Strategy advice

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Sep 12, 2006
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I seem to be stagnating at the Noble level of play, and I'm sure that my strategy choices are to blame, although in reading advice on this tip or that, information is often contradictory and "it depends". I thought what I would do is post "what I do", what my strategy currently is, and see if you veterans and experts who win effortlessly on Emperor and such, can locate the fundamental flaws and let me know:

1) First city, my sequence is "worker, archer, archer, settler". Rationale is that the archer is stronger than warrior, more likely to survive animal and barbarian attacks, and it'll be longer into the game before I have to replace them.

2) Initial tech path: archery (see above), unless I start with Mysticism and the recommendation screen is "offering up" Meditation or Polytheism (suggesting to me that I have a good chance of discovering Buddhism or Hinduism right off the bat). If the worker gets built before I have Archery, I switch to Settler for a while and swap back to archers when I get Archery.

3) Warrior or scout explore in a spiral, progressively exposing land in concentric circles out from my capitol. Once all land within a reasonable radius is exposed (all land that would make sense to colonize in the near-term), I set them to auto-explore, and when they get killed (inevitable), no big deal.

4) Early era techs: I try to get all the "basics" first before bee-lining, that is, Bronze and Iron working, Masonry, Writing, etc. My first bee-line is Code of Laws, where 9 times out of 10 I pop Confucianism in one of my expansion cities (which helps later on, to have a holy city outside the capitol, because it allows me to build Wall Street there while the capitol usually burns its two wonders on Oxford and National Epic). After Code of Laws I try to get the math-driven techs like Currency, Construction, and usually Calendar as well, allowing some decent infrastructure and synergy, not to mention CATAPULTS, which allows the taking of cities without wasting 3/4 of my army each time (by bombarding the city defenses first).

5) Last two techs I research (or trade for) before racing to Liberalism, are Civil Service (to allow the Nationalism slingshot) and Machinery (to allow macemen--keep the army viable on the field while neglecting other medieval military techs like Engineering and Feudalism).

6) City placement strategy: first I try to go for the max combination of food and hammers, regardless of resources, and I try extremely hard to make this be on a RIVER. This city is my first "Ironworks candidate", and also for that reason I try to leave forests intact as much as possible there. Then I build at least two cities that are "resource grabbers", maximizing whatever resources they can work in their fat cross. If I have the Organized trait or some other that allows larger than usual (or faster than usual) expansion, I'll go into "REX mode" and blast out as many cities as I can, no matter how low the slider dips (minimum 0%). Otherwise the slider's normally at 60% or 50% after 5 cities, and I stop there. (Meanwhile, and this angers me to no end, the AIs are blasting out dozens of cities EVERYWHERE, at no apparent cost to their economy!!!) Shortly after this time I try to get at least one city on a coast, preferably one on each coast if the map allows it. (Helps later when it's time to circumnavigate.)

7) During the Liberalism race, my capitol is building as many wonders as possible, with preference to those that give Engineer points, as the Engineers allow rush-builds of yet more wonders; and Prophets so that I can build shrines in any holy cities I have. Pyramids I normally can't get to, but I get Great Wall about 50% of the time, Oracle about 40% of the time, Hanging Gardens about 75% of the time, and Chichen Itza about 90% of the time. Worst games ever I still usually get HG and Chich, and... lots of gold, LOL. Meanwhile the other cities are all building improvement buildings, except for one designated unit-builder which is keeping the cities reasonably defensible, units up to date, aggressive neighbors deterred, etc. This doesn't always work, and sometimes a neighbor declares war, in which case I switch cities to unit production (except the capitol which keeps on wonder-building).

8) If I am defending in a medieval war, it usually sends me way far behind other civs tech-wise, because my cities switched to military roles, however, I tend to recoup this deficit by prevailing in the war, taking a lot of enemy cities, and greatly expanding my empire. The slider goes low, of course, but 30% of a huge number of cities still brings in the beakers (and in the early era my economy is "specialist based"--farms and specialists), and I start to catch up tech-wise.

9) If I'm lucky (about half the time), I didn't get attacked while on the Liberalism-race, and get to pop Nationalism, and build Taj Mahal. During the Golden Age, I play catch-up to some of the basic techs I left behind, like Monarchy, Feudalism, Engineering, try to trade for some smaller ones like Monotheism, Alphabet, etc., and then I go for every tech I'll need to build Cavalry: horseback riding, gunpowder, and then Military Tradition. At that point it's pretty much "game over" for all the neighbors I have on my continent: I build stacks of macemen escorted for force-protection by Cavs, supplemented by Trebuchets, and... the AIs can never really defend well enough to avoid total conquest. Sometimes they can delay it, but they can never survive it. Here again the slider goes painfully low as the expansion gets pretty rapid, but it creeps back up eventually in the post-war rebuilding era.

10) During my conquest phase I try to go for Chemistry, Rifling, and Steel, and usually I'm finishing up the conquest with just 4 unit types in-queue: Cavs, Grens, Riflemen, and Cannons. Usually the AIs are defending with Knights, Longbows, Pikes, and Musketmen, and... they lose. (Sometimes the victory is pyrhhic though!)

11) After my conquest phase starts winding down, I go for the coal and Railroad techs, then race to Plastics. This is a risk because the AIs are on a different race, to Rocketry (so they can get an early start on Apollo, and of course, ARTILLERY, which eats my lunch if they get that when I'm still trying to field Industrial era units!) But the payoff if I get there first is that it allows me to build Three Gorges Dam, and now my huge empire all has electrical power without nasty coal plants or dangerous nuke plants (everywhere I couldn't build on a river that is). Along the way, since I also often get to Assembly Line first, this also allows me to build the Pentagon about 3/4 of the time.

12) Military strategy in the post-conquest era has all cities but one going to an economic focus, and my West Point city building modernization units (Infantry, and after Industrialization, Marines and Tanks, etc.) for each of my city garrisons and regional "reaction stacks" (counteroffensive stacks to confront invading stacks--heavy on cannons [still no artillery yet!] but also Marines to kill invading Artillery and Tanks to kill... everything!).

