Domination on Immortal/Deity - a noob's guide


Jul 7, 2014
[Please note this guide is still under construction, so while I value input, it might also be a good idea to wait and see if I add the thing that you think is missing ;) ]


1. I am not the best warmonger on these forums. But I am someone who made a switch from mostly peaceful victories on Emperor and below, to mostly conquest-assisted victories on Immortal and Deity.

2. I achieved this by studying the play of some really great players, especially Moriarte, Acken, Peddroelm and Maddjinn. I watched their LPs, and in the case of Moriarte and Peddroelm, read their guides. All of them are superb warmongers.

3. So the guide that you are reading now is more of a bringing together of information than a unique strategy in its own right. Very little of what I say here is stuff I’ve learned on my own. One exception is what I have to say about CS alliances, which are IMO the most underrated element of Domination, as I shall later explain.

4. This guide is for Domination noobs, meaning people who would like to learn how to conquer on Immortal and Deity. Either they’ve played mostly peaceful and want to learn some war chops, or they’ve played Domination on Prince and don’t understand why their strategy doesn’t translate to victories on higher difficulties, or they’re plain new to the game and want to jump straight into the deep end.

TLDR: In the past few months, I've seen a slew of posts asking for Domination advice, like this one, this one and this one, and I thought that maybe if a lot of information was brought together in one place, it would be useful and save threads!

Step #1 – Why Domination?

The main reason is that it’s actually the easiest victory condition when you know how to do it. You can know how to do a decent CV but still be frustrated sometimes. Likewise, Science and Diplomatic don’t always work out. But Domination is the victory condition least dependent on what the AI does. So if you know how to war, you can almost always win, and almost always win before other VCs were possible. I have a T188 Domination win on Deity and a T155 win on Immortal, and I’m nothing special. Other players have won Deity before T100.

It’s also fun, IMO. If you don’t like moving troops and engaging in combat, it’s obviously not for you, but for a lot of players their reluctance to go Domination is based on fear of failure. I hope I can at least assist you to win at Domination if you read this guide. There is no AI that you should be scared of, and if you want to try something besides a turtling science victory, I encourage you to experience the full range of the game.

To conclude this part, I will again post the screenshot I took from a recent Deity game with Russia, which I had previously posted in my Deity Tier List thread.

and the accompanying text:

Without having to give any consideration to growth in my 3 self-founded cities, without premium dirt, without founding my own religion, without food caravans, without trying overly hard to make CS alliances, without building any wonders myself, etc., etc., by T150 I usually become the dominant force in the game purely through conquest, taking the hard work the other civs have done in establishing religion, building nice cities and wonders inside them, and just using it for my purposes; just like most empires IRL.

Step #2 – Should I always try to Dominate?

It has to be said that although a Domination victory is generally possible, not all maps are what you would call ‘Domination-friendly’, especially for noobs. There can be many obstacles thrown up by a combination of the civ you’re playing, the map type, the map script, and the neighbours. This is not something that can be adequately described in full, but it will come from experience, and some trial and error. However, I offer you the following tips in advance to help you make this decision, and to try to help you avoid making Domination attempts that fail and cause you to give up Domination entirely.

Basically, I play almost entirely on Pangaea and Continents, with some Fractal play here and there. P and C each have their own formulaic strategies, meaning that 9 times out of 10, if you do X, you can win. Other map types have different strategies and complications, many of which I truly don’t know. So this guide is written with Pangaea and Continents in mind.

Once you’ve learned how to do it on Pangaea and Continents, then you can try it on other maps, if you want. I’ve generally not bothered, because they don’t hold any appeal for me.

Step #3 – Which policy tree do I open? When do I go to war? (The two most important questions)

These decisions can’t really be taken independently. You should start with a decision about when you want to go to war, and an assessment of how quickly you think you can win (perhaps assisted by turns 1-15), but it can work the other way around, and you might decide that you want to open a certain tree, and then that will dictate your play.

I advise you to take the first approach in general, as your play will be more optimized to the map. Sometimes Honor is not the best choice and you’ll struggle a lot more than if you’d gone Tradition, for example. The problem is that you only have a few turns before you have to choose which tree to open. Despite it being my least favourite of the 3 Domination-friendly trees, I would have to say, grudgingly, that if you are really unsure about which tree to open, Tradition is probably the most forgiving.

So anyway, onto the decision about when to go to war...

First let’s talk about the structure of the game, as far as Domination is concerned:

There are basically five periods in the game, troops-wise, and a number of key units that will help you with Domination. A typical game will involve at least 3 of these, and possibly all.

Period 1 – Ancient/Classical – Key unit = Composite Bowman (CB)

CBs will take down other units of the era, and cities very quickly. For example, 2 or 3 promoted CBs can take down a Hoplite in 1 turn. They can also absorb more damage than an Archer. But you don’t want to let Pikes anyway near your CBs. Use your own melee units to shield them. The best CBs are upgraded Archers who’ve spent 20-30 turns collecting Promotions from barbs, CS or the AI.

If you can get 6-8 CBs by T65, this will be a decent-enough army to take a capital or two. If you watch Acken’s LP of the DCL #16 China, you will see he takes 2 capitals with a Liberty domination very early.

CBs are great provided you get to them early enough. On Immortal, they’re good up to T100, on Deity T85 or sometimes even earlier (sadly).

