[BTS] Civ 4 Always War - IMM Questions/Discussion

Henrik75

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Hi friends,

Currently I am trying to master my always war gameplay; but there's a few questions I have, and several places with room for improvement so I am hoping to gather some useful insight from more skilled players. Hopefully this thread can also become useful for other players also looking to play Always War (AW)

Settings I play with:
Pangaea, Immortal, NTT, AW, No huts, no events, no vassals (just to prevent stupid peace vassals and super AI forming).
I do reroll terrible starts (plains cow/clam + completely forest choked), but willing to play out things that look half decent like a small/medium river with food and some forests, which should be fairly common.
I can fairly comfortably handle a small map with 4 AI, you choke 2 then you only have to defend against 2 and you are looking pretty good. A standard map is a bit more troublesome with 6 AI.

I'm aware that fractal/continents maps are easy because you can take out your continent and then win space since the AI are TERRIBLE at naval invasions, but that doesn't feel like always war to me and I want to learn to fight against 6 AI on a pangaea. I have done it once but I had a really nice choke point with churchill - here's a link to it https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_oXbrTBg33kNDPx4hhrbwEQtnwrLfzK6 - I feel I got incredibly lucky with the land shape and great start here while successfully choking 2 idiots. I want to be able to win this more consistently without having super choke points.

So some questions I have:
1. Not always but sometimes the AI comes in with fairly large stacks and doesn't attack. Instead they walk around in circles in your territory, potentially threatening 2 cities which forces you to build excess defenders and really screwing you up. I tried baiting it next to the city with workers but it went back into the forest 2 tiles away.
In this game charlie has been walking around Kish for 10+ turns now and has done 2 full laps without attacking. They even have the attack city mission which leaves me completely puzzled. I have 2 vultures and 3 archers defending, but you'd think he'd suicide into it after a turn or 2? they almost always do this.
Spoiler :

charlie.png

Similarly this stalin stack has been wandering around in the forest for 10+ turns now, forking my capital and the city below.
Spoiler :

image (2).png

This strange behavior is probably the biggest struggle I have with always war, and this is around 800bc before I have gotten IW to chop down the jungles sadly. Other games previously they either; suicide straight into the city, or, walk past the city for one turn and then suicide into it. I'd appreciate any advice or tips on how to prevent this or dislodge it.

2. Random archers; super early on; quite often they will build a combat 1 archer and send it to you and sit on a forest or hill and camp it. On deity difficulty this is magnified many times and they'll do this with like 5 archers before 2000bc making it almost impossible to play and connect resources. Other than abusing quechuas/immortals, whats your best way to deal with it/prevent it? Warrior/worker baiting seems to work pretty well to get them out, or using a strong unit like a vulture or sword to attack at 70% and hopefully win.

3. Economy/tech paths - this I have a rough idea, and I'm aware it changes based on the land you have and the leader you're playing. Against 6 AI you probably want to get your protective longbows up since it's too difficult to play aggressively with catapults in 1v6. 1v4 it might be different. Elephants is another thing to consider - if you have elephants is it worth taking the detour to math+construction+HBR for elephants instead of longbows+vassalage? what about currency to fix your strained economy? Does iron working have a priority outside of jungled gems? And how many cities should we be settling? Ideally you take out a weak neighbor and get 10+ cities to yourself but I'd like to hear some thoughts about how much we should peacefully expand if we have room.

4. Wonders - Great wall and pyramids are SSS+ tier but can be difficult to get. I lost TGW on immortal around 2200bc a couple times, is it worth sitting on 1 city a bit longer to guarantee getting it 2600~BC? Not only are the extra GGs nice but the great spy is super strong for tech stealing later on to catch up, especially with poor land quality. In what situation would you skip TGW?
Pyramids are absolutely amazing with rep to passively carry your tech rate; in every AW game I have done much better with them and seriously struggled to tech without them - would appreciate any advice on this. 3 beakers per specialist doesn't seem like a lot but it sure feels like it when you're gaining 50~BPT at 0%.
How about a cheeky oracle after a great wall attempt/success if you have marble? Is there anything else even worth considering?

Always war games tend to be decided in the first 75-100 turns, whether you are doomed or you can hold out and have a shot at the long run of fighting back, so I really want to nail down the early game. Looking forward to hearing any advice from you amazing players!!
 
