I bought the game when it came out and read few strategy articles on this board, Sullla's guid, REX, Catherine cottage etc etc... I mainly played single player games since from the very first CIV (civ I) I've allways thought it did not make any sense playing MP for this game. I haven't even bothered looking at the way it was managed in civ 2 and 3. Eventually, after another single player game (I play Emperor) my curiousity led me to the Multi player menu, and I got positively surprised by the fact that all was concentrated in a single lobby; I come from a game (Combat Mission) where you have to take care of all the meeting with an adversary in a seperate chat room, and connect IP yourself. I tried to join a game, it was quite easy in fact, because it was during the week mainly. This brings me to my first thought : Joining games. Joining games in this lobby is very anoying. When the lobby is crowded (afternoons weekends mainly) it's almost impossible to join a game. Experienced players seem to have created a new religion : Peerism (research the Internet to found it). There goes all sorts of beliefs that are passed from players to players not without using their imagination. "You shall unckeck the ready button to let other parishioners join our church", "You shall uncheck the no cheat button to let our church stand the test of time". The game host is some kind of priest who is communicating with the other world -the lobby- where Great Inquisitors proclame "You have a bad peer on slot number 2 !". And then you get burned. Nobody really knows what is happening, but soon you'll find out that you are not faithful enough to the Peerism and be you'll be recorded as a "Bad Peer". When you're at that point you only have two options: 1. Quit your job, play during the week. 2. Quit your girlffriend, spend 3 hours during the weekend trying to join a few games. Enough for the Lobby digression. We'll have plenty of time to think about in our next Join/Wait/QuitGameSpy/RejoinGameSpy session. To choose a game you have it's ping, the type of the map and the title. I'm in Europe, I tend to play european games. It's not chauvinism, it's simply that after so much online games I figured out that : 1. Better connection to european hosts 2. Better gameplay, polite players Mainly it's German game, Deutsch, Austria, Spanish. Unfortunatly I don't have so much "France" game, francophone players are organized in a sort of ladder that I don't like (I'll talk about it latter on). Then you're in the room ! You made it without beeing kicked out. The point is : You can pretty much find out what kind of guys you're going to face, by knowing the game's name, reading the player's messages, looking at the settings and the civs they want to play. Usually you have joined a game that includes "No quitters" in it's name. Don't take too much care about that, I've seen so many host leave the game they themselves called that way. In a way, I tend to be more optimistic when the game doesn't mention anything about quitting to avoid reminding players it's an option maybe. If it's not "No quitters" it's FFA or both. Welcome to the world of Acronym. FFA No TT = Free For All No Tech Trading. First I take a look at the size of the map. If it's above standard I just ask for a smaller one, if it's a no I get back to the lobby. Same thing goes for the speed of the game and the timer (can't play without a timer anyway). A blazing game can last 5 hours. I don't really care about the type of the map, though I don't really appreciate symetrical ones (Hub etc ...). But I can say Island doesn't make very much sense. Since it's like playing on our one for 4 hours. I even saw an Island game with only conquest victory enabled. Clearly, the players are new to the game or the MP ones. I wont stay in this room. Another indicator of not very good player is when they ask for No Barbarians. Every time I see this request I take a close look at the player's evolution in the game and I end up with the conlusion he is a little new. Barbarians are exciting, the game is cheesy without them. The early expansion relies on several parameters that fit nicely in together in terms of game play (scouting, occupying uncolonized land, working tiles etc etc), barbarians are one of these and removing them just breaks the harmony. I even support the raging barbs on. Eventually it doesn't slower your expansion too much, it makes you think more and at the end of the day your units even have promotions. If too many players support the request to remove barbs, I leave the room. Players choosing a leader of their own nationality is suspicious. Not in 100% of the cases of course. Some play it because they like their play style, some because they want to play it because it's their country but still are good players, others are a bit nationalistic and these tend to be quitters. I don't really like team games so I play them only if the lobby is crowded and it's the only game I could join. When players propose to make teams, I leave. For me it's throwing away a enormous aspect of