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Espionage Guide for Beginners

Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by mtr12, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    Introduction:
    Many newer players are unaware of the sheer power of Espionage. They ignore it except for putting up Courthouses and complaining about pillaged resources. I use Espionage in almost all my games, sometimes stealing techs from Construction to Computers. In this guide, I hope to help new players get in the habit of involving Espionage in their games.

    This is not a guide intended to focus on the minutiae Espionage Mechanics. Many people have already done that better than I could. Instead, I will focus on what we can do with those mechanics.


    Espionage Scales with Horizontal Growth:
    What's one thing you notice about the Espionage buildings?

    They all generate Raw EP (except Castles, but those suck anyways). In contrast, you cannot generate Raw Beakers except by Sankore, or Raw Commerce except by Trade Routes/Harbor/Customs House. Basically, you can build EP via city buildings, you can't do the same with anything else.

    Now think about this: If you have 6 cities with Courthouse/Jail/Sec Bureau/Intel Agency, you wouldn't be generating very much EP. Sure, you could Cottage-spam them and put all your points into the EP slider, but why bother? Cottaged cities don't have too many hammers, and you're better off using them on Library/University/Academy/Observatories and direct research.

    But what if, instead of 6 cities, you had 16? And a lot of these cities had more hammers, making it easier to build the Espionage buildings? Suddenly, it becomes a lot more attractive to spam Espionage buildings, especially since a lot of these cities won't be commerce superstars. In fact, in this case Espionage is pretty much your best option provided you have a buddy to steal from.

    This is when you will be using Espionage-based economies: when you have a lot of cities and hammers. If you have a smaller empire, stick to direct research.


    Regarding Cottages
    Cottages become very strong late in the game. If you have a lot of land and a lot of Cottages, why should you bother with Espionage? You're probably in a position to win already, and you're just wasting your time.

    Most players who will be using Espionage are "SE" (this is an archaic term, most people don't use it anymore :)) players who used excess food or wonders to generate Great People earlier in the game, which gave them an advantage. The SE players leveraged a temporary tech lead to give them a "Breakout", where they rapidly expanded their empire through war, usually in the Renaissance.

    But now it's the Industrial Age, people are getting lovely techs like Communism/Biology/Railroad, and the "SE" players are experiencing one of 2 fates.

    1) You've expanded onto so much profitable land that you're still up there in tech, and by the end of the game you're pulling around 3000 bpt with micro. Usually this happens when you've thoroughly ravaged some poor backwards AIs and got good land from them. I'm sure everyone has had these games at some point.

    2) The RNG screwed your start position, you got bad trade partners, you got bogged down in a war, or you just played badly. You were doing fine early, but now your bpt isn't good enough to match that ridiculously bonused Pacal whose Cottages have matured into FEUSS-powered Towns.

    The second case is when you will need Espionage to pull off a Conq/Dom or Space win.


    Transitioning into Espionage:
    If you have Stone or IND, or have a lot of open land, or are next to a tech fiend, you should consider building the Great Wall. Aside from saving money on fogbusters, the Great Spy points can pay off when they net you an early Great Spy. You should settle him in the Capital, because he also gives you a bit of research.

    Otherwise, you don't really need to worry about Espionage early on besides building Courthouses and running a Spy specialist here and there. Just remember to allocate your EP's towards your chosen target, and you might be able to occasionally steal a tech.

    So let's fast forward to the Renaissance. Through either Cuirassiers, Rifle/Cannon, Cavalry, or whatever, you've managed to get a lot of cities. Around this time, you've gotten techs like Nationalism, Constitution, and Democracy, which are key for Espionage players.

    Unless you have a mass of Cottages, you should switch out of Bureaucracy and into Nationhood, which is a powerful civic even if you don't use Globe Drafting. As I said in another thread:

    Also, if you haven't already you need to switch into Representation, which gives your Spies some additional research. This makes them pretty attractive specialists to run, and right now you can run 5 per city with all the buildings. Speaking of which, you need to get the Espionage buildings up. So build them, whip them, rushbuy them and go back to Rep later, I don't care.

    Eventually, you'll find your way to Communism, which gives you Intelligence Agencies. These give your Espionage a huge boost, and let you run up to 7 spy specialists! By now, you should be producing a pretty beastly amount of Espionage.

    The exact amount will depend on the game situation. Let's say that there's no Mansa or Pacal nearby, and you have to steal from Saladin. In that case, I wouldn't focus too much on Espionage. I would just build the Esp buildings, run some specialists, but focus on manual research, stealing backfill techs while I beeline others. Some players call this a "Hybrid EE". From my experience, I usually can get over 1000 EP/Turn without touching the slider or microing EP optimization, if I have a large empire. This is enough for a "Hybrid EE".

