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Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by DaveMcW, Dec 8, 2008.

  1. DaveMcW

    DaveMcW Deity

    Oct 8, 2002
    Don't neglect cottages! They may start small, but once they mature, you'll be glad you built them.

    Intro to Cottages

    Cottages are a new tile improvement in Civ4, replacing Civ3's roads as the main source of commerce. They are one of the most-built improvements (by tile count) in a typical game.

    Cottages grow. In this article I often use the word "cottage" to include any of the four improvements in the cottage -> hamlet -> village -> town sequence.

    Cottage (1 commerce): Requires 4 worker-turns to build
    Hamlet (2 commerce): Requires 10 citizen-turns working a cottage
    Village (3 commerce): Requies 20 citizen-turns working a hamlet
    Town (4 commerce): Requires 40 citizen-turns working a village

    The ultimate goal of building a cottage is to grow it into a town. If it looks like the game will be over before the cottage reaches town status, you should consider building a different tile improvement.

    Cottages on Steroids

    In addition to their natural growth, there are several ways to boost cottages further.

    • Financial (trait): +1 commerce from cottages (river only), hamlets, villages, and towns.
    • Printing Press (tech): +1 commerce from villages and towns.
    • Free Speech (civic): +2 commerce from towns.
    • Empancipation (civic): Doubles cottage, hamlet, and village growth rates.
    • Universal Suffrage (civic): +1 hammer from towns. Allows relatively expensive conversion of commerce to hammers.
    • The Kremlin (wonder): Makes the Univeral Suffrage conversion more efficient.
    • Golden Age: +1 commerce from cottages, hamlets, villages, and towns. +1 hammer from towns with Universal Suffrage.
    If you manage to get all of these bonuses, your towns will be the best tile improvement in the game.

    The Cottage City

    You can save a lot of hammers by grouping your cottages in a few specialized cities. These cities will get libraries, universities, observatories, academies, and banks. The other cities will have very low commerce, so they don't need to build the commerce buildings. And your cottage cities don't need to build barracks, stables, factories, coal plants, etc.

    Rule 1: A good cottage city can feed 10 cottages before Biology.

    Food score for various cottage terrains:
    • +1 Floodplains
    • +0 Grassland (including forest and jungle)
    • -1 Grassland Hill (including forest)
    • -1 Plains (including forest)
    • -1 Freshwater Tundra
    Add up the city site's 10 best cottageable tiles. If the score is negative, see if it can be fixed by adding the city tile (+2) or some food resources. If the score is still negative, it will not make a good cottage city.

    Commerce resources count as 1 cottage. Coast for a financial civ counts as half a cottage. Non-financial coast is junk.

    Growing Cottages

    You grow cottages by assigning a citizen to work them. Double-click the city closest to the cottage, click the cottage, and a white circle will appear around the cottage. You get one citizen (white circle) per population point. If you don't like to micromanage, click the emphasize commerce button, and the AI governor will automatically assign new citizens to cottages.

    Cities grow faster than cottages, so it's better to focus on city growth initially.

    Rule 2: Build a granary ASAP in every city with cottages.

    You should also focus on food tiles to support city growth. But if you build too many farms, you will run out of space for cottages! The solution is...

    Rule 3: The optimal growth rate for cottage cities is Food Surplus = Happiness Surplus.

    If you have a lot of extra happiness and not much food, build another farm. As your city fills up and you run out of happy faces, move citizens from farms to cottages. Finally, bulldoze the farms and replace them with cottages.

    Optimal cottage growth with unlimited workers:
    1. Farm everything until food_surplus = final_number_of_cottages. Put extra citizens on cottages.
    2. Convert all farms to cottages when population = total_happiness - food_score.

    This strategy will produce slightly more commerce than Food Surplus = Happiness Surplus, assuming you have extra workers for the transition between step 1 and 2.

    (See this thread for the math behind these formulas.)

    Since workers are such an important factor in cottage growth...

    Rule 4: If your city is growing faster than workers can build tile improvements, build or slave another worker.

    Cottage City Buildings

    Cottage cities benefit a lot from +gold and +science buildings. You should try to include some high-production tiles (hammer resource, hills, food resource with slavery) in the city radius to help you build them. But...

    Rule 5: Growing cottages is more important than building gold and science improvements.

    If you use slavery to kill off half your cottages and finish a library, you have decreased your science rate instead of increasing it! Moving half your cottage citizens to mines does the same thing. The cottages will grow back eventually, but it will take much longer to reach your goal of fully grown towns.

