Part of this next section is being compiled from a single post from Ralph Betza. Although many people have mentioned one or two strategies, Ralph really does cover a lot!
In the middle-early days, say after you have started 4 or 5 good cities, in order to keep science at 100% and still have money, build a few cities in resource-rich and food-poor places, and have them build and sell barracks. Don't waste that oil square down in the tundra, Build a tiny city! This kind of city should have a stable population of 1 or 2.
Later on, don't forget to build the SETI Program. Everybody always mentions the other important Wonders (Women's Suffrage, Bach's Cathedral, the Hoover Dam) but SETI is just as important at the stage of the game where it becomes possible.
Maximum city size is 6 at Emperor level. Build many cities, build no improvements except barracks. A possible exception to this rule is to build a few libraries near the palace. Another exception: Cities of 5 or more that aren't near the front line may be better off with a temple instead of 2 phalanxes.
Begin with your science at 100%; develop bronze, wheel, iron, math, writing, navigation, magnetism (optional), then stop and set taxes to 100%, and science 0%. You now have all the tech you'll ever need, so don't waste money on research. (And be sure not to develop gunpowder!)
Build lots of phalanxes, chariots, legions, catapults, ships, settlers, and diplomats. Let me clarify that: by "lots of ...", I mean "infinite numbers of them". A dozen ships might be enough, but you can never have too many chariots.
Use the "goto" command to simplify moving them around. Attack at all times. Build no Wonders, build no caravans; never stop building spears and swords, and never stop using them. Ignore all treaties and entreaties, but make peace whenever possible (peace might protect your units from attack until you break the treaty; and you just might collect some tribute). Don't worry about your losses, just keep attacking; a bloodless turn is a waste of time.
When you capture a city, sell all its improvements and starve the city down to a manageable size.
When you invade by ship, build cities on the new landmass. If they survive, the military units they build will be helpful. If not, so what? You have more where they came from!
Best result: I beat twelve other civilizations, and conquered the world by 900BC (I finished the game in one evening, without staying up late!). If the last reincarnation hadn't been in such an inconvenient place, I would have done it in 1200BC. Most of the time, however, conquest is complete by 400BC.
You can always play Despotic Conquest, regardless of the world you find yourself starting with, and you can always win without using any of the many ways to cheat. When you choose any other strategy, you are deliberately risking a loss in order to make the game more interesting. Winning the same way all the time is boring. If you don't lose sometimes, you are doing something wrong.
Note: email@example.com does it differently, and conquers the world later but with higher scores. He likes to go with Monarchy, Hanging gardens, and no barracks. You can probably find a different way to do it...
You find yourself alone on a landmass large enough to support 5 or more max-sized cities, with decent city sites. Build them, and start making roads and irrigation. Try to keep all cities at roughly the same stage of development.
Research bronze, democracy; become democratic. Build Bach's Cathedral!!! Now you can have one military unit outside each city. Research Steam Engine; patrol your shores with ironclads. After railroads, it gets easy. You can choose to build a spaceship or to go out with transports plus battleships and conquer everybody.
Most important trick: every so often, boost luxuries way up high for a few turns, and make your cities grow ("Presidents' Day Sale"). You don't need granaries because of this, and the occasional famine is easily repaired.
Finances: You will have many city improvements to pay maintenance on. You have to take some taxes in cash. Libraries, universities, markets, banks, all are important. Stockpile caravans when in doubt.
Once you build Suffrage, things get really easy.
Note: Monarchy is often a useful intermediate stage.
You find yourself with neighbours, on a landmass of unknown size. Play as in Despotic Conquest, but build your cities farther apart, so you can change over to democracy if you want to.
After you get the continent to yourself, consider how many military units you have left, the state of your cities, and how far advanced your technology is compared to the date. You may be forced to continue with Despotic Conquest; or you may be able to change to monarchy and then democracy if you prefer. The mechanics of the change are interesting, so I choose democracy when there is any doubt -- at the risk of losing, of course!
There are several things about Republic that make it an interesting alternative to Democracy; and you can develop the Republic much sooner than Democracy.
First of all, civil disorder won't make the government fail. All you lose is the output from the city that's in disorder. You can use a disorderly city to support a small army in the field...
Secondly, military unhappiness is less. You can have one unit out without disorder, even before you build Bach, just by making one Elvis. If this stabilizes the city's population, just make that city a barracks-factory.
