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[BTS] Requesting All Input for Growing Strategically

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Strategy & Tips' started by JonesJoneserson, Nov 2, 2020.

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  1. JonesJoneserson

    JonesJoneserson Chieftain

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    [Quick aside -- if this post isn't really located appropriately or anything, forgive me and let me know and I'll be happy to take it down or move it]

    tl;dr
    I play on Prince / Marathon / Huge / 18 Nations (try to stick to base game settings otherwise) and think I'm ignoring tons of aspects of the game that would allow me to easily improve and handle Prince way, way better than I do today. I'm hyper economy / space race focused and ultimately I think I do that because I'm really poor at managing an economy and end up putting all my energy into it.

    From other stuff I've read here, struggling to balance my checkbook, focusing on super cities, and ignoring specialists / great people appear to be my greatest failings. That said, feel free to skip to the "Possible Flaws" section for a list of things I might be failing at.

    ----------------

    Okay so, I've played Civ 4 for a million years (probably true of anyone reading this as well), absolutely love it, but ultimately plateaued years ago and never really took the time to figure out why. Have had a couple periods trying out the old Googles, but never with great success.

    Based on reading some stuff here, it seems like a lot of the people frequenting this forum would be very qualified to offer really straight forward and solid critiques of my play, so I'm hoping I can lay out where I'm at, where I'd like to be, and what I think my obvious flaws are and see what folks think I should be doing differently or might be overlooking.

    Where I'm at today
    I almost exclusively play on Prince, with a huge map, custom continents, marathon speed, sea level low, and 18 nations. The map size, speed, and nation count I use simply because that creates the most enjoyable experience for me, rather than choosing those based on my play style or skillset.

    These days I typically play with Victoria, due to my inability to manage an economy particularly effectively (more on this later).

    I win a decent amount but I'd guess that I abandon more than 50% of my games after having a couple cities taken mid-game by a powerful civilization, feeling that it's unrealistic to expect myself to both keep up technologically and figure out how to compete militaristically.

    Some tweaks I sometimes make, but try to avoid because I think at the end of the day they're really me trying to change the game to suit my skills, rather than me becoming more skillful:
    • No barbarians: Usually I do this just because they're an early-game annoyance, but without them I sometimes feel too free to go down paths I otherwise wouldn't (eg. religion)
    • Permanent alliances: This generally feels like the most egregious tweak, in that it really feels like I do it just to paper over my weaknesses with another AI nation
    • No vassals: I don't love how frequently the game becomes about competing with a single super nation that's vacuumed up several other countries
    Where I'd like to be
    I'd like to get to a point where I can start a game on Prince, with all / most of the normal settings, and a random civilization, and get respond to any variety of circumstances, without re-rolling the map, and win the game most of the time. At that point I'll happily start the process over on Monarch lol.

    Possible flaws
    • Early game economy: Especially with barbs on, I feel like I'm missing something basic as other civs seem to be able to expand fairly freely and continue to compete technologically. I use whatever that binary research strategy is called (almost always either 0% or 100%) which helps a tiny bit, but overall there's enough times where I feel like I've crippled myself by trying to aggressively expand early that I wonder if I'm missing a basic early strategy that avoids panicked mass cottage building
    • Specialized Cities: Several times now I've read people discuss specializing cities. I think I do this poorly. It seems to me that most people will target some cities to be super economy heavy whereas others are production heavy. I think I obsess over trying to have cities that do everything. The result is that cities need to grow a ton, which results in me probably not whipping enough, and an extreme reliance on Hereditary Rule. This whole approach feels like it works against itself since it's so late in my games before I can get towns to produce an extra hammer (generally doesn't happen until Broadcast Towers can minimize the impact on science to keep cities happy)
    • Being okay with unhappiness?: Related to that last point, I'm not sure if I'm too worried about cities being unhappy. It's not clear to me when unhappiness results in destroyed improvements, and moreover I don't know if it's a more sound strategy to be okay with that and simply prepare workers to regularly fix destroyed things
    • Obsession over science: I've won a couple domination victories over the years, but virtually all of my victories are space race. The result is that I think I obsess too much over competing technologically. If I allow myself not to, I feel like I then end up sprinting for The Internet later on and maybe lose decades that could be spent doing other things
    • Building workers early: I feel like I've frequently read about people stealing workers and I wonder if this is simply an approach one should look to take regularly? I'm wary of creating bad relationships early but I don't know if that's silly. I also just don't think I'm good at it -- at best, it feels like I can maybe snatch one before a civ can avoid putting their workers in a place to get snatched
    • Bad Diplomacy: I get in the habit of just turning down anyone's request for me to go to war or cancel deals. Sometimes I try to be better about it and figure out if the request sets me up for a good alignment. That said, it's especially frustrating to join a war when everyone in your religion is beating up on one guy, just to realize you've contributed to a civ capitulating to a super nation that'll ultimately see you as its next meal
    • Ignoring culture: On rare occasion I'll try to focus a particular city a little heavier on culture to win a useful contested tile, but beyond that I generally do the minimum here. I'd really like to try for a cultural victory at some point, but I think about it often and struggle to see how I'd compete both militaristically and technologically, while giving enough attention to culture for 3 cities to achieve 150k
    • Ignoring espionage: I haven't seen a ton of talk about the importance of espionage, but worth raising up in case someone has a call out. There have definitely been a few times I've gone hard on espionage in the late game to edge out a close victory, but aside from major space race sabotages or trying to destroy cultural buildings in a particular city, I'm usually well behind on espionage and simply hope I don't piss anyone off enough that they start annoying me with destroyed improvements and sick cities
    • Ignoring world wonders: At this point in my play, it's pretty common I'll build virtually no world wonders, and I don't know if I'm whiffing here. In fact, I also generate almost no fail gold and I think I just don't have a great sense of when to look for fail gold / how much of an impact I can expect at a given time. I think both the fail gold and lack of world wonders largely comes back to my obsession over having perfect cities that do it all
    • Horrible specialist / great person game: Plainly, I see a lot of discussion about specialist strategies and corporations and I think I'm just terrible planning around all this or even knowing what I could plan around to begin with. I get corporations a decent amount, but it's generally just incidental and I just use them to boost a super economy city. I don't even spread corporations within my own cities because I'm scared of the city maintenance city and I'm guessing this is a huge whiff on my part
    As you can see, my plateau probably has to do with me failing to micro manage at all. I think I'm failing to acknowledge when I can ignore things because they won't make a huge impact, and failing to recognize when I should put more effort into things because they'll pay dividends in the long run. That said, the nature of my request here is that I'm not really sure where to start here, and I'm guessing there's very obvious places to start for me here.

