The early game: How-to

DrJones87

Chieftain
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Oct 26, 2016
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Ive won a couple of games on Deity, and have won a game with every civ on at least Emperor. I think by now I have a pretty good understanding of tactics that work, and those that don't. I wanted to share some early-game strategys, which as you know is the most important part of the game and usually dictates how the rest of your game will go. So, let's get started...

1.) Kill your neighbor. Whether they're a rival nation or a city state, anyone within nine tiles of your capital should bow out before they reach classical era. AI doesn't prioritize building walls, and you'll have plenty of turns to get the advantage on them. On the higher difficulties you probably can't take enemy capitols, but you can at least take their other cities. The AI doesn't do a good job of leveraging losses either, and if they feel they are losing the war they will sue for peace with an extraordinary reward on higher levels (like 1k gold and 30 gold per turn). Your war path should continue until the point you see walls go up, at which point you should retreat. Once a wall is up you'll need siege weapons, which is costly and makes war no longer worth it. But go for early conquest until you can't.

2.) Dont build a monument right away. It was a reflex build in Civ V, but you lose a ton of time building a monument to start. In civ VI the eurekas will usually make up for lost time from a monument, and your early game should focus on triggering them. Instead, build a worker to get the three improved tiles for craftsmanship, then just build military units. You probably want three slingers and three warriors as a starting military (throw in a heavy chariot too if you can). Upgrade the slingers to archers as soon as possible (but make sure you don't research the tech until you have three slingers because the production cost difference is quite pronounced).

3.) Shift your focus, a lot. Make sure you don't waste any precious eureka moments. Eurekas will fill half of your tech/civic cost, and a lot of the early ones are things you'll do anyway. If you've researched more than half of the tech/civic but haven't completed the eureka, switch to another tech/civic and finish it out with Eurekas.

4.) Kill AI units, Dont wound them. Although you might be able to get off an early offense, for most of the game on Deity you'll actually be defending. The AI gets experience a lot faster than you, and if you just wound their units you can almost guarantee they will upgrade and heal them. On Deity the AI can heal 70 hp in one turn using this. For this reason, don't wound enemy units unless you know you can kill them without losing position. It's better to fortify and wait for them to spend their turn attacking so that you can heal, promote and kill them with ranged.

5.) Crossbows are a god send. Suppression crossbows with double attack can effectively lock down a city. You should get three of these as soon as possible.

6.) Remember to capture a city you have to have a melee unit in it. No matter how hopeless your situation looks, the AI isually only attacks from one direction. That brings your fighting down to 3-4 tiles, and you have an advantage because you can fortify and heal. Prioritize killing melee units, don't lose fortifications, and when you get an opportunity to advance do so. The AI will admit defeat and will usually sue for peace, often with exuberant rewards.

7.) Wide > Tall, but only if you cluster. The way buildings and districts work in civ vi is they're no longer percentage based. This means that population of cities is only relevant in so far as to how many districts you can build. Since you only really need 2-3 districts per city, and since some of have benefits that extend to other cities within range, you should focus on a high number of cities within close proximity. Remember that district cost increases as you advance in tech/civics, so early expansion is crucial. In any game, I usually build 6-10 cities in a radial pattern that are all centered around the capitol.

8.) Dont forget amenities. Aside from luxury resources, you will usually have a stable amenity economy if you have an entertainment district for every two cities. It is important to keep your cities happy because otherwise production sucks.

9.) Chop all wood not near rivers and all jungles unless you're Brazil. Although you theoretically generate less production in the long run, early production is critical and drives so much of the rest of the game. Also, any time you build a district on top of a bonus resource make sure you harvest it.

10.) District selection is necessary. Commercial districts have priority. You should have a commercial district in every single city. Commercial districts are even better than harbor districts even though they both provide trade routes because great merchants are much better than great admirals. If your Civilization has a unique district, build that in every city (because it's free). Industrial districts are mandatory in every city once you can build them, and you should build them based not on production bonuses but on locations that will hit the most cities within six tiles. You want to average 1 entertainment district per every two cities, and try to group them similarly so that you get tile bonuses. If you want religion, your first district should be a holy site, but other sites can wait until the rest of your economy is up and running. Theaters and Campuses are much less needed, so usually 1-2 being sufficient to keep up (unless you're going for their respective victories).

