Finally Winning on Deity

I can never feel like I’ve beaten a game unless I take down the AI on the hardest setting. I worked my way up from chieftain to now winning the majority of the time on monarch and emperor; but the deity level victory eluded me until more recently. After quite a few tries with my favorite civs: the Iroquois, Japanese, and Zulu, I started winning with a more disciplined strategy with the Egyptians (this is in plain vanilla Civ 3). The defeats taught me more than the first victory; but I figured I’d write down these tips for you Civ 3 players out there looking for a deity win. The two main problems about winning on the highest difficulty level is getting quick city expansion early and then trying to overcome falling behind all other civs in the tech race. It really puts you on a very defensive and diplomatic stance. The AI gets enormous advantages and works cumulatively against you, even when it fights amongst itself. There are many tips on this site and some of this advice is throughout these forums in some form; but I’d thought I’d share what I learned as the most important lessons/differences when trying to make the jump to the hardest level.
A good start position is required. On lower difficulty levels, you can make up for bad start positions because of an extra unit to explore or possibly having the advantage of being able to move a couple of spaces before finally settling down because of production bonuses to make up lost ground. You can’t afford wasted turns early on deity due to extra exploration, difficult terrain development, or being stuck on some tiny island/peninsula. Each turn early on is crucial. On deity, you need a bit of luck in this area. Getting stuck on a continent with only one aggressive civ spells bad news when they can’t get any more cities without taking yours.

Advice: If you get stuck starting in the middle of a jungle infested area with nothing within your capital’s radius, just quit right now and try again. The same goes for starting in tundra, a large mountain range or desert. A food bonus is very advantageous. A wheat or cow food bonus tile is best. Fresh water is nice to have; but not really necessary since you will never let your capital get past a population of 6 if you use it like the settler/worker factory you should until after the expansion phase. A luxury is also extra nice since you don’t get a bunch of happy people in each city on deity unless you get various luxuries, build the correct city improvements, or spend entertainment money.

Example: I played the same start position 3 different times as the Japanese with the Romans being the only other civ on our big island. No matter how I played out the game, they always ended up wiping me out because of how aggressive they are and their lack of military competition from another AI civ on the continent. That may not have been a realistically winnable game. Times I’ve tried to fight it out in sticky terrain led to my city expansion being 1/2 or less of other civilizations, a deficit you can only hope to survive with, but never have a reasonable chance to win. The best games are those whose terrain favors your defense with reachable choke points and/or a good mix of isolation from aggressive civs by ocean and not being stuck alone on an island/continent with one overly confrontational neighbor like the Persians or Germans.

Trade wisely, getting communication with all civilizations as soon as possible. The more civilizations you know, the better your trading options become and the cheaper you can get the resources and technologies you will desperately need. On lower levels, you get some fairly sweetheart trade deals, especially early on. On deity, AI civs are already annoyed when you meet them or become that way quickly if you show any sign of weakness.

Advice: If you have to buy the communication from other civs, then do it. It will make everything you buy/trade for cheaper in the long run. Provided you’ve already gotten pottery, you may want to make a strong push to get Map Making so you can make those boat trips across the ocean, suicidal if necessary to jump from one coastal area to another to find other civs to trade with. Buying and trading for others territory maps is just as effective as their world map most of the time. Never give your map to any civilization unless they demand it and you’re in no position to say “No Way You $#@!” without getting whipped. Trade very wisely. Follow all the basic rules of course (trade the same tech to all civilizations on the same turn, trade for communications you don’t have to get cheaper trades, never accept trades initiated by other civilization, only trade on your turn, etc.). Another rule you should probably follow on deity is to give gold per turn instead of lump sums to the AI so they have incentive to not attack you thus ruining their rep. Never break a GPT deal prematurely unless you’re ready to never do another one (or take over the planet). Try to also get them to give you GPT in your trades, even if it’s only a token 1 gold per turn. This will essentially guarantee them from attacking you because they don’t want to take the rep hit if they attack. By the time you get late into the industrial age, some civs reps may be ruined; and some GPT deals might not be smart (or even possible). Trading is as important of a tool to prevent the AI from attacking you as it is to get the resources and techs you need.