    Anyways, any and all input is greatly appreciated! Sorry this was super long but when people are asking me for help I like when they're specific, and so I tried to be as specific as possible here.

    PS. Mods
    I'm using K-Mod right at the moment, is this generally an appreciated mod for people who are big on the base game? Are there any specific settings I should be using with like BUG or any of those mods?

    For reference, I've only played a tiny bit with K-Mod and am starting with Noble there -- I read that the AI is much better and it's definitely seemed that way in the little bit that I've played.

    I've really wanted to use a major overhaul mod but it looks like in practice very few actually can get an overhaul totally right. I've played a little bit of A New Dawn but it seems like the last build has super weak AI.
     
  2. civac

    civac Warlord

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    K-Mod AI is supposedly noticably stronger than BTS AI so I can't say how difficult it is to beat on Prince.

    If you play map with lots of available land it is theoretically correct to expand hard and worry about the economy later. Key mistakes that get people doing this into trouble are:

    1. Founding cities without sufficient support. Workers, work boats or improved tiles and defense if necessary should be available from the founding of the city. Often it is a good idea to have a new city take over an improved tile from an established city before its own tiles are improved.

    2. Founding marginal cities too early. Your fist few cities should have strong resources tiles with 5 or 6 total yield (counting food and hammers only). These cities can then support the founding of many commerce cities.

    3. Not prioritizing Currency. Currency trade routs with Open Borders/island cities and building Wealth can get you out of almost any economic hole.

    Against the AI it is also a viable route to expand a bit less to get tech like Currency and Code of Laws up and then take territory from the AI civs.
     
  3. JonesJoneserson

    JonesJoneserson Chieftain

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    civac awesome response, thank you! And yeah I was asking in terms of base BTS -- the K Mod question was separate, sorry about being unclear.

    1. I usually don't prioritize agr or animal husbandry -- do you think I should prioritize those more? I think even before Hereditary Rule I get panicked about unhappiness and avoiding it, so I often don't stress too much about growth, but everyone else here seems to be hyper about lots of early food resources. Also -- the improved tile for a new city, fantastic call out. Historically I've given cities a good amount of space between one another, only recently have I started getting comfortable with them overlapping a bit more.

    2. I race for flood plains early, in an effort to get cottage-heavy cities as early as possible. Do you think it makes more sense going for stronger cities earlier and then planning to be able to build units faster and take flood plain cities from other nations instead?

    3. Your point about code of laws brings up another thing I'm curious about -- when you have something like the Courthouse that you might want to build just about everywhere, do you try to race to get it built everywhere at once to unburden your economy or do you stagger when cities are building things like that so all you also have units being built at any given time?
     
  4. 6K Man

    6K Man Bureaucrat

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    There are a lot of misconceptions in your initial post, but I'll skip that and go right to addressing your last one:

    1. Always prioritize techs that will allow you to improve the resources you start with. Especially food. If you start with Corn or Rice or Wheat in your city radius, Agriculture should (almost) always be your first tech. Don't panic about unhappiness; use slavery to turn surplus population into production. With a big food surplus, it'll grow back quickly. Repeat.
    2. Flood plains are nice in the long run, but they take a long time to improve, and don't provide all that much right away. Go for cities with a stronger food source and as many other power tiles (adding up to 5 or more :food: + :hammers:) as you can.
    3. Don't build Courthouses everywhere. Research Currency and then build :gold:, which is almost always better.
     
