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TMIT's Guide to Speed Civving

Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by TheMeInTeam, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Purpose of this Guide:

    The purpose of this guide is to give players a compilation of the gameplay tactics, decision processes, and emphasis used to effectively play Civ IV games more rapidly. As an Emperor/Immortal player (Though shaky, I win on the latter now with reasonable frequency), I am not the best player on the forums...or even close. However, I have enjoyed the trek from settler to immortal across this year immensely, and my time on the forums has contributed to that experience. I'd like to give something back. While not directly game-strategy related, playing through turns more rapidly without losing strategic focus is indeed an acquired skill. Also, my ability to do this has had a direct impact on the speed at which I've been able to improve, so hopefully this guide is insightful to players who wish to reduce their game time somewhat. An example of a few possibilities, albeit a bit slow because I wrote them up as I played (note the times):

    PYL V - Emp/Epic Domination win:

    Spoiler :


    Lonely Hearts Club Lincoln - Emp/Epic UN off vassals:

    Spoiler :


    Ultimately I shoot for between 2-4 hour games on epic speed for standard maps. (immortal, as I still have to concentrate there, takes an extra 30 mins on average). Extreme cases such as huge/below level in < 2 hours are possible, but not the norm. In my experience, the game speed causes very little differentiation in time played, with the exception of marathon which adds an hour or two for me due to the sheer volume of turns. I estimate a lot of my slowdown is adaptation to the balance alterations and that it could be much closer, however.

    I will try to group tips logically, and will leave room for other suggestions as well. Here's hoping that Blazing!!! feels slow for others as well! That said, on with the guide!

    Early game: Workers/City tiles/Exploration/Diplomacy


    Without a doubt, this is the area of the game that has the least tolerance for micromanagement errors. Small mistakes can snowball negatively, while a good opening can secure the game much sooner.

    Workers: Do not automate these until you 1) feel like you've won or 2) you've settled and improved all of your land. This isn't micro you compromise on. I'll get into using the governor to force auto workers to improve tiles correctly later, but early on they just waste too many turns if you leave them alone. Memorize the hotkeys. Practice using them until you have them down. Alt c = chop. T = cottage. K = workshop. I = farm. Any improvement you make with any significance, know the hotkey and use it. On most turns my worker micro is less than 10 seconds, even later into the game. Later in the game, group workers in groups of 2-4 or automate them...lost worker turns are far less of an issue by then.

    City Tiles: This one is hard and it slows a lot of players down on a turn by turn basis. Many players check every city every turn. There's no way I could ever possibly tolerate that. There are two things that can speed you up with city tiles - flash memorization and the governor. The former is a skill independent of civ but useful within it. I can, for example, memorize what tiles each city works for up to 8-12 cities, without exerting much effort. This allows one to tile swap without looking into the city or examining the terrain carefully (even microing builds based on hammer investments or noting growth as a POSSIBLE indicator to look again), and is incredibly useful...but not easily learned.

    The governor, however, is a good alternative but takes practice. When you select "emphasize food", hammers, commerce, or great people, the city will swap its tiles (or even run specialists) accordingly. Sometimes this is exactly what you want, sometimes it is not. Note that with COMBINATIONS of these buttons, it's usually possible to get the city to work what you want it to work. Memorize this functionality - once you get used to it you can swap between working farms and working mines or cottages without even looking, because you'll know what the city is working just by clicking the button. Also note that if you're going to emphasize great people, try to force the kinds of specialists you want getting the gold highlight around them. Low micro SE? Oh yes, you can, if you REALLY know what you're doing.

    Note: I don't recommend doing this, and I seldom do it myself. However, GOVERNOR SELECTIONS AFFECT WHAT WORKERS MAKE. Play around with it and you'll see. Also, if you properly assign the governor buttons late in the game, you don't need to check "leave old improvements' usually. Workers will leave what you intended and even optimize to the extent of placing windmills over mines later in the game etc. Play with this a lot though, because it takes a while to get a feel for it. Also, unless it's pretty late in the game I wouldn't recommend it.

    Exploration: It varies based on game speed, map, and barbarians, but ultimately you want to keep your guy(s) alive. On marathon or epic I strongly recommend hugging the coast as you're less likely to die to barbs and there's plenty of time to scout around with fogbusters. You also open coastal trade routes. On faster settings, make sure you know where to settle before mapping out the rest of your landmass. Oh yeah. Unless barbs are OFF, do not skimp on this micro. Later on, after everything is settled, you can use auto explore with open borders to map out the AI lands. Being a warmonger I love doing this because it makes pre-paper invasions nicer and takes very little effort.

