The Art of Terrain: A Manual and Dictionary of Complexes


Jan 1, 2002
Hello, all.

Well, if there's one thing the AI CAN'T do in Civ3 (besides conduct a good war) it's improve terrain. Face it: the AI model for worker actions is a bit too "socialistic"; it will send all your workers off by galley to the farthest island in your realm to irrigate a "vital" Plain next to your most corrupt city before mining a goldhill next your capital city producing the Pyramids. At least that's my experience.

So if you want a fat early lead, and who doesn't, learning how to manipulate those workers comes in handy. If you're not an Industrious civ, you have no worker-turns to waste.

First, a grasp of the basics is necessary.

Your REAL workers come in the form of citizens. These need 2 food per citizen per turn to sustain themselves. In addition to any food produced, your city itself will usually produce two food. As your citizens produce food, which is useless unless used to feed citizens, they also produce VITAL shields and commerce.

Food, despite appearances, is far and away the most important aspect of the Civ3 game. Your population is a function of your food production, and your shield and commerce production is a function of your population. Therefore, it's important to get lots of food and not waste any.

Once this becomes clear, the primary goal of your workers is to organize your citizens into self sustaining groups that produce just enough food to support themselves, and as much of everything else as possible. Hence, Patches and Complexes.

A "PATCH" is a one-tile farm. It produces exactly two food, and supports the citizen, or cit, working it.

A "COMPLEX" is a multi-tile farm. It produces exactly enough food to sustain the whole farm. For example, a 4-food tile and two 1-food tiles are a typical complex, that produces the necessary 6 food for the 3 working cits.

While in the beginning of the game, you'll want as much surplus food as possible, BUT when you hit a population cap you will want as many Patches and Complexes ready as possible. Surplus food is wasted food. You could be making shields or coins instead.

Learn to recognize Patches and Complexes and use them to calculate the best place to put a city. To that end, here are some of the more common Complexes (i stands for irrigated, m for mined, all squares should be roaded, and numbers after stand for shields):

Note: coasts and sea/ocean are not included. Coasts become Patches with Harbor, and Sea/Ocean are pretty much useless. Also, resources are left out. Just remember that a Cow-Grass is really a better Flood waiting to happen, etc.

Also, remember that because of unhappiness, some citizens will have to be supported without producing food for themselves.

Flood, mHill 3
iGrass, mHill 3
iFlood, mMount 3
iFlood, mDesert 2
Flood, Forest 2
iGrass, Forest 2
Flood, mPlain 2
iGrass, mPlain 2
Flood, mTundra 1
iGrass, mTundra 1
Flood, Jungle 0
iGrass, Jungle 0

iFlood, 2mHill 6
iFlood, 2Forest 4
iFlood, 2mPlain 4
iGrass, iPlain, mHill 4
iGrass, iPlain, Forest 3
iFlood, Grass, mMount 3
2iGrass, mMount 3
iGrass, iPlain, iDesert 2
iFlood, Grass, mDesert 2
2iGrass, mDesert 2
iFlood, 2m Tundra 2
iFlood, 2Jungle 0

most of us are under despotism for a while so 3 food tiles are only specials

generally your main "complex" will be pop 6 cities consiting of 4 mined grasslands (or irigated plains) and 2 forests or mined hills

with all tiles roaded this gives a base unit of 12 food (no growth at pop 6) 9 shields and 7 commerce

if you near the coast consider 2 workers in coastal tiles for a 5 commerce "complex" (more if fish around as each fish will add one pop and 2 commerce to the total)

if its nearby consider working gold resources in mountains even it means just being a pop 1 city

if you going for tech then coastal "complexes" and luxary ones (the pop working any tile with extra commerce) and production set to wealth can give a big boost to science as long as they aint to far away from a palace

also each little city increases the number of support free units you can have allowing for that large military so vital to the start
for deterring/pursuing war
try to put 2 or 3 workers on the same square to get something done real fast. a 2 turn road appear immediately if 2 workers work on it at the same time, and is sometimes useful when barbarians suddenly appear and ur troops are far away. i usually concentrate square by square so that the city get the best production from the square.
Another thing to consider is unhappiness. When playing Emperor or Diety difficulty, only one citizen is born happy. The rest require military police, temple, luxuries, marketplace, etc. On Emperor difficulty, I limit population early in the game until I can get more luxuries on line. This makes food production a low priority. I always mine grass tiles, not irrigate. I will switch to irrigation after switching governments but not before. I will irrigate plains.

The early, early game food production is mostly luck of the map for cows and wheat icons. This is not anything a player can control except by restarting game after game to get a good food map. Despotism does not support the food bonus for irrigating grassland.

It is useful to learn that cities with food bonuses and hills become very good production cities, but more than that is overkill to me.
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