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Why is Civ 4 so Hard!?

Discussion in 'Civ4 - General Discussions' started by Horrid@civ, Jul 20, 2018.

  1. Horrid@civ

    Horrid@civ Chieftain

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    Man is this game hard, It is an absolute day and night difference compared to Civ 5 which is the first Civ I actually learned inside and out. I have read the Civ 4 manuals! Even printed them out and spiral bound them if that toons you into how badly I would like to learn this game. I cant even beat on normal mode (I take that back, I beat it once).

    Im learning that you actually have to counter units in this game. Like you actually have to pay attention to modifiers and use them accordingly if you want to stand a chance in battle. However I still run into problems. I have read the strategy forums, it doesnt help! Something is going wrong with my early game that destroys me for the rest of the match.

    1) I keep getting boxed in. I love the small maps with only a few civs, however try as I might to rush settlers I almost always get boxed in. How on earth do you combat this? I could play a bigger map, but like I said I tend to enjoy ones that are not as large. Any tips?

    2) My early game looks like this.....Build warrior, get civ pop up a little bit. Get a settler, get some prime ground, rinse and repeat another time or so, research techs that will improve my surrounding territory, get a worker up and working as well. This style seems to work rather nice on civ 5 and the same holds true here, but once again I end up lacking.

    How important is it to pay attention to the overall "score" of each civ? One thing I notice is that sometimes im not the top civ and in the lower brackets and it is demoralizing. How important is it in early game to use that as a judge to see where you are at?
     
  2. Swordnboard

    Swordnboard Warlord

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    Welcome to civ 4! It really is a great game and still a challenge after 10+ years.

    You've already identified one of the most important ideas of the gave, which is that the early game makes an enormous impact. Some tips I can give you are: almost always build a worker first, and always improve tiles with food bonuses first. Slavery is the most powerful civic in the game and granaries are the most powerful buildings: in conjunction, those two allow you to whip together armies that can solve your boxed-in problem.

    Anyways, sounds like you have a great attitude and want to learn, so I'd recommend posting a game on the strategy and tips forum. People will give tips but also shadow your game and show how they would play it differently.

    Sidenote: don't worry about the in game score too much, it doesn't paint a good picture of how the game is going.
     
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  3. lymond

    lymond Rise Up! (Phoenix Style!) Hall of Fame Staff

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    But it actually does not hold true. Unlike Civ 5, workers and worker management is highly important in IV. As Sword said above, worker first is generally always your first build - we're talkin' like over 95% of the time. Some coastal starts are exceptions. Your issues right now lie in the early game and simply learning some basic concepts.

    The one thing you do mention that sounds on the right track is focusing on worker techs (i.e., ignoring religion). A general rule of thumb to go by until you get more specific advice, is tech FOOD techs first, if your leader does not start with what you need. Then Bronze Working and Writing. Bronze Working is a key tech after food is taken care of for Slavery and chops.

    Slavery did not exist in V, but in IV it is the single most important and powerful feature of the game. Learn to use it.

    Yes, as Sword mentions, don't worry about score. First off, it is the least of your concerns right now anyway as you learn. Second, score is really not a key factor in winning the game. Think of it more as a reflection of your empire at a point in time relative to others, but it does not mean you are losing, or winning. Population is a big component of Score and your Pop will remain relatively low for a good part of the game. (AIs tend to just let their cities grow and only use slavery much if at war).

    Lastly I second Swords comment on the Strategy & Tips forum, which you appear to have found already. Post over there. Post a game from the start and get advice from Turn 0. Really the fastest way to learn. Also, I recommend playing Normal Settings for now.

    Here is a recent active thread where another newer player is learning from his game:

    https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/dar-prince-pangea-normal-default-settings.633556/

    edit: And..yes...IV is much harder than V, but also a heck of a lot more fun and rewarding.
     