11.) Choose your government based on your current situation. The governments are pretty good at being situational. There's always an economy, offense, and defensive option. You should always pick the government that goes best with what your situation is. The best feature of this game is it lets you be very flexible at all times, and one big way it does this is government. That being said, make sure you do what your government excels at. Don't go theocracy and be peaceful. Don't go autocracy and not try to kill everyone. The way to win the game is to play the way the game needs at the moment.

12.) Lastly, don't neglect envoys. Suzerain is pretty hard to get and I personally don't focus on it much unless I've already gotten the bonuses from all the other city states. You get bonuses at 1,3 and 6 envoys, and your biggest return is at 1 envoy. So, you should try to have at least 1 envoy in every state you meet.


That should help get your game off right.
 
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manu-fan

Emperor
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Sep 20, 2006
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I think this is all good advice. On number 8 though, it's only a -5% production when you're at -1 amenity, so it's not bad to go between -1 and 0 a lot.
 

pochesun

Chieftain
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Jan 22, 2008
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Very insightfull, thx.
Could you explain why near river woods have higher value than non river ones?
 

Hans Lemurson

Prince
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Jan 2, 2006
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Very insightfull, thx.
Could you explain why near river woods have higher value than non river ones?
Lumber Mills get an extra +1 production next to rivers, making them equal to mines.
 

Browd

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A lumbermill on riverside woods will give +2 production, rather than just +1. If the woods (+1 production unimproved) are on a riverside grassland hill (+2 food/+1 production, before taking the woods into account), you can get 2 food and 4 production from that tile, post-lumbermill (and another +1 production, after researching Steel). It's hard to find a better tile.
 

DonPato

Chieftain
Joined
Jul 18, 2013
Messages
98
Awesome thoughts, and really great advice! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. #12 in particular was a real eye-opener for me; in all of my games, I hoard envoys so that I can prioritize who my suzerains will be, but you are totally right that the first envoy is the most cost-effective investment in any given situation. The only exception to this thought that I can think of is getting a city state whose suzerain's bonus you really want for some reason, which may make it worth it to hoard envoys for a time. What are your thoughts about that?
 

DrJones87

Chieftain
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Oct 26, 2016
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Awesome thoughts, and really great advice! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. #12 in particular was a real eye-opener for me; in all of my games, I hoard envoys so that I can prioritize who my suzerains will be, but you are totally right that the first envoy is the most cost-effective investment in any given situation. The only exception to this thought that I can think of is getting a city state whose suzerain's bonus you really want for some reason, which may make it worth it to hoard envoys for a time. What are your thoughts about that?

The only one I can think of that's really worth hoarding for is Kandy if you're going reliquaries to fill up your temples faster. I think the small bonuses each one gives are otherwise too good to pass up.
 

elitetroops

Deity
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Dec 23, 2012
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5,686
Many good points there! A few comments.
On the higher difficulties you probably can't take enemy capitols, but you can at least take their other cities. The AI doesn't do a good job of leveraging losses either, and if they feel they are losing the war they will sue for peace with an extraordinary reward on higher levels (like 1k gold and 30 gold per turn). Your war path should continue until the point you see walls go up, at which point you should retreat. Once a wall is up you'll need siege weapons, which is costly and makes war no longer worth it. But go for early conquest until you can't.
Walls shouldn't stop you. Archers can take out walled cities just fine. It only takes a couple of turns more and you need enough units. For some reason the AI doesn't even use the city ranged attack every turn. I've taken out plenty of AI capitals on deity with archers, even if they've had walls up already. I don't like the walls, and if they have them everywhere then you're probably better off with some support units. Battering rams or siege towers can be very effective. Siege towers work with mounted units, not sure about battering rams. Haven't tested.

Once your archer army is upgraded to crossbows you can easily take on walled cities without support units. Though siege towers and knights is probably more effective.
District selection is necessary. Commercial districts have priority. You should have a commercial district in every single city. Commercial districts are even better than harbor districts even though they both provide trade routes because great merchants are much better than great admirals. If your Civilization has a unique district, build that in every city (because it's free). Industrial districts are mandatory in every city once you can build them, and you should build them based not on production bonuses but on locations that will hit the most cities within six tiles. You want to average 1 entertainment district per every two cities, and try to group them similarly so that you get tile bonuses. If you want religion, your first district should be a holy site, but other sites can wait until the rest of your economy is up and running. Theaters and Campuses are much less needed, so usually 1-2 being sufficient to keep up (unless you're going for their respective victories).
Industrial Zones, yes agree they should be built in (almost) every city.

