Democracy: when is it best in Civ3?


Culture Vulture
Dec 27, 2001
Darkest New Jersey
So I was just reflecting on my last few games, mulling over the relative benefits of Republic vs. Democracy in Civ3. I'm almost convinced that going to Democracy is more trouble than it's worth, and I'd like to throw out my arguments to see whether people can support or shoot down my conclusions.

Let's begin with the Civ2 version of Democracy. In Civ2, going from Republic to Democracy eliminated ALL corruption, so big empires would get a huge income/science boost. It also provided immunity to bribery and subversion. On the downside, soldiers outside your cities produced unhappiness, it was almost impossible to declare war, and your government could fall if a city stayed in disorder.

The benefits and drawbacks were immediately obvious. Many Civ2 players built their strategy around staying in Democracy for a long time, so it was clearly a desirable government type.

Now, let's look at the situation in Civ3. What happens when you go from Republic to Democracy? I'll break it down into what gets better, what gets worse, and what stays the same.

Better: Your Workers work 50% faster.

Better: Your cities are immune to Propaganda.

Better: Corruption is allegedly reduced.

Worse: War weariness makes your citizens more unhappy.

Same: Can get the full shield and food values from all land tiles.

Same: Extra trade from each trading square.

Same: Ability to draft.

Same: Must pay unit upkeep.

Now, just doing a simple count, it seems that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. But let's take a closer look at the individual items.

Faster workers: Okay, this is an undeniable and immediately apparent benefit.

Immunity to propaganda: Has anyone ever actually gotten propaganda to succeed? Has anyone ever had it successfully used against them?

Supposedly reduced corruption: In Civ2 it was easy to see how much the elimination of corruption benefited you. In Civ3, I really haven't been able to tell the difference between corruption effects in Republic and Democracy. Has anyone actually measured and documented the difference in corruption?

Increased war weariness: Now this one is quite apparent. I see cities going into disorder a lot more quickly in Democracy than I do in Republic.

So let's go down the list once more and see if we can come up with a set of rules on when Democracy will give you an advantage over Republic, and when it won't.

Faster workers: Definitely a plus if you are not Industrious. If you are Industrious, you already have faster workers and, while this will make them even better, it won't be a must-have.

Immunity to propaganda: Spy tasks cost an unreasonable amount of money in Civ3, and I hardly ever see the AI using them against me. However, you might want this trait if you have a rich neighbor whose culture rivals yours.

Supposedly reduced corruption: I think that the effects would be more apparent for a compact empire than a widely-spread one. If you have cities scattered all over the globe (or the cylinder, as the world is in Civ3), you're always going to have some cities that are corrupted to the point of uselessness.

Increased war weariness: Obviously, the more likely you are to be involved in a war, the less you want this to be a possibility.

And then there is always the anarchy factor. If your civilization is religious, you can switch to Democracy without much loss of production. If you're not, you have to weigh the cost of Anarchy against the benefits of Democracy.

So right away I can see a couple of interesting things. Militaristic civs won't be as likely to want to go Democratic, as one of their main advantages comes from fighting wars. Neighbors of Militaristic civs will likewise want to be wary of Democracy and its side effects. Industrious civs will get a big boost from Democracy, but they may not need it. Religious civs have the least to lose, since they can always switch back.

So, here are the conditions that would seem to indicate that a Democracy would give you a significant advantage over a Republic.

* Your civ is not Militaristic or Industrious.

* You have a large but well-contained empire with a lot of undeveloped land squares.

* Your neighbors are about your size, wealthy, and more likely to expand by cultural dominance and propaganda than by military conquest.

* You have no enemies or entangling alliances who are likely to drag you into a war any time soon.

So, my conclusion: Democracy is not for every civilization or situation. In fact, for the conditions found in most games, it will often be better to stick to a Republic.

