Archipelago Guide

Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by chadhogg, Jan 6, 2010.

  1. chadhogg

    chadhogg Chieftain

    Sep 22, 2009
    1 Preliminaries
    1.1 Why Archipelago Maps?
    1.2 About The Author
    1.3 About The Guide
    2 Important General Concepts
    2.1 Early Military
    2.2 Expansion
    2.3 Resources
    2.4 Trade
    3 Civilizations
    3.1 Traits
    3.2 Unique Units
    3.3 Unique Buildings
    3.4 Suggestions
    4 Relevant Game Rules
    4.1 Wonders
    4.2 Circumnavigation Bonus
    4.3 Slavery
    4.4 Corporations
    4.5 Religions
    4.6 Privateers
    4.7 Colonies & Vassals
    5 Overall Strategy
    5.1 Early Game
    5.2 Mid Game
    5.3 Late Game
    6 Conclusion


    This was written by Chad Hogg in early 2010. Feel free to copy it, alter it, post it wherever you feel like, etc. If you do redistribute with changes, however, please make it clear what sections you have altered.

    #1.1# Why Archipelago Maps?

    The Archipelago type of map provides a very different sort of game from most other map types, in which there is rarely space for fast expansion or neighboring civilizations to trade with or conquer. As such, different playing styles are necessary for success in these types of maps than in others. Archipelago maps are especially attractive to players who are more interested in research, building, and exploration than combat.

    I did not see any existing comprehensive strategy documents specifically for Archipelago maps, so I thought I might share what I have learned from experience.

    #1.2# About The Author

    I am by no means a Civ IV expert. Sadly, real life intrudes into my empire building much more than it did back in the days of Civ II. I have probably played 25 Civ IV games to completion, 15 of which were on Archipelago maps. Given a reasonable starting position, I usually win Prince-level games with a normalized score in the 15,000 - 20,000 range. In my few attempts at Monarch I can barely keep my head above water (no pun intended).

    #1.3# About The Guide

    This document is designed for Civilization IV with the Beyond The Sword expansion, build Some of it may be useful for people who do not have the BtS expansion, but it adds quite a lot to the gameplay. My advice is for Standard sized maps, Normal game speed, Ancient starting era, and all other default options other than map type. It may or may not be valid in other situations.

    #2# Important General Concepts

    Several of the usual assumptions about what is valuable do not necessarily apply in an Archipelago game. We discuss a few of the most important ones below.

    #2.1# Early Military

    Because you are likely to be on a small island / continent of your own with no rivals and little space for barbarians to pop up, you can usually get by with a very small military force during the first third of the game. Waging an offensive war in which units have to be slowly lugged around on Galleys is generally more trouble than it is worth, and the AI will not attempt it. Unless you see danger signs, a single defensive unit per city can be sufficient. The time that you would normally spend building an army can instead be used for other things. However, once your rivals start getting the ability to build Galleons you need to build up an army quickly or they will ruthlessly take advantage of your weakness.

    If you do start sharing a landmass with another civilization, then the above does not quite apply. If you can get access to copper, iron, or horse early in the game I would recommend that you make knocking that civilization off your first priority. If allowed to remain, they will take up some of your precious land and then start eyeing your cities when they can no longer easily expand. Once you have taken care of the threat, then the above paragraph becomes true again. If you do not have the resources to make an early assault on their cities, expand toward them as quickly as possible and do whatever is necessary to dissuade them from attacking you.

    #2.2# Expansion

    You will likely be able to build only 2-6 cities on your starting landmass, so spreading out to nearby islands as early as economically feasible is important. Typically, every civilization will fill out the land that is reachable without leaving coastal waters, then there will be a lag until the discovery of Astronomy, and then there will be a rush to grab the land that could not previously be reached. You want to be in that rush as early as possible, to get the best city locations. Before Astronomy, you may be able to prevent your adversaries from getting to unclaimed islands by covering the coastlines with your cultural borders and refusing Open Borders treaties.

    When you get a chance to go for cities off of your landmass, it is important to choose judiciously. Unless you are far ahead of everyone else, you will not be able to take up nearly all of the available space before others do. More importantly, spreading yourself that widely with under-developed cities will destroy your economy. The most important consideration when selecting overseas city locations is resources, which brings us to the next point.

