Traits, Warlords, and Synergy

Thought I would take it upon myself to add a little bit to the strategy forum. In my opinion, the biggest advantage of traits goes beyond their description. To maximize the benefits of a trait, you need to use it in combination with other strategies. This is the definition of synergy.


1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.

A few quick notes:

  • I tried to list the easiest to use traits at the top.
  • Easiest to use isn’t always the best.
  • I focused mostly on the early part of the game.
  • Most of these are to help average players become great players.
  • Some great players may benefit too, learning a few new tricks.
  • Big ups to Theoden for the vanilla trait-review. A lot of good stuff here, too.

Without any further ado, here is my analysis of the traits.


INDUSTRIOUS: Wonder production increased 50 percent, double speed production of Forge.

Almost self explanatory. The end result is that an Industrious Civ is nearly guaranteed their first pick of any wonder, if they want it. And every wonder happens much faster, too. Which wonders you build are up to you. But I recommend you prioritize and think ahead.

Put the industrious trait to good use by building lots of wonders. Don’t just think of the speed advantage, think of it as an opporunity advantage. If you and your enemy both produce units, you’ll be neck at neck. But if you both build a wonder, you’d also have enough time to build four or five more units than your opponent. Every hammer you save is a hammer you’ve earned.
Think of it as free production.

  • Synergy:Marble and Stone help rush wonders. Masonry will let you build Quarries, allowing you to tap these key resources. Locate and tap these resources early.

    There’s not much else to say here except that you might find yourself chasing wonders, and end up on a path through all the religious techs (Polytheism and the Parthenon, Priesthood and the Oracle), with a strong opportunity to found Judaism (Monotheism, which requires Masonry) first. If you DO found a religion, don’t neglect those Missionaries (Meditation), since you want your neighbors to share the same faith to keep you out of unncessary wars. Maybe one of those wonders you’ve built will pop you a Great Priest, letting you build a great shrine and spread your faith around.

FINANCIAL: +1 commerce on plots with 2 commerce.

Arguably the most powerful trait. Note that it has no cheap buildings to come with it, because the commerce bonus is huge. This one is almost self explanatory. The benefits affect your economy, and are multiplied by various buildings (like Libraries, if you use your commerce for research, or Marketplaces if you use your commerce for gold).

What you do with the extra wealth is up to you. Some use it to run their science meter at full blast. Others use it to build more cities faster. And this is actually a great trait for warmongering, since unit maintainance costs can be huge.

  • Synergy:The obvious statement is that you’ll want to have at least a few Cottages early. Get Pottery, build cottages. Rivers and other luxury resources are key, however. Be sure to settle smart city locations, and unlock other key resource technologies such as Mining to tap Gold and Silver.

    If you’re running lots of Cottages, there are several civics that leverage this. In particular is Universal Suffrage, which is available if you build the Pyramids (with Masonry). The bonus only kicks in with Towns, though, which means you have to wait a bit.

    The less obvious statement is that this trait actually has a HUGE coastal benefit. Coastal tiles produce two commerce each, leading to an easy commerce benefit. In order to take advantage of this, though, you’ll need to build Lighthouses so you can get the extra food in the ocean to support further growth. Fortunately, this is accessible with Sailing, which also gives you ocean trade routes. Vital for any coast-loving player.

    The Colossus is the cherry on top. Available with Metal Casting, it generates additional wealth in every water tile. A financial civ with a lot of coastal cities and the Colossus is something fierce. The Great Lighthouse (Masonry) also plays into a heavy coastal strategy.

PHILOSOPHICAL: Great People birth rate increased 100 percent, double speed production of University.

This is a powerful civic, although both proponents and critics of this civic ought to look beyond the initial bonus.

This does not ultimately lead to twice as many great people, but its bonus is very pronounced in its ability to produce great people faster. And it still leads to more Great People in the long run. Sometimes as much as 50% more.

Which great people you get and what you do with them is up to you. But keep in mind that sometimes the short term gains of a free tech are worth more than the long term gains of settling them as a great specialist — getting that free tech can make you the first to a religion or even a tradable tech of great significance. Moreover, it can get you to other wonders, which generate more great people.

  • Synergy:You CANNOT feed specialists unless you have the food resources to produce more than 2 food per tile. Survey those nearby food resources. If you see Cows and Sheep, get Animal Husbandry for Pastures. If you see Rice and Corn, get Agriculture. Learn to freeze growth at the exact right moment, to maximize your number of specialists.

