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- Sep 6, 2011
Civ Illustrated #2: Case studies - city placement
Welcome to the 2nd issue of Civ Illustrated. You probably all know issue #1, which was a multi-user-mega-project on AI characteristics, this time I'm alone and I'm writing something that was wished for by very many users, a guide that tells you where to settle your cities!
I decided this guide should be in form of case studies, so in the following, you'll find a large amount of pictures which I've taken from the 50+ games I played for Elite Quattromaster. We'll discuss the basics of city-placement in the beginning, and then we'll jump right into the examples to practice everyone's ability on finding the right location for one or more of your cities.
Enjoy reading and please don't forget to rate this thread. Feedback also appreciated!
City placement basics:
- Where there is Food, there can be a city!
This is the first and most important rule when it comes to city placement. Without Food, a city grows so slowly, that it won't contribute enough to one's empire. Every city costs maintenance and even more important, with every new city, the maintenance in your other cities rises too (up to a certain maximum where it's capped, then other rules apply) ! Now the programmers of CIV have already made it very simple for you, as most cities can pay for themselves once they are connected to a foreign city for Traderoutes, and once your civ has Currency.
Still: A city needs to pay back the initial cost that comes with all self-founded cities, the cost of the Settler! A Settler costs 100 on normal speed, now imagine a city having no Food, working a Grassland Farm. Not only has that Grassland Farm to be constructed costing you valuable Workerturns, it also only gives 3 ! With the city having an initial surplus of 2 from its centre tile, it would take the city 20 turns to pay back for the Settler! On top of the Grassland Farm, that city also needs to be connected to the Trade-Network so it's 100 + several workerturns so it can pay for itself at all, and workerturns are another great bottle-neck in the beginning of a CIV game.
If you find this is not really that much, you are not paying enough attention to the opportunity cost of 100 + xx workerturns. Those could be a Library in your capital, they could be Granaries in your arbitrary cities, they could be additional Workers, while the Workerturns could be additional Cottages for your capital or Math-chops for your infrastructure or military.
In short you can just learn, that cities without Food need at least one of the three techs of Communism, Biology and Corporations to be worthwhile. Once you got those techs, actually every city will be great, but in the beginning of a round, when everything is still very limited, it's not worth to found any cities that don't have a source of food. Just invest those elsewhere, build some units and attack your neighbour in case you really already have Granaries and everything you need in your other cities.
- Food should always be in the 1st ring!
This rule is also very important, and most of you will know already. In CIV, the borders of a city usually take so long to expand, that reasons for not founding a city with food in the first ring, must be very good. Of course, there are reasons which will make you found cities that only have Food in the 2nd ring, like i. e. when you capture a strategic resource with it. All this rule tries to do, is make you think thoroughly, if there really is no chance to get the food in the first ring, because it's a huge advantage. Cities with food in the first ring are productive from the start. They can directly start on building a Granary, while cities with food in the 2nd ring first have to build a Monument, and once they have the Monument, it still takes 10 turns on normal speed until their borders pop.
„The early advantage is often better than the later advantage“ , so if you can found a city with food in the 1st ring that is slightly worse to if it had the food in the 2nd, do so. Your earlier advantage might translate to an earlier attack on your neighbour, maybe the difference in if he gets Longbows or not, so an early game advantage can multiply through the course of the game and get greater, than the later game advantage would ever be. Even in an example that is less extreme, your city with the food in the first ring would have a Granary, while the other city wouldn't, so it's not only the food you get during the first turns, but it's even more food because the Granary adds up on it.
The exception to this rule are the civs that either have the Creative or the Spiritual trait. If you're Creative, expanding the borders only takes 5T on normal speed, that's not enough to justify not founding the city in the better of two locations. If you're Spiritual, you can always easily switch to Caste System and hire an Artist, making your borders expand in even less time, one of the great advantages of being Spiritual.
- Value fresh water, but don't value it too great!
If you found your city next to a source of fresh water, so next to a river or a freshwater lake, it gets +2 additional . +2 additional is actually a very nice bonus, especially if your city is founded with some Floodplains or in the Jungle, both causing additional . +2 means that your city can grow larger without needing any buildings that bring additional , like i. e. an Aqueduct.
With the last, you're already at the core of the problem. Every city has a quite decent -limit only because of the base that every city has, and the from resources. In case you're playing for Domination or Conquest, so in games where the great amount of your cities will remain as small as possible, because the Whip is more efficient at small sizes, you probably won't need that extra .
This drastically changes however, if you i. e. play a Cultural Victory, or in a Space Race! In the last two, your cities will grow to size 15 or more. If it's a Space Race, your cities will even have a great amount of additional from having a Forge, a Factory and a Coal Plant, so in those games, +2 can mean that one can skip building an Aqueduct, which saves quite a lot of .