Example: I was the Japanese, stuck on my own island early on and made a b-line for researching map making. I saw a couple of far off coastal areas that could be reached by galley with a little luck. I contacted the Indians, whom I traded my only tech for communication with the Greeks, whom I traded the same tech and a little gold for contact with the Zulu, whom I traded for communication with the Persians…and on and on. My net result was contact with 6 of the 7 other civs, the gain of a couple of techs, a loss of some gold I had built up, getting two annoyed civs turning polite with my GPT deals and the realization that I had already lost the expansion race. I still ended up finishing 2nd in that game based on score as one of the only 3 surviving civs, but that’s still a pretty good finish.

Suck it up and swallow your pride (and most of your dignity too) and allow trespassing. Trust me, you will be in no position to make any real threats or demands by the start of the middle ages (which every civilization will reach before you). On easier levels, you can demand other civs to get out of your territory and they will oblige. On deity, this is basically a good way to get war declared on you immediately (which has its uses).

Advice: If another ship is in your coastal territory, or the stray military unit from another civilization decides to cross through your territory, you really only have two options early on. Either you can block their route with workers/military units or you can let them go through. Other civilizations, even non-aggressive ones and those who are supposed to be naturally friendly to you, are just looking for an excuse to put the smack down on you. This means no “Get out!” declarations. Only do it if you’ve got a mutual protection pact with a powerful big brother (which is hard to get early) and/or if you are sure that the trespassing civ is on another continent/island and can’t amass an effective trans-ocean war campaign (something the AI is awful at no matter what difficulty level you play).

Example: I was playing the Egyptians and about 300 A.D., the Aztecs started moving into my territory in mass force. “OH NOO!!!..and I’ve been so nice to you guys!”….wait a minute they’re just bypassing my cities….whew!!! That was close. Then the Romans start coming in mass force from the south. OH NOOO!!! They are coming to kick my butt!!…wait…they aren’t attacking me yet. What? Then the Americans came in from the east with the biggest army yet. I crossed my fingers and watched with great relief as all three civs fought an enormous battle for a few hundred years right in the middle of my territory, giving me a front seat to a middle ages world war. If I had told any of them to get out, I would have been in a major war and been weakened enough by one civ that the other two would have easily just decided to wipe me out instead of killing each other off. While it did make terrain development difficult, it also ensured that I wouldn’t be attacked by any of my neighbors for a while since they were at war with each other AND it diverted their resources from their own improvements to war.

You will be out researched…by ages. I don’t care how much of a slick trader you think you are or how much you fund your science, you will start falling behind in techs sometime around the beginning of the middle ages. On every other difficulty level, you can take the lead in the tech race before the end of the middle ages (if not way earlier) if you play your cards right. On deity, it’s almost obscene how fast and far ahead the AI gets. It’s very possible that you will be producing musketmen while the AI is spitting out infantry (ouch). There’s a chance that you’ll be 1 or even 2 full ages behind the most advanced AI civ at some point. The best you can realistically expect to catch up to the tech leading Civ is sometime in the Industrial Age, but chances are that you will always be buying techs more than you research them. Think of it as a runaway train and you are riding in the caboose which is linked to the rest of the AI tech train with scotch tape. If you let the AI civs get too far ahead, you will lose your tech trade power link, leaving you even further behind while the AI surges ahead. You’ll need a lot more than scotch tape to bridge the gap, believe me. Don’t think the game is lost if you fall a ways behind though. I won on Deity when at one point I was well over a tech age behind. It just means you have to do more butt kissing than you’re used to AND later becoming the world’s butt kicker since U.N., cultural, and Space Race victories will most likely be out of reach. There is a small chance that you will be able to keep up; but this requires a lot of luck regarding start position, number of multiple luxuries/resources you find, the kind of opponents you play against, etc.

