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Cultural Victory: Notes and Tips
By spiceant at 2006-02-04 23:50

The following are (very many) examples of my knowledge about the cultural victory and its aspects. Keep in mind I play on huge maps on emperor difficulty (and win the occasional few).
I expect people to understand this article at the point where they have learned to win prince difficulty games, on larger then standard maps with default settings.

Some notes:

  1. Once you switch your cultural slider to 100%, you will no longer have to worry about happiness, therefore try to maximize the size of your cities for more artist specialists
  2. At 100% culture funding you can choose to trade your happiness resources for health ones or money (to pay for the expenses that force your culture slider down below 100%). try to spread the trades equally between leaders so all of the suspicious (backstabbing) leaders will loose a trading deal when declaring war against you.
  3. Defensive pacts don't appear to increase your diplomatic backup at the point where other civs decide to or not to declare war you, they do however give you some confidence that you wont be alone when facing war.
  4. Do not use free religion civic when turning the culture slider to 100%, the happiness bonus is negated by the happiness you get from your theaters (+10 happy faces at least). I suggest you use pacifism and caste system.
  5. The emancipation civic has a heavy prerequisite, in addition the "bonus" it gives can be ignored once you flip the culture switch. If you really run low on happiness, build a colosseum.
  6. When facing the choice of building wonders in the 1ad-800ad era you must consider that every turn that it takes longer to finish the wonder will mean that it will take up to 10 turns longer to double its base culture in the future!
  7. the apparently insignificant cultural structures like obelisks and temples can matter very much, as they double the culture they produce quite quickly (as the years pass quickly in the early game). They will also generate a comparatively large amount of culture for their cost, because they will have generated culture since ancient times.
  8. Cultural buildings will generate more culture almost exponentially the earlier they are build, because they will generate culture for longer and will also double their culture/turn earlier (compared to turns instead of years)
  9. Although you won't be warmongering (I presume) you will want a lot of military units, once you turn your cultural slider to over 80% your enemies will get better military techs. Discourage them from taking you over. Defensive units aren't enough, a war of attrition (pillaging of your improvements) can easily ruin you.
  10. Although taking a state religion is useful, this will negate the effect of other religions (not their buildings). and will also make heathens more likely to attack you.
  11. Once culture is generated, nothing can multiply it, unlike in civIII. if an enemy takes your city however a portion is lost.
  12. Normal speed requires 3 cities with 50K culture, epic 75K, marathon 150K and quick speed requires 3 with 25K.
  13. You can try to calculate how much more culture/turn you need in a city, by sharing the total of amount of remaining required culture by the remaining amount of turns until the deadline (2049AD is to late!!!!), I only suggest this method for making raw estimates.
  14. Cathedrals are great, build as many as you can but don't let them cost you. They cost 10 times the cost of obelisks and require multiple temples per cathedral.
  15. Preserving forests is for the late warmongers or space ship constructors, you want a lot of cottages and the occasional mine for production.
  16. For the cultural victory, there are (usually) 2 phases of your civilization, the development phase and the cocoon phase where you grow into a butterfly. Phase1: build everything that turns up your culture/turn like wonders cathedrals but also the free speech civic (this generates a small portion of the total culture) and Phase2: turn into cocoon, defend your riches and turn your cultural slider 100% generate as much culture as fast as possible, save up the last artists to help your 3rd city over the culture edge,
  17. Don't do overkill, divide all of your culture equally in between cities, the group (of 3) is only as fast as its slowest member.

Buildings will double the amount of culture they generate per turn, after 1000 years

Marathon speed:
total turns: 1200

One turn is
20 Years, until 2000 BC (100 turns)
10 Years, until 1 AD (200 turns)
5 Years, until 1000 AD (200 turns)
any culture buildings after this point will not generate extra culture/turn, before a realistic deadline
2 Years, until 1700 AD (350 turns)
1 Years, until 2050 AD (350 turns) -> time victory condition

Epic speed:
Total turns: 660 turns.
One turn is
40 Years, until 2000 BC (50 turns)
25 Years, until 1000 BC (40 turns)
20 Years, until 200 AD (60 turns)
10 Years, until 1000 AD (80 turns)
any culture buildings after this point will not generate extra culture/turn, before a realistic deadline
5 Years, until 1650 AD (130 turns)
2 Years, until 1850 AD (100 turns)
1 Years, until 2050 AD, (200 turns) - > time victory condition

Normal speed:
Total turns: 460
One turn is
40 Years, until 1000 BC (75 turns)
25 Years, until 500 AD (60 turns)
20 Years, until 1000 AD (25 turns)
any culture buildings after this point will not generate extra culture/turn, before a realistic deadline
10 Years, until 1500 AD (50 turns)
5 Years, until 1800 AD (60 turns)
2 Years, until 1920 AD (60 turns)
1 Years, until 2050 AD (130 turns) -> time victory condition

