Primarily a meta strategy post with references to ALC 22: Take 2. Contains untagged spoilers. This map was ridiculous. Not only do you have stone in the first city, horses as well (before needlessly moving), but two sources each of copper, gold, and gems within your next two cities, ivory (plus a third copper, in case you . .. .. .. .ed up twice before) within the fourth. Oh and all of these cities are on rivers. I’ve probably forgotten some advantage but there are too many to count. Really, there’s not a better set of initial resources imaginable. They’re all pre-calendar, and the only ones missing are furs and silver which are found in tundra, and that’s a bad thing. Map is GAMED out. Your neighbors are 1)behind the second most choke-able mountain range imaginable, 2)jungle, 3)far away with room for 3 or so quality cities. Meanwhile, you are sitting just south of the continent’s landmass, meaning you have all the room you could ever want to expand. But of course, only a silly person would worry about settling it when your opponents are so weak and easily conquered. So you conquer the continent while teching to astronomy so you can grab that extra 6% territory you need to win. Your caravel exploration reveals the second place player has 50% of your score because he was limited to four cities on his starting landmass (though he crammed 6 in there). You discover Montezuma has been picking on Hatshepsut his whole life and so both of them are fighting over a landmass the size of your backyard. And those are your opponents. The whole game, no one stood a chance. So, if you play the game sensibly, you will kick everyone’s ass and finish the game circa 1734, the earliest ALC win ever. This will be your highest score ever, somewhere in the range of 128243. You will experience several firsts in this game due to your unimaginably favorable starting circumstances. You will: use trebuchets against archers(not longbows); you will war the ENTIRE game, never having complete peace past like 3000 BC, and your culture slider will never pass 20%; you will destroy two civilizations before you have the technology to even accept their capitulation; you will use the Oracle for Civil Service, you will finish the game as the only civilization with Education and a higher score than the sum of all your rivals. Yes, that is how badly you will dominate them. As for me I, this is the first time I built Notre Dame and the University of Sankore (okay, second time), but only because I didn’t have anything else for my cities to build since the current conquest could be finished with the units I’d already built. I built my first woodsman III, medic III, morale unit (as a non-charismatic, non-aggressive, and non-Aztec leader); had a spot for the National Park with more than 5 forests; played the whole game with a smile on my face, hoping the AI would defeat my units with 95% odds so that I had to make some tough choices at some point. And you’ll do all this amazing stuff without short-changing your end game. You’ll have a well-developed cottage empire (meaning the transition between specialists has been completed, and you didn’t farm everything at biology to game your score), be building levies and Iron works , and another great person arriving in 21 turns in case you feel like a fourth golden age. You’ll have the second place player surrounded by enough Frigates to sink all his ships and blockade all his ports the turn you declare war. You’ll wonder if you could launch before 1800. Then you’ll laugh when you see the replay and realize that Zara, who you wiped off the map as early as 100something AD, was around for almost half your game. How’re you gonna do all this? Stop pretending Civ4 is a complicated game and start pretending it’s simple. There’s a lot to be distracted with. But at its core it’s a game about beating the AI, and you can always do that with more land. Land. Land. LAND! Land is power, as Future Hermit’s signature notes. It’s funny, because in Civ2, Civ3, and for a couple weeks on these boards with Civ4, people would have thought such a statement to be a useless cliché. No . .. .. .. . land is power. Initially, a lot of strategy threads here were aimed to show traditional players the kinds of crazy things you could do in Civ4 like create Superscience cities, bulb to liberalism, and more recently wonderspamed capitals, all which could do the same things a large empire could in a smaller package. “Great,” I thought, “more tools for the toolbox.” Fast forward to the present day, where a person with no prior Civilization experience reads a few threads arguing about exotic FE EEs, beating wonder addiction then wonderspamming, REXing and the so-called economy. How are they supposed to make heads or tails of it all? There has been a loss of basic understanding of where success in Civ comes from. Leader traits. Unique buildings. Unique units. Leverage. It’s all . