I recently started using explorers and I wanted to share my pleasant experiences. Most of the treads I have read on the explorer are along the lines of “they suck, they come much to late to explore anything”. It is true, by the time you get explorers, there usually isn’t much map left to explore. The key to using them is not to think of them as an explorer, but to think of them as a special operations unit.
Explorers get 2 moves, and treat all squares like they have roads. Unlike the scout who’s moves are treated like there are no roads, the explorer can run across your neighbors territory in a couple turns.
They aren’t considered a thret by the civs you are at peace with, so they can move freely through their territory. Rarely, if ever will they get forced to leave.
They are cheap. They cost 20 shields, the same as an archer or spearman. By the time you get them most any of your cities can produce them in 2 turns. Note: for some reason you can have a city producing 35 shields and the explorer still takes 2 turns to build. Seems like there is a minimum number of turns to build this unit. However they are so cheap, you can have cities that are otherwise unproductive popping them out in 2 turns and you don’t waste any production time in your good cities that are pumping out your military. I have noticed that if you enter your golden age, the 2 turn minimum is lifted and you can build Explorers in one turn. Maybe someone out there has something to add on this.
They can pilliage (small point, VERY important).
[B]Pillage:[/B] The obvious use is to pillage. Just ask yourself, what value would you place on being able to pillage every resource (strategic and Luxury) that your opponent has, on the turn that you begin your assault? For what amounts to the cost of a couple of infantry you can instantly deprive your target of all these valuable resources. Also, any important roads for travel, or roads through the mountains you will be attacking from can be removed without wasting valuable moves from your military units. Also, because of the 3 moves, many of your Explorers will escape for the next offensive, or run around as fodder trying to pillage even more while drawing out the enemies offensive units, thus making them susceptible to yours. I have tried to use military units to cut off these resources and roads, and it just doesn’t work well. Not only do you lose valuable attacks, but it is very difficult getting your units within reach of the enemies resource squares. You also tend to have to sacrifice a couple of expensive cavalry/tanks because they get over extended trying to reach that oil or saltpeter square.
[B]Recon:[/B] In a recent game I played, my friends, the French stood between myself and the Chinese. I found myself without a source of coal and the French were holding 2 sources and were the obvious choice for me to go after to get the resource. They also had a few excellent wonders in two of their cities. My trouble was that my military was meager. I was building a few cavalry but I didn’t have enough to take out the french. Luckily the chinese declared war on the French and the fighting commenced. I was able to send several Explorers up into French and Chinese territory to act as recon and provide me with free valuable information of how things were going. I could see that the chinese were able to get the upper hand and were pummeling the French cities. Using this information I was able to wait until the French capital was down to a couple of injured units before I move my small force of cavalry in to take the cities. As a result I had PERFECT TIMMING, I was able to take all but two worthless cities (That China got) from the French with a veryyyy small force of cavalry. Without the turn by turn iformation that my explorers received, I would think I could have lost an army 4-5 times as large to capture half of the French cities.
[B]Blockade:[/B] This falls into the gray area of cheating. Explorers block units just as effectively as Modern Armor, when you are at peace. Say for example that I had a source of coal in my previous example and I wanted help my friends the french from getting beat on by my friends the Chinese. I might want to do this if I wished the French to remain a buffer between myself and the much larger Chinese. If there was an appropriate choke point, I could keep China from sending units by land all together. The French could more then keep up with units from China sent by boat. Barring that, surrounding the French city with 8 explorers would allow the French to build back up defenders if the city were about to fall. Even something like slowing down the Chinese Cavalry so that they end up finishing a turn at the gates of the city instead of attacking the city can do wonders for affecting how a war will turn out.
Give the Explorer a try before dismissing him. Accurate information wins wars and there is no better source of information then the Explorer.
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