    Now let's assume that I AM next to Mansa or Pacal. In this case, I would go all out on Espionage. My Oxford City would run Spies instead of Scientists, I would use the slider for EP, and I would be mass-producing Spies (the units) to blow up Security Bureaus and steal techs. I would still be doing manual research from Rep-boosted Spies and multipliers, but most of my techs would come from robbing Mansa and brokering his techs to other people.

    So by the end of the game, my civics would be:
    Representation (for Research Boost)
    Nationhood (for EP Boost)
    Emancipation (to avoid :mad:)
    Economic Civic of Choice
    OR/Theo/Paci (must maintain a State Religion)


    Spies or Scientists?
    Earlygame, Scientists are superior mainly because GS can bulb on the way to Liberalism, and you can build Academies. Also, you can multiply the research output of Scientists, and you can't do the same with Spies. Hell, you can't really run too many Spies anways.

    Lategame, Spies are almost always better, since you CAN multiply their Espionage output. Also you have Representation, which makes the research they put out (4 per specialist) comparable to Scientists. And Great Spies give 12 EP, which is massive.

    It costs 1.5 times as many EP to steal a tech as Beakers to research it. More with distance penalties. But Spies can get discounts by waiting 5 turns, running the religion of the city you're stealing from, and getting more EP. Stealing techs becomes more efficient than researching them, the only caveat is that an AI has to have the tech.


    How to Steal
    Security Bureaus are your enemy, they increase EP costs by 50% and increase the chance that a Spy will get caught. You need to destroy the Security Bureaus before considering any stealing. Or better yet, try to find crappy cities that won't have a Security Bureau to begin with and can't build one for a while.

    If the enemy is in FR, look for cities with your state religion so you can still get a 15% discount (25% with holy city).

    Always remember to account for the logistics of the situation. You may wish to steal from Mansa, but you can't feasibly do it if he's across the ocean unless your Spies never get caught or something.

    Speaking of Spies getting caught, more Spies in one city increases the chance of them getting caught, so be careful with the amount of Spies you put in one city. I like to blow up the Security Bureau, then put about 2 Spies in to get a pretty reliable chance of stealing techs. If the RNG screws you, you should be ready to make more Spies within a turn.


    Other Uses of Espionage:
    One good mission to use it "Sabotage Project". The main point of this is to ruin enemy's Space attempts. If you can find the Apollo City, you can also continually blow it up and nullify the enemy's Space chances altogether!

    Now let's address civics and religions. You can only swap the AI into your civics, so this only really comes into play when we're discussing economic civics. The AI loves Mercantilism, and by swapping them out of it you can get better trade routes for yourself. Or, if a large AI is abusing a Corporation, by swapping them into State Propery you can put their hard work to waste.

    Religion changes are more interesting. You'll want to switch people into your religion for an EP discount, and to mess up Diplo: make them your friend and someone else's enemy. This can be particularly huge with the Zealots.



    Traits for Espionage
    SPI Civs are the best because SPI is the best trait! Well, in my opinion, at least. :p Seriously though, SPI lets you swap into and out of civics and religions, which can be handy in Espionage-based games.

    The problem with FIN is that it's pretty pointless to play an Espionage game, since you should be Cottaging heavily and having a strong lategame. But one idea you can try is running Cottages everywhere, but making one Spy Farm with all the EP buildings and the Kremlin. The EP you make can be used to steal a few techs, or just blow up spaceship parts or revolt cities during a war.

    IND is an interesting trait for Espionage, since it synergizes very well with the hammer-heavy SSE-->EE playstyle. In layman's terms, this means: Wonderspam in capital, build 5 supporting cities. Turtle till Renaissance, then explode via war, and now you have a lot of cities. Then run Espionage buildings and Spy specs. You should try this with Ramesses II.

    PHI is cool for a few more Great Spies, and a fast Great Spy if you get the Great Wall, which can be really helpful earlygame.

    Other than that, basically any leader can use Espionage to their advantage, especially the leaders with poor economic traits that usually get large empires, like Genghis Khan. It helps to have a hammer-heavy empire to quickly lay down the EP buildings as they come in.


    TL;DR
    Espionage is fun.

    Espionage works well lategame with large empires and the Nationhood civic.

    Scientists are better early, Spies are better later.

    Blow up Security Bureaus before stealing techs, or pick cities without them.

    Anyone can use Espionage to their advantage.


