Shadow game


Oct 4, 2018
My Civ 4 journey began around 2009. I played intermittently for about a decade enjoying the game but making little improvement in my play. Using the forum and videos from AbsoluteZero, Lain, and Henrik I’ve improved substantially in recent years rising up the difficulty ladder and shedding a bad reloading habit. I almost exclusively play deity pangea now but rarely win the maps. Having made consistent improvement, I find my progress stalling and would really like to get some criticism of my play with a shadow game please.

Particular areas I think may need improvement are:
- My early game scouting – I’m never quite certain how far is too far to scout and the balance between too little and too much scouting
- When to start the first settler – I’ve tended towards as fast as possible but not infrequently find if I go early with my settler I’m troubled by barbs and if I wait I’ve lost all the good land
- The balance between building further cities and not destroying the economy – I get excited by the prospect of good land and settling new cities and can find I’m limping to writing and beyond
- Overall strategy choice – I’ve reigned in my builder habits considerably but my default strategies are to build another city if it’s possible and to try and win music -> cuirassiers but often with hindsight I realise I should have stopped building cities and focused tech on an earlier war
- War tactics and picking a target

I’ve posted a deity map because, whilst my fundamentals could definitely be improved on at lower difficulties, I find that the lower difficulty levels are too forgiving in terms of early game expansion and ability to recover from poor early game strategy. If the consensus is I should post a non-deity game I’d be happy to reconsider and despite it being deity I’d welcome input from all levels of player.

My aim would be to play quite short turn sets (5-10T) particularly in the early game and upload screenshots/updated save about once or twice a day.

Spoiler The map is deity, pangea, NHNE: :

I rolled a random leader and got Brennus. His traits are good but I’m overreliant on creative, expansive and imperialistic so I’m happy it’s not one of those or financial/philosphical.

Spoiler Here’s the start: :

Spoiler Looking at the demographics, I think Mansa is in the game. I’ve never learnt how to draw anything truly useful from the rest of the demographics. :

Spoiler Initial thoughts: :
I'm inclined to head to settle on the PH, 2N of the gems, keeping the rice and gems and ditching 7 coast tiles. It's no quicker for improving the rice than SIP but keeps the PH bonus thereafter and I like moving inland on pangea to claim territory. Realistically this kills the eastern clam as the setup cost of a single tile island city on pangea is likely too high but I think I'm happy with that. The west clam could still be claimed by a city 1E of rice if needed.

The PH 3N of the settler would preserve both clams but I suspect losing the ability to work the gems tile probably until third/fourth city might not be the best plan particularly with weak starting techs?

SIP is OK but burns a clam, there's a lot of coast and that island tile that I'd likely never improve. 1E loses a turn and gains even more coast.

My plan pending further advice is to move scout N, NW and unless something really good revealed on the northern PH, to settle 2N1W of starting settler position.

Delay tech choice for first 5 turns but almost certainly, Ag->mining->?BW


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Oh nice, Brennus is such a fun leader to play with!
Spi is comfortable and allows for some crazy civic-fiddling later on, and the early happy from CHA is always nice.
Have had so many fun games with CHA since it adds spice to both HA rushes and allows for much faster CR2 catapults.

I think you have missed a fine detail about city placement, which I was oblivious for many years about too.
If you settle in place here you CAN settle a city on that island.
When cities are on different landmasses, they can apparantly be closer to each other than otherwise allowed.

I would too aim at settlement on the PH 2N of the gems, but scout movements I would prioritize to rule out settlement on the PH 2N of the lake, that spot could be a candidate too depending on whats in the dark.
So maybe scout 1N then NE first, given that we have yet another move T1 to decide which hill to climb?

Agri->Mining seems very likely, gems will make all problems with early commerce evaporate (which is usually the main hurdle with the celts)
- My early game scouting – I’m never quite certain how far is too far to scout and the balance between too little and too much scouting

I do too... Often need to remind myself to not be too greedy about aquiring information.
I try to keep the clear goal in mind, find the second city spot and keep it safe. More scouting can come when that goal is achieved.

