This happens occasionally. My WC proposals: World Fair, Arts Funding, Scholars in Residence, International Games (failed, by me), World Ideology (mine). AI WC proposals: Ban Whales, Standing Army Tax, Cultural Heritage Sites, Embargo Portugal (failed), World Religion (mine). Total DoWs: 0. Not a single DoW from Zulu. Total Denouncements: 1. Russia denounced me in retaliation for me denouncing her. Total DoFs at endgame: 6. This includes my Zulu neighbor who has coveted my lands since turn 5 and the two civs who caught my spies, China and Russia. (screenshot of France, the only holdout civ, above, in the Maps section). Total # of times AI attempted to convert my cities: 0. Yay, diplo. Total # of bribes to AI for DoW: Zulu 4 (to occupy his army), Portugal 1 (to keep Russia in check, after she threatened me with the largest game army), France 1 (to keep China in check, after she finished the apollo project; not necessary, but I had the extra gold). Total units built/bought: 1 scout, 3 triremes, 1 worker (1 stolen from CS, so 2 total; you don't need workers when you don't have early population/cities). Greece's UUs were not used. Total great scientists used: 1 generated, 1 gifted by CS, 1 faith-bought. Along with oxford and rationalism finisher, bulbed for: Industrialization, Plastics, Atomic Theory, Ecology, Telecommunication. Religion used: Taoism. Goddess of Festivals, Papal Primacy, Monasteries, Choral Music, Religious Unity, Evangelism (heavily under-appreciated). Papal primacy was my concession to getting a rather good faith-mid-game with wine. I could have gotten even more faith mid-game with Pilgrimage instead, but I wanted the achievement and challenge tied to Papal Primacy for this game. You should never make this religion. Basics: A New Diplomatic Victory ---------- “The Savage nodded, frowning. You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it... What you need, the Savage went on, is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.” - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World The new BNW post-fall patch Diplomatic Victory raised the bar for a Diplomatic Victory. You now cannot win a diplomatic victory in the first round even if you control all 16 City States and host the United Nations (that will give you 38 delegates out of 40 required). You will need at least one source of delegates from: Forbidden Palace, World Religion, World Ideology, or Globalization. In addition to this hurdle, the AI has been programmed to attack and conquer City States at a higher rate, making it a rare Deity game where all City States survive to the end without your intervention, and losing City States no longer lowers the delegates required to win threshold. This has led many Deity players to rank a peaceful Diplomatic Victory as one of the most difficult victory condition on Deity difficulty (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=514129). This is the challenge that we will tackle. We will start Piety, stay small in our God-awful starting location, with our friendly Zulu neighbors, surrounded by 4 other civilizations opening Piety, without a single faith City State in the game. In other words: Fun! This is not the fastest way to play to a diplomatic victory. Going hard for science and triggering a faster vote w/ Globalization will of course be faster. But, who cares about all that turn speed nonsense. This is far more stylish, uses skills mostly unrelated to your typical fare 4-city tradition science victory, and ultimately more secure because you will end the game actually still friendly with almost everyone, instead of in a DoW, abusing the AI's inept military game (where they can't even move and attack with ranged units on the same turn! talk about game exploits). So, the ideal conditions for starting small and picking Piety are: 1) You have a faith pantheon capable start, but otherwise poor dirt in your capital and/or starting area. 2) You either have no room to expand, or are afraid expanding will trigger bad diplomacy (because you started next to aggressive/expansionist civilizations who covet your land). 3) You have at least one neighbor that did not open Piety. Note: For those who have no respect for a peaceful Diplomatic Victory, I am not sure why you are reading this guide. But, just in case you're out there, I did not want to leave you out. So, I have ensured that this strategy, with some tweaks, is also viable for a secure Science Victory on Deity difficulty. It's in the theorycrafting section in the back, but it's actually been tested with good results. Basics: Why... "Small"? ---------- “The author's mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published.” - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Small is to Piety what Tall is to Tradition and Wide is to Liberty and Honor. It is the natural way. Given the bonuses to infrastructure vs expansion, you can chart the path of each opener. Piety has none, so its natural path is to stay small. Those that try to start Piety tall or wide run into obvious problems on higher difficulty levels like Deity. That's because you have no advantages. Both