Five Pillars for Success

Here is my stab at a strategy article: you can charge money to let your friends read it, I don’t give a ****.  What I am laying down here are the observations I have made in three weeks of hardcore gameplay.  I have had a space victory, a histograph victory, and a diplomatic victory in that time.  I have had nuclear war.  I have had full length campaigns as the Russians, British, Japanese, English, Egyptians, Indians, and Babylonians.  If you want to add to this, post a reply to the post, but don’t bother me personally, I’m too buisy ignoring my phd work and playing civ 3…

1.  CIV OPTIONS= Many of you will have your own prejudices about what civs, styles, etc. to play with, so you can skip this part; it is aimed at folks who have just come over from Civ 2 and want to avoid unbearable pain in their early games.  As you set up a game, there are various options just like last time, but some of them mean a whole lot more to how your game is going to go.  For instance, barbarian activity: as far as I can tell, there is no bonus for having rougher barbarians, except that when you dispatch their leader tent you get more cash if they are tougher.  Feel free to set this as low as you like, and remember that at higher levels, barbarians will constitute an extra enemy nation in the early game, hacking up your undefended workers and settlers, pillaging your “still building that first spearman” cities, and cutting off your supply of iron by chopping up the roads.  Of the “world building” options, probably the most important one is landmass style.  If you go for islands, you are going to face a few hurdles; corruption is more rampant overseas from you capital, slowing down your ability to build defense and infrastructure in the colonies, and trade will be even more essential than it already is.  Another pet theory: since the age of your world determines its diversity, and since resources are scattered over a diverse array of landscapes, I would bet that the 5000 year old world gives you a better chance of having more resources end up in your land mass. 

The most important choice is WHICH Civ you will be.  It makes a HUGE difference.  The differences are in what kinds of advantages the various civs have, which comes down to attributes and special units.  Attributes are Religious, Militaristic, Industrious, Commercial, Scientific and Expansionist.  Everyone argues about which is better, and some of it depends on which free advances you used to like to start with (I think we all knew that bronze working and alphabet were the best bets in CIV 2), but I would argue that the attributes can be grouped into a strong troika and a weak troika.  The Strong Troika: Religious, Scientific, and Industrious.  If you are looking to re-create the rewarding feeling of Civ 2, Industrious is crucial; only in industrious do the workers build improvements with the same speed as Civ 2, plus you will have extra shields to build things faster.  Scientific civs build libraries, universities, and research labs faster, start with bronze working to build those defensive spearmen, and get a free advance every time you change ages, which in theory will propel you faster up the tech tree.  Religious civs build temples and cathedrals faster, which, in addition to the culture factor, become necessary earlier at lower skill levels than Civ 2.  Best of all, religious civs skip the long bouts of anarchy – during which cities produce nothing, science does not advance, and everything goes to hell – which all other civs face when switching governments.   The weak troika is Commercial, Militaristic, and Expansionist.  Commercial civs produce extra money and have lower corruption levels, BUT in my experience the corruption is still grossly overdone, especially overseas and even sometimes a mere few cities away from the capital.  The extra gold should be nice, but again, it doesn’t really cut it as an advantage.  Militaristic is a little better; units get promoted faster in combat, meaning Leaders are more likely to appear, and barracks and fortifications are easier to build – However, you will find that fortifications are not as important as they once were.  So when picking your civ, you want to consider your play style and how challenging you want the game to be; picking a civ with two strong troika abilities, such as the Babylonians, Egyptians, or Persians will be easier than mixing troikas or choosing a civ with two weak troika abilities, like the Iroqouis, English, etc.  You could use these to handicap yourself as you increase ability.

The second factor is check out your special unit.  Winning a combat with the unit will trigger your golden age if you haven’t done so by building a wonder.  So look at the unit and when it will show up, whether it requires an optional or mainstream advance, and what resources it requires to make.  Many civs have early special units, including the Aztecs and Greeks who start out able to make theirs.  I like mid-game special units, like the Samurai and Cossack, both of which are tough to beat, even with better tech.  India’s War Elephant makes a great noise when it fights and assures you that you will have Knight abilities whether you have horses and iron or not.  Forget about England and America’s special units.  You will never build them.