    There are LOTS of other Great People generators. Get to Polytheism and the Parthenon. Why? +50% great leader birth in ALL cities. Get to Philosophy and the Pacifism civic. That’s another +100% great leader birth in ALL cities. The real killer, though, is Literature. Not only does this unlock the National Epic, giving you +100 great leader birth in one city, but it lets you build the Great Library which pumps out Great Scientists by the boatload. Add it up and you can be swimming in great people.

    When you’re running this specialist heavy economy, the Representation civic can generate you huge amounts of science. Getting the Pyramids can unlock this early. You might have to choose between the Pyramids and the Parthenon, and each has different benefits for a specialist economy in the short and long term. However, some lucky players can get both. If you’re feeling ambitious, use the Pyramids to generate an early Great Engineer and use it to rush the Parthenon.

CHARISMATIC: +1 happiness per city, -25% XP needed for unit promotions, +1 happiness from Monument, Broadcast Tower

The benefit of this one is actually quite obvious. The happiness bonus puts itself to work quite effortlessly, and is often the big inhibitor for population growth. Along with the XP bonus, you’ll find yourself grabbing those high end promotions in no time.

You’re probably already familiar with the Aggressive Trait. The key that makes Charismatic easier to use than aggressive is that the XP bonus applies towards ANY unit. What you do with your excess promotions is up to you. Keep in mind that the short term gains of a promotion like Cover (vs. Ranged Units) may actually outweigh a more versatile a long term promotion. Sure, Combat I will help you for the entire game, but targetting your enemy’s immediate weakness can get you an early advantage. In Civ, the early advantage can sometimes give you the biggest long term payoff!

  • Synergy:If you’re the first to discover a unit, there’s a good chance you can use it to grab a quick advantage. Horseback Riding and Iron Working are early favorites, although many have done serious damage with Elephants and Catapults (Construction), Crossbows (Machinery), or Macemen (Civil Service).

    Anything that gains you XP here is good. Vassalage (with Feudalism) and Theocracy (with Theology) are XP generating civics. Barracks or Stables (with Animal Husbandry)are vital here. You may also be able to take advantage of the Great Wall (with Masonry), suckering a Civ in allowing you to generate lots of Great Generals.

AGGRESSIVE: Free Combat I promotion for melee and gunpowder units, double speed production of Barracks and Drydock.

The biggest benefit of Combat I is NOT the 10% combat odds, although over a long enough time it can make for a significant advantage. Some people talk about how it means that you can get to Combat V by 17XP instead of 26XP — which is nice, but not the big advantage.

The crucial advantage of Combat I is that it unlocks access to other higher level promotions like Cover, Pinch, and Shock (bonus vs Archers, Gunpowder, and Melee). That means with but 2 XP — less than what a Barracks gives you — your Melee units gain powerful defence against specific unit types. These promotions may seem narrow in function, but their short term gains can be enough to give you a huge advantage. Moreover, with but 5 XP you have access to even better counters versus Siege and Mounted units. If you don’t know how to use these “counter promotions”, do yourself a favor and read a combat promotions FAQ. These are SUPER important.

If you use this trait and have trouble fighting wars before 1AD, do yourself a favor and learn how. The key is doing it quickly, which Aggressive Civs are uniquely equipped to do. Learn to raze crappy cities to keep your maintainance costs down. (There are lots of articles out there that can help you wage early, fast wars.)

  • Synergy:Aggressive Civs can find many of the same synergies of Charismatic Civs. Get the XP generating civics (like Vassalage and Theocracy). And if you’re feeling sassy, try luring people behind your Great Wall to generate some quick Great Generals.

    But since this bonus only helps melee and gunpowder units, you’ll want to make Axes or Swords the staple of your army. Bronzeworking and Ironworking are key. Mounted and ranged units won’t gain you any specific advantage, but it never hurts to mix up your stacks to avoid being too vulnerable.

PROTECTIVE: Archery and Gunpowder units receive Drill I and City Garrison I automatically, Double production speed of Walls and Castle.

This one makes your defence DAMN hard to break. For many players, this won’t help them, since they generally find themselves on the offense, and can run circles around the AI’s military.

Still, there’s a LOT of ways to push this civic to its full potential. The key is in the synergies.

  • Synergy:Protective Civs are a lot like Aggressive Civs in that they’ll need to discover Feudalism or Theology early for their XP generating civics. You’ll also want to produce a Barrackssooner. The key difference, however, is that you should have a strong preference for City Garrison 3. If you can get your units to City Garrison 3, they almost DOUBLE in defensive capabilities.

