WoundedKnight’s Strategy Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Learn the Rules
  2. Civilization Selection
  3. Leverage Your Strengths
  4. Religions
  5. City Placement
  6. Civics Guide
  7. City Improvement
  8. Specialization
  9. Wonders
  10. Great People
  11. Chop-Rushing
  12. Technology
  13. Military Strategy


The best-spent two hours for my CIV strategy skills was spent pouring over the civilopedia to understand the rules, the tech trees, improvements, units, etc. It’s much easier to do well if you have a clear strategy and know where you want to go. For example, some techs offer bonuses to the first discoverer: a free great person, a free great tech, or starting a religion. Obviously these techs are generally a priority to get first, while others with benefits that are not time-sensitive can wait or be picked up in trade.


The choice of maps can have a major impact upon gameplay, and therefore upon the strategy you may choose to adopt. For example:

Continental and archipelago maps promote early isolation of civs into 2-3 large groups (continents) or even individual civs (archipelago). Your continent or island may not have access at all to key resources like stone, marble, horses, and iron, which can make your construction or military plans more difficult. It is also more difficult to keep your population happy, as your island or continent may contain only 2 or 3 luxury resources. Your tech rate will also be slower, because there are fewer partners to trade with. On continent maps, I often find myself having to research mundane techs like archery or animal domestication because there are not enough proximate AI players to become a reliable tech broker. On the plus side, these maps can provide for a more interesting late game than Pangaea maps by allowing longer buildup of your competitors and preventing them from being weakened or destroyed in early-game rush. Naval combat adds an interesting element that Pangaea or large land-mass players do not fully experience. The early isolation makes it easier to stay at peace throughout the early era, or to isolate and crush enemies on your starting island without other players interfering.

Maps with a large amount of land and little water (oasis, highland, lakes, etc) pose major long-term barbarian challenges. There is so much land that the barbarians continue to arise from territory covered by the fog of war until late in the game. Defending your cities requires extra effort on such maps. On the plus side, you may be able to capture a city or two from the barbarians.

Pangaea and other land-mass maps offer predictable early availability of all tech-appropriate resources, although you may have to fight for them. However, such maps can be less interesting if the player becomes very dominant in the early or mid-game.

Maps with strange geometric land arrangements like inland sea result in high city upkeep costs for an expanding civilization, as distance arrangements between your cities are often not optimal due to geographic constraints.

Large land mass games provide more competitors, and therefore reduce the player’s chance of winning the religion, tech, or wonder race. On a standard map or smaller on balanced (noble) difficulty, a player without religious techs can often still beat the AI players to Hinduism and/or Judaism. On large and huge maps, chances become slimmer. There are few things as frustrating as spending 20 or 30 turns working on constructing a wonder in your most productive city only to have the AI finish it 2-3 turns before you do.


The decision as to which civilization to play as is an individual one. Traits have various strengths and weaknesses:

Financial: All-time favorite. Once you get cottages and watermills working, this will gain you +1 extra gold for almost every square being worked in your city radius. This is a huge advantage, when combined with appropriately widespread cottage building, allows the player to maintain a high tech rate even with expensive civics, a large army, and a large empire. Nonetheless, these benefits are not experienced until you have developed a certain city infrastructure and developed your terrain, usually in the classical or late ancient era.

Organized: The recent patch has done much to enhance the value of the organized trait. Many civics have become significantly more expensive. I find that civic costs now typically cost 33-66% of city maintenance costs depending on civic settings, averaging about 50% for me. In the late game, after a player changes to state property civic to eliminate distance maintenance costs, civic costs are often double city maintenance costs. Because of inflation that increases in the late game, the costs are often even more than they appear. Organized offers a huge benefit by reducing these costs in half. Organized is especially useful because the player receives its benefits throughout the entire game without any effort or development, and the significant savings are always welcome. This can easily add at least 10% if not 20% to the tech rate. Cheap courthouses help you to reduce expenses even further.

Philosophical: +100% GP. Synergistic with the religious civics (Pacifism – +100% GP rate) and the national epic (+100% GP in the city of your choice), as well as mercantilism, national epic, statue of liberty, etc. Optimal utilization of the philosophical trait requires a heavy wonder-building play style. The high costs of wonder construction consume the resources of your most productive cities that could otherwise be devoted to conquest or expansion. This is therefore not an ideal trait for warmongers. On harder difficulty levels, philosophical may be less useful than on noble, as it will be difficult to utilize the benefits unless you are able to win the wonder race. The philosophical trait received a substantial, although indirect, bonus from the patch, as wonders continue to give GP points even after they expire. If you have philosophical trait, you will get twice the points from your expired wonders as non-philosophicals.

After playing with the philosophical trait extensively, I have found it to be much less useful than I initially believed. Unfortunately, double the GP points does not mean double the number of GPs. A point of diminishing returns is encountered with each GP costing more and more points (5 GPs = 1,500 points, 10 GPs = 5,500 points, 15 GPs = 12,000 points, 20 GPs = 21,000 points, 25 GPs = 32,500 points, 30 GPs = 46,500 points, 35 GPs = 62,000 points, 40 GPs = 82,000 points). I find that it is still possible for a non-philosophical civ to do quite well in the GP race, because there are many ways for non-philosophicals to enhance GP generation making the advantage of the philosophical nation even more tenuous (national wonder, Parthenon, statue of liberty, pacifism, mercantilism). Philosophical is definitely a fun trait, but I think that stronger traits are available.

Expansive: +3 health per city in the patch. With the exception of cities located in flood plains, happiness is initially more limiting for city growth than health at almost all levels, but as the game progresses, numerous wonders, civics, buildings, etc. increase happiness, but there are relatively few ways to increase city health. Cheap granaries are one of the most useful building bonuses and offer early and predictable benefits across all difficulty levels. Expansive is useful only at specific times during gameplay, namely, when your city growth is limited by health, or while building granaries. As these are relatively narrow circumstances (although very important ones), I tend to prefer traits that offer more consistent benefit. If you find you continue to run into problems with city health, pick expansive. However, many of these issues can be remedied with good city placement, resource development, and construction of appropriate buildings.

Industrious: A nice trait, as the wonders you get with +50% build speed can duplicate many other civ traits. Half-price forges are great also because they increase your productivity, and for non-industrious civs they are quite expensive. However, the ability of any player to quickly build wonders by “chop-rushing” (described later) undermines some of the value of the industrial trait. Considering philosophical vs. industrious? Industrious makes it easier to get wonders, while philosophical makes the ones that you have more valuable. Industrious is particularly useful on higher difficulty levels when the player needs a more compelling edge in order to have any real chance of beating the AI to wonders.

Aggressive: A great trait for the warmonger. While experience can be given by buildings, civics, and wonders, a free extra promotion for melee and gunpowder units is great — especially for barracks-trained units with a couple of levels to boot. More and more experience is required to get more bonuses (2/5/10/17/etc), and so having a free promotion that doesn’t set you back at all in the XP quest is good. Since the promotions become more and more powerful the higher in level you go (+20% city attack, +25%, +30% with an extra +10% vs gunpowder units, etc…cumulative!!!), having an extra promotion can result in a huge amount of extra military power, especially if you have planned well to take advantage of other sources of experience. If you want an early domination or conquest victory, aggressive is an excellent choice. Aggressive provides no bonuses to many key unit types: archery, cavalry, tanks, aircraft, and ships, and so the aggressive trait requires an early attack style to flourish.

Spiritual: One of the weakest traits IMO. No anarchy, while nice, is of little benefit as I only change civics 5-6 times in a game (I try to change 2 or 3 at a time at times when several important civics are discovered in close time proximity). Cheap temples? Temples are cheap anyway and have fewer benefits than many other buildings.

Creative: +2 culture has significant benefits in the early game, but few in the late game when cities have more culture than they know what to do with. How many times have I conquered a city only to have it flip to a closely adjacent neighbor? How many times have I built cultural improvement (theater, library, etc.) in a conquered city for the exclusive purpose of generating culture (and, sometimes failed), when a creative civ would not have had to worry at all? The automatic expanding cultural radius can be very valuable in expanding in the early game and blocking off large amounts of territory for your later development. While cultural’s benefits are mainly in the early game, the benefits can be substantial. I prefer to get industrious instead and build Stonehenge for your early culture (although this expires — soon — with calender), the benefit of creative is still significant.