    Diplomacy: This is another major time sink for players. I hear people frequently check diplo screens for if someone has too much on their hands. They also check for trades and such. I don't use it, but the BUG mod will help you a lot with trade availability. The biggest advice I can give here, however, is to know the AI XMLs and memorize game patterns/mechanics. If you know they can't declare, or know they'll absolutely declare on someone else first, you don't need to check. The better you know the AIs, the easier this becomes.

    Queuing/Unit Movement/Building Micro

    Unit movement: There are hotkeys associated with moving troops around, and they are pretty logical after you get used to it. Everyone knows to right click to move single units or stacks, I'm assuming. Holding shift allows one to select multiple units in one tile by clicking on them in succession. Holding alt and clicking will select all units. Holding control and clicking will select all units of one type. This is very, very important for managing stacks, especially at war. It allows you to move the whole stack, switch to your catapults, only select the ones with accuracy, hit b for bombard, click on perhaps a barrage one or two, suicide them, and then click on like-promoted city raider units to group-attack...in about 10 seconds, often less. This is why I war so much, and yet my game times are still fast.

    I should also mention here that you should turn battle animations off and make units move as quickly as possible. Also, don't show AI movements, that takes an eternity. If you suspect an attack from somewhere (and you should if there's going to be one), just look. Otherwise, if already at war use the events list at the top left of the screen to zoom there.

    Queuing/Building: I mention city queues in this section, because of the way shift, alt, and control apply to them. Control clicking will move something to the top of the list. Shift clicking adds it to the bottom. Alt is a special case - used on units, it orders a loop command and can be used to indefinitely produce a unit or sequence of units (you can assign a sequence using a combination of alt with control or shirt). You can interrupt this temporarily by adding a non-loop building so that the city completes its current units, makes the building, and then goes back to massing units.

    Queue Techs: You can set techs such that the game automatically proceeds to the next tech without a prompt. Go into the tech screen. If you click on a tech, you can of course just beeline that tech. By holding shift and clicking on techs in an order, you can actually set your tech path in that order.

    Worker Actions can similarly be queued using shift and giving them. Unlike the above, I recommend using queue with worker actions sparingly. Barbs, enemy troops, new techs, and just the time taken to think/calculate further into the game frequently makes queuing up a set of actions for a worker not a cost effective use of time, particularly if you have to give it further orders later.

    Cities should never give you a pop-up box if you're playing at optimal speeds. You should always have something queued, and do it by clicking on the city from the main screen. Note that you can select multiple cities. Again, holding shift allows you do to so much like units. Holding alt will select all cities. Holding control will select all cities on a continent. Control clicking cities is very important for the next topic.

    Waypoints

    Waypoints get their own special section. After the early game, I use these extensively. Select a city or group of cities, hold shift and right click on a destination. All newly trained units will go there. Sound useful? It is. When massing for war, this is a border city. New workers can go to or near their destination ahead of time. This also makes naval transportation very, very easy. Ships will go to that port city you're staging an invasion from, and so will your units. You can easily load units onto ships by having them on a coast tile, and sending an entire stack onto the transport. This is much faster than using load and unload. The only time you'll want to use unload is when landing in a friendly city - you can mass unload and the units dropped off can move immediately.

    Pattern Recognition/Decision Heuristics

    This is a speed wildcard. It depends on the player, but it's a major factor in all facets of not only civ, but games and even life in general. How quickly can you comfortably make accurate decisions based on information, and how effectively can you filter out bad information? In civ you'll want to improve specials first, usually food tiles. What then? Mines? Farms? cottages? Depends on the city specialization. Who do you attack based on religion, the kind of AIs you're up against, and so on? For me, these decisions (yes, even major ones like choice of ally and when to war) take a matter of seconds to plan. Memorizing decision patterns rather than calculating the game out shaves hours off by itself. It's probably the single greatest factor in my speed, but unfortunately I can only teach micro tricks - I can't teach comfort with speed decision making. Memorizing micro decisions such as what tile to work in a situation or patterns of religion/location can make you much, much faster. Note: unless you're some kind of prodigy, in which case you're only reading this for fun, you WILL make mistakes at first. That's fine...just learn from them. After all, you should be playing 2-4 times as many games :lol:

    My advice here is simply to practice with the mindset that you want to make your decisions within seconds. It takes some getting used to, but it's pretty fun after that.