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  4. Horrid@civ

    Horrid@civ Chieftain

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    Thank you for the tips. It is amazing how different the 2 games are. I mean you can do everything wrong in Civ 5 and still play at higher difficulties.

    -Going to capture city on a hill while attacking accross a river? No problem! Just fortify and let your archers do the heavy lifting until its time to rush in and 1 shot it!

    This style of thinking has no place in Civ 4 where combat modifiers are key, the lack of ranged strike and stacked units per tile complicate things so much where the mathmatics involved in CIV 4 combat are much much more unforgiving or not easily exploited.

    Its totally my early game that is holding me back as well. The 1 game I won on the normal difficulty was because I wanted to try Picals UU and stimply rush the crap out of anyone boxing me in. I made a game just to quickly mess up with my cup of coffee in the morning and to my surprised not only did I kill his second city.....I managed to take his capital in the same rush! After that I had the space I needed to make it to late game and end up winning! Its hard to get off the ground if you cant spread your wings and fly, and right now Im getting boxed in tight and I JUST started learing about promotions, counter units, UU, and things that basically mean absolute jack in Civ 5.

    I have no idea why I want to learn civ 4 so bad, I guess I just want to have options of what civ games to play. Not just.....lets hop on civ 5 because its easy. They really are different games.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2018
  5. Fippy

    Fippy Mycro Junkie Queen

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    IV was still made for PC gamers who like manuals, spending weeks on learning and so..sounds silly?
    True imo ;)

    Many older titles and series are much much more challenging than newer ones.
    If you beat V or VI deity within 1 week, you might not win deity in IV for 3 years.
     
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  6. lymond

    lymond Rise Up! (Phoenix Style!) Hall of Fame Staff

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    ..cause IV is a game you could play for the rest of your life.

    On lower levels, there is no reason for you to come close to getting boxed in if you learn a few things. Also, "boxed in" may be considered relative. That is, you are relatively not as bad off as you think you are...you just don't know what to do with what you have.
     
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  7. Horrid@civ

    Horrid@civ Chieftain

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    Thats a fair statement. Aside from researching techs for improving my location or maybe a unit I want, I have little to no idea how to dance around the tech tree after that. There are so many options and decisions to make. So many things to consider before the ones you want down the line and how to get to them more quickly. Its confusing and overwhelming.
     
  8. ArchGhost

    ArchGhost Prince

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    It certainly is complex...you also have to be adaptive to the game conditions i.e map, diplomacy, war events, etc. in order to mete out the best progress.

    For a general outline for teching, I use some general benchmarks and milestone techs

    1.) Food techs + mining - make sure you research what you need to improve your open tiles. Wheel is also nice to have for multiple reasons and Pottery for Cottages, the first major improvement that will help your commerce beyond special resources like Gold or Gems.

    2.) Bronze Working - you need to get to BW for the ability to chop away forests so you can use those tiles (and get 20 free hammers) if you need to, and for access to the Slavery civic, the most fundamental mechanic part of the game. Over in S&T read up about Slavery and what it's used for, how and when to whip, etc.

    3.) Writing - allows you to open borders with other AIs, the first step in diplomatic relations. Diplomacy is HUGE and like the other half of Civ 4 besides the technical and mechanical management of units/cities. Gateway tech to later important things. Build libraries to boost science output to keep crawling up the tech tree. After you are done getting your "worker techs" Writing is the tech you take to move on to the next part of the game.

    4.) Alphabet - you need to get your hands on Alpha one way or another in most games, it lets you crucially trade techs with AIs which is the major element of diplomatic relations. You can also build research, turning your cities' hammers into science, helping you get to the next tech. On higher difficulties you might actually tech something else (i.e Aesthetics) and trade it for Alphabet since any civ that has Alpha can be involved in tech trades.