    Get Archery early, since it’s ranged units that get the Protective bonus. If you can find yourself at Feudalism early, your Longbows might be a key to invincibility. Some people even use the Oracle (Priesthood) to slingshot to Feudalism early. It CAN be done.

    Okay, big deal. You have really strong defence, right?

    Here’s the key. You can sometimes get away with defending your cities with as few as 2 units with City Garrison 3. This means you keep a VERY small defensive army. This can save you maintainance costs, allowing you to pour more into science, to settle more cities, or go on the offense. You might be able to find an economic synergy with some of the Financial trait’s strategies, or find a warmongering synergy with some Aggressive strategies. You don’t even have to be Financial or Aggressive to use these strategies.

IMPERIALISTIC:+100% Great General emergence, 50% faster production of settlers.

With the addition of Great Generals, this can lead to a small snowball effect for a successful warmonger. You’ll get those great generals a lot faster, which you can use for either short OR long term benefits. Just as with Aggressive and Charismatic Civs, learning to fight an early war is challenging but invaluable. If you’re not going to war using this trait, you’re missing out.

However, the snap-settlers have a distinct benefit too, even for peaceful players. Maintainance costs and barbarians will prevent you from settling too recklessly, so an Imperialistic Civ won’t necessarily build an Empire right away. But an Imperialistic Civilization will move fast enough to get the best city locations — that’s key.

  • Synergy:You’ll want to combine this trait with Pottery, in order to get those Cottages happening. If you’re grabbing those great city locations fast, you’re going to need an economy capable of supporting the maintainance costs. It’s a good thing the Wheel is on the way to Pottery, since it means you’ll be able to hook up those resources you find.

    Keep in mind that the ocean can be a great source of wealth, especially if you have early acecss to Sailing. Rivers too. Keep your economy strong.

    And do not neglect defence. You should either have Archery or Bronzeworking early, so you can defend your great city locations. Bronzeworking can be especially valuable, since you can use it to chop down trees, generating production to knock out those settlers (and defenders) faster.

    A key advantage with this one can be the Great Wall, from Masonry. Once you’ve built up your empire, the great wall can protect you from barbarians without having to spend as much time pumping out defensive units. (Keep in mind Imperialistic has a Great General bonus too. You might be able to lure people behind the great wall to get Great Generals REALLY fast.)

CREATIVE: +2 culture per city, double speed production of Theatre and Colosseum.

This trait may seem like a shoe in for cultural victory, but the 2 culture really doesn’t do much in the long run. The bigger benefit comes very early, and especially at high difficulties.

Culture determines your borders. With 2 culture, your borders will be popping faster AND sooner than even someone who builds Stonehenge. Especially against the AI’s huge handicaps at the higher levels, this can be the key to settling a large land mass before the AI can squeeze you out. The extra culture can let you seal off choke points in the map, allowing you keep the territory beyond your borders away from the AI. Your borders may even get so wide that you can space your cities out and still cover the continent. In many ways, creative will let you hold territory from the AI that you can settle with additional cities later.

This also means that your new cities will have quick access to nearby resources, without worry that the AI will overtake you. In fact, you can settle damn close to the enemy, without worry that their culture will overtake yours. Even as a warmonger, you’ll find that your newly conquered outposts will be less vulernable, and will pick up vital resources with more ease.

When you finally have the cities you want, be prepared to consolidate your defence. Wider borders extend your field of vision, preventing barbarians from appearing. And they also give you a defensive bonus. If you can master the defensive potential of Creative, all you need to do is learn when to slow down expansion so your economy can catch up. If you let maintainance costs get the best of you, all your expansion will be for nothing.

  • Synergy:This trait, surprisingly, has the most in common with the Imperialistic Trait. Its advantage comes when you build lots of settlers and grab the best locations. Speed is the essence of your strategy.

    Use Cottages (Pottery), rivers, and oceans (Sailing) to pay down the maintainance costs of your faster growth. Be sure to defend your mass of cities with Archers (Archery), or Axemen (Bronzeworking)… and chop trees to keep things moving fast. You can catch your breath and consolidate your holdings later.

    While Creative civs have the benefit of cultural defence, the Great Wall (Masonry) can be great for keeping barbarians out. With your huge borders, this can be especially useful.

EXPANSIVE: +3 health per city. Double speed production of Granary and Harbor.