Period 2 – Medieval/Renaissance – Key unit = Crossbowman (XB)

XBs are broken, really. Most of my domination sweeps owe most of their success to making the most of XBs. They chew up AI troops when used in groups, and they can take down most cities in a few turns. Long sieges are rarely necessary. With Logistics and Range, XBs stay good until T200 on Immortal, and on Deity maybe T150ish. In this time, it’s very easy to get another 3 or 4 capitals.

Period 3 – Late Renaissance – Key unit = Cannons, Frigates

Cannons may not be as effective as their successor, the Artillery, but they are still really, really good. As Moriarte says in his Korea LP “with cannons, you can” (which I think is a play on a British TV advertisement!). Essentially these come along at just the time your XBs are beginning to be less effective. You can then use the XBs as expendable shooters, or put them back in the cities and use them just for defence. Once you have cannons, you should use them in combination with knights/cavalry to take 1 or 2 more capitals.

Frigates can be really useful if there are 1 or more coastal capitals on a landmass that is not the one you started on, or if you wish to capture a city in order to use it as a landing point for your land-based embarked troops. This guide will not go into too much detail about naval warfare, as it's not a big feature of my games.

Basically, if you have the available iron, and you want an accompaniment to or alternative to Cannons, then Frigates can be really effective.

If anyone wants to write a detailed piece on Frigates, I'll happily insert it here. Otherwise, see my section on the Tech tree below for more information about Frigates.

Period 4 – Industrial/Modern – Key units = Artillery, Tanks

Artillery are really broken. Not just because of the punch that each shot delivers onto a city, but because they have indirect fire, so they can shoot from outside the city attack range, and don’t have to have line of sight (although you MAY need another unit to be able to get line of sight and act as forward observation). If you get to Artillery in good time, you can usually win the game with them if you haven’t done so already.

As proof, I recently completed a Deity challenge game where the object was to conquer all the capitals and win Domination-only, on a Standard-sized map with 22 civs. I finished the final 9 or 10 capitals in less than 50 turns with Artillery.

Tanks are really for fun. There are seldom games where you will have to use tanks, because Artillery and Cavalry is almost always enough. But you might decide you want to upgrade those Cavalry all the way, and if you do, you will find that tanks are just unstoppable.

Period 5 – Late game – Key unit = XCOMs, Stealth Bombers

These are generally reserved for when you want to turtle to a late game Domination. This might be because you’ve never tried this form of Domination, or because trying to win before the late game would be much more difficult. I did it for both these reasons on the DCL #27, which was a Deity+ game. I used the AIs advantages to help my science and when I reached Nanotech, I just spammed these and Stealth Bombers and won in a few turns. If you use this strategy, you’re playing a straightforward science game until this point. But these units might also be used if you ran into difficulty and had to finish the game off later than expected.

OK, so with that brief overview of periods out of the way, let’s return to the policy trees:

Liberty – This is best when you want to war from Period 1 onwards. You use the tree to quickly expand and produce an army, and then attack your first victim. You will get one free settler, and I advise generally only building 1 or 2 more of your own cities. 3 city NC is such a fast strategy that you can have a decent army AND the NC by T85. You can generally always get the Pyramids, and the Oracle goes really well with Liberty too, and helps with the Culture bottleneck that comes when you are building units and not Culture buildings. The Pyramids will allow you to repair tiles in 1 turn, which makes for a broken mechanic that I will discuss later in this guide. Suggested path = Republic -> Collective Rule -> Citizenship -> Representation -> Meritocracy.

The best strategy guide for Liberty Domination, to my mind, is Moriarte’s on this forum. He has many videos on his YouTube site where you can see this in action, and the aforementioned Acken China LP is a shining example.

Honor – This is best when you want to delay your main warpath until you hit Machinery. The three main advantages of doing so are: that you can concentrate more on growth, which helps with science; that you can train your army better before using it; and that you can reap more rewards from trading with and befriending the AI before they all decide you are scum and hate you forever more. 3 city NC is also advised. Don’t worry too much about Statue of Zeus in your build order. It’s better to capture it than build it. If you have a really nice production capital where it can be built in less than 10 turns, maybe consider it.

The big decision about Honor is whether to go left or right side first. In most cases, right side first is best because it gives you culture faster. If you feel confident that you can ally with 1 or 2 cultural CS, or if you are in a situation where you want to train your Archers, Warriors, Spearmen and Horsemen from a very early stage, or if you can think of a REALLY good use for a citadel bomb, then you could go left-side first, but it’s generally suboptimal.

Tradition – This is best when you want to delay war quite a lot. If you don’t go to war before Artillery, it’s possible to reach that technology very early and make it even more devastating. But you also run the risk that by excluding early war you make the job you have to do thereafter more difficult. This is again something you will only be able to learn through experience. Personally, I rarely turtle for Artillery because it’s less fun. As mentioned before, you can also turtle to XCOMs and Stealth Bombers. And as also mentioned, Tradition is pretty good when you’re not sure about what you’ll do, as it doesn’t really have any policies that are a waste. If you have 3 or 4 nice cities that are growing and producing science, you can’t go far wrong. I think most experienced players acknowledge that Tradition is generally strong, and maybe boringly so. I would still argue that on most maps Liberty is much better for Domination, and Honor more fun, but Tradition still holds its own.

Step 4 - Stop building buildings!

