Expansion is the key at the beginning of the game, and that affects the rest of the game VERY much.
I have tested this tip a few times…all on Regent level, and on Standard or smaller maps, Continents and Pangaea with 70% and 60% water…I assume it would also work on 80% water, since that just lessens the land–a good thing for this tip. For archipelagos, modify it to build around the ocean on your island first, but the same idea holds.
Alright, here is my small stroke of genius that seems to give me a MUCH better (10+ cities on a Standard Continent 70% Water map with 10 civilizations is about the average number I was able to get BEFORE fighting/taking over a single city!) start in the game.
This works VERY well (and was tested) with a religious civ, but would work (to a somewhat lesser extent) with others as well. (I promised I would play a religious civ, and I did–love the benefits so much!) Expansionist would probably help some, but I’m not sure that it would help as much as a religious civ.
All tests were on Regent, and I heard the computer gets bonus units at the beginning of the game on higher levels, so it may or may not work on higher levels…but the general idea still could hold to some extent…just build a bit closer to your initial cities.
I noticed sea units don’t usually come from the computer for a few thousand years, and the civs don’t have a right-to-pass deal, and can’t even establish one, for a long while into the peaceful expansion phase of the game. (Be sure not to give any civ a right-of-passage while you are filling the holes after employing this strategy!)
Explore in all directions until you find a civ, and then explore their border extensively. Build your first two (or three) cities while you are doing this exploration. You will likely bump into a civ that wants to limit expansion by expanding toward you as fast as possible…but they do it from the INSIDE (center of their empire) OUT, instead of the OUTSIDE IN! Take advantage, and learn from their mistake–build from the OUTSIDE IN!
What does this mean? Starting near THEIR BORDER (a fair compromise between their border and where you think you can reasonably blockade with your borders–5 tiles away from their borders seems to work if you are able to produce a bunch of settlers at once…but it really depends on how many settlers you can produce right away, how long it will take them to get there, and how long the border is you are trying to seal) and working TOWARD your cities, from the OUTSIDE in, all the way around. Build new cities, and have them build Temples immediately. (I took along a Warrior or Spearman for defense. When? While waiting for the city size to build up so I could build Settlers.) Basically, you want to build so your border CUTS OFF the expansion of the rival civ. Make it so that the lakes, oceans, bays, and other civ borders cut off your rivals from expanding. Also, build it so you will be at least one city radius away, but no more than one square beyond a city radius, so your cities do not overlap but have little, if any, left-out space. (The idea is after the Temple expansion, the border will become solid and sealed.) You may not get all four sides if you are in the worst position (surrounded by rivals on all sides in the middle of land) for this tip, but you WILL do better than building from the center out!
The importance of Temples is to quickly expand your borders so it takes many fewer settlers, while also increasing happiness!
Now that you have established this barrier, the very NEXT task is to build all around the ocean. Why? The computer may not have built boats up to now, but soon it will take to the seas and look…so now secure that as your own.
Finally, you can fill in all the “gaps” with settlers (while at the same time building up defenses on the perimeter cities) with settlers from the interior 2 or 3 cities. (That’s right, I still recommend the first and second cities, and possibly the third, are in the same local area…3 of on Standard, 2 if on Tiny or Small)
Using this method, I could effectively “stop” the computer’s growth, then fill in the gaps. By the way, you had best research Monarchy IMMEDIATELY, since corruption will be high for your outer cities, but that’s something that can be dealt with more AFTER the expansion phase! I’m not talking about making your initial empire radius be 50 tiles on a Standard map…make it about 15 – 20 tiles in radius from your initial city…of course, if there is no rival civ that close, start on the outside of a 15 – 20-tile line from your city, and build up and down that…then you can fill in the gaps when you have sealed your borders.
If you are not able to stop the entire side of a civ, don’t worry. Start from the middle and work up and down, so you can still handle it if you don’t cut off the ENTIRE border…you still will have cut off at least some of it!
Give it a shot–this works miracles! (And is not in any way cheating, nor exploiting a game error! Going by the rules AND the way it was meant to be played!)
Once again, SATISFY THE DEMANDS OF YOUR RIVALS–don’t GIVE them a reason to attack, since your border cities are initially somewhat weak, and your efforts focused on expansion.
AFTER the Temple, build another defense, then you can have the border cities contribute to further expansion on the borders, and expansion back toward the interior cities.
I found the computer will not attack right away if you keep it happy…and will respect your borders, even if they are a militaristic civ…EVERYONE is focusing on expanding at first, and if they bump into a wall, they will try other means!
Just be sure to cut off the oceans after you seal off a comfortable radius on land…you want to do this BEFORE you see boats, or it is too late! This usually isn’t that tough, but be sure to do it before mass-producing workers and other stuff, and before settling in the parts of land you skipped over by rushing to the “outer limits”!