the game : diplomacy. Players choosing a financial civs are of course potentially good ones. A roman player is saying to you "Hello I want to rush", not very discrete. When the host choses exotic parameters such as tropical or ice and that the players agree on it, I'm pretty confident. A player that doesn't send a single message in the game room has a high potential of quitting in my point of view. A good chatting room is often a security to have a nice game. Funnny : last time, the game that had the best ping had a sleepy host. Players kept joining and filling the game, talking about the settings and so on, getting upset at each others and eventually discovering the host was absent! I joined this game a few times to see this happened: very funny, human nature. My Civ. Allways financial. So it leaves : Catherine. I like her start techs. I'll take her if I know the map will be crowded (Terra for instance) to use the creative trait against the others. Also this trait makes you're early expansion much faster (get ressources fast, no compromise in your city location). The UU is ok too. Cool to have a scout too! Qin. Good first techs. This mean I'll have to chop some Obelix, but it's ok (same for all the others). I like the ability to build fast wonders and forges, though I tend to build wonders quite late in the game, maybe I'll go for the oracle with him. EXCELLENT UU. MP is allways about axemen, with the China UU you rock everybody. Mali. Spiritual is a great trait. But I really like it's UU (good archer). I'll choose him if there is barbs. Huayna. Agressive is ok, but I don't like the UU too much, just build wariors instead of archers and you're as good as them. But he's quite a good choice anyway. Wash. He's overall good, big money. Not very good start techs nor UU though. I don't play him often. Liz. Well I don't use the philosophical thing too much so I rarely use her. I'm a great cottage beliver, they are more adaptable than scientist. The game is about adapting your strategy. Victoria. On high difficulty levels. Anyway, I'm ok for other leaders. I see random leaders or personality as a good indication for a nice game. But if I have too chose it would be the three or four formers. Playing the game. A nice thing about CIV4 is that you can't get stupid start position. There is allways something to do. Wow, how much quitters would we get if it wasn't the case ! Depending on the parameters (barbs, continent, pangea, fish ressource etc ...) I'll choose the strategy. I'm not going too much in details, it's not a strategy guide. Indication : Players founding an early religion are not in a so good shape. First it means they start with mysticism, so they are not financial or have Huayna Capac wich is not the fastest growing civ. Founding a religion means more focus on the capital and less on the second city and the improvments. BTW, if Huyna founds a religion chances are he is not planning on building much more cities ;-) Basically without fish I build 2 workers and a settler. When I produce workers or settlers at this stage, I allways chope them. The question is when to build them and what to build between them. Risky : Build first worker at size one. Then let city grow to 3 while building 2/3 warriors. Chope 2nd worker, chope settler with both workers. Security : Only build army wait for size 3 and build 2 worker and the settler in a row. Good compromise : Warrior till size 2. Worker at size 2 improves tile while city grows 3 (building warrior). At size 3 build 2nd worker and settler. With fish : Build a warior, search fishing (if you're Catherine, you can maybe go for a religion) build a worker chope ships, chope worker, chope settler. The thing is (and that will explain why I said early religion delays growth) that you usually need an improvment tech before you discover Bronze Working. I don't think it makes too much sense to chope warriors. So when the first worker comes out, he will build a food improvment, +2 or +3 food is awsome at the start of the game. If you need one or two imrpovment tech you don't have time for a risky religion rush. The first settler is allways escorted by ... A worker. He doesn't need to be slowed down by a warrior. I place warriors on hills to cover the area he's traveling thru and the new city location anyway. Warriors need to move around to ensure the area is clear. I think we all know what a good city location is ... If possible The second city's first build is a worker choped by the escorting one (if not Catherine, chope obelix maybe). If you manage to make things like this you are probably note very high in score but you're allready a juggernaut. Indication : Players on the top of the rankings at this stage are often bad players. Beeline for pottery, build cottages on riversides first then everywhere (even lux ressources, you only need one per type) you know the music. Basically the worker that is left alone in the capital starts building cottages as soon as the team settler/worker left the area. Getting Iron soon is good if you don't have cooper. It's