Culture Rush Strategy

Hey all, I wanted to share with you a strat I just am working out and see what you all think and if there are any suggestions about improving it. I tried this for the first time in a recent game, on Regent level, all the settings randomized, with 11 AI opponents on a large map. I randomly was given the Russians (expansionistic, scientific).
The goal is to rush to a cultural victory. I thought about doing this and I realized that the amount of culture you make per turn, which is critical, is really bounded only by the number of cities you have. After a city has made the five basic cultural improvements (I’m excluding research lab because it comes so late), it’s culture per turn will sit basically at 14/turn unless it builds wonders or if the improvements are very old (through testing I’ve found that the culture/turn value of a city improvement doubles when it becomes 1000 years old, not sure if this is common knowledge or not). So if you’ve got a typical empire of 20-30 cities, you’re stuck at a max of maybe 300-400 culture per turn. In order to get to 100k culture, it’ll take you at least 250 turns. That’s too long. In addition, the last few cultural improvements become really costly to build. So the idea is to BUILD MORE CITIES. A LOT more.

Here’s a quick narrative of the game I just played with this strat. It should give a rough idea of how I played. In the early game, I would basically make settlers as soon as I knew my city could handle it (i.e. as soon as the settler was projected to build after the city would grow to size 3). Settlers are priority number 1 early, of course. When a settler isn’t feasible, a spearman for defense or an exploring unit (scouts for expansionists, warriors otherwise). You want to find your neighbors fast. When you make settlers, you want to expand towards the nearest neighbors, to push your common boundary towards them as far as possible. Make workers when you can, and make roads your first priority. You want to be able to get around your lands fast. Population growth is also important; irrigate the plains and mine the grasslands as usual. Make cities near luxuries if there are any nearby, and connect them to the road network fast. Avoid wars, but be aggressive in taking land. Space your cities as normal, so that they are close but so that their radii won’t overlap (i.e. 4-5 squares apart). Build far apart first and fill in the gaps later. You want to expand towards uncontested territory last. DON’T make city improvements, and DON’T make wonders. When it becomes clear where the country boundaries are going to be, grab every last bit of land. This phase of my game ended around 0 AD and I had about 15-20 cities at this point.

After this ends, it’s time to switch gears. There will be a lot of land that’s probably unappealing (deserts, jungles, mountains). What you want to do now is to build cities EVERYWHERE. You have a fixed amount of land; now you want to make as many more cities on it as humanly possible. Make cities in between your old cities, so that they have only one square between them (they can’t be touching). Make cities all over the mountains and desert, and in jungles. PLAN your cities to fit in as many as possible; using a grid isn’t a bad idea. I’ve attached a save game so you can see what I’m talking about. Try to have about one worker per city working on your empire. Improve everything in sight. DON’T MAKE WONDERS OR IMPROVEMENTS. Don’t let your cities get up to a size where they are unhappy; just make more workers and settlers. You want to settle all the way to the edge of your neighbors’ cultural borders. Make cities all along the line. Pretty soon your outlying cities will have huge corruption. Use your core of cities near your capital which are non-corrupt to build defensive units and ship one out to each new city. Keep those cities small. During this time, you want to research as normal, keeping commerce high enough to run a surplus. In my game, I managed to make roughly 40 new cities during this period, which lasted roughly 50 turns from 0 AD to 400 AD. At 400 AD I was at about 55-60 cities. When you are getting close to filling up your entire lands, it’s time to switch gears again. It’s culture time.

The next phase is the build-up of culture. Starting with your outlying cities, you want to start making only cultural improvements; this is the FIRST thing you work on after founding the outside cities; use the core cities to make those defensive guys and send them to new cities. You want to start with the culture producers that give the best bang for your buck; that means temples and libraries. Being a scientific or religious civ makes this a LOT more powerful; I would recommend choosing one or both for this strat. You want all your cities to start with your easiest cultural improvement; for me this was libraries. Use your core cities to finish making enough defensive units to put one in each city. Don’t bother upgrading the old ones. In your outlying cities, which will be making a single shield per turn, start on the cultural improvements. Set your commerce to 100% and science to zero. You want to start buying and selling techs, as has been explained in the Pope / Science broker strategies. You need cash big-time; get as much of it as you can out of your rivals by selling techs. Basically you want to just make culture improvements everywhere, and you want to buy as many as possible, starting with the cheap ones, and especially those in the cities on your borders. Buy all the cheap improvements before starting on the more expensive ones. In my game I had managed to make about 40-50 of these by the year 800, which was 40 turns after I started. My gold/turn was at +130 or so (meaning I could buy almost one library or temple per turn) and culture/turn was around 180. Diplomatically, check if your rivals have new techs every several turns and BUY them; then sell them all off. You should keep 600-1000 gold in reserve for this purpose.