Liberty AND Tradition hard build settlers better (with liberty getting an extra one). You can't go wide with any speed or ease. Both Liberty AND Tradition have basic infrastructure bonuses for the early game (faster worker, free buildings, hammers, food). You get slightly faster shrines and temples, but it does not compare. Both Liberty AND Tradition get indirect science bonuses (great scientist and growth). You don't, unless you pick one specific (and rather mediocre) founder's belief. Both Liberty AND Honor get production bonus to troops early to expand via warfare, while Tradition gives you enough gold to support your early army while continuing to grow. You don't have any of these things. So, you can't go wide, and you can't go tall. What else is left? What else can you do? You can only go small. It is the natural way. Well, you may well say, you've convinced me that Piety sucks as an opener, and that it has relative disadvantages to going tall or wide or aggressive... but why would I pick Piety and go “small” at all? What are the... dare we say, advantages, of going “small”? Well, I'm glad you asked. Small is friendly. Going small shares the same diplomatic advantages as going tall. You're not in anyone's way. Usually, only one civ would covet your lands, instead of everyone around you. In addition, religion further appeases your non-religious neighbors (if any) with quick shared religion, and creates early game allies. This may or may not happen if you do not found a religion and rely on your aggressive neighbor to spread to you before they attack you. In fact, the very fact of you getting an early religion will change the AI's course of action so your neighbors are disproportionately unlikely to have religions that compete with you (besides the ones that open Piety). Note that a derivation of “small” is “semi-wide” small, which seeks to spread to up to 5/6 cities instead of 3, but remain unintrusive, due to the small distances between your cities, and your early spread of religion. Only do the 5/6 city alternative if you can do it early. As will be explained later, the science penalty works in your favor between Temples and Renaissance. Expand asap once temples are available, and then just sit back and give the AI its space. Do not go semi-wide small if there are any aggressive neighbors around. Small is suitable for religion. Ever have to burn your first missionary just to spread your own damn religion to your own damn cities? Why can't they be like pantheons? It's awful. Well, this is not a concern for small civilizations. If your city is 4 pop or less, it'll only be a dozen turns or so before they're automatically converted. You've just saved an early missionary, who can begin doing God's work in places that actually matter: other civilizations. Additionally, just about the only things not tied to growth are faith, culture, and gold. Faith is a passive generation, which works in the background at a steady clip regardless of how well your cities are doing. This is good, because your cities are not going to be doing very well. So, it's a good synergy that you're still competitive there. Speaking of gold... Small is gold-efficient. Extra cities are not quite what they used to be. Trade routes greatly increased the viability of creating a huge gold reserve without a huge empire. This is great, since the underlying resource for a diplomatic victory is gold. Your planted prophets are also limited in quantity, so extra cities, even set on full gold production, will not make a terribly large difference in the game, and more cities means more buildings you'll need to cash buy and upkeep (because remember, your cities are small, they are awful awful little cities). Static bonuses have no per-city culture/science penalties. Another BNW gift to being small, is that certain bonuses, third-party or belief or social policy bonuses, have absolutely no consideration for your city size. While 100 science might not be great for a wide civ, for a 3-city civ? It's a difference-maker. Same with culture. This is perfect, because all CS bonuses and all Patronage tree bonuses are static. Besides food, none of them ramp up with number of cities. Some other great policies are Fine Arts in the Aesthetics tree, Scientific Revolution and Finisher in the Rationalism tree, and anything that affects trade routes. Tradition and Honor openers should also get consideration (especially because there is an inefficiency in a typical culture-ramp for the Piety tree, so that you should take another policy in the middle of Piety if you have almost any source of culture at all). These are the only advantages to playing small, and they are the ones we will leverage into a secure, peaceful victory. Basics: Why... Piety? ---------- “But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.” - Aldous Hexley, Brave New World In the current state of the game, Piety is somewhere between bad and awful. But, it is not completely unplayable. Humble though its capabilities may be, it does have them, and they do have certain undeniable synergies with playing small. To understand