Advice: A good way to try and keep the tech race from getting out of control is to keep all the Civs at war with each other, but not with you. This is very tricky considering how little bargaining power you will have early on. The more resources they spend on fighting each other, the more time you can spend on building your infrastructure. Try supporting the losing civs in wars to keep them around longer. Having 2 or 3 smaller/weakened civs, just surviving with a few cities, is a big advantage. The more civs you can keep alive, the cheaper the techs you need to buy get. The AI will trade techs around to each other ASAP for as little as 10% of what they will charge you. You also need to check every civ before trading for a tech. Find the civ that has a tech that one or more civs don’t have. Get that tech and trade it around the same turn for whatever you can get (maybe even another tech that other civs don’t have). Unfortunately you probably might not be able to do this after the Ancient era until sometime in the industrial ages; but keep tabs on everyone, especially the most tech backwards civs (besides yourself). As far as researching techs yourself, I strongly recommend making a b-line research path down one tech branch in the Ancient Era (like Ceremonial Burial to Mysticism to Polytheism). For some reason, the AI seems hell bent on researching and trading for one tech level at a time and not following just one branch of the research tree to the end before starting on another research branch. This can lead to you getting a new tech before any other civ (if you can make a good early trade and push the research slider up early on). You can then trade to all the other civs for the multiple techs you are missing. Once you’re behind in the tech race, buy your techs instead of researching them, while keeping the science slider at 10% (40 turns), only researching useful dead end tech branches like espionage, monarchy, and the like. Spend your trading money on the military tech branches first, techs that lead to major city improvements second, and wonder building techs last (if at all, such as economics and free artistry). There are two good things about being last in the tech race when you eventually fall behind. You don’t have to spend money on research and you can buy/steal only the techs you need, making for a very efficient research path.

Another key is to grab multiple strategic resources and/or multiple luxuries. You’ll be able to trade these each for an ancient age tech, probably two for a middle age tech (a little cash), and significantly cut the cost of industrial age techs. I would argue that it is better to get two sources of iron than one iron and one horses. Why? Because you can trade the extra iron to another civ for anything you need. This does two things, it gives you something to trade with for another resource, tech, or luxury you don’t have AND more importantly discourages that civilization from taking it from you by force (which they will try to do once you start falling behind in the tech race). A good rule of thumb regarding trades is to make them last as long as possible to dissuade other civs from attacking you, thus buying you time to build your infrastructure and slowly catch up in the tech race. Just be leery of trading with civs that look like they are about to be eliminated. If you don’t have a complete world map, you can always look at the number of cities they have in the diplomacy screen. If the Zulus control more cities with English names than the English do, then Queen Elizabeth might be going down for the count thus endangering your rep if their trade route with you gets cut by Shaka’s rampaging forces. If you get multiple luxuries/resources, trade very wisely, and have the world warring with everyone except you, there’s a chance that you will be able to keep within close reach of the tech leaders. It’s hard, requires discipline and some luck; but it can be done.

Example: Playing the Egyptians, I was able to b-line for construction with some heavy research and a couple early trades. This let me trade my construction technology to all other civs for 5 other techs. After this I pulled the research slider to 10% knowing full well that every AI civ would out research anything I tried. I was then relegated to buying and trading for techs. I ended up trading my extra spices and ivory to the weaker civs for the techs; but as technology progresses, trading your luxuries and strategic resources gets you less and less in return. You’ll eventually have to buy techs with a combination of a few things, including gold per turn. This puts a lot of emphasis on money making. I was also once able to stay fairly close in the tech race when playing as the Aztecs thanks to my multiple luxuries (3 extra of 2 luxuries) and the fact I propped up the English and Russians who were slowly being beaten down by the Germans throughout the middle ages. I never fell behind more than a few techs, while keeping everyone happy with me who had any real power. It required checking everyone’s tech advances almost every few turns though.

Certain Civ traits really lose effectiveness on Deity. Many people fall in love with one Civ and play them exclusively; but keep in mind that certain traits lose much of their advantage in the highest difficulty levels. On lower levels, certain traits like Scientific are a huge advantage; and once you gain the tech lead, you never lose it. Not on deity. Some traits become greatly weakened or nearly useless.