In sum, I think that spiritual and creative are the two weak traits of CIV. The other six traits are all good in the appropriate situation, with financial and organized representing excellent traits with wide utility across many playing styles, and the others offering specific benefits that require specific playing styles to shine.

My favorite leader for a standard (noble) game is Washington (American) – Financial/Organized. Other great leaders include English (Victoria) – Expansive/Financial, English (Elizabeth) – Philosophical/Financial, Chinese (Qin Shi Huang) – Industrious/Financial, Peter (Russia) – Expansive/Philosophical. If you are playing on a higher difficulty level, traits that offer immediate, consistent benefit like expansive, aggressive, and industrious may serve you better than traits that bloom only with cultivation like financial or philosophical.


It’s important to make the most out of your advantages by drawing upon the synergy of civ traits, civics, improvements, and buildings and wonders. For example, it would be silly to get the aggressive civ trait and fail to build barracks. Synergy can be very powerful when you combine substantial bonuses in the same area from multiple different sources. Aggressive (free combat I promotion for melee and gunpowder units)+ barracks (+4 experience for all new units)+ pentagon (+2 experience to all units civ-wide) + theocracy (+2 experience for all new units), police state (+25% military production speed), + West Point (+4 experience for all new units) and Heroic Epic (+100% military production speed) = +125% military production speed pumping out units starting with 12 experience points (3 promotions) in addition to combat I in the city with West Point/Heroic epic, and 8 experience points + combat I at a 25% bonus production speed in all other cities with barracks. An initially mediocre unit with 3 city attack promotions (+20%, +25%, +30%) receives a +85% bonus against cities – a massive boost against even strong defenders of technological parity. Philosophical + Pacifism + Parthenon = 250% great people points, with 350% in the city with the national epic. And so forth.

It is also important to try to compensate for your disadvantages. For example, if I am not playing an expansive civ (or even if I am), I try to build cities on rivers as much as possible for the +2 health bonus, even at a slight productivity hit.


As in the real world, religion can be one of the most uniting or dividing things in CIV. While gifts or insults have only minor benefit on relations (+/-1, rarely more than +/-2; religion can have a huge impact on relations — seeing +/-4, +/-6 from religion are common. Religion is by far the biggest factor in relations in most games. It seems to be something in the range of +1 relations for every city of your religion in your opponent’s land, +1 or 2 if your religion is their state religion. Therefore, pumping out missionaries to convert your neighbors in the good times is as important for the security of your empire as maintaining a powerful military. I try to keep one city pumping out missionaries of your religion the entire game, providing both relationship and economic bonuses.

Consider getting an early religion (Hinduism or Judaism) or, if going for a chop-rush settler push, one or more of the later ones (Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, Islam). In any case, try to pick up as many of the later ones as I can in order to keep friends friendly. A friendly neighbor who has previously converted to your religion but subsequently discovers Islam can suddenly decide that you are a pagan who must be cleansed from the earth. Besides, some of the religion techs (like Divine Right, Islam) offer cool wonders.

Founding cities of religion can become real cash cows in the mid and late game, IF you build the religion-specific wonder in the founding city. In a recent game where I aggressively spread Confucianism, over 30-40 cities were converted by the late of the game. I also discovered Taoism and subsequently captured the founding cities of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, giving me five of the seven world religions. Did I ignore my non-state religions, even though I planned to stick with Confucianism throughout the entire game? Of course not. I sent a great prophet to each city to build the religion-specific wonder. This accomplishes two purposes. First, it gives you free bonus income equal to the number of cities with that religion each turn. Second, it causes the autonomous spread of each religion from its founding city without even requiring missionaries. While I continue to aggressively spread my state religion with missionaries, the other religious capitals function as cash cows with progressively increasing revenue without requiring any other input or management.

Since founding religious cities generate a large amount of income, *regardless of the position of your financial sliders*, these are the best cities for building banks, markets, and grocers. I find that the Wall Street wonder is typically best built in the founding city of my state religion for an extra and substantial economic boost, since this will typically be the largest religion by the mid to late game (and thus the largest city economy).

As previously mentioned, I keep pumping missionaries out from 2-3 cities almost continuously through the entire game. This improves relations with neighbors, creates LOS (line of sight) to other cities, and generates money.

The financial and diplomatic benefits of missionaries are well-known, although the espionage benefits are rarely mentioned. When I am contemplating war with a nation, I will send a wave of missionaries to as many of their key cities as possible before my military units cross the border. This accomplishes two things. First, it provides invaluable intelligence information and allows one to assess which cities represent priority acquisitions as well as to get some idea of the strength, location, and composition of enemy armies. Equally importantly, missionaries of your state religion provide an instant cultural benefit to captured cities. After conquering a city that is not your state religion, you might contemplate building a library or theater — which could take 50+ turns — in order to expand the borders and to prevent the city from flipping back to an adjacent neighbor with strong cultural boundaries. However, if the city is already your state religion, it will automatically generate +1 culture/turn in addition to a +1 happiness benefit, expanding your borders within 10 turns and making your city much less likely to flip or revolt. The pre-attack missionary wave essentially adds the benefits of the creative trait to non-creative civs, in addition to income, happiness, and espionage benefits.


The placement of cities is always one of the most important strategic decisions. I will gladly place a city at significantly further distance from my capital if it results in acquiring special resources or monopolizing a location that is of prime strategic or production value. Many specialty resources offer benefits for your entire civilization, and so the race to control luxury, health, strategic, and bonus resources is a key factor in city placement. Whenever possible, I build cities on rivers, and try to get at least one special resource (of any kind) within range. Of course this is not always possible (especially on unusual or specialty map types), but if you repeatedly find that you are having trouble making your cities happy and productive or are failing to acquire important resources, perhaps it is time to reevaluate your city placement. Controlling strategic passes or “choke points” with cities is also valuable — if you can block off your enemies from chunks of unsettled land and then fill it in later, that is a bonus, although the geography doesn’t always accommodate this.


Some buildings I like to build everywhere, whereas others I build only in specialized cities, or in any city when there is a natural opening. Buildings I like to build as much as possible include:

First Tier

lighthouse (for coastal cities)

Second Tier

harbor (if applicable)


The build order of course varies depending on the needs of each city, but generally I get granaries and forges as early as possible everywhere, and theaters first in conquered cities (to prevent culture flipping), and others as the situation dictates. It is hard to go wrong with a library almost everywhere because of the commerce bonus and the culture to expand your borders.

Be careful with buildings that harm city health. In particular, avoid building coal plants, as this subtracts two health and seemingly cannot be removed, even if the city develops alternative power sources. The three gorges dam wonder provides power to all cities on the continent, and cities along rivers can use hydro power. While laboratories increase research by +25%, they also detract from health (-1), and you may not need laboratories everywhere at the very late stage in the game at which they become available – constructing them in a few top research cities may suffice.

Commerce, Research, and Gold

Squares with or without improvements produce *commerce*. This commerce can then be used to fund research, culture, or turned into gold. Improvements (towns etc) and the financial trait actually give you commerce, not gold. The distinction between “commerce” generally and “gold” specifically is somewhat confusing as they sometimes use the same gold coin icon.

Then the benefit of city improvements depends on both your base commerce and your sliders. Say you have a small city producing 10 commerce, and your research slider is on 80%, with 20% going into finances. A library (+25% research) will give you an extra 2 beakers (base research = 80% of 10 = 8, 25% of 8 = 2 more). A grocer, however (+25% gold) would seem not to have any benefit to an economy this small (base gold = 20% of 10 = 2, and 25% of 2= 0.5, rounded down to zero).

Now of course there is some gold *outside* of the commerce system: namely, gold generated by religious buildings. Specialist gold goes directly to finances and is not general “commerce” that can be converted to research.

In other words, the benefit of the improvements depends highly on the position of your sliders. If you played with research on 20% and money on 80%, obviously the financial improvements (market, grocer, bank, etc) would be more valuable. Since in most games however research plays such an important role, science improvements tend to offer greater benefits.