Looking forward to this board's feedback and reactions to my analysis...
I do not use democracy very often anymore. I experimented with republic, and found that corruption is only nominally worse. War weariness in republic takes a very long time to kick in if you are not the aggressor. Democracy is great if the world is extremely peaceful, but this is very rarely the case. I agree wholeheartedly.:goodjob:

I generally only switch to Democracy only if I am a Religious Civ, otherwise, the threat of war makes Republic a much more practical choice. And remember once you get the tech: Replaceable Parts, your workers will get a bonus regardless of what government you are in.

The only time I might think about going to Democracy with a non-religious civ, is when I am clearly #1, with little to threaten me, and I want to throw my civ into high gear - and that doesn't happen very often!
Agreed. I was rarely a democracy in civ1 or civ2. After a few disastrous experiences with war weariness, I more or less stopped in Civ3, and since my fourth or fifth game, hadn't played a democracy since. Republic's always been my preference; it's sort of like picking "balanced" government, especially after the elimination of that tedious Senate function from earlier civs.
Ok, I usually stay in monarchy once I get it until very late in the game.

Democracy and republic are just too corrupt for me. When I do switch to democracy I can usually produce between 8 and 10 modern armors a turn and If I do go to war I cleanse the other society in 2 to 4 turns barely giving war werriness a chance to set in. Modern war is really suppiority in numbers and If you can maintain the tech lead which I consistanly do your tanks are fighting riflemen and cannons, Not a big threat.

Democracy is a production boost but not really worth it....

Remember in real life democracy does not stem corruption, It just legalizes it and calls it things like lawyers and lobbiests. Only those at the top are truely privy to the corruption payoffs. Any questions?
Agreed. Democracy is the least useful form of govt in the games I've been playing. I was mulling over what my govt preferences were and while Monarchy & Republic were at the top of my list, Democracy & Communism were at the bottom. I'd go into my argument but it looks a lot like yours.

I did a comparison once of a rather large empire of mine and found that democracy gave about a 5% help in overall corruption over the republic. It helped those mid-distant cities somewhat but not my super-cities or distant outposts. It really wasn't worth the anarchy period (and a second when a war started). In some games, with a good Palace & FP position, I've seen very little difference in overall corruption with ANY form of govt.

How about the diplomatic relations model improving in 2 ways:

- When you have a similar govt with someone else because you have the same ideals, your relations improve.
- When you have a more "advanced" govt form. You're recognized for evolving into a Democracy or Communist govt & again, your relations improve (maybe they can be in "awe" of your govt).

I think that these ideas would help out these govts.

One recommendation I would make for everyone is not to blindly choose their govt. Don't just think, oh, Democracy has to be better than Republic because it is more advanced & the civpedia says "lower corruption". As Jimcat has shown, there are pros & cons for every govt. I'd really recommend doing some investigations for yourself & see what govt looks the best for your empire. (Anyone else like me & like to save, switch govts & see how each city does as well as your whole empire?)

One nice thing of Democracy is if you're not Industrious, you can lay down a fast railroad. (Though you mentioned the benefits of this in your post, Jimcat).

BTW, I didn't mean by "advanced" govt in the real life - just in the game where some govts tech-wise are above the other govts.

BTW2, I really like debating govt styles in Civ3 :D
Wow, I'm just the opposite of chiefpaco. I favor communism and democracy most highly, but not in that order. I use communism if I have a really big war lined up. I like the high draft and police rates and the ability to population rush. Democracy is slightly better on corruption than republic and has some added benefits.

I should admit that I haven't fully tested out monarchy, I always go for republic.

Also, most of my games have been as religious civs, so it hasn't been a big deal to switch.

My usual progression of gov't is despot > republic > democracy or despot > republic > communist > democracy. One of the benefits of the second plan is that I can delay research and trade on several dead end techs (e.g. monarchy, printing press, and democracy) until after conquest or prior to building the TheofEvo. Monarchy just has too slow a research rate the times I tried it.
Funny, I have never drafted a unit (I keep a rather LARGE army handy) and have never used Communist Government, although I have used Despot rush tactics.

