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[BTS] Religious Victory Case Study (Monarch/Tiny/Normal)


Jan 21, 2018
This thread will examine a game I played in G-Minor 231 in the hopes of shedding light on and discussing best practices for an HOF-type religious (AP) victory on normal speed. The strategies presented should be reasonably applicable (with modifications) for difficulties from noble to deity, and on speeds from quick to epic. Difficulties below noble have slow and useless (but friendly) AI, as well as the ability to gain workers and settlers from goody huts, while marathon speed alters the worker-stealing landscape and even opens up the possibility of conquest. A deep understanding of AP mechanics is also useful for achieving (cheesy) victories in difficult immortal and deity games, especially in isolation or on non-pangaea mapscripts, and is a useful club in the golf bag of any high-level player.

This guide is currently a work in progress. Any commentary, questions, or suggestions are welcome.

Part 0: Game and Map Setup

Leader (Ranked roughly based on my opinion of them)

  • Ramesses (stipulated by the gauntlet and my choice): Ideal traits, OK techs
  • Gandhi or Asoka: Misses out on critical industrious trait, but fast worker is the best UU and ideal techs
  • Huayna (Stronger on larger sizes): Financial is second-tier trait, Quechua, Strong techs
  • Qin: Techs on par with Huayna's, but useless protective trait and no strong UU.
  • Augustus: Imperialistic has niche use, mining is a handy tech
  • Bismarck: Expansive can be a nice addition, but garbage hunting tech means he starts with scout. Great for lower difficulties where we hut workers rather than stealing them.
  • Other industrious leaders (De Gaulle, Louis, Roosevelt, Stalin, in that order).
  • Mansa Musa (Best non-industrious traits and pretty good techs)
  • Wang Kon (Ideal techs and OK financial trait)
All other leaders are so severely disadvantaged that I wouldn't consider them for HOF unless playing for fun, QM/EQM, or a predefined gauntlet or challenge. Also note that I consider the top 3 to be quite close, but there is a huge gulf in power between Huayna and Qin.

  • Mining and Mysticism are critical techs without which the victory is impossible. Agriculture is usually researched, The Wheel has niche use, Fishing has no value, and Hunting has a negative value since we'd like to start with a warrior.
  • Industrious greatly reduces the amount of forest-chopping necessary to finish the AP, and makes completing the oracle rather easy as well. Spiritual removes anarchy which can be upwards of 3-4 turns in a roughly 60-turn game. Financial aids in research, the main bottleneck for much of the game. Expansive allows a quicker worker build to get the snowball rolling faster. Imperialistic has minor use when a settler is needed for religious spread or diplomatic bonuses. All other traits have very marginal use.
  • The Fast Worker is amazing! It greatly accelerates the forest-chop process and returns to the capital more quickly after being stolen. The Quechua is a worker stealing safety net, and can even allow destruction of an AI or two to reduce the amount of missionaries necessary to achieve victory. I haven't found any other unique unit or building I would be excited to use.

  • Pangaea (solid shoreline, high seas, toroidal wrap). The goal is to minimize the number of land tiles to allow for easiest worker-stealing and religious conversion. Maps generally range from 150-250 tiles on tiny, though even smaller "micro-pangaea" maps are possible.
  • Temperate climate is a must since forests are critical.
  • No barbarians
  • No events (Game can be won without positive events, and negative diplomatic events are reasonably common and can kill a game. Slave revolts suck as well.)
  • Huts on: not necessary for a super fast victory, but it's HOF so might as well give ourselves the chance to get lucky.
  • Aggressive AI (faster ceasefires after worker-stealing)
  • Zara Yaqob (stipulated by the gauntlet, but an unbelievably awesome leader): +2 innate diplomatic modifier, can be bribed to war or to change civics at cautious, handy and rare neutral peaceweight means he is often cautious with other AI, Favorite Civic: Theocracy
  • Hatshepsut (also stipulated by the gauntlet but quite strong): +1 innate modifier, opens borders at annoyed, extra-high peaceweight, war or civic at pleased, favorite civic: organized religion
  • Ragnar: Extra-low peaceweight, opens borders at annoyed
Also Considered: Catherine (OB at annoyed, low-ish peaceweight), Justinian(Theocracy, +1 innate modifier, Neutral Peaceweight), Gandhi (+2 innate modifier, ultra-high peaceweight), De Gaulle (Easiest worker steals, ultra-low peaceweight). I would use some of these AI on larger maps, but Ragnar made the cut here because he opens borders at annoyed and won't make friends with Zara on peaceweight grounds.

