Supply/fuel element in Civ4? Too much micromanagement?


Oct 2, 2002
As many have pointed out, the supply factor is a key to a really good strategy game. Why then have so few games attempted to include this feature? As far as I can tell, the reason is complexity: it results in excessive micromanagement that overwhelms the average player ('average' only in the sense that they want a game, not a simulation).

There are a few ways to implement this in a game like 'Civilization' (i.e. each item reduced to single grid square). These are the ones that I am aware of:

[1] Units carry x # of supplies and must refill every so often at a city.

Divided into at least 3 parts:

a) Supplies: Food; # of turns unit can stay outside friendly territory.
b) Fuel: Resource: # of MPs unit can use outside friendly territory.
c) Ammo: Resource (?): # of times unit may attack outside friendly territory.

Possibly also including 'Freight' unit that can refill unit on the spot.

Seems to be the simplest in terms of concept, but certainly not micromanagement (i.e. the greater the number of units, the more work the player has to do in terms of micromanaging the units).

Possible Solution: AI takes over a unit that is about to pas it's point-of-no-return, thus the unit would automatically go back to the nearest city and refuel. This would decrease tedious micromanagement significantly but would also increase processor requirements when there are many units on the map.

[2] Units function within 'Supply Area' (see a related thread in the 'C3C Requests' forum).

Supply area consists of a base (usually a city) and a border that extends from that base according to the unit's range capability and it's fuel requirements:

a) Range: Determines how far the Supply Area border extends from the nearest base when that unit is selected.
b) Fuel: Base must be connected to required resource, otherwise no Supply Area will appear when unit is selected --if base is disconnected from resource while unit is outside the base (somewhere within SA), unit becomes immobile (?).

This is MUCH simpler in terms of micromanagement only it suffers where ships are concerned as ships tend to travel in a straight line across vast distances rather than being refuelled within a certain area (i.e. ships are limited to operating within SA --if ship's range is set too high it will have too broad a reach from single supply and the strategic element of supply significantly decreased). It is also somewhat unrealistic since units are able to operate indefinitely within SA without having to physically go back to base.

Possible Solution: units can move beyond SA but will gradually lose health if they do so.

[3] Units must be loaded into armies in order to survive outside friendly territory.

Army is able to supply via Roads (i.e. while on or adjacent to a Road that is connected to a friendly city, an Army can Survive outside friendly territory.

This requires less micromanagement than [1] but limits the mobility of units not loaded into Armies. This also clearly cannot apply to ships, which means such units would have no limitations.


The reason why I put so much emphasis on including ships into the 'supply' argument is because strategic ports of call that allow ships to re-supply/refuel/rearm have always been of great importance --colonial empires would never have evolved had it not been for strategic ports. If ships have no supply limitations this important factor becomes useful only in the sense that it allows ships to heal there and nothing more.

Clearly these systems are not mutually exclusive and can be mixed as necessary. If [1] is to be taken seriously, the question of whether it is feasible to automate units when they are in need of re-supply is really the determining factor.

I think that if I were to choose, I would keep [1] and add [2] to it:

Units are limited by Supplies, Fuel, Ammo but cities extend a limited Supply Area around them (not to be confused with borders) so that units can function within that area without re-supplying, refuelling or rearming.

The idea in [3] of Armies extending supply is also good so I was think of giving Armies a really high Supply value --all other units' supply limits are overridden by the Army's (i.e. all units run out when the Army runs out --alternatively: if Army runs out, it disbands and all units begin consuming their own supply independently of each other).

Another solution to [1] is the concept of 'living off the land:' units on or adjacent to food-producing terrain can partially re-supply there.

I think it would be the dream of most of us to see some kind of supply factor included into 'Civilization' regardless of how simplified. How? See above or add your own stuff.

