Every CIV player has experienced the awkward adjustment period that occurs when they move up in difficulty level. It is often debated which ‘move up’ in level is the most difficult to adjust to. Certainly the move from Warlord to Regent comes to ones mind. The first few times a player faces the game on an equal footing with the AI can take some getting used to. There is however another ‘move up’ which many players that have reached Deity level point to as the moment when the game takes on an almost completely different feel – almost as if you were playing a different game with the same mechanics. The ‘move up’ I am referring to is the move from Monarch to Emperor.
In many ways Monarch is a slightly beefed up Regent, the only significant difference being the faster AI build time. However, once a player masters Regent he rarely has much difficulty with Monarch. The small AI advantages are no match for the superior human playing skills of even an average Regent player. When you hit Emperor the AI advantages become far more pronounced – so much so, that a great number of the techniques that you mastered over the last 4 levels are no longer viable. For many players Monarch is the end point of their CIV experience – and understandably so. The reasons for this are numerous, and this article is an attempt to address what you can expect in a Mon to Emp transition while also giving a few tips that will hopefully help players overcome the ‘Great Leap’.
1 content citizen: At Monarch all your new cities begin with 2 content citizens – on Emperor you start with only 1. The impact of this is far reaching and can confuse a Monarch player. Prior to this you could pretty much maintain a fairly ‘happy’ empire with minimal effort. Now you will be forced to master the luxury slider. The first thing you need to get over is the natural unwillingness to use the slider. It is a habit acquired in much ‘happier’ difficulty levels. Secondly, prior to Emperor the primary reason you stationed troops in your cities was for defense – at Emperor you need to start paying attention to the Military Police value of city garrisons. Lastly, never before has the importance of securing and connecting luxury resources become so huge – yes you focused on them before, but now they need to become almost an obsession. You heard that rioting and war weariness were part of the game but have never really experienced it to any significant degree – a frequent and close watch of your cities happiness levels are now in order.
AI build bonus: At Emperor the AI will build in 8 turns what takes you 10. This 20% bonus will cause you to change many of your most cherished ‘build orders’, Wonder objectives, and military plans. No longer will you be able to build 4 Ancient Age wonders, and then every single wonder for the rest of the game. Get over it! Be far more focused and learn to prioritize your wonder chasing to coincide with your primary game objectives. If you have relied on the ‘Pyramids or GL’ for every game start you need to learn new strats – at Emp or above your ability to secure these prize wonders is greatly diminished. Secondly, no longer will you be able to simply out research the AI from late Ancient in the tech race. Get over it! Learn to play from behind – focus on tech branches that are less popular with the AI – and most of all check in with your neighbors EVERY turn. Trade, trade and trade some more. Your days of tech hording are over. Prior to Emperor many players have never bought a tech for gold from an AI – you will need to learn the nuances of proper tech purchasing. Amazingly new players often use the 0 research gambit in their games – amazing because at the lower levels you will almost always out research the AI from beginning to end if you choose to – so there really was no need. This strat was originally designed for upper level players finding methods to keep up with the AI. So what you toyed with before without need, is now a crucial strat to master.
AI troop bonus: At Monarch the AI gets a small increase in starting units and free unit support. At Emperor or above this increase becomes very significant. So much so – that that ultra early archer rush that you have always taken for granted will now run into an AI with 2 or 3 times of a numerical advantage over you. Initially you will have to revert to your Chieftain days when you focused on learning to secure your empire and build defensive units. The luxury of being able to build a temple or library before military in every new city will often lead to your being overrun by a neighbor. In time you will learn to attack again. But even here, it will no longer be the same. Truth be told – prior to Emperor the only reason you built different types of units was out of personal taste. At Monarch you can literally build 1 or 2 types of offensive unit(s), follow the upgrade path, and build nothing else the entire game. Just stack up and go. At Emp – those days are over – you will now have to learn the power of ‘combined arms’ and artillery. The counter-attack will also make an appearance – out of necessity. Expect to be picked on early and often. Most importantly – your wars will have to be planned in much greater depth, and your unit management will have to be far more precise. The concept of maintaining a ‘strategic reserve’ will become a necessity. Lastly, up to now you have managed to fight almost endless wars in representative Governments (Republic/Democracy) – and you never could understand why warmongers would switch to Communism or Fascism – besides, pop rushing never seemed to pay off. Those days are also over. A hard core Emperor or above player that intends to warmonger endlessly will have to learn the proper management of a totalitarian Government – the AI troop bonus leaves you no choice. Furthermore, you simply will not dominate like you once did in the Industrial Age – proper pop rushing will often be the difference in whether you survive or not!
The AI is stupid: yes the AI is stupid and remains so at Emp and above. BUT, the quantitative advantage of the AI is so pronounced that it goes a very long way towards making up for the stupidity. Do NOT take for granted what you took for granted before (the AI will have a small lousy navy, the AI will launch a piecemeal half-hearted counter attack against you, the AI rarely attacks in early Ancient Age, ect.).
Micro – Management: So you read Crackers article on proper worker management eh? Well, tell you what – you better find it again and read it 2 more times. The single greatest advantage you had over the AI at Monarch and below was better worker management. Most Monarch and below players settle on a ‘mine green – water brown and white’ approach to workers – this will no longer hold up at the higher levels. At Emp and above the extensive AI bonuses vastly mitigate against this. In turn, your worker management becomes far more crucial – so much so that a series of early missteps in working tiles and roading that formerly lead to temporary setbacks, may now actually lead to your being totally destroyed in the early game. In fact the true key to successful playing at Emp or above is proper micro-management. This applies to every aspect of the game now; economic, diplomatic and military. Slow down – be patient – and plan ahead. Planning ahead now takes on a whole new meaning. At the lower levels the game could literally be played ‘one turn’ at a time, in other words winging it as you go. At the upper levels you must have a clear and purposeful long-range goal. All of your planning and decisions should all lead towards the achievement of that goal.
The Expansion phase: Lastly, and most importantly is the expansion phase. Before Emperor this phase of the game was still important to you – but not so important that you could not take a couple of liberties (the early Wonder city, having only 1 settler pump, building culture before workers or troops, ect.). The single most frustrating aspect about making the leap from Monarch to Emperor is learning to part with these ‘liberties’. They become an integral part of your whole approach to the game – they are the reason you establish such an overwhelming early dominance in the game. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to focus almost solely on troops/settlers/and workers in the early game. You WILL NOT keep up or even come close to the AI expansion if you indulge in these liberties. The goal is still ‘overwhelming dominance’ – you just have to get used to the fact that it is not a ‘start to finish’ given any more. At Emperor you can still afford perhaps a single deviation – but no more than that. At Demi or Deity you’ll be toast if you indulge in building at the expense of expansion.
There’s much, much more – but that sums up my contribution for now. Hope this article helps.