    Conclusion

    Playing Civ IV at high speeds is a combination of talent, skill, and practice. In my very first post on this forum, I mentioned that the #1 goal is to have fun in the game. To that end, while I recommend all of the above for speed, if one of the elements isn't fun, then don't do it. This is for those who specifically wish to speed up their real life time invested in a single game, but like anything else the ability to do so comes at a price.

    However, I once again emphasize practice. For me, I was a real-time strategy game player - pretty strong in both Starcraft and Warcraft III though not top tier certainly good enough to be ranked well on the ladders of both for a while. Nevertheless, this makes civ's pace seem slow to me. For those of you who are not very familiar with genres of gaming that force you to make important decisions in seconds or less, it's a harder adjustment to play Civ IV more rapidly.

    How to practice then? Hotseat multiplayer games - BUT YOU are the ONLY player other than the AI. This allows you to set a turn timer. Set it to Blazing!!!. If you do so and practice a bit, you will eventually find you can handle it in under that turn timer. If you get to the point where you play like me, Blazing!!! will often feel way too slow unless you're in a renaissance war or later and you'll be ending turns before you run out of time for the ENTIRE game. In other words, most of my turns are 30 seconds or less, and this includes worker micro, tile swapping, building choices, and unit movement at war or otherwise. It also includes trades. Another trick you can use is to look at demo screens between turns, once you're truly fast.

    Disclaimer: I'm new to writing guides, so this is a work in process. Specifically, I wish to add screen shots and perhaps a few tips I've forgotten about. I have posted hundreds of screenshots on the forum this year, but their scope is always my game situation, major events, or strategic. I've never taken a screen shot to emphasize facets of my play that speed the game up, and in many cases it's not possible. Where it is, I will take screen shots showing important micro aspects and add them to this guide over time.

    Hope this helps!
     
  2. PaulusIII

    PaulusIII Unholy Warlord

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    Interesting read. I never knew there were so many ways I can speed up my game.

    I think this article also holds some useful tips on quick and good micromanagement. I for one keep forgetting about the waypoint technique and as such still have to move every unit around manually, and I'm pretty sloppy with that.
     
  3. UWHabs

    UWHabs Warlord

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    The waypoints will help. I always hate moving everyone to the same spot every turn.

    I still need to learn the hotkeys - that will help. One thing I'm always slow about is invading, I always micromanage explicitly my attacks. I'll constantly check and re-check my odds, whether I should throw another Treb at the city, do I attack with my CR2 mace, or should I go with my musket? Then it's managing promotions. Should this attack net me 2 XP, I want to attack with my 8/10 unit, and save the 9/10 guy for mop-up. Or I debate whether I attack with my 13/17 unit to get close to the next promotion, or the 11/17 guy to get both up there.

    I guess a lot of that comes with experience. Although maybe I should try out the BUG mod, as looking at screenshots, the extra info on the screen should help.
     
  4. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Yeah...I don't do the battle calculations in my head for more than a second or two per attack, but warring in tons and tons of game gives you an idea of optimal patterns. There is actually a rather finite set of possible attackers vs defenders, and some are far more likely. Once you've seen those situations, why recalculate the second time you see the same matchups? Of course, this requires memorization, which may or may not be easy depending on the person.
     
  5. Abegweit

    Abegweit Anarchist trader

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    Excellent guide.Well done. :goodjob: Unfortunately I can't relate to it because I am a plodder. Every step gets re-done three times before I push the button.
     
  6. RRRaskolnikov

    RRRaskolnikov Goldfish

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    Agreed, as I play a fair amout of marathon, I too experienced automation of workers, governors, combats... really good tips here.
    One comment though: for specialists, I rarely use the GNP button prefering the beaker button (to run scientists obviously) as I found sometimes (when in caste) the governor will completly stop the growth of the city even if it's several points under happy and health cap... as someone experienced this? Using food and GNP buttons together is also an option then...

    Cheers
     
  7. troytheface

    troytheface Chieftain

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    This is an interesting theory and method. There are other areas in so far as speed to be considered, however i am a proponent of the "Icon" driven game and as as chess player appreciate economy of moves.
     
  8. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Yeah it's a little touchy. I will mix food and great people, or just go great people with scientists forced in caste.

    It depends on the food tiles available too. The emphasize GP city seems to always like the high food yield tiles and will work them before running great people. It does interesting things at times too, like starving the city for a turn if you are getting a great person 1 turn earlier as a result.

    It will run farms but it's not as easy to do that. It makes sense in a way, given that farms are not as strong food sources pre-biology. I go back and forth with this one...it's the least obvious/useful of the emphasize buttons (other than avoid growth, which I never use).
     