Third, once you build Suffrage, military units cause NO unhappiness. You can enjoy a high-tech Republican Conquest! You might not get a great score, because it's likely to be after 2000AD. when you finally conquer the world, but it's fun...
Fourth, if your empire is geographically small, so that everything is near the palace, you get just as much trade with the Republic as you could with Democracy.
You just captured the Pyramids! If you're in Monarchy, quickly change to Communism. The only thing that changes is that you have less corruption. In the long run, communism doesn't give you enough trade to support all the city improvements, and you have to change again. What else are the Pyramids good for? Perhaps you'd like to go democratic, but haven't developed it.
In theory, you should be able to take advantage of the Pyramids by changing governments often, to suit changing circumstances. I haven't been able to make this happen yet.
In the Republic or in the Democratic Ostrich, keep your treasury small and science high. The goal is advances every turn, and see how early you can launch the spaceship. You'd like the game to be peaceful...
The problem with this is that I have read that launching the spaceship before time runs at one year per turn is risky; if the spaceship lands "between turns", it is effectively lost. Therefore, I always wind up waiting around until 1750 (or is it 1850 ?) when the time-scale changes the last time.
In any form of government, keep science at a minimum. If Ostrich, use cash to help build cathedrals and factories in the resource-poor cities. If Conquest, use the cash to subvert enemy cities.
While playing Rich, try to buy as many enemy units as possible so you can have a whole army owned by NONE.
Advances every 6 to 8 turns are all you really need. After you build SETI, you can get advances every 2 turns with no trouble. Keep your taxes and science balanced.
In the Ostrich, the difference between Rich, Balanced, and High-Tech might be just a matter of 10 per cent.
Try to get through the whole game without fighting a war.
I managed this in only one game, where I cheated, edited the save file from 3980BC, and started out with a huge London that had population 49, all improvements, all Wonders, a few extra settlers owned by NONE, two battleships from NONE, 4000 coins, and every technology I wanted to have. I pumped out diplomats by the score, played Mercenary to the hilt, and kept all 6 other civilizations at one tiny city each for the whole game. They never even met each other, so *nobody* fought any wars! Except for the barbarians, it was a completely bloodless game.
I've tried very hard to have a peaceful game without cheating, and I'll try again; but they always sneak-attack me, or make unreasonable demands.
The only way to stop them is to intimidate them, it seems; so things never get peaceful until I'm so strong that the computer civilizations are afraid.
High-tech war involves larger numbers of stronger units than you use in Despotic Conquest, and can get quite interesting. Usually, I run these wars half-heartedly, but one time I was bombing the Romans with half my cities and lackadaisically building a spaceship with a few others, and the Babylonians built a small ship and launched it! I had 17 years to take Babylon, with no forces near it, and it wasn't even on the coast! I succeeded with the last-minute help of a nuke (build manhattan project, next turn buy the nuke in a captured Babylonian city, next turn boom! and walk in, just in time), but it was hectic.
Another time, a Babylonian battleship got me really mad, so I changed the production of all my cities to nukes, and nuked them repeatedly, an average of 5 explosions per turn for 20 or more turns; 6 cycles of global warming! I finally managed to destroy all 8 of their cities without capturing any -- nuke the same city several times in one turn to get its population down to 1, then run in with a Mech Infantry unit. I got a lousy score, thanks to all the pollution.
In order to get into these situations, you have to leave the enemy alone. Several of the computer civilizations will develop high tech, but they are all weak at the beginning of the game. Choosing 6 civilizations seems to help, as well; both the Indians and the Mongols seem to be stuck on Conquest -- if you put the Mongols and Babylonians on the same landmass in 4000BC, the Mongols win every time. I often choose 6 and play pink in order to have the best chance of getting a high-tech opponent.
The Romans always get high tech, but never build enough cities or enough units; the Babylonians seem to be consistently the most interesting. The light blues rarely survive into the A.D. years, so the yellows are the second most interesting opponent.
Once in a while, instead of trying to build as many cities as possible as quickly as possible at the start of the game, try sticking to one or two cities for the first 1000-1500-2000 years. Not until you have reasonably powerful cities do you send out an expedition, either a colonization expedition with two settlers plus a few phalanxes and legions, or an army of conquest, at least 4 chariots with more to come, plus a settler to build a military road.