Rationale: It is always wise to have 2 potential friends (Zara and Hatty) in case one ends up nearby and you choose to steal from them rather than buttering them up. Also, Ragnar is an excellent "enemy" civ because he opens borders at annoyed and will often be worst enemies with the high peaceweight hatty even after you DOW him. Hatty also has this quality making her the perfect versatile "frenemy" civ. Gandhi is the only "friend" that even comes close to Zara and Hatty, but he keeps you on a short leash with a -2 penalty for declaring war on his friends. I can only have 3 missionaries at once, so while one more opponent would allow more stolen workers it makes the endgame far too difficult.


What I look for in map finder: 2 mining resources (Gold, Gems, Silver). I'll also want a granary resource or 3+ floodplains (or oasis), but sometimes exceptions can be made and often these things aren't confirmed until after settling. On the other hand, smallish maps regenerate quickly so I could afford to be pickier. Gold is much better than gems or silver since it both packs a bigger commerce punch and is found on productive tiles, meaning the capital will not have to grow as much, but the other resources are acceptable. Plains-hill start (or better yet, marble), falls under a nice-to-have but isn't absolutely necessary.

Without further ado, the start:
Spoiler :


Why this start is fantastic (one of the best out of hundreds I looked at for the gauntlet), in rough order of importance
  • Both mining resources are riverside gold
  • 15(!) forests within the 40% ring, 7 of which are in the fat cross and can be nicely grouped into threes
  • Floodplains for early growth and commerce, but not too many to cause unhealthiness
  • Riverside Corn
  • Forested silk allows for minor micromanagement of production without losing commerce
  • Riverside Grassland Hill that can be mined without bronze working
  • All resources will auto-connect via rivers, alleviating happy and health concerns
  • Not too difficult to move workers around due to all of the flat land
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Part 1: Development (Roughly Turns 0-25)

Goal: Set up a populous, commerce-heavy capital as soon as possible.

Key Idea: Steal workers rather than spending 15 turns building our own. I may consider worker-first with a plains-hill capital, but in this case warrior first is superior.

From the starting screenshot in the above post, I notice temperate forest to the north, and coast to the east, thus I figure most AI will be southwest and send my warrior that way (I allow my border pop to grab the hut). Sure enough, the warrior encounters Hatshepsut. I deduce via the scoreboard that her capital is still at size 1, suggesting a worker build, and position myself in between an Ivory tile and a Gems Tile (There is also a pig nearby, but I figure she has not yet discovered animal husbandry). Success! Worker stolen on turn 10, returns to the capital to improve corn followed by gold. Using espionage I find that hatshepsut has again decided to produce a worker, so after cease fire I wait in the same spot and steal another worker on turn 22. The two workers team up to finish the final improvement I need for the rest of the game, a grass-river mine, then prepare to pre-chop.

Meanwhile, in the capital, I rush out a second warrior on Turn 10 using the silk tiles after growing to size 2, expecting to potentially steal from Ragnar whose scout appeared in the southeast very early on. Ragnar has an exposed cow tile, but founds Buddhism and pops borders to 40% before sending a worker that way. Afterwards, I slowly build a third warrior while growing to size 4, then produce my third and final worker before starting on the oracle.

Tech Path: Mining->Mysticism->Polytheism->Priesthood. I follow this early path every game under these conditions, since it gives me the most options and I don't need to begin pre-chopping quite yet. A lucky hut of mining or mysticism can accelerate this process even further, but this game I have no such luck.

Part 2: Wonder Construction (Roughly Turns 25-50)

Goals: Oracle Theology and construct the AP as fast as possible, while setting up for a winning endgame.

