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Four basic starting strategies

Discussion in 'Civ3 Strategy Articles' started by BillChin, Jan 31, 2002.

  1. BillChin

    BillChin Chieftain

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    A lot of strategies are for certain map sizes or difficulty levels. Here are three basic starting strategies for playing the game on standard size maps on Regent, Monarch or Emperor difficulty. Each can be modified to fit your own playing style, and each is a decent plan. They are not strong enough for Diety on a standard map but may be adaptable for Diety on a large or huge map.

    For almost all game starts I like to build the first two cities very close to the capital. This makes early defense easy, provides an early production boost, makes it easy to connect these core cities to share luxuries. The downside is that these suburbs can not grow to huge size latter in the game, but a dense build is almost as productive as pop rushing (hurrying production using the whip) without as many long term negatives.

    Swordsmen conquest
    Build four to six cities. Research Bronze Working and then Iron. Claim an iron icon. Build 10+ swordsmen. If no iron use archers. Attack the nearest enemy and claim all their land. Enjoy. After the first early war, the swordsmen can go crush another nearby enemy. If the next enemy is relatively far away, horsemen or knights may be better for the next war. Swordsmen conquest is a good strategy for cramped maps.

    Horsemen conquest
    Build 8 to 15 cities (most of the available open land on a standard map). Research the Wheel to see horses, then add Horseback Riding, Iron Working and Mathematics. Claim a horse icon. Build 20+ horsemen. If no horses use swordsmen. Catapults help if the enemy has hoplites, legionaires or pikemen. Pick one enemy. Bribe the others. Attack in force and crush the enemy. Enjoy. Sometimes there is very little land and I have to build cities very close to each other to get the unit support for a large army. This basic strategy has allowed me to survive some of the worst imaginable starting positions on Emperor difficulty, standard size map, random civ, default Barbs.

    Open land build out
    As I said, I like to build two cities very close to the capital as I explore a bit. If there are no enemy units in sight that means a lot of open land. In this case, research Monarchy and make an early switch to gain the additional production and food. Build cities nicely spaced and claim luxuries. This results in a position very similar to the two conquest strategies after the first war. At this point, a player has many options. A knight conquest war is good. Cultural victory is achievable on Regent, but tough on higher levels. Domination, Spaceship, UN, or Histograph victory are also options.
     
  2. BillChin

    BillChin Chieftain

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    A fourth strategy seems very popular in the January Game of the Month. I'll call it Warrior Gambit.

    Warrior Gambit
    Send the first two warriors looking for an enemy city. Attack. You have about a 65% chance of victory. Some players reload if they lose this battle and wait a turn and try again. You can increase the odds of success with an archer and a warrior (militaristic civs), or three warriors. If the defender is a spearman the odds go way down, I estimate 25% with two warriors. If the defender is a hoplite, maybe 10%. For civilizations with a warrior unique unit, such as the Zulu Impi or Aztec Jaguar Warrior, this is an excellent starting strategy.

    There is a nice flow into the next strategy. So a player could theoretically go from Warrior Gambit, to Swordsmen Conquest to Horsemen Conquest and then be in a similar position to that of a vast open land build out. Cheers.
     
  3. kittenOFchaos

    kittenOFchaos Chieftain

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    Any player who reloads after a failed battle is of dubious worth.
     
  4. Zouave

    Zouave Crusader

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    I agree. That is taking cheating to an unacceptable level, even considering AI cheating.
     
  5. Beam

    Beam Beat 'm up Scotty! Retired Moderator

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    Back to the original topic it all sounds very reasonable. IMHO the number of AI civs matters a lot here since it very much depends on the space you have to expand. Meeting other Civs can be an advantage as well since it offers more options for Tech trading to a certain extent: these guys are still in your way!

    Kitten states reloading very subtle, I would say it is not done!
     
