Effect of settings on difficulty


Apr 9, 2007
Kansai, Japan
Hi everyone, I have a new question for all of you :)

Being able to beat BTS Monarch (standard size, 9 civs), I'm thinking of trying a new difficulty one of these days. But considering I might find myself crushed on emperor difficulty, I was thinking of toying with the settings of the game. I would just like to have your thoughts about what can make the game harder/easier (and in which circumstances if it can be applied).

All comments are made considering the differences with standards settings.

Size of the map: clearly, the bigger it is, the harder it is to get a military victory. Also, more chances to have an AI trying to go cultural and hard to defeat it (because on the other side of the world, protected by more allies) and more chances to have AIs stomping others and becoming superpowers, thus becoming difficult to beat.

: the quickest the game, the more difficult to win by military, and the longer the game the easier for military. This is quite clear. I can't say anything about quicker games being easier or harder for peacefull wins, as it could be expected. Depends on difficulty level perhaps?

Number of civs: I'm not sure about anything for this one. More civs means more wars, but also more tech-trading. The technology pace can be quicker, but otoh diplomacy and wars can slow things down. Any idea about this one?

No tech trading/brokering: this one seems to me difficulty dependent. It favorises the more advanced Civs, thus making the game harder at high difficulty level and easier at low difficulty level. Not sure about no tech brokering, I have never played with it to see the real effects of it.

Maps: I play with random maps, so I can't say anything here. But it seems to me that:
- pangea style maps emphasize military wins
- continent style maps (continent and hemispheres) can be harder or easier, depending on what happens on the other side of the world
- isolation makes a game harder
- semi-isolation (isolated on an island big enough to place a fair number of cities, but other Civs reachable by coast) makes a game easier (the advantage of isolation without its drawbacks)
- others?

Other game settings give a too specific games (always peace, always war, OCC...) so I did not include them here. But perhaps I forgot some.

Well, in any case, I would be happy if you could share your thoughts on this topic, especially about the number of Civs on a map. I really like when there are more Civs, and so more animation and more possible religious blocks, making diplomacy a real factor :)
I think all your ideas so far are good, so there's not much that I can add.

One thing about number of civs is that putting a lot of civs on a small map probably makes the game easier (on high levels) and favors military. With little space for each civ to settle, the AI doesn't benefit from its lower maintenance costs as much.

You should also consider aggressive AI on or off. But I can't really compare the two since I always play with it on.
Slower game speeds are advantageous to the human player for almost any victory condition. If you war at all, then that alone makes slower speeds better. The only victory condition that benefits from faster game speeds is cultural. The conversion rate of GA culture to the amount you need to win isn't proportional, and GA's are worth a lot more at quick game speeds than they should be.

No tech trading and brokering, as you guessed, make the game more difficult at higher levels. you need to be better at building economies, and AI diplo can be significantly harder with no techtrading.

In the same vein, pangaea maps are generally easier because you get all AI contact. As long as you play your cards right, it's very easy to pit the AI against each other. On the other hand, continents leaves a lot up to the RNG. Most continent games I play basically come down to me taking over my continent, then deciding to go for either domination or space.

If you want to gimp the settings, I'd say go for pangaea, Rome, marathon. If the AI lasts up to 1000 AD, you did something wrong :lol: If you want a more realistic setting (read, harder), I'd suggest a financial civ on continents.
More civs means more tech trading, and consequently a faster (even much faster) tech pace for everyone, and more opportunity for a clever human.

I recently played the Earth map that comes with the HISTORY IN THE MAKING mod and decided I'd rather play it with tech trading off, because with trading enabled, the tech pace was too fast and I had to pay too much attention to keep up with AI-AI trades.
if you play on a Tiny map (3 opponents unless you add more in custom settings) you can pretty much have an easier game no matter what victory type you want. In fact I would consider this size or Duel to not really be a true test of the difficulty level, so it's a great way to get started when you move up.

Also consider specifically picking the opponents you will face as some might be easier to deal with than others (Mansa might be too strong a tech competitor, while Montezuma too aggressive, etc)... opponents like Asoka or Bismarck might be easier in most games, but it also depends on the type of map.

Also consider Balanced resources so you are not stuck with bad starting positions. The AI gets it too but you can manage cities better than the AIs, who really just get discounts and bonus units on higher levels, nothing else. They don't get a better brain on higher levels. :)

PS isolated does not necessarily mean a harder game in many situations. I won my first Prince and Monarch games starting isolated because I didn't have to worry about defense as much.
What do people think about changes in climate and terrain?

Clearly in maps like Highlands, with a lot of strategic terrain, the humans military advantage is magnified. But just speaking economically, does a smart player or the AI have the advantage in maps with poorer terrain? The AI's bonuses maybe allow them to make more out of poor tundra or desert cities. But these maps also allow the player's better city placement and worker improvements to shine....
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