An advantage you should also not forget, is the advantage that comes with founding a city next to a river, because those cities will be auto-connected to your Trade-Network once you have Sailing, which will again save you valuable workerturns. If the river belongs to your culture, the connection between two cities even works without Sailing, something that may make you want to found your 2nd city close and at the same river of your capital, for the commerce from the Traderoutes.
I hope this brought some clarity to the point how much one should value fresh water.
Just a very short addition to Traderoutes: If there are not enough foreign Traderoutes, you'll have internal ones. With those, it's very effective to found two (or later three or even four) cities on islands, for the oversea's trade bonus.
- Minimize the caused from Floodplains!
This is actually a really easy rule, you just have to be made aware of. Every Floodplain adds +0.4 which is rounded down, so ideal cities are those with 2, 4 or 7 or 9 Floodplains (rounded values: 0, 1, 2 and 3) . Know that 3 caused from Floodplains usually already is a big obstacle, that has to be managed, so move away from thinking „the more Floodplains, the better“ !
- Overlap and workable tiles!
Beginners often try to found cities completely without having overlapping tiles with a second city. The thinking behind this is, that they expect their cities to grow enormously large, and that they have no idea of the power of Specialists, because they don't micromanage either.
It takes some time to get used to this, but cities sharing tiles between them is actually something really really valuable. There i. e. is the concept of „helper-cities“ founded around your bureaucratic capital, so cities that borrow tiles from the capital, in order to grow Cottages to mature Villages (or Towns) , to then hand them over to the capital, once that one has reached a sufficient size to work them. Also: Sharing tiles makes cities more flexible. If you i. e. have three sources of food between two cities, you can choose which city should currently work the larger amount of them. This may help greatly when i. e. trying to manage the whipping anger of a city, or it can also help if one of those cities is chosen for a great project, so needs more resources. Even without shared Food, more overlap simply means that the „best tiles“ of a city, can just be worked more constantly.
Anyhow: Overlap does have it's downsides. It's not completely proven yet, but in earlier versions of CIV, one became more attractive for the Ais, so the chance that an AI would declare war at oneself rose greatly. Now I don't know if that is still true, but in the number of Deity-games I've played, I always tried to minimize overlap, unless it came with very decisive advantages. I also kept my cities small, and guess what, I've been declared war on less than 5 times in over 50 games!
Also: While Specialists are really very good (especially with Representation) , working improved tiles is usually always better because they give food, unless the city can actually produce a Great Person, then Specialists have the greater value.
This was to make you aware of the positive and negative sides that come with overlap. Be aware of, that in Domination / Conquest games, every city needs only a very limited amount of tiles it can work, usually not more than eight (→ 4-pop-whip) . Even in Cultural games or Space Races, the point at which a city has to hire Specialists because it has no workable tiles left, comes very late, so working some Specialists isn't really bad. This actually even tells you something about founding cities that have deserts or mountains in their BFC. Try to imagine how long it will take a city to grow past the workable tiles, and know, that the alternatives to working tiles become decently powerful in the later game, so a city that i. e. has two sources of food, eight grasslands, five deserts, one Gold and four mountains is actually an incredibly good city!
- Try to avoid border-pressure!
Border-pressure is one of the major factors, when civs decide whether to go to war with you or with someone else. Shared borders are actually bad enough already (though eight tiles or more are needed to become a „land-target“ ) , but if you can, you shouldn't found your cities so that they steal many tiles from someone else.
Of course, this is not possible often, even if a city is founded before any civ is even near to it, it might happen that the neighbouring civ founds a city right at the borders of your city, making you instantly steal a few tiles from the non-developed AI's city. This rule is just to make you not try to deliberately steal tiles from your neighbours, at least not for as long, as you don't have good diplomatic relations with them, denying them the chance to declare war on you.
- Don't found Jungle-cities, unless exceptions apply!
You can learn this rule really fast, if you want to settle Jungle-cities that don't claim extraordinary amounts of resources and that don't claim a strategic resource (like i. e. Ivory) , don't. It may be hard, but the experience I got from more than 50 Deity-games is, that Jungle-cities take aeons to become productive. They cost endless amounts of Workerturns to be good in xxx turns.
If you want to found Jungle-cities that you don't necessarily need (cities without the needed Ivory) , let the AI found them for you and take them over once they've at least basically developed them.
- The National-Park!
This is the exception to not founding Jungle or Tundra cities: The National-Park is probably a National Wonder that'll only cross your way in Space Races, but in those, it's a very valuable city, as its power can often even exceed the National Epic. A National-Park city doesn't need anything, except some Jungles or some Forests, which you improve to Forest Preserves. Forest Preserves together with the National-Park give you free specialists, so a city having 10 Forests is actually like a size 20 city that works all Biology Farms and Specialists! It's not needed that every tile has a Forest, because once you build the Preserves, the chance for spreading is doubled, so it's very likely that that city will be completely forested in near time.
- When does 1-tile of the coast apply?