Commercial hubs are nice, though I wouldn't make it the top priority in every city. Early on they come before Industrial Zones, but once you get close to factories, Industrial Zones take priority.

Campuses are way more important than you say. Why do you want to merely keep up with the AI when you could be 2 eras ahead?

Entertainment Complex in every second city is overkill. You don't need even close to that many. Settle to grab as many unique luxuries as possible and trade actively for any luxuries you don't have. The Entertainment Complex isn't worth anything until you have access to at least zoos, so they can mostly be delayed until then. Amenities is usually only a problem when you are at war. If you are fighting a lot of wars, then one early EC and Colosseum could be quite useful.

Unique districts aren't free, they still cost production. Sure, they are often worth the investment since they are also half price, but they shouldn't automatically be built in every city. Only build them when you consider it the best investment at the time. Depending on the district this might mean every city, or only in a few cities. You can still place them all immediately, if you know you will complete it at some point and don't need the tile for anything else.
Lastly, don't neglect envoys. Suzerain is pretty hard to get and I personally don't focus on it much unless I've already gotten the bonuses from all the other city states. You get bonuses at 1,3 and 6 envoys, and your biggest return is at 1 envoy. So, you should try to have at least 1 envoy in every state you meet.
The biggest return is at 1 envoy only until you have some districts up. If you have 3 districts of the type, you gain more by putting 2nd and 3rd envoy in one state than 1st envoy in 2 states. Suzerain is not that hard to get, if you conquer enough early. Dead AI can't send envoys. This is another reason to not let the AI keep their capital.
 

manu-fan

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Industrial Zones, yes agree they should be built in (almost) every city.

Commercial hubs are nice, though I wouldn't make it the top priority in every city. Early on they come before Industrial Zones, but once you get close to factories, Industrial Zones take priority.

Yeah, but this is The Early Game: How to: not The Mid Game: How to. Getting Commercial up first to get trade routes is pretty much the best Early strategy.
 

elitetroops

Deity
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Dec 23, 2012
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Yeah, but this is The Early Game: How to: not The Mid Game: How to. Getting Commercial up first to get trade routes is pretty much the best Early strategy.
Not necessarily the best. It's situational, but a lot of the time I prefer Campus first, at least as the very first district. Early trade route yields are really bad and to even get those yields you have to both build the district and a trader. That's too slow in my taste. In the very early game I want faster gains. And if you put more weight on Campuses, then the "early game" when commercial hubs can be considered better than Industrial Zones is very short. Commercial Hubs are decent, but not as good as people give them credit for.
 

gooberman

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Jun 17, 2015
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Great post. Very helpful.

I'm still trying to get the hang of this game.

Is there some easy way to track amenities? I have to check each city at a time and look. Am I missing something? If I trade an AI for a luxury I don't see where that changes.
 

DrJones87

Chieftain
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Oct 26, 2016
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Amenities are automatically distributed to cities. One luxury creates four amenities, which can be applied to any city. Extra copies provide no additional amenities. So, you'll eventually have to have entertainment districts to have amenities.
 

Markus5

Code Monkey
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Amenities are automatically distributed to cities. One luxury creates four amenities, which can be applied to any city. Extra copies provide no additional amenities. So, you'll eventually have to have entertainment districts to have amenities.
So, trade the extras for more unique luxuries. Settle or conquer to get more unique luxuries. Build entertainment districts. Anything else?
 

DonPato

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I hope that we are one day able to have information on how each luxury is being distributed on a turn-by-turn basis in the reports tab, because that would be a really interesting thing to know.
 

agonistes

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Nice guide. Emphatically agree about kill your neighbor.

I really don't think walls make much of a difference. Even on deity, the only obstacle seems to be a bad barb start - as in, a horse camp crazy spawning on you. A few swordsmen can make quick work of a walled city.
 
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Chibisuke

Warlord
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Nov 6, 2016
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If you are playing as an early domination civ then taking AI capital is not that hard, even on deity. It really just depends on your killing speed. The more powerful of an early domination civ you are, the better your killing speed.

So Sumeria and Scythia should have no problem taking multiple AI capital.

Aztec and America should also be able to take at least one.

Kongo and Rome maybe, just because swordsman army takes longer to get together than the others.
 
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