  5. JonesJoneserson

    JonesJoneserson Chieftain

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    6k thanks so much! Any chance you'll hit me with the misconceptions? I feel like that would be super useful (though if it's just not that interesting to address them that's totally fair).

    1. As far as agriculture -- would you recommend a civ that starts with agriculture if that's key early on? I noticed people seem to really like HC. As far a whipping -- I think in the past it's felt like the number of turns required for a city to calm down and be able to work tiles again has felt prohibitive, do you think that's me being impatient or do you think I just need to ensure I'm spacing out my whips better?

    2. Totally makes sense, that should be easy to implement. I think that was largely the result of me panicking about an early economy.

    3. So, that totally makes sense, however wanted to clarify -- is the idea that you would dedicate certain cities to effectively building commerce full time and either whip / chop buildings when needed and then try to jump to Universal Suffrage as early as possible to instead buy them? Or are there just periods when those cities need to work and ultimately the economy will have to take a hit during those periods?
     
  6. 6K Man

    6K Man Bureaucrat

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    Fix your early game by focusing on food and power tiles, whipping, and later, building wealth.

    Specialization is overrated. Every city should have at least 1 decent food source, or a whole lot of floodplains/flat grass. If there are hills, make it a production city; if there's a river, make it a cottage city, if there's a LOT of food, make it a Great Person farm, and if there's none of that, whip it regularly. Don't build much more than Granary/Forge in most cities, + Library in commerce city and GP farm.

    Slavery.

    You only need enough technology for your goal. If it's always space, then you will want a GP farm and a lot of commerce cities. It's equally viable to sprint to Cuirassiers and (at lower levels) turn off research.

    Have 1.5 workers for every city. Stealing them is optional.

    Find the dominant religion, convert to it if you can, tell everyone else to get lost.

    Yes, ignore Culture usually

    Yes, ignore Espionage usually

    There are a few WW that are almost always useful - Pyramids, Great Lighthouse, Great Library, Taj. All the others are situational. If you happen to be Industrious or have the right resource to boost production, go for some or all of those. And failgold the others.

    Don't bother with Corporations. You should try to build a Library and run specialists early, to get an early Academy in your capital. After that, aim for Scientists to bulb techs and trade them around.
     
  7. AcaMetis

    AcaMetis Emperor

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    More than anything else, I would highly recommend that you start playing a few standard size/standard speed/default number of opponents/vanilla games in order to study the game's mechanics. Huge/Marathon/18 civs/K-mod is fine to play if that's what you enjoy playing, but they're not the kind of settings that are good for learning the game.
     
  8. 6K Man

    6K Man Bureaucrat

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    1. You don't need to start with Agriculture. That can help, but you should be able to have it researched by the time the first Worker is built. The trick to whipping is learning where and when to whip - 2 population at least, ideally. You want to whip away enough population so the city won't grow into unhappiness before the :mad: from whipping wears off. Learning to whip in such a way that the population regrows in exactly 10 turns, and then whipping again, is a big deal.

    3. You don't need to build :gold: forever. Eventually, you'll get trade routes from Free Market, or Corporation, and more :commerce: from Printing Press, etc., and the need to build :gold: to balance your budget will disappear. The key thing to remember is to not build "white goods" (buildings) everywhere: Your cities should build (or whip) Granaries, Forges, military units, Workers, and Settlers, not necessarily in that order. If you are running short of cash, build :gold:, and cycle that among your cities.
     
  9. Noble Zarkon

    Noble Zarkon Elite Quattromaster - Emperor (BTS) Super Moderator Hall of Fame Staff Supporter GOTM Staff

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    Not really - a lot of people really like it but it plays very differently than base BTS. It's generally regarded as about 1.5 levels harder than the base game so Prince is equivalent to somewhere between Monarch and Emperor in BTS.
     
  10. lymond

    lymond Rise Up! (Phoenix Style!) Moderator Hall of Fame Staff

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    I'd just make an aside comment to JJ that commerce and gold are completely different things in this game. One does not "build" commerce.

    The first and most important concept you need to learn about this game is that FOOD is KING. Everything builds off that concept.

    Unhappiness can be managed, and...no..it is not good. However, unhappy guys are still worth 90 hammers on Mara when whipped...something to note.

    My advice is to to play standard settings/normal speed while learning game. Huge/Mara is actually relatively much easier for the experienced player, but can be overwhelming for those with bad habits. One side benefit of standard settings is you can play more games, i.e., practice more, as opposed to getting bogged down in super long Mara games that you already lost in the first 100-200 turns. 200 turns on Mara is still very early, whereas on Normal that is basically a full game in most cases.

    For perspective, please understand that developing a few basic key concepts about this game and you will absolutely crush Prince level in every respect.
     
  11. Pangaea

    Pangaea Rock N Roller

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    Have you read this thread? https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/beginner-help-the-basics.648469/

    It's an excellent guide, and by what you write above, I think it would help you out a lot. Also agree it would be better to play on more 'normal' settings. Marathon and max AIs skews things very much.

    Going for Hereditary Rule before improving food is... hard to compute.
     

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