Inflation is not covered anywhere in the civilopedia or manual that I can find, but it is an important expense. Inflation can go up but never seems to go down over the course of a game. Inflation increases over time at a steady rate, regardless of spending breakdown. Inflation cannot apparently be controlled; it inevitably increases as the game progresses.

Inflation adds an additional percentage to your expenses, including:
civic upkeep
city maintenance (distance and city number)

This percentage can get quite high. If your expenses are 100 per turn and your inflation is 30%, your final cost is 130 gold. The organized trait has at least some advantage here, because it is saving “pre-tax” rather than “post-tax” dollars. In other words, if your civic upkeep were 50 and inflation were 0%, the organized trait would save only 25 gold (50% of final upkeep), but if inflation were 40%, your real savings are 50+20 (40% of 50) = 70/2, or 35 gold.


I try to change civics as little as possible since I don’t play as Spiritual. I will do 2 or 3 switches at once, when possible. If you do too many changes at once (4 or occasionally 3), it can result in 2 turns anarchy. You cannot change state religion and civics on the same turn.

Government Civics

Hereditary Rule: (medium upkeep, + 1 happiness per military unit in a city, req. monarchy). Since most cities will have at least one military unit for defense, this tech can be a real benefit in the early middle ages when you are still developing your luxury resource network and constructing happiness buildings. Hereditary rule provides a great answer to happiness problems that can otherwise be limiting to a rapidly-growing civilization.

Representation: (medium upkeep, +3 research per specialist, +2 happiness in 6 largest cities, req. constitution). Another excellent bonus, especially for a philosophical nation with many specialists. The largest cities are the most likely to get unhappy, so this civic gives you the happiness bonus where you need it. Representation is particularly valuable for philosophical civs in synergy with mercantilism and the statue of liberty wonder, harnessing the free specialists to provide a major technology boost. Unless you have a vast number of towns, representation is a good civic to keep throughout the entire game. The extra research for every specialist continues to be a huge benefit that can significantly speed your research. I try to build the pyramids as quick as I can so that I can switch to representation, significantly speeding research. Then pick up wonders and buildings that give you (or allow) specialists: great library, forge, statue of liberty, etc.

Police State: (high upkeep, +25% military production, -50% war weariness, req. facism) is great for the warmonger or for wartime defense, but the high cost makes it undesirable in peacetime.

Universal Suffrage: moderate upkeep. The +1 production boost to towns and ability to complete production with gold (units/buildings, not wonders) is useful; however, it is of little use in the early and mid game when cottages have not yet developed into towns. Don’t get snookered into getting this in the early game with the pyramids, as upkeep is high and you will have no towns to provide the productivity bonus. Weighing universal suffrage against

Legal Civics:

Vassalage: high upkeep, +2 experience per unit, lower unit support costs: a good tech for a warmonger, but the high cost makes it prohibitive for others. Consider this temporarily while in a war.

Bureaucracy: (+50% production/gold in capital, medium upkeep, req. civil service). Good in the early game, and provides an excellent boost for a wonder-building city. Liberalism is close enough around the corner from civil service that often I hold off for free speech. As the slider is usually set heavily to research, the primary benefit of this civic is usually production rather than gold.

Nationhood: no upkeep (changed from low to no upkeep with the patch), can draft 3 units per turn, barracks +2 happiness. Also a good civic for a warmonger that is better sustainable long-term than vassalage because of its low cost, in addition to adding happiness benefit.

Free Speech: (no upkeep, +2 gold from towns, +100% culture per city, req. liberalism). It is my favorite for the late game, but won’t do you much good if you don’t have towns. I like to get bureaucracy for the production boost while towns are developing, and then switch to free speech once I have enough towns to justify it. At no upkeep cost, the price is right, and this one can provide a great boost to your economy.

Labor Civics

Slavery: (low upkeep, can sacrifice population to finish production, req. bronze working) Excellent for rapidly-growing cities limited by happiness, although it makes 1 pop unhappy for 10 turns. Slavery is ideal for civs with large cities with abundant food (flood plains + farms) but marginal productivity and limited happiness, especially in the early and mid-game. Slavery takes the revolting pops that are adding nothing to the economy and uses them to produce wonders or other high-cost buildings that would otherwise take many turns to complete. I typically keep this civic until I get emancipation with democracy.

Serfdom: (low upkeep) — workers build improvements faster. I usually have a large enough army of workers building improvements and clearing jungles that this one isn’t as attractive as the others.

Caste System: (medium upkeep, req. code of laws) — unlimited scientists, artists, merchants in cities. A reasonable choice if you have food to spare, don’t yet have enough town improvements to allow specialists otherwise, and can afford the upkeep. While I like the idea of the caste system civic for philosophical civs, the way which this is implemented is poor. Once you get caste system, the computer automatically allocates many of your workers to specialists, especially scientists. Although this can be somewhat controlled with your city production settings, the AI often diverts workers producing food, hammers, and commerce into specialists producing only science and culture. This slows both the production and growth of many of your cities. There is too much micromanagement involved to manage the caste system appropriately, and the stunting of your production and growth because of poorly allocated specialists is rarely if ever worthwhile, even for a philosophical civ. Skip it and go for emancipation. The scientists are the most valuable, while artists and merchants are usually of limited value.

Emancipation: (no upkeep, req. democracy) is great for mid to late game. It doubles rate of cottages -> towns; a big synergistic economic boost when combined with appropriate techs, free speech, and universal suffrage.

Economic Civics:

Mercantilism: (medium upkeep, 1 free specialist per city, no foreign trade routes, req. banking). Getting this civic is like having the statue of liberty wonder and is a huge boost for philosophical or GP oriented civs. It is moderately expensive, and shuts down foreign trade (which can also hurt, or at least won’t help, your relations). However, if you have the Angkor Wat wonder that adds to priest productivity and the Representation civic that adds 3 research to every specialist, this presents a huge boost to your cities that more than compensates for the lack of foreign trade routes.

Free Market: (medium upkeep) – +1 trade route per city. A nice financial or research boost, although only modest in size. However I rarely use this as state property is only a few techs away.

Edit: The patch increases free trade from low to medium upkeep. More reason to skip it.

State Property: (low upkeep, req. communism) is great (no distance maintenance costs, +1 food from watermills). Although the patch increased the upkeep from free to low, it is still extremely useful. I find that with my tendency to build many cities, it saves me as much or more than I would earn from the extra trade route, plus upkeep is free, plus you get extra food. As I tend to build watermills along almost all river tiles because of their boost to productivity (+2 with appropriate techs), food (+1), and economy, a river city may be able to support a couple more citizens that can be made specialists to boost your GP generation. My most-used economic tech.

State property eliminates the city distance maintenance cost entirely, which for a large empire typically represents about 50% of your total city upkeep (this rough rule of thumb varies depending on both the number of cities and the distances involved). This can be quite a substantial savings. For a nation with a well-developed state religion, adopting state property frequently allows one to move the tech slider from 70-80% to 90-100%. This faster tech speed has many benefits: quicker availability of new buildings and units, faster tech bonuses, and getting sooner to techs like electricity that increase the value or productivity of your existing city improvements. The extra food can allow you to support extra specialists or larger city growth if you have many river cities and have built watermills. With no civic upkeep cost, the price is right. In most games, the state property civic alone is far better in terms of your financial bottom line than the organized trait, as city distance upkeep costs often well exceed 50% of the civic upkeep costs discounted by organized. My tests suggest that the Versailles wonder, like the Forbidden Palace, reduce only distance upkeep costs (Versailles seems to be like a second Forbidden Palace). If you are using the state property civic and plan to stick with it long-term, don’t waste city production on these wonders. Forbidden Palace and Versailles offer only a modest location-dependent decrease in distance costs, while state property abolishes distance costs altogether. With city upkeep virtually cut in half by state property, you will also find less of a necessity for courthouses until your civilization is extremely large.