    5.) Currency - this is probably the 2nd most important tech in the game for normal (non-rush or wild gambits) play. Making it to Currency is a major milestone as it gives you a free extra trade route per city, lets you build Wealth (gold) to combat expenses directly, and can trade gold via diplomacy -- sell your old techs for lump sums or trade away surplus resources for gold per turn. Once you get Currency most of the economic crunch from early game expansion is alleviated and you can begin to really work towards cranking tech since you can now fund your empire much easier.

    After you reach currency there are many different paths you can take and gear towards, as it allows you much freedom in what you CAN do. But getting here will set you up to do most what you want in a "straight-up" game. You can start gearing up for a war immediately (Math + Construction for catapults) or down the line (Cuirassars or Trebuchets + macemen), start to farm great people, build a cottage empire to boost commerce, continue expansion, go for seafaring techs on multiple landmass maps, etc.

    General benchmarks I like to use these are all subjective and I am by no means a really good player, so take with a grain of salt:
    -start on a worker on most starts; worker should improve what he can and cities build warriors while growing to 3. Prioritize growth speed (food is most important early)
    -city @ size 3 slow builds a settler. This is usually the fastest way to a 2nd city, though 3 cities can sometimes be faster by whipping Settler #1 at 4 after BW and then regrowing if the start/civ is conducive to it.
    -2nd city as close to turn 30 as possible, or 3 total cities as close to turn 45 as possible (I have double settler whipped before when land grabbing was important)
    -BW as early as possible (depends on how good your starting techs/location is) to whip/chop Settler #2. This is just preference, as I just like to whip Settlers > Workers
    -Writing as close to turn 60 as possible (not usually feasible unless you cut out a lot or have a good civ for the start)
    -Alpha as close to turn 90 as possible
    -Currency ASAP after Alpha

    BTW, it's perfectly okay to be late by several turns to any of these. Sometimes you slow yourself down, barbs complicate things, AIs are slow to tech even on Immortal sometimes and can balk on trades, etc. I tend to overexpand consistently myself because I'm paranoid about not getting good city spots and that slows me down a lot in some games. In reality only about 4 ~good, maybe 3 really strong cities can carry you through the opening of the game. A few more is usually better for more productive output down the line (especially if you want to start a fight) or to deny land to the AI who WILL take it sooner than later, but you have to understand and counter the economic strain they add.
     
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  9. Fish Man

    Fish Man Emperor

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    Welcome to Civ4, where you don't win 90% of games by building 4 cities, farmspamming, and pressing end turn 300 times, and the other 10% by spamming a carpet of crossbows and artillery ;).

    IV is certainly harder to learn than V but much more rewarding once you do. As an example of the stuff you can do...check out @WastinTime's deity BC space game and one of my most recent 1600s AD space victory NC games which I think is not too shabs either (the latter is attached).

    But let's not get ahead of ourselves, and start at the beginning. The most important things have already been mentioned by @ArchGhost but I'd like to share a couple things I do on standard games, that probably overlaps with previous advice. First, tech order for the early game:

    1. Research food techs and improve food first. No exceptions! Worker first (unless you have only seafood).

    2. BW next. Again not really much variance here...chopping and whipping are so powerful that I daresay combined they'll provide 90% of your production for the first 100 turns, if you play things right.

    3. Pottery - need cottages, #1 commerce improvement, and granary, most important building in the game. Again pretty obvious.

    4. AH - before you go writing, I actually suggest a detour to AH if you haven't already. Searching for horses won't hurt, since if you have them you get a powerful tile(s), easily deal with barbs, and could even chariot rush another civ or two if on noble/prince (but that builds bad habits...would recommend skipping very early rushes for now). Plus you get 20% faster teching towards writing.

    5. Writing for OB/libraries

    6. Math - I actually do this before alpha, for faster chops. Building research and tech trading is not that useful that early on in the lower levels where some AIs research so slow they don't get wheels until 1000 BC, and your cities still have important things to build.