Many comments of users and even some strategy articles in the War Academy tell you, to not found cities 1 tile of the coast, because then, you cannot build a Lighthouse in them, making all coastal tiles very undesirable to work. This is actually advice, that wasn't thought through very well. To know whether 1-tile of the coast is still the right decision, you again have to imagine how that city will work during the round. If you again play a Domination or Conquest type of game, then 1-tile of the coast isn't of great importance. I told you that most cities should not exceed size eight, so if your 1-tile-of-the-coast-city has 8 good tiles, you don't have to care at all. To be honest: Coastal tiles are not worth to be worked at all, unless you're Financial, got the Colossus or are in a Golden Age, so it's not like you would get something great if you founded that same city at the coast and build a Lighthouse in it. The only three good reasons to really found a city at the coast are, that a) you need ships, b) there's seafood (or lighthouse lakes) and c) you got the Great Lighthouse.
If you however play a Space Race or a Cultural game, try not to forget, that your cities will reach large sizes, and then, even working the coast can become attractive (i. e. during a Golden Age when all tiles give +1 or also to simply grow your population to raise the total research made by your empire) .
- “The good old Plains-Hill.“
All CIV-players get told by others very early, that when founding a city on a tile that gives more than two , one and one , that you'll keep these yields even when founding a city on top of it. If you have the choice to build your city on a Plains-Hill, use it, 1 from the start is a noticeable difference.
Just to make this list a little more complete: Plains-Ivory also gives two , riverside Plains-Hill-Wine gives two Hammers and two (or three with Financial! ) and founding a city on Sugar or dry Rice should also be preferred compared to founding the city beside it and improving that resource. Reasoning for the last again is, that the early advantage has a longer time to pay back, and therefore often exceeds the long-term-advantage.
There are a lot more tiles that give extras, like all riverside Calendar resources, Plains-Horses and all food resources. Marble / Stone and Copper or similar even give three Hammers, if being on a Plains Hill, so those are very desirable tiles to settle on.
There is one exception btw., which is the Floodplain. That one gets turned into desert when settling on it, so it (unfortunately) doesn't give three food.
It's very important to imagine the situation on this. Gathering more resources is more important than founding a city on a hill when playing well.
[end of EDIT]
- The Worker-pump / The Warrior Farm!
„Worker-pumps“ are something that I used in my earlier games. To give you an imagination of which cities I talk of, imagine a city that is all Plains with one Cow and Horses that are not needed because you got them already.
Now the initial reaction to such land would be to not settle it, because everybody knows, working Plains is not worth it (in 99% of the cases before Communism and Biology) . What I want to tell you however is, that a city like such can still be worth settling, because Cows and Horses are actually strong tiles! In every round, one needs to build Workers, even when stealing a lot. The 2-pop-city I talked of can be used for that purpose and be very good at it. This city will need no infrastructure at all (so not even a Granary) because it will grow to size 2 and stay there for the rest of the round. You should not connect this city to your Trade-Network because then, it'll also remain its capability of producing cheap Warriors as city garrisons even when all your other cities already got Copper / Iron. Spreading the religion to this city is also something that can be thought about, because it's often attractive to spread the AP-religion to all of one's cities. In the case of the Warrior Farm or the Missionary-Pump however, the city should get a Granary, because you will want to 3->2 whip it.
This also applies to the cities you conquer. When you find a city that has only very few good tiles, think about not razing it and pillaging all roads that lead to it. Having a city that is diverted to only produce cheap units of a certain type is great help, you'll see!
- Settling on strategic resources!
If you really truly want to rush someone, or if you need something with extreme urgency (i. e. Stone-Quarry to build the Mids before someone else does) , this is your way. Personally I always found it very hard to do so, but because of really being very experienced already, I know that settling on a strategic resource can be the right call, especially on slower game-settings. If you want to Sword-rush your opponent, you don't want to invest 10T+ (Marathon) on building a mine and a road. Least of all, you don't want to spend 20T+ on building a stupid Quarry, giving your opponents the time to steal the Pyramids from you.
- The Forest-city.
I just got the idea for this when looking through the saves for the case-studies.
There are these cities, that actually have nothing but tons of Forests. It may be still a good choice to settle or keep them, because with 20 Forests, you can basically build any World-Wonder that you want. A variant of a city like such is the „Life-support-city“ that HoFers use in their Space Races, to 1-turn the Life-Support of a Spaceship on the turn when they finish Ecology.
- At last: The capital!
Capitals are always treated specially, so some things you read before are not valid for this city, many are though. I. e. your capital should ofc. grow larger than size eight, and you should pay special attention to if you can settle on a two or three Hammers tile (or also on a weak food resource as Rice or Sugar) , because this greatly speeds up your initial Worker (or Workboat) . Your capital (as already written) also benefits greatly of having overlapping helper cities, and as you want to grow it as large as possible, fresh water is especially important here.