Environmentalism: (high upkeep) is nice at the very end of the game when you get ecology (+6 health, +1 happiness from forests and jungles). Unfortunately I’ve harvested most forests and jungles long before the ecology tech comes around (and jungles are so unproductive why would you want to keep them), and find that my cities already have good health and happiness well before then and are more limited by food. The expensive upkeep is also a drawback, so I tend to use state property more frequently. Rather than getting environmentalism, I prefer to research future techs (+1 health and happiness each for your entire civ), since ecology is already near the end of the tech line), rather than paying the fat environmentalism upkeep fees. At least that part of environmentalism is realistic.

Religious Civics:

Organized Religion: (high upkeep, +25% building and wonder construction, req. monotheism). After extensive testing, I have come to the conclusion that this is the best religion civic, at least for my play style. I grab this civic as soon as I can get to monotheism and keep it throughout the entire game. I have verified in-game that organized religion does boost wonder speed as well as that of non-wonder buildings. +25% building and wonder speed throughout the whole game is essentially equivalent to a free forge in every city, except that the bonus does not apply to unit builds. This trait is very expensive for a large civilization, but I think it is well worth the cost. I can think of no wonder, civ trait, building, or civic that matches organized religion in its sweeping benefits.

Theocracy: (medium upkeep), +2 experience points for units created in cities with state religion, no non-state religion spread) — okay for a warmonger, but expensive.

Pacifism: (no upkeep, +100% GP, req. philosophy) is phenomenal as it can essentially bestow the philosophical trait on a non-philosophical civ, or make philosophical civs even better. The low upkeep is counterbalanced by the +1 gold per military unit, so this tech can be cheap or expensive depending on your military size. As attractive as pacifism is, I feel that organized is a better trait, even for philosophical civs. Ask yourself: how many great people would you need to generate to speed construction of buildings and wonders in every one of your cities by 25%?

Free Religion: (low upkeep): I never get free religion as losing all the state religion bonuses really hurts, as well as losing line of site to all converted cities in other nations. At end-game usually I have plenty of luxuries and am not so desperate for a few more happy faces that I would want to deal with the hassle of having to get 4 or 5 religions in each of my cities to make this civic worthwhile. The +10% tech bonus — while meaningful — doesn’t seem to make much of a difference for me this late in the game, plus you have to pay fixed upkeep (albeit low) to boot. Some players attempt to get free religion as soon as possible to pacify aggressive neighbors with different religions. However, I have had war declared on me so many times in the early game when I had no state religion at all that I know that simply removing state religion is no panacea to diplomacy. Dropping a state religion can pacify opponents, but it can also make former close allies lukewarm or even hostile. And if you are still deeply afraid of your neighbors by the late time of game that organized religion becomes available, perhaps it is time to assess your strategy in other areas. Theology civics include some of the best benefits in the game (+100% GP from pacifism, +25% building and wonder construction speed), and I generally like these bonuses far too much to sacrifice them for free religion, which seems to offer little in return. Nevertheless, if you are in a situation where you are walking on eggshells — playing deity level with far more powerful AI players, perhaps — free religion may be something to consider. Otherwise, skip it.

Favored early game civics: representation (constitution – or pyramids), bureaucracy (civil service), slavery (bronze working), mercantilism (banking), organized religion (monotheism)
Favored late game civics: universal suffrage, free speech, emancipation, state property, organized religion

Warmonger civics: police state, vassalage, slavery, state property, theocracy


I tend to manually control workers (at least until very late in the game) as the computer automation leaves much to be desired and lacks strategic foresight.

Farms: +1 food initially, +2 food (total) at end-game when you have biology. Recent tests have led me to change my strategies and begin building large numbers of farms initially in order to quickly increase city size. When cities are near the max of their happiness and/or health, then I start converting the farms to cottages for the economic benefits. In contrast to watermills and windmills which offer economic and production bonuses in addition to food, farms offer only food. The advantage is that they are available almost immediately in the game with the agriculture tech. I prefer wide proliferation of farms in the ancient era, with removal of some farms and transition to cottages and watermills when you are near the maximum sustainable city size for health and happiness. Especially on higher difficulty levels, spamming too many farms may quickly bring your cities over the happiness and/or healthiness levels they can support, resulting in revolters and no “we love the king day” events. Automated workers tend to overdo farming and so I prefer to direct workers manually. Use farms wisely, but be careful that they don’t push your cities into unhappiness or unhealthiness. You may need to expand your growth capacity as your city’s happiness and health limits increase, so keep an eye on this.

Cottages: Cottages make up the foundation of economic and research productivity of your civilization. Especially if you have the financial trait, cottages produce great bonuses when they grow into towns, with full techs and civics: commerce +7, production +1 (requires universal suffrage civic). Cottages can be built anywhere, but their production bonus comes late (after full growth into towns) and only with the correct civic.

I often wait until cities are close to their health or happiness limit to start building large numbers of cottages because farms offer more immediate benefit by increasing city size and therefore production and the number of workable tiles. Cottages only progress into hamlets, villages, and towns when they are being worked. There is no point in rushing to place cottages on all 20 workable tiles of a level 2 city (for an extreme example), as the cottages will not begin to develop at all until the city is large enough to work them. My tests and those of others have demonstrated that in most cases, a better long-term economic outcome is achieved with early farms to grow your city quickly and then building large numbers of cottages that the city is able to work, as opposed to immediate cottage spamming resulting in slow growth and many unworked tiles in an immature city.
The downsides of cottages include that they take a long time to grow: cottage->hamlet 10 turns, hamlet ->village 20 turns, village ->town 40 turns. This can be cut in half with appropriate civics, but still it takes 35 turns in the best possible case to grow from a cottage to a town. In a game that lasts only 400 or 500 turns (and may be decided long before then), that is a big chunk of game time. Also, cottages can be easily pillaged by an enemy. Cottages are particularly valuable around your core research cities, but think twice about building cottages on frontier cities close to aggressive neighbors. In any case, the long maturation time of cottages requires that they be built as early as possible to maximize their benefits. Having cottages that have grown into towns while your neighbors are still dealing with hamlets and villages can prove decisive.

Watermill: An immediate +1 production boost, with final bonuses of +1 food, +2 commerce, and +2 production with full techs and civics (requires state property for the food bonus). These are very helpful in increasing the production of plains, grassland, or flood plains adjacent to rivers that have little innate production capability. And once you have the correct techs/civics, the bonuses are immediate and do not require the maturation that cottages do. You can only build watermills on one square or the other to the side of a river, but I build watermills everywhere I can, typically replacing farms as soon as state property is in hand.

Windmill: An immediate +1 food, with final bonuses of +1 food, +2 commerce, and +1 production with full tech (replaceable parts, electricity). Very useful if you need more food, have limited river access, and want something that offers more substantial and well-rounded benefits than farms. Windmills can be placed on hills which makes a nice alternative to mines, giving production and commerce benefits while allowing the square to provide at least some of the food supply required to work it. With the financial trait, windmill offers +1 food, +1 production, and +3 commerce, making a windmill often preferable to a mine.

Lumbermill: Chopping down the trees doesn’t add any more food production (unlike C3C), and so lumbermills are a prime consideration for productivity in the late game. That is, in areas where you still have trees. With max +3 production (Base +1 from trees, +1 from lumbermill, +1 more when railroad comes around) and +1 commerce for squares adjacent to rivers, lumbermills are the best late-game productivity improvement. They don’t have the economic benefits of cottages, watermills, or windmills, but offer a more substantial production boost without sapping your food supply (unlike workshops) or without requiring a specific civic to keep from doing so. The late benefits of a lumbermill must also be weighed against the benefits of chopping in the early game for benefits that can be quite substantial at a time when your civilization’s productivity is very low: chopped trees can result in a much faster start, extra cities, or more wonders. I chop trees in the early game for chop-rushing settlers or crucial wonders, but by the mid-game when instant productivity is no longer urgent, I prefer to preserve any remaining trees for future lumbermills.

Mine: +2 production, +1 more (+3 total) with railroad. A substantial productivity boost as long as you have enough food to go around. The option between windmills and mines is nice for hill squares.