    7. Alpha-currency-CoL - once you finish alpha, more likely than not you'll soon be able to trade for the myst-priesthood path and IW. Don't tech these things yourself; it's much more efficient to trade for them.

    8. Now at this point you have many choices. Two of the best ones on lower difficulties seem to be to a. whip an army of cats and rush the world with construction, or b. research civil service, cottage your capital, and watch it turn into a 100bpt monster and completely eclipse everyone else since the AI can't tech for **** on noble.

    That should cover the first 100 turns. There are some variations if you're going for "special" strats like Oracle CS slingshot and HA rush but for now I recommend sticking to the basics.

    As for expansion: check out Sera's city placement guide which does a better job of explaining it than anyone else. The gist of it is: always expand towards food, prioritize rivers, and block off land while using smart chops + whips so you can outexpand the AI. 2 cities by t35, 3 by t45, 5-6 by t75 and 7-8 by t100 is a good guideline for beginners. After you've filled out the space you have it's time to prep for war, which is a whole another bag of worms entirely...

    Anyways, that's all I have for now. Might add more later. The most helpful thing for you that you can do is to post a t0 save for us to walk you through. A lot of these things can't be learned by just reading. With just 2 of those (and a year of individual practice, but those 2 really helped), I went from fumbling on noble to beating by myself an isolated jungle deity start (pretty slowly, and with nukes, but still).

    Hope this helped!
     

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  10. Horrid@civ

    Horrid@civ Chieftain

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    Some great ideas, thanks for the feedback. I wanted to ask how long should a Civ 4 game take. Everytime I play any Civ for that matter my games end up devolving with me spamming "End Turn" once I reach a few hours in and haphazardly upgrading and researching without any style or form. Surprisingly I still managed to thrive in Civ 5 doing this, however I need to learn patience. How long should a game take in reality?
     
  11. lymond

    lymond Rise Up! (Phoenix Style!) Hall of Fame Staff

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    A game should not take any set amount of time. There is no standard for that or any reason for it. Play a game however long you wish or need in order to win it they way you want to.

    None of that matters anyway right now. It is time to start learning.
     
  12. Swordnboard

    Swordnboard Warlord

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    Yep, some folks can calculate and analyze for hours about small decisions in the early game, play the game with complicated spreadsheets open in the background, etcetera, while others rely on heuristics, experience and just plain instincts on what is right to play whole games in an hour or two. Both have their benefits and neither is the "right way" to do it, so as Lymond says I would just jump in and start playing, you'll figure out which one is more successful and enjoyable for you soon enough.

    (You mention spamming end-turn and seeing your play quality degrade after a little while, and at that point I might just recommend saving the game and picking it up the next day, maybe think about it in the back of your head a little bit and come back to the game with fresh ideas and higher quality of play.)
     
  13. civfanchambers

    civfanchambers Prince

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    I'm not trying to be a jerk, but the real question should be "why is civ5 and 6 so easy?". I have been a civ player since 2 and the games have always had a learning curve. Many will agree that civ4 is as close to perfection as any Civ game can be. 5-6 were created to provide civ enjoyment to the mobile game generation. People who want immediate success/gratification without spending weeks, months or years mastering the skills to be a great player.
     
  14. binhthuy71

    binhthuy71 Emperor

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    Civilization, on floppies, was the only game I ever bought on the first day it was available. Played my way through the series and participated in the closed betas for Civ III and PTW. Civ IV is far and away my favorite because of the depth of strategy you must employ at higher levels. It rewards learning the interactions between civics/tech/map/civ traits/other as any game I've played. Learning those things pays great rewards in the game but, it takes more than a few hours.

    Civs 5 & 6 were okay. My opinion is that the effort to make them more accessible than IV led to them being too modest a challenge at higher levels. I own them, I don't play them often. I was happy to buy them and the DLC just to support the series.

    Side note: Despite many hours in-game and a wonderful experience beta testing I never learned to love CivIII. I played it because it was Civ until IV published.
     