There are two other things which are critical to build. You want a forbidden palace ASAP, in a nice grassland/plain area of your empire (it can be close to your capital if you like, but make it at least 8 squares away). This helps your cash flow, which is essential to making those libs/temples. Build it in a city with a lot of potential shields, of course. The second thing you really want when you can build it is Wall Street, which is great for keeping the cash flow positive. When you build this, make sure to keep 1000 gold in your treasury at all times to maximize its effects. Basically, you want to be making 2-3 cultural improvements in your empire each turn, by buying, and by the slow process of building that happens in outlying cities. this will tend to increase your culture/turn by 5-8 points every turn: call it “cultural acceleration”. in cities which aren’t that corrupt and which are making more than above 5-6 gold per turn, marketplaces and banks are good investments to keep the cash flow up. For comparison in my game, my culture per turn hit 200 in year 820, hit 300 in 990, hit 400 in 1250, and was at 600/turn in year 1425. my gold/turn was increasing by between 110-180/turn this whole time.

But, there’s something else. When you start building up, you will be behind in culture (you shouldn’t have made any improvements before making your massive number of new cities). But pretty soon, you will rocket past the other civs in culture. In my game I was first in culture 45 turns after I started building up. In 810 the first enemy city defected to join me. Nine more joined over the next 35 turns. Your empire will start to grow via culture. You need to help it. Every time you assimilate an enemy city, you want to immediately move in with settlers and build on the new territory you claimed. Since the enemy civs space their cities normally, you will be able to squeeze in 2-3 more cities in the territory around each new city you gain via culture. You should focus on making the first temple/library in these new cities by rush-building (but always wait at least one turn before rushing something). This will keep your borders growing and your city count rising. I was able to make about 40-45 new cities just in the new lands I gained through culture. Keep your tech up to speed with the other civs, buying techs whenever you can. Nationalism is particularly important because it allows drafting.

Basically, the longer this stage of the game goes on, the harder it will be to beat you. Your cities should be happy because they will be small and because you have a lot of temples and caths/cols, and because you should have all cities connected by a road network to the luxuries in our empire (remember one worker per city? that’s a lot of workers with 110 cities! keep them improving all game long, use shift-I to automate them if you get bored). if you can build just one library and one temple in each of 110 cities, that’s 550 culture/turn right there. your neighbors will be in awe of your culture, making diplomacy easier and decreasing the chance of them declaring war. in my game, no other culture declared war on me after 0 AD. however, this is a concern in the strategy. once you have nationalism, you have the power of creating instantly 100 defensive troops by drafting one unit per city across your empire. don’t worry about losing a few cities to an attack; you should have dozens more. and, because your culture is three times as great as all of your rivals, you will probably assimilate any cities you lose pretty quickly anyhow. however, since your culture grows by half its normal rate in war, you want to end the war ASAP. give them whatever you need to, to get them off your back. if all else fails, switch all your production to a barbarian horde strategy, making units in every city, and just overpower them. get back to peace as soon as you can.

Once you get the ball rolling and the culture is flowing in, it’s hard for the AI to stop you. your empire size will be steadily increasing, and you will be on the way to your 100,000 culture goal. The only other possible problem for this strategy is a diplomatic victory. you are not in a position to be able to build the UN first, but you should have excellent relations with all your neighbors (you can consistently give them your world map or money to improve relations if you are worried about this; since you have no free space anywhere in your empire, they cant run in and make a useless city like they seem to love to do). in my game, someone made the UN in year 1768 but never called a vote. at this time, I had the largest land area (it DOUBLED as a result of cultural gains) and great relations.

By year 1740 I was making 1000 culture per turn and was at 80,000 total, just a few turns away from the goal. even with a very fast tech rate in my game (three civs had started the spaceship by 1760 AD!), I beat them all before they got close to launching. in year 1780 AD I passed 100,000 culture. by the way, since the “power” rating in the histograph takes into account cities and culture, my bar was almost halfway across the board when I won the game, and my score was handily above all the other civs due to my large territory. I finished the game with something like 110 cities, half of which I was able to build with the new land I assimilated. I assimilated 14 enemy cities in all. almost all my cities produced the minimum (1 shield, 1 gold) per turn, but I was running a surplus of >100/turn. I won the game without declaring war, without taking a single city by force, and without researching a single tech after monarchy, which was my gov’t for the entire game (which you should switch to ASAP…you could also try out democracy in the late game, though I was afraid of all the rioting that might happen; maybe I’ll try it if I play a religious civ). my final score was a bit under 3000. I also never got my golden age, because I didn’t want to ruin the peace when I got Cossacks.

Please let me know what you think works and what could be improved. My next game may be an attempt to beat emperor with this.

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