13) After I hit Plastics, for cleanup I usually grab Democracy (get that Emancipation civic I normally lag on), Biology (to allow better land use), and then johnny-come-lately I go for Artillery and Rocketry. Any wonder along the way that can be builts, I usually try to get it via the Ironworks city (otherwise it's a lost cause--e.g., Broadway, only way to get it is at the Ironworks city!)

14) After Rocketry I bee-line to Robotics, then to Satellites, to allow Space Elevator. This usually lets me catch up to the overseas AIs in building the space ship. Then I mainly go for all the other space ship techs, typically Fusion first (to pop the Engineer), then Genetics (for health), and then last, Ecology. I organize space ship production pretty efficiently across my production cities, and usually win Space Race.

The above strategy gets me a win on Noble about 90% of the time, however, I seem to be stagnating or even drifting downward on points. I don't like being compared to Neville Chamberlain or Herbert Hoover, and thinking I can go from there to the next higher level in Civ. I want to get a strategy that's surefire, not just to win, but to win BIG, at that level, just to know it's viable at the higher levels.

Comments?
 
I'll just start with the first 2. Myself I can win almost all the time at Prince in Warlords lose almost all the time at Monarch in Warlords, and Monarch BTS is yet to be determined.

See what you starting techs are. Warriors do fine at the beginning an can later be sent off exploring and killed at your convenience. If you start with hunting, archery is not a bad idea. If you start with mining, go BW first. If you start agric and hunting, go AH. If you start on the coast with seafood, go fishing if you do not have it.

I build a worker if they have something useful to do, like building roads, mines, farms from the get go. Starting with Isabella sort of makes worker first useless. Also if you start with fishing and a seafood resource, build a workboat. Nothing wrong with going warrior/worker/warrior/settler.

Play your start to it's advantages.
 
1) First city, my sequence is "worker, archer, archer, settler". Rationale is that the archer is stronger than warrior, more likely to survive animal and barbarian attacks, and it'll be longer into the game before I have to replace them.

2) Initial tech path: archery (see above), unless I start with Mysticism and the recommendation screen is "offering up" Meditation or Polytheism (suggesting to me that I have a good chance of discovering Buddhism or Hinduism right off the bat). If the worker gets built before I have Archery, I switch to Settler for a while and swap back to archers when I get Archery.

I play BTS Prince - I didn't read the whole strategy you outlined (I will later), but I wanted to make a quick comment.

I personally don't like archery - I think it's a waste of time to research. Archers are pretty useless attacking against anything other than warriors and maybe other archers. Granted there's a city defense bonus associated with them, but for the money I'd go for BW and AH and see if I could hook up those resources for axemen, spearmen, and chariots, and use those for my city defense. They will protect your land from pilliaging much more effectively than archers. If I didn't have access to either copper or horses, then I might grudgingly go for archery.

Most games I will usually backfill archery by trading for it after I've researched alphabet.
 
I personally don't like archery - I think it's a waste of time to research. Archers are pretty useless against anything other than warriors and other archers. Granted there's a city defense bonus associated with them, but for the money I'd go for BW and AH and see if I could hook up those resources for axemen, spearmen, and chariots, and use those for my city defense. They will protect your land from pilliaging much more effectively than archers. If I didn't have access to either copper or horses, then I might grudgingly go for archery.

I guess my penchant for archer city defenders it partially due to it relieving me from the urgency of getting BW and copper right away "OR DIE", and also, I've ONLY ONCE seen a barbarian axeman ever beat any archer defending a city, even an archer without promotions--and the one time I did see it, the archer had no promotions and was slightly damaged from a recent attack.

I do supplement the archers with "one of each" of the other units later on, when I get iron and/or copper: axeman to kill swords; chariot to kill axemen, etc.

On the flipside, if I were defending with axemen, they could switch from defense to offence when resources within 2 squares of a city are in danger of plundering. Something for me to consider there, since I could get more bang-for-buck that way in my defensive forces.

Update--I do, however, remember having a very bad time of it once when I relied on axemen for defense and Brennus threw huge stacks of CHARIOTS at me. Not good... at... all... *sigh*

Militarily I've found rounded out balance of a little of everything is best when it can be managed.
 
There is no "perfect" strategy .. it depends on the kind of map, civilization you're playing, resources nearby, opponent number and location and so on. However, the only thing that stands out to me in your strategy is the fact that you build archers. Unless you play with aggressive AI on or raging barbs, you should not build archers or research this tech as there are better things to grab early on.

My usual (80% of the time) build sequence is warrior, worker, warrior, settler.
Usually when I build a worker, my city is size 2 and size 3 when I build the settler. If you start with a warrior on normal setting, you can replace the second warrior with a scout. Do not build a worker if there is no land he can improve to significantly increase early growth (if you did not research required worker techs or the start is rich in seafood but no land resources). In that second case, a workboat is a good first build, even before the first warrior. If you see a really amazing location for your second city (like 2 gold mines, ivory, and a corn resource) right at the start and are afraid it may be taken (lots of neighbors), then even building a settler before a worker is a viable strategy. As for later on, there are simply too many strategies to cover but I'll give you a few tips.

1) Go to war ASAP. The longer you wait, the more you'll need to invest because the power of the AI gets proportionately larger compared to you. 4 troops vs. 2 is a big advantage for you while 104 vs. 102 is barely any advantage at all. If you have a neighbor nearby, rush with 10-12 axeman to secure some good land unless that opponent is Egypt, Native Americans, Babylon or another civ that can counter axes easily. The latest first war is a classical era war with swordsmen, lots of cats and some war elephants if you have ivory; otherwise bring a few axes/spears along too as a cover. When the AI gets longbowmen, they are much tougher to crack until you reach industrialism (tank vs. SAM or regular infantry is highly in your favor).

2) If a unit is obsolete and you do not have money to upgrade, disband the unit to reduce your maintenance. Having archer in your cities when AI's have cavalry is the same as having nothing. Either upgrade your archers to riflemen or disband them and build riflemen!!

3) You do not always need to beeline liberalism. If you isolated or have no trading partners, beeline optics. If your enemies are strong militarily, beeline gunpowder or military tradition.