The last options are choosing your enemies or not, and setting the skill level.  If you are new to the game, you might want to go with less than the recommended number of enemies by closing some off to the “none” setting.  Civ 3 boards feel more crowded than Civ 2, and you will be lucky to get any goody huts in a full game.  Choosing your enemies can help you pick your neighbors (civs with the same architectural style start out near each other) or eliminate groups you don’t want to see (the Germans, Aztecs, Japanese all like to bully their opponents).  Even so, I recommend going with random for a while, until you get tired of seeing Xerxes.

As far as preferences, I like to play with the grid on the map, it lowers the number of mistaken moves that I make, even though I still slip up all the time.  It also reminds me that it is just a game, after all.

2. RUSHING PRODUCTION= My early games sucked.  Every wonder was built before I could finish them.  Balancing the need for cultural improvements, military units, workers and settlers seemed impossible.  Then I started to learn.  You already know that workers are essential for connecting all of your cities to resources on roads.  You know that irrigating choice land will spur growth.  What I didn’t bother with in Civ 2 was Mining.  But you must mine in Civ 3.  It adds a shield to the land and you should have mines on EVERY mountain and hill in your perimeter.  The rest of a cities’ land should be covered with a mix of mines and irrigation.  If you have no access to water, mine everything, you can irrigate later when you get electricity.  Remember those games when you could build every wonder after midevil times?  I had such a game in Civ 3 with the Egyptians, who were industrious to start with, giving me extra shields, and for whom I had build much mines in the mountains.  A mined gold mountain is the “whale” square of Civ 3.  BUILD MINES! 

New to Civ 3 is the temple sacrafice: under despotism and communism you can simply kill citizens in your cities to build things.  It contributes to later unhappiness but it is worth doing to rush early temples and even army units.  Remember before you switch up out of Despotism that you will not get many later chances to use blood and bones for buildings, and get those early structures out of the way.  Courthouses are more essential in this game, as corruption is so high and every shield is going to count.

There is almost no way to rush a Wonder, and if you do rush another building in a city in ANY WAY – even disbanding units – you will not be able to switch that building over to wonder production until the slate is clear.  Remember that, because the key to getting wonders built is planning ahead.  Look down the tech tree to what you are going to want to build and move towards it.  Get a city working on a small wonder or even a palace and leave it alone – then when the Wonder is available, make the switch.  As I will discuss under “Losing Smart”, Great Leaders are BEST used to hurry wonders, best saved for that wonder you must have.  My best use of a Great Leader came in a game in which I had invaded a neighboring continent.  I was having trouble making headway there because of the corruption factor, and needed those cities to start working for themselves without my cash and airport transfers.  I had been forced to build the forbidden palace on my own continent when I was beaten to a wonder and didn’t want to waste the shields. Lo, a leader appeared in battles on the new continent.  I chose a secure city in the middle of that continent and set production to Palace.  I brought the great leader in and finished it.  Voila, corruption gone, military victory assured.  Or I could have used the leader to build an army so that three of my samurai could be wasted killing one spearman each turn.

As far as what wonders to rush for, that is really largely up to you.  I insist on getting the Hoover Dam and have never failed to build it, Pyramids is harder to win the race on since Industrious civs start out with the option to build it.  Sun Tzu has gotten better since it puts barracks in every town forever, but you usually have to build a lot of barracks before it appears if you are going to spread at all.  Collosus is still a good bet, and seems to be low on the list of AI priorities, and the “science city” has a slew of options= you can now build a SETI project and a research lab there, since SETI project now only doubles the science in one city.  Among the small wonders, feel free to ignore the Intelligence Agency since it works about as well as ours does and missions cost more (the loss of enjoyable spy functions is the great tragedy of this game).   DO build the Battlefield Medicine, all that excess cavalry you are throwing at their marines will appreciate it.  Wall Street small wonder is better than Adam Smith great wonder.  Universal Suffrage is not as necessary as it used to be.  YOU MUST BUILD THE U.N. if you want to control your destiny in the game, more on that in the section called “Wheel of Deals”.