This strategy is indicated when your first explorer finds that you are stuck in a lousy corner of what looks like it might be a large land mass, and there are no decent city sites near you.
One advantage of waiting is that the enemy cities can grow large enough to be really worth capturing, and might contain a few WOWs.
I had this work out well just recently. My first explorer went a long, winding way and saw a road; I pulled it back, and it seems that nobody noticed my visit. The Romans and Zulus wiped everybody else out and lined up against each other; the distance was so great that my first wave of chariots took 200 years to arrive, but thanks to the two settlers building a road, the second wave was right behind. Because all their military units were out in the field facing each other down, their cities were lightly defended. What a surprise when my hosts swept down upon them! Zimbabwe and Caesarea (each of which was larger than both my cities put together) were mine at the first stroke, and their vast armies in the field vanished. Rome held out for hundreds of years after the rest, but after it fell, I had more than a dozen good-sized captured cities, decent technology due to captures, and despite having waited 1500 years before beginning the conquest, I was still on track to go Democratic with my captured Pyramids and bulging treasury. The rest was boring...
You find yourself alone on a small island with room for only 1 or 2 cities...
Actually, I have done the Ostrich with just 2 cities; but they were resource-rich city sites. The disadvantage of islands is that two important Wonders work only on cities on one landmass.
If you get a foothold on a major landmass, you can just convert to one of the other plans; but if the first thing you find is another island, you're in for it. After 3 or 4 islands, you might as well deliberately avoid the mainland and instead scout out as many small chunks as you can find, just to make things interesting.
So far, every time I have customized for small land mass, I wound up on the biggest chunk around, with neighbours. Maybe the game deliberately avoids putting you on places that are too small.
After Ostriching for a while, you eventually become very rich. Your treasury doesn't collect interest, so you might as well use it.
If you just land a few diplomats, the enemy may sneak attack and kill them all; so what I do is fill up 3 or more transports with diplomats and land them all at once. You can usually unload 5 diplomats per turn per transport without stacking them; bribe any units that happen to be standing on the shore. If you unload 15 diplomats in one turn, at least some will survive!
As the first wave moves inland, the second is unloaded. The first wave buys any military unit it sees, and of course subverts any city it can. The transports go back for more diplomats. You can conquer a whole civilization this way, in just two or three turns; which is fun to watch on the replay!
If you don't have enough cash to buy a city, industrial sabotage is nice. Doing it just once per turn is almost useless, though; the computer can buy back whatever you destroy. The right way to do it is to hit one city with 6 or 8 diplomats in one turn -- when the cathedral, bank, city walls, and factory are all gone in one turn, what's poor Caesar to do?
In short, the idea of the diploblitz is not to use diplomats by ones or twos, but by bucketloads.
You find yourself woefully behind in technology. The enemy is spreading out over a large continent.
Scout around the edges and find a small city you can afford to buy. Post a bunch of diplomats nearby. Steal a tech and buy the city, thereby gaining two advances. Now make the population into Taxmen, sell the improvements, and leave the city undefended. When the enemy takes it back, steal another tech and buy the city again! It will be cheaper to buy it this time -- you sold all the improvements and the population is smaller.
Repeat as needed until the city is completely destroyed. Find another small city and do it again.
Your homeland is full of big, beautiful cities. Your army has overrun the enemy but you don't feel like managing any of the crappy cities the computer built.
After you kill the last defender, don't take the city! If the computer has any money left, it will make a new defender, which you can also kill -- it won't be fortified, after all.
Hit the city with a Diploblitz and keep it empty. Eventually, you may get it down to a population of 1, and can then simply destroy it. Otherwise, maybe some barbarians will come along...
Here's an interesting goal: try to get a whole enemy civilization into this state! If its treasury is empty and every city is in disorder, can it ever recover?
If an entire civilization is in disorder yes it can recover. I have seen it happen in enemy civilizations of 3-5 cities near the brink of falling. It happened to me once. Following an attack ALL of my cities were in disorder, I was poor but not being attacked immediately. After several turns in this state, I started getting messages "Antioch builds temple" etc. I checked the cities, they were in disorder but they were building. I recovered after a bit of this and going luxuries 100%. ---[Matt Malone]
You have lots of bombers or battleships handy, but no ground units nearby; besides, you don't feel like dealing with any new cities.