  6. Anglophile

    Anglophile Chieftain

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    BillChin, I promised to read your strategy guide to try to mend my erroneous ways re good start positions. I agree that your outlined strategies will be effective within the stated limitations (map size and difficulty levels). I am not convinced that they can be extended to larger maps but think that they should be effective at higher levels. The reasons that I am dubious of the value on very large maps are simply distance and, to a lesser extent resource scarcity. First the simple bit, resource (strategic)abundance - as the size of the map increases, the relative abundance decreases by the square of that map size increase. Double the map size and the relative abundance of resources decreases by 75%. As strategic resources are critical to winning - and a great addition to the game - your empire must encompass all the required the resources and that requires a lot of cities. You can do that by expansion or conquest or usually the two in whatever combination suits your preferred play style. That brings in the real issue, which is distance. Huge and fully expanded (my preference) maps are just that - huge. It takes a long time to even find another civ, let alone to mass a major army to march across those huge spaces to conquer them. Very early wars are hampered by the thousand or so years it takes just to reach the opponent plus the fact that culture reversion will be brutal when you don't have any and are so close to his capital and far from yours. By the time one is prepared to go to war effectively, i.e. there is some kind of quasi-border formed between the civs, the AI generally will have 10+ cities, often more, sometimes many more - and an army to match. The AI is not very good on defence (too passive in my view) but in my experience is very good at sending swarms of units into my territory, tieing up most of my forces in defence and counter-attacks. Trading cities will just result in falling behind everyone else, even if you do eventually conquer some, most or all of your chosen victim.

    My own preference is to go to war for very specific reasons (a key resource, unblocking my expansion, or to take a key city) and for as short a time as possible. The rest of my effort is spent on expansion, infrastructure and defence - in that order. My preferred strategy involves rapid early exploration (to get a tech lead and find key future city sites) and expansion. I need a good starting position to do this effectively so I am afraid that I will remain a restarter; however, even I draw the line reloading after a lost battle. Maybe once I get good enough to win from good starting positions on higher levels (Emperor for the second time), I'll try bad starting positions for that extra challenge.
     
  7. BillChin

    BillChin Chieftain

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    Anglophile, thanks for taking the time to read and to comment.

    A couple of points: I agree that the outlined strategies need major changes for play on a huge map. A better outline for a huge map might be to build 20 to 30 cities, find horses and iron for Knights and attack with an army of Knights. Again, resources need to be a high priority, with early scouting parties, and early research of the Wheel and Iron Working. If no resources, build Longbowmen. With the new fast unit retreat rules for 1.17, Longbowmen might be the best choice for an attack force because they are cheaper than Knights.

    War is the tool to overcome a poor starting position. Scout out the good land, and claim it from whoever owns it. A common misconception is that war is difficulty and costly. That is true if a player stumbles into a war. However, with preparation, a plan, and allies, a war is often the best way to expand an empire. In Civ III, a player needs resources, concentrated forces and a plan of attack. Size of empire, overall size of army, and technology are not critical.

    For example, on Emperor difficulty, standard size map, I often face pikemen when I am ready to attack with swordsmen and horsemen. Pikemen are four techs ahead of where I am at the time. The enemy may have a large army, but it is spread out over many cities. A few catapults and big stack of units usually does the trick. In the age of Knights, a player may face Musketeers (four techs ahead of Chivalry), again this can be overcome with concentrated stacks and a few catapults.

    From reading some strategies, I have come to believe that huge maps are easier to play on than standard size maps. Early mistakes are not so costly. It is difficulty to actually lose the game in the Ancient Age. On a standard map, I sometimes have to fight two wars just to get into the top four power rankings. On a huge map, it is likely that one decisive victory, doubling the size of a player's empire is enough to put them near the top of the power rankings.

    On a standard map, alliances and diplomacy are critical because two front wars are common and a disaster to be avoided. On a huge map, there is no need for subtlety--crush the opponent quickly and alliances will not come into play. On a standard map, the AI trades tech more quickly, providing another hurdle to overcome.