I'll post this in 'The Official Civ4 Ideas Thread,' but I think the concept needs some cleaning up first. The biggest problem is reducing micromanagement to a level that will not take away from the straightforward combat experience of Civ3. If you have nothing to add, just tell me which of the above alternatives (1,2 or 3) you like best.
Those are some nicely thought out ideas. However, (to me) this would probably get very tedious after a while, especially if you are razing enemy cities as you go along. Maybe there could be an option to switch a feature like this on and off.
It's not really realistic anyway. Even at the very end of the game a turn is one year, far longer than any force could operate alone. Besides, it doesn't implement a supply train. In WW2 as the allies closed in on germany, you didn't see them advance 10 miles then retreat 20 to resupply. Supplies came to them.
Some good points.

The issue around turns is a sticky one: if you divide the turns into smaller units (e.g. months) the game will take for ever. Scale is also a factor. This is not as much of a problem in scenarios.

Your comment about the supply train implies alternative [3], where as long as the Army (?) stays on the road, it can maintain supply. The road is the supply train, just like the road represent traffic of Caravan/Freight units between cities. Makes sense. Having an actual Supply Train unit travel between the unit and the city would slow the game down and having these units running around would clutter up the map --but it's always an option.

You could always combine [1] (individual unit supply) with [3] so that the unit's supply doesn't run out while adjacent to a Road.

I personally like [2] (supply area) because it's simple and gives freedom of movement. Adding [3] to this would allow uinits to operate beyond the supply area by sticking to roads. If the roads get cut off be the enemy, your units won't last long. Although it really keeps with reality, I get the impression that players wouldn't like being restricted to Roads, calculating how long they can stay away from roads, etc.

Originally posted by royb
However, (to me) this would probably get very tedious after a while, especially if you are razing enemy cities as you go along. Maybe there could be an option to switch a feature like this on and off.
Part of the strategic element involved in Supply is that you actually need those cities --cities play a more strategic role than just healing units and being centers of production. An option would be good I guess but if you give that a Start Game preference, then so many other things have to get a preference slot as well. If developers see that players don't want a supply feature they just won't add it in at all. It would probably depend on developing a crude supply aspect to add into the program under development and playtesting it to see how players react to the feature.
This is really just to determine what the most appropriate system would be for a game like Civilization --assuming whoever develops Civ4 doesn't completely change the format, which I doubt. Whether the developer uses it depends in part on interest displayed by players on forums like this one.
The supply lines would be an excellent addition because it would allow for Guerilla type conflict - the problem with the guerilla unit is that it is basically a weak and virtually useless unit, because guerillas derive their power from being able to cut off supplies to large armies. So, you would just need to block the enemy's supply line, and the units would be cut off for a turn, presumably causing some damage... this was used by the Spanish and Russians against Napoleon, Lawrence of Arabia against the Ottomans, to name the very first two examples that come to mind. So a civ would be able to pump out guerillas and thus damage invaders that were even deep into their heartland. This would also make fortresses useful - in most renaissance fighting, armies were forced to attack fortresses, because if they simply bypassed them, the garrison would later come out and cut off their supply lines. But in Civ, there are no supply lines, and so fortresses just sit there and only get attacked by exceptionally incompetent A.I. on easy difficulty - they are as useless as the guerilla unit. Supply lines would adress both of these issues - to say nothing about how it would make the navy aspect of the game way more meaningful.
Carrying suppies reminds me of Advance Wars
These things are a good idea, but we should be able to toggle on or off.
This could also all be considered notional in the sense that those units don't exist in the field without supplies being assumed, so perhaps the production that went into creating them also includes the preparations necessary to keep them in the field. At least in modern armies this is kind of a given.
True - but there is much less strategy in just assuming these kinds of things. Historically, Civ's rise and fall, but that only rarely happens in Civ III, if ever. This would be an equalizer, giving small, well-run Civ's a chance against great powers - Look at the Dutch resistance of Spain, which was easily the most powerful in Europe in the sixteenth century. Guerilla tactics (of attacking supplies) allowed the Dutch to win independence, and eventually rule the seas before overcome much later by France and Britain.