If a different enemy civilization has a unit near the city, or if barbarians are on the way, just kill all the defenders and watch what happens. You can weaken the strongest enemy this way.
By the way, the enemy civilization that takes over the empty city will *not* feel any sense of gratitude.
Sometimes you can throw a monkey wrench into an enemy civilization and take it completely out of the game by posting one lousy phalanx on top of a mountain. This only works at an early stage of the game, and the victim must have no open land for expansion -- either on an island, or blocked into a corner.
Instead of building triremes and settlers, and instead of advancing quietly, the enemy civilization builds lots of cavalry and legions and chariots, surrounds the rock, and keeps moving its units around. It's fun to watch them riding around your mountain, brandishing their swords, waving torches, and shouting imprecations.
Eventually they sneak attack, and lose dozens of units. Then they make outrageous demands, tell you to prepare for war, ride around and shout, and eventually attack and lose more units. By the time they destroy that phalanx, you're ready to put a rifleman up there, and they're still undeveloped!
This depends on the leader's personality; it works against the Russians and the French, but not against the Romans or Chinese.
Of course, to ensure against losses, you want to scout around their coast and find as many rocks as possible, because if they manage to get rid of all your outposts, they'll start behaving reasonably again, but one phalanx on a mountain top is all you really need to make it work!
Always make a save file in 3980 B.C.; as soon as you finish the game, consider starting over in the same world but following a completely different strategy.
In the replay, you have the advantage of knowing more or less what the world looks like, which spoils things a bit; but in compensation, you have the chance to change history.
A diskette full of old 3980 B.C. save files is nice to have, especially if it contains interesting worlds. After a while, you don't remember much about the world, and can replay without spoiling the mystery of discovering the unknown. When you get an interesting world, you may also want to share it with someone.
Note: you need both the CIVIL?.SVE and CIVIL?.MAP file!
Here are a few from Matt Malone:
A variant of "The Rock" strategy, the "Go See Them or They Will Come See You" strategy is ideal when another civilization is much stronger than you are. If you are defensively weak and cannot mount a reasonably good attack against them, send an occupation force. I have found that for all civilizations, if there is an active enemy unit (not just fortified) reasonably close to a city then that city will not send out ships to find you. The main objective is to keep a presence but if some pillaging can be done with minimal risk I have my occupation force do that. A civilization of ten cities on an island may require three such presences, scattered, preferably on mountain tops, to keep them at home. This does not necessarily cripple the civilization in the same way as The Rock does but it keeps them at home and gives you some breathing space.
When I am in a weak position relative to a computer civilization and the seas are still relatively safe, I conquer their weakest city, take their best defensive technology, i.e., conscription for riflemen. I build a mess of rifleman and go pillage all of their improvements concentrating first on irrigation. The shift of land usage from production to food necessary in their cities slows their production of military units and usually starts to starve them for cities > 8. This hobbles them and gives you time to catch up. At first the losses of units will be high but once pillaged to the max, even the most powerful civilization is a pussycat. Their cities will be well defended so I don't recommend attacking them directly until you have stronger attack units present and the walls are down. Bucket-loads of diplomats used for sabotage is a good intermediate step.
When you are way behind but have a strong production potential take the following technologies (in about this order):
Assuming the sea is not safe enough for bucketloads of diplomats to have any reasonable chance of making it to the enemy civilization (without cheating), use battleships to pound the weakest coastal cities and take them over with a sail of riflemen. Turn the cities into cash: Sell improvements that aid happiness and change the population to Taxmen. Sell other improvements. Sell banks and marketplaces last. Sell city walls when the population of the city = the number of units you have defending the city. Let the enemy destroy the city. Leave them with nothing to take back. Repeat for all coastal cities until the sea is safer. By this time you have a large treasury, and inciting revolt is easy. Choose large cities, incite revolt, and turn them into cash. You should get enough to incite another revolt in a few turns. Advanced civilization falls. Reason: they usually do not have railroads between cities to reinforce whatever city is being attacked. Suggestion: make sure all of your cities are linked by railways. Fortify units on mountain top rail passes to prevent a city from being cut off too easily and to prevent the enemy units from sweeping your civilization through your own rails should one of your cities fall. Nothing like enemy armor on your rails to ruin your day.
I have deliberately kept this separate from the other strategy section as it really is a game apart.
