Japan is one of the best designed civs in VP in my opinion. There is a ton of synergy going on to play with. I love trying to maximize synergies even to the point of losing focus on just winning the game and so Japan is right up my alley. The kit: Shogunate +1 Culture and Faith from Defense and Military Training Buildings. When a Great Admiral or Great General is born, receive Great Artist, Writer, and Musician Points in your Capital. Samurai, replaces the Longswordsman. Special traits: Has more Combat Strength (24 vs. 20). Obsoletes at Rifling rather than Gunpowder. Special abilities: Starts with the Great Generals II (100% increased contribution to Great General generation) promotion. Starts with the Quick Study (earns experience toward promotions 50% faster) promotion. Dojo, replaces the Armory. Special traits: Provides 3 Culture and 5 Science (up from 2 Science). All Mounted, Melee, Gun, and Armor Units trained in this City gain the Eight Virtues of Bushido (promotion is replaced with a randomly chosen unique promotion after this Unit completes its first combat) promotion. This allows these Units access to the unique Benevolence, Courage, Honor, Loyalty, Respect, Righteousness, Self Control, and Sincerity promotions. When Units that were produced in this City promote, gain Culture and Science based on their current level in this City. +25 XP to all Military Units trained in this City (up from +20 XP). Increases the Military Unit Supply Cap by 2 (up from 1). Does not require a Barracks in this City. ******************************************* The general plan: War my way to a culture/tourism victory. To that end, generate as many GG/GAs as possible for the free Writers/Artists/Musicians and also play a mini game of promoting my units as high as possible for the culture/science from Dojo (higher unit level gives higher culture/science so keeping units alive is ideal). Bend all of my religious/policy/strategy choices towards GG/GA generation, unit experience, and tourism. Religion: Pantheon: Goddess of Protection (+10 HP healed per turn in friendly territory. +2 Faith and +1 Culture from Palace, Walls and Barracks). Pigging backing off of the UA (faith/culture from wall/barracks line of buildings) seems ideal. If Japan doesn't take this pantheon then I'm not sure why the pantheon is in the game. Founder: Hero Worship (Receive Faith, Golden Age points, and GG/GA points when you conquer a City). As far as I can tell nobody benefits from GG/GAs as much as Japan so again, if Japan can't justify grabbing this founder then I don't know who can. Followers: Orders (+15EXP for units and faith from kills). More EXP means more culture/science from Dojos and I'll plan to war a lot so Orders can generate a decent amount of faith too. For the 2nd follower any of the buildings that give great work slots can be helpful (it can be difficult to have enough slots if you generate lots of great works from the GG->Artist/Writer/Musician mechanic early on) or any of the yields from follower beliefs can be helpful depending on what yield you may be lacking. Enhancer: Zealotry might be an ideal choice. Since Japan cares so much about unit EXP the ability to buy units with faith and get full EXP is a nice benefit. Many of the other enhancers can work, though, so I'd likely be flexible here. Reformation: Defender of the Faith (combat bonus in own lands, against other religions, and faith/culture from defensive buildings) triples down on faith/culture from the wall line of buildings. I might find myself fighting offensive and defensive wars at the same time (may as well harvest as much EXP and GG/GA points as possible!) so the combat bonuses will likely get a good amount of play. Seems to be right up Japan's alley. Policies: Authority- If for no other reason, the ability to faith buy GGs later on means I really want to take Authority. You could try to count on being able to Reform into 'To the Glory of God' (faith buy any great people regardless of policies) but that just seems too risky to me. And besides- I'm planning on warring A LOT so Authority will help me do so and give me more benefits from successful war. Fealty- Highlights include: -Nobility's boosts to Armory (aka Dojo) and Castles which will be high priority buildings for me -Burgher's double border growth during WLTKD pairs nicely with Authority's Tribute policy -Some generally good benefits to wide (yields and city defense in all cities) -boosts to internal trade routes (there's a decent chance I'll be at war with neighbors and CSs, if I haven't already conquered the CSs so internal trade routes might sometimes be my only option) I could see the case for Artistry as well, especially given that my eventual win condition is tourism. However, a bunch of Artistry's benefits are somewhat at odds with how I plan to play Japan. I don't particularly care about guilds- it's unlikely that working guilds will give me more artists/writers/musicians because of how the GG/GA mechanic works. You get 50% of the points needed for the next artist/writer/musician for every GG/GA spawn which will likely outpace my ability to generate many of them the old fashioned way. I also probably don't care about the +tourism modifier on open borders- I'll likely be hated by much of the world and won't have open borders most likely. I'm also not sure if the great person rate boosts also affect GG/GA points- if they do that could be interesting but if they don't it's another benefit I don't care a ton about. Last- I plan to conquer most of my wonders rather than build them myself. Imperialism- Just like Authority, the ability to faith buy Admirals is central to my plan, aside from the rest of the tree being full of more benefits to war, more yields on the barracks line and better yields on citadels, and higher rates of GG/GA generation. Autocracy- Yet more synergy! Highlights most particular to this Japan plan include: -Elite Forces (Newly created Military Units receive +15 Experience. Military Units gain 