4) Do not build too many world wonders. Build more military and you'll be amazed at the results. Your score will not be as inflated by wonders, but you will instead be able to take advantage of more territory and population in the long run as a result of conquest. Out of the ones you listed, avoid Chichen Itza and Hanging Gardens. Most of the time , you do not need those.

5) National wonders are very useful. Build Oxford in highest beaker city, Wall Street in highest commerce city, Ironworks in highest production city unless you have a good reason not to. National Epic in highest GP city, Heroic Epic in best Military city and so on.

Anyways, people on these forums know a lot of things and I learned a whole lot here myself. Happy Civving!!! :)
 
I guess my penchant for archer city defenders it partially due to it relieving me from the urgency of getting BW and copper right away "OR DIE", and also, I've ONLY ONCE seen a barbarian axeman ever beat any archer defending a city, even an archer without promotions--and the one time I did see it, the archer had no promotions and was slightly damaged from a recent attack.

I do supplement the archers with "one of each" of the other units later on, when I get iron and/or copper: axeman to kill swords; chariot to kill axemen, etc.

On the flipside, if I were defending with axemen, they could switch from defense to offence when resources within 2 squares of a city are in danger of plundering. Something for me to consider there, since I could get more bang-for-buck that way in my defensive forces.

Update--I do, however, remember having a very bad time of it once when I relied on axemen for defense and Brennus threw huge stacks of CHARIOTS at me. Not good... at... all... *sigh*

Militarily I've found rounded out balance of a little of everything is best when it can be managed.

I absolutely agree with having a mix (though I don't usually include archers) - my main point though was that archers are defenders. They defend cities - and that is what they do best. Granted, a fully promoted archer can defend a city better than an axemen or chariot. But... that's it - an axemen and chariot combo (or axemen and spearmen combo, or just chariots) aren't going to be at that much of a disadvantage defending cities than archers - they still get the job done, but they can also protect the rest of your land as well. If you can't keep the land safe, then you might as well not develop it in the first place.

I usually prioritize BW and AH so by the time I settle my second city, I know where the horses and copper are at. Rarely do I not have access to at least one of the two resources.

If I have copper, well axemen and spearmen make a deadly combination. If I have only horses, chariots do a fine job. Luckly, barbarians don't have spearmen and typically the AI doesn't attack with just spearmen - chariots make a good *preliminary* defense for your cities. If you can get both copper and horses (which is fairly common by the third city at least)... well, the axemen/chariot combo will be pretty tough to break this early in the game.

I think you could save time in research and production if you skipped archery and went straight for BW and AH. Until then, you shouldn't have a problem defending with warriors. It's going to be a little while before your warriors become obsolete as defenders.
 
I think it's unanimous that archers are out, hehe. Thanks for that bit of advice, everyone!

1) Go to war ASAP. The longer you wait, the more you'll need to invest because the power of the AI gets proportionately larger compared to you. 4 troops vs. 2 is a big advantage for you while 104 vs. 102 is barely any advantage at all. If you have a neighbor nearby, rush with 10-12 axeman to secure some good land unless that opponent is Egypt, Native Americans, Babylon or another civ that can counter axes easily. The latest first war is a classical era war with swordsmen, lots of cats and some war elephants if you have ivory; otherwise bring a few axes/spears along too as a cover. When the AI gets longbowmen, they are much tougher to crack until you reach industrialism (tank vs. SAM or regular infantry is highly in your favor).

The phenomenon of longbowmen seems daunting to a lot of people, but to me if I've bombarded away all city defenses, and have a stack of macemen, or sometimes even swords, I usually only lose 1 or 2 taking the city.

Every time when I've taken a "go ugly early" strategy, it's typically a huge huge HUGE downer on the economy. How do you keep from utter stagnation of tech, even with scientists flipped? Or worse yet, gold, when you get the "strikes" and they disband on their own?

2) If a unit is obsolete and you do not have money to upgrade, disband the unit to reduce your maintenance. Having archer in your cities when AI's have cavalry is the same as having nothing. Either upgrade your archers to riflemen or disband them and build riflemen!!

Yeah, my policy is to replace rather than upgrade unless a unit has a lot of experience (or grenadiers with CG2 going to machine gunners). So when I get Machinery, I replace archers with Crossbowmen, and when I get Feudalism, the CG1 Crossbows get replaced with CG2 Longbows. I like to also replace with Grenadiers rather than Riflemen for CGs, because then they can upgrade to Machine Gunners, and MGs with CG2 are pretty strong, pre-tanks or pre-Artillery.

3) You do not always need to beeline liberalism. If you isolated or have no trading partners, beeline optics. If your enemies are strong militarily, beeline gunpowder or military tradition.

How much faster is it to do a direct beeline to Mil Trad rather than using the slingshot? One thing that has me Liberalism-addicted is that it allows Free Religion (first on the planet with it in fact), which reduces the hatred of AIs that have different religion, so there's less diplomatic tension, AND... +10% research. Also being first at Nationalism... Taj Mahal = golden age without burning GPs? Not good?

4) Do not build too many world wonders. Build more military and you'll be amazed at the results. Your score will not be as inflated by wonders, but you will instead be able to take advantage of more territory and population in the long run as a result of conquest. Out of the ones you listed, avoid Chichen Itza and Hanging Gardens. Most of the time , you do not need those.

I guess the main reason I go for those is GPs (Engineers and Prophets), BUT... come to think of it I should be flipping Engineer and Priest specialists instead (and I need metalcasting early anyway...)

Good point!

Although +3 health has come in handy sometimes when the map is pretty forestless.

5) National wonders are very useful. Build Oxford in highest beaker city, Wall Street in highest commerce city, Ironworks in highest production city unless you have a good reason not to. National Epic in highest GP city, Heroic Epic in best Military city and so on.

Yep, I do that.

Anyways, people on these forums know a lot of things and I learned a whole lot here myself. Happy Civving!!! :)

Thanks!
 
I have also recently moved up to Monarch difficulty.