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Financial leaders with a small free market empire can win some games. Kudos. But any leader with more hammers and beakers will win every game. Does anyone remember what land looks like? It looks like power. This is the Don’t . .. .. .. . Around (DFA) Economy. From the beginning: Plan on winning before corporations, biology, or state property have any significant impact on the output of your cities. Don’t plan on getting to any techs first, and don’t plan on building any wonders. This way you’ll be flexible, which is just another way of saying you’re making strategic decisions based on what the game gives you, not while you were on a forum. This does not mean do not discover techs first and do not build wonders. The game will dictate which ones you get to first and build. Expect to settle in place, for godsakes. Play the map, not the leader. The ALC’s have done a good job showing the different approaches leaders can take to utilize their unique buildings, units, and traits. However, it’s done a horrendous job showing you how you can be the most successful in the given circumstances because of its self-imposed handicap. As we’ve seen, “leveraging mysticism” for an early religion can be a bad idea. I’m just waiting for Sisitul to follow advice and “leverage protective” to invite disaster. “Come pillage my . .. .. .. . please, I’ve got PROTECTIVE ARCHERS.” It would be case and point in DON’T PLAY YOUR LEADER. While playing: Treat rival civs like rivals. They’re there. In your way. And sometimes they’re more powerful so you have to court their opinion. But never forget you’re competing for victory, so in the early game when they pose no threat: steal their workers and always choke them when they have a forested hill adjacent to their city. Yes, a single warrior will halt their expansion. Eventually they’ll attack when they have a huge surplus of archers, but they will never attack your territory before that warrior is dead. If you aren’t committed to the choke because other priorities have come up, then make peace at that point. If you are committed to it—possibly because it’s Montezuma and you’re not sure peace is so easy to achieve—you will have archery or bronze working before this happens. And guess what? Even if you don’t, your warrior dies, and you expect an attack, all you have to do is repark on the hill and the choke begins anew. Easy peasy. Once you have catapults it’s over for the choked civilization. Entirely dead, having built no cities or units better than archers. A beautiful capital all to yourself, plus all the space the civ never settled. This alone can win a game for you. After discovering Zara Yakob’s capital position I captured his first worker, and set up base in the forests. He is not actually choked since he can move archers out without leaving his capital threatened, but when he sees his settler adjacent to an enemy unit he sends him back to the capital, again and again. Even with 3 archers for protection. Occasionally he’d move archers out into the unforested surrounding land, which became a Chariot and later Axemen training camp. I had my first Great General before I even went for his capital. Invade opponents as soon as possible. Deciding when an invasion is possible is a tough decision that comes from experience. You need to anticipate the kind of resistance you’ll face, determine how long your tech lead or parity will last, and predict who will be brought into the war against you while you wage it. That said, if you think it’s possible, invade. Waiting only burns turns where the AI decreases your opportunity. In the current ALC people are advising Sisitul to settle away from his opponents instead of war. If the opponents represent a dominant threat this indeed is better than nothing. But when you have the advantage, you need to use it to take land away from your opponents. Cultivate allies for trading only when they’re not going to be a threat or victim anytime soon. Your primary concern is making the AI lose though, so don’t forget it while prancing around like a diplomat. Brain ‘sploding nonsense break: Don't be to bold, Fake an all out attack: then run like HEEEL only in the hopes of having the enemy follow you into a waiteing ambush, While playing (continued): Do it now not later. When you’re not capitalizing on an advantage like having early axes vs. archers, or catapults vs. archers, you should be expanding as fast as you can. The goal of any new player should be to expand so fast his research tanks and he has to learn to climb out of a tech hole. With experience you will be better able to judge how far away each new city is going to put Writing, Code of Laws, and Currency--the techs most important for improving your early research rate. My impression is that too many players err on the side of being small and stable, instead of being sprawling and struggling. I guess it’s a choice between risking a loss in the late game or a loss in the early game. If you get through the early stages and get the kinds of technology that enable larger empires, you’ll be set for whatever you wish to do in the later game. Which should be to expand more. Teching to Construction was my primary directive so that I could finish Zara off. However, when choked, an enemy civ practically doesn’t exist, so my meanwhile goal was to build axes and use them to conquer the barbarians settling in my backyard. I had blocked Roosevelt in such a way that he was forced to settle all the jungle on the map, but I didn’t want him to capture actually decent spots from barbarians. Expanding to great city locations (since the map surrounded my capital with them) while building Axemen only increases the advantage I have over the real rival civs Roosevelt and Suryavarman II since I’m prioritizing Construction and will reach it in time to use catapults before they get Longbows. Improve your land as per your current needs. Don’t worry