Workshop: +1 production, -1 food. With max upgrades they can offer up to +3 production, and with state property, no food penalty. This allows the same +3 production as lumbermill, without requiring you to keep trees around until the late game. The food penalty early on makes this a poor choice in the early middle ages, but once you have state property, workshops represent an excellent improvement for production. However, if you depend on workshops and state property, you will largely be obliged to stay with that civic through the rest of the game — or see your cities starve when you change, unless you have a large food surplus from other sources.


Since you can only build 2 national wonders in a city and because GP points accrue according to specialties, it makes sense to have specialized cities in CIV. I aim for a science city (oxford university + great library), a military city (pentagon + heroic epic + west point), a culture city (hermitage + globe theater), an economic city (wall street), and will put the national epic in the city with the most wonders (and most GP points).

In general, keeping a flow of military units from at least one city will keep your cities happy (large cities get upset without protection) and defended. I also try to keep one city pumping out missionaries throughout almost the entire game, occasionally switching production to another city to construct buildings in the city. In my first couple games when I did not continue to produce both military and missionary units in peace time and war time, it caused major problems for me in spite of large leads in other areas.

CIV rewards the creation of specialized cities. I try to create at least 2 cities of each specialty because of the need to build infrastructure buildings in between building military or religious units, wonders, etc. Specialist cities make sense because you can’t build every building in every city, and specialization helps you to leverage your city placement by putting buildings in the cities where they will do the most good.

The first step in deciding the division of labor between specialized cities is to evaluate the surrounding land. A city in an area with luxury resources could be a great trade/science city, while one in an area with many mines and high production would likely make a good military city for creating units, or for rapidly building wonders. A city with abundant food supply would make a good specialist city to increase great people generation.

Military City

Build in: productive area with high hammer yield (mines, watermills, etc)

Barracks Forge Factory
Power source (coal, hydro, nuclear), Granary Aqueduct
National wonders:
first city: Heroic Epic (+100% military production in city), West Point (+4 exp/military unit)

second city: Red Cross (free Medic I promotion), Ironworks (near iron or coal) — consider designating this one a military city from the time iron appears on the map.
World Wonders:
Pentagon (+2 experience for units trained in any city, can be built anywhere)

Discussion: You will need many military units during the game, so why build them from just anywhere when you can build them quickly in a specialized city and get free experience points to boot?

Science City

Build in: area with abundant commerce
Improvements: focus on cottages ->towns

Academy (+50% research, requires great scientist) Library (+25% research)
Observatory (+25% research) University (+25% research)
Laboratory (+25% research)
Monastery (+10% research, but becomes obsolete – may skip this one)
National wonders:
Oxford University (+100% research)

World Wonders:
Great Library (+2 scientists, expires)

Merchant City

Build in: area with abundant commerce
Improvements: focus on cottages ->towns

Market (+25% gold) Grocer (+25% gold)
Bank (+50% gold) Airport (+1 trade route)
National Wonders:
Wall Street (+100% gold)
GP Focus: great merchant

Culture City

Consider combining with science city as many science improvements also generate culture. I don’t generally build a culture-only city for that reason, I go for culture/science. But here are the culture listings for those interested in culture victory, not including science improvements.

Temple (+1 culture) Monastery (+2 culture)
Cathedral or equivalent (+50% culture) Theater (+3 culture)

Broadcast tower (+50% culture)
National Wonders:
Hermitage (+100% culture) Globe theater (+6 culture)
World Wonders:
Hollywood (+50% culture) Rock n’ Roll (+50% culture)
Broadway (+50% culture) Sistine chapel (+2 culture per specialist in all cities)

If going for a culture victory, consider balancing your national and world culture wonders between 3 cities to allow each to achieve legendary culture.

Great People City

Obviously this one should be combined with another city of your choice, as the world and national wonders built in other cities contribute GP points. I like to make my GP city one that focuses on GP types that I find to be the most valuable (great engineers — can rush wonders, or perhaps scientists — can create academy, rather than prophets, artists, or merchants)

National wonder: National Epic (+100% GP birth rate in city)

World Wonders:
Parthenon (+50% GP birth rate in all cities) Great Library (+2 scientists in city, but expires)
Statue of Liberty (+1 specialist in all cities)
Synergistic Civic: pacifism (+100% GP rate, no upkeep)


When beginning every game, you will want to consider what wonders are a priority for you and what wonders you will pass on. It is rarely possible to get every wonder. Realistic decisions must be made and tech paths to get the desired wonders early must be considered. There is little as frustrating as coming within a few turns of completing an expensive wonder only to lose your effort because another civ beat you to it.

Wonder decisions can make or break the game. A few key wonders can provide advantages turning the tide in your favor, while an inappropriate focus on wonders at the expense of defense or growth can leave your civilization vulnerable.

The player should also consider what role wonders will play in the overall strategy. If you are playing as a philosophical or industrious nation, constructing numerous wonders should be a centerpiece of your strategy. For militaristic players, wonders should play little role, as a vast army can be constructed in the time of constructing just a few wonders. The militaristic player should therefore aim for a few targeted wonders, while the philosophical or industrious player should strive for a much longer list.

Some wonders offer considerable early benefits, but expire. Others offer mediocre benefits that expire regardless (the Hagia Sophia is infamous for frequently becoming obsolete only shortly after it is constructed). Wonders expire when YOU get the expiring tech, not when your neighbors do. So I often hold off on trading for the calender tech until all my cities have experienced border expansion from Stonehenge, and avoid getting chemistry until the last possible moment to milk the Parthenon for every great person point possible. Still others offer great game-long benefits.

Unless you are going for a culture victory, great artists are the least useful of all of the great people (+3 commerce, +14 culture). Therefore, I try to keep wonders offering great artist points out of my principal wonder city to avoid generating less-useful great people there. Great scientists are perhaps the most useful for their ability to add an academy in one city each. Great engineers (+3 hammers) and great prophets (+2 hammer) are the most useful as they add productivity. Great merchants add food, although only +1, in addition to commerce.

To maximize the conversion of great people points into great people, it is best to concentrate as many wonders as possible in one, two, or three designated wonder-building cities. The decision of how many cities to designate as primary or secondary wonder-builders will depend on your playing style.

Here is a list of wonders that I make priorities, keeping in mind that the wonders different players favor will vary widely depending on their play style and tactics.

Priority Expiring Wonders

Stonehenge: obelisk, +1 culture in every city, expires @ Calendar.

Great Library: +2 scientists is a big deal at a time when many of your cities can’t dedicate the pop to specialists, especially if you build this in your great people focus city. Perhaps most importantly, the +6 GP points/turn from 2 scientists in addition to the +2 GP from the wonder (total 8 GP points/turn) can help you quickly to get great scientists who can found academies in your largest cities, especially in the presence of philosophical/pacifist /Parthenon /national epic synergisms. Getting the great library with several great scientists can therefore generate a massive bonus that will speed your research throughout the entire remainder of the game, long after the GL’s primary effects have expired. After the GL, the oxford university is the only good generator of great scientist points until after the middle ages.

Parthenon: +50% GP birth rate in all cities. Vital for philosophical civs, but unfortunately doesn’t last forever.

Non-Expiring Wonders

Hanging Gardens: +1 pop, +1 health in all cities. This is a huge early wonder that can catapult your civ ahead, especially if you have many small or modest-sized cities. Adding an extra pop and health point to every city boosts your economy, your research, your productivity, etc.

Notre Dame: +1 happiness for all cities on continent

Versailles: reduces maintenance in nearby cities

Statue of Liberty: a free specialist in every city. Fabulous for philosophical civs. Probably my # 1 wonder in the game.