The first thing I have jettisoned is a "standard strategy." I try to assess each game on its own merits based on my leader, civ, location, neighbors, resources, etc. It's hard to break old habits, but you need to do it, even if you have a few horrible games while doing so.

I have become convinced that the early game can absolutely kill you at Monarch difficulty if you don't get going on your worker technologies ASAP, especially if you don't start with useful worker techs (I'm talking to you, Brennus!). Civs without fishing, agriculture, or mining really can't do much at the beginning of the game other than crank out warriors and scouts. That's why I usually research a food tech immediately (one I can use) and follow it up with bronze working so I can chop wood and take slavery if I feel like it.

Your build order is fine, and I agree with your comment about archers having a longer shelf life than warriors. The problem is you are diverting beakers and hammers to military at a time when you should be spending that production on worker techs and building your production capacity. If you absolutely love archers, take hunting and archery after you've got the basics: 1 or 2 food techs, mining, BW, the wheel, and pottery. Archers also make great picket defender fog-busters, particularly when parked on a hill.

One of your comments is that your Rennaissance army's victories over Medieval units are sometimes "Pyrrhic." I know what you mean. The best thing to do is attack with overwhelming odds and defeat your foes as soon as possible. Once war weariness sets in and you have maintenance costs for conquered cities, you will start to lose ground to the non-warring AI civs. If you can't win fast, sue for peace and reload for 10 turns later.

*edit* I've noticed that my military campaigns bog down for two reasons: I am healing my units or waiting for more siege units to arrive. The lesson? Have a designated medic or two and keep cranking out siege units. Inflicting collateral damage on city defenders is the best way to ensure that your assault units win their battles, take less damage, and get more promotions.
 
One of your comments is that your Rennaissance army's victories over Medieval units are sometimes "Pyrrhic." I know what you mean. The best thing to do is attack with overwhelming odds and defeat your foes as soon as possible. Once war weariness sets in and you have maintenance costs for conquered cities, you will start to lose ground to the non-warring AI civs. If you can't win fast, sue for peace and reload for 10 turns later.

The single most difficult game discipline for me is to put an end to a war that I know I'm WINNING. There's some sort of berserker blood in me that just will not want to allow an enemy to live and breathe on the earth if it has attacked me, etc. BUT, the realities of the economy say "stop, and stop nooooooooooooooooooow!!!" One of my most common mistakes is that I go for total continental conquest even when I know I should stop and regroup, rebuild, etc.

But in those games when I've regained control of my instincts and put a stop to the bloodshed, while the border cities get painfully over-cultured for a while, the broad economy does flourish quite a bit better, allowing for more comprehensive and decisive victory later on.
 
Don't forget that you can vassalize your erstwhile opponent, too. This option seems to open up (for me, anyway), when I've taken his capital and he's only got a few cities left. This can save you a ton of units and war weariness. If you're playing BTS, just be ready to deal with the occasional revolt and/or request to rejoin the old civ.
 
Don't forget that you can vassalize your erstwhile opponent, too. This option seems to open up (for me, anyway), when I've taken his capital and he's only got a few cities left. This can save you a ton of units and war weariness. If you're playing BTS, just be ready to deal with the occasional revolt and/or request to rejoin the old civ.

I've been burned with capitulation a couple of times--they build up HUGE culture and start taking cities "peacefully", which can be especially painful when they end up with the only COAL on the continent and refuse to hand it over, etc... worse yet, you can't do anything about it. Can't go to war; can't "un-vassal" them, nothing at all. Just put up with the rat bastards... grrrrrrr...
 
As a Monarch player I agree with the "dump the cookie-cutter" advice. Best strategy is one that plays to your specific civilization's abilities and unique buildings/units if applicable. Combine this with whatever the map might give you and whoever might be your neighbors.

Yeah, you can pursue a warlike strategy with just about any civ, but some lend themselves better to early land-grabbing while others are better performers with a more peaceful/religious/cultural type strategy.

With regard to the start, while again there is no 'cookie-cutter' standard to work with there are some pretty standard moves that people seem to like and use successfully.

As others have mentioned, archery is usually not a priority at first unless you have an early unique unit that needs this. With barbarians, you don't want to hide in your cities and wait for them to attack you there to die. You need to go get THEM before they can start pillaging your improvements or force workers to retreat from their work. Many people prefer to get mining and then bronze working researched first. The latter is so important not only for revealing copper for possible city placements but also because it allows for the slavery civic and for chopping forests. From there, go Agriculture or Animal Husbandry for the worker improvements and for horses. If you are not given a useful tech to start, some might suggest getting one of these even before BW, but that could be argued either way.

City placements are obviously important, and it's a priority to pick up a key military item early (bronze, horse) for that protection. If neither are available, then perhaps iron would be warranted or perhaps then archery instead. If you have a strategic resource, I find it easier to leave iron working alone and trade for it later - unless, again, you have need of a unique unit.

Speaking of which, diplomacy is a very key aspect to the game on higher levels especially. More often than not I do not pursue my own early religion but instead wait to see what all the 'cool' civs are doing. I'd rather use my production on units and settling rather than missionaries to be sure my neighbors have my religion. Also, as the human player you can make the best use out of tech trading and that, I feel, is the best way to keep parity and even to surge ahead in tech. Tougher to do this if you've adopted Hinduism and your immediate neighbors are different.

In any case, it becomes a mixed bag very early in most games. If you have a close neighbor and usable copper then an axe-rush is often a great way to expand quickly. I try to keep my expansion to about 3-4 cities on my own if possible and start pushing the envelope when COL and/or currency is done or nearly so. I'd still take some cities early - especially a rival's capital - if the opportunity is there. Yes, your economy and research will take a hit as you absorb, but in the long run you should be able to recover and surpass the AI based on the extra good land. If there is no close neighbor to speak of, concentrate on finding everyone and trade, tech, and expand some more. It may be best to wait until construction/iron gets you catapults and swords to work with along with your neighbors placing cities closer to your core. Again, so much depends that it'd be folly to give one specific blueprint.

Play around with different ideas and read some of the full games that people have recorded in this forum - those are great educational tools.

And enjoy.
 