    Final Note:
    Espionage is best used when you have a reason to use it. There's no reason when you're making 3000 beakers per turn, or have a heavily cottaged empire and are tech leader. The best reason to use Espionage is when you've focused on Specialists for most of the game, and would fall behind the AI's without stealing techs.

    I plan to add more info to this guide. Of course, all constructive criticism is accepted.
     
  2. Um the Muse

    Um the Muse King

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    You only consider stealing techs? What about change religion/ civics? Steal gold?

    Also, why don't cottages work, again? You said that there's no multipliers, but there are ways to cut costs right from the beginning. Cottages aren't really powerful in the beginning? That's why your GSpy can infiltrate another civ.

    Getting CoL fairly quickly can replace getting the GW, especially when you're Philosophical.
     
  3. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    I frequently employ religion and civics changes when I need them. Usually this involves moving AI's into Free Market for Trade Routes. Guess I should mention that.


    What I meant was that if you have an extensively Cottaged empire, by the time that Espionage becomes a major part of the game, the lategame, there's really not much point for you to run a full-on EE.

    I think it might be something worth trying to play a Cottage-spam game with Spies run over Scientists from the beginning, but that's a pretty rare situation to be honest.
     
  4. goldys_lackey

    goldys_lackey Hitler

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    Good intro. A couple thoughts

    Note that using 2 spies for a mission increases the likelihood of getting caught. Getting caught causes a permanent -1 relations hit. Which obviously if that gets bad enough, could push your neighbors into closing borders. Closed borders mean no trade routes, meaning higher EP costs. So I think it is better to just go 1 spy in a city at a time.

    Also, its a good idea to just park a spy in all of your border cities even if you have the tech lead and aren't playing a spy game. A parked spy is almost as good as a security bureau, in terms of thwarting enemy missions and catching spies, and costs a lot less hammers. It took me years to figure out this simple trick :crazyeye:
     
  5. AutomatedTeller

    AutomatedTeller Frequent poster

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    And your cap - some guys love poisoning the water in your cap.
     
  6. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    I agree, but:

    Let's say that you have one Spy. He has a 75% chance of success (ballpark estimates).

    Now let's say you have 2 Spies: The first one has a 50% chance. The second one has a 75% chance given the first one fails(again, estimates. Usually the numbers are closer). So your success chance is:

    .5 + .5(.75) = .875 = 87.5%


    That might not seem like a huge difference, but you've halved the possibility of a failure compromising your chance to get a tech. That's pretty substantial.

    And with Espionage, you want techs ASAP. If you're stealing Computers, you want it as soon as the AI gets it, you really can't afford to fail and get it 6 turns later when the AI is 6 turns into Internet.

    In an ideal world, the best plan would be to park several Spies in border cities for the highest success chances. The problem is that this usually isn't applicable because of Security Bureaus. You need to find production-poor cities that will have a hard time building and rebuilding Security Bureaus and steal from them.
     
  7. Undecided

    Undecided Warlord

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    You kind of elaborated a little on this point in your post above, but i think you should make this clearer. It's true that more spies increase the chance of getting caught, but afaik this is a flat increase and not a exponential (please correct me if i'm wrong).
    You're right that you want the techs asap, but you also want the 50% discount of EP for stationing them for 5 turns, so only going in with 1, or even 2, spies is not effective imo. Everytime you get RNG-screwed you lose atleast 1 turn of getting the desired tech, (and 5 more if you want to be efficient) so you should bring a couple more than suggested to be safe.
    When you're dumping all your EP-points towards one enemy your spies are pretty safe in general. Especially if there is no SB in the target city for whatever reason :mischief:

    Also the diplo-hit is not that big of a deal in my experience, if you carefully choose your targets.
     
  8. Archon_Wing

    Archon_Wing Vote for me or die

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    Skimmed it over and it looks pretty nice.

    I don't see you mentioning focusing EPs though. It's a lot easier to direct espionage at one of your victims than to spread it around on people you might not even bother stealing from.
     
  9. goldys_lackey

    goldys_lackey Hitler

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    I'm doubtful of your math mtr but I'm not smart enough to correct you.

    I think its safe to say game speed has an impact on what is the most efficient method too.

    Also, to be sure, if your first spy fails his mission, those EPs are lost, correct?
     
  10. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    It's an approximation only. In a real game things are different.

    No, those EP's aren't lost. Otherwise you would need around 30000+ EP to steal some techs lol.
     
