The Case For Food – Or, How to Become Economically Dominant

This article is about is some of the things I suggest for internal improvement. Basically, how I think city spacing and the economic buildup of a civ (under ideal circumstances) should be approached.

Basically, there are four things I think are pivotal in the maximum economic development of a civ: the Agricultural trait, early Granaries, copious amounts of Workers (early) and tight-city spacing.

Quite simply put, food is power in Civ 3, and as long as you can keep yourself alive, if you have the most food then you are the most powerful. You have the greatest capability to build new cities, you have higher populations in your current cities which allow you greater generation of production and commerce. Those three things are basically what determines who is most powerful: the number of cities, production capability and usable gold per turn (GPT).

Obviously intelligent building of units and city improvements also has a huge impact on how successful a civ does, but I’m assuming for this article that players are capable of this. 😉

The Agricultural Trait

The Agricultural trait in one of the best ways to help increase the amount of food and population a civ is in possession of. Every city built on fresh water (river or lake) gets an extra food from the very start of the game. Thus, every time a city grows it will only take 7 turns instead of 10 at the minimum. Just think… growing to size 6 you save a total of 18 turns! That’s 18 turns where you’ll have extra pop in your cities, which means 18 turns where you’ll be generating more production and 18 turns where you’ll be generating more commerce. And that’s just one city. Imagine the effect empire-wide.

If you have some sort of bonus food resource in the area you can easily get to 5 food per turn. Coupled with a Granary that means a city grows in only TWO turns! And that’s for only 1 food resource. If you have more bonus food for other cities to use that’s multiple cities with 2-turn growth. The ability to achieve this allows you to build Workers in only 2 turns indefinitely, never losing population since you complete the Worker at the same rate your city grows. With those Workers you can either work more tiles (very important, but I’ll get to that later) or you can add those cheap and quick Workers to other cities. Worried about those cities stuck with hills around that will take forever to grow? Well in only 10 turns the Workers from one Worker pump city can get that city from size 1 all the way to size 7 with just the production from one city.

Clearly, extra food gives you an immense boost in power. Deserts also provide 2 food and 1 shield when irrigated instead of only 1/1. This allows deserts to be tracts of productive land instead of barriers and useless dirt for production. But I’m also getting into other things, so I’ll continue onto my other subjects.


As I said in the section above, Granaries are very important in growth. Growth twice as fast is an amazing tool, and coupled with a 5 food surplus you have a city that’s more a weapon than a city. The earlier the Granaries are built the earlier they start paying off. Thus under normal circumstnaces I always build a Granary as early as I can. If you are playing as an Agricultural civ then you get Pottery from the start of the game, which means as soon as I get out a few Warriors for scouting and garrisoning my capital I almost always start on a Granary in order to have it done before my capital gets to size 4 or 5. You can then produce 2 Settlers one after another and you’ll already be ahead of the average civ that has no Granary. Or you can wait for the city to “recharge” and build something between the Settlers, keeping production and commerce higher with a higher population.

The more Granaries in more cities you have and this effect is exponential. More Granaries means a lot more food and more food in more cities is a LOT more Settlers and new cities in the long-run. However, a player also has to know how to balance the building of Granaries. Granaries aren’t needed in EVERY city (early on anyways), and more than 2 or 3 early Granaries (depending on your food situation) is probably overkill and detracting from resources that could be used for other purposes.

This scheme is generally true for most games. The very early warmonger may have different priorities, but even when I plan on rushing a neighbor I usually follow this pattern if only to have a single city which is capable of better-than-average growth for the purposes of building new Workers and cities for more production and increasing the unit support limit.

Additionally, a Granary many not be nessesary (until later on in the game) for very high food cities. If you’re capable of generating, say, 7 food per turn (FPT) with relative ease (2 bonus food resources) then with 3-turn growth having a Granary early isn’t vital. Your city can grow so fast that the help of the Granary isn’t immediately necessary. However, having a Granary eventually will allow you to share some of that food with another city and keeping fast (2-turn) growth. Which leads me to…


With that extra food and Granaries you can build lots of Workers, which is vital to having enough tiles for all cities to work. With a tight-city spacing it can sometimes be hard to keep up with improvements. However, with enough Workers you can (and should) always have enough fully improved tiles for all cities to work. Once that becomes the case you can have Workers preparing tiles for future growth and future city sites. With such fast growth the need for Workers grows, and you should make sure you always have a proper amount of Workers for your cities.

Not having enough Workers is one of the main flaws in less experienced players’ playstyles. They will often go with only their original Worker for quite some time into the game, which seriously weakens the economic position of a player. A general rule of thumb is to have 2 Workers per city if you’re not using an Industrious Civ, or 1.5 Workers per city if you are. Obviously early on this will be difficult (and probably not necessary) to achieve so this rule is more important for when a civ’s position becomes more developed and the initial REX (rapid early expansion) phase has completed. Your first Worker ought to get plenty of done for your capital, but you’ll often lag behind when you build your next couple cities. It’s important to balance Workers and Settlers to keep a balance in expansion and infrastructure improvement.