Key Idea: Understand trade-offs between Writing and Bronze Working

After priesthood is completed on turn 23, I face the difficult task of choosing between writing or bronze working. Bronze working allows me to begin pre-chopping for the AP much more quickly, thus accelerating the final victory date, while writing allows me to earn an additional +1 diplomatic bonus for 25 turns of open borders.

I attempt to calculate my diplo modifiers with Zara, my chosen friend as I've angered hatty through repeated declarations of war. I also consider a city liberation, but decide that since Zara is far away and I may need a setter for other reasons, I shouldn't count on this bonus.

+2 Innate Zara Bonus
+4 Trade Relations
+1 Favorite Civic
+1 Shared War
-1 Penalty for monarch difficulty

Without factoring in a potential invisible bonus for being either a small civilization (lowest on scoreboard while Zara is highest), or a fellow developing nation (Zara and I are bottom two on scoreboard), I come to a +7 modifier, not enough to meet the +8 threshold for a victory vote. This bonus is hard to predict and I will likely be tops in score, so I decide to research writing first to add a +1 open borders bonus to the mix.

Meanwhile, Thebes begins work on the oracle. After writing, I research bronze working (T32), masonry (T35) and monotheism (T39). By this point, Thebes is nearly size 6 and is working two gold mines, so research comes quickly. Thus, I plan to finish the oracle on Turn 39, since this is the earliest I will be able to slingshot Theology.

With this date in mind, my 3 workers would like to have forests prechopped so that I can chop into the AP on turns 39 (via overflow), 41, and 43, allowing for a victory vote as early as turn 54! However, the bronze working date is late enough that the workers cannot begin pre-chopping until turn 33. I establish the following plan for each worker.

Forest 1 gets prechopped on turns 33-34 and chopped on turn 45
Forest 2 gets prechopped on turns 36-37 and chopped on turn 43
Forest 3 gets chopped from turns 39-41
Turns 35, 38, 42, and 44 are devoted to movement between the various forests

Thus, I reach 9 forest chops by turn 45, 7 of which are within the fat cross, and I have plenty of production (with bonuses from organized religion and industrious) to finish the AP on Turn 45, allowing me to hold a victory vote as soon as Turn 56. The capital begins building missionaries to help me get there.
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Part 3: Conversion, Diplomacy, Victory

Goals: Butter up Zara enough to vote for me, spread christianity to all civilizations, ensure I have enough votes to win the game.

Key Idea: Using all diplomatic options at our disposal, especially since we've accrued some hate due to worker stealing.

I earn a free christian missionary when I found the religion, and choose to walk it towards the furthest AI, Zara. While I incorrectly guess his location (he is west of Hatshepsut instead of east of Ragnar), this missionary has 15+ turns before he is needed to spread religion and reaches Zara in plenty of time. I camp out in the capital since I'd like Zara to have as many votes as possible. Note: carefully document the directions AI units come from so you don't mess up in this phase like I did.

Hatshepsut, on the other hand, hates me so much that she won't even open her borders (I am the worst enemy after 2 declarations of war). Thus, after researching alphabet on turn 50, the final relevant technology, I begin gifting technology to hatshepsut. She takes many junky techs, but only gives me a measly +2 bonus, meaning I am still the worst enemy. The next turn, I gift alphabet, the bonus jumps to +4 and I achieve cautious relations, meaning I shouldn't be the worst enemy anymore. However, there is a 1-turn lag before worst enemy status resets and in between turns Hatty constructs a horrible city on my border, triggering a -1 border tensions penalty and maintaining my worst enemydom. Thus, I am forced to resort to drastic measures. I bribe Zara into war with Hatty, and while my relationship with her drops to -5, Zara suffers a -6 relationship and takes over the worst enemy status, allowing me to sign open borders at last. Fortunately, her small and conveniently located city will be perfect for later religious spread.