  9. PieceOfMind

    PieceOfMind Drill IV Defender Retired Moderator

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    Sorry to force an off-topic point onto you, but I find in my games the bigger limiting thing on my speed is the game lag. It's unfortunate that I only like to play large or huge maps, because these suffer the worst. Even with the completely unmoded game when I select a single unit in a stack of about 30 in a city it takes a good second just for it to select. It's even worse in MP where latency is an issue too.

    What sort of computer do you run TMIT?

    Anyway, I know the biggest time waster of my own fault is that I 99% of the time open up the city screen when deciding what to build next. It' just habit now - I even do it in MP. Seeing the progress bar and how the citizens get assigned for the build all seem important when picking a new build.
     
  10. zizzeus

    zizzeus Chieftain

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    Great ideas. I can't relate at all though; like Habs I constantly check odds in the battles since I probably didn't bring enough troops in the first place. For me that's the lure of the single game. I'm amazed at your game times.

    I will also never use the "avoid growth" button again, after forgetting to turn it off in my capital and then wondering why it was size 7 in 1850? Almost as much a punch in the nuts as building the pyramids and not switching your government.
     
  11. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    I use a fairly new hp laptop. It has a dual core which means nothing. I forget about video card and RAM (which do). IIRC the latter is 1 gig. I keep my settings low.

    Honestly I don't get much lag though. On huge maps later in the game it's like a horrible 5-10 seconds a turn, early game it's closer to instant. On standard maps it's negligible. If you want more speed cut the graphics (unless you have).

    The governor on occasion does interesting things when you select certain units. These are usually things like workers/settlers, and work boats. It will automatically swap tiles when building those so you have to keep an eye on it. Fortunately, you usually build those things early in the game, so you don't have to watch a ton of cities.

    Although if I double click a city and switch tiles around for it, that's still a 5-6 second job. If you can see the whole screen while playing (definitely a RTS habit), you can actually notice BPT or GPT changing when you build a settler if it pulls a citizen off a gold tile or even just a hamlet or something, or the slight variation in terrain from that little "citizen working here" on the tile moving.
     
  12. Supr49er

    Supr49er 2011 Thunderfall Cup

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    Welcome to the Forums zizzeus. :beer:
     
  13. Gumbolt

    Gumbolt Phoenix Rising

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    I forget what standard maps look like. I would finish many more games on a smaller map. I normally play huge maps. :eek:

    I think the tip for a shorter game is a smaller map. Although smaller maps take off some of the challenge. Play with 7 ai. If you early rush 2 Ai it leaves 4 left. Very quick domination wins.

    A duel map on noble would be over very quickly with a warrior rush.

    I think the key thing with civ 4 is to make it fun. Do this and you will always have hours of fun.

    Thats part of the reason you have traits, UB's and UU's. makes each nation different to play.
     
  14. oyzar

    oyzar Have quit civ/forums

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    You never use avoid growth? This button is needed sometimes for optimal play...
     
  15. Abegweit

    Abegweit Anarchist trader

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    While true, it's quite rare and it's easy to screw up. I sure try to avoid it.
     
  16. Bleys

    Bleys Chieftain

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    Nice article T, very well done indeed.

    You forgot my favorite method of speeding up play though.

    JUST HIT THE DAMN BUTTON!!!
     
  17. DMOC

    DMOC Mathematician

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    TMIT, I assume you turn off animations and wonder/religion videos? Just wondering, as I don't think I spotted anything of the sort in the article.
     
  18. Ringwraiths

    Ringwraiths Chieftain

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    The tip about waypoints is worth the read.

    Personally, I've never enjoyed real-time games. I always feel rushed and harried. I enjoy the slow pace of a turn-based game, however, I can't stand some of the tedium. A few of your suggestions will help in that department.

    Thanks!
     
  19. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Yes. I also turn off music. However, while those things are true I would like to keep the guide concise/useful. I define useful as things that players may not be aware of or an approach to doing something that they don't do but could. I do assume most people know things like "reducing settings, turning off wonders, playing smaller maps, and getting a better computer = faster games". The guide itself, of course, wishes to accomplish its objective with minimal time investment ;).

    No but seriously, I will update it as I think of other things to include, but it almost feels like telling people "turn your videos off and by not seeing them the game goes faster" is kind of insulting to them. If they want the videos off, they'll turn them off.
     
  20. DMOC

    DMOC Mathematician

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    Thanks for the reply. I only ask because I always leave them on for typically the whole game until the modern era.
     

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