Ideally you want to clear forest/forest hill tiles before the AI camp on them. You can't let 4-5 stacks just camp around your land. You won't win like that on immortal

I prefer a more attack minded defence. Usually HA and you attack and kill AI stacks as they arrive. Others prefer the funnel and let the AI suicide approach. As you state they don't always attack. You certainly need something early on to stop early chariot/archers or axes, As the first attack will normally be 3-4 archers. Warrior bait seems a good idea. Don't waste swords/HA on low odds. Maybe don't let them get on these tiles if you can.

My usual strategy is pin down ai and pillage metal and horse. If you can get a woodmen 2 warrior worker stealing could be nice too. (Kill barbs and enemy scouts) If 1-2 AI can only build archers you can progress. The minute it becomes 100% defending your game is in trouble. Unless you have a master plan. Sooner or later an AI will find phants and these stacks can't be killed with HA. Yes if you have phants then build them. Counters most AI units.

On my previous games you maybe start with 3-4 cities but aim to keep capturing cities and expanding, You could have 10-20 cities if things go well.

Economy is always a struggle. Trade routes will be 1c unless you have an island city. Main benefit of Currency is wealth. On a normal game you could have 2-3C trade routes. IW will be important for some resources. Clearing jungle helps stop AI stacks sat outside cities.I wouldn't sit on 1 city for too long as immortal AI are not too shabby. By 1000bc stacks will be arriving. Maybe earlier? Alphabet is soo good with research.

Then there is the game of not meeting AI. If they don't meet you it's possible they could start an AI war. Happened to me once. Plus if they don't know you are there they won't attack.

You will have to decide if you have to go archer early on.

Chances are you will be building a lot of units so GW may not be key. Mids takes a lot of resources. Sometimes better to capture. No stone would kill this. Early expansion is never a bad thing. Oracle HBR? GW might help with a great spy. Spy economy can be good with alphabet and GW. Oracle Currency but would you be able to fend off AI attacks?

Lots of thoughts hope some are useful
 
Yeah, Always War removes most of the interaction aspects with AI....so it becomes a question of how you outproduce in all aspects. Your options are:

1) Have more land due to some natural formation (exploit).
2) Protect your commerce and let them waste hammers taking bad fights on lightning rods (a lighter exploit).
3) Dragging them down to human production level by screwing them before they screw you (a heavier exploit).

I suppose this is my longwinded way of saying I have no clever advice. Think of the AI programming as the same as barbarians....and maybe watch Wolf on Wall Street before you start a game.
 
I've always been skeptical that anyone is beating AW "normally" on the higher levels. There's usually something hidden in the setup like a rigged chokepoint map, marathon, not playing pangaea, a busted UU, handpicked opponents, or a lot of reloading/world buildering.
Part of that is I've never seen someone address how to deal with those early game camping archers, so I'm glad you brought it up. It's totally busted, but apparently an afterthought not worth mentioning in AW discussions. Took me like a dozen tries to get a start that avoided an early camp on deity/small.
 
Try this map. If you can beat deity it should be winnable.

immaw-suleiman-alone-in-the-dark

I forgot how GW helps with great general appearance too soo 100% worth building. That and great spies. Chariots really do help pillaging ai resources.
 
I've always been skeptical that anyone is beating AW "normally" on the higher levels. There's usually something hidden in the setup like a rigged chokepoint map, marathon, not playing pangaea, a busted UU, handpicked opponents, or a lot of reloading/world buildering.
Part of that is I've never seen someone address how to deal with those early game camping archers, so I'm glad you brought it up. It's totally busted, but apparently an afterthought not worth mentioning in AW discussions. Took me like a dozen tries to get a start that avoided an early camp on deity/small.
From what I recall from old AW deity challenges, you need to have a "lighting rod" = a forward hill city with no improvement forward and clear of forests/jungle...
 
I have another small immortal AW pangaea going with augustus, from what i saw the AI sent their first stack wandering around in circles in my territory for several turns then finally attacked later; I wonder if you have a sufficient defense its only a % chance they'll attack?
All the future stacks they sent suicided into the FOB (forward operating base - aka the hill city way out infront). Got praetorians just in time as the bastards started coming with swords and axes :D Chariot choked a huayna isolated off to the side before crushing him and chariot choked my other neighbour a good while until i got praets up - choke was shut down by other ai sending metal units through his territory; don't think you can really do much at that point but ideally thats long enough of a choke. Taken a lot of the points mentioned here onboard! With industrious I got great wall and oracle on monarchy (nice with wines) and skipped pyramids and failgolded artemis instead for 500g getting me to construction, calendar (with 3 calendar resources it seemed p good) and feudalism.

