Confused about specialized cities


Aug 29, 2006
I see strat guides that advise creating production, great person and financial cities, and only making in these cities the exact buildings required for these roles. For my cities, my build order (ignoring units) is typically obilisk, elder council, library, happyness boosters, health boosters... then at this point anything else it needs gets build very quickly. How much of an advantage is it to really specialize your cities?

I'm not much of a specialist, myself, but there are some cities that typically get specialised. For instance, if I found a religion I typically make the holy city financially specialised. This is where I build the Bazaar of Mammon, and I try to get a bunch of cottages going around it (though, if the cottages come at the expense of hammers, then maybe wait until after the Bazaar - unless you're lucky enough to have a great engineer to rush it).

I usually choose one high-production city to be my military centre. This is where I make Command Posts and the Heroic Epic. It is tempting to create other wonders in this city that give bonuses to troops, like the Tower of Eyes or the Ride of the Nine Kings. I try to resist the temptation, though, as the longer your military centre is working on wonders, the longer it isn't producing higher EXP troops. (again, great engineers help with this problem)

That's about the limit of my specializing. I haven't gotten into GP farming or anything like that. I don't even set up a settler/worker hub like many players seem to do.
I'm like vorshlumpf on this one, the only specialization my empire sees is financial on holy cities or military on production powerhouses. I think specializing and such can be an advantage, but I think playing the game without doing it gives me more fun =D
How much of an advantage is it to really specialize your cities?

Over the course of a game, about 10% more production, empire-wide. City specialization is all about reducing wasted production turns. Another way to think of it is maximizing the turns-to-benefit ratio, when discussing turns of production. Every city should get happiness boosters so that it can work more tiles, but other buildings should be decided upon according to the city's specialization. The main categories that most people recognize are science, production and GPP.

If you have a city whose terrain only realistically allows you to work two cottage improvements for most of the game, then having that city spend time building research boosters is of so little benefit that you might as well call those wasted turns. Those turns could have been spent producing units. Likewise, in a city that has very few hammers, building production-boosting buildings is a waste of time. The benefit that you get in return will be so small that the many turns spent building them can be considered wasted. Instead, build science-boosting buildings and then either build research or wealth. It might seem complicated at first, but it becomes second nature once you get used to the concept.

On most maps you'll have some city sites that are clearly, unequivocally suited for one category of specialization. Other areas will result in what are called "hybrid" cities - basically cities that are pretty good at research and also pretty good at production. In those areas you don't specialize because the city can make good use of just about any building.

I found that an Oasis map has terrain that is really well suited to learning city specialization. Some areas will naturally lend themselves to production cities, while others will naturally become science cities. If you play a couple of games on an Oasis map then you should get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Of course, you don't need to specialize your cities to have fun or even to win, but specializing will give you a slight advantage that you wouldn't otherwise have. When you consider the bonuses that the AI gets when you move from one difficulty level to another, city specialization basically gives you enough of a boost to let you step up the scale one notch. City specialization might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn't. It isn't micromanagement. It is simply common sense in terms of what is useful and what is wasteful in terms of production. Once you get used to it, you won't even consciously think about it. It will become second nature, affecting your production decisions without conscious effort on your part.

FfH has so many neat buildings that it can be difficult to resist the temptation to build the ones a city doesn't really need. Focusing a city's purpose (and therefore its build orders) will improve your investment-to-return ratio, though, and is a wise choice. If you want to specialize, it will help you just enough to bump the difficulty level up one notch. If you don't want to worry about it, though, then don't. It helps but isn't necessary for a fun game. It is simply an option to consider.
in one of my recent games I had the luck of getting my holy city in my GP farm. Sure it helps with the extra prophet gpp, but it ruins my specialization strategy, normally I’d like to cottage my holy city to get the most out of it, turning it into a huge economic centre, but here I had to farm the land for gpp, where I was training sages (science not commerce bonus),. Unfortunately all that farm land doesn’t produce any commerce (not running aristocracy) so my base commerce besides the Necronomicon was fairly low. the low production great person farm was constantly busy building happieness buildings for extra population and hgreat person points, so couldent build many commerce buildings. It would have been much better if one of my cottage commerce cities got the Necronomicon, but oh well that’s how the cookie crumbles. maybe later in the game i'll change to merchaints instead of sages, and then multiply a larger base commerce.
i have pretty much found specialist cities to be a complete and total farce....

as soon as you start to really specialize a city , you start gimping it in other factors. whatgood is a super science city that does not have the hammers to build a library? also , there tends to be few buildings that truely allow for specialization to the extent to make it worth while.

there are 3 types of specialist cities that people talk about....

1- science , here your looking for maximum TRADE potential and maximum BEAKER potential. you have several sources of raw BEAKERS (elder council , alchemist lab? , temple of the veil , stigmata of the unborn , catacomb librarus , and great sages). then you have several sources of modifiers in terms of percentages ( library , crown , academy , asylum ). as you can see its not really all that much for pure BEAKER production or modifiers. if your looking to go this route i highly suggest going with the AV religion and having as many cities as possible (your passive research alone is massive).

2- income , here your in a very similar sitchuation as i describe above , however you have many more buildings that give you percentage modifiers to your thing to ALWAYS remember , these modifiers do NOT alter TRADE amounts but only the amount of GOLD earned. in realism you have only a few things again that give you GOLD ( market , gambling house , temples of kilmorph or order , great merchant and great priest ).