    If your base commerce is so high that slave-rushing a university increases your beaker count immediately, it is ok to kill the citizens and build it.

    General Commerce + Hammers Strategy

    Specializing your cottage cities can save a lot of hammers on buildings, but cottage cities are also poor hammer producers. To balance it out, you need some hammer cities to focus on settlers, workers, missionaries, military, and wonders.

    A general rule is to have 50% hammer cities and 50% commerce cities.

    A 6-city empire might look like this:
    • 1 military city (hammers)
    • 2 general production cities (hammers)
    • 1 GP farm (commerce)
    • 2 cottage cities (commerce)
    This can vary a lot depending on your goals. When pursuing domination victory, you might have 70% hammer cities and 30% commerce cities. In a space race with friendly neighbors, you might have 70% commerce cities and 30% hammer cities.

    Many "good cottage cities" are also good hammer cities or GP farms. Specialize cities according to what you need the most. If most of your empire is grassland, assign the hills to hammer cities and your best food resource clump to a GP farm. If most of your empire is plains, put cottages on all the green tiles you can find even if you can't fit 10 of them per city.

    Floodplains are great! A floodplain city with forests can double as a cottage city and GP farm. A floodplain city with hills can double as a cottage city and hammer city.

    A Note About Plains

    If you have surplus food, it's tempting to use that food to feed plains cottages. Hence we have...

    Rule 6: Plains should be ignored until Scientific Method.

    The reason is that specialists are more valuable than plains cottages in the early game.

    • Plains farms or workshops in the Heroic Epic city
    • Plains cottages in a capital running Bureaucracy
    • Financial river plains cottages

    Scientific Method is a good reminder to start improving plains, but the actual key techs are improvement-specific:
    • Cottages: Democracy (Emancipation) or Biology
    • Farms: Biology
    • Workshops: Chemistry (Caste System) or Communism (State Property)
    • Watermills: Communism (State Property)
    If you are cursed with a plains-filled start position, build up your military and conquer better lands before you fall too far behind in tech.


    Cottages are an essential improvement for commerce, and are easy to use once you know the basics. These guidelines can help you get the most out of your cottages.
    1. A good cottage city can feed 10 cottages before Biology.
    2. Build a granary ASAP in every city with cottages.
    3. The optimal growth rate for cottage cities is Food Surplus = Happiness Surplus.
    4. If your city is growing faster than workers can build tile improvements, build or slave another worker.
    5. Growing cottages is more important than building gold and science improvements.
    6. Plains should be ignored until Scientific Method.
  2. kazapp

    kazapp Emperor

    Apr 2, 2006
    You have rule about plains, but you also say "Non-financial coast is junk". Shouldn't the same rule apply for non-financial junk?

    Also, when you say "ignore these tiles", you're not actually being helpful: what should you do instead?

    Would the following be a more direct way of implementing Rule 6?

    Rule 6: Don't work plains and coast in the start of the game. If you have no other tile to work, run a specialist instead. This changes at Biology for Plains and with Financial/Wonders for Coastal.

    Great, concise article!
  3. Iranon

    Iranon Deity Whipping Boy

    Nov 14, 2007
    Very readable, and some nice points.

    I'm not sure about the part about ignoring plains tiles though... if I have a food surplus from a resource or two and no other worthwhile tiles, I will often prefer 2 plains cottages over 1 specialist.

    I'd also like to point out that, assuming full bonuses on all, watermills can keep up with towns and windmills are arguably better.
  4. PieceOfMind

    PieceOfMind Drill IV Defender Retired Moderator

    Jan 15, 2006
    TMIT convinced you finally did he? :p

    Thanks for the article DaveMcW!
  5. RRRaskolnikov

    RRRaskolnikov Goldfish

    Oct 10, 2008
    Thanks Dave, really nice sum up for starters...
    I agree with you about avoiding plains cottages generally... but perhaps they are worth working in some cases (bureau capital comes to mind)...

  6. madscientist

    madscientist RPC Supergenius

    Oct 6, 2006
    New York City
    Nice article Dave, a few points you may want to add

    1) Riverside towns in US get an even further boost by building a levee, thus each town is 2 hammers. Therefore a later game cottage city can turn into a production powerhouse and thus warrent factories etc...

    2) You should mention the CE's other weakness, it is succesptible to pillage and random events (although pillaging is less of an issue in BTS). If you build a cottage near a mountain, there is a chance of a volcano destroying it, thus if given a choice farm near a volcano and cottage away.