    #2.3# Resources

    On a Pangaea map you can expect to find a great variety of natural resources available for you to harvest. On an Archipelago map, this is not true. You will have dozens of seafood sources, but likely very little variety in grains, livestock, and the like. Thus, it can be difficult to keep your citizens happy and healthy, especially since water-heavy maps have enough food to otherwise support large populations.

    More important than those happiness and health producing resources, however, are the strategic resources. Surviving the endgame without a source of Iron, Oil, and either Coal or Uranium will be very difficult, and there will probably not be enough sources of these resources on the map for every civilization to control one. Finding them all on your initial landmass is very unlikely. Thus, when you are first able to start colonizing anywhere in the world, it is essential to build cities anywhere that will get you these resources. At that time probably only Iron will be visible, but you can increase your probability of finding the others within your borders by diversifying your holdings. While the best city sites are near the equator, strategic resources seem to appear much more often near the poles. Thanks to the prevalence of seafood, you can often find a few good city locations with tundra around.

    If, when one of these resources is revealed, you find that there are none within your borders or on unclaimed land, then you will have no choice to fight for it. Better to do so before your enemy has the technology to use that resource against you.

    #2.4# Trade

    Trade routes that cross water get a significant bonus, so trade can be very important on an Archipelago map. However, trade routes cannot traverse ocean tiles until you have discovered Astronomy. Thus, if you have a completely isolated start (not uncommon), you will only be able to trade within your own empire, which is not so profitable. It may pay to make sure you actually have trading partners before starting those large infrastructure projects to enhance trade revenues.

    #3# Civilizations

    Some of the civilizations are very poorly suited to playing on Archipelago-style maps, while others seem designed just for it. In this section we attempt to explain why.

    #3.1# Traits

    Several traits are fairly useless due to the lack of early-game combat. Namely, Aggressive and Protective. By the time you are actually ready to go to war, there are plenty of other ways to get those XPs. The Imperialistic trait is somewhat less useful than normal because you will not be generating many Great Generals until late in the game, nor building many Settlers early. Expansive suffers similarly; you will not need many Workers. The extra health and fast Granaries are perhaps slightly more useful than in a normal game, however.

    The Philosophical, Industrious, Charismatic, Spiritual, and Creative traits are about as useful as they would be in a game with larger landmasses. The Organized trait is a bit better than usual because you will be needing Lighthouses and Courthouses everywhere. The Financial trait is significantly better than usual because it applies to coastal tiles, of which your cities will have a great many.

    #3.2# Unique Units

    The American Navy Seal is an upgrade of the Marine unit, which is notable because of the Amphibious promotion that allows it to attack directly from a ship. The advantages over a normal Marine are 1-2 First Strikes and the March promotion. While the unit does come at the time when major naval operations are most likely, I do not consider it that much of an improvement over the base unit.

    The Dutch East Indiaman is an upgrade of the Galleon unit. The differences are that it has power 6 instead of 4, holds 4 units instead of 3, and can travel through rival territory without an Open Borders pact. The higher strength is nice, but ideally your transport ships should never be fighting. The larger hold size is also nice, but just means that 3 East Indiamen can do the work of 4 Galleons. Being able to go through rival territory could be useful for getting through them to your enemy, but you would have to leave behind their escorts. Again this is a nice unit, but not a game-breaker.

    The Portuguese Carrack, on the other hand, is amazing. It replaces the Caravel, and is different in that it can transport any two land units, including military units and Settlers. This means that you will almost certainly have the first choice of extra-continental city locations, which is huge. See section 2.2 for further discussion.

    The Viking Berserker replaces the Maceman unit, adding 10% City Attack and the Amphibious promotion. This makes it good for launching surprise attacks in the Age of Sail, which is good but not great.

    #3.3# Unique Buildings

    The Aztec Sacrificial Alter is a version of the Courthouse that also reduce the unhappiness from using Slavery. Because of the abundance of food and scarcity of production tiles, you will be doing a lot of "whipping". I have not experimented with this myself, but it seems like it could be fairly useful.

    The Carthaginian Cothon adds an extra trade route to the Harbor. This can definitely be useful, but note the caveats about trade is section 2.4.