Did you know that if you are in Republic, the French like you more and that if you are in Monarchy, they like you less? Each civ has certain types of governments they like and certain types they hate. probably not a huge deal, but could have some bearing on choosing a government based on what neigbors perfer as a tie-breaker.
Well I use Democracy a lot. At the moment I'm playing with the French, and with the 50% bonus, plus the Replacable Parts and the Industrius bonus I'm making railroads in 1 turn! That has to be a major help in getting the Empire to its full productivity. In my Empire every single city I have is a super-producing city, and this is all thanks to Democracy. The only time I will switch is if I need a war, then I will turn to either Comunism if I want no war-weariness or Republic if I'm not the agrresor.
Originally posted by Magnus
Did you know that if you are in Republic, the French like you more and that if you are in Monarchy, they like you less? Each civ has certain types of governments they like and certain types they hate. probably not a huge deal, but could have some bearing on choosing a government based on what neigbors perfer as a tie-breaker.

So that is what "preferred government" and "shunned government" mean in the editor! I thought it indicated what govt. types they were more or less likely to pick... I guess it also shows what govt. types they get along with better or worse.

It might be a good idea to keep a list of these handy for diplomatic reference.
Does the Suffrage Wonder significantly help fight war weariness with a Democracy?? Anyone try it?
Ironikinit, don't we usually agree? Your points are good**. Religious civs change the govt decision to "whatever I feel like". However, I would still stick to Jimcat's last 4 points for the conditions to when I would even consider a Democracy. But first, I'd add:

* A religious civ who's at peace.

Jimcat, you hinted at this, did you mean to include this as well? Maybe you implied it as a pre-condition to the rest of your points. It's probably the biggest factor.

One more point about the increased worker production in Democracy. If you're not Religious, you have to go through an Anarchy period. During this Anarchy period, their work rate goes from 2 to 1 (halving their production. The democracy worker rate is 3). This will take a bite out of a big advantage of Democracy. I'd use this point to strengthen my above condition.

The suffrage wonder never hurts to have, but in my experience, it may only quell a couple war wearied people in every city. In other words, it didn't help much when half the pop is tired of war. I'd save it for republics cause I haven' t found it helpful enough in Democracies.

** This topic is for democracies, or I'd go into a Monarchy blurb too - all govts have their time & place, IMHO.
I am disappointed to learn that Civ3 corruption is terrible even in Democracy. In my new Regent game (Civ 1.16f patch, crashes any way...), I have corruption of 20% 30% 40% and only 5 cities. By comparison, in Civ II the corruotion is minor, just right, an impetus to Republic and then certainly Democracy.
I am an old man, I play slowly over many weeks. In a recent CIV3 game I measured the corruption going from Monarchy to Republic and was astoshed:
Monarchy Republic
Sci Rate 80% 60%
Income 208 356
Expense 203 332
Science 114 144 Slight improvement
Corrupt 71 122 Worse!
Maint 18 67

Since I focus on economics, I may stay with Civ2 Emperor, where I can build cities and mines that actually produce! In my latest Civ2 game, nuclear war and all, I had over 200 cities, and a score of 5925 in 1928 - that's 592%

I think the publishers enphasis that 12 cities is enough is ghastly, and destroys the game.

This is a minor point, but when calculating corruption you only want to use income from cities as the divisor. Income from tax specialists or other civs is unaffected by corruption (underlining the importance of getting good trade deals).

Under both despotism and republic you're showing a 34% corruption of the total income. That's bad, dude! (Yeah, I know: duh.)

Do you have your Forbidden Palace up? Are you spread out a lot? Your income isn't real high, so you don't seem to be so huge that you should be running into the max cities limit. And you also have the 1.16 patch, which reduced corruption, so I'm puzzled. You should be able to get it under 20% with ease under republic.

If you post a save somewhere, maybe a thread on corruption in the strategy system, I'd like to take a look, if that's cool with you.


Excellent point on the loss of worker ability during anarchy. I've been playing the Germans lately, and not having the religious attribute makes planning gov't switches all the more important. I'd like to add one condition where democracy might be the pick of choice: When you're dominant.

