With the release of Conquests to the veteran Civ 3 player the Dutch offer a unique trait combo- agricultural and seafaring. Although hardly alone in this regard both of these traits were new when conquests was released. Over the last year or so the agricultural trait has become to be widely regarded as one of the most powerful traits in the game. It gives you an extra food resource in your cities’ center tile if your city is beside a river or once you change to a non despotic form of government. In addition it gives you half priced aqueducts, hydro plants and solar plants. You can also irrigate desert tiles and they will produce 2 food and 1 shield for your cities. And finally you get to start with pottery for the all important granary to help with settler factories. Although you can usually trade for pottery sometimes the AI civs closest to you don’t have it. Its all about speed- expand fast and you will have an easier game.
The Seafaring trait is an interesting. Naval units gain +1 movement and have a reduced chance of sinking when away from land. Also seafaring civs gain half priced harbors and commercial docks and get extra commerce for coastal cities. In general seafaring civs make excellent tech traders and scouting civs and are often early importers/exporters of resources. They also start with alphabet which lets you research a neglected tech tree and gives you a head start on the race to philosophy.
On island maps it seems overpowered however. The AI civs don’t understand the suicide curragh strategy and on higher difficulty levels lets the human player negate alot of the AI advantages- faster research and rapid production. Cheap military units don’t do the AI much good when they are obsolete and isolated on islands. While not quite an exploit it can be a good way to dip your toe in the water so to speak when you move up a difficulty level. It is slightly more balanced on continent maps and weak on pangaea although I would rather be a seafaring civ on a pangaea map than an expansionistic civ on an island.
Added together there isn’t alot of synergy between them compared to some other civs and the agriculture trait will probably be the most dominant one in most games. However unlike most seafaring civs the Netherlands cope reasonably well on pangaea maps due to the agricultural trait and Swiss Mercenary unique unit (UU). The Dutch are one of the best civs to take for a random map setting with random climate. It doesn’t matter as much what map you take or if its wet or arid- more rivers for the agricultural trait or desert tiles to irrigate.
The Dutch UU is the Swiss Mercenary. A unit with ADM of 1/4/1 it costs 30 shields and requires iron to build. It is one of the best defense units in the game along with the mighty Greek Hoplite. With a defense of 4 it equals the attack value of knights and medieval infantry- in a game where the attack value of units is always higher than the defense units of its era. It is in effect a half price musketman that doesn’t become obsolete until the discovery of nationalism in the industrial age. It allows the Dutch to dominate the middle ages and is cheap enough to be built in quantity. It is also versatile, if you want to sit there in a republic government and fight of AI attacks its great. For a defensive unit its also nasty on the attack in a stack of doom- alot of these and some artillery units and a few attacking units can steadily reduce an AI empire to ruin. Another use is a naval assault force if you want to invade a nearby island/continent. Land them on a hill or mountain and watch the AIs clever tactics (mindless charge) to try and dislodge them. The only drawback is its a defensive unit and you require iron.
Overall the Dutch are a powerful and versatile civ to play. They are hands down the best seafaring civ in the game and tend to expand rapidly. Often the AI can also play this civ reasonably well with large rich empires which are well defended due to the quantity and quality of its UU. Overall I would rate them as a 1st tier civ.
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