Advice: Scientific is the most notable trait affected. The AI will beat you in the tech race and quickly. If you are going to pick a scientific civ, pick it for a good ancient UU or the other trait. It will only be worth researching a few dead end techs or possibly near the end of the game when it’s just you and one other powerful civ remaining (hopefully). The Expansionist trait becomes even weaker than it already is thanks to fact that the AI has a ridiculous production bonus and city expansion. The AI will explore land twice as fast as you and trade maps with other civs immediately, rendering the Expansion trait useless after the ancient age, especially considering the only thing you will get out of barbarian goody huts are pissed off barbarians looking to ransack you. Religion, Military, and Industrious become more useful long-term traits. Religion is invaluable for the one turn anarchy and cheap temples to help offset the one content citizen you get in each city instead of multiple content citizens (which affects how much entertainment and/or luxuries you must use). Military will give you the cheaper unit upgrades, which you will use often. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the advantage of getting more leaders since you can’t start wars without getting whipped early on. Even if you could get great leaders, you’ll be so far behind in the tech race, you might not be able to use a leader to hurry a wonder since they probably will get built before you get the tech needed to build them. Industrious may be the best of all traits since you will be relegated to infrastructure improvement over military campaigns from the ancient age well into the industrial age, unless you have a death wish. If you want a really tough challenge, try winning on deity with the Russians (expansionist, scientific) and their nearly useless Cossack UU.

Example: My first deity win came with the Egyptians (religious/industrial), which has two of the best traits for deity and has a good UU in the ancient age for exploration and counter attacks if necessary. Because of my industrial trait, I almost out build every other civ’s in regards to terrain infrastructure, provided I made efficient worker choices. The religious trait allowed for vital 1 turn anarchy, letting me switch from democracy to communism, depending on my war status. It also greatly cut the cost of my temples and cathedrals which were great to hurry when I was filling the gaps of other defeated civilizations with my own settlers to grab land, resources, and luxuries. I expanded my borders so quickly, helping boost my score quickly.

Forget Wonder building early on. You will need all your early efforts to go towards expansion and defense of that expansion without worrying about getting some wonder that is beyond your ability to outrace the AI’s ridiculous shield production capabilities.

Advice: It’s better to take the cities from civilizations that have already built the wonders (especially those which are useful for the ENTIRE game). Unless you somehow get your hands on a great leader early, most wonders will be out of your reach by the end of the ancient age until the industrial age (if you are lucky enough to catch up in the tech race). Use your leaders to hurry a palace, forbidden palace, or just hold on to them until you can get one of the better wonders like Universal Suffrage or the U.N. You probably won’t want to build an army until you can get modern armor in it, a looong way off. If you can predict catching up in the tech race in time to start a wonder (and don’t have a leader), get to building a palace or forbidden city to give you a large head start. You can covert your shields to the building of the wonder once you acquire the tech needed to build it. Once in the industrial age (and you’ve gotten sanitation), you may want to hurry a couple of hospitals and use some workers to build up those cities’ size, making these your future wonder factories.

Example: I’ve tried, just as an experiment, to single-mindedly build the Pyramids starting out and nothing else, just to see if I could do it. It’s hard. The AI’s advantage is just too great. It is possible, but the chances are low and the sacrifice is too great to make it worth trying to build early wonders. The only wonders that are realistically possible to build are those in the industrial age or modern age. The many middle age wonders are out of reach in large part to your need to expand, defend, build city improvements and cutting your tech deficit. When I won with the Egyptians, I beat the French to the Cure for Cancer and Longevity by using the two great leaders I had. I bought genetics from the French and after investigations of Paris and Marseilles, they would have built both wonders in 6 and 9 turns. My best city could only do it in 17 turns. Thanks to my two great leaders, I was able to finally get the last two wonders. Playing as the Aztecs, I was able to nearly catch up in the tech race with the AI civs early in the industrial age. I started relocating my palace in my top shield producing city when the AI got Steam Power. By the time the AI got Industrialization, I had enough shield production to get Universal Suffrage in 7 turns, blowing away the other civs. I saved enough money to buy Industrialization and BAM!!…got Universal Suffrage. I hurried the hospital in my capital, stuffed it with joined workers until all the shield tiles were used and then started building a factory. Seeing that the AI had electricity, I was making the bet that Scientific Method was coming soon. Sure enough, in 12 turns the AI had it and I bought it and ended up with a huge jump on getting that wonder too after converting the shields originally used for the factory. For the first time ever, I leapfrogged the AI and acquired the tech lead (which I promptly lost soon); but it did give me a jump to replacement parts, a coveted tech.