3= LOSING SMART (or, MILITARY STRATEGY FOR THE FRUSTRATED).  You can’t win!  You wont eliminate all the civs like you used to in Civ 2; it seems to me that even if you could, you would probably win a domination victory before it happened.  If you stop to have a war before you are significantly advanced beyond all other civs, you will never catch them up again.  If you take over far away cities, you will waste all your money trying to protect them and catch them up against unbelievable corruption.  If you don’t completely eliminate a foe, they will never vote for you when you build the UN.  What you can and should do military is cut into your neighbors early if you aren’t happy with your land size or resource base.  Iron is worth fighting for, and with horses, is among the earliest resources you will be able to identify the location of.  Researching the optional Horseback riding will assure your domination of a close neighbor – I once eliminated France, as Russia, with only veteran horsemen pouring out of my barracks.  The problem was, I then faced England that was already on pikemen and knights.  I have taken my Babylonian bowmen against ill-garrisoned Zulu cities and been able to take them over bit by bit while extracting exorbitant tribute in the peace process.  All of this is rewarding but beware the hidden costs of war: lagging scientific development, perpetual unrest, and ill-will that makes trading for resources, technologies, etc. difficult.  Also remember that an enemy near death will give up smaller cities to you if you ask him for them.

It is just as important to know how to manage certain defeat in this game.  You will take enemy cities but have insufficient force to hold them.  You could raze them when you take them over, and if they are near your border you probably should; you will find your borders expand over the space they once occupied.  Another great option is selling off a doomed city.  First, sell the most expensive improvement in the city.  Then, pull all of your units out.  Then offer the city to every friendly civ, using the KEY to all negotiation: ask the civ what they will offer you for it.  Then try another civ.  Get the best deal.  Then let them have it and watch the enemy either avoid taking it (if they don’t want to piss that civ off) or take it and possibly raze it themselves (if they hate the other civ sufficiently). 

An important strategic device I learned from reading a strategy guide for Axis and Allies Iron Blitz (and would give full credit to the author if I could remember) is that of the “dead zone”- the space that, if taken by armies, will leave them vulnerable to crushing on the following turn.  Dead zone management is huge, and made difficult in Civ by the fog of war.  It is far better to lure your opponents strong attack units into a spot where you can attack them first than it is to take over a spot that you will be forced to defend with offensive units (obviously).  Learn what units trump which: spearmen can’t be beat by horsemen, but are vulnerable to swordsmen and archers, which fall easily to horsemen, etc.

Reconnaissance is a key in this game, and easier than previous Civ games.  You can know how many enemy units and what kind are in a visible stack by right clicking on the stack: you will get a list of units to “contact”.  This can help you decide which pile to drop a tactical nuke on when your mainland is invaded in 1967.  You can fairly cheaply reconnoiter enemy cities that you have an embassy and spy in.  Gathering information is very important to staying alive during wartime.

The best weapons of Civ 2 are the worst wastes of time of Civ 3.  Remember when getting the cannon meant you were ready to conquer your first civ, and getting the artillery meant the second, howitzer the third and fourth, and stealth bomber the rest?  All those weapons now truly suck in my opinion, and here is why: they can’t kill a single unit.  There is no point at all in making catapults and cannons, which miss every time, and artillery is really not enough of an edge to justify wasting spots you will need for tanks.  Remember the spy sabotage?  That is the real extent of artillery usefulness, even the mighty battleship can only reduce a unit to one hit point.  More likely, you will simply destroy improvements around the unit (especially galling if the unit is on your turf), and in the city you want to take over (not that they will be there when you take it over anyway).  On the other hand, since the days of building a railroad right up to the enemy gates and bringing the noise are over (enemy borders restrict movement- the best you can do is build a city at their border and rush a temple in it and hope the culture is enough to get you up to their edge, which does often happen), all of those 2 move pieces are even more valuable than before.  You can’t win without knights, cavalry, or tanks or their special equivalents.

When you find your military strategy failing you it is time to consider other goals and other options.  You might still win a diplomatic victory if you have two or more gracious allies, and you might get a cultural or spaceship victory.  More likely, you will have to decide what a “moral victory” for you would be and go for that.  For instance, in a game I played the English, I got a bunch of colony islands early.  War slowly took these away from me, and I decided in the end that total control of my own island, whose uninhabitable jungles had fallen prey to the Egyptians and Japanese, was my final objective.  And I succeeded in that, after trying and failing to bribe those cities, and eventually playing the Persians against my foes and letting them raze the cities, and finally nuking the last Japanese city.  The more you can play-act to yourself, the funner it is to change tacks and make speeches to your computer about how “we are turning towards peace, changing over to a republic, we will build markets” or later, “we have to go to communism to focus your attention on the war effort, please line up to give your lives over to our SAM construction projects”. 