    The Dutch Dike replaces the Levee and produces an extra hammer in not only River tiles but also Coast and Ocean tiles. I like this because it makes it possible to build a reasonably productive city out of a single grassland tile surrounded by water with some seafood. Water tiles will still never be as good as most worked land tiles, but you can create a lot of cities in places that would only be a drain for other civilizations. One disadvantage is that this comes moderately late in the game.

    The Holy Roman Rathaus is a Courthouse that reduces maintenance costs by 75% instead of 50%. The high maintenance costs of far-flung naval empires is the major roadblock to expansions once you can reach new lands, so this is very significant.

    The Portuguese Feitoria is a Customs House that additionally makes all water tiles produce an extra commerce. The extra science and wealth are very useful, as you would expect. Like the Dike, it does come fairly late.

    The Viking Trading Post is a Lighthouse that additionally gives all naval units built in the city the Navigation I promotion. Having ships that go further than everyone else's is very nice, and this also makes them able to take the Navigation II promotion with their first 2 XP.

    The Zulu Ikhanda is a Barracks that decreases Maintenance costs by 20%. As previously discussed, lower maintenance is a Good Thing.

    #3.4# Suggestions

    In my opinion, the Dutch and Portuguese civilizations are much more suited to Archipelago maps than any other. Willem van Oranje's traits are better than Joao II's. Their unique buildings are both very useful, although the Portuguese one just gives you what the Dutch get for free from traits. The Dutch unique unit is good, but the Portuguese one is almost unfair. On balance, I think the Portuguese are stronger, but I enjoy playing as the Dutch more.

    The Vikings and several other civilizations with unique units or buildings mentioned above will be better than average, but not nearly as good as the great naval powers. Their relative strengths will depend on your playing style.

    #4# Relevant Game Rules

    A number of rules of the game take on special significance in an Archipelago game.

    #4.1# Wonders

    There are a few wonders that are especially helpful for civilizations with large coastlines. The Temple of Artemis doubles the value of trade routes in the city where it is built and produces an automatic Priest specialist. Since you will probably have 1-3 trade routes during most of its lifetime producing 2-4 commerce each, I find this very underwhelming.

    The Great Lighthouse gives each of your coastal cities 2 extra trade routes. This I find much more useful. However, I have had this wonder and still had only 1 trade route in some cities, so I think that it only increases the maximum number of trade routes, and there still must be trading partners available. See the caveats about trading in section 2.4.

    The Colossus makes all water tiles in all of your cities produce an extra commerce. This can give you most of the benefit of the Financial trait if you do not have it, or combine with Financial to give +2 commerce, which will provide substantial benefits in research and wealth. The only problem is that the Colossus is obsoleted by Astronomy, which you will want to grab as soon as possible for the ability to traverse ocean tiles. The Portuguese can build this and avoid Astronomy while plying the seas with their Carracks, which is very nice.

    The Moai Statues national wonder makes all water tiles in the city radius produce an extra hammer. I like to save this for a city that is almost all water tiles, but it is probably better to build it earlier in a sub-optimal city and reap the rewards for far longer.

    Most of the rest of the wonders are more or less as useful as in any other game, but avoid any that have an effect for all cities on the same continent as they are built, since this will likely be only a few cities.

    #4.2# Circumnavigation Bonus

    The first civilization to have revealed a horizontal band around the entire globe will receive a +1 movement bonus to all of their naval units for the remainder of the game. While a little extra movement is certainly not essential, it can be quite useful.

    In rare circumstances, it may be possible to send an early unit (Work Boat or Galley) the entire way around the world, hopping from one island to another without having to leave the coast. Usually, however, it is not possible to complete this goal the old-fashioned until you can build Caravels. Thus, researching Optics early should be a priority. When you have it, just send two off in opposite directions and wait until they meet up.

    It is also possible to gain this bonus through no work of your own by trading for the maps of your adversaries. Usually they want to exchange their map for yours, but I am always afraid that this will result in them getting the bonus instead of you. Fortunately, most are willing to simply sell you their map for a few gold.