One reason that people struggle with Domination is that they inadvertently slow down the training of their army by building buildings instead and thinking they can still hit the benchmarks for the above windows of operation. It's impossible. With the Liberty finisher you can grab (if you choose GE) one important building or wonder and still have an army. That is one of the best things above Liberty. I recommend NC, as you will see in the Liberty specific section below, but in general, stop building wonders. Capture them instead.

Here are all the buildings you can build and my opinion on building them:-

Barracks: In general, I say build it. When is a bit complicated, and depends on other strategy decisions you've made. Generally I like to build them before I train the Trebuchets I will turn into Canons, so that they start with at least one promotion. You could build them earlier if you have enough troops for the moment and it won't take too many turns. The biggest bonus they give is if you get to ideologies and choose Autocracy.

Circus: All happiness buildings should be built when you need them. Since Circus requires the least hammers, I usually build these pretty early. Depends entirely on how much happiness you have.

Granary: A key building for all cities to build. When it gets built depends on your social policy tree. See the specific strategies below for more information on build order. But you will want them, so that you can grow your cities a bit to reach the military techs you need a bit faster. I've played games where I didn't build them at all and it made up to 20 turns difference on reaching Dynamite. Whether that is inevitable I'm not sure, perhaps other factors were involved. But these are inarguably important buildings.

Library: You want these as soon as you can. For most of my games, I set my expos to build: Monument, Archer, Library. I'm not a fan of rush-buying Libraries like the peace mongers advise. I'd prefer to prioritise workers on forest chops to get them faster. You should be stealing as many workers as you can anyway. If you don't like stealing workers, don't place Domination. It is pointless to throw away potential advantages because you think worker stealing is an exploit when what you aim to do (militarily defeat the AI) amounts to being an exploit when judged on the same criteria.

Monument: If you go Tradition, you will get these for free. If not, build them after a scout in your capital, and as the first thing in your expos. Pretty obvious why. I can win Domination games without granaries but its not so easy without Monuments. They will probably be the only culture buildings you build, so you need them, to reduce the bottleneck you will experience before you capture a couple of culture-heavy capitals.

Shrine: There is no consensus on this, but I'm personally of the opinion that it's not worth founding your own religion when going Domination. When you play peaceful, not emphasising religion means your FPT will be low throughout the game. However, when you've captured a few AI cities, your FPT will be high. The only times I ever build a shrine is when I have a decent food pantheon and I'm in a position where the pantheon is NOT gonna get knocked out before T150. That's my view, and although I'm sure this could be endlessly debated, it doesn't really matter so much. I don't like to waste the hammers unless I'm getting food (=growth). If someone can make a conclusive case for bothering with shrines in a DomV on Immortal/Deity, then I'd love to hear it.

Stone Works: Only if you have 2 or more sources of stone, and/or need the happiness.

Walls: Only later in the game to get happiness from Autocracy. You are the aggressor. You don't need defence.

Water Mill: Only after the 1st army has departed on its warpath and only if there is nothing better to do. You don't need the small boost to growth or production early.

Ampitheater: A waste of hammers in most cases. Again, like the shrine, if someone has a case to make, make it.

Aqueduct: Build these as soon as you can. More growth = faster military techs.

Caravansary: Generally a waste of time.

Colosseum: When you need it.

Lighthouse: In a coastal city if you have sea resources and/or are food starved.

Market: Very important for Domination. Keep your economy in good shape. I usually build these ASAP in expos, after Monument, Library and a couple of units.

This takes us up to the Medieval era. Since your army should be built and abroad by now, you can build more buildings hereafter, but just remember the golden rule:

For Domination victories, only build a building if you NEED TO. Otherwise, you could be building more units to subjugate the barbarian hordes.

Trust me, you won't end up with a piecemeal empire and a savage army. You will have a glorious, dominant empire. You will just have conquered it rather than build it. The AI gets hammer and food bonuses. Let them do the hard work. Just come in and turf them out and spade them under. ;)

Step 5 - What am I doing if I'm not building buildings?! (Spoiler: Your army)

The secret to successful domination is having units that can slaughter the AI's troops and seize their capitals. In other words, having the edge. In order to get this edge you need promoted troops and you need to beeline key military techs. So by building mainly units early on, you will have a lot of troops to train and promote, that will last through the ages (unless you want to turtle to later eras). With Liberty these troops will go to war relatively quickly, with a Honor a bit later and a bit better promoted (hopefully). But the army is the most important thing. If you've got great BPT and CPT but a weak army, you will not dominate.

And if you find that you reach one of the Periods numbered above but you don't have an edge (in numbers, promotions, etc) and are finding the war hard-going, you are best off making peace and concentrating on reaching the next tech before you continue. It is largely pointless to fight with obsolete units unless you have a REALLY large number of them.

Step 6 - We have the technology

As mentioned before, your aim is to reach the Technologies you need to upgrade the troops you need to win the game. On some maps, XBs are enough and you can add Canons at the end to speed things along. Sometimes the AI techs faster and you could be forced to go up against Modern units.

Putting yourself in the best position technologically without compromising your army is priority #1. Let's talk about the tech tree and different paths to the key technologies, so you have a better idea of when to take detours...