On the flipside, if I were defending with axemen, they could switch from defense to offence when resources within 2 squares of a city are in danger of plundering. Something for me to consider there, since I could get more bang-for-buck that way in my defensive forces.

Update--I do, however, remember having a very bad time of it once when I relied on axemen for defense and Brennus threw huge stacks of CHARIOTS at me. Not good... at... all... *sigh*

Okay this is key. I don't like archers for defense they are nice to garrison a city that is in danger of being attacked, but it won't keep your tiles from being pillaged and barbs and AI do it much more often in BTS than they used to. You need an active defense defenders that can defend resources not just man the city walls. Axemen are ideal for this since on attack they have no real counter. CHARIOTS only get the +50% against axemen on ATTACK. this is why units such as chariots and war elephants make good defenders...mobility. archers simply don't have the attack power to be used offensively unless you are protective or have a nice archer UU like Bowmen or Skirmishers. Native americans really shine with their archers.

But on to your original question...

1) First city, my sequence is "worker, archer, archer, settler". Rationale is that the archer is stronger than warrior, more likely to survive animal and barbarian attacks, and it'll be longer into the game before I have to replace them.

2) Initial tech path: archery (see above), unless I start with Mysticism and the recommendation screen is "offering up" Meditation or Polytheism (suggesting to me that I have a good chance of discovering Buddhism or Hinduism right off the bat). If the worker gets built before I have Archery, I switch to Settler for a while and swap back to archers when I get Archery

for 1) I am in agreement with you here for the most part, except for the archer, just stick with warriors get bronzeworking ASAP, there is simply no other tech that can help with initial production. The boost to you production from the whip and chopping is multiplicative. you get that settler out earlier you get those resources hooked up earlier you are getting more commerce earlier getting you techs faster, and so on and so on, nothing is quite so important as how quickly you can start producing. I find this much more important than an early religion.
This leads into 2), I win consistently at monarch and am at about 50/50 on emperor, more if playing arboria, non random leaders or perm alliances, but the chances of you getting budhism or hinduism on the higher levels is pretty much not going to happen. I usually end up founding Confucism though. But spending time chasing a religion is probably time better spent elsewhere, certain starts it is possible like if you are a financial civ that starts with mysticism and have an oasis in the fat cross, you would likely get it, but it's still a toss up on immortal and diety. Poly and preisthood are key techs and I will take them eventuially, I will use them to get to writing if I have marble in the fat cross, Great Library and The Oracle are usually the only early wonders I chase until Statue of Liberty and the electricity-->mass media wonders.

3) Warrior or scout explore in a spiral, progressively exposing land in concentric circles out from my capitol. Once all land within a reasonable radius is exposed (all land that would make sense to colonize in the near-term), I set them to auto-explore, and when they get killed (inevitable), no big deal.

Yep this is what I do, though sometimes I'll pull them back if I think I'm going to need them after an inital axe rush after I get cats, most of the time though, yeah their only purpose is to provide me as much of a map as possible before they die.

) Early era techs: I try to get all the "basics" first before bee-lining, that is, Bronze and Iron working, Masonry, Writing, etc. My first bee-line is Code of Laws, where 9 times out of 10 I pop Confucianism in one of my expansion cities (which helps later on, to have a holy city outside the capitol, because it allows me to build Wall Street there while the capitol usually burns its two wonders on Oxford and National Epic). After Code of Laws I try to get the math-driven techs like Currency, Construction, and usually Calendar as well, allowing some decent infrastructure and synergy, not to mention CATAPULTS, which allows the taking of cities without wasting 3/4 of my army each time (by bombarding the city defenses first).

No, no, no, no. I don't agree with this. I'd rather beeline and backfill techs with trades. I rarely research worker techs I won't need in my first three cities, in fact I usually just pick one or two of the most useful ones and suck it up until I get alphabet. tech path is typically, bronze beeline then wheel, writing, alpha, aesthetics, poly, lit. I use the worker techs that fit to get to writing, I use masonry poly priesthood if I have marble. Aestheitcs lit path provides two definate advantages. the first and most obvious is the Great Library, I love this wonder. there are very few games that I don't try for it, and in BTS I can get it on diety fairly consistently. Second it gives you trade fodder off the liberalism tech path. You don't want to trade civs for COL Paper EDU Philo CS, I don't trade these until I'm 1 turn from liberalism or I have an emergency, then I trade them in that specific order COL first then paper etc. Aesthetics and lit can back fill easily, I can usually get Iron working monarcy all the classical techs I skipped and maybe mathematics, plus some cash since I usually go currency right after lit while I build the Great Library.

5) Last two techs I research (or trade for) before racing to Liberalism, are Civil Service (to allow the Nationalism slingshot) and Machinery (to allow macemen--keep the army viable on the field while neglecting other medieval military techs like Engineering and Feudalism).

Civil Service is key, +50% hammers and 50% commerce in the capital is HUGE!!!! This is one of the holy trinity (Currency CoL and CS) Calander is useful too most of the time. After I have Currency and COL I check to make sure I don't have an emergency, sometimes I hit up Metal Casting for some more trading then Civil Service. This is not a tech to put off. It's a priority, it just has the added bonus of opening up Nationalism, though typically with these trades you can usually get Astronomy since the AI tends to like the sailing -->optics branch, not sure why that is, probably because these are nice, early health/ econ buildings.


6) City placement strategy: first I try to go for the max combination of food and hammers, regardless of resources, and I try extremely hard to make this be on a RIVER. This city is my first "Ironworks candidate", and also for that reason I try to leave forests intact as much as possible there. Then I build at least two cities that are "resource grabbers", maximizing whatever resources they can work in their fat cross. If I have the Organized trait or some other that allows larger than usual (or faster than usual) expansion, I'll go into "REX mode" and blast out as many cities as I can, no matter how low the slider dips (minimum 0%). Otherwise the slider's normally at 60% or 50% after 5 cities, and I stop there. (Meanwhile, and this angers me to no end, the AIs are blasting out dozens of cities EVERYWHERE, at no apparent cost to their economy!!!) Shortly after this time I try to get at least one city on a coast, preferably one on each coast if the map allows it. (Helps later when it's time to circumnavigate.)

