Why was maintenance made more crippling than Civ 3's corruption?


Jul 18, 2022
It's agreed that maintenance is much more crippling to a player's empire than corruption was in Civ 3, but I want to know why it was made that way. Is it because the map is a lot smaller than civ 3's, so an early conquest of another civ was made less viable for gameplay concerns. In Civ 3 when I destroy the first civ I meet, I don't feel like I have the game in the bag yet. But in Civ 4 most of the time you kill that first civ it feels pretty easy to snowball, I'm more confident that I'll be able to win the game. Otherwise was it made a more defiant mechanic to really entrench the idea that trying to play Civ 4 like Civ 3 will rapidly lose the game for the player.


Mar 10, 2013
Orange County, NY
I find it the other way around. Civ IV has a number of ways to overcome maintenance--techs that give additional trade routes, buildings that lower maintenance, the ability (with Currency) to build wealth, and finally the State Property civic which reduces maintenance to very manageable levels. It basically forces you to be small early, but lets you get huge late. Something of a "let everyone have a chance" effect.

Civ III's corruption felt (to me) as a mechanic that served to limit your civilization's size. Beyond a certain size, additional cities would be unproductive (and State Property just lowered the producitvity of all your cities with each additional city beyond a certain size.) More of an overall limitation on your size.


fly (one day)
Apr 29, 2006
berkshire, england
Its been a while since I played civ 3. One of the things that put me off civ 3 was the corruption mechanism as at a certain point additional cities were just unproductive. In civ 4 you can overexpand and city maintenance can cripple your economy, however with a growing economy the economic collapse is a temporary rather than a permanent phenomenon. One approach in civ 4 is expand until economy crashes, grow cities until economy recovers then expand again. Playing civ 4 like civ 3 is not a good idea, play civ 4 like civ 4.


Apr 2, 2013
Oklahoma City
If I remember correctly, they're not really comparable mechanics for serving the same function of limiting expansion, because corruption in Civ 3 was still always a net positive. Even if a city yielded very little due to corruption, you still claim the land and deprive the AI of it without any risk of going under for it, whereas in Civ 4 your city maintenance can cause your research to outright collapse and your armies to disband.


Aug 2, 2016
Never played Civ3, but I believe the way Civ4's maintenance works is discourage players from doing the whole "carpet the map with cities" thing from Civ3 (where it was very much worth it to do so, as the previous poster mentions) as a go-to approach. Civ4's maintenance encourages steady progression and development, which throws the player into conflict with the AI as the land dries up...especially as the difficulty increases and they largely ignore costs and just take territory as fast as they can.

You certainly can still spam cities in Civ4, but not from the get-go, or you will pay. You will crash hard without proper development of tiles, key economic techs or civics,and the strike mechanics act as a check against just pushing through anyway --eventually, you won't even be able to keep a settler long enough to put down more cities.

I remember being quite surprised reading about Civ3's corruption and how you don't actually get punished in terms of net losses. More cities simply yield more, even if the corruption makes the gain very little. It's entirely possible to settle cities in Civ4 that do nothing but act as an economic drain that other cities have to prop up.
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