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Tech Tree, Part 1 - The Early Game

In the right situations and with good planning, Composite Bows can be effective, even on Deity, if you get them early enough. As you can see from the picture, Construction comes so early. If you only need Mining and 1 of Masonry, Calendar or Trapping, you can get to Construction really early. If you don't intend to beeline Construction, you should beeline Philosophy, since there is no other military tech that you will need so early. You will never be able to get Machinery earlier than you would have been able to complete NC, in a flat-out race, so if you aren't doing a CB rush, then go to Philosophy instead.

The next tech you will need ASAP, regardless of what path you've taken, is Currency. You will want Markets up to boost your gold output so you can buy stuff like units, unit upgrades (most important), CS alliances (also very important).

After Currency, you have three choices: either into Civil Service (for growth boosts), and then to Education for Universities and science boosts, or Chivalry (for powerful UUs like Keshiks, Camel Archers, and for upgrading bog-standard horsemen). Or, as is often better, going straight into Machinery for early access to the midgame's most effective units: Crossbows.

The central questions to be asking yourself if you're not sure which path to take at this stage are:-

Are my cities a bit too tiny? Do I have farmland I need to be producing more food, so I can grow my cities and improve my BPT? If so, go to Civil Service. It won't set you back too much. It's on the path to many other things.

Am I going to try and capture 1-4 capitals in the next 60 turns? You will be facing this question around about T75-90, so it basically means 'how much conquest am I aiming to do in the midgame? (which will be looked at next) If the mid game is going to be your most violent period, then getting Machinery and/or Chivalry should take priority over Education, unless you've gone Honor and decided to deliberately delay Construction and Machinery so your units could be as promoted as possible and to take advantage of the cheaper upgrades. If you're gonna be doing most of your conquest as part of a late Renaissance or even Industrial era endgame, with Canons and then Artillery; and/or Frigates then Battleships, then maybe you're better off going to Education.

Experience and practice will make this decision easier and more intuitive.

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Tech Tree, Part 2 - The Midgame

Winning ASAP

Let's start by making one thing really clear. Since Domination relies on capture rather than building, the earlier you get it done, the better. This is not just because it's nice and impressive to win really quickly, but the quicker you can capture 7 capitals, the less time the hateful psychopaths who own those capitals will have to build defences and spam hordes of units, and to research techs that make your troops outdated and lose the edge. So really, a good Domination game is one which is won in the Midgame - i.e. the Midgame is your Endgame.

Sometimes you will be able to win just with Crossbows. Again, look at Acken in the DCL #16 as China. Sometimes Cannons are enough. Most times though, you will not be so lucky (or so on form) and you will need Artillery. So Beeline it. Don't go for Public Schools and then beeline it. You want Dynamite to be the last relevant tech you have to research. If you need to go further than that, then you can go to Industrialisation, find the coal, mine it, and get 3 factories up ASAP and leverage the powers of Autocracy to speed up your win.

Beyond the Midgame

Using the same key as before (Blue=Science, Red=Conquest), I've added two special 'glazes' in this Midgame image: Pink for Industrialisation and White for Banking. The reason for this is that if you work out at some point that Artillery will need a bit of help, then getting Big Ben and Mobilisation (and later, Clausewitz) can really help you snowball your economy and spam units to win. So after Dynamite, getting to Industrialisation ASAP is essential. For Banking, there are some games where it is worth the detour so you can have a chance at Forbidden Palace, not just for the happiness, but to control the WF. This is not most games, but there are situations where it is worth it and there is no one in the game with enough hammers to stop you. Some leaders love this wonder so much that if they are in the game, it will be tricky. But if you've had a decent early game and have a nice production city (probably your capital), it can be worth it.

Science-wise, the later you will win, the more you might need Astronomy and Scientific Theory. But in 90%+ of games I don't need them.

One more thing about the Midgame tech-tree. If your civ has mid game UUs that are good, beeline them. And you will want to have built units in previous eras that can be upgraded. So build Warriors and upgrade them into Minutemen, or Mehal Safari, etc.

And one last thing. Though I play mainly Pangaea domination, and mixed conquest-culture on Continents, you will sometimes need to get to Navigation for Frigates/SotL/Sea Beggars. If there are enough coastal capitals or cities that can be used as war disembarkation points for a swimming army, then beeline this maybe even before Dynamite. Watch some LPs and see the kind of situations where people go for this early. If you have all coastal capitals, you should make this your priority. A few players did this with success in DCL #23 (The Huns).

I hope this tech tree analysis is enough. If you want more detail, please don't hesitate to ask :)


Jul 7, 2014
Step 7 - How many units should I build?

The only correct answer is: as many as possible. I often win games and realise that I could have won faster if I had built more units, made 2nd or even 3rd armies, and conducted multiple simultaneous assaults. I will know that I am a premium warmonger when I recognise this possibility every time and execute it.

But more specifically, for your first army, 6-8 Archers and 3-5 Melee units (mixture of Warrior-path, Spearmen-path and Horsemen-path, depending on what strategics you have, what UUs you might use, what gifts you get from Militaristic CS, etc) will be fine in most cases. You should try really hard not to lose units (see the section on manoeuvring troops that will eventually appear below), and almost NEVER allow the Archer-units to die.

And going back to the big picture a bit, you should have an army large and powerful enough to kill all the units the AI has around a city and capture it in around 5 turns. Sometimes you can be a bit quicker. Sometimes it takes a wee bit longer. But 5 as a rule is about average, at least in my games.

