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The Portuguese Trade Empire

Discussion in 'Civ3 Strategy Articles' started by Zwischenzug, Apr 19, 2015.

  1. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    tl;dr - Arguably the best tech broker in the game that needs to translate an early advantage into a decisive lead by trade alone.

    The Portuguese reguralry get hammered in discussions about the "worst Civ" because of their unusual combination of traits (which has even been called "contradictory", at times - a classification I emphatically disagree with, as you will see) and their comapratively weak UU, the Carrack. They are Expansionist and Seafaring, the Carrack is a 2.2.4(5), 3 transport, Caravel replacement that can cross Ocean squares.

    Let's get the Carrack out of the way first: crossing ocean squares and the 2 attack is nice, and would even be extremely powerful, if it would come earlier in the tech tree. As it is, crossing Ocean squares is only one tech away and 2-attack vessels fighting 2-defence vessels (Caravel) is not much fun without bombardment (which the Carrack does not have). On a large map with lots of water but very few Civs, Carracks make an extremely powerful colonisation vessel, but if you don't rig the game in favour of The Portuguese that way, their window of usefulness is extremely short. Usually, everything will be settled and you will know all other Civs by Curragh and Galley suicide missions by the time the Carrack arrives. That leaves the fun of early Galley killing and potentially shorter routes for invasions by sea. Usually, both won't be high on your list of priorities when playing The Portuguese.

    So what are your priorities? Tech trading, of course! You are Expansionist, which gives you a large tech boost from huts (higher probability to pop techs), you can make a lot of early contacts using Scouts and the 3-movement Curraghs with lower death risk on Sea and Ocean squares Seafaring grants you, and your own research profits from the additional gold from Seafaring as well. Like the real-life Portuguese, build along the coasts, don't go inland as much as you would normally do, commerce is more important to you than shields (your empire will often look like a snake stretching along the coast). Additionally, you have the best combination of starting techs imaginable: Pottery gives you Granaries and Alphabet is the best (since most expensive) starting tech to kick-start your tech trading economy. Also, Alphabet gives you access to the Philosophy slingshot, further expanding your tech lead.

    This is what you must focus on, which means regularly checking in with the other Civs to see what they've got. Some hardcore enthusiasts might argue for checking each Civ every turn. I thinkt that this is hardly necessary, once you get a feel for the tech pace and gold production rates of the other Civs. But you and your Foreign Advisor will definitely see a lot more of each other than in most other games.

    A few general tips for tech brokering (which I personally consider one of the most fun playstyles of all - it's power is often underestimated):
    1) Always check who will pay the best price, since the value of the tech you want to broker will plummet once a Civ knows other Civs beside you to buy it from. Use your monopoly to milk as much out of other Civs while you can! That sometimes means postponing a tech trade, e.g. when a particularly wealthy Civ and you have a contract on GPT which is about to run out - you can renew it for the next tech. But keep an eye on the other Civs, and be aware of the regular "tech explosions" when two or more Civs trade around a few techs and suddenly all jump 3-4 techs ahead in one turn - the one you want to trade might be among those and you lose your monopoly. Also keep in mind that you don't lose your monopoly towards a Civ that does not yet have made contact with another Civ who also has the tech!
    2) Don't be afraid to sell techs below their value! It is better for you to grab that lousy 15 GPT for Navigation or 100 gold for Construction before someone else does.
    3) Be aware which techs are considered valuable by the AI! These are the ones you want to really milk. In other words: know the value of your merchandise. The AI considers some techs extremely valuable where you might not expect it, e.g. Ironclads or Fascism. As a general rule, the AI rates techs which access Governments the highest, followed by techs that access Wonders, followed by techs that give units, but there are many notable exceptions (I never saw an explicit list of tech values, but maybe one of you has one?).
    4) Use your tech advantage to cripple the research of other Civs. GPT that flows into your own account cannot flow into their research. In the Industrial Age, it is not uncommon to get several hundred GPT for one single tech (the best I ever got that I remember from the top of my head is >900 GPT for Electronics, which is the most valuable tech of the Industrial Age). You can often engineer a situation where you are the sole viable source of technologies for the entire world! By the late Medieaval Age you often have more gold coming from other Civs than from your own cities, and this can go up to several fold your own production by the mid Industrial Age, if you play your cards right. Even running the science beaker on 100% will regularly give you an overhead of several hundred GPT - with which you can buy all the city improvements and units you would usually be unable to produce fast enough because of your focus on commerce over shields.