Quick speed:
Total turns: 320 turns:
One turn is
50 Years, until 1000 BC (60 turns)
40 Years, until 1000 AD (50 turns)
any culture buildings after this point will not generate extra culture/turn, before a realistic deadline
25 Years, until 1500 AD (20 turns)
10 Years, until 1650 AD (15 turns)
5 Years, until 1900 AD (50 turns)
2 Years, until 1950 AD (25 turns)
1 Years, until 2050 AD (100 turns) -> time victory condition

The early culture buildings you can build, of which the base culture per turn will be doubled quickly:

note-1a: estimated earliest research moments are estimated, preassumed your civ has no starting techs.
note-1b: estimated earliest research moments are also estimated as such that techs are not necessarily rushed to (like the drama or music tech)
note-2: relative costs are... relatively compared to the sizes of cities and improvements that are available to cities at the time they can be build.
note-3: the <religion> techs stands for any religion, a <religion> building can be build for each religion, so if you have a jewish town you can make a jewish temple there and later when taoism spreads to it you can also build a taoist temple there. <religion> buildings do not directly affect each other.

<Religion> Monastery
Base culture/turn: 2 (and +10% science)
Research prereq: Meditation
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 3200BC
Relative cost: expensive

Theatre
Base culture/turn: 3
Research prereq: Drama
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 1500BC
Relative cost: Mediocre (or cheap with creative leader trait)
*note: it can be build relatively early, if its build early enough it will have the base culture/turn of a world wonder like the pyramids

<Religion> Temple
Base culture/turn: 1
Research prereq: Priesthood
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 3200BC
Relative cost: expensive (or mediocre with spiritual leader trait)
*note: although the base culture is low, it also adds a happiness face and can also be build early which also means it can generate a significant amount of culture (about 1-3% of total needed for legendary culture status) it can also generate your first great prophet for a <religion> holy shrine. I suggest building it, if you feel confident it does not damage your civs development.
in the end your still gonna build them because you will certainly want the cathedrals.

Obelisk
Base culture/turn: 1
Research prereq: Mysticisms
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 3700BC
Relative cost: cheap (it takes only 1 population+slavery or a forest chop)
*note: although the base culture is very low, it also doubles very quickly if build early and will for that reason generate culture for a very long time, do not underestimate it.

Library
Base culture/turn: 2 (and +25% to science/turn)
Research prereq: Writing
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 3000BC
Relative cost: very expensive
*note: although it is quite expensive for its time, it can support 2 scientists in a city with a 4 food tile, in a capitol of the <2500BC ages this means double research (and an early great scientist). otherwise you can stick to 1 scientists. Early great scientists are extremely useful.

Academy
Base culture/turn: 4 (and +50% to science/turn)
Research prereq: Writing (this is not the absolute prereq)
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 2300BC
cost: 1 great scientist
*note: the academy does NOT double its base culture/turn after 1000 years, oddly. It still has a really nice base culture.

<religion> Cathedral
Base culture/turn: +50% to the base culture of the city (doesn't double after 1000 years)
Research prereq: Priesthood & Music
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 500BC
Relative cost: Dead expensive (10 forest chops) its build twice as fast if you get the special resource (copper/marble/stone) for it (varies per religion)
*[edit 17 jan '06] note: Cathedrals are great, as noted above they are quite costly, they are however the most powerful cultural buildings you can build, get as many as you can but don't loose yourself to them, they cost quite much.
these cant be build in every city, it takes about 3-4 temples of one specific religion to build a cathedral in one city after that you need to build another 3-4 temples for a 2nd one, that represents this same religion. 3 temples on <standard size maps (i suspect).
on lower difficulties or on smaller maps it is possible to get more then 3-4 religions that allow you to build cathedrals, on higher difficulties it may not be feasible to get more then 2 cathedrals per religion. It all depends, though.

<religion> Holy shrine
Base culture/turn: +4 (This one DOES double after 1000 years)
Research prereq: any tech (mysticism/priesthood) that allows you to generate great prophets
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 2000-1000BC, if you build stonehenge early and manage to own a holy city)
Relative cost: 1 great prophet (on higher difficulties, holy shrines aren't usually profitable because other religion founders spread theirs much faster)
*note: on lower difficulties holy shrines can be very useful because they generate a lot of money and a nice bit of culture on top of it, the higher the difficulty the lesser the commerce profit. (shrine commerce cannot go to research/culture, it can however pay for expenses that keep your culture/research rate down)

University
Base culture/turn: +3 (+25% to base science/turn)
Research prereq: Education
Estimated research moment: to late for double base culture
relative cost: expensive (or mediocre with philosophical)
*note: its a nice structure, not much to say. Its probably build to late to get the double base culture significantly early enough

Castle
Base culture/turn: +1
Research prereq: engineering
Estimated earliest research moment for prereq tech: 500AD
Relative cost: mediocre (or cheap with stone)
*note: this structure is hardly noteworthy for culture victories, it does help you defend your cities but not the improvements that you need for the city to function in the first place. you are also unlikely to build it before its going to double its base culture anytime soon.

World wonders usually grant you a nice culture boost, at least the early ones. The most famous being the pyramids.