Pentagon: +2 experience points for units trained in all cities

Three Gorges Dam: power for all cities on continent located near a river

Eiffel Tower: (free broadcast tower in every city) gives a big culture boost

Wonders by GP type

(all world wonders +2 GP points, all national wonders +1)

Great Scientist:
Great Library (marble) (+2 scientists)
Oxford University (stone) (+100% research, 3 citizens as scientists)
Space Elevator
Red Cross
Scotland Yard

Capital: Stonehenge, pyramids, hanging gardens, great library, ironworks (?)
Wonder city 2: parthenon, notre dame, national epic
Military city

Great Prophet:
Stonehenge (stone): obelisk in each city

Angkor Wat (stone): +1 production from priests in all cities, allows 3 priests. This makes priest specialists (up to +2 hammers, +1 gold) the most productive specialists, beating out engineers (+2 hammers, no other bonuses) — until the wonder expires
Oracle (marble) (1 free tech)
Chichen Itza (stone): +25% defense in all cities
Spiral minaret (stone). +1 gold from all state religion buildings. Nice, although a relatively small bonus.
Religious holy wonder: minus 1 production, spreads religion, 1 gold from each, allows 3 priests

Great Engineer:
Hanging gardens (stone) (+1 population, +1 health in all cities)
Pentagon (+2 experience to military units in all cities)
Three Gorges Dam
Ironworks (allows 3 citizens as engineers)
West Point (stone) (+4 experience per unit)

Pyramids (stone) (allows all government civics) – a big boost in the early game
Hagia Sophia (marble) (+50% worker build speed)

Great Merchant:
Colossus (copper) (+1 gold in all city water tiles)
Statue of Liberty (+1 free specialist in all cities on the continent)

Wall Street
Forbidden Palace (acts as a 2nd capital decreasing distance maintenance)
Versailles (marble)
Great Lighthouse (+2 trade routes in coastal cities)
Eiffel Tower (free broadcast tower in every city)
United Nations

Great Artist:
Parthenon (marble) (+50% GP birth rate in all cities)
Notre Dame (+1 happiness in all cities)
National epic (stone) (+100% GP birth rate)
Hollywood (+1 happiness)

Rock n’ Roll (+1 happiness)
Broadway (+1 happiness)
Heroic Epic (marble) (+100% military unit production)
Hermitage (marble)
Globe Theater (no unhappiness in this city, allows 3 artists)

Taj Mahal
Mt. Rushmore (stone)
Kremlin (stone)
Sistine chapel (marble)

Most important early resources:

Stone, marble, iron
Put Parthenon, notre dame, statue of liberty in a separate wonder city
National epic in capital


In maximizing great people points, you can get some great synergy between traits, civics, wonders, and improvements. If you want a lot of great people, get as many of these as possible.

Note that all bonuses are additive, not multiplicative. For example, 2 100% bonuses on top of a 100% base produce a 300% rate (100% base +100% x2), not 400% (they only add their bonus to the BASE rate, not to the final rate after other adjustments). Also, all fractions in the game are rounded DOWN (i.e. a 25% bonus of 7 is rounded down to 1, a 25% bonus of 8 is necessary for +2)

Philosophical trait : +100% GP generation civ-wide
labor – caste system: unlimited scientists, merchants, artists in all cities
economy – mercantilism: +1 free specialist per city; or (in games with many rivers) state property for the watermill food bonus, allowing higher POP and thus more specialists

religion – pacifism: +100% GP birth rate in cities with state religion
National wonders:
national epic – +100% GP in city where built (only)
World Wonders:
Parthenon: +50% GP generation civ-wide, expires with chemistry
Statue of Liberty: +1 free specialist in all cities

great library: +2 free scientists in city where built, but expires.

A civ with max upgrades (not including great library) would have:
– a 300% great people rate (100% base + 100% philosophical + 100% pacifism) + 50% from Parthenon (before expires) + 100% more in city with national wonder
– 2 free specialists in all cities (mercantilism statue of liberty). At 300% return on a 3 GP base per specialist x 2 specialists, this would provide 18 GP points *per turn* even in your least developed cities with no wonders.
-unlimited ability to allocate scientists, artists, and merchants in all cities.

Note again that the wonder bonuses expire when YOU get the tech in question, not your neighbors…therefore a philosophical civ with the Parthenon may want to push back getting chemistry as late as possible.

Of course some great people types are more valuable than others. Great engineers allow you to rush wonders which can provide key benefits in a close game. And great scientists can allow you to build an academy (+50% research) in every city. Great merchants, artists, and prophets, while still valuable, have effects that are generally somewhat more modest in terms of long-term game play. Since the chance of getting a great person of different types depends on the wonders and specialists in each city, I like having separate cities focus on great engineers and scientists without mixing with the other types as much as possible (you don’t want to have your city with engineering wonders drowned out by large numbers of merchant, artist, or priest specialists pushing the GP probability towards other types). I don’t have a strong preference between merchants, artists, and prophets, and so will build wonders generating all 3 in the same city.

Bonuses allowing you to turn citizens into engineers are generated only by:
Forge (allows 1 engineer)

Factory (allows 2 engineers)
Ironworks (allows 3 engineers)

Engineer GP points are generated by:
West Point (+1 GP)
Hanging Gardens (+2)

Pentagon (+2)
Pyramids (+2)
Three Gorges Dam (+2)

The military city is the most natural choice for an engineer GP city (forge + factory + ironworks + west point + pentagon).

As the cost for great people increase throughout the game, diminishing returns are eventually reached. Later in the game, the cost of great people goes up and up, while the benefit of great people often declines, since the earlier you get great people, the longer they will benefit your civilization. However, your civilization should also increase in its capacity to generate great people over time, civics are chosen, as wonders are built and citizens are assigned as specialists. With appropriate tactics, many great people can still be generated even in the late game.

Every great person can cause either an instant benefit, provide a tech bonus, or add a long-term bonus to cities. The benefits must be carefully considered. In *most* cases, I prefer to use great people in a manner that augments the long-term productivity of my cities, although there are exceptional cases where great people are best used to rush a tech or a wonder.

Two types of great people present no-brainers for their use:

  1. Great prophets. Before using great prophets in any other way, make sure that you have created the religion-specific wonder in any founding religious city under your control. If you have made any attempt at all to spread the religion, or of you are conquering the founding city of a religion that is widely accepted, this can produce massive financial benefits that dwarf virtually any other use of great people.
  2. Great scientists. Use them to create academies in all of your top science cities. Which would you rather have — an extra +6 or so science per turn in the city of your choice, or a 50% increase in science in a city that is already generating 50, 75, or 200 beakers per turn? Although the increase acts only on the base number of commerce points applied to research (before other modifiers are applied), a great scientist can result in massive research output for cities, especially in conjunction with other science improvements (library/university/observatory/Oxford University/etc).

For other great people, I usually prefer to join them to a city, with occasional exceptions as previously acknowledged.

Great artists. If you are going for a cultural victory, great artists are your friend. A very nice strategy for cultural victory on Monarch level, using great artists either by joining to a city or as “culture bombs” to titrate legendary culture among three cities is presented by walkerjks here: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=138647

If you are not going for a cultural victory, great artists are by far the weakest of all great people. I find that in most cases it is preferable to join great artists to border cities or captured cities instead of invoking the “culture bomb.” Great artists produce +12 to +15 culture per turn, which is the equivalent of many cultural buildings (library = +2 culture, theater = +3, etc) and will quickly expand the city’s borders — in addition to any cultural multipliers the city may have (cathedrals, hermitage, civics, etc). In this way, you still continue to receive the commerce benefits of the great artist throughout the game, speeding your research and filling your coffers.

Great merchant. The great merchant is the ONLY great person that offers a food bonus (+1 food, +6 commerce appears typical). I prefer to join great merchants to high-commerce cities that focus on great people creation (the city with the national epic is often a great choice), since more food allows you to allocate more specialists, further increasing great people output.

Great engineers. As for great prophets, the surplus productivity is welcome. These often go in my capital or most productive city or cities. A city with ironworks makes a great choice for great engineer placement in the late game.


There are several good early expansion options. The decision as to which is best for you depends both on map choice and on your playing style.


Chop rushing is a great way to jump ahead in the early game. The first mention I know of was in this thread by AlexFrog:


I prefer a somewhat modified version of the strategy. The strategy involves founding initial cities in areas with a large number of trees within their “fat cross” area. The player researches bronze working immediately while building a worker in the capital city before building any other units or buildings. Once the worker is done (12-15 turns) and bronze working is researched, the worker immediately goes to work chopping trees around the capital. Each tree chopped results in 20 hammers, which can rocket a level 1 city that may have only 1, 2, or 3 hammers far ahead.