    #4.3# Slavery

    Slavery is a useful civic in just about any game, but it is crucial on this type of map. Most of your cities will be food-rich due to seafood resources but production-poor. The only way to build things in a reasonable amount of time is to whip them and let your population grow back quickly. It sounds cruel, but if you spare them the lash your subjects will never have the buildings that make their lives so much more complete. :)

    #4.4# Corporations

    Thanks to the abundance of Fish, Clam, and Crab resources, Sid's Sushi is absurdly powerful. It is not at all unreasonable to think that you could be getting +20 food in every city by the end of the game. Of course, you will need to figure out how to use all of that food; well-fed citizens are not necessarily happy. Although it can be a bit of a mixed blessing, the ability to grow new cities very quickly and staff established cities with a full complement of specialists without giving up tile production make the corporation well worth it. One easy way to get a Great Merchant to incorporate it is to build the Great Lighthouse, Temple of Artemis, or Colossus in a city with no other Great People Point production. Another is to be the first to discover Economics.

    Because you will have few tiles that naturally produce hammers, Mining Inc or Creative Constructions can also be very useful. I prefer Mining Inc, but if you have a lot of Stone and Marble the other may be a better deal. I generally find that producing a Great Engineer is not difficult; it will happen naturally as you use Engineer specialists as much as possible.

    As always, make sure to headquarter corporations in the city with Wall Street and all financial buildings. Because you have so very many seafood sources they will probably still be a net financial loss, but the extra Merchant specialists in every city will easily offset this.

    #4.5# Religions

    Because there is so little opportunity to interact with other civilizations early in the game, if you want to have a state religion you will likely need to found one. I find Buddhism and Hinduism to be impossible at moderate difficulties, but Judaism or Confucianism make good targets. You can also take advantage of isolation to spread your religion to your neighbors if you get to them before someone else does with their religion. As usual, civilizations who share a religion with you will tend to ally themselves with you.

    #4.6# Privateers

    The Privateer unit is unique in that you can use it take offensive actions against your opponents without triggering war or even hurting their opinion of you. If you happen to get the technology to build them before your opponents have Frigates, it can definitely be worthwhile. A fleet of Privateers can eat up Caravels and Galleons, preventing other civilizations from founding overseas cities or even exploring beyond their borders. When there is no one in sight to attack, they can disrupt the economies of your opponents by pillaging seafood resources and blockading ports. When the enemy knows how to build Frigates or Ships of the Line, however, they will shred your Privateers in short order. At this point, withdraw them to your cities to later be upgraded to heavily promoted Destroyers.

    #4.7# Colonies & Vassals

    Overseas cities incur heavy maintenance penalties, so it is possibly to release these cities into colonies, which are new pseudo-sovereign nations. The new nation will be friendly towards you and give you access to one resource, but you lose all of the other benefits of those cities. Personally, I find colonies to be a terrible idea in almost all circumstances, but perhaps you will find otherwise.

    When you create a colony, they become a vassal state of you. It is also possible for existing civilizations to become your vassal state, usually as a condition of a peace treaty when you are destroying their army. While the vassal state will hate you, this can be a good way to take the good cities from a civilization and then get favorable peace terms from them without having to go out and conquer their useless tundra cities. The citizens and land of vassal states count partially toward your total for purposes of a Domination victory and voting.

    In rare circumstances, other civilizations may volunteer to enter this type of relationship with you. There is little downside in doing so, but they may draw you into wars that you are unprepared for. Essentially, you are promising to protect that civilization against their enemies.

    #5# Overall Strategy

    While strategies need to be adapted to the specific circumstances of the game, my games almost always follow these general guidelines.

    #5.1# Early Game

    The first decision you will need to make is where to place your first city. Ideally, you should be able to see at least two resources that can be harvested with early techs within your city radius. Another resource or two (perhaps that require Monarchy or Calendar) are very nice. Seeing Tundra or Desert nearby is a red flag that there may not be any other good land nearby. If my start location does not meet these criteria, I have no problem regenerating the map.

    Next, you have to decide what to build first. Conventional wisdom is to build a Worker first and get him improving resources immediately. In this case, however, I usually prefer a Work Boat if I have a seafood resource available. The Work Boat takes longer to build, since only hammers contribute to it, but your city can grow in the meantime. Then once you have an improved seafood resource, popping out a Worker will be much faster. If there are a lot of land-based resources that can be harvested almost immediately, then it flips the other way because your Worker can move on after improving one tile, while the Work Boat is consumed.