Here are my written notes on wonders and their relations to the culture victory. Take into consideration that some wonders can be build up to twice as fast with resources of which they are made, keep this in mind when considering to or not to build a wonder.

Assumptions: no industrial leader trait/no (strategic) resources
two ** next to a wonders name means it has 10 culture/turn and * means 8culture/turn. no * means 6.
all world wonders double their base culture/turn after 1000 years.
here I mention the wonders that (i think) can be build so early that they will reap double cultural value/turn in a significant part of the timeline, 1000 years later.

The (great) Pyramids
Research tech: Masonry
Emperor difficulty AI build moment: The birth of J christ (some time around then)
Bonus: can pick representation as your civic (all other civics are unpractical, perhaps not police state but that's it)
Relative cost: Dead expensive
although it looks like a great wonder (and it really is) it costs about the same as 15 obelisks, 7.5 settlers, 5-6 axeman or 15 forest chops.
choose which you want the most. if you do not have stone hooked up, or do not have an industrious leader trait I don't suggest you build it. If you do I advice you to use the representation civic as this makes your artist specialists blow .
The great pyramids spawns great engineers, which is extremely useful for building a second world wonder.

*Stonehenge
Research tech: Mysticism
Emperor diff AI build moment: 2000BC-1AD
You can discover it quite early or start with it
Bonus: Free obelisks
Relative cost: cheap
for non-creative leaders this is a really nice wonder. The great prophet it spawns in 50 turns can found christianity, if you research writing and the first 5 religion techs. Obelisks constructed by stonehenge will never double their base culture after 1000 years.

The Great Lighthouse
Research tech: Masonry & Sailing
Emperor difficulty AI build moment: 1000BC-1AD
Bonus: +2 trading routes in coastal cities
Relative cost: Mediocre (a little less then double that of stonehenge)
unfortunately it requires you to build a lighthouse as a prerequisite. Fortunately this also gives you a little extra time, this is without thinking one of the best wonders for civilizations that build their cities on coasts.

*The Oracle
Research tech: Priesthood
Emp diff AI build moment: 1500-500BC
Bonus: Free tech (one you can otherwise choose to research over time at the time of completion)
Relative cost: mediocre
It can be build early, this seems pretty bad to me, you can use it to discover an expensive tech, usually code of law (among other players), I also suggest this tech as it founds confucianism and gives you the (relatively) unlimited artist civic.

**The Parthenon
Research tech: Polytheism
Emp diff AI build moment: a small period before the pyramids (usually)
bonus: +50% great people points
Relative cost: Expensive (little less then the pyramids)
this wonder can be build early (regardless of cost) and gives a base culture/turn of 10, very useful!
the +50% great people might sound nice but in truth it might only give you about 15-20% more great people, at least not as much as you might have expected the first day you got CivIV and build the Parthenon. for any non philosophical civ culture victory fairing this is still a very useful wonder as it will spawn artists very early. early great artists will generate more culture then an instant culture bomb (great work).

The Colossus
Research tech: Metal Casting
Emp diff AI build moment: 50AD or beyond
Bonus: +1 commerce on water tiles
Relative cost: mediocre to cheap
It's a nice little wonder but I don't see many high difficulty cultural conquerors get this one. It's got a prereq tech that does not help build anything else cultural.

Chichen Itza
Research tech: Code of law
Emp diff AI build moment: 200AD
Bonus: +25% defense for all of your cities
Relative cost: Mediocre to expensive
Nice little wonder, doesn't have an amazing base culture. Nice wonder. get it if you don't get anything else or have stone.

*The Great library
Research tech: Literature
Emp diff AI build moment: 200AD
Bonus: 2 free scientist specialists.
Relative cost: (not very) expensive
If you don't mind to litter your great people birthline with filthy scientists its okay to build this one, its a very useful wonder if the cost is cut by 50% or more. you can try to keep your great people birthline clean by having a second city that does not allow the city with the G library to cause accidental scientists (by outbreeding it ).
If you got stone and an early position on the timeline I'd go for it.

The Hanging gardens
Research tech: Mathematics
Emp diff AI build moment: 500AD
Bonus: +1 health to all cities and +1 pop for each city at completion time.
Relative cost: mediocre to expensive
The relatively low cost makes up for the (in my opinion) small bonus. I don't like to have my whole population boosted by 1 because this usually causes it all to turn red and green (angry & sick). on the higher difficulties each point of health does count, however.

**(The) Notre Dame
Research Tech: Music
Emp diff AI build moment: 800AD
Bonus: +1 happy people in all cities (on the continent)
Relative cost: bloody expensive (133% of the pyramids)
If you build the pyramids, this is the wonder that you want the great engineer for. (+1 happy face and +2 great artist points are very useful on high difficulties)

**The sistine chapel
Research tech: Theology
Emp diff AI build moment: 950AD
Bonus: +2 culture/turn per active specialist (including normal and great people)
Relative cost: (very) expensive
For a cultural victor this wonder must have been quite so useful, as it has a very useful base culture/turn and useful bonus, I'd build it for its base cultural value though.

PS: Also check out my notes and tips for diplomacy victory.

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