LEARN THE RULES The best-spent two hours for my CIV strategy skills was spent pouring over the civilopedia to understand the rules, the tech trees, improvements, units, etc. It's much easier to do well if you have a clear strategy and know where you want to go. For example, some techs offer bonuses to the first discoverer: a free great person, a free great tech, or starting a religion. Obviously these techs are generally a priority to get first, while others with benefits that are not time-sensitive can wait. CIV SELECTION The decision as to which civilization to play as is an individual one. Traits have various strengths and weaknesses: Philosophical: Fabulous at +100% GP, one of my top two favorites (with financial) . Synergistic with the religious civics (Pacificm - +100% GP rate) and the national epic (+100% GP in the city of your choice), as well as mercantilism etc. Financial: My other favorite. Once you get cottages and watermills working, this will gain you +1 extra gold for almost every being worked in your city radius. This is a huge advantage and allows me to stay at 90-100% tech funding from the middle ages onward even with expensive civics, a large army, and a large empire. Industrious: A nice trait, as the wonders you get with +50% build speed can duplicate many other civ traits. Half-price forges are great also because they increase your productivity, and for non-industrious civs they are quite expensive. However, the ability of any player to quickly build wonders by "chop-rushing" (described later) undermines some of the value of the industrial trait. Expansive: Not bad, the health is nice, but I find that happiness is much more limiting than health in the early game, although it may be more useful on very high difficulty levels. Cheap granaries while also nice are of dubious value as granaries don't cost many hammers anyway. Aggressive: A great trait for the warmonger. While experience can be given by buildings, civics, and wonders, a free extra promotion is great -- especially for barracks-trained units with a couple of levels to boot. More and more experience is required to get more bonuses (2/5/10/17/etc), and so having a free promotion that doesn't set you back at all in the XP quest is good. Since the promotions become more and more powerful the higher in level you go (+20% city attack, +25%, +30% with an extra +10% vs gunpowder units, etc...cumulative!!!), having an extra promotion can result in a huge amount of extra military power, especially if you have planned well to take advantage of other sources of experience. If you want an early domination or conquest victory, aggressive is an excellent choice. Spiritual: One of the weakest traits IMO. No anarchy, while nice, is of little benefit as I only change civics 5-6 times in a game (I try to change 2 or 3 at a time at times when several important civics are discovered in close time proximity). Cheap temples? Temples are cheap anyway and have fewer benefits than many other buildings. Creative: +2 culture has significant benefits in the early game, but few in the late game when cities have more culture than they know what to do with. How many times have I conquered a city only to have it flip to a closely adjacent neighbor? How many times have I built cultural improvement (theater, library, etc.) in a conquered city for the exclusive purpose of generating culture (and, sometimes failed), when a creative civ would not have had to worry at all? The automatic expanding cultural radius can be very valuable in expanding in the early game and blocking off large amounts of territory for your later development. While cultural's benefits are mainly in the early game, the benefits can be substantial. I prefer to get industrious instead and build stonehenge for your early culture (although this expires -- soon -- with calender), the benefit of creative is still significant. Organized: One of the worst traits, with few exceptions. Only gives a bonus when you have expensive civics, and most of the good civics have little upkeep anyway. Get financial instead; you will be many times ahead economically. Lighthouse and courthouse are the real benefits of organized IMO, but still weak ones. My favorite civ is English (Elizabeth) - Philosophical/Financial. Other great picks include Chinese (Qin Shi Huang) - Industrious/Financial and English (Victoria) - Expansive/Financial. LEVERAGE YOUR STRENGTHS It's important to make the most out of your advantages by drawing upon the synergy of civ traits, civics, improvements, and buildings and wonders. For example, it would be silly to get the aggressive civ trait and fail to build barracks. Synergy can be very powerful when you combine substantial bonuses in the same area from multiple different sources. Aggressive + barracks + pentagon + theocracy, + West Point and Heroic Epic in same city = megapowerful national military (come to think of it, it is still extremely powerful even *without* the aggressive trait or theology -- there are better traits and civics IMO). Philosophical + Pacifism + National Epic = 300% great people points, with 400% in the city with the national epic. And so forth. It is also important to try to compensate for your disadvantages. For example, if I am not playing an expansive civ (or even if I am), I try to build cities on rivers as much as possible for the +2 health bonus, even at a slight productivity hit. RELIGIONS As in the real world, religion can be one of the most uniting or dividing things in CIV. While gifts or insults have only minor benefit on relations (+/-1, rarely more than +/-2; religion can have a huge impact on relations -- seeing +/-4, +/-6 from religion are common. Religion is by far the biggest factor in relations in most games. It seems to be something in the range of +1 relations for every city of your religion in your opponent's land, +1 or 2 if your religion is their state religion. Therefore, pumping out missionaries to convert your neighbors in the good times is as important for the security of your empire as maintaining a powerful military. I try to keep one city pumping out missionaries of your religion the entire game, providing both relationship and economic bonuses. Consider getting an early religion (Hinduism or Judaism) or, if going for a chop-rush settler push, one or more of the later ones (Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, Islam). In any case, try to pick up as many of the later ones as I can in order to keep friends friendly. A friendly neighbor who has previously converted to your religion but subsequently discovers Islam can suddenly decide that you are a pagan who must be cleansed from the earth. Besides some of the techs (like Divine Right, Islam) offer cool wonders. CITY PLACEMENT The placement of cities is always one of the most important strategic decisions for me in the early and mid game. I will gladly place a city at significantly further distance from my capital if it results in acquiring special resources or monopolizing a location that is of prime strategic or production value. Many specialty resources offer benefits for your entire civilization, and so the race to control luxury, health, strategic, and bonus resources is a key factor in city placmeent. Whenever possible, I build cities on rivers, and try to get at least on special resource (of any kind) within range. Of course this is not always possible (especially on unusual or specialty map types), but if you repeatedly find that you are having trouble making your cities happy and productive or are failing to acquire important resources, perhaps it is time to reevaluate your city placement. Controlling strategic passes or "choke points" with cities is also valuable -- if you can block off your enemies from chunks of unsettled land and then fill it in later, that is a bonus, although the geography doesn't always accommodate this.