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. Exceptions: 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. Conclusion 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. A good cottage city can feed 10 cottages before Biology. Build a granary ASAP in every city with cottages. The optimal growth rate for cottage cities is Food Surplus = Happiness Surplus. If your city is growing faster than workers can build tile improvements, build or slave another worker. Growing cottages is more important than building gold and science improvements. Plains should be ignored until Scientific Method.