You will be expanded by every civilization early on. The AI is given an enormous production bonus advantage. The most cities you can hope for in your expansion phase before all the land is settled is about 14-20 (on a standard map with cities 3 spaces apart) unless you get stuck by yourself on a sizeable continent/island. Often other civs will have 25% more cities than you by the end of the expansion/exploratory period, unless they happen to get stuck on a small island or are tightly bunched together (pure chance).

Advice: You will need to micromanage your capital until the end of your expansion phase. Bamspeedy’s article is excellent. Your capital should be your settler/worker factory so you can get a settler every 4-6 turns. In order to do this, you will need pottery ASAP, a food bonus tile somewhere within your capital boundaries, and a perfect mix of food and shield production. If you can get your capital to create 4 or 5 extra food while at the same time producing enough shields to produce settlers before you reach a population of 7, you should be able to almost match the AI in settler expansion after you get your granary built. Sometimes you have to micromanage each turn to move a worker from a shield heavy tile to a food heavy tile to make the most efficient settler production. This means NOT USING THE GOVERNOR. Fiddle with the entertainment slider so your capital doesn’t riot. Don’t use any citizens for entertainment. Every time your capital expands a unit, micromanage which tiles are being used and adjust your entertainment slider accordingly. If you don’t, you will waste the crucial turns needed early on. It’s a pain, but worth it when you’re trying to beat the AI to vital resources, luxuries, and advantageous geographical positions. This is vital to success. Believe me.

Example: On one of my Japanese campaigns, I had a capital with one cow tile and 3 other irrigated grassland/plains tiles, giving me 5 extra food a turn. Combine this with a granary and just enough shields to get a settler every 5-6 turns got me 15 cities by the time expansion was finished (on average of only 3 fewer cities than the other civs on a small map). I controlled two of the three main choke points too. My cities were weakly guarded at first; but don’t worry. The AI seems very averse to attacking even undefended cities early on until a few hundred B.C., unless you provoke them of course. You didn’t provoke them….did you?

Early attacks are extremely risky. I like kicking butt early, but for you early warmongers there’s some bad news. If you think you are going to be able to expand by taking other civs’ cities early on, think again. There are some strong barriers to using the early attack strategy that works so well on the lower difficulty levels. Besides the fact the AI can out produce you with military (and probably more advanced military at that), you will have to deal with the fact that your reputation will be notorious with the other civs and irreparable with the civ you attack. “So what?” you say. There’s going to be a strong desire by the AI to dog pile you in war not to mention that this will make it very difficult for you to trade for the resources and tech you will need so badly starting midway through the ancient age.

Advice: If you are stubborn to attack early, you better have a really good, early ancient UU, like the Zulu or Iroquois. Other unique units that become available late in the Ancient age or middle ages are nearly useless other than to start a golden age. Use your UU wisely. The problem with an early UU attack strategy, no matter what difficulty level you play, is that it also gives you a very early and disadvantageous golden age. Consider not using your UU until later in the game when you have finished your expansion stage and still have many city improvements to build along with the military strength to carry out a full scale war (if only defensive). The AI is just looking for an excuse to beat you down. You better have your cities well defended by about 500 B.C. with something more than a single spearman or the AI will see you as weak and pounce. Even Gandhi will make threats and sneak attack if you look wimpy on your borders.