50% more Experience from combat.) -Futurism (Tourism bonus from Historic Events increased by 20%. +2 Culture from Great Works. Earn 50 Tourism when you conquer a city for the first time, scaling with Era and city size.) There's also Lebensraum's synergy with GGs and with Tribute/Burghers and Military Industrial Complex's more yields on defensive buildings on top of yet even more benefits and bonuses to war/conquest. ******************************************* Very Early game: Japan's early game (at least with the goals I've laid out) is actually pretty tough to pull off. My #1 priority in the early game is founding my religion ASAP to ensure that I get Hero Worship. I have found through repeated early game play-throughs that Hero Worship is picked very highly by the AI... maddeningly so. My conclusion is that you need to really focus on founding as fast as possible to give yourself the best chance at getting Hero Worship (if you get Hero Worship then you'll probably get Orders too, as it seems to be less prized by the AI). I see two paths to founding ASAP (the goal is probably ~T95 on Deity to give you a good chance at Hero Worship): 1) Focus on unlocking Barracks and Walls while also expanding quickly to 3 cities. Shrine, Barracks, and Walls in all 3 early cities should get you to found fast enough, especially if your cities have decent production or decent gold for rush buying those buildings. 2) Rush to Bronze Working for Statue of Zeus and Spearmen. Statue of Zeus gets your capital a free Barracks (faster than you can tech to Barracks yourself since Bronze Working requires 2 techs and Barracks requires 3). Meanwhile you quickly get to 4 spearmen and tribute nearby CSs for boosts that help you expand and knock out Shrines/Barracks/Walls. This may require tributing a religious CS to consistenly found fast enough. In my games I mostly stuck with #1- I didn't want to try #2 unless I found an early/nearby religious civ that I could tribute and that didn't happen very frequently. My early game went like this: Capital: Shrine->Monument->Warriors x3 or x4->Barracks->Settler->Wall I use my first 150 gold to rush buy a worker (happens around the time of the first or 2nd warrior production). Those initial warriors go barb hunting to get culture from kills/camps and get me to Imperium ASAP for the free settler (usually unlocked Imperium right around the time my settler finished production for 2x settlers). Pantheon on roughly turn 36 is God of Protections, of course. Initial research path is: Animal Husbandry->Mining->Military Theory->Pottery->Wheel->Construction The best lux to start with are mine improved luxes as you unlock that very early and can sell your initial copies for GPT to help rush buy shrines/rax/walls. Second best are Quarry improved (and in that case you might consider getting to Construction before Military Theory). Worst luxes are plantation or fish boat improved as getting to those techs is diametrically opposed to getting your UA's early culture/faith from walls/rax. Those luxes tend to give good unimproved yields, though, so perhaps the inability to sell them for early GPT is mostly offset. Build order for 2nd and 3rd city is shrine->barracks->wall. Even though the yields are better on barracks/wall than shrine I still go shrine first just because the faith/production ratio is best on the shrine and right now faith is the most important yield to me. Use any gold to rush buy these buildings if their completion will make you found sooner. You should found at roughly turn 95ish and usually no later than turn 100 which concludes the 'Very Early Game'. ******************************************* Rest of Early Game: After this initial early rush for your religion it's time to stabilize and set yourself up for the rest of the game. My next priorities are: 1) Settle additional cities that I want (monopoly securing, defensive locations, Iron acquisition which is critical if you want to use your UU later on...) 2) Get techs for fishboat/plantation luxeries or get to Forges/Arenas if I have mining luxeries. 3) Get councils up and get to Writing for Libraries. If GPT is an issue get Trading for markets/trade routes. 4) Get an initial military in place for defense and to maybe start some trouble. I try to limit the number of warriors/spearmen because I will eventually want the bulk of my melee to be swordsmen->samurai so instead focus on mounted, range, and siege units for now. If I war early I don't necessarily have to take cities (I don't have much in the way of war bonuses going yet, really) as just getting experience, kill yields, and great generals is still a nice benefit. 5) Have an eye to reaching for the Dojos/Samurai tech. You can somewhat ignore much of the top of the tech tree- you don't particularly need guilds (you aren't reliant on working specialists to get your artists/writers/musicians) or universities (Dojos have a lot of science themselves) so over reaching in the bottom half is probably the right play. 6) Get Orders in all of my cities and then save up for enhancement. My assumption is that I will eventually reform after conquering and converting cities and I would rather not spread Orders to my nearby neighbors (aka victims). Once your initial empire is stable and you've got Dojos/Samurais coming online it is time to conquer. ******************************************* Rest of the Game: I have less to say here as at this point your game diverges based on your own circumstances. The goal is, of course, to conquer your way to a tourism victory in whatever fashion best suites your game. I would keep an eye on trying for Brandenburg Gate for the +EXP benefits and free great general (Great Wall also gives one but you might lack writing/art/music slots that early in the game!). I would consider conquering CSs as well because the Hero Worship and Authority/Imperialism benefits probably outweigh trying to worry about keeping them allied. Keep an eye out for world congress projects that give GG/GAs as well.