about superspecial mega SE CE GPPfarm. If your city site has lots of hills and the food to support working them, build mines. You will have a slower tech rate, but be able to produce more troops. Early in the game this can mean an early invasion which is good. On the other hand, if many of your sites are grassland--which produce specialists and commerce--make farms or cottages and plan to rush through the techs until you have a technological lead. At almost every point your goal should be getting an advantage in technology or production so you can attack your rivals and use their land for yourself. As you become a more experienced player you’ll get into the habit of specializing cities for more efficiency. However, at no point should you try to run an economy. Do not run an economy. Economies do not exist in Civ4. Maintenance, beakers, and coins are not an economic system. Just improve your cities optimally, giving yourself more hammers, specialists, or cottages (long term investment) whenever that’s what you need. If you have the Pyramids and don’t run specialists in your early game you’re stupid or trying to make a point. Farms and scientists were my early emphasis, but I started cottaging the capital once the happy cap grew beyond just food tiles and hills in preparation for Bureaucracy. Civil service came surprisingly early. I expected to miss a chance at the Oracle since I was building Axes to garrison, control barbarians, and hopefully block all of Zara’s archers in. I teched to Code of Laws manually. Still discovering no one had built it, I decided to try for it, if only because my hammer needs were waning and my need for research (via wonder failure coins) increased. It finished and I chose Civil Service, getting Bureaucracy early. Don’t ever plan or attempt to do this. Only the game can decide to giveit to you. After cottaging the capital I also cottaged the shrine city, and gradually all my cities bit by bit. The specialist approach is a boon to your early game, but I’m a cautious player and wasn’t expecting to have a technology edge the entire time I was conquering the world, so mixing in some cottages is a good investment for the long term. Silly mistake, if I was smarter I’d have seen this map wasn’t going to have a long term. Things I did not leverage (for ultra early harbor bulb gambit): I was Saladin with Madrassas instead of Libraries. I built them wherever I would normally build libraries (virtually everywhere since they’re the cheapest +25% multiplier, except in very late production cities which have no need for culture). When I realized no one on my continent was founding a religion and the only two remaining were at Philosophy and Divine Right, I decided to use the coming Great Scientist to bulb Philosophy and thus would want a Great Prophet next. In the city producing the next GP after the Scientist I was able to switch to three priests instead of only one to increase my odds of popping a Prophet. I did not plan for this, mainly because I couldn’t know that no one on my continent would have interests in founding religion. But when the option is there (and only Divine Right is left to disrupt your mono-religious continent), it’s worth founding. I would never jeopardize expansion for a shrine. Expanding tends to net you those anyway. I have Camel Archers. They’re helpful. But I had prioritized Engineering to wage REAL--city-capturing, not-. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . pillaging--WAR, and so I ended up not getting Monarchy (map gave me stone in the capital, thus Pyramids and Representation), therefore had no Feudalism, thus had no Guilds, thus no Camel Archers. I would have loved to have them when Suryavarman II finally got Machinery and started building Crossbows everywhere (they have no counter without Knights, other than Horse Archers and other Crossbows which go 50/50 against them), but it was better to have Macemen and Trebs early to create a war machine. A diversion to Guilds would have only slowed my expansion. Capturing cities decreases the threat of your opponents more than killing his annoying units efficiently. I didn’t bother discovering Archery until after I had destroyed both Zara and Roosevelt, because I had copper. And horses. And Iron. I built those Protective MONSTERS from cities without Barracks to garrison old cities so I could send the Axemen garrisons off to battle. I built quite a few Crossbows to protect my Macemen/Trebuchet stacks, but gave them mostly Combat 1 to access Cover since I was fighting opposing Crossbows. Thanks City Garrison 1 and chance at a First Strike. Later, when invading Montezuma with Calvary, I garrisoned my captured cities with Drill promoted Riflemen because they could fend off the most Knights. The automatic Drill 1 promotion may have affected the outcome of a single battle. I suspect this did not matter. I built no walls or Castles, which is pretty much par for the course unless I am Spain and want Citadels. If I were a better player I would utilize production overflow to get in the cash, but I just play on Emperor, and rarely is there enough resistance that I can’t achieve my research goals without the extra gold. Lack of challenge = lazy, stupid player. As a spiritual leader, I have cheap temples! And I built a few of those since I was at war. I built the University of Sankore to deny it to my opponents (who I foolishly believed were on another continent with