mainly to know where the good tiles are before choosing a city location. Indication : ludicrous. Unless you have a philosophical leader going for a specific GP farm city (My opinion is that it's not a good idea anyway) if you see farms on grassland or flood plains you are facing a brilliant auto worker : This civ doesn't represent a danger for you. You can do all your game without religion, but I tend to like to go for Theo or Code, since they are not too hard to get : you have a commerce lead at this stage to get them first, people don't bother too much with them (except maybe a magic oracle) at the very start, but beelining for priesthood is IMO a suicide strategy. You NEED to go for writing to build libraries fast, so code comes in quicky. Anyway : classical strategies here, nothing new. Indication : allways build armies. It doesn't slow your expansion at all. I like to build a city near hills and prod ressource quite early (maybe 3d of 4th city) building only a barrack and then ONLY units). So the indication is : press F9, take a look at two things : 1. GNP you're certainly very high above the others, your real competitors are the one that on the top of this graph. 2. Power. Essential. You'll find out that a lot of players don't build units at all. They have some kind of Civ2 way of thinking (the time when you had 124 456 thousands of MUSTPRODUCE buildings INALLCITIES) that makes them build a granary when it's lethal (you don't to let cities go above what they can afford) or a market (who builds markets anyway ? ) ). These are bad players. They think the only way to stay on the tech race is to accept a wrong compromise on military. Very often, these players will be attacked. How many of these players have I see quitting immediatly when attacked ? Worse : they gift all their cities. Worse, they take all the defenders away to let the attacker take over every cities. Human nature. Tip : it's allways a good thing beeing reactive with your army as a diplomatic force. When a good civ attacks a weak one, I send all my best units in the defender's territory to gift them, I stop all my current projects to replace the units I gave (takes no more than 10 turns). The guy attacking didn't plan on facing such resistance and since we allways loose wars because of bad planning ... You gain a good friend (be carefull you didn't gave him too much units near one of your city that got weak because of the gifts ;-)), you make a good ennemy become weaker. I tend to be implicated in absolutly all the wars that are declared. Just be carefull not gifting your UU ;-). Human nature again : a player once noticed this situation, insulted me and abandonned the game. A thought (it's getting long !!!) about 1vs1, 2vs2, 3vs3. Well I don't like these games, it's not civilization, it's age of empire. Often it's even almost RTS because of the simultaneous turns !!! I said previously that I play them sometimes when nothing else is available. 3v3 tends to go wrong because when one of the 3 is dead the other 2 allmost allways quit. 2v2 is quite ok. I had a few lately that gave a good surprise : the players where very nice, polite and kept playing till the very last city was destroyed. I don't like this type of Age Of Empire play but if it's against such players I'll play them more often. Ah ! Tip : remember the names of the good players. A thought about CivFR. I can play english, german or french games. I said previously I liked european games better (though the 2vs2 previous games i mentionned were very good US players). On the lobby I often see games called "CivFR something". They have a password wich is available on their french site. I subscribed to it and it took me a month to find the password in their messy site (vive civfanatics!). I was very excited to join such a game because I had the experience of french communities with very serious players, absolutly NO quitters etc etc... So I entered (very fast) a room and got crazy with : 1. The settings 2. The fact that ALL CivFR games have these same settings all the time : - 100 turns - All at war - One city taken and the whole civ is destroyed - No barbs I played this thinking I was playing AOE or Rise Of Nation. Same thing withouth the thrill. I hate these parameters because they design a game that is not in the spirit of Civilization. 100 turns is not Civilization. All at war means no diplomacy ! One city destroys all empire neglects the principle of invasion, counter attack etc etc etc (how many game have I won while loosing cities ?) You find yourself in situation with a guy on your right, a guy on your left. The guy on the left keeps attacking with all his troups and finally the guy on his left takes one of his city : everything disappears. But a good thing about CivFR though is that NOBODY EVER quits. If a guy is disconnected, all the players will vote "WAIT". We can wait half an hour, but the game will restart. If needed we reload the game, no matter how long it takes. Give me french player's fair play and other player's competitivity and we'll have a good game !