Tips for People Who Hate Civ4

Civ 3 is so much better right?

Wrong. All your strategies have stopped working and now you’re sad because you have to learn a new game. But if you can stop being proud for just one second and read on — or even just experiment — you might learn a few things. And once you understand the method to Civ 4’s madness, you’ll start to love the game.

Civ 4 is a vast improvement on Civ 3 because strategy matters more than a recipe book.

1) Tip One: Expand, Expand, Expand!!!

The first thing you should do is turn your main city into a settler factory. Try to build as many cities as possible to grab as much land as possible. Be sure to build the occasional unit to defend your outermost cities.

If you don’t get your third settler killed by a barbarian, you’ll find that this surely puts you in a losing position by 250 AD, with your tech rate hovering around 10%, and the AI several techs ahead. Congratulations, you suck at Civ 4!

There are a few reasons why fast expansion is bad.

– Maintenance (more cities leads to a lot more maintenance!)
– Lack of improvements (if you’re not generating a profit now, you can’t afford to take on another city)
– Barbarians (yep, once barbarians discover archery and bronze working, they become a fearsome sight)

Not only that, but you don’t NEED to expand like hell. Other than expansion, the following things generate money/research: religion, specialists, cottages. I won’t say more than that. Having lots of cities isn’t the be all and end all.

2) Tip Two: Micromanage Like Hell

As you approach the completion of a building or unit, be sure to juggle around your tiles so that way you don’t overflow. Same thing with your research rate. By lowering your research rate before discovering Meditation, you can make sure that the AI discovers buddhism and you get left with jack squat.

Yep. You played with overflow, and actually paid the price.

Overflow is no longer something you have to juggle, because overflow isn’t discarded, it’s added to the next thing you build/research. Moreover, you WANT lots of overflow. In my experience, an AI got buddhism instead of me because I lowered my tech rate on the last turn of meditation. I reloaded, didn’t lower my tech rate, and presto, my nation was the holy land of buddha.

3) Tip Three: Try to Grab All the Wonders

All the wonders are useful so try to grab all of them. Once you build your first, try to build all the others. Once you lose that one, take your excess cash and try to build another wonder. Once you lose that one, take your excess cash and try to build another wonder. Once your cities are without any kind of infrastructure, grab your ankles and brace yourself for Caesar to hit you with his Praetorians.

You simply cannot build all the wonders. Industrious civs will have an advantage on you. And marble/stone are also very helpful. And if you’re not one of the first people to discover a tech, you can forget about even trying to build the corresponding wonder. You have to know what wonder will help you the most and plan towards it.

Not to mention that in the time it takes to build all those wonders, you could have libraries in all your cities and all your tiles improved. Or you could be the first person to have 8 horse archers. Wonders aren’t the be all and end all.

4) Tip Four: Generate Lots of Cash and Buy Techs

Lower your tech rate to 0%. Absorb lots of cash. Now contact the AI. You can buy your first tech!

But wait, you need the alphabet to do that. So scratch that. Beeline to the alphabet. Now lower your tech rate to 0 and start buying those techs.

But nobody will sell you anything good, right? That’s because the AI knows that their tech lead is more important than any amount of cash you can give them. They want to finish that wonder first. They want to keep you in the stone age while they get medieval on your buttocks.

The AI’s tendency to hang onto its techs means that 100% research and trading for smaller techs won’t work

How do you get around this?

THINK HARD. What technology do you REALLY need?

5) Tip Five: Keep the best defender in your cities, and pump out lots of the best attacker on your conquest

Swordsmen are the best attacker. And this game is exactly like Civ 3 — your best defense is a good spearman. Keep two or three spearmen in each city, and build a stack of swordsmen and go after the AI.

Alright, so you just found out that your spearmen and swordsmen are incredibly vulnerable to axemen. Axemen have 5 strength to a swordsman’s 6, but they gain huge bonuses against other melee units.

Building only one unit type is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Because that means the enemy only has to build one unit type to stop you. And the defender has a huge advantage from tile bonuses, city bonuses, and getting to ‘choose’ the ideal defender against whatever attacker you use. Attackers need to be SMART.

Read the manual. Really look at those units. Try to figure out the best counter for each one. And there IS a counter for each one. The line between offense and defense is blurred, too. Consider a defensive catapult waiting behind your city walls. Consider an offensive spearmen, to provide your marauding swordsmen a defense against war elephants. The more you mix your units, the harder it is for your opponent to deal with your case.

And a stack of units is expensive. You can’t just keep them on the shelf. You have to use them.

6) Tip Six: Play the same way every game

Now that you’ve read these tips, you know a surefire to win every single Civ 4 game. A strategy that always works.

And that’s “adapt”. You need to be responsive to the situation on the ground, or else you’re about as smart as a speak & spell.

Look at your starting technologies. Each Civ starts with 2 free techs, and they’re never the same. Consider this your Civ’s unique advantage. More than Civ 3, there’s no surefire best path anymore. Which means that any techs you have give you an advantage towards SOME later tech that offers you some kind of benefit — a religion, a new unit, a wonder, a key tile improvement, a building… You just have to figure out what tech you can get to first that will give you an early advantage.

Look at your traits. You have an advantage. Use it. As a philosophical leader, you should ask the best way to start generating great people. As an aggressive leader, you should ask yourself when you plan on attacking. As a financial leader, you should figure out how to start generating cash as soon as possible.

Look at the AI opponents around you. Genghis Khan is likely to pick on you. Isabella cares a lot about what religion you are. You need to address the strengths and desires of your neighbors, or else you’ll find yourself very vulnerable.

The Summary

Snarkiness aside, if there’s one thing that’s still true of Civ 4 that was true of Civ 3 is that the early game is very important. But try not to think in terms of fast expansion. After seeing my units go on strike, this is the best advice I’ve come across.

Technology is always important in Civ, and in Civ 4 it’s even more important. Getting your research roaring has little to do with holding an 100% research rate all the time. And fast expansion chokes your research. Put two and two together: if you’re not pumping out settlers, there are lots of other things you can do to further your society’s progress.

Yep, there are very few actual concrete tips in here. That’s because it’s been less than a week with the game, and I honestly don’t know how to be the best.

But I do know how to be bad at Civ 4: play like it’s still Civ 3.

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