The Industrious and Scientific Ottomans joined Civ III with Play the World, and at first glance appear to be “Persia with a Cavalry UU”. Though the Ottomans have the same combination of traits as Persia, playing them well requires a slightly different approach. While strengths of the trait combination still apply, the difference in the timing of the Unique Units has a profound impact.
The strength of the industrious and scientific trait combination makes the Ottomans as a first-tier builder civ. Both traits are are generally strong in every phase of the game. Players should not feel constrained in their choice of victory conditions; the Ottomans can compete in a Space Race or vie for world domination. Cultural victories are also within reach any scientific civ. While cheap libraries can provide an early culture and research boost, the scientific civ’s cheap universities lie at a technological crossroads for the Ottomans; and it is the Sipahi that brings the Ottomans to this crossroads.
Beyond the Middle Ages lie riflemen, the bane of the cavalry assault (though Sipahi are not truly outclassed until infantry arrive). In order to bring the Sipahi into the game quickly enough to be decisive, the Ottomans must not linger too long in the upper, peaceful, “builder” branches of the tech tree. Military Tradition must be researched as soon as possible. If the Sipahi are to be used for maximum benefit, the Ottomans simply cannot afford to pursue Navigation and Economics before Military Tradition. Those addicted to Magellan’s and Smith’s would be wise to choose another civ, or (better yet) break their addictions.
The Ottoman Sipahi (an 8-3-3 cavalry class UU that requires saltpeter & horses) is a unit to be respected, if not feared. No unit in the game packs more offensive punch until the late industrial era, and the Sipahi combines that punch with terrific speed. The human player would be wise to keep a watchful eye on any AI Ottoman border – especially in the late Middle Ages. The Military Tradition requirement for the Unique Unit underscores the factor that makes the Ottomans slightly harder to play well.
To play the Ottomans well requires a departure from research “formulas” that work well with other civs. While early archer rushes or warrior-to-sword gambits are certainly options, the Ottomans do their best warmongering later in the game. After getting Literature early, a beeline to Monarchy followed by a beeline to Military Tradition can seem awkward to those accustomed to pursuing Republic in the Ancient Age and Democracy in the Middle Ages.
As a warmonger tribe, the Ottomans are second-tier (though at the top of that second tier). Though the Sipahi are fearsome, they arrive on the scene a little late. This is compounded by the Sipahi’s cost, at 100 shields (25% higher than Cavalry). To gain maximum benefit from this unit, Military Tradition will need to be researched as quickly as possible while still building enough cash reserves to upgrade some knights. Despite this second-tier warmonger rating, Cavalry campaigns are fast, furious, and fun. A well-executed campaign with Sipahi can rampage through AI cities at a breathtaking pace on a Pangea or continental landmass. When employed as part of a “combined arms” campaign, the Sipahi remain dangerous well into the industrial era, though this is perhaps more useful to the “balance of power” player than the pure warmonger.
Side notes: If Sipahi and the Industrious trait have a natural enemy, it is water. Archipelago maps (or continent maps with small landmasses) will be challenging to the Ottomans. The toning down of the industrious trait in C3C hurt all of the industrious civs, though this hurt the Ottomans less than others.
In Summary: Rank beginners (who are still learning the mechanics of the game) are the only players who might want to pass on the Ottomans. Regent-Monarch level players who are trying to break “builder” habits and gain some warmongering skill should definitely try a game or three as Osman. The Ottomans can do enough building to keep a builder comfortable, while forcing a “change in formula” in order to play to the strength of the Ottoman Sipahi. Stronger players should enjoy this civ; when played skillfully – watch out! 1st tier builder, 2nd tier warmonger, mediocre on water – overall a 2nd tier CIV.
Ision’s tier ranking: A 1st tier builder CIV and a strong 1st tier warmonger CIV, along with UU that makes them a true mid-game menace – in spite of their mediocre performance on water maps, the Ottomans are an overall 1st tier CIV.
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