What's the thoughts about defensive catapults? having a decent stack of catapults in the city soaks up a LOT of collateral damage infinitely making each enemy siege unit only hit 3-4 units instead of 6. The catapults can also be used to wipe out wandering stacks, break sword/axe/X stacks with drill 1 shock, and also be used later when pushing with better tech.

Next question, what's the tech we want to push at? I usually bee line rifling in AW because rifles seem to be extremely powerful against medieval units, but grenadiers can be annoying to deal with. Any thoughts on going cuirassiers, cannons or just pushing with knights? I usually bee line banking after longbows to get forges and then banks and mercantalism up. How about civil service? with a good commerce capital is that viable? or better to skip the 1300 beaker tech and get banks+merc first?
 
^ should be slider at zero so banks + merc > CS i think
Best improvement = cottage.
Research through espionage?
 
@soundjata Archers can be in your base way before you've built a settler, which can be completely debilitating depending what tile they're on.
I think defensive catapults are a good idea if you're not relying on superarchers (which can also soak up collateral with drill).
I like melee and archer -> gunpowder uberunit armies. The game I remember bringing through completion on deity (albeit with heavy reloading) was Charlemagne, so landsknechts and xbows to start. With attached GGs they can all have morale and move faster. Problem with horses is no defensive bonuses and no city raider/drill.
 
I don't understand the point of catapults. Isn't another longbow or 1.5 axes always better for the same cost? Even if it/they get(s) hit by collateral damage that collateral still does not hit your other units just the same way if the catapult would be chosen over your other units. And even a damaged longbow/axe is a much better defender than a catapult. Since the catapults stay undamaged in general they will have a bit higher chance to be chosen as collateral target but that effect should be smaller than the advantage of having better defenders unless we are taken enormous amounts of enemy cats. Is the point of the catapults to have a counterattack option?
 
But a sufficiently damaged axe is no longer eligible to intercept any further collateral hits. Siege can intercept collateral hits indefinitely. And we're talking AW so an enormous amount of enemy cats is on the table if multiple armies sync up.
 
Several times they walk past and the catapults are necessary to smash them. I'm not really sure how you're supposed to otherwise deal with stacks walking past. Every game of AW i play there is some bastard who just goes on adventures with his stack or bee lines the capital thats 5-6 tiles behind the FOB. And yes, sometimes you get hit by 10-15 pieces of siege so I think the infinite collateral soaking plays a part. I mean its 2 for 1, the ability to smash adventuring stacks and the collateral soak. Sure you can leave 5 longbows in your capital but thats 5 more unit cost or 5 more defenders not in your main FOB. And they might just go for another city. and your cap might be flatland and thus doomed if you're defending.

I would LOVE to know if there's any solution to stop them walking past. It's mainly mansa musa who has been doing it recently - he is the big brain AI afterall. Meanwhile hammurabi and churchill slam their heads into the brick wall.
 
I would LOVE to know if there's any solution to stop them walking past. It's mainly mansa musa who has been doing it recently - he is the big brain AI afterall. Meanwhile hammurabi and churchill slam their heads into the brick wall.
Yes, there is :)

a) The AIs can only target a city that they've scouted. So, if your FOB has not been discovered, yet, it cannot be targeted and it is a possibility the attacking units will head straight for, say, your capital.
Adequate city placement of your FOB or attacking into their stack can "reset" their objectives while en route.

b) All AIs have a value for Attack Courage (which you can find here : https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/when-a-civ-wants-to-trade-maps.358626/#post-9030955 )
If your position is deemed too strong to attack, they will wander around indefinitely, which is extremely dangerous, since it probably means that additional stacks will arrive and your city will eventually get hit by an overwhelming force (or a sufficient force to inflict heavy casualties), as in the second picture of your opening post.
On top of casualties, you're likely to be paying an arm and a leg in maintenance, meanwhile, just waiting for the attack of an ever growing force. Your units will be pinned down for a considerable time, etc. Many problems.
Therefore,
It is an objective to induce incoming stacks to attack as soon as possible. The less units are involved, the fewer casualties you will suffer, the more time you'll have to heal, the less maintenance you'll be paying, etc.
The way Attack Courage works is it compares the overall Strength gathered on the tiles. The quality of the units is a non-factor (or close to).
Therefore,
A few elite defenders have a lot more chance to attract an attack than a horde of peasants.