  15. RobS

    RobS Chieftain

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    Like you, I'm new to Civ IV, coming from Civ III. I've only started a few games so far, and have only played one to completion, on an easy level (Chieftain, I think) as the Germans, coming in second in a space race against the Vikings. I remember looking at the time played toward the latter part of that game and it was well in excess of 30 hours. But I played a good while longer after that, so my guess is somewhere around 35-40 hours. This was at Normal game speed, which you can adjust at the start.
    That's in line with the 40+ or so hours I typically used to spend playing Civ III to completion.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  16. ArchGhost

    ArchGhost Prince

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    Be careful mindlessly spamming "End Turn." I usually take it as a sign I'm just making my position worse when I have nothing to do each turn and am just waiting around for the next thing to tech and use that as a warning to re-evalute what I need to be taking care of. More improvements, more city management, more diplomacy, something. The timer is your enemy in a matter of speaking, so wasting turns is worse than it seems.

    As for game length.
    I started in Civ 4 almost 2 years ago on Noble.

    back then normal standard settings games (once I learned to not be afraid of war) took me around 8-16 hours and space races 18+. My first marathon game on Noble was around 30 hours.

    Nowadays I comfortably beat Emperor and wrestle a little with but mostly beat Immortal. A fast game is like 4 hours, typically more like 7-9. Slow games like 13+ hours. all standard settings.

    The approach and settings matter too, not just obviously the difficulty. The fastest game I ever played I won on standard settings on Noble with a Keshik rush that killed everybody by 1010AD and only took 2.5 hours. The best game I ever played I won by 1000AD on Emperor by Cuir rushing 17 civs on a Huge/Marathon game, but that still took 17 hours for a normalized score of 560,000 or so. My earliest win was 600-something AD due to AP diplomatic win, but it still took longer to play it than the Keshik game, more than 4 hours.

    A major point I must stress, if you want to get better at the game or play on higher difficulties, is to not shun war and fall into the peaceful builder's trap of trying to snag this and that, only building units when it feels like you have nothing to build or if somebody attack you first. War at all stages of the game is a major event with huge consequences, but the earlier you execute one and succeed in improving your position the better your game will pan out in nearly all cases. The AI does not play fair even on Noble (despite what it says) and the longer its game goes on the more free boons it gets. you can undercut this by reaching some war unit threshold and then launching an attack, cutting them down so to speak. Especially on high difficulties, building only a few cities but taking more from the enemy is much more successful than trying to overpower them with your own expansion and passive pressure because you get penalized for pretty much everything the AI doesn't (or even is instead given a boon for!) including diplomatic interactions, maintenance, and tech costs while the AIs literally run away with the game if left entirely alone.

    To give you an idea, most AI will win the game not much longer than turn 300 on Deity. They just do. If they don't dominate the world, push 3 cities into Legendary culture, or win diplomatic through AI-AI relations (which are significantly greased with each other) they build the spaceship and win by around that time. This is when contending with each other -- they can defeat you much earlier than that if things go wrong because you are much more vulnerable early on than they are, or simply because there are 6 of them (default) and you have to find a way to stop or beat ALL of them and whichever ones are unhindered are chugging along to victory. The effect is dialed back as the difficulty is lowered, but just for frame of reference, you don't have 500 turns to win -- you have until one of the AIs wins first if you don't stop them or beat them to it.

    Play where you are comfortable difficulty-wise, maybe a level easier at first, and then just try something like an axe-rush. Try going for Catapults and see how they function. Read about the Cuir rush and try it. Field some war elephants or maces +trebs. Build cannons and draft some rifles. Don't be preoccupied with winning at first. Just get a feel for these strategies and how to execute them. War seems all big and scary at first, with the constant thought of "I'm not ready yet" looming, but the only way to overcome that is to try!
     