The long-awaited Colossal City strategy is not a strategy. Instead, it's just a simple trick that makes any high-tech strategy work much better. It's this simple: build the Colossus and Copernicus' Observatory in the same city. Of course, you want that city to be your capital, so that there's no corruption; of course, you want it to grow big and have a university and lots of nice trade routes. Of course, you want to build the Colossus as soon as possible. ( I have done it by 2800 BC without cheating! Lucky villages and ( ransom from barbarian leaders did the job. Building it with ( caravans alone, 2300 BC is good; and perhaps the resources you ( invested building it so early would have been better spent ( making more settlers and more cities...) Therefore, you want to develop trade as soon as possible. Note: since the computer cheats in building its Wonders, if someone else builds the Colossus first it's not unreasonable to use the save-game cheat to stop them. Combining the Ostrich strategy with the Colossal City makes it possible to reach future tech before 1 AD without cheating; if you have a gold mine and swamp+oil in the Colossal City's zone of influence, that's all (almost all) the good luck you need. Building these two Wonders, and building a Cathedral and University in one city while the others are small, is hard to do unless there are a few resource-rich cities near the Colossal City. In fact, this does force a Colossal Strategy for the early part of the game. Build as many cities as possible; the outer ones fight wars and build more cities, while the inner ones just build caravans. All but one of the cities stays small; the Colossal City must grow, grow, grow, so it needs a temple and a granary and a library and a university and a cathedral. The division of labor, with different cities doing different things, makes it interesting. Customizing for "Large Land Mass" is helpful. To reach Future Tech by 1 AD, go to democracy as soon as possible, and set luxuries to 30%, taxes 30%, science 40%; research will slow down for a few years, but you'll collect a lot of money with which you can build cathedrals, marketplaces, banks, aqueducts, and so on, and very soon you'll be up to "advances: 1 turns". 30% luxuries is just enough to keep everybody happy all the time, and to cause occasional "we love the president" days, in cities that complete their markets and banks and get trade routes. To play a strategy that wouldn't work without the Colossal City, stay in Despotism until you build Suffrage and then go to Republic -- you'll only be up to Automobile or so by 1 AD, and your scraggly little cities will have trouble building those expensive armor units, but you'll have fun winning. Keep building caravans, keep science at 100% as long as possible, make factories in a few cities (using the caravans to do so), and pay the rent by building and selling city walls, and by sacking enemy cities. You may *need* to follow this plan if you have a land war against a tough opponent on a huge continent. This plan is fun because you don't have to go into a shell (like the Ostrich), and you don't have to concentrate single-mindedly on military affairs (as in Conquest); instead, you get to do a little bit of everything. ---Ralph Betza
This is another posting from Ralph Betza that was forwarded to me. As usual it makes for interesting reading.
PROLOGUE ======== Someone else wrote that Civ "is all about trade". For a while, I was ready to argue that it's all about resources. Now I think it's all about timing. The big timing thing is to time the growth of your infrastructure so that it matches the growth of your population. If the population outgrows the infrastructure, you get civil disorder; if the infrastructure outgrows the population, the maintenance drains your treasury. If your land is rich in resources, the infrastructure grows faster than the population, but if it is resource-poor, the population grows faster. It is also a good idea to time the growth of your core homeland cities so that all are at about the same level; you do this by making the settlers you need from the larger cities to bring them down to the level of the smaller cities. What you gain by this will be discussed later. If you are rich in resources, you want to time your research so that you always have a WOW to work on (or you can just build lots of caravans and leave them parked around the countryside). If you are poor in resources, you have to "BUY" the completion of as many improvements as possible, and time these purchases effectively. PRESIDENT'S DAY SALE!! ====================== President's Day Sale: as a democracy, set the luxury rate as high as possible for a few turns and make your cities grow quickly. "For a few turns" is important -- you have to know when to stop. The well-timed President's Day sale, I think, is the key to winning with democracy. Many people have posted complaints about running out of money. Many have posted complaints about falling behind in technology. I say they failed to hold President's Day Sales, and that's why they got into trouble. Many posts have referred to this as a way to run up the score at the end of the game. I find this to be much more important at an earlier stage: By the time you get to democracy, you probably already have temples, marketplaces, and libraries. You now need to make settlers and adjust production to squares rich in resources or trade but weak in food, in order to slow down the population growth. You have to build Bach, and a cathedral in each city, before you can let the population grow. For example, before you discover religion, you