Note this can be used both on the offense and on the defense. On the offense, a single Horse Archer will get sniped by a roaming spear whereas a stack of 3-4 will not.
On the defence, we can use your first picture as an example :
- The warrior has no place in the city ; as a defender it is useless (any decent attacker will clear it) BUT it contributes to the overall strength of your tile and, thus, contributes to discourage an attack. It is actively counterproductive to have it there.
- Given 40% culture and PRO archers and poor attacking units (2x combat swords, 1x combat axe, 4x archers), it is unlikely that removing the warrior only would trigger an attack. Removing a Vulture on top, however, would most certainly do. Your city still wouldn't be at risk. Perhaps you'd lose an archer in the process.

I do believe you know your combat odds pretty well, right ? If you're unsure and it appears the AI does not attack, you can gradually soften your city defences (first remove the warrior, then a vulture) and use your road network to keep the reserve units at hand.

On a different note and complimenting Gumbolt's most excellent advices (he is the resident expert on AW) :

c) The best advice I have received regarding always war came from players that are a lot better than I : an active defense (in the field) is the most desirable thing you can aim for.
It could mean woodsman II metal units or horse units. Clearing stray units comes at a low risk and helps prevent the AIs from forming considerable stacks (thus helping the defence elsewhere).
Follow-up advice is about unit conservation. When under pressure there's an acceptable amount of losses and there's a crippling one. It is a stake that your defence force is stable enough, so your cities can build not only units but also infrastructure, grow, etc.

d) Early production is key to have active units. I would reroll maps that, say, present a 15 turns worker, double pigs and gems in favour of more :hammers: centric starts.
If you're using Pangaea maps, I would advise to set the maps to Low Sea. This will increase distances and give you a little more time to work with early on.

gl in your endeavour. AW games are extremely taxing in attention and energy.


ps : I have never played Deity AW. My experience comes from IMMAW only (and I have never completed a map).
 
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Totally agree! It’s the low attack courage guys and girls that are the biggest challenge in Always War. They just camp and build a stack, attacking after someone else has weakened you.

Do you play with tech trading off? If not, I would do so for a slightly easier ride…

Use of great people is an interesting convo in always war. Obviously spies are the best, but merchants and to an extent scientists are pretty underwhelming. A scientist might be able to bulb engineering, but aside from that most of the ‘standard’ bulb options are weaker and an academy doesn’t give as much of your slider is low. A merchant can bulb currency or metal casting, but no trade missions.

If no wonders, first GP might be a spy from a courthouse? What do you normally do?
 
But a sufficiently damaged axe is no longer eligible to intercept any further collateral hits. Siege can intercept collateral hits indefinitely. And we're talking AW so an enormous amount of enemy cats is on the table if multiple armies sync up.

This is incorrect. A unit at the collateral damage limit is still a valid target for collateral attacks despite being impervious to further damage.

Several times they walk past and the catapults are necessary to smash them. I'm not really sure how you're supposed to otherwise deal with stacks walking past. Every game of AW i play there is some bastard who just goes on adventures with his stack or bee lines the capital thats 5-6 tiles behind the FOB. And yes, sometimes you get hit by 10-15 pieces of siege so I think the infinite collateral soaking plays a part. I mean its 2 for 1, the ability to smash adventuring stacks and the collateral soak. Sure you can leave 5 longbows in your capital but thats 5 more unit cost or 5 more defenders not in your main FOB. And they might just go for another city. and your cap might be flatland and thus doomed if you're defending.

I see.
 
Been wrong before, but you got a source for that? I haven't tested it but I also haven't noticed my siege not exhausting enemy HP fully.
 
Yes, there is :)

a) The AIs can only target a city that they've scouted. So, if your FOB has not been discovered, yet, it cannot be targeted and it is a possibility the attacking units will head straight for, say, your capital.
Adequate city placement of your FOB or attacking into their stack can "reset" their objectives while en route.

b) All AIs have a value for Attack Courage (which you can find here : https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/when-a-civ-wants-to-trade-maps.358626/#post-9030955 )
If your position is deemed too strong to attack, they will wander around indefinitely, which is extremely dangerous, since it probably means that additional stacks will arrive and your city will eventually get hit by an overwhelming force (or a sufficient force to inflict heavy casualties), as in the second picture of your opening post.
On top of casualties, you're likely to be paying an arm and a leg in maintenance, meanwhile, just waiting for the attack of an ever growing force. Your units will be pinned down for a considerable time, etc. Many problems.
Therefore,
It is an objective to induce incoming stacks to attack as soon as possible. The less units are involved, the fewer casualties you will suffer, the more time you'll have to heal, the less maintenance you'll be paying, etc.
The way Attack Courage works is it compares the overall Strength gathered on the tiles. The quality of the units is a non-factor (or close to).
Therefore,
A few elite defenders have a lot more chance to attract an attack than a horde of peasants.