    Your first priorities are to explore your surroundings, grab as many of the valuable city locations as possible, meet your neighbors, and gain a tech lead. You might accomplish this by building one of the naval wonders, founding a religion, or sending out Fishing Boats in every direction. I follow a general rule I read somewhere else to expand until you have to run your Science rate around 50% to break even, then develop those cities until you can raise your Science rate to at least 70%, then go through another round of expansion if there is space remaining. Your ultimate goal is to learn Astronomy as quickly as possible, without throwing the other aspects of your empire too far out of balance.

    #5.2# Mid Game

    The second phase of the game begins when you have the capability to send ships over ocean terrain. As soon as possible you should be working on getting the circumnavigation bonus (section 4.2), finding the best city sites, finding all of your rivals and setting up diplomatic relations, and planting overseas settlements. In the meantime, try to continue leading the tech race and pounce on any strategic resources that you find. This should set you up nicely for the third phase of the game.

    #5.3# End Game

    At this point you should have metal-hulled ships, gunpowder units, Factories, and so forth while your opponents are just developing these technologies. You may not have the largest empire because the AI will build cities in very silly places, but you should have the most productive cities. You can choose to pursue a Space Race victory or start wiping out your neighbors. The Space Race goes pretty much as it would in any other game.

    Dominating opponents who have outdated units should be fairly straightforward. Send multiple Transports and escort ships in a single stack with overwhelming forces. If you have knowledge of air units and the enemy does not, mercilessly carpet bomb his cities to soften things up for the invaders. Use Marines to take out cities that are completely surrounded by water. After you have a foothold on a landmass and Airports, you can airlift units in rather than using the Transports. After taking out one opponent, take a few turns to spread your religion and corporations to those new cities before moving on to the next victim.

    If your opponents have comparable military technology a naval war will be much more difficult. Aerial bombing is generally ineffective when the defender is prepared for it, so use Artillery and naval shelling instead. Use (non-nuclear) missiles to soften enemy ships if you want to keep your own navy alive and promoted. Keep sentries around to spot Submarines and Stealth Destroyers.

    #6# Conclusion

    There is the collected wisdom of a few dozen games on Archipelago maps. Hopefully it will be of some use to you if you decide to take a crack at this interesting game type. As a not-quite Monarch-level player, I obviously still have much to learn. Corrections and addendums would be much appreciated.
  2. Julian Delphiki

    Julian Delphiki Anton's key

    Nov 3, 2006
    Helsinki, Funland
    Very nicely written guide. This sentence does not compute though :)
    As a general note, i think playing on AP maps is 1-2 levels easier than the selected difficulty as AI does not play too well on watery maps.

    Edit: No mention of civics besides slavery? For example, state property can be very helpful with production and maintenance costs. That of course will prevent corporation use.
  3. Dave Hartwick

    Dave Hartwick Prince

    Mar 11, 2009
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nationalism's nice too. All that spare food makes nice rifles. Which, of course, means that civs with good, draftable, UUs are worth a closer look. Ethiopia and England, for instance.
  4. J-man

    J-man Deity

    Oct 12, 2007
    Nijmegen, the Netherlands
    I disagree with this. Sure, with the carrack you're the first who can expand intercontinental. However, it's impossible to trade with those cities because before astronomy it's impossible to trade with them. That means, the cities do not share resources, they do not benefit from trade routes and they will incur high maintenance costs. The carrack is nice UU perhaps but I don't think it's amazing.
  5. aimlessgun

    aimlessgun King

    Jan 4, 2010
    Would you agree that if your opponents are getting oil ships around the same time as you, to prioritize flight? Fighting a naval war without air superiority pretty much bites. Maybe I just have a weakness for how cool carrier battlegroups are.

    Maybe expand the section about end game war a bit to talk about invasion placemant and how easy it is to take a key enemy city on the first turn of the war. Vs. inferior civs obv doesn't matter (21 cities in 1 turn is my record which I set up vs. an inferior civ just to see how high I could go. Unfortunately he had 3 inland cities :( )

    I think the Dutch are just completely absurd on this map because their traits are so nice and because their UB synergizes so incredibly well with lategame war, coming right before you hit Assembly Line and factories. MFG goods graph for Dutch going through the industrial rev. on an island map is crazy looking (I like to pop a golden age to accelerate this process, come out of the golden age ready to spam infantry).