It would just make the game much more accurate and interesting, if you ask me.
I hate micromanagement. I'd be okay with this if we had a decent guv'nor that could handle MM for me.
Supply use as I see it should be a simple thing, with easy to remember rule. First, I would drop the "ammunition" part of supplies - it's historically accurate, but it's introductiong TOO MUCH details.

Another thing of note is that your supply rules cover modern warfare. It fails to convey the very common up to the 20th century notion of "living off the land", which most army used in the field prior to that. Ships were also known to send parties ashore to collect fruit, water and any other useful source of food.

So, in light of that

1 - Un-motorized (steam engine count as motorized) units are considered supplied whenever they are on any square EXCEPT :

Unroaded Desert squares (Oasis not withstanding)
Unroaded Marsh squares
Unroaded Mountains squares
Sea squares
Ocean squares.

VEHICLE units, on the other hands (all tanks, mech infantry, planes, choppers and ironclad and forward ship), are considered supplied only when they are on a road connected to your cities.

If, at the start of your turn, a unit is UNsupplied, it loses 1 hit point to represent the loss of efficency.

This keep the simplicity inherent to Civilization WHILE still adding the notion of supplies, if only in a limited form. And, considering Civ is more than a wargame, impleneting supplies by its very nature would have to be simple.
Many board wargames use the concept of supply and its usually fairly simple.

A unit has to trace a supply line of limited length (ie 5 squares) to a friendly road/railroad and then trace that road/railroad back to a friendly "supply source" which is usually a homeland city. If a unit can not trace a line of supply then it suffers negative consequences as defined by the game.

The real problem with adding logistics to civ is programming the AI to deal with it and recognize when there is an opportunity to cut supply of an enemy.
I'm an old boardgamer, too, AdrianE. I've thought about the traditional "x moves to a supply line" system being applied to Civ 3 and I see a couple of problems.
Early in the game, it would seriously inhibit the ability to make war since you'd have to put several workers to work building roads up to your units. Admittedly, not everyone would consider inhibiting warfare a problem, but it would be awkward.
After RR's are built on practically every square on the map, you'd be back to where we are now - essentially infinite supply.
In a boardgame, the roads are normally in place at the beginning of the game and you don't end up with a road on every square (hex).
I tend to think that unit supply is best left as it is - without additional micromanagement.
Yea but even with rails in every square it would be possible to cut off and enemy force.
If you use a variation of Supply Area like having the supply area be anything within your borders, then it means your units are automatically supplied when in friendly territory. I'm not sure about the units being road-dependent. Because as was said, early warfare in particular is restricted and the player will have to keep an eye on roads all the time. This is why giving the unit individual supply would be be helpful --allowing units tomove away from the road for durations of time.

The idea of supplies is to make conquest more diffcult than just sending units anywhere without limitation. It weakens an invader because (this was mentioned before) enemy light units can cut off the invading units.

A few examples:

Napoleon's forces get cut off in Russia (dependence on road-based supply routes). Lost control over Europe as a result.

German U-Boats must return to base for re-fit thus they cannot be in two places at once (limited unit supply rather than supply area which would allow units to remain in the area indefinitely). Not being able to keep u-boats in the Allied shipping area was one of the main reasons for the Germans' loss of the Atlantic war.
[If all else fails, this effect could be reproduced by simply having the units gradually lose health for each turn outside of friendly territory as was said earlier.]

A way of combating extensive roads all over the place is to give them a cost (other than in time). The reason why the countryside is not covered with roads is because it would be to expensive to build and maintain them for --would far outway the economic benefit from a more productive farm industry.
A cost of gold each time a tile improvement is built would deter players from improving everything in site -- a cost of gold per turn in upkeep might be pushing it (would have to be in the decimals).
I really wish they would some sort of supply system. You can say all you want about 'but they got 50 years!' or 'they live from the land', which may be true in the beginning of the game, but as soon as you got some more advanced units it doesn't work anymore.
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