City Spacing

City spacing is the plan or pattern which players locate their cities on the map. Some players use an ad hoc patter (basically deciding where the next city goes as soon as its Settler is built), whereas others may draft an elaborate and complex plan many turns in advance, knowing exactly where each Settler is going before it ever gets built.

City spacing can be tight, loose or somewhere in between. “Loose” spacing is generally defined as OCP (Optimum City Placement), which basically means there are 4 tiles between each city. This would look like cxxxxcxxxxc, with c being a tile which has a city and x being a tile without one. This placement means there is very little overlap in tiles between cities’ radii, if any at all. A tighter spacing is usually somewhere around 2 tiles, which would be cxxcxxc. The tightest possible is 1-tile spacing, which is generally referred to as ICS (Infinite City Sprawl), and looks like cxcxc. With this strategy the cities are very close to each other.

City placement is often the other great quandary of inexperienced players along with building too few Workers. Many new players or Civ 2 players will place their cities very far apart in order to give each city the maximum amount of tiles to work each. However, due to the corruption system and simply production possibility a loose spacing is inferior to a tighter one.

Tight city-spacing is one of the most important things to ensure maximum power and growth. Cities closer to the capital have lower corruption and are able to work previous improved tiles that aren’t being used. Once you build your Forbidden Palace (FP) you have a second core from which to spiral cities outwards from. 2 to 3 tile spacing is the best way to get the most out of your land.

“Camp” cities can be set up with the express purpose of disbanding them in the future. Thus when you run out of tiles to work in your more important cities you can reduce and eventually disband the camps and allow the other cities to grow even more. In the meantime you gain all of the production and commerce from the camp cities while they exist. It’s a win-win situation. You can later disband these cities to allow others to grow to size 12 and beyond when raw production from individual cities is more important in order to build the expensive ICBMs and spaceship parts. But in the early game closer city spacing is important in order to make the most of your land.

City placement also has something to do with the type of game you’re playing and your game situation. If you’re by yourself on a landmass or for some reason have no reason to fear a war, you can build your cities a bit further apart with long-term potential in-mind. Or when war is a constant threat a close city spacing for greater production in the short-term and the ability to transfer garrisons between cities in a single turn becomes more of an advantage. Terrain can also affect city spacing, with marsh, mountain and generally unproductive terrain needing special consideration.

5 Food Per Turn (FPT) – The Golden Number

5 FPT is a very important benchmark for cities to reach. It allows a city with no Granary to grow in 4 turns, but even more importantly it allows a city WITH a Granary to grow in only 2. The applications of this are very powerful and can help in a variety of ways.

A city capable of growing in only 2 turns is a very useful city indeed. Their best application is in the creation of Worker or Settler pumps. Workers are 10 shields, and Settlers are 30, making it easy to time the completion of these units with growth in these cities as long as they don’t suffer from extreme corruption.

Worker Pump

A Worker Pump is a city designed for the production of Workers. The ideal early Worker pump has a Granary (60 shields), and is capable of 5 FPT and 5 Shields Per Turn (SPT). Additionally, it is often best if it is a larger size (4 through 6) so that it can generate a fair amount of commerce while building Workers.

A town size 6 or below has a food box of 10 when the Granary is full. This means 5 FPT means the city grows in 2 turns. And since Workers are 10 shields at 5 SPT the Worker also completes in 2 turns. The effect of this is that the city size stays constant, always generating the same amount of food, shields and commerce every turn that it’s used as a pump.

The Workers, once created, can be used for the variety of usual purposes. One advantage of Worker pumps later on in the game is to increase the size of cities 7 and above, which have a much larger food box and take longer to grow. Just add a Worker from a pump every few turns and your cities will grow much faster than they ever could on their own.

Settler Pump

A Settler Pump has a configuration similar to that of a Worker Pump, but a couple things are different. Like a Worker Pump, a Settler Pump should have a Granary and capable of 5 fpt in order to achieve 2-turn growth. However, one difference is the shields necessary. Settler Pumps are designed to create a Settler every 4 turns, which means the city needs to be able to generate 8 spt in order to complete the 30 shield Settlers to match the growth of the city. Instead of the city size remaining static like with Worker Pumps, the Settler Pump will increase 1 population while building each Settler, which has added issues like new city laborers being able to work new tiles and keeping new population happy.

Settler Pumps are most useful early on in the game when a civ is undertaking a large expansion effort and there is a lot of empty space that needs to be filled. This early there are usually only a couple cities capable of 5 fpt and 8 spt and have a Granary, which means one of the core cities will have to be dedicated to this effort. However, with a Settler every 4 turns, it’s well-worth the investment when you have a lot of space.

Okay, that’s it for my strategy/rant thread. 😀 Please post any comments or observations or anything else you want to with regards to this subject. 🙂

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