    3) You should mention the early benefits of Bureacracy to a CE capital until liberalism is founded.

    4) A cottage city on a river, yet with ocean access get's further commerce from trade routes and their modifiers (harbors, custome houses).
  7. Airefuego

    Airefuego King

    Aug 16, 2007
    Australia / Chile
    Great article, thanks. :D Your comments in past threads have been a big reason why i love cottages!

    But can you clarify for me "specialists are more valuable than plains cottages in the early game" ?

    If my maths is right, after 10 turns of working 2 plains cottages (net cost 2 food), I'll be getting 4 commerce and 2 hammers, which is equal or better than any standard specialist (net cost 2 food) even when running Rep.

    Spoiler :
    I assumed the following:
    - there are no grassland or floodplains left to use.
    - GPP would not be a big factor in this city since it is a cottage city. Clearly in the GP farm I would ignore plains at all costs before biology.
    - a standard specialist "early game" is assumed to be not boosted by Sistine Chapel or Ankor Wat
    - not riverside / financial - if these factors are present surely the case for plains cottages is even more compelling...?

    Is it that the cost of the ten turns, plus the extra time taken to grow that extra pop before both tiles are worked, are greater than the long-term benefit, whereas the specialist is "now"? Unless it's not long until biology arrives, I'd be guessing the cottages still add up better...?

    Also one more question: When would you cottage on grassland hills? I sometimes see the AI do it, but I tend to prefer mines to build those libraries and universities... I figure it is maybe worth it in riverside financial situations with a serious food surplus... or late game... but really, once cottaged they just become plains tiles, right?
  8. DaveMcW

    DaveMcW Deity

    Oct 8, 2002
    Every city with surplus food can be a GP farm before Biology.
  9. Frank327

    Frank327 Warlord

    Nov 5, 2008
    Finally a guide about the most important improvement of the game :). I like the general rules of thumb.

    One question though:
    How do you get all the multiplier buildings in a reasonable amount of time? Do you work mines? I could imagine that working only cottages would mean awful production. Isn't it then more useful to have one or two mines to finish libraries and universities? Or do you wait for US to buy them?

    Also, I think plains cottages can be useful, as long as you've got one or more food resources. Let's say you've got irrigated corn, and grassland cow in the BFC, then you can still run 8 cottages next to it. If you've also got some grassland, it could turn a worthless site into a good one.
  10. PieceOfMind

    PieceOfMind Drill IV Defender Retired Moderator

    Jan 15, 2006
    I think the idea is that for the time while you are building the libraries etc. while not working cottages, not only are you not getting the commerce for those turns but you are also not growing the cottages. If a cottage becomes a hamlet, that is a big increase in its own commerce output. If a library is built it might increase the one commerce it generates by .25 and that's assuming 100% science slider.

    Basically the gains from these cottages/hamlets etc. growing outweights the benefits that come from the multipliers.

    Where it becomes a bit more fuzzy is when you consider the effect of trade routes etc., where multiplier buildings will help as well. I suppose again the idea is that working the appropriate number of cottages is better than boosting that commerce from the trade routes.

    After all, for much of the early game since you don't have many commerce multiplying buildings, you can use the slider with greater flexibility.

    I would imagine that you should work mines over cottages if building an espionage building and you plan to run a high esp slider after your commerce cities finish them. The fixed :espionage: bonuses these buildings give is probably enough to warrant sacrificing the growth of the cottages while they're built.
  11. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam If A implies B...

    Jan 26, 2008

    You are awesome.

    I know you like catapults a lot. Do you generally slave or workshop from hammer cities, assuming there aren't sufficient hills? Or do you just slave early workshop later?

    Also, how do you balance caste with slavery in a cottage empire so that you can still GP farm techbulb? Normally one wouldn't whip in big, established cities, but new ones need it to grow ASAP...and in the case of few hills, of course slavery might be needed for :hammers:.
  12. Stewie0416

    Stewie0416 Who Cares?

    Jul 19, 2008
    Ahhh Dave, i was expecting this thread for ages! Great read!
  13. yanner39

    yanner39 Emperor

    Sep 17, 2008
    Ottawa, Canada
    Great article. I love cottages.

    In another article, I like the strategy of farming first, getting the growth going and then gradually replacing the farms with cottages.