- When to start the first settler – I’ve tended towards as fast as possible but not infrequently find if I go early with my settler I’m troubled by barbs and if I wait I’ve lost all the good land
This depends on so much so it's hard to give general advice. So many subtle things that change the dynamic altogeher. Gems here for example tilts things abit more in favour of earlier settler imho.

- The balance between building further cities and not destroying the economy – I get excited by the prospect of good land and settling new cities and can find I’m limping to writing and beyond
Well... it's fun to overexpand too. I like being close to 0% slider. Claiming land is almost always the conservative choice since it's never wrong. It's just that there might be more efficient paths... Staying lean and then aquiring much more and already developed land through conquest.

Buffy5 starting save with barb techs added.


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I’d probably move the scout on the plains hill 2N 1W and then make a decision. If I couldn’t see anything interesting, I’d probably settle in place because - I think - two turns of moving plus an extra turn to get to the rice means the rice would be improved on the same turn despite 12 turn worker. I know you get an extra hammer for the rest of the game but you risk having a capital with just a wet rice to power growth and that hammer is at by far its most significant for the first worker. Also, despite it being a pangea, I’d be thinking about GLH, with at least two islands seemingly reserved just for you and gems to power the tech detour. That may be a terrible idea on deity given the need to block land, but I’d like to leave it open.

Obviously anything exciting seen from the hill and ditch the GLH and settle for that. I’d just want to know the answer to that before moving my settler so I’d move the scout straight to the PH.
Perfecly valid considerations from @Mr_Trotsky too!
If it where not for the gems, I would have held onto the clam+lake for dear life, that added commerce can be the differance between night and day.
But with gems, thats not needed.
And food-wise, it's not like a capital on the hill 2N of the gems would be food deprived, there are at least 4 farmable grasslands just around that lake.
A city 1E of the rice can take the clam eventually, with the aid of capital culture too.

GLH might be a neat option, but I think the odds for that are low, still good to keep the option open and think about it though!
@5tephen apart from the Mansa Musa thing with demographics, you can now learn the second most useful thing that I know of about demographics.
Take a screenshot at demographics when the AIs have settled their capital, but before creative AIs pop borders. (So T1), that will give you info about how many land tiles the AIs have.
From that, it's often possible to deduce how many AIs which start coastal, and if there is none at all, then GLH might be good here since it won't have to be breakneck-rushed!
Thank you both for some really helpful suggestions and insights. I didn't know about the island settling thing and the clams debate is really helpful as even without the gems my default thought would have been PH settle - it came up on the other thread how much the community has shifted towards PH settling and perhaps I'm now so keen on it that I don't think enough about the downsides - in this case losing the commerce and some food.

I think I'm going to go with the PH settle. Sadly I can't exploit the demographics hack for TGL until after I've made the decision to not settle by the clams...

Spoiler Moving the scout 1N reveals :
Nothing! Moving the settler suggests I'm on a peninsula and might well kill more seafood but at this point I think I'm committed to the PH as alternative options are going back or some sort of high risk gamble of moving the settler on that blue circle and hoping I haven't done that just to find a whale...

Spoiler End of turn 1 :
Strictly speaking not the end of the turn as I haven't moved the scout yet but nice to see elephants in the BFC - should be good for happiness this game with charasmatic, gems and ivory!

I think the next scout move should be 2N (via the unforested plains tile) to start scouting along the river but maybe I should go east a bit first and loop round?
@5tephen Elephants is superb good news! Jumbos are incredibly strong.
Capital looks nice, will be able to reach pop9 with a monument.

I would probably have moved my scout up like you suggested, but now that you say it. It does look like scout will move in a wide counterclockwise arc, so it does make some sense to check out that potential city#2 spot 1E of rice first. Maybe there is fish and whale there?
You can post demographics from T2 or so, and I can tell you how to calculate if you like.
Spoiler Demographics :
I confess, I forgot to screenshot turn 1 demographics and had to reload to get them up but as a learning exercise this doesn't seem a disaster...
Spoiler Turn 1 demographics :
Spoiler Turn 3 demographics :
My really amateur attempt at reading that suggests that at least 1 AI has an almost exclusively coastal capital.

Spoiler Turn 3 exploration :
Sadly no whale! On the plus side no quadruple fish lost by going to the PH...