The most logical initial use of “chop-rushing” is for settlers and workers, since your cities are normally stagnant (do not grow) while these units are being produced, and because these units are vital to the growth and productivity of your civilization. I save trees to chop-rush settlers, workers, or wonders, since the construction of buildings or military units allows your cities to grow during the production phase, while production of the former two does not, and the third category (wonders) is a race. Chop-rushing typically allows me to plant 2-3 times as many cities as my closest AI competitors on noble level.

Of course, settlers must never be sent out undefended, so I like to first build at least one (possibly two) warriors, sending at least one out to explore and pop goody huts (in addition to the starting warrior) while the second will act as your settler escort. I periodically build warriors during the rapid expansion phase to ensure that my cities and settlers are adequately defended.

Because of maintenance costs increasing with both distance and city number (and I will place cities at long distances from my capital when necessary to secure important resources), it is impractical to build a civilization by the exclusive virtue of chop-rushing. There must be a balance. Once I get three or four cities, I let one or two grow and develop — building a granary or military units to increase in size and to defend the borders, while the others chop-rush. I also assign some workers to build improvements very early — cottages in particular, in addition to improvements required by special resources — in order to ensure that city commerce, on average, is in excess of upkeep costs, allowing continued rapid research and continued growth. As a rough rule of thumb, on noble level, if my research percentage falls below 70%, that is a warning sign to me that I need to better develop the city economic base by building more cottages and letting cities grow to a larger size before expanding.

Chop-rushing can also be a terrific way to get wonders, especially when you have special resources that speed wonder building. For example, Stonehenge costs 120 hammers, but if you have stone, every forest chopped will give double (not 20, but 40) hammers. Therefore, you only need to chop three trees to build Stonehenge in a city with stone — as opposed to the many turns it would take to build it without chop-rushing. This is a great way to get key wonders as a non-industrious civ, and the ability of any civilization to do this really waters down the value of the industrious trait.

Edit: the patch slightly weakens chop-rushing. Chopping income has dropped from thirty to twenty hammers, with that number being further reduced for chops further from the city (outside the city radius?) Mathematics adds +50% (back to the original 30), but it comes in the end of the first age at a time that is not as useful as an immediate chop-rush would be. Also, unlike Civ3, cutting down trees doesn’t increase food harvest, so you have to immediately place farms or cottages or do something else to develop the land in other ways. Chopping offers a quick up-front bonus but can dent your long-term production if you overdo it. Weigh the pros and cons carefully in each situation.

In a recent test game in which I preserved the forests in the cities (for the health benefits and to maintain the forest productivity), I found that by the mid-middle ages, my tech rate had dropped virtually to zero and my workers began to strike and units were automatically disbanded because expenses were greater than income. Retaining the forests as opposed to chopping and planting cottages widely didn’t provide the economic revenue to support the rapid city expansion that I prefer, even with measured expansion letting many of the cities grow to mid-size. Therefore I continue to favor chopping trees – whether in an early settler rush, or to complete wonders – also to free up the land for farms (faster growth) or cottage improvements (improve economy and tech speed).


As attractive as it may seem, chop rushing faces major limitations, especially after being significantly tuned down in the recent patch. Chopping trees can push cities located near flood plains into unhealthiness and decline. Chops offer a one-time boost after which the city returns to its prior production. Depending on your situation, allowing the capital to develop before sending out settlers can be a better option. For example, if you can expand your capital in 8 turns and get a square that offers a combined 3 food and/or hammers, you will get a bonus of +1 food or hammer (2 of the food go to support the expanded population) for every subsequent turn throughout the game. For an average level 1 city with 3 resources in the center square and 3 on the first worked square (4 surplus food/hammers for settlers/workers), it takes 25 turns (4×25=100) to build a 100 resource settler and 15 turns (4×15) to build a 60-resource worker. Just one surplus resource, after paying food costs, by expanding to level 2 will drop this down to 20 turns for the settler (5 resources x 20 turns) and 12 turns for the worker. Expanding to level 3 to work another 3-resource tile, which you can generally do in another 8 turns after the first expansion with good city placement, will give you 6 surplus resources, dropping settler creation time to 17 turns and worker creation down to 10 turns.

Let’s do a comparison of a city that immediately builds 4 settlers, vs. one that spends 16 turns building warriors to grow twice, and switches production to settlers before the 2nd warrior is completed:

Build order: 4 Settlers 1 ½ warriors, 4 settlers

Turns to 1st settler 25 16 (to grow twice), then 17 for settler = 33
2nd settler 50 50
3rd settler 75 67
4th settler 100 84
Final capital size 1 3

As you can see, the city that expands to level 3 first catches up with the city that immediately built only settlers by the time the 2nd settler is completed. The fact that the settler-only city completed its first settler 9 turn earlier does not make up for this, as the 9 turns allow for barely 1 cycle of growth as opposed to the 2 that the first city has achieved.

The expand-first city ends up far ahead because at the end, it is better developed and more productive than the city that pumped out settlers immediately. The expand-first model also has the advantage of producing warriors to defend your units, as unprotected settlers are not likely to survive.

If you are well-situated and can develop those resources further, the model shifts even more in favor of allowing your city to increase in size. For example, if you can irrigate 2 flood plains up to +4 food each in your size 3 city and have one special resource you can get 2 food or hammers from, your total surplus will be 10 (3 from center tile, 2 per tile from 2 floodplains, and 3 from specialty resource) per turn. You can then build settlers in just 10 turns. At that point, you are expanding FASTER than you could with chop-rushing. Between chopping and moving, trees take 3-4 turns to chop for just 20 hammers and are limited, while your expanded city is indefinitely producing a surplus of 10/turn.

In general, most cities in the early game do not require more than 3-4 farm tiles. Exceptions may be made for cities on barren land, such as plains or hills. A few judicious farms are usually all that you need in order to jump-start your growth. If you overdo the farming, you can easily push the city into unhappiness, at which point cottages are a better alternative.

The decision of when to develop your capital vs. when to expand depends on your city setup. If tiles around your city are not very fertile (i.e. plains), you may wish to get out a settler sooner rather than later. If however your main city is well-placed and has one or two special resources within its boundaries that you can access with early techs, it is often wise to spend a few turns developing these resources to create a more productive capital.


Great variability comes in here. Depending on your civilization traits and technologies, your level, and your play style, you may have different technological priorities.

Some players favor chop-rushing for early expansion, going straight for bronze working. Then I go for pottery (to build cottages ASAP) and from there to alphabet (to trade techs). After alphabet, I trade with the AI as much as possible. I go for mathematics (to get hanging gardens) and then try to grab a religion — Confucianism or, if I miss that, one of the others.

In many cases, investment in techs such as agriculture, animal domestication, and hunting can be more valuable than bronze working chop-rushing.

If you are playing as a civ with early religious technologies, you may wish to shoot straight for an early religion. I prefer the path that leads to Hinduism/Judaism since if you are beaten to Hinduism, Judaism is right around the corner, while Buddhism is a dead end (at least for a while) and the AI seems to go for it quickly. Monotheism also has the benefit of offering the organized religion civic, which at +25% building construction (including wonders!) can prove to be an enormous benefit to your civilization’s development. This, as well as the early spread of religion from your cities (with happiness etc), can make an early religion very, very worthwhile. From there, you can go for bronze-working and chop rush, or you can go straight for alphabet, trade for bronze working (which is typically readily available once alphabet is discovered), and chop rush.

Going for the religious techs (polytheism->monotheism) early has great advantages even for a non-spiritual civ, if you can get there quickly. The religious techs offer key early-era wonders, including Stonehenge and the Parthenon, and perhaps the most important ancient-era civic, organized religion, which can further enhance your speed in constructing wonders and other buildings. If you don’t go for these techs very quickly, you will probably lose the wonder race. As you can’t trade for techs until you have alphabet, and many maps feature limited access to potential trading partners, the only reliable way to get these techs is to research them yourself. If you are playing as a philosophical civ, getting the early wonders is especially critical.