If you go the Military Overview window, you will see what your Supply situation is. It is my opinion that there is almost no reason not to be at the limit, because although troops cost money, they make money too in the form of pillage, worker-capture, city-capture, etc. (and kills, if you have the incredible Honor finisher).

In most domination games, the first army will have left home by the time you need to build or buy universities and other medieval era buildings, but once they are done, the cities should be building new units mixed with happiness buildings. Sometimes I even build wealth. Once you hit Physics, you can start building Trebuchets to train a bit so that they will be the Canons and Artilleries of the future, for example.

One last thing. I've heard many players complain about the AI unit spam. Phrases like "carpets of doom". The basic rule here is that YOU want to be the carpet. If you have an army of 10 units and you are moaning about how long it's taking bogged down in a war with Shaka, then you have only yourself to blame. Build an army of 100 and then see how he likes it.

If your troops have the edge (as previously mentioned) AND you have more of them AND can manoeuvre them correctly, then how can the AI win?

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Step 8 - Meet the neighbours (diplomacy)

This is definitely an area that merits an entire guide in its own right. It's also probably the weakest area of my Domination game. When I play peaceful, I seem to excel at getting people to like me, as much as is possible for the temperamental bunch of psychos that the AIs are. And even taking into account that when you go for Domination, people will hate you, I am still hated more than better players. So my tips in this regard shall focus on what I am a bit better at, which is adapting my play to the proximity of the AI.

I shall therefore delineate 3 zones: Near, Middle and Far.

Near is a civ that is 10-20 hexes away. Your caravans can reach them, and an army from either civ could reach the other relatively quickly.

is a civ that has at least one major civ between you and them.

Far is a civ that is even further away, usually you are separated by 2 major civs, an ocean, or a big expanse of land in any case.

Let's start with the most distant. If a civ is in the Far zone, it can't really affect you, except by convincing or bribing another AI to attack you, which can sometimes be a problem is your army is elsewhere. Otherwise, it can't really do much about your Domination sweep. But, likewise you can't do much about them. So if that civ is Korea, on a salt start, with mountain defences and a 15 tech lead, it will be a race against time for you to get to them and take Seoul before they launch or develop units that negate your army's power. These civs should therefore be watched, and if they are getting too powerful, a bribe to another AI to help whittle them down a bit might be in order. On the other hand, if that AI is the Zulu or Aztecs, this is the best place for them. They can ICS to their heart's content, slow down their own science, swallow up other civs so you have to make less DoWs, and you can pay them to be your loyal attack-dog and maybe even make friends with them. While we're at it, if you didn't know, Shaka is the most loyal AI leader, if you can get a DoF from him. ;)

Diplomatically, if a civ is in the Far Zone, you want them to be your friends and trading partners. So you pay your victims to DoW these people overtime you're involved in a bribe, so that the Far Zone end up hating all your victims and loving the fact you're sorting them out.

This trick also works well for a while by bribing those in the Near Zone to DoW the Middle Zone, but in my experience, the Middle Zone will figure out your game a lot sooner than the Far Zone. I've literally had loyal friendships, even with the most corrupt AI leaders (think: Napoleon), for the whole game, until I give them the final backstab and finish off the game.

One final word about the Near Zone. If you find yourself facing the prospect of a nasty POS in the Near Zone (Monty, Attila, etc.) and you're trying to decide who to choose as your first victim, DON'T think "I'll keep them friendly and conduct my wars WITH them, we can be BFF." These are exactly the civs you want to disappear from your game before they can create tricky levels of unit spam. So make them your first victim, assuming you're ready. Pay them to attack everyone else, then a turn before your own DoW, denounce them, and punish them. My golden rule is never make DoFs with people you might conceivably attack. Nothing is worse than knowing you have the edge, technologically or geostrategically, but being unable to DoW because you have a DoF that expires in 8 turns.

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Step 9 - City states

Probably the one feature of my strategy that other players don't seem to give so much weight to, is CS alliances. I pour most of my money into these gems. They are so valuable that I really don't know why they are not highlighted more.

There's nothing too complicated about what I do:

1. Take on all barb quests in range
2. Prioritise Cultural > Mercantile > Military > Maritime (massive growth is not so important for Domination)
3. If you have money saved up NOW, and you can't buy those universities/public schools/whatevers for another 10+ turns, drop it into a CS. The effect will therefore be immediate. When you have 49 influence with a CS and 500 gold to send it right up to maximum and keep it there for a while, that kind of opportunity can't wait. Universities/public schools/etc., can.
4. When your spies are levelled up, use them for coups, regardless of how many techs you are behind/ahead.
5. Don't bother with any of the quests that ask you to demand tribute, build wonders, pop GP, etc. Trying to do this will just distract you from the domination sweep that is the main purpose of your strategy. Just grow your economy so your GPT is higher than the # of turns you've played, and buy them.
6. Mid-to-late game if I'm planning a big DoW, I'll easily fork out 2000 gold to buy 2/3 of the neighbouring city states. They make a big difference in absorbing AI hits, and can even take out cities once in a while.

Check out Super-Mombasa here

7. NEVER allow a CS to exist close to your heartland or a vulnerable capital you've taken and moved on from to be poached by someone else.

IN SHORT, the preceding 7 points can be summed up by this: CS are the best thing to spend money on. Better than units, upgrades, and bribes, and certainly better than any buildings. I regularly finish Domination sweeps having build Monuments, Markets and Barracks in my heartland and spent the rest of my hammers on building units, and building Wealth.