  17. Fish Man

    Fish Man Emperor

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    Agree with pretty much everything @ArchGhost says. As @lymond will probably tell (or have told) you, a shadow game of the first 100 turns is probably the best way to learn. Besides that...acquainting yourself with some of the prebuilt "cookie cutter" strategies for winning and achieving a decisive military edge. Like the axerush (only reliable on emp or below though), elepault rush, engineering rush, cuir rush (most popular here and for good reason), (lib) cannon rush, draft wars, and ofc tankspam. You can do this by watching some of AbsoluteZero's old LPs; he plays somewhat sloppily but he gets the job done most of the time, or at least used to. The best IV LPer by far is @Lain , who AFAIK is on a 20+ winstreak on deity and has only lost one game that he recorded, while suffering through the hardest maps for our entertainment :thanx:.

    Also make sure you know why you are doing what you're doing at all times. Don't just build things because "well, I have nothing to build, so might as well", or worse, because the advisor (ick!) told you to. Don't research things because it's "recommended science" and that sounds nebulously good, or because it's simply the thing that takes the least time to research right now, or because you want to backfill some junk so that your score and the tech tree looks better (sounds ludicrous, but I do know some people, myself included, who used to do that). DO research something because it will give you an unparalleled military advantage for 25 turns (believe me, that's sometimes all you need), because it unlocks a key wonder (though we'll have to have a discussion on what constitutes "key" later on), because it's part of your grand plan to gain said military advantage, or because it'll directly and immediately solve a pressing problem, etc. barbs, commerce, health, happiness.

    PS, I want to emphasize what Ghost said about not having 500 turns to win...you really don't. The general rule of thumb I go by is assume you have 450 turns, and then for every difficulty past noble, reduce that number by 25. So 425 on prince, 400 on monarch, 375 on emperor, 350 on immortal, and 325 on deity. For reference, on deity, most civs will get infantry, artillery, and machine guns by 1400-1500 AD if you don't do anything to stop them. Speed and decisiveness is of utmost importance in this game.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  18. Jivilov

    Jivilov Prince

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    Interesting. A recent Warlords game at Prince level probably took me about 17 hours to get a Diplo win in 1902. Didn't do much micro, just lots of cranking military out of Military Academies (love them Great Generals!). It baffles me how you manage to win at Emperor or higher, even a Huge Marathon, in less than 20 hours. Do you happen to have an IQ of, say, 170? Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
  19. Fish Man

    Fish Man Emperor

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    Not at all. It's not about being smarter, it's about knowing how to use what we have better than other players more new to the game, as well as the AI. And training yourself to recognize how to respond in certain situations.

    To use a metaphor...consider, say, the sport of BJJ. I'm just a white belt so I know very little but it's a fact apparent after even several months of training that you don't have to be the biggest or tallest dude around to win matches and submit people. You don't need thick biceps to break someone's arm if you know jointlocks, nor do you need that much arm strength to choke someone out. And against a larger but unskilled opponent, skill, technique and practice will almost always beat brute force. In a similar vein, the AI in civ knows little more than how to use brute force, especially on higher levels - it has more production and commerce perhaps and a HUGE head start but doesn't know at all how to use it. It will research at random and build useless crap like courthouses, grocers, etc. in all its cities (or start pointless wars and waste thousands of :hammers: on units that die anyway for no reason). If you do know how to use every tool at your disposal, and learn to prioritize the important and ignore the useless, you will win on warlord, noble, monarch...all the way to deity, maybe not with ease at the upper levels, but certainly far more convincingly than you've ever been able to even imagine before.
     
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  20. Jivilov

    Jivilov Prince

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    Much obliged Fish Man. Agreed that personal initiative, awareness and flexible thinking count at least as much as IQ or academic achievement. And thanks for the tip about Lain. Watching his Peter the Great video on Deity with standard settings is a lesson in counterintuitive play. Couldn't believe he settled his second city so far from his capital in the first episode. Gotta watch more and see how that turns out. Cheers!
     

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