Met Charlemagne on T2, he had a scout NE of the northern clam. It's his second scout you can see in the screenshot. Is it too conservative to park the scout 1S of pigs to fogbust the south and aim for a city between pigs, clams and bananas? I could move my first warrior there after worker is done to free up the scout for more scouting. The city site is good without being amazing (would probably start with mining the grassland hill to build a workboat whilst teching AH which is all very slow) and Charlie must be really close - might I regret not exploring a bit more? With a close imperialistic neighbour I'm very keen to go for settler ASAP at size 2 to avoid getting boxed in. Otherwise, once borders pop, a warrior on that jungle peninsula would prevent barb pathfinding to my capital I think.

Spoiler :

I don't think there can be any difference between T1 and T2. T3 though can be quite different since thats when creative AIs pop borders.
Rival best has 8000 square km, thats 8 land tiles under culture, including cities themselves.
8 tiles is almost always a city by a lake, which is a common source of freshwater which the AIs almost always start with.

Rival worst has 3 land tiles, so thats almost certainly a coastal capital. If we had a coastal capital and where aiming for GLH, thats bad news...
Thats 2 of the 6 rivals you have... What can we deduce of the others?
Their average is 6.166 land tiles each. (All 6 of them).
So the 4 unknown we set to x. They in total have 6*6.166 = 37 land tiles.
The equation is then 37 = 8 + 4x + 3. Or 6.5 tiles each for the 4 in the middle of the pack.
I would estimate that to be at least 2 but possibly 3 AIs with a coastal capital.
Very bad news for GLH!

That the land changes from T2 -> T3 tells you that there is creative AIs in the game, and up to 11 land tiles looks weird since a full BFC is 21 tiles, so there is likely a creative AI that has a coastal capital.

There are other stuff to gaze in the tealeaves of demographics too, but it's more of a fun metagame than something really useful. :D
The mansa Musa trick, and this to estimate chances for GLH are the two most usefull tricks I know of.

Spoiler :

I don't think it's too conservative. I would park the scout there and let it stand there forever. Once you have a warrior pair they can push out through the jungle safely.
Imagine the horror if a barb archer would spawn in your east there!
Thats also your best city#2 spot so far, either by the piggies (although Charly is likely to grab that if he is that close). Or 1E of the rice.
It's no catastrophe if you get boxed in with 2 cities here, you have a very generous happycap and access to ivory.

Size2 settler might be rushing things too much... At pop2 you have 4 (city center) + 3 (rice) + 1 (gems) = 8 toward a settler. Thats 13 turns.
If you add a mine to that at pop3, you get the settler build down to 10 turns.

Techpath thoughts?
I’d be tempted to venture a bit further towards the river to see if you can meet someone else and get a bit more of a discount on agriculture. Should also be able to find out if the river offers anything more interesting than the pig/clam spot and, if not, get back over there to fog bust in decent time.

I tend to find that Charlie often gets to four cities before I’ve built a settler so I’d like to have a bit more info on possible city sites and how close he is so I could get a feel as to how quick I need to be. Maybe that could be done with the first warrior though.

And barbs are the number one cause of death for my civs so perhaps not the best person to be giving advice.

Disappointing to find elephants and then meet vassalage loving feudalism beelining protective Charlie. Hopefully they’ll be someone a bit more accommodating nearby!
Not an easy decision..while that spot could become important, scouts are really good with discovering everything if they move 1 step only on most turns.
With gems & hunting, Archery isn't too expensive if an annoying barb blocks progress later.
If you fogbust early i would replace him with a warrior once built, scouts are just so much better at not dying (unless too much jungle) ;)
From what you can see so far I’d settle 2nd city 1SW of the pigs, I don’t see much benefit in pushing out further. Animal husbandry before bronze working is fine here I think, with gems and farms / mines to build in capital (without chopping).

I don’t like 1E of rice for a second city. Capital can’t share rice and any 2nd city that needs a border pop to get its food is bad news.
Yes, 1E of rice is not good.
I think Charly will steal the piggies, his scout was just up there T2 so his capital is very close. He has scouted it and it's quite a resource cluster. So except for the pigspot, the clam rice-sharing is the best there is. Not good but best.