Example: I was just starting the modern tech age as the Egyptians, when I baited the war weakened Indians to declare war on me. It was my tanks against their regular infantry, but waiting in the wings were 3 war chariots. When I was about to take my first Indian city, guarded by a single long bowman, I sent in the War Chariots and took the city using my old school UU. It triggered my long awaited golden age, which I used to hurry up my remaining factories, airports, and power plants I needed so badly in my core cities to mount future military campaigns against the other civs.

Use one of the most glaring AI weaknesses, worker efficiency, to your advantage. Even with its trumped up advantages, the AI delegates terrain improvements to its workers like an imbecile. This is where you can catch up and beat the AI. Use the time after you finally fall behind in the tech race to ramp up your terrain improvements. No matter what level you play, you can always beat the AI on this one.

Advice: Be sure not to waste turns. Combining multiple workers to finish terrain improvements in one turn is very effective. Also, plan out your workers’ routes a few turns in advance. Work on the best tiles within a city’s radius first. Don’t improve city tiles that won’t be used until after you get an aqueduct or hospital in a city. Improve tiles fully before moving on to the next one provided it’s within a city’s radius. This really works well when you have the industrious trait. It also places even more importance on quite possibly the most important technology in the game, Replaceable Parts due to it’s worker improvement (among other things). Also, if you have to trade for coal, make sure you improve the most productive tiles in your core cities as soon as you finish your skeleton network of railroads. You might also consider having on the last turn of your coal trade deal, spreading out your workforce so you have one worker for each tile instead of multiple workers per tile. Even when your coal trade is long over, one worker will finish the rail on that tile provided he started when you still had the trade, even if it takes quite a few turns to do so (like on mountains). You just never know when the AI will kill the coal trade deal OR not renew it. Effective terrain improvement leads to a big advantage for money and military production later in the game, great for that time when you finally have to crush a civ under the heal of YOUR boot instead of polishing THEIR boots with you tongue.

Example: While the other civs put together more military and city improvements, I built my terrain with the industrious Egyptians. I finished my terrain improvement with rail well before any other civ, even though I was the most backward civ. This gave me a great financial push to buy whatever I needed (getting almost 800 gpt). I finally caught the French in the tech early in the Modern Era, largely with money. This couldn’t have been done with war or research.

Pick your victory path early and go for it; but have an alternate plan in case you can’t reach it (which probably means a domination victory). Playing on the higher levels requires a disciplined single-mindedness that Chieftain and Regent doesn’t. If you want to win VIA the U.N. vote, then you better keep your rep squeaky clean and kowtow to everyone’s demands when reasonable, and have the strength to eliminate the civilization that controls the U.N. since there’s a strong chance you won’t be able to build it yourself. Cultural victory is extremely hard. You’ll probably have to wipe out other civilizations (hopefully the one that controls the U.N.); but might be left with the dilemma of keeping alive a final city in each defeated civ so you don’t trigger a cultural win for a cultural and military powerful remaining civ. Winning on culture might not be possible because you’ll win by domination first. If you switch to the cultural graph on the histograph, you will be near the bottom throughout most of the game on cultural power. Domination is the same no matter what level you play, just make sure you get some other civs in on the action, if only to slow their tech and infrastructure progress. If you want to win with the space race, then you’re either insane or you’ve got some masterful plan to keep everyone constantly at war with each other while at the same time not involving you in it. If you can win with the space race on deity, you are truly a Civ3 master. I’ve given up on that one. It’s possible, but so many things need to fall into place perfectly that you can play a near perfect game and still be left with no chance to get the techs necessary in time or match the shield production of the AI cities. The most realistic and plausible victories are winning by score, then domination, and finally U.N.

I hope this helps. It’s a long article I know, but after playing too many games on Deity (and losing many early on) I thought this might provide some relief for those of you out there still looking for the ultimate victory. Good luck. You’ll need some to win.

Discuss this article in the forum