3- GPP farm cities. here you see ALOT of people depending on the wonder for 100% bonus and typically want to put one of 3 wonders depending on how you desire to farm GPP. the 3 wonders are (alter , crown , or bazaar ). these cities are often highly gimped due to thier necessity to maintain ALOT of farmland and the dedication to dealing with happy and healthy issues in the city. basically if you see an opponent with a city with massive amounts of farms .... burn it ...

now for the part that ALOT of people miss from the game ... TRADE..

the coins you see generated on tile plots are actually trade points and they can be split between research , gold , or culture. your second source of trade is from trader routes. each city has a base of 1 trade route available and it requires either another city of yours to trade with or open borders with a civ that you have established trade contacts with (the little triangle of arrrows).
the farther away the city that your trading , the larger , and wether it is foregn or not effect the base number for this. there are also many buildings in the game that add to the number of trade routes and the income they produce.

the benefits of expansion ....
as you build more cities yes your cost will increase , thats for another day and another chapter. however , every city you build increases your income by providing another source of trade routes. it also will provide a gold or beaker bonus if you have a holy city.

its possible , easily , to have each of your smaller cities to gain trade routes that are available for use as research or gold quickly and easily. I can often get my total trade route yeild up to the 30-40 line per city. this basically simulates having 6-8 towns that cannot be pillaged or disputed with. preplanning how to deal with many smaller cities and maintaining a false cap of lets say "9" on a city (aka only working the effective first ring) will allow for each of your cities to produce a few specialist and provide a large amount of trade.
actually i'd put 1 and 2 into one basket, normally my cottaged cities i build libraris and also banks etc.

and i'd add production cities, with forge etc.

actually i generally specialize my production cities according to unit type.

one city i have training yard, forge etc. another cityu i have cave of ancestors, mage guild etc. and then each city produces a constant stream of that particular type of unit.
What is the advantage of making your holy city a gold producer? I figure it's better for Great People. Great Prophets build up the Alter, which means better Disciples.

I want to use my big cities for production, so that I can build things fast. For gold and research, a couple of smaller cities can do the same job as a large one.

For max gold, I use the cities with the richest financial base (Gold, Gems, Cottage locations) and then enhance them with buildings and wonders.

Coastal cities are also good for gold (even better if I have Financial) and all they really need is a Lighthouse to sustain them.

And with the Maniac or Blaze modmods, I can get a financial powerhouse using Dwarven Mines.
The reason for making the holy city a financial city is that, with the holy shrine, it gets gold from every city with its religion (except that the AV shrine provides research instead). Buildings and wonders that increase the amount of gold by a percentage are more useful here because the raw gold income is greater.
heres the problem with using what your claiming is the "richest financial base"...

lets say for example you have a wonderful size 20 city and are working every single tile. lets go further and say you have out of these 20 the average is 5 trade per (this can be higher but 5 is a realistic number). your also running 4 trade routes for 5 gold each.

this gives your city a base trade of 120. your running 80% research , which is very common when you can get a city like this. we will see a base gold from trade of 24 and a base beaker value of 96.

lets say your around average on expansion so there is only 10 cities with your religion. your also going to have your temple and a market here (for case in arguement you did not build a gambling house, many dont anyway).

so your base gold total is now 39. the 10 provided by your holy city makes up a full 25% of your gold production base before your percantage modifiers.

now lets say your using this holy city as your GPP farm for priests and as a production city since your also putting the alter here. for every population you can take your city over 20 now (remember we are already working every tile) we can get an additional priest. each priest adds 1 gold and 1-3 hammers. so 5 priests would give an additional 5 gold. this is 5 gold before your bonuses. putting you at 44 gold per turn. your priests that you ahve working as a GPP farm for the alter and as a production city are providing now 10% of your cities income.

the key here is to make sure you understand where the break is between TRADE and GOLD and BEAKERS.
How the hell do you get a size 20 city, I can never get past 14 at most. Maybe I just suck...
I am always worried about negative health and happy so I put a hold on growth.
Am I doing something wrong?
Should I just let the unhappy and unhealthy grow in the anticipation of fixing it later?
no, but theres several good ways to get big cities.. Unyielding Order spell and Tower of Complacency remove unhappiness, Gambling Houses or Theatres with low science rate can give a decent amount.. multiple religions in your city with Religion civic, Guardian of Nature Civic... tons of good options. Health isnt a big issue if you can get enough food to it.
The reason for making the holy city a financial city is that, with the holy shrine, it gets gold from every city with its religion (except that the AV shrine provides research instead). Buildings and wonders that increase the amount of gold by a percentage are more useful here because the raw gold income is greater.

Thanks! I did not realize the extra gold was coming into the holy city. I'd just assumed it would stay in the cities where it was being generated. It makes sense, though, as offerings are passed to the head of the church.
How the hell do you get a size 20 city, I can never get past 14 at most. Maybe I just suck...
I am always worried about negative health and happy so I put a hold on growth.
Am I doing something wrong?
Should I just let the unhappy and unhealthy grow in the anticipation of fixing it later?
It depends on your control of resources and the supporting buildings (such as breweries). I generally find that I can get enough resources and buildings in my cities by mid-game to max them out (I like to keep them around 20-22 pop). I've also used the culture slider to help out with happiness in the late game if I have war weariness from a protracted war.

Sometimes, though, I get a game where I have to do everything possible just to get 14 - 15 happiness. Those games are great.
The key, I find, is in stocking the zoo at first and in the choice of Civics later in the game.
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