have a maximum city size of 4 (at Emperor level, and presuming you don't want to make any Elvises or allocate taxes to luxuries; also presuming you don't feel like building a Colosseum before building a Cathedral). Once you discover religion, of course you get all your cities working to build caravans and help build Bach; the minute you build it, your maximum city size becomes 6. The minute you build Bach, you set all your cities to building cathedrals. When they finish, the maximum city size will be 10. Don't wait for the cathedrals to be finished! Now is the time! Running a President's Day Sale for 6 turns is a *very* *important* strategical move. The way to do this is, first of all, look at every city and adjust its production squares so you get as much trade as possible, plus a small food and resource surplus; then set the luxury rate to 40 per cent and consult your attitude advisor. Perhaps you can get away with as little as 30 per cent luxuries; perhaps you need sixty percent. If one city is less happy than the others, maybe you can use an Elvis there. Once it's all set up, change the rest of your taxes to cash -- you will need to buy some cathedrals. Make sure you have the "end of turn" option set! Next turn, do it all over again: check every city, because you don't want the celebration to be cancelled in even one city! This is a lot of work, but the sale will only run for a few turns, so it's okay. During the sale, you will have to buy the cathedral for your biggest city, and the next biggest; when you start to run out of money, cut the sale short. The right time to start the sale is a problem. The sooner the better is the general rule, but starting too early means that not all the cities will have cathedrals yet at the end of the sale (because you run out of money to buy them). You have to stop when your populations get to 10, because you don't have colossea or aqueducts yet. You might need to keep 20% luxuries for a while if some of the cities haven't finished their cathedrals and you can't afford to buy them yet; but the goal is to get luxuries back down to 0. By the end of the sale, your population has just about doubled, and so has your total amount of trade; you must pay for more maintenance now, because of the new cathedrals, but you can do so with a smaller percentage of the total than you could before the sale; and you can allocate a higher percentage of a larger total to science. The importance of this was demonstrated to me by a recent game where I forgot to do it. It was at Emperor level with all cheating strictly forbidden, and I was stuck on a small piece of land with lots of tundra and mountains; four cities was all I had room for. I had neighbors in the early days, and by the time I got rid of them, built my four cities, developed democracy, and built Bach, it was 1 A.D. I played up to about 1300 A.D. and hardly advanced at all -- railroads still far away, a few scraggly colonies on other islands, populations in the core cities barely up to 10. Overnight, I realized what I had done wrong, and went rooting through the autosaved files to see if there was a point in history where I could correct it; how lucky that 1 A.D. was just perfect! I started over from there, ran a sale right away, and about a thousand years later on I ran another sale for the benefit of my colonies. What a difference! By the same date, circa 1300AD, I had four thriving cities with populations from 17 to 20, two nice colonies with populations of 10 and ready to expand, railroads being built around all the cities, banks and universities and factories in all the core cities, a battleship half finished, a healthy treasury, with the Suffrage and Darwin WOWs already built. Instead of being a second-rate nation, I was the leading civilization on the globe -- and all because of President's Day! The Romans had railroads and a few ironclads, but no factories or battleships; the French had riflemen, but none of the rest; the other civilizations were still coming around in rowboats. In other games, I had waited until I got railroads to hold the first PrezDay; but normally I have more than four cities! Because I had stronger starting positions the other times, I never realized just how powerful PrezDay is. With a decent (or good) starting position, I expect to be at least 500 (or 1000) years ahead of where I was in this game, and that would allow me to win even with a belated use of the President's Day sale; now I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can get with a well-timed one after a good start! SYNTHESIS ========= Note that running a good Pres Day Sale requires you to manage your cities so that as many as possible are at the same stage of development at the same time, because the most effective time to do it is just when the infrastructure outpaces the population. Therefore the two themes of timing and PrezDay are strongly related after all! You have little control over how fast you can build the infrastructure; all you can do is build as quickly as possible and choose the order in which things should be built. Population growth, on the other hand, is the thing you *can* control; and so timing is a matter of slowing down the population growth at some points and speeding it up at others. ---Ralph Betza
Surefire way for musket/cannon-level cities with city walls:
I personally believe the best way to take a city is with a diplomat, by subverting the city. Just keep all military units for defensive purposes. Then once the city has been bought then build (buy) a diplomat as the first thing you make.
Miscellaneous notes from "Rome on 640K a Day"