    The combination of Seafaring and Expansionist has sometimes been called "contradictory", since Expansionist will shine best on Pangea maps, while Seafaring will shine best on Archipelago maps, and on Continents they both are of intermediate use. While that might be true, I cannot see the contradiction. Even on Pangea maps, the Curragh will speed up your early contacts several fold. You will usually have circumnavigated the continent before your Scouts have crossed half of it, and most Civs will have at least a few coastal cities or units running around at the coast. And even on Archipelago, your Scouts can traverse the available land twice as fast as a Warrior. And the most important perk of Expansionist is in any case the high probability to pop techs from huts, which you will also keep. The interpretation "contradictory" arose, at least in part, in my opionion, from the assumption that both Seafaring and Expansionist are comparatively weak traits, and the fear of combining both of these "weak" traits in one Civ. But no, they are not contradictory. Their effects are actually multiplicatory.

    The one thing you want to take care of when playing The Portuguese is to stay the hell out of wars (except those you know you will win without much fuss). Their empires tend to be small (lack of production bonuses, although early Granaries compensate somewhat) and emphasise gold production over shield production: often with a lot of coastal cities to grab as much of that Seafaring commerce bonus as possible (which makes the empire difficult to defend for a lack of choke points) and a Government that does not like war (Republic, Democracy). The good news is though, that you can often establish very good relationships with other Civs because of all the trading. Don't be a miser either, despite of what I said above regarding miliking the other Civs as much as possible - a few gits here and there, of gold, technologies, or resources, can work wonders. That will not always protect you from an aggressive neighbour, however. In such a case, your best bet is to bribe the rest of the world into the war and hope that that is enough (I won't lie to you: sometimes it isn't). That's not to say, however, that The Portuguese cannot go to war. Especially in the Industrial Age, when all that sweet, sweet money is flowing, they can afford humongously large armies despiete being in Democracy, which can end a war swiftly.

    So The Portuguese require a lot of micromanagement and and a focus on trade. But if you play your cards right in that regard, they can be extremely powerful. For a time, I even considered them vastly overpowered, with a 10-tech lead by the Industrial Age on difficulties of Emperor or above, even with medium sized or borderline small empires. The trick is to translate an early tech lead into world domination by diplomacy. This will often feel like dancing on an egg, since you know that most of your neighbours could crush you if they put their mind to it, but for me, that is the fun of playing The Portuguese - and there must be some downside to their strenghts, after all ;)
     
  2. justanick

    justanick Chieftain

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    The time between astronomy and magnetism is rather long. During this timeframe only you can use attack 2 units while the rest of the world has to depend on attack 1 units(the byzantine dromon expires with astronomy). Attacking caravels with carrackes will give you a 44,8% chance of winning in the first try and about 80% in the second run against a weakened enemy. So you will destroy about 50% more shields than you will lose yourself if you only have enough carracks to attack with. Build enough carracks and you can suppress any naval activites of your rivals for centuries.

    http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=45559

    This may serve as a guideline. Afair wonders are valued only when they can still be build. So selling a tech once one turn is left for getting the wonder is a proper strategy.
     
  3. Lanzelot

    Lanzelot Moderator Moderator

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    Excellent summary! :goodjob:

    I think, Zwischenzug is not so much refering to the fact that Carracks have attack 2 (which indeed no other nation will have for quite some time until Magnetism), but more to the fact that Carracks can safely cross Ocean. And this capability is only one tech away for the rest of the world: once they get Navigation, their Caravels can also sail the oceans. So this "Window of opportunity" may indeed only 4 turns long. (But if you are well ahead in technology, as you might be when following the above advise, then the Window might be much longer... ;))
     
  4. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    Thanks for the link, justanick! :)

    What you say about the time until Magnetism is true, and you may achieve control of the seas during that time period. But seriously (and I speak as someone who, unlike most, apparently, likes naval combat in Civ 3): what's the point? You can do almost anything you want in almost any situation without control of the seas. And if you really want that kind of control, you will still have to pour the Carracks in like there's no tomorrow (see your own calculation). You might lose less shields than the enemy - but losing none at all in pointless battles is often still better ;) And to have a really comfortable sea control, taking into account the fact that a significant number of your Carracks will be tied down for healing at any one point, I estimate that you would need to outproduce the whole world by at least 2- to 3-fold in Carracks over Caravels. From that perspective, the Carrack is more useless than most UUs. That's not to say that you cannot have fun with it ;)



    That's true, but it's even worse: the usefulness of a UU is not only determined by the time necessary for the enemy to negate its effectiveness, but by the time it takes your own Civ to negate its usefulness. As soon as The Portuguese reach Navigation (which they will usually want to reach fairly fast, usually as the next tech), their UU becomes obsolete - to themselves! You might as well have a Caravel at that point, instead of the Carrack. Unless, of course, you put a high value on the 2 attack points.
     
