Specialists and specialists economy, discussion/advice


Jun 29, 2006
"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." –Blaise Pascal

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the usefulness of specialists and the nature of specialist economies. Back when I first joined the forums, I recall members discussing the advantages and disadvantages of running a specialist economy (SE) vs. a cottage economy (CE). I was still learning the game and unfamiliar with specialists, but from what I gathered, SE tries to squeeze as much food out of tiles as possible and use it to run scientists. Several posters also suggested that SE was usually weaker than CE but made up for by strategically using great people. My impressionable young mind came to two conclusions:

1) An ideal SE has no cottages, instead opting for improvements that produce food.
2) SE is usually weaker than CE; in order to compete with cottages, SE needs the Pyramids for Representation.

I took these points to heart and tried a few cottage-less games, making sure to adopt Representation (via Pyramids) and Caste System ASAP. They were pretty successful games, but as I kept playing, I grew tired of building the Pyramids and also got so used to the Slavery civic that I had trouble switching to Caste System. So I dropped cottage-less SE like a hot potato.

Cut to the present, and I’ve fine-tuned my play style even more. Two important notes:
1) I don’t usually build wonders and like to instead use scientists in one or two food-rich cities to farm my first few great people.
2) I like to either wage early war or expand rapidly. Either way, my science slider is usually around 40-60% in the classical age, due both to city maintenance and an increased emphasis on production over commerce.

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about what to do with those great scientists. Build some academies and then maybe save one or two to lightbulb some expensive techs. But in a few of my recent games, I started thinking, “I can settle this great scientist in a city with a library and get +7.5 beakers/turn now, or I can settle it in a cottage city and get a larger bonus later on. The bonus for the academy right now would be small since the cottages aren’t developed and my science slider is running at a low percentage.” So I decided to settle it as a super specialist for an early boost. So when my second great scientist is born, where do you suppose I build the academy for him? The city with the super specialist already in it, of course. Incidentally, the city with the super specialist (and now an academy) was also one of the cities in which I had assigned scientist specialists.

Now my economy was by no means strong, but I noticed that as my science slider plunged further and further down (I didn’t have many cottages and the ones I did have weren’t very developed yet) that I was still producing a fair number of beakers per turn. It was only then that I came to understand something that I was already aware of but never really appreciated. By using the academy in conjunction with specialists and not cottages, I was able to make the most of the science multiplier. With a library and an academy, each of my scientists was producing 5.25 beakers/turn and each great scientist was producing 10.5 beakers/turn, regardless of whatever I was running my science slider at. On the other hand, with a 50% science slider, a town would produce 3.5 beakers and 2 gold. With only a library and no academy (reasonable assumption if you’re emphasizing cottage growth), that same town produces 2.5 beakers and 2 gold.

In that game, most of my commerce was getting diverted into gold (low science slider) for maintenance and civic upkeep, and most of my beakers were coming from specialists. I had stumbled by more-or-less an accident onto a sort of specialist economy, calling into immediate question the two assumptions I had made when I first heard about specialist economies. I did have cottages, which were important for paying upkeep, and while my economy wasn’t exactly thriving, it was at least competitive without having to build the Pyramids. Sure it would be a lot stronger with the Pyramids, but the point being that I could keep myself afloat without them.

I recall another thread about a so-called merchant economy that worked the opposite way. Instead of using cottages to pay maintenance and scientists to produce beakers at a low science slider, it used merchants to pay maintenance and keep the science slider high, then cottage the capital heavily in conjunction with bureaucracy for research. This idea also challenges my original assumptions; it does incorporate cottages and doesn’t need the Pyramids. Also, you can use merchants to maximize gold multipliers the same way that scientists can be used to maximize beaker multipliers.

So I guess the discussion is, maybe there are situations in which SE is not only viable, but perhaps preferable to CE, and situations where specialists are better than cottages. Thoughts? Suggestions? Advice on how to make SE work? This is probably basic stuff for some of you, but I’d like to hear your input. :p
CE is nice but the inflation eats it quickly... also cottages can be sabotaged by terrorists and it takes ages when your cottage grows upto town again. But farm doesn't evolve by time... it has always +1 food or +2 with biology. The only downside is when you fail pyramids, Sistine Chapel, Statue of Liberty... then your strategy will be weaker... CE doesn't need wonders. But ofcourse CE works well with Financial leaders while SE is good with Philosophical/Expansive ones.
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