Fastest possible second city I think is achieved by going Agri->TW, farming rice, camping elephant and then roading toward piggies.
Might be worth it to postpone mining and the gems.
Yes, 1E of rice is not good.
I think Charly will steal the piggies, his scout was just up there T2 so his capital is very close. He has scouted it and it's quite a resource cluster. So except for the pigspot, the clam rice-sharing is the best there is. Not good but best.

Ah I see, this makes more sense then. I would be hopeful of getting at least the pig it but you may well be right. Let’s see :)
Scout should probably make two more moves north east and then west in long strides before barbs start to spawn, Charlys scout is likely to go down and spawnbust the eastern area a while now anyway.
Spoiler Turn 4 :
Thanks for all the responses.

I met Pacal this turn - his scout was 2N of where my scout is in the screenshot. I put my points on him as he generally seems a competent techer although once I meet Mansa I will most likely change to him unless he's being destroyed by a war monger or something.

I've looked at the binary research tables Sampsa posted and sadly it appears that for my capital without any commerce tiles I'd need to meet one more AI on T5 to get a bonus :science: from AIs that know agriculture.

I think the demographics screen, lack of good location to chop it out and non-coastal capital mean Great Lighthouse is off the table even with the two islands.

Exploring the river with a bit of fog-gazing appears to show at least 3 floodplains. Last scout move before barbarians arrive will take the scout 2W from current location via the plains tile NW of current location.

T5 is going to be a big one for decision making as I'll need to commit to either fogbusting the floodplains with my scout or going back to the pigs. I'm slightly in favour of the pig area currently and then replacing the scout with my first warrior. Floodplain farms take a while to pay off whereas pig is super strong if we don't lose it to Charlie.

Regarding wheel before mining, I see the sense in getting settler to pig spot faster. Delaying the gems would delay AH, would delay the city being useful. Not sure which is best currently.

Regarding city location around the pig assuming it's not lost to Charlie. SW of pigs could cottage a fair bit of grassland. SE of pigs keeps option open of a city on silk/1N of silk to share the pigs, gets coastal access to keep option open of later cities around the southern clams site, possibly reduces the chances of Charlie stealing the pigs from the city by putting his own city 1N of clams, and would be quite good for fogbusting by claiming that mountain. If I went mining, AH, fishing I could probably justify the extra maintenance of going further east.

Last interesting bit of information is that the grassland hills west of capital have freshwater meaning that's probably a lake to the west.

Spoiler T4 screenshot :
I think TW before mining is bonkers with gems waiting to be mined, but I do think it's the fastest possible city2, thats why I pointed it out.
Agree on scout movement. Capial culture would reveal abit up there, but the only alternative for the scout it to fgo further north but that doesn't look interesting.
Keep safe distance to the jungle with the poor scout so no evil panther eats him.
Cool. Definitely agriculture -> mining then. I'll be really careful with the scout - losing the starting unit in the very early game is a really big deal IMO.
Spoiler Turn 5 scouting :
We have stone. Not sure it's too relevant. Pyramids are obviously great but I'm not flushed with high food city sites or vast swathes of forest to chop and with jungle to the east and Charlie to the west I think I probably need to be focusing on catapults rather than wonders?

It looks like my foggazing skills leave a bit to be desired as those are clearly riverside grassland, not floodplains tiles :blush:
Spoiler :

Spoiler Turn 7 update :
Well no need to worry further about how to optimise settling of that pigs site... Charlie settles his second city in between turns - moving my scout back to fogbust has set back my exploration.

Capital culture removes fog for quite a nice area. In the east I think there's only one tile that can spawn a barbarian. Charlie seems to build TGW quite a bit in my games which could be a nuisance.

All jungle to the south west. I think I need to get my scout up to explore the river west of wine.

I feel a real time pressure for city 2 and 3. Imperialistic neighbour this close tends to end badly with me losing all the land. I'm thinking I should go warrior whilst growing to work gems, move warrior to fogbust the SE corner, start settler at size 2. Research BW -> fishing or the other way round after mining to ensure the second city can work the lake as soon as it's founded. Probably go for city 2, 1E of rice so as not to get squeezed out of my own back yard. So far, third city might go W of the floodplain which could be farmed but this seems a bit mediocre.
Spoiler :
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