Either way has advantages and drawbacks, but both playing styles can be viable. Of course you can mix and match these: shoot for early religion and then quickly add bronze working (but miss out on some early chop-rushing), or research bronze working and then pick up the religious techs in time to get access to the wonders (but you will probably lose the early religion race). There undoubtedly others as well, but the above two are my favorites.

Here are some of the key techs I focus on acquiring, making modification depending on map type and difficulty level:

0. Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Hunting: these techs are vital to be able to hook up your bonus resources. Farming in particular is very important.
1. Mysticism (65 beakers). Stonehenge, and prerequisite for other religious techs.

2. Polytheism (130 beakers). Hinduism and Parthenon (key for philosophical civs).
3. Bronze working (156 beakers). Chop rushing. ‘nuf said.
4. Wheel (78 beakers). Workers and resources won’t do you much good until you can build roads. This can be moved down below monotheism depending on whether you have already gotten a religion and how tight you feel the race for Judaism will be.
5. Pottery (104 beakers). Your workers can now start building cottages, and allows granary. Because of how long cottages take to develop, it is important to get cottages started early. Also to defray the heavy upkeep costs of a large empire.
6. Masonry (104 beakers). Prerequisite for Monotheism. Allows building mines and quarries. While researching this you will hopefully be sending a settler and a worker to hook up stone (stonehenge, pyramids, hanging gardens) and marble (Parthenon) resources.

7. Monotheism (156 beakers). Judaism and organized religion. The moment you are ready to begin building Stonehenge in your capital (or any other building), switch to organized religion to provide a +25% hammer bonus for wonders and buildings.
8. Writing (156 beakers) and alphabet (390 beakers). Allows tech trades, allowing the player to pick up any missed techs.
9. Mathematics (325 beakers) – workers produce +50% hammers from tree chops (up to 30). Also enables hanging garden, a key wonder for rapid population expansion. Very important for both counts.
10. Metal casting (585 beakers). Forges add +25% productivity to any city where they are built. When you have stone and/or marble, organized religion civic, and forges, your cities can quickly construct buildings and wonders. Unfortunately, this tech quite expensive.
11. Literature (260 beakers). Heroic epic, national epic, great library, and libraries. All important structures.

12. Music (780 beakers). Free great artist to the first discoverer. Also allows Notre Dame and cathedrals, vital happiness buildings.
13. Drama (390) and philosophy (1040 beakers). Philosophy offers Taoism to the first discoverer, and pacifism is a helpful civic for philosophical civs. Angkor Wat is nice (+1 production from priests in all cities) if you can get it.
14. Paper (780), Education (2340 – allows universities/oxford), Liberalism (1820). Liberalism is a high priority both because it offers a free technology (you can pick the most expensive one available) and because of the free speech civic. The +2 gold from towns education offers is nice as long as enough of your cottages have developed into towns to warrant the expense of this tech path.
15. printing press (2080), requires paper. +1 commerce in towns and villages. Another economic bonus, but the expense is so high that other techs may be a higher priority. Replaceable parts (2340) offers +1 hammer for watermills and windmills. This is really the point in the game where watermills become worthwhile.
16. nationalism (2340), constitution (2600), democracy (3640). Nationalism and constitution have little to recommend them, except as prerequisites for democracy. Democracy is a huge advance to both economics and production because it allows universal suffrage (+1 production boost to towns) and emancipation (doubles rate of cottages -> towns).

17. Divine Right (1560) islam, spiral minaret, Versailles. Another opportunity to pick up a religion. Spiral minaret provides major economic boost (+1 gold per state religion building in all cities). It is however very expensive.

Currency (520 beakers): +1 trade route per city, and enables gold trading. Both of these can produce a major economic boost. I usually wait and trade for this, but getting it early may be warranted if your upkeep costs are becoming difficult to manage or your tech rate is dropping.

Iron working: Reveals iron. Being able to clear jungles is necessary to be able to access some resources and to increase health. Usually I trade for this tech after alphabet, but there are certainly exceptions requiring early iron working (if you have a bad starting location in a jungle harming productivity).
Iron working is critical to military also. As soon as you get this and iron is revealed, it is vital to claim and develop that iron promptly. Make sure to devote one city to military to pump out archers (before iron to garrison all your cities) and swordsmen (after iron) for defense and offense.

Archery: a must if you have aggressive neighbors. You may be able to hold off until after alphabet and trade for this depending on your setup, but if you are playing against human players, you need to get this ASAP.

Other key techs

Mathematics. Hanging Gardens — + 1 POP and +1 health in all your cities is huge, especially when you have a lot of small and moderate-size cities. The hanging gardens can really explode your productivity when you have a large empire from a chop-rush settler rush.
Music (free great artist)
Military Tradition (cavalry rule the middle ages)

Divine Right (Versailles/Islam)
Metallurgy (watermill)
Democracy (emancipation & universal suffrage).
Communism (state property)
Then to any other techs that improve the benefits of your improvements (i.e. electricity).

I also try to pick up the techs that offer free great people or free techs. These techs obviously represent a priority, as only the first discoverer gets the bonus.


The Game Plan

Before each game, consider spending a few minutes to write down some basic goals and strategies that you wish to incorporate. The plan will depend considerably on map type, terrain, size, difficulty leve, and opponents (AI or human). Of course the plan will need to be flexible to take advantage of opportunities and to respond to contingencies and challenges.

After the game, review your strategy and honestly assess which aspects worked well, and what aspects fell flat or met challenges. Use your insight to fine-tune your strategy and improve your next game plan.

Anticipation and Preparation

The computer will attack suddenly and in force in CIV. It is not unusual for the computer to DOW someone and raze their city with a stack of units in the same turn. The AI, like human players, is an opportunist. If you happen to build a city right next to enemy military units, or if AI players see a poorly defended city near their military units, they are more likely to declare war than if your cities were defended and settlers were escorted. Close borders also spark tensions. Different religion is also a major cause of hostility. The AI can and does declare war even when there are mildly positive relations, so don’t be too smug at your relationship score. You must defend your cities and resources. Even if you are not a warmonger, build a credible defense force. If your military is much weaker than your neighbors, you will soon find yourself in war. Anticipate attacks in advance. Is your neighbor massing catapults and swordsmen near your border? What are the stacked archer and warrior doing near your cities? Assume the worst, be observant, and be informed. Judge your enemy by their capability, not their words or relations.

Border Cities

Beware of border cities without a large cultural buffer between other civilizations. In one game I had a brilliant idea to build the forbidden palace in a border city. Then while I was engaged in a war against the Mongols on the other side of my empire, Saladin declared war and conquered the city the same turn with hordes of catapults, knights, and crossbowmen. Expensive cultural improvements are instantly lost once a city is conquered. Don’t put anything too critical in border cities, especially those without a significant buffer zone, and don’t get too involved in constructing major buildings in border cities until you have them well-defended with strong contemporary units. Don’t leave your back side exposed. And don’t let success in the tech race come at the expense of national security.


When starting a war, consider your objectives. What are your goals? Acquisition of specific resources or cities? Capturing a wonder? Total annexation? Or, if caught by surprise, would you be happy to get away with a white peace? Once you have determined your goals, come up with a strategic plan to get there. Make sure that your unit mix is balanced and well-thought out. More than once in my early games, I found myself besieging cities with large stacks of units but no catapults — bad idea. What are you going to do about city defenses? Are their resources you can deny your opponent? Will you create a two or three pronged attack and exploit vulnerabilities? Will you land a horde of cavalry and catapults by his capital for a sneak attack after shipping them behind enemy lines? It is much easier to achieve objectives if you know what your specific objectives are and have a viable plan to achieve them. It’s far more effective to have a plan and fine-tune it as needed while in process than to fly by the seat of your pants and make it up as you go along.

Also take time to consider your opponent’s strategy…*especially* if playing a human. Look at your own empire and assess your own vulnerabilities. Is YOUR iron supply undefended? Could an enemy wreak havoc with a few knights shipped in to attack rear cities? Do you have rows of cottages in a border city ripe for plundering? If you were your enemy, what would you do? If your vulnerabilities are lost on you, be assured that they will not be lost on a competent opponent.

Resource Denial

When planning a war, aim to take out