    Speaking of infantry another thing I tend to notice about archipelago is that you'll get civs that were cut off and not in tech clubs with other AIs, giving you more easy targets, which are still around lategame because the strong AIs aren't efficient at water conquest. So a rush of pure infantry works fine even without siege units because you'll be beating up longbowmen.
  6. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Super Moderator

    Mar 27, 2009
    If Organised is good and Financial is excellent, why was Darius of Persia not even mentioned, seeing as he has both traits?
  7. J-man

    J-man Deity

    Oct 12, 2007
    Nijmegen, the Netherlands
    Darius is good on Archipelago maps but he is good on most if not every map. His UU is not good on Archipelago maps as is his UB.
  8. AutomatedTeller

    AutomatedTeller Frequent poster

    Jan 25, 2006
    Medford, MA
    I think the Great wall might be more useful than you have mentioned. One thing I've noticed about arch maps is that barbs are everywhere, for a long time. defense against barb galleys isn't sure and triremes aren't cheap.

    One thing about imperialistic is that if you can generate a GG and can run in theocracy and vassalage, you can create ships that start with navigation, and it's easier to create a GG with imperialistic. If you can upset a neighbor into attacking you with the GW... well.
  9. Aaroc

    Aaroc Warlord

    Jan 23, 2010
    One thing you are forgetting, AutomatedTeller, is that the great wall prevents barbarians from entering your borders on this continent which, I believe, does not count water tiles, and even if it did, would not be very useful outside the water tiles for that one continent. conversely, it's rather easy to prevent your stuff from being wiped out by enemy barbs by simply positioning a few triremes on the extremities of your borders, as barb galleys cannot spawn on ocean tiles, and they can also not enter your borders through ocean tiles. the spy usage would also not be terribly useful until you had a caravel with which to transport said spies into enemy territory.

    Also, J-man, I disagree with you there. The important thing as far as the carrack is concerned is being able to get a foothold on new continents before other civs have the chance to. Build a courthouse and let them sit for a while with low population until you actually get astronomy and are able to reap the benefits of the resources you have in your "old world"

    In addition to the civics already mentioned, I would say that universal suffrage is another good one. your cities are likely to have high commerce income as already stated, which means you should e able to buy a few of the requisite starting buildings in each city, especially if you've got a financial leader.
  10. Infantry#14

    Infantry#14 Emperor

    Dec 26, 2006
    Technically, Temple of Artemis gives +100%, it does not give a X2 mulitpler on top of other bonuses (for example the harbor +50%).
  11. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

    Nov 23, 2008
    Yeah, definitely only get Temple of Artemis if you have Marble, or are pursuing a Super Specialist Economy (although it's better to REX and get up trade routes on archipelago).
  12. magicwalker

    magicwalker Chieftain

    Apr 20, 2009
    Temple of Artemis has amazing synergy with trade route economy; think in terms of cothon + Great Light House + Temple of Artemis + intercontinental trade routes.
  13. Wacky_Warrior

    Wacky_Warrior Chieftain

    Feb 2, 2010
    Very good article, and it's nice to know I'm not the only one to enjoy water maps. It's difficult to overstate the importance of conquest in Civ4, and on water maps, Ragnar rocks. Get yourself an even half-dozen Berserkers, load them up in galleys with a trireme or two for baby-sitting and there are very few coastal cities you can't take at will. It should be quite possible to find many good cities defended mostly by archers, though longbows can be handled if the culture defence isn't too high. For those eventualities, I find a spy in the city (when you can get one in there) fixes that right up. A quick city revolt to drop the defences, and the Beserkers can just walk in. No need for bombardment :)

    The really fun thing about Ragnar's Beserkers is what happens when you upgrade them to riflemen for your first wars after astronomy. They become slightly weakened marines, ludicrously early and way more than most of your opponents can handle unless you are way behind. You don't even need to wait for an oil based navy to inflict massive pain on your opponents, collect the best production cities for your future plans, whatever you need.

    I understand a lot of people prefer a peaceful approach, but the game is what it is and a couple early conquests will set up a much more straightforward win, regardless of your preferred condition.


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