I’m not going to lie to you. I think this trait is on the weak side. However, you CANNOT discount this trait’s cheaper buildings. The cheap buildings may be the best part. This trait WILL let you get a huge population, and quickly.

What does a huge population help you with? Well, besides everything, a huge population is great for running a specialist-heavy economy. See Philosophical for more details.

Much of the debate for this trait revolves around whether health or happiness are the biggest barriers to growth. Well, even if you assume that expansive will give you more health than you know what to do with, there are a few strategies below to get the extra happiness you need. At high difficulties, this can have huge payoffs.

  • Synergy:Take advantage of that fast Granary. You can’t do this if you don’t get to Pottery early on.

    Some players may find that happiness tends to inhibit their city growth more than health. However, the Hereditary Rule civic is an easy target with big payoffs. This civic generates happiness for every military unit you have, with no upper limit. If you can discovery Monarchy early, or build the Pyramids, you can tap this civic and EASILY support 3 more population than the average Civ.

    Slavery can be a huge advantage of these additional people. With Bronzeworking, you can access the slavery civic and turn those population points into production. Excess happiness can keep the remaining citizens content. Slavery can be extremely potent.

    Or you can let those people live. Combine this with some of the Specialist-heavy strategies recommended under the Philosophical trait… even if you’re not Philosophical. Where you have lots of population and food, you have can have specialists and great people.

SPIRITUAL: No anarchy, double produciton speed of temples.

The lack of anarchy can save you a vital turn of production. I’ll confess I think this trait is also a little weak, but there is a group of hardcore players who strongly disagree.

These hardcore players tout the advantages of micromanaging their civics, swapping between theocracy/organized religion or vassalage/bureaucracy as their cities shift focus from units to buildings. One later game favorite is swapping between Nationalism and Free Speech, drafting units but gaining other benefits in the downtime.

You can also swap religions easily, to further your diplomatic interests, or to take advantage of “religious sight” — that the founder of a religion can see into cities of that religion around the world. These tricks are hard to master, but can make Spiritual a quite formidable trait.

  • Synergy:In the long run, yes, you will want to discover those key civic technologies. Civil Service and Theology will be key technologies as they allow you to grab Bureaucracy and Theocracy (respectively). This will let you start to take advantage of swapping.

    But in the short run, a Spiritual Civilization generally (but not always) has instant access to Mysticism. That means they have the BEST chance of founding a religion, and a decent chance of keeping multiple religions out of the hands of other players. GET THOSE RELIGIONS. Polytheism, Meditation, and Monotheism are key. Having Mysticism also gives you quick access to Stonehenge, which generates a valuable Great Prophet, which can help you to found the next religion before your opponent.

    While on the religious path, you may find yourself discovering Priesthood. This gives you the earliest and easiest access to Temples, which let you run Priest specialists. Most Spiritual civilizations have early enough access to Priests that they can generate Great Prophets, if they so choose. An early Great Prophet can help you access Theology, Divine Right, or Civil Service. See this article for how you might be able to leverage this to your advantage.

    Early access to Priesthood also unlocks the Oracle. The obvious benefit of this is that it lets you discover a free technology like Metal Casting or Construction, and also generates a Great Prophet. However, if you plan accordingly, you can use this slingshot to discover Feudalism (through Monarchy), or Civil Service (through Code of Laws). You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Longbows or Bureaucracy by 1000 BC!

    Another key is that the path to Judaism and Christianity flows right through Masonry. That gives you a perfect opportunity to grab the Pyramids, giving you a slew of Civics to swap between.

    And an addition from VoiceOfUnreason, it’s important to note that many big civics come with religions. Philosophy offers both Pacifism and Taoism. Theology offers both Theocracy and Christianity. Monotheism offers both Organized Religion and Judaism. Code of Laws offers both Caste System and Confucianism. You’ll want to prioritize at least a few of these, if not all of them.

ORGANIZED: Civic upkeep reduced 50 percent. Double production speed of Lighthouse and Courthouse.

Remember that civic upkeep is proportional to the total number of people in your civilization. More people cost more money. That means that this civic works harder the larger your population grows. It also works harder at higher levels, since civics costs are more pronounced.

This trait is actually underrated, especially when you factor in its cheap buildings. If you’re running expensive civics, you’ll notice a considerable difference in your economy.

  • Synergy:There are two main synergies here.