  11. Um the Muse

    Um the Muse King

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    These are important considerations that should be in the guide, imo. In particular, before SB's, you want to spread your spies out. Yes, one will probably be cheaper than another when you succeed, but the cost of failure is high enough to pay a little to lower your risk.

    When you do stack spies, you might as well park all of them in the same place (unless you're sabotaging something, ofc). The odds of getting caught are not only flat, they're binary states--the game simply asks, "do you have more than one spy?" If you do, penalty. The game doesn't care how many spies there are, when they got there, or about your favorite movie (sorry).

    One last point: you don't always need a tech right away. Sometimes, I'll get a tech just because it's a pre-req for another tech I really want. I think it's annoying when you need to go back for, say sailing when you're about ready to get Calendar on a dry map.

    And you can afford to wait on some of the non-tech missions, too, ofc.
     
  12. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    I agree, but when going for Wonders, you need techs ASAP. Especially since Espionage players tend to run hammer-heavy empires, and are better able to capitalize on various techs.
     
  13. krikav

    krikav Theorycrafter

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    I love the guide.
    I especially like how you point in which scenarios that espionage really shines.

    I rarely end up in these situations, either I have won allready, or I have trouble putting the effort in to pulling out a victory from a bad position.
    I'll try these things out, the next time I end up in a rough spot!
     
  14. krikav

    krikav Theorycrafter

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    Sitting bull.....
     
  15. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    Should change his name to "Sitting Troll", that's really all that he's good for.


    I dunno, I was inspired by the fact that the conventional wisdom for the longest time was that the only way to win Space was to use FEUSS Cottages. That might be the best way, but it's sorta limiting, since Cottage-heavy playstyles aren't very good early in the game.

    BtS made it possible to win by hammer-heavy playstyles, like wonderspamming early on (and, ofc, using Cottages and Specs situationally) and having a really powerful Bureau Capital, and then exploding in the Renaissance to get enough cities to win by Space. Espionage and a friendly AI is the best way to turn hammers --> EP buildings --> Research!

    With the added bonus of being able to mess up the AI. Once I blew up Apollo Program 6 times in a game.
     
  16. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    Also, am planning on doing an Espionage Game Walkthrough. Right now I just need to find a good enough map.

    I will be playing Isabella so I can guarantee a Renaissance breakout with OP Conqs :). I will be playing a non-iso/non-semi iso Fractal game with nearby Horses (and Iron) for the UU. That will be the best way to demonstrate the EE.
     
  17. Um the Muse

    Um the Muse King

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    Isabela is a pretty decent choice, though it might make things unclear how much of your benefit comes from Izzy and how much comes from EE. Maybe an Org leader would work better?

    Besides, why do you need both horses and iron? For me, the devastating thing about the Spanish is that they have the flexibility to get either better cannon or Conquistadores.
     
  18. duckstab

    duckstab Child of Noble Family

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    I would add Protective to the list of traits which lend themselves to an espionage-heavy game, due to the cheap castles.

    The downside of exploiting castles, of course, is that you have to steer clear of Economics for a long time. That means you can't run Free Market until very late. There can be sort of an awkward period where most of your trade partners are running FM, running Mercantilism is actually causing you more harm than good, and you have to drop back into Decentralization for a while. Hopefully at that point Democracy or Communism isn't too far off so you have some way of replacing the castle multiplier.
     
  19. mtr12

    mtr12 Prince

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    Conquistadors are more fun. :) Rifle/Cannon is so boring, and you usually need a stronger position to succeed with Rifle/Cannon than you would have with Conqs.

    Honestly, I can play any leader and make an EE work, I just like Isabella for Conqs. Or I might just play Ramesses II or Asoka since they have stronger openings than Isabella. But playing someone like Gandhi or Mansa would be pretty pointless, since that makes the game too easy.


    Tbh, I've had games where Espionage really made a difference, but sadly I didn't record them. Unfortunately, nowadays in most of my Space games I am in a completely winning position. Probably need to move up to Immortal lol.
     
  20. Lewarks

    Lewarks Chieftain

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    I would say the opposit. With Rifles/Cannon, while you can have enougth Cannons, you can roll over almost everything. The more you kill units the more you Rifles will be powerfull since you'll have high probabilities. At a point you'll mainly produce Cannons because your have a good stack of Rifles and you lost very few of them.

    On the other side, Cuirassiers are faster. And Conquistadors have this +50% against Pikes. If you can quicly take enougth cities, you won. But I wouldn't say Conquistadors have good ods against Pikes. And ods can scew you. Cuirassiers are a bet: "I bet he'll not have enougth power before I took enought cities to vassal/beat him."
     

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