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Step 10 - Stop the ride, I wanna get off (other VCs)

Sometimes a Domination sweep will not end in a Domination victory. The law of averages tells us that not everyone who tried to climb the Matterhorn is successful. Sometimes I am attempting to wipe the map with XBs and I can work out that the civs on the other continent are way ahead of me and even stopping, concentrating on tech, and getting to Artillery in due time, isn't gonna work.

What I frequently do, therefore, and sometimes I even do it out of choice rather than being forced to, is to switch to a Culture game, and sitting back, enjoying the fruits of the Empire I've conquered, and having a more interactive game with the AI leaders.

Some quick self-explanatory points, therefore, on Conquest-Assisted CV:-

1. If you stop after conquering 3+ AI capitals, there is a good chance you have taken many wonders than can aid a CV
2. If you've taken out the Cultural civs, then the maximum lifetime culture you have to overcome, is much less
3. If you control a massive area of land, that's a lot of digging you can do when you hit Archaeology.
4. If you have the biggest army and a decent tourism, you need no longer worry about getting wiped out before victory, as some turtles do when pushing for a Peaceful-Tall CV. Diplomacy is at your discretion, and you can do what you like. Very often, if they hate me too much to give me Open Borders, I can just insult them and set others to attack them, which is all good clean fun :)
5. Even if your win time is slower than it would have been if you just played a Peaceful CV, then at least you had some fun at the beginning taking over 1/2 the world. Or more.

And CV is not your only option. With the power you've amassed, DiploV should be a doddle. SV should be in reach. Hell, if you want to torture the AI for centuries more to come, keep them from winning and just push for a Time Victory! :D

- - -

To be added later...

Appendix - Handy little tips (that don't fit elsewhere)


Jul 7, 2014
As mentioned above, Liberty benefits the most from early warfare, and of all the social policy trees, most enables it, by bringing earlier expansion, and giving extra hammers, a free Golden Age and other benefits.

If you're not going to go to war with Composite Bowmen, I don't think there is any reason to go Liberty, and you should choose Honor or Tradition instead.

But if you are going to go to war with Composite Bowmen (and its a great strategy), you need to realise that you make the army BEFORE National College. If you wait until after NC is built, you will have lost the edge I mentioned above.

Moriarte's Liberty guide is still as valid as when he wrote it a couple of years ago, and I don't see much point in reproducing the same tips.

Boiled down, your aim is to get a bunch of Archers and enough gold to upgrade them, and reach Construction as early as possible. Then you upgrade them, make sure you have at least 1 (preferably 2) melee units to capture the city, and begin your first assault.

Illustration of CB rush

Here, as Pachachuti, I am about to have 8 CB by around T60ish. I have not built libraries, but I know that I'll be able to either finish NC with my Liberty free Engineer, or better yet, bring that final Liberty policy forward by building Oracle! It's not difficult to have an army, 2 capitals, NC and Oracle by T85-90, even on Deity.

image hosting above 5 mb

Bonus prize for spotting the one problem about the intended victim has his vicious UU already. I'd made friends with all other potential victims (perhaps a mistake) but his cities looked poor and there was no sign he was gonna hit Medieval so early.

So if you are gonna pull off a CB rush, choose a victim and go all-in on the strategy!

Please look at one of the many Liberty Domination VidLPs if you need information besides Moriarte's guide. Acken's China DCL 16 video is probably the best example. If you want to watch one of my own assaults, please see the Persia ICL one. I hope to add a Deity video in due course.

Link to video.

My play differs from Moriarte's in that he recommends pausing in between victims. I am more a fan of pushing onwards as much as possible so I can keep the military edge.

I quote:

Moriarte said:
Now, you might take a city or two from an early neighbor with your composites, this won't actually hurt much, but I wouldn't recommend getting more cities if you want to play it safe. I suggest stopping there and saturating until at least crossbows. If you go all out killing and razing, say good bye to your trade partners, and, since commerce tree have been nerfed for warmongers, there is absolutely no place to get happiness from, if everyone hates you.

So be wise and tech scientific theory --> dynamite, or vice versa if AI's tech rates are slacking. By the time you get there, you should have a couple solid friends and few silent haters. Don't worry, they'll pay .. in time. Safe army composition is: 6-7 artilleries, 4 horse riders, a melee or two, and 3-4 crossbows/gatlings. It is good to have armories before constructing cannons, and you can easily fit them into build queue.

My advice: try it a dozen times both ways, and see which you like more. I like to win before Artillery if I can, and have done a few times. Perhaps Moriarte is right and it is strictly optimal (and therefore less likely to lead to sloppy play and dead units) to wait. Figuring out when to wait and when to press can only really come from experience. Good luck! :)


Jul 7, 2014
Why Honor?

Honor is a somewhat controversial policy tree on these forums, it must be said. There are some players (including very good players) who think that most of the time, Honor is strictly inferior to Tradition and Liberty. There are other players who are staunch devotees.

One thing that can definitely be said for sure though is that if you've not won a Domination victory playing Honor, you've not experienced everything the game has to offer.

So what's different about Honor?

Well, for one thing, you will be swimming in a sea of gold. Around T150 on most Domination games you can expect a decent income. Somewhere in the region of 50-100 GPT is not uncommon at all. With Honor, you can potentially double that. And accumulate gold really quickly. More gold = more units = more killing = more gold.