    One is that of expansion. Organized can support a larger empire with as much efficiency as Financial, and with LESS EFFORT on your part. If you wanted to start an early war, this would be the civic that would let you do it. If you fast track to Iron Working or Horseback Riding, you can catch the enemy off guard and be able to actually pay for those huge civics costs. The maintainance from your cities can also be taken care of easily with your cheap Courthouses, if you aim for Code of Laws. Keep in mind that civics costs rise with your population, but city maintainance costs increase exponentially with your number of cities. Organized lets you expand (and conquer) with less worry about those costs.

    There are also peaceful synergies. If you hightail it for Monotheism, you’ll also get the expensive Organized Religion civic, and access to the Pyramids (with Masonry). The Pyramids unlock a slew of civics, and Organized Religion is one of the most expensive civics. Along with a good shot at founding Judaism, you just have to learn how to put these civics to good use.

    These two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some people manage to juggle both, although it’s harder at higher levels. Some people build up first, and then launch a war. You can also be sinister, though, conquering the enemy civ with the Pyramids rather than building it themselves.

    Think about ways to boost your population. Expansive strategies can sometimes apply here.



VICTORIA (Imperialistic Financial): Build lots of cities quickly, and actually afford the maintainance costs. Gun it for Cottages, and stay close to the water (with Lighthouses near the Ocean).

AUGUSTUS (Creative Organized): Build lots of cities quickly, and actually afford the maintainance costs. Gun it for Cottages, and stay close to the water (with Lighthouses near the Ocean).

CATHERINE (Imperialistic Creative): Build lots of cities in the best locations, even at the higher difficulties. Settle a continent with speed and immunity. Take advantage of the Great Wallto hold off any interlopers, and be careful about your maintainance costs.


CHURCHILL (Charismatic Protective): With fewer units required for good defence at home, put lots of units on the offense. Use civics like Vassalage and Theocracy. Beeline for a military advantage, and remember that the Redcoat is a beast.

TOKUGAWA (Aggressive Protective): With fewer units required for good defence at home, put lots of units on the offense. Use civics like Vassalage and Theocracy. Keep focused on Melee and Gunpowder units.

CYRUS (Charismatic Imperialistic): Use the great generals generated by your Immortals in the ancient era to feed mega promotions to your Swordsmen in the classical era.

GENGHIS KHAN (Aggressive Imperialistic): Use the great generals generated by your Keshiks in the classical era to feed mega promotions to your Macemen in the medieval era.

JULIUS CAESAR (Imperialistic Organized): Start an early war, with fewer concerns about how you’re gonna pay for those maintainance costs. Try to capture the Pyramids, use Police State, and remember that Praetorians are beasts.

NAPOLEON(Charismatic Organized): Use civics like Vassalage and Theocracy to promote your units, while Organized helps pay for the civics costs. The experienced units and fast Musketeers will let you conquer faster, and Organized will help pay for your huge empire. It never hurts to capture the Pyramids and use Police State.


SALADIN (Spiritual Protective): Biggest winner from “invincible” Longbows using the Oracle-Feudalism gambit… and pick up some religions along the way.

RAMESSES (Spiritual Industrious): More likely winner for “invincible” Longbows using the Oracle-Feudalism gambit… and pick up some religions along the way.

ASOKA (Spiritual Organized): Best equipped to take advantage of the Pyramids. Can get there early, grab lots of religions, and take advantage of cheap and fast civics swaps.


WANG KON (Protective Financial): Protective can potentially cut down your army size and thus your unit maintainance costs. Combine this with Financial for an Economic explosion. Gun it for Cottages, and stay close to the water (with Lighthouses near the Ocean).

PETER (Expansive Philosophical): Have the biggest cities with the most specialists. Make sure you grab the Parthenon and the Great Library, and add Hereditary Rule with lots of food.

GANDHI (Spiritual Philosophical): Will have the easiest time getting the Parthenon to support lots of specialists, with some religions along the way to collect lots of gold. Be sure to get the food to back it up, and make your way toward Literature and Philosophy/Pacifism

MEHMED (Organized Expansive): Support huge amounts of population. Get lots of food, Hereditary Rule, and the Pyramids to maximize the benefits of the cheap civics costs. The Hammam supports 2 additional population, without fail.

MANSA MUSA (Spiritual Financial): One of the few spiritual civs that doesn’t start with Mysticism. But if you delay your expansion, you CAN found two religions in one city. In combination with the Financial bonus, you can have one hell of a money-generator (once you add the Mint, and Wall Street). Acquire other wonders like the Colossus to make the richest city in the world. And if you can use the Oracle-Civil Service gambit, you can switch to Bureaucracy and stack up huge coin by 1000 BC.

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