When you clearly dominate at least locally, you most likely have plenty of luxuries, and can trade for more. That makes war weariness less dangerous. Further, you're less likely to get war declarations, and when you do you can slap the offender around until they say uncle right quick.

Obviously, every turn of anarchy is a big loss of income, production and research. Making that back takes a certain amount of time, but I don't care to speculate on exactly how long at the moment.
Ironikinit, your domination point is well taken. Switching to a democracy could be a good idea to put away a game in which you're already ahead. Especially for the reasons you gave.

However, I wouldn't necessarily switch from Republic in this case for these reasons:
- you've got a lead. You got it somehow and whatever was working may not need changing to finish off the others.
- Changing govts is costly, so if you're not religious, the anarchy period will let the others catch up.
- If someone can survive a war against you long enough, your democracy will crumble so you better have a good military.

So, I'd say you ought to keep a larger military in Democracy than you would in Republic, which you'll have to pay for.

But, you have a good point, and it got me thinking about one of Jimcat's resolutions:

* Your neighbors are about your size, wealthy, and more likely to expand by cultural dominance and propaganda than by military conquest.

Maybe. But this is where strategy comes into play. In these cases, the AI will likely go into a democracy. Staying in a Republic means that you might be able to topple their democracies, if you can pressure one into an aggressive war. Furthermore, after going into Democracy, if you can't pull ahead of them, you could be screwed cause there won't be much you can do to win. It's probably better to be the best "X" type of government than 2nd best at any government since each has its advs & disadvs. But, if you think you can beat the others in Democracy, then by all means... Personally, I like playing a contrary govt when I'm losing and the same govt when I'm winning.

Jimcat, you did say that it may not be as good for Militaristic or Industrious civs. I might add to that as well and say that it might be more beneficial for commercial & scientific civs who can get extra commerce or research points.

If my math is still good, that your workers will need as many turns under democracy as you went through under Anarchy to catch up to how they would've done staying in a Republic or Monarchy.

Aside: Funny, I just played my 1st game as Germany in my 1st game under Emporer. Never got past Nationalism before those Aztecs took Berlin (no Iron and hard-to-get saltpeter :(, all-Jungle-empire, but enjoyed the challenge). However, the govt switches were agonizing, though my fav part of the game when not playing Religious.

GaryNemo: Yeah, I'd take a look at your game too. Your numbers seem off. Did you re-optimize your cities after the switch? I also find going from Monarchy or Communism to Republic, I add at least a 10% entertainment bonus to offset unhappiness. In any case, I'd rather keep the argument from Republic to Democracy just in this thread :)

I think we're getting a strategy guide going here. Anyone seen a good govt strategy guide? I'd be interested in seeing.

Don't worry Jimcat, your final conclusion in your original post, I still stand by it.
I'm using democracy in my current game. A nice bonus is the timing.

Obviously, I was at peace when I had my democratic revolution. Several of my cities were at 12, so I'd order worker production between improvements or wealth production, and I ended up with a lot of workers. Then I researched steam power and all those workers cranked out rails with great speed.

It's all anecdotal, of course, but democracy's worker speed bonus is great for the industrial revolution. That revolution creates a lot of pollution, of course, but so far I haven't had any global warming because my workers clean it up quickly. That unfortunately requires micromanagement, but eh.

It's not like global warming is a big deal, but laying rails and clearing forests so quickly sped up my production of factories.

In other words: bump.
If you need help selecting governments, I found this thread extremely helpful. BTW, Eyrei, your advice/strategy is the greatest here. A beauty argument here with Moo.

There's not a ton on Democracy in this thread, but every other govt is heavily covered if you go through all the pages. Also, a lot of the argument looks to be for Emporer or below so any more advice for Deity is welcome.

BTW, I realized most of my opinions I've posted anywhere were probably influenced by this thread that was active perhaps a month ago. So, recognition to those who posted here.
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