    On the other side, the building phase is critical on a huge map. A poor builder will have an impossible time, because they will never be strong enough to build that first conquest army of Knights or Longbowmen.
     
  8. Richard III

    Richard III Duke of Gloucester

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    We are of the same mind. I generally don't reload at all unless the game freezes.

    Western society has grown soft and weak.

    R.III
     
  9. BillChin

    BillChin Chieftain

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    Time for a 1.17f strategy update. The big changes are new pop rushing rules and limited retreat for fast units, and faster tech trading among AI players.

    The three strategies in the original post and the fourth (Warrior Gambit) still work as is. However, some minor tweaks can make them more effective.

    I can add the additional hint of taking two or three turns to find the best tile for the capital. Move the worker, to a hill if possible, and then pick the best tile from the ones visible at the time. Settling on a luxury icon or near fresh water helps a great deal.

    1) Pop rushing. I do not favor using slave labor, but those that do still have a loophole in 1.17f. Use cities to produce workers, send the workers to "garbage" cities that process them to produce units. The garbage city eventually has one entertainer, a worker joins and gets popped in the same turn. Captured workers are additional fuel. This loophole will probably be closed eventually, so players that use pop rushing, enjoy it while you can with this work around.

    2) Fast unit retreat rules make a stack of Horsemen a lot less effective. On most maps, I now favor a mix of units. Instead of 20 Horsemen maybe something like:
    4 Horsemen
    10 Swordsmen
    3 Spearmen
    2 catapults
    1 settler
    If the enemy has hoplites, legionaires or pikemen, increase catapults to 4 and subtract from others as you desire.

    If there is no iron maybe something like:
    6 Horsemen
    6 Archers
    3 Spearmen
    4 Catapults
    1 settler
    Archers have the same attack rating as Horsemen, but cost 20 shields vs. 30 shields. So I use Archers as the first wave of attackers if swordsmen are not available (no iron).

    If there is no iron or horses:
    12 Archers
    4 Spearmen
    5 Catapults
    1 settler

    If the enemies are right on top of you, cut the attack stack to ten and attack much earlier. I like to start a Swordsmen Conquest around 900 B.C. and a Horsemen Conquest around 10 B. C. Later than that and the resistance becomes tougher.

    3) Faster tech trading makes a run for Monarchy in isolation a risky strategy. Better to see what techs are cheap at each step. Techs get cheaper as more players acquire them.

    Again these are suggestions. They are effective on Regent, Monarch, Emperor difficulty, on standard size maps. On larger maps a longer build out and a latter war is expected. The first war may be with Knights and Longbows after building 20 or 30 cities. The basic tactic of concentrating troops is a good way to go.
     
  10. Anglophile

    Anglophile Chieftain

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    BillChin, I agree with your revisions with respect to 1.17 as well as your views on the differences with larger maps. I think you are correct about larger maps being easier, at least for builders. And whatever level or map size, the advice on concentration of force is key.
     
  11. Squiggy

    Squiggy Chieftain

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    When sending out the force you have mentioned, I don't see the point of including 3 Spearmen in the attack group. They're fine for defense, but wouldn't 3 more Swordsmen be more effective?

    Including a settler in the attack group is a great idea which never occured to me before. It could make conquest go much faster as you don't have to worry about quelling a massive resistance.

    The horsemen are ok if you're really in a hurry (in my opinion), but with the new rules about retreating, I much prefer swordsmen. I'd rather have 10 dead swordsmen with 10 more at full health than have 5 dead horsemen with 15 more at 1 hp left. I've tried both attackers and I find that the swordsmen are much more effective and suffer much smaller casualties.
     
  12. Anglophile

    Anglophile Chieftain

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    I can think of three reasons to include spearmen - and two of those are largely due to the first reason. Primary reason is that they are cheaper than swordsmen/horsemen and have two defence. Two, if your stack is attacked, the spearmen will be your first defenders and if they lose, its only 20 shields. The other reason is that they make excellent garrison troops, cheap and effective. So I always include them (and then pikemen, then musketmen) in my attack stacks unless it is a fast strike force in which case its fast stuff only.
     