I shoot for 2-3 cities and an axe rushed capital off the bat so I'm usually sitting at about 60% on my slider early but the early money from the conquered civ will help supplement my income and libraries and specialists
will provide most of my research until my economy picks up with courthouses currency, shrine maybe and civil service. I will war early to pick up 6-9(depending on map size) cities by education for oxford and after liberlalism I usually go for grens and cannons to beef up production ASAP (workshop improvements and ironworks) I typically put oxford and ironworks in my capital which has been specialized for commerce and production anyway because of beauracracy for a super science/production city, swapping between heavy hammer and heavy commerce as needed until it grows as big as it can get 24-25 is not too uncommon late in the game. Some games I may stay in beauracracy for the rest of the game. Then I go biology if I'm specialist heavy or printing press demo if I'm cottaged up.


7) During the Liberalism race, my capitol is building as many wonders as possible, with preference to those that give Engineer points, as the Engineers allow rush-builds of yet more wonders; and Prophets so that I can build shrines in any holy cities I have. Pyramids I normally can't get to, but I get Great Wall about 50% of the time, Oracle about 40% of the time, Hanging Gardens about 75% of the time, and Chichen Itza about 90% of the time. Worst games ever I still usually get HG and Chich, and... lots of gold, LOL. Meanwhile the other cities are all building improvement buildings, except for one designated unit-builder which is keeping the cities reasonably defensible, units up to date, aggressive neighbors deterred, etc. This doesn't always work, and sometimes a neighbor declares war, in which case I switch cities to unit production (except the capitol which keeps on wonder-building).

I only chase frivilous wonders if I have simply nothing left to build, which to be honest isn't that often. There's almost always something better to build.

8) If I am defending in a medieval war, it usually sends me way far behind other civs tech-wise, because my cities switched to military roles, however, I tend to recoup this deficit by prevailing in the war, taking a lot of enemy cities, and greatly expanding my empire. The slider goes low, of course, but 30% of a huge number of cities still brings in the beakers (and in the early era my economy is "specialist based"--farms and specialists), and I start to catch up tech-wise

Diplomacy is key here, you don't want to be defending in a medieval war, this will drag down your economy at the most critical point in the game. You should have been building axes gifting techs, ghosting wars on the other side of the world and teching, make friends, make enemies, know your enemies and your friends, you don't want your bestest bud alex backstabbing you...and he will, or your tech trading partner Mansa Musa trading those techs to furious enemies. War Elephants are very nice they can stand up to Knights for the most part try to get ivory from someone if you don't have it, have cats in your border towns to use against stacks of units, even pricks like Monty and Napoleon won't jump you with a high enough power graph. I made the mistake of attacking Qin after getting maces to pick up the last of my 6-9 cities on my current game, I spent probably three hundred years building tons of units to make up for all the units I lost to his UU. Lol like I said know who your enemy is.

9-14 are all fine in my book I used to prefer rifles to grens but I'm convinced that grens cannons is the faster tech path and I get those first as I mentioned before. come assembly line and industrialism health becomes a HUGE issue, so I will usually hit ecology after plastic for recycling centers, they help ALOT, but by this time I'm usually finished taking my continent and capitulated or anihilated all the nearby civs or mopping up on a domination win. I rarely go for space race wins I find them boring and alot of end turn clicking.
 
Speaking of tech trading, I have the worst imaginable luck with that. The AI always refuses to trade at anything near parity of beaker-value in the techs, and if I take their deals, I'm basically handing away the tech lead I worked so hard to build. And while it's good policy to trade the same tech to all AIs in one turn, usually most of the other AIs don't like me enough to do any trading at all, so the AI that I originally traded a tech to, gets all the benefits of trading it around.
 
Speaking of tech trading, I have the worst imaginable luck with that. The AI always refuses to trade at anything near parity of beaker-value in the techs, and if I take their deals, I'm basically handing away the tech lead I worked so hard to build. And while it's good policy to trade the same tech to all AIs in one turn, usually most of the other AIs don't like me enough to do any trading at all, so the AI that I originally traded a tech to, gets all the benefits of trading it around.


Then gift it to that civ and get the cash they have laying around, you can run research in the red and imporve relations at the same time, they are all going to get it from the other civ anyway, you may as well get some benefit from it.
 
Generally it looks to me like you're very much on the right track.
I want to echo the general no-cookie-cutter, flexibility-is-key sentiment that everyone else has expressed (it's more fun too!).

With archery, it very much depends whether you've got Raging Barbs on or not. If not, you can pretty safely avoid it. If you've got it on (and it's worth trying, it's a lot of fun), you NEED it, and if you don't have at least one archer out by 2600BC, then you're dead in the water (unless you're very lucky and find copper in your capital fat cross, but that's a hell of a gamble). The resourcelessness means all your cities can build them straight away and actually protect their worked tiles.

Also, I may be way off base here, but I get the sense from your post that you're not really specialising your cities as much as you might. Commerce cities should ideally be pretty much production wastelands incapable of producing military even if they wanted to because they're so busy working cottages and farms and progressing libraries at a miserable 2 hammers a turn or whatever. Your very best production city (lots of hills or whatever, and plenty of food to allow you to work them all) probably wants Heroic Epic as soon as possible, and then should never stop churning out units (except to build a stables). Production cities shouldn't have a single cottage in sight. Etc. Try to keep hybrids to a minimum, and try to keep your number of buildings very lean before Universal Sufferage. A trick I use to keep myself focused is to use labels (alt-s) on cities to force myself to choose a specialisation, which really helps with sticking to it.

The wonder thing is probably dragging you down quite a lot as well. That's a hell of a lot of hammers that could be either spent on military, or not generated because you were working cottages or specialists instead. The miniscule GPP generation is not really worth it unless the primary effect of the wonder is something you want as well. There's a thread floating around somewhere here with some good advice: try going cold turkey and playing a wonderless game to try and kick the habit. Then you realise you don't really need any particular wonder, you realise just how many axemen you could have built instead (answer: lots!), and you can start producing wonders based on both what benefits your empire needs, and which resources (stone/marble/etc) you have access to.