the dilemma of Piety as an opening tree, let's start with a couple of myths about Piety. Piety starts must go wide. This is simply not true. Piety has exactly 2.5 policies that benefit from going wide, the opener, Organized Religion, and half of Theocracy (and a possible choice for reformation belief, but you don't have to choose a wide-one). Compare this to Tradition, which also has 2.5 wide-friendly policies (Oligarchy, part of the opener, part of the finisher, and part of Aristocracy). Compare this to Liberty, which has all 6 of its policies favoring wide (arguable the free worker and settler parts of their respective policies are not wide-friendly, but that's still 5 total policies). Compare this to Honor, which has only 1 (Military Caste). Religion itself doesn't have to go wide either. A faith pantheon, a faith CS, or a faith natural wonder will all support tall/small play. Piety is more flexible than Tradition/Liberty in that you can go tall or wide or small and still reap the benefits. Piety has a happiness problem. This is also not true. Liberty needs happiness (and doesn't get enough of it) because you have a lot of cities at -3 per and an overall larger population. Tradition needs happiness (and arguably gets too much of it) because it's going to make your cities, especially your capital, grow a lot faster. Honor needs happiness because you need to absorb unhappiness from conquest (the happiness bonus, which is your total # of cities, roughly keeps up with half of the AI city's population if you continuously war and acquire more cities; it's rather elegant). On the other hand, Piety has no growth bonus, no settling extra city bonus, and no conquest bonus. So, it's not doing anything that would require the happiness! But of course, if you don't ever grow, spread, or conquer, you're probably going to lose. So, you'll have to do something at some point. The idea only is that you can't do any of those things right off the bat, so you can wait to eventually get your happiness from other sources (like, your next SP tree, or a CS, or trade). Piety is designed to start very slow, even slower than Liberty, and to build up that game-long religion bonus. Piety has no culture. This is only partly true. Piety has delayed culture. If you are not using a culture civ, then you must construct your religion very carefully. You do not need culture in the beginning of the tree, because if anything, Mandate of Heaven, Theocracy, and Religious Tolerance come too early to even be useful at that point. You only start needing culture after getting temples and a religion, to speed through the rest of the tree. So, make sure you have a source of culture then. For most civs, this means that at least one of your pantheon, founder or first follower belief must generate culture. You'll likely still finish slower than other trees that get their culture in the opener, but Piety doesn't need to be finished quickly. It's built to be slow. Ultimately, when going small, you want your religion to have a healthy faith/culture balance to address this problem (and a heavy focus on culture/faith CSs). Now, that being said... Piety is not necessary for going “small”. Piety's only advantage is a reverse relative advantage, in that going “small” minimizes the negative impact a Piety start necessarily creates. If you have a faith pantheon, you don't need Piety to play this way. In fact, by not going Piety, you can get access to other things, like wonders, or more cities. However, as explained in the Tips section, Piety is the most secure way to get that faith-pantheon for most civs, and the faith savings provides a game-long bonus in the long and drawn out missionary/prophet battles on Deity difficulty. Piety's first three policies give you two-three additional faith items (and the finisher another one), so that's at least one extra religious front you can fight, possibly two. Generally, you'll only be fighting on one/two fronts and Piety allows this to happen quite easily, whereas without Piety, your religion, if you get one at all, would have to be very faith/spread focused to even be able to spread it to a neighbor. This faith spreading is the entire Piety bonus. The Piety bonus, for its first three policies, although couched in terms of hammer savings and faith and faith savings... really all boils down to a diplo bonus with the AI via early faith spread and upkeep. If you are not planning to use this bonus, then you are essentially using up three social policies just to secure a religion, and maybe get one more great person for endgame. That's generally not a great deal. Heck, if that's your only goal, you might want to stop after the first two policies just to secure the religion, without wasting four more social policies on frankly rather sub-par bonuses. Thus, a Piety start is useful to going small because it 1) gives us something constructive to do in the first 150 turns of the game while we're not worried about silly things like growing or spreading, and 2) has bonuses to religious spread will add both early-game and late-game security to our peaceful Diplomatic Victory.