    Cottages only grow when they are worked So I get the farms going, grow quickly, bulldoze the farms and replace with cottages.
  14. Winth

    Winth Warlord

    Jul 2, 2007
    Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages Cottages ... Daaave oh it's a Daaaave! Cottages Cottages Cottages ...

    :lol: Good article.
  15. namliaM

    namliaM Deity

    Apr 4, 2005
    Nice article yes... However... is it acurate???

    I dont know... If what Dave is saying is true....
    Food surplus = happy surplus...

    Lets presume.... a all grass city with a river much like I had in that thread

    But without the rice.... just ALL grass!

    Now accoording to the "Food Surplus = Happiness Surplus" rule in this city. Assuming happy cap 15 (equal health cap) and a turn cap of 130 turns this gives the city nice time to grow AND work Towns in the end.
    Lets presume we have infinate worker turns and can transpose any tile instantly i.e. we have a farm upon settling the city and will pop the culture thru religion or something.

    In the linked thread... and in Dave's advice here getting a granary ASAP is the thing to do.... This means whipping it ASAP.
    Farm 4 tiles, grow to size 4 wait till the granary hits 7 food and whip the granary for 2 pop.

    Now all other hammers are considered invalid for this...
    At +3 food growing to size 2 on turn 8 with 2 food to spare.
    At +4 food growing to size 3 on turn 14 with the same 2 food to spare
    At +5 food growing to size 4 on turn 19 with only 1 food to spare
    At +6 food we spend 1 turn on size 4 to fill the granary about halfway after whipping... Whip the granary for two pop
    This puts us back at size 2 +4 food for 11/24 when the granary starts gathering food.
    At +4 it takes 4 turns to grow to 3 with 3 surplus putting us at 15 food.
    Turn 28 puts us at size 4 / +6 food
    Turn 30 size 05 / +7 food
    Turn 33 size 06 / +8 food
    Turn 35 size 07 / +8 food add one cottage
    Turn 37 size 08 / +7 food add cottage and replace farm by cottage
    Turn 40 size 09 / +6 food add cottage and replace farm by cottage
    Turn 43 size 10 / +5 food add cottage and replace farm by cottage
    Turn 47 size 11 / +4 food add cottage and replace farm by cottage
    Turn 52 size 12 / +3 food add cottage and replace farm by cottage
    Turn 59 size 13 / +2 food add cottage and replace farm by cottage
    Turn 71 size 14 / +2 food add cottage
    Turn 83 size 15 / +2 food add cottage

    If I did my math right, that adds up to 164 farm turns and 1217 cottage turns
    Or 4306 commerce from the farms + Cottages.

    Now by my calculations working all farms right up to size 15 then turning all cottage will result in 236 farm turns and 1230 cottage turns
    or a total of 4327 commerce.
    Working all farms up to size 15 > "Food surplus = happy surplus"
    The difference is minimal, but still

    The maximum/obtimum I seem to reach in this case is 189 farm turns for a total of 4397 commerce. 1245 cottage turns.
    This equates to farm all to size 12 and work 1 turn all farms
    Then 1 turn 5 farms / 7 cottages
    Then run all cottages.

    The 91 commerce between optimal and Dave's formula is probably not going to kill you... still... the difference is there.

    Note there is something odd in these calculations that doesnt seem to add up... I hope I am not talking BS here....
  16. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam If A implies B...

    Jan 26, 2008
    IMO those assumptions are so far from real-game that it's hard to say if the approach is truly better. Worker turns aren't infinite in any practical game scenario that matters. Food surplus = happy surplus is a pretty good "rule of thumb", generally.
  17. DaveMcW

    DaveMcW Deity

    Oct 8, 2002
    Could you explain in 100 words or less why "Food Surplus = Happiness Surplus" is wrong?
  18. PieceOfMind

    PieceOfMind Drill IV Defender Retired Moderator

    Jan 15, 2006

    Are maintenance costs not greater for the bigger city? Would that factor be important if it were a real in game example?
  19. oyzar

    oyzar Have quit civ/forums

    Oct 7, 2006
    Riverside financial plains cottages are pretty good... Riverside cottages or plains cottages can be ok depending on the terrain as well. Obviously Non-financial non-riverside plains cottages are junk, but non-financial non-riverside grassland cottages are not terribly hot before emancipation either...
  20. Bleys

    Bleys Deity

    Dec 24, 2007
    Upstate, NY
    Great work Dave. I am always quoting your little bytes of wisdom, and now I have a place to look for the exact quote I am looking for! Thanks mate! Oh, and I promise, no more quoting TtF!

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