Tributaries vs Colonialism/Monarchy vs Despotism/Conquest vs Theocracy

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I'm interested to know the pros and cons of these civics between each other, and what playstyles they benefit to. I'm already quite a veteran on this mod (and civ iv in general), but because this mod updates constantly and unsurprisingly the status and bonuses changes, i am incredibly interested to know how does it fare nowadays these civics and metas.
 
IMO:

Tributaries is best when you have a lot of cities with solid food output but low production and need to get a military online, or if you have a lot of vassals, while Colonialism is best if you can build a lot of Slave Plantations or if you have a lot of Colonies

Monarchy is best when you have a lot of cities with solid food output but low happiness and need to get your population working valuable tiles, or if you need to rapidly increase your Espionage output, Despotism is best when you have a lot of cities with solid food output but low production and need to get infrastructure online, or if you want to keep your periphery pop down by whipping whenever you have 2 pop working junk tiles (anything that's not a total yield of 5 or more), also is nice in that you can often whip to avoid starvation after conquering a city

Conquest is best if you want to build your economy on conquest, you can run a high net negative gold per turn without risking a strike if they conquer rapidly enough, Theocracy is best if you want Cottage growth... or if you really need those extra Priest slots, not sure I've ever really needed them, most civs that care about religion have access to a nearby holy city or two
 
Throughout the course of the game, there are a few different civic strategies for a civilization to quickly raise up a military.

The earliest civic to rush out a military is Despotism. Pair it with Conquest when available, Despotism peaks in the early eras, because military units, with few exceptions, are almost all under 60 :hammers:. Meaning you can whip them out with 2 population or less, which is fairly easy for most cities.

The second civic strategy comes with Tributaries. I generally consider Tributaries to be superior to Despotism because 1.) It frees up a government slot, and 2.) It doesn't accrue :mad:, which, depending on your civilization, can quickly become a problem.

The third civic for rushing out a military is Citizenship, and buying mercenaries. For most civilizations, this strategy becomes most attractive in the Renaissance era, where international trade routes and trading companies can bring in much more :gold: than you had in the previous eras. For a couple of civilizations (Ex: Vikings with their UP, Arabs controlling several holy city shrines), Citizenship can be attractive in earlier eras as well, as they have a plethora of :gold: to play around with.

The final civic for rushing out a military is Nationhood, the good ol' draft.

To answer the other half of your question though, I would run Monarchy/Colonialism once my empire is already established, and my core (after keeping it small with Tributaries) needs to start growing to support peripheral population.

Theocracy is also a very attractive civic when quickly raising an army... The only problem is it's in a very awkward position on the tech tree. Usually I rush through the Medieval era to Firearms, and Doctrine is usually forgotten until I'm done growing my military. If you can swing it, however, Theocracy can pair nice with Tributaries. After all, you aren't constructing buildings with Clergy, and you aren't supporting any specialists with Monasticism.
 
Theocracy also has its big stability boost going for it, provided that most of your cities follow only your religion
 
In the early medieval game I feel like the alternative to Despotism/Conquest isn't Monarchy, it's Elective/Tributaries. You build cheap Barracks and Stables then pump out units in cities with lots of excess food. As a bonus, you get plenty of early :commerce:.

Works great for civs like France that gets Pastures from advanced start and can use early Lancers, then switch out of Elective once they adopt Regulated Trade. Russia can also makes good use of it (and its territory is big enough that Elective is attractive longer, though the opportunity cost of not adopting Despotism can be sorely missed if you're caught unprepared against a barbarian wave.

Monarchy should ideally only be adopted when you have plenty of improved tiles already. An extra citizen working anything unimproved doesn't feel worth it. In practice this isn't always optimal so :food:-rich civs like Egypt, India or China might adopt it early then rush to improve the land at a quick enough pace.

Unless there's some specific goal requiring to suppress other religions, I tend to avoid Theocracy just because Clergy or Monasticism are all around great, but Theocracy+Tributaries+Barracks can be a decent option if you're mostly building nothing but units (i.e. you have purely military objectives).
 
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