You can play with an eye towards a cultural or diplomatic victory, and suddenly find yourself threatened by the Germans.  More about your diplomatic options later, but one key I want you to think about is the optional Upgrade.  Paying money for upgrades may seem like a hassle, but I think that if you are spending your efforts to put markets, banks, wonders, etc. into your cities, there is nothing wrong with incremental upgrades.  Don’t bother upgrading warriors or archers, but by all means upgrade your spearmen and horsemen all the way through to mech infantry and cavalry.  Remember that the jumps are cheaper the closer they are together- it is cheaper to go from musketman to infantry than it is to go from spearman to infantry.  Remember that Leonardo’s cuts this cost in half (my proposal for improving Leonardo’s would not be automatic upgrades, but upgrades that disregard resource availability- old Leonardo would know how to make good armor out of wood!).  You can stay with spearmen all the way to modern day if you have the cash available to upgrade them when threatened.  How to have that cash on hand is the next issue but first, a word about Nukes:

If you are planning to use and have nukes plan on ignoring the outcome.  I have found that the AI does not use nukes with the gusto of earlier Civs, that the tactical nuke is best used at sea (since it, like the ICBM, turns the land into desert as well as pollution), that Nuking a mutual foe will make your allies fall in love with you, that once you nuke an opponent peace becomes a distant dream and they will raze all your cities that they take over (so remember to trade those cities to a less ugly ally if you want them intact later).  On the other hand, pollution is not a threat to scoring and doesn’t seem to hamper production like it used to, plus it is no longer a scary skull icon, so if you want to see what all the fuss in India and Pakistan is about, go ahead and try the nuclear route…

4= WHEEL OF DEALS (or, Can Norway Rule the Universe?)  The best new feature of Civ 3 is the diplomacy screen, or as I call it, the wheel of deals.  I will tell you about the best game I have played so far.  I was Egypt, and expanded fast early to set up about a 17 city country.  I had a choice early on of attacking the neighboring Chinese or letting them be.  I chose the latter option.  I made contact with everyone.  At one point I traded a lot of gold and luxury for a key advance.  Hoping to make up some difference, I then shopped the advance to all the other civs.  The key with shopping your maps, luxuries, and advances is not to dither around setting up various deals but to ask your rivals straight up what they will offer for the thing you are offering.  You will be amazed sometimes at what they are willing to give you: per turn luxuries and gold, huge lump sums, other advances, etc.  If you shop something to them almost every turn (even your world map will get you a handful of gold turn after turn) your relations continually improve, and if you are getting luxuries and gold per turn you don’t have to spend a cent to keep your citizens happy and your temples shiny- you can go for 100% science.  This generates new techs to shop.  Don’t worry about them catching up to you – even if they have the techs, they usually cant catch up on wonders and improvements because they are buisy building millions of ironclads.  Back to my story: I traded with everyone as Egypt and then one day Germany declared war on me when I wouldn’t give him a free tech.  I paid to update my whole army and then went around asking everyone to declare war and trade embargo on Germany.  Most needed prompting but some did so out of love for me, and it was a joy to watch trillions of their ironclads sail by on their way to trouncing Germany.  I never had to fire a single shot.  On the turn that I built the U.N., Germany was utterly eliminated by their neighbor England.  And I had traded so much with the others that I was voted leader of the World by the UN.  The winning screen shows lipstick on the photos of other world leaders, and the Diplomatic victory is indeed the Love Fest for those who are too meek to start wars, too small to gain cultural edge, and too tired to build a spaceship.  On the other hand, losing a diplomatic victory is one of the most anti-climactic bowel rippers I can imagine – would we really let Dag Hammarskjold’s Norway rule the world?

5= WINNING SMART- If you are like me, you lived for high scores on the hall of fame in Civ 2.  You zealously took care of pollution and set the barbarians on high, and at the last minute you jacked your luxury rate up to 100% and built one-person cities with all of your engineers.  Well, the last two tactics still hold, but the first two are passé in civ 3.  You can lose the game and still end up ranked higher than the last time you won the game: score comes down to territory controlled and happy citizens.  You should decide early, maybe even before you start the game, how you will win, but you should be ready to win in any number of ways.  For instance, build that spaceship, but wait to launch it until your closest competitor develops the final tech.  Build the UN, but decline the vote until you give away all your cash in 2049.  Join your workers or settlers to cities before the game ends and crank up the happy gas.  Figure out who is closest to you on the Histograph and make sure they end up at war with all of your allies.  And don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

Thanks for reading this, I hope I have given you ideas.  Love, Sultan Bhargash