Paper) because I had a city with nothing else useful to produce, after which I built a lot more Temples, and much later Monasteries too. As a spiritual leader, I have no anarchy! But I didn’t do much flipping back and forth. In the early game I only ran Slavery when I needed to whip, and tried to remain in Tribalism. Later, I switched to Representation without anarchy, then adopted Bureaucracy without anarchy, then adopted Organized Religion without anarchy (anything is better than Shamanism), and didn’t touch anything for a very long time. I was expanding so rapidly that the +25% to buildings kept me improving cities very quickly (vertical expansion--which unfortunately doesn’t take from opponents the way horizontal does). When I had my continent totally to myself I researched Banking and the 4 pre-req techs I lacked, then went to Mercantilism and Free Speech (way late on this one). The game was completely won at this point, but I did it without anarchy. Final switches were to State Property and Free Religion because I had almost every building except for Aqueducts, Security Bureaus, and Intelligence Agencies in my commerce centers and wished to decrease the amount of time I had to adjust their queue by 25%. Without anarchy. Game was over about 5 turns later. Spiritual in this game saved me 6-10 turns total, with 3 of those possibly being significant to the overall flow of the game. I say this arbitrarily. The fact that I was Saladin didn’t matter in this game. In a game where less is handed to you on a silver platter you will probably need to search harder for a path to expansion. However, that is always determined first by the map, and secondarily by the leader. Always do what the map tells you to do, and when it gives you a choice or no-choice at all, do what your leader tells you to do. Things I leveraged: The map. My irrational hatred of CivFanatics lingo which serves to make me resist all but the most apparent strategical discoveries, e.g., when Zombie69 sez whip, I does it. When 400 people say to cottage everything, then 200 people say to farm everything, and Obsolete says build nothing but wonders, I default to mommy map. And maybe climb a tower and try to pick off a few people who are at the extremes of any trendy strategy. I am bad at: I was beaten to the Mausoleum of Maussollos, so my three golden ages amounted to 30 turns instead of 45. To be honest, I’m not altogether certain what I would have done with 15 more turns of golden age. I already built just about every building in every city, and so my invasion of Montezuma was mostly a tech bottleneck. Great People, if you’re expanding and not trying Exoticstrat 52, are best used for one academy, bulbing one or two techs along the Liberalism path, maybe one shrine or rushed wonder, and then golden ages. Golden ages. Switch all your citizens to hammer tiles, even at a food deficient. Win. I held out for Calvary to do most of my damage to Montezuma instead of massing Riflemen which would have actually ended the game sooner. I lost most of my initial invasion force from counterattacks by the Combat 3 Knights Montezuma was producing every three turns in his capital. Since Suryavarman II had no horses (though he appeared to beeline Guilds and Banking and didn’t get Civil Service until his last two cities), I had few Pikemen, and was assuming Montezuma would roll over and let me spank him too. My intercontinental invasion was rather inefficient. I can’t recall the last time I conducted an intercontinental invasion in the last couple _real life_ years which may explain why it took 100 turns to conquer all of Suryavarman II and land my force on Montezuma’s shores. For comparison, it took only 60 turns to destroy Roosevelt with my first army. Usually I set my goal at just winning and don’t care how soon--until my recent dissatisfaction with the ALC’s preoccupation with minutia and roleplaying which seems to be confusing some players—meaning space race > intercontinental invasions. I was too eager to move from specialists to cottages, which is good when you need to start envisioning your spaceship/tank endgame, but suboptimal when you’re ahead of the curve and can keep invading people with whatever technology you have laying around. I didn’t switch to Free Speech until my over-eager civics advisor prompted me to look at the big picture. I guess at least 30 turns were spent in suboptimal Bureaucracy. I am bad. The end: Focus on the basics: improving your land and making tech choices according to immediate needs. If you do that you’ll be better off than trying to apply what you read in the Wall Street Journal to Civ4. With experience you will develop habits that look like long-term planning and become a smarter player. But don’t start with long term planning. Just get’cho land, son. All this banter about CE vs SE and its 8 million cousins should only help inform your decision making, but not make it for you. In case I want to post in Strategy Articles: Certainly synergy and leverage are good tactics to employ in one’s meta strategy, but too often players focus on them rather than their metapurpose. Seeing the trees but not the forest. Mao Zedong. 1 gambit+1economy = disaster, etc. Chamfucius say, play like a goldfish. 15 second memory will optimally actualize your condition. A coin today is worth more than a coin tomorrow. Turn a turn advantage early and the late game will be decided. Bam. gran strategy.