Note this can be used both on the offense and on the defense. On the offense, a single Horse Archer will get sniped by a roaming spear whereas a stack of 3-4 will not.
On the defence, we can use your first picture as an example :
- The warrior has no place in the city ; as a defender it is useless (any decent attacker will clear it) BUT it contributes to the overall strength of your tile and, thus, contributes to discourage an attack. It is actively counterproductive to have it there.
- Given 40% culture and PRO archers and poor attacking units (2x combat swords, 1x combat axe, 4x archers), it is unlikely that removing the warrior only would trigger an attack. Removing a Vulture on top, however, would most certainly do. Your city still wouldn't be at risk. Perhaps you'd lose an archer in the process.

I do believe you know your combat odds pretty well, right ? If you're unsure and it appears the AI does not attack, you can gradually soften your city defences (first remove the warrior, then a vulture) and use your road network to keep the reserve units at hand.

On a different note and complimenting Gumbolt's most excellent advices (he is the resident expert on AW) :

c) The best advice I have received regarding always war came from players that are a lot better than I : an active defense (in the field) is the most desirable thing you can aim for.
It could mean woodsman II metal units or horse units. Clearing stray units comes at a low risk and helps prevent the AIs from forming considerable stacks (thus helping the defence elsewhere).
Follow-up advice is about unit conservation. When under pressure there's an acceptable amount of losses and there's a crippling one. It is a stake that your defence force is stable enough, so your cities can build not only units but also infrastructure, grow, etc.

d) Early production is key to have active units. I would reroll maps that, say, present a 15 turns worker, double pigs and gems in favour of more :hammers: centric starts.
If you're using Pangaea maps, I would advise to set the maps to Low Sea. This will increase distances and give you a little more time to work with early on.

gl in your endeavour. AW games are extremely taxing in attention and energy.


ps : I have never played Deity AW. My experience comes from IMMAW only (and I have never completed a map).
This is very helpful, thank you so much! I will look into attack courage and hitting stacks to reset the AI. That makes a lot of sense and I do notice if I just kill 1 unit they turn around and run another direction!

Makes much more sense why they endlessly suicide mid-late game into a super promoted longbow-god unit but may ignore a big stack of fortified hilled praetorians early game.

Totally agree with point d), I did into do that, rerolled a wet corn grass river for a bunch of hills on a river with a pigs tile and many forests. Nothing outstanding of a start but just more hammers. I'd imagine those double cow starts are really strong too.

Low sea! interesting! will try it out.

Yeah, deity AW is near impossible without map knowledge, super choke points or something completely cooked. I play Immortal + NTT as advised, these settings feel pretty comfortable. Shifting between small and standard size.

I successfully just finished another one, I'll post a link here when its uploaded. The insight in here has been very helpful thank you guys <3
 
Totally agree! It’s the low attack courage guys and girls that are the biggest challenge in Always War. They just camp and build a stack, attacking after someone else has weakened you.

Do you play with tech trading off? If not, I would do so for a slightly easier ride…

Use of great people is an interesting convo in always war. Obviously spies are the best, but merchants and to an extent scientists are pretty underwhelming. A scientist might be able to bulb engineering, but aside from that most of the ‘standard’ bulb options are weaker and an academy doesn’t give as much of your slider is low. A merchant can bulb currency or metal casting, but no trade missions.

If no wonders, first GP might be a spy from a courthouse? What do you normally do?

Here's an interesting one, I built oracle and TGW. first 2 GP turned out to be prophets, bit of a bummer as spies are the best for sure, but early settled prophets are nothing to sneeze at and do add up over 150+ turns to be quite nice. Not only the gold but stacking the production felt good.

Thankfully third GPP was a spy, and yeah, they're even more OP than I remember holy crap. Stole engineering+civil service+paper+aesthetics... yep that's fair and balanced. Maybe I should build the chicken pizza next time I have stone just for spy points lmaooo. Makes getting COL and a courthouse up worth considering.

As for scientists, id probably settle it; production is great and the passive beakers will get you to banking, academy will only pay off after banking. I think there's some real logic to settling great people if you get rep and pyramids especially. Give me stone god damnit! Marble at least got me a fast oracle and tons of failgold from Artemis.
 
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