I think it would be well worth discovering Great Scientist specialists and the joy of intensive GP farming. Pick a city with 2+ food resources, give it a library ASAP and stick two scientists in it (a courthouse and a spy as well if you have BtS). Build the National Epic there, and Great Library if you can get it. Lots of yummy Great Scientist specialists. The joy of this is that you can lightbulb three of the crucial techs on the way to Liberalism (Philosophy, Paper and (about 3/5 of) Education) and get there MUCH faster (they also make excellent techs for trading around).
Run a priest there as well if you've got a religion and you'll get a Prophet for the shrine eventually.
There's a lot more nuance to GP generation (it took me ages to realise their value and how to use them), but a single GP city focusing on scientists is an easy way to add a lot to your empire.

If you can't found many cities early without totally killing your tech, you may need to be running more cottages sooner, and use more chopping and whipping to fuel early production. It's generally also better to land-grab aggressively if possible, chop in monuments to expand your borders, and then backfill at your leisure. You can also often squeeze in more coastal cities than you might think. And remember not to be afraid of a little overlap!
You're right that CoL, Currency and Sailing are all very important for getting new cities paying for themselves ASAP. Consider sometimes going for CoL via the maths/currency route instead if it's appropriate.

Anyway, just a few rambling thoughts that may or may not be of use (oh yeah, I do Aggressive AI/raging barbs/emperor/epic speed so it may not all be relevant). Good luck!
 
With archery, it very much depends whether you've got Raging Barbs on or not. If not, you can pretty safely avoid it. If you've got it on (and it's worth trying, it's a lot of fun), you NEED it, and if you don't have at least one archer out by 2600BC, then you're dead in the water (unless you're very lucky and find copper in your capital fat cross, but that's a hell of a gamble). The resourcelessness means all your cities can build them straight away and actually protect their worked tiles.

I don't mean to keep going back to the archery arguement, but I don't agree with this statement at all - I didn't mention in my original posts, but I almost always play raging barbarians and I think it's just the opposite. I'd say especially if you're playing raging barbarians you need to skip archery and go for units that can protect your lands. Especially since you're typically going to see an invasionary force quite a bit larger from the barbarians, it becomes that much more important to quickly get your offensive techs researched (BW / AH) and get those units produced as soon as possible.

Without raging barbarians, you might be able to more adaquately defend the whole of your lands against barbarians with archers - it's not as effective, but your archers might be able to attack and win enough battles with sufficient rest in between. On raging barbarians - forget about it. You need an offensive unit that packs more punch as soon as possible.
 
I don't mean to keep going back to the archery arguement, but I don't agree with this statement at all - I didn't mention in my original posts, but I almost always play raging barbarians and I think it's just the opposite. I'd say especially if you're playing raging barbarians you need to skip archery and go for units that can protect your lands. Especially since you're typically going to see an invasionary force quite a bit larger from the barbarians, it becomes that much more important to quickly get your offensive techs researched (BW / AH) and get those units produced as soon as possible.

Without raging barbarians, you might be able to more adaquately defend the whole of your lands against barbarians with archers - it's not as effective, but your archers might be able to attack and win enough battles with sufficient rest in between. On raging barbarians - forget about it. You need an offensive unit that packs more punch as soon as possible.

BtS has definitely changed the Raging Barb scenery. I used to skip archery, but I've tried skipping archery in BtS, and have consistently found that there just isn't the time to reliably get a resource hooked up, with worker/warrior/warrior/settler build. At pretty much precisely 2600BC (on epic), you will start getting inundated with ~1-2 archers and warriors per turn, if not more, who will completely shut down your ability to have workers doing anything at all without archers for protection. Getting copper hooked up, defending it, and having at least one axeman in your second city while sending one back to the capital by this point is really not feasible by 2600BC in the majority of cases, and even this best case scenario will probably see most of your improvements destroyed. Chariots don't have a chance by this point, and really need to be combined with archers anyway.
 
Here's what I generally do to win on any level:

1) First city, my sequence is "worker, archer, archer, settler". Rationale is that the archer is stronger than warrior, more likely to survive animal and barbarian attacks, and it'll be longer into the game before I have to replace them.

Focus on workers/workboats and settler. You build too many early military units even for deity level play.

2) Initial tech path: archery (see above), unless I start with Mysticism and the recommendation screen is "offering up" Meditation or Polytheism (suggesting to me that I have a good chance of discovering Buddhism or Hinduism right off the bat). If the worker gets built before I have Archery, I switch to Settler for a while and swap back to archers when I get Archery.

Bleh. Best early techs are Bronze and AH/Fishing if there're tiles for them. Early religion is fine with Myst. Anyway, early game is all about working the best tiles and levereging whip and chop.

4) Early era techs: I try to get all the "basics" first before bee-lining, that is, Bronze and Iron working, Masonry, Writing, etc. My first bee-line is Code of Laws, where 9 times out of 10 I pop Confucianism in one of my expansion cities (which helps later on, to have a holy city outside the capitol, because it allows me to build Wall Street there while the capitol usually burns its two wonders on Oxford and National Epic). After Code of Laws I try to get the math-driven techs like Currency, Construction, and usually Calendar as well, allowing some decent infrastructure and synergy, not to mention CATAPULTS, which allows the taking of cities without wasting 3/4 of my army each time (by bombarding the city defenses first).

There isn't such thing as basic tech. Iron Working, Masonry and such are situational and often it is best to backfill them.

6) City placement strategy: first I try to go for the max combination of food and hammers, regardless of resources, and I try extremely hard to make this be on a RIVER. This city is my first "Ironworks candidate", and also for that reason I try to leave forests intact as much as possible there. Then I build at least two cities that are "resource grabbers", maximizing whatever resources they can work in their fat cross. If I have the Organized trait or some other that allows larger than usual (or faster than usual) expansion, I'll go into "REX mode" and blast out as many cities as I can, no matter how low the slider dips (minimum 0%). Otherwise the slider's normally at 60% or 50% after 5 cities, and I stop there. (Meanwhile, and this angers me to no end, the AIs are blasting out dozens of cities EVERYWHERE, at no apparent cost to their economy!!!) Shortly after this time I try to get at least one city on a coast, preferably one on each coast if the map allows it. (Helps later when it's time to circumnavigate.)