All civ strategies have the potential to snowball. Peaceful strategies with early NC, early Education, early Scientific Theory, etc, can lead to the fastest finish times.

With Domination, the ability to have your economy/war machine snowball beyond the AI's control makes things so much easier. Honor gives you that. When combined with Commerce and Autocracy, you can reach a point where any unit that dies can be replaced with a unit almost as promoted, with almost no cost.

Honor gives faster Great Generals, Faster Promotions, Culture just for parking a Scout in a city, cheaper upgrades, and a bonus to melee units. Even if melee units are not so important in a game where ranged units dominate, the last one is not nothing.

How to use Honor

I would never have explored Honor as much as I have if it were not for my discovery of Peddroelm. More than any other player on CFC, Peddro has shown the effectiveness of Honor in his LPs and in his guide.

Link to video.

When I started watching his videos, his play seemed so sub-optimal and flying in the face of established theory craft, that I wondered what I was watching. By persisting to the end of 2 of his video series - America (DCL #2) and The Netherlands - I realised that the guy was an incredible player and that the Honor strategy was serious and effective.

As with Liberty, it doesn't seem like a good use of words to go into too much detail when Peddro's guide already exists, but the crux of the strategy is condensed into 5 goals, to be achieved before war begins.

- Found 3 decent cities, and grow them
- Find the first victim and plan your attack
- Train your Archers while delaying Construction (either on a CS 'XP farm' or an AI that aggressed against you or one you didn't make peace with after stealing workers)
- Saving gold for upgrades
- Developing at least one solid trading partner

By delaying war, you will...

...make it more likely that your cities will reach Dynamite and/or Navigation in good time

...make it more likely that at least one AI will want to trade with you after T130

...leech more science from them while you are behind in techs


...ensure that your Ancient and Classical era units have 2-4 promotions each, so as to maximise their effectiveness when you start to war. You will also be able to have more of them, because your cities will be bigger than if you went Liberty. They will also be cheaper to upgrade, and will continue to earn XP faster as you continue on into the mid game.

For all these reasons, I really recommend you give Honor a try. I have been requested to do an LP of my own for this, and I will try to when I find the time in my schedule. There is now an LP for an Honor start with Greece. Please see my LP thread for full details.


May 19, 2003
I thought that maybe [..] it would be useful and save threads!

Yes! Won't somebody please think of the threads. If only more people would save threads, there would be enough for all of us.

On a more serious note: thanks for the guide! I've been struggling to warmonger on higher levels, and especially combining it with somehow getting out of the prehistory, so I'm sure this will help a lot.


Apr 14, 2015
looking forward to this!

what are your thoughts on catapults and trebuchets? trebuchets seem quite good esp relative to cannons. they are 2-3 techs earlier and only 2 less (defensive) combat strength compared to cannons, which allows them to stand up to city-bombardment better.


GOTM Staff
May 21, 2007
I agree deciding when to attack is the key moment in a domination game. But you are missing at least three major attack timings. I would claim that all three are more relevant than the Cannon timing :p

1 Galleas -> Frigate

On any map with significant water these should be a consideration. Frigates are really powerful when prioritized and are useful on many Continents maps (and rarely on Pangaeas).

2 Great War Bombers, upgrade to Bombers

A little later than Artillery, but feels even more unfair once you get the ball rolling. Flight before Plastics. Probably my personal favorite timing push on Deity. Bombers with Logistics and Air Repair are a lot of fun.

3 Nukes

They are still a solid way to totally cripple a dangerous AI, turning a major war into a mop up operation. They do need a little support to actually capture cities.


King of the Beers
Jun 18, 2003
Hidden Underground Volcano Lair
I dont like to do the archery conquests. Its too cheesy for me.

Cannons are my favorite with a quick follow up to Artillery.

However, trebs are devastating if you can get them up and running. Consider a GS bulb from the Liberty finisher to get trebs.


GOTM Staff
Mar 19, 2004
Frederick, MD
Thanks consentient. I am really struggling with productive warmongering. I think my main problem is not being focused enough. Every game I want to (at some point) build all guilds and all the National Wonders. Lately just about every game I try taking cities with CBs and XBs (getting me some, some of the time) but I think that since those are only half-efforts, they actually end up sabotaging my later warmongering. I might be better with longer terms plans.

Also, I have never really been able to get anywhere between XBs and Arty, and my Arty always seems too late -- even though I shoot for it straight after Electricity. Often my arty is killed by air, and I never have been able to get to GWB faster than the AI.

So I guess I have two questions:

1) Which of your listed periods/policies do feel is the most straightforward? Not necessarily the fastest game, but the one that is probably the most robust for a noob?

2) Which of your the listed periods/policies is least incompatible with builder habits?


Mar 19, 2015
If you're including a small timing window for Cannons, shouldn't you also have a timing window for Bombers/Rocket Artillery/Nukes?

Can you talk in more depth about the tech tree for the first few timing pushes? For example: Let's say I want to do a Liberty Composite Bow push. Am I supposed to have Writing? Philosophy? Should I just have my luxuries online? Would having a Caravan with the neighbor I'm not going to invade (yet) be better than having a library in every city?

Same with Crossbows. Should I have Education by this time?

Another thing I struggle a lot with is when to build the Barracks. Should I have a barracks with my comp bows? It's easy to have it out for crossbows, but should I have an armory for those?