  13. BillChin

    BillChin Chieftain

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    Anglophile already gave a good response, and I'll add my two cents. Spearmen are to absorb the counter attack and to garrison. Spearmen are 20 shields so you can produce three Spearmen for two Swordsmen. The Horsemen are good to have to counter the enemy fast units and to cut off resources (iron, horses) deep in enemy territory. They also add a good deal of flexibility to an attack plan. Fast units can stay to quell resisters then catch up with the main attack force. Horsemen can also cover ground quickly if a second civ declares war to open a second front.

    Again, in almost all cases, a mix is usually better than a pure stack of swordsmen. One negative of swordsmen is that there is no upgrade path. Having a few Horsemen lets a player upgrade to Knights to fuel the next war. Spearmen upgrade to Pikemen to defend against enemy Knights. Depending on the difficulty level these upgrades may save the bacon.
     
  14. Siegfried

    Siegfried Chieftain

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    I always play Germany on a huge map at Regent level. I have noted after at lot of experimenting that early increases in population and the number of cities you have before finishing the first tech advance seem to have a direct correlation with the number of turns the next tech advance will take, and subsequent.
    Basically, if you have two or three cities by the time you finish your first tech advance, the number of turns for the second can decrease to as few as 29. After the first settler from the capitol, I place the next city in a food rich area and use that as my source for settlers. The third city is to build the Colossus. I let the capitol build in population as much as possible. It seems to have an effect on the number of turns required for subsequent tech advances. How you start seems to determine how the rest of the game will go, and trying to compensate for a bad start later seldom seems to work.
     
  15. Ronald

    Ronald Chieftain

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    The warrier gambit seems a bit too risky for me, so I changed it to what I would call an archer gambit:
    It has the same intention as the warrior gambit, to weaken the closest civ next to you. If you start with a civ that has warrior code or research warrior code first, you can send about three warriors to your next neighbor, kill a settler and worker of them and get one city from them. This is mostly sufficient enough to slow them so much down, that they never become a threat in the game
     
  16. Ronald

    Ronald Chieftain

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    It must of course state: three archers instead of three warriors
     
  17. el_kalkylus

    el_kalkylus Civ2 spearman

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    Wouldn't that slow you down too? I mean, it takes quite a while to produce 3 archers in the beginning of the game most of the times.
     
  18. punkbass2000

    punkbass2000 Des An artiste

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    I find you can typically build two archers, one settler, and another archer with no slow down, especially with a good start or if you're industrious too (Chinese) and build a mine quickly. Hell, even if you aren't industrious, build that mine!
     
  19. el_kalkylus

    el_kalkylus Civ2 spearman

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    I just tried that tactic on gotm2. When I was finally done, my 3 archers, 2 warriors were outside a roman city at 1750 BC or something. At that time, I had 2 cities and 4-5 workers.

    They destroyed the city, but lost 2 archers in the process. I then had my damaged archer fortify to heal, and the stupid AI went with a settler and an archer just next to my archer, so I gained two workers. My warriors explored the roman cities. I could have fortified my archer there, because not late after, the AI built another city at that precise spot. It seems it just HAD to have that spot at the price of many settlers.

    So there could be a tactic. Even if you will be very late to develop yourself, you could make an early attack, and post your troops and wait for enemy settlers to wander by.
     
  20. Exsanguination

    Exsanguination No longer here

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    I haven't read all the replies, but I'd like to mention that 2 5-6 stacks of immortals vs spearmen is barely adequate. Thats 4 attack vs 2 defense (in town), and at that I can barely capture a couple cities. With that said, 10 swordsmen/horsemen would be less useful, esp now that horseman don't always withdraw.
     

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