Noble AI enrages you ;) Well, it gets only worse from there. Anyway, try to run slider a bit higher than 50-60%.

7) During the Liberalism race, my capitol is building as many wonders as possible, with preference to those that give Engineer points, as the Engineers allow rush-builds of yet more wonders; and Prophets so that I can build shrines in any holy cities I have. Pyramids I normally can't get to, but I get Great Wall about 50% of the time, Oracle about 40% of the time, Hanging Gardens about 75% of the time, and Chichen Itza about 90% of the time. Worst games ever I still usually get HG and Chich, and... lots of gold, LOL. Meanwhile the other cities are all building improvement buildings, except for one designated unit-builder which is keeping the cities reasonably defensible, units up to date, aggressive neighbors deterred, etc. This doesn't always work, and sometimes a neighbor declares war, in which case I switch cities to unit production (except the capitol which keeps on wonder-building).

Bad case of wonder addiction. Either do Oracle 100% on Noble or don't go for it at all. Itza is practically useless. GL and TM are good, Pyramids if going SE, and GW in BtS. Also, SC in BtS if you need culture.


8) If I am defending in a medieval war, it usually sends me way far behind other civs tech-wise, because my cities switched to military roles, however, I tend to recoup this deficit by prevailing in the war, taking a lot of enemy cities, and greatly expanding my empire. The slider goes low, of course, but 30% of a huge number of cities still brings in the beakers (and in the early era my economy is "specialist based"--farms and specialists), and I start to catch up tech-wise.

Post-ancient, go to war only with clear goals and proper means.

9) If I'm lucky (about half the time), I didn't get attacked while on the Liberalism-race, and get to pop Nationalism, and build Taj Mahal. During the Golden Age, I play catch-up to some of the basic techs I left behind, like Monarchy, Feudalism, Engineering, try to trade for some smaller ones like Monotheism, Alphabet, etc., and then I go for every tech I'll need to build Cavalry: horseback riding, gunpowder, and then Military Tradition. At that point it's pretty much "game over" for all the neighbors I have on my continent: I build stacks of macemen escorted for force-protection by Cavs, supplemented by Trebuchets, and... the AIs can never really defend well enough to avoid total conquest. Sometimes they can delay it, but they can never survive it. Here again the slider goes painfully low as the expansion gets pretty rapid, but it creeps back up eventually in the post-war rebuilding era.

You get attacked half the time? Improve diplomacy, try caving in to AI demands, matching their religions, pay off aggressive neighbours to attack each other. Also, consider not making trades with AIs for which other AIs will demand embargo.

Monarchy is key tech for CE. Alphabet is very important as it unlocks research (yes, build research instead of useless buildings) and espionage in BtS. Pre-BtS, Alpha unlocks Drama, and I really can't see how you manage optimum happiness without both Monarchy and Drama. Use pure cavalry on all low-culture AI cities.

10) During my conquest phase I try to go for Chemistry, Rifling, and Steel, and usually I'm finishing up the conquest with just 4 unit types in-queue: Cavs, Grens, Riflemen, and Cannons. Usually the AIs are defending with Knights, Longbows, Pikes, and Musketmen, and... they lose. (Sometimes the victory is pyrhhic though!)

More cannons.

11) After my conquest phase starts winding down, I go for the coal and Railroad techs, then race to Plastics. This is a risk because the AIs are on a different race, to Rocketry (so they can get an early start on Apollo, and of course, ARTILLERY, which eats my lunch if they get that when I'm still trying to field Industrial era units!) But the payoff if I get there first is that it allows me to build Three Gorges Dam, and now my huge empire all has electrical power without nasty coal plants or dangerous nuke plants (everywhere I couldn't build on a river that is). Along the way, since I also often get to Assembly Line first, this also allows me to build the Pentagon about 3/4 of the time.

This is very, very weak beeline. You basically kill your lategame play by delaying industrialization so much. Plastics and TGD suck bigtime. Best beelines are Biology, Assembly, and Labs tech. Coal plants are great.

12) Military strategy in the post-conquest era has all cities but one going to an economic focus, and my West Point city building modernization units (Infantry, and after Industrialization, Marines and Tanks, etc.) for each of my city garrisons and regional "reaction stacks" (counteroffensive stacks to confront invading stacks--heavy on cannons [still no artillery yet!] but also Marines to kill invading Artillery and Tanks to kill... everything!).

Too much military. One strategic stack is enough with proper infrastructure and diplomacy.

13) After I hit Plastics, for cleanup I usually grab Democracy (get that Emancipation civic I normally lag on), Biology (to allow better land use), and then johnny-come-lately I go for Artillery and Rocketry. Any wonder along the way that can be builts, I usually try to get it via the Ironworks city (otherwise it's a lost cause--e.g., Broadway, only way to get it is at the Ironworks city!)

If you're using cottages, Democracy is a midgame tech. If you're using specialists, Biology is a midgame tech. Plastics = very late game tech.
 
Even on raging barbarians, your own warriors can still get the job done for quite awhile. Animals arn't a threat to your cities, and your own warriors (especially after being promoted) will fair okay enough against enemy barbarian warriors. (You gotta be smart with your battle tactics though.) Personally, unless there's just no horses or copper anywhere around, I don't have a problem getting axemen or chariots built by the time the first barbarian archers start showing up. Granted, I do a lot of preplanning though - I have my workers in place building roads before the first city is built. I don't waste any time getting those resources hooked up when I find them. I do play BTS and usually the only time I have barbarian troubles is when I'm not paying attention and one of them pilliages a resource. Polycrates - the *best case scenario* you pointed out with getting your resources pilliaged... I just don't see it. I always skip archery and I never seem to have this problem, so I know it's possible to do.

I find raging barbarians often helps me because I like to play the warmonger role and raging barbarians means lots of *free* experience.
 
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