  5. Lanzelot

    Lanzelot Moderator Moderator

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    Why would they want to reach it fairly fast?
    • Magellan's Voyage: assuming you were able to build (or capture) the Great Lighthouse earlier, there is no need for that before you complete Magnetism. (Remember: Magellan and Lighthouse are not cumulative!!)
    • Safely cross oceans: your Carrack doesn't need Navigation for that ;)
    • Trade world maps: by now your ships and explorers should already have mapped the entire world...
    • Trade over ocean: Ok, if there is an important strategic or luxury resource that is separated from your home continent by ocean and that you want to ship home, this feature might be useful. But this should be a rare case, not?! And perhaps it can wait until Magnetism?
    And in addition, Navigation is an optional tech, so I think it has very low priority (except for some rare circumstances), and the priority for the Portuguese is even lower, as they already got its main benefits from elsewhere.
     
  6. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    True, but you don't want to risk anyone snatching it either ;)

    True.

    Yeah, but you want what The Portuguese are all about, in the end - that sweet, sweet monaaaaay :D World Maps sell quite well, especially if you know the world very well. Admittedly, you can wait with the selling until later, so this is perhaps a minor point. But the value might go down somewhat as more discoveries are made by other Civs in the meantime (unless of course, something is really unreachable unless you can cross Ocean squares).

    This is actually the main point about Navigation.

    Again: monaaaaaaaay :D As much of it, as quickly as possible. I tend to trade away everything I have left over in terms of Lux and Res as fast as possible. Also helps with the diplomacy. And, of course, you want maximum access to Lux as soon as possible, to push as many cities into "We love the King" as fast as you can to lower corruption, because of, you guessed it - monaaaaay :D And you don't want to do this via the happy slider, of course, and preferrably even without paying upkeep for too many happiness buildings - that's all money that's flowing out of your account, while it should be flowing into it!

    I think the fact that a tech is optional is often overstated in arguments and not enough to make it low priority, as a general rule. Most optional techs are actually extremely usefull and massive trade assets: Monarchy, The Republic, Chivalry, Music Theory, Democracy, Military Tradition, Ironclads, Sanitation, Nationalism, and Communism are all awesome techs, for various reasons. Most of them sell extremely well, too.
     
  7. justanick

    justanick Chieftain

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    WLTKD does not reduce corruption, so it does not increase money directly. WLTKD reduces waste. This higher production be used for wealth or buildings that effect the net output of money.
     
  8. Lanzelot

    Lanzelot Moderator Moderator

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    Democracy?? Ironclads??? :mischief:

    In nearly all cases, Republic is better than Democracy. (I research it only when playing for a 20K victory, because it is a requirement for Free Artistry/Shakespeare... ;))

    And Ironclads? I think I never researched that tech in my entire life... I built some ironclads in Vanilla/PtW, when they could be built with Steam Power. But no way I would research an optional tech just for a ship unit... Naval warfare (if the AI is really contesting the seas) can wait until destroyers...
     
  9. justanick

    justanick Chieftain

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    I researched ironclads in one PBEM and did not regret it. They can be useful for humans. As for democracy i agree, but selling it to AI can be convenient in a tech broker game. The game certainly is more fun without skipping those techs. :)
     
  10. Lanzelot

    Lanzelot Moderator Moderator

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    That's true. The ironclad really is a nice unit in its time. But don't forget: I'm not playing the game for fun... :D (When I challenge the AI, I mean serious business... ;))
     
  11. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    Whatever ;) End result: more monaaaaaay! :D

    Both sell for outstandingly high prices to the AI! Democracy is probably the best selling tech of the entire Medieval Age, and Ironclads sell incredibly well for the small price you pay in research. I will happily invest a few turns to use this tech to cripple the AI's research at the beginning of the Industrial Age by robbing them blind for GPT. I have often enough researched the tech without building a single Ironclad and not regretted it. Unless you're in an uphill struggle to snatch ToE, there's certainly almost always time for it. In my opinion, one needs to get away from the idea of using every dead-end tech one researches, when playing tech broker. Its not about that at all - its about selling that tech.
     

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