Jul 7, 2014
what are your thoughts on catapults and trebuchets?

you are missing at least three major attack timings.

I think my main problem is not being focused enough...

1) Which of your listed periods/policies do feel is the most straightforward? Not necessarily the fastest game, but the one that is probably the most robust for a noob?

2) Which of your the listed periods/policies is least incompatible with builder habits?

I will get to all these questions in time. I have not neglected Naval warfare, just haven't finished that section yet. As for siege units, I will discuss them more when I expand on Cannons.


Jan 28, 2014
Shrine: There is no consensus on this, but I'm personally of the opinion that it's not worth founding your own religion when going Domination. When you play peaceful, not emphasising religion means your FPT will be low throughout the game. However, when you've captured a few AI cities, your FPT will be high. The only times I ever build a shrine is when I have a decent food pantheon and I'm in a position where the pantheon is NOT gonna get knocked out before T150. That's my view, and although I'm sure this could be endlessly debated, it doesn't really matter so much. I don't like to waste the hammers unless I'm getting food (=growth). If someone can make a conclusive case for bothering with shrines in a DomV on Immortal/Deity, then I'd love to hear it.

The case for Shrines is pretty simple: God-King is really, really good. It's one of the most underrated anythings is the game. Because God-King gives both hammers and gold (among other things), it's pretty easy to do the cost-benefit analysis. A Shrine costs 40 hammers and 1gpt in maintenance. Forty turns of God-King gives 40 hammers, 40 gold, 40 science, 40 culture, and 40 faith. Clearly making a profit there.

Of course, everything you do should be making a profit in some way or another, and there's some amount of opportunity cost in the up-front investment on a Shrine. But I think it's easy to see how God-King is just worth a ton of stuff, regardless of whether you'll found a religion or not.


Sep 28, 2014
The case for Shrines is pretty simple: God-King is really, really good. It's one of the most underrated anythings is the game. Because God-King gives both hammers and gold (among other things), it's pretty easy to do the cost-benefit analysis. A Shrine costs 40 hammers and 1gpt in maintenance. Forty turns of God-King gives 40 hammers, 40 gold, 40 science, 40 culture, and 40 faith. Clearly making a profit there.

Of course, everything you do should be making a profit in some way or another, and there's some amount of opportunity cost in the up-front investment on a Shrine. But I think it's easy to see how God-King is just worth a ton of stuff, regardless of whether you'll found a religion or not.

The question is not if it's profitable or not - if a building wasn't profitable why would someone build it?
The question is if the shrine is necessary - a pantheon which gives culture/faith/miscellaneous benefits is not beneficial IF put against the other possible buildings/units in a DomV attempt.

Thank you very much for the guide cons!
Btw, what happened with your LPs? I've been waiting and waiting for 1 of the 3 possible Ottoman games! :D


May 20, 2013
My own personal flavor of warmonger is that if you have an advantage to FPT, be it civ or dirt based, you should pursue religion.

In my opinion, the happiness boosts alone can be worth it, but then I tend to want to keep far more cities than most on these forums. Having a great, massive blob of my own cultural borders engulfing the world is too tidy for me to pass up.

Another strategy that isn't talked about often is using some sort of holy war mechanics when you have a high FPT. Either you can convert ahead of your conquests through missionary spam and reap the benefits of say defender of the faith type beliefs, or alternatively use your FPT to subsidize hammers and gold and pick a Holy warrior type belief. Sure neither of these are game breaking, but I have no doubt you can turn a profit using either of these strategies, making conquest quicker and easier.


Apr 28, 2015
@Manpanzee: I too am a fan of God king, even for very quick dom victories, but I don't think it's quite as simple as you explained because 40 hammers at turn 10-20 are worth more than a total of 40 hammers 40 turns later. They're normally 7-10 turns of cap production at 2-3 pop, instead of comparatively less turns later on. That said, the science, gold, culture and faith do make up for it.


Apr 7, 2012
it's pretty easy to do the cost-benefit analysis

I'm not so sure about that. How does one calculate what one has missed as a result of not building something else? I feel that one not only has to take into account what one gains, but also what one loses.


May 19, 2003
I've made a puny attempt at starting a domination of the recent Dido DCL. This might not be the best as it is a water map and there are not city states to steal from, and geography makes the first land-connected civ difficult to approach. So, I will try with a different map first (probably the one from the deity lib-trad challenge).

However, I immediately ran into problems getting to the "benchmark" of 6-8 CB plus GE'd NC at 85

1) After building a granary + monument + library in all cities, I did not have enough production left for 6-8 CB's (I have them 10 turns later or so). Should I skip those? (but lib is needed for NC, and monument seems needed to finish lib in time?)

2) At turn 85 I was still one social policy away from finishing liberty. Do you assume that you can use oracle to finish lib? And still have enough hammers for the CB's? If oracle is gone, do you hand-build NC or just get it 10-15 turns later?

Note that I am in no way doubting that this can be done, I am obviously just doing it wrong.


May 23, 2014
I dont like to do the archery conquests. Its too cheesy for me.

Cannons are my favorite with a quick follow up to Artillery.

However, trebs are devastating if you can get them up and running. Consider a GS bulb from the Liberty finisher to get trebs.

Budweiser, i was going to answer but can you define cheesy for me. Not a native speaker and I may have a completely wrong idea about what it means.
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