Spreading religion to Ragnar also proved annoying. Though I had signed open borders many turns before, Ragnar's capital had 5 seafood resources (as well as the aforementioned cow), and he stubbornly refused to produce a second city. To make matters worse, he produced many units and buildings without whipping a single time, and Nidaros's population ballooned to 7. If I spread religion there, he would gain veto power and prevent me from winning the game. Fortunately, Thebes had begun producing (with chops) an emergency settler in case I could not achieve open borders with Hatshepsut and needed to liberate a city. Unfortunately, my missionary stationed in Nidaros was too far away to reach the city-square in time for a Turn 56 victory vote, so I grudgingly push the vote turn back to Turn 57. Thus turn 56 becomes the all important "conversion turn".

My process for achieving conversion and diplomatic bonuses the turn before the victory vote is as follows:
  1. Spread Christianity to all target cities (Zara's largest, all other AI's smallest)
  2. Liberate any target cities that you currently control
  3. Attempt to bribe ragnar into organized religion to prevent him from changing religions (as it turns out, he had recently revolted and could not change his civics)
  4. Convert to Theocracy
  5. Attempt to bribe zara into war against an enemy. Use theology (alpha if necessary), although this trade is quite lopsided normally so you get a hefty fair trade bonus.
  6. Attempt to bribe zara into theocracy, giving you a diplo bonus and preventing him from changing religions. Use alphabet if you have already reached +4 fair trade bonus, if not gift alphabet and beg the civic swap.
  7. Declare war on the enemy yourself for the mutual military struggle bonus
  8. If zara is already in a different religion, convert to "no state religion" to prevent a penalty
  9. End turn, vote for yourself, and win!
This process goes off without a hitch, and my doubled votes + Zara's large capital are easily enough to propel me to a victory on Turn 58. Note that I bribed Zara into war much earlier this game, but only declared on Hatshepsut at the last second.

Other Techniques which didn't happen this game but deserve a mention:
  • Use slavery to whip missionaries/liberation settlers if necessary
  • Use late-game worker turns to road towards later religious spread targets
  • Changes to the plan if we have 2, 4, or 5 workers instead of 3
Thanks to Chaosquo, Noble Zarkon, Kaitzilla, Tonny, and Sittindown for their experimentation, information, competition, and advice throughout the gauntlet. Also, one cannot exploit a mechanic before he understands it, and I certainly learned a lot from the many AP guides out on the forums right now. Here's one I found quite helpful, be sure to check it out if anything is confusing.

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Thus, I am forced to resort to drastic measures. I bribe Zara into war with Hatty, and while my relationship with her drops to -5, Zara suffers a -6 relationship and takes over the worst enemy status
That's great thinking. :goodjob:

6) Attempt to bribe zara into theocracy, giving you a diplo bonus and preventing him from changing religions.

You're a genius. :D
Yes, bribing Zara to change to Theocracy with 0 turns to go before the vote means you can spread the AP religion to the AI you have +8 diplo with and he won't convert to the AP religion and run against you during the vote!
That means someone else with a pop 1 city can be the AP voting opponent since they will adopt the religion if they have none, and since everyone has the AP religion the Religious Victory vote will come up.

I was using a rather more complicated scheme of choosing a voting partner running a religion in their capital, spreading AP religion to their 1 pop city, then using a 2nd missionary to spread the AP religion to their capital after the AP Religious Victory vote but before the vote result so they would have 1 turn to change religions and give me a ton of votes.

My way cost 2 AP religion missionaries, an AI capital with a religion (or 1 extra non-AP religion missionary), and one extra pop 1 AI city.
Your way took 1 missionary and 1AI capital. :crazyeye:

Also, if the player has a spare Settler at the end, they can also settle a new city closer to the AI capital than to any other capital, and (Liberate) that city to the AI for +1 diplo.
2 (Liberates) will give +3 diplo.
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Also, if the player has a spare Settler at the end, they can also settle a new city closer to the AI capital to any other capital, and (Liberate) that city to the AI for +1 diplo.
2 (Liberates) will give +3 diplo.

Yes! This is often very useful, though I didn't have a spare settler this game thanks to goofball ragnar. Maybe it's the key to unlocking even more ridiculous times for this victory condition (since we wouldn't have to worry about prioritizing writing for open borders bonuses).
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I find this quite useful, thanks. It's been so long since I've played civilization I literally forget "how" to even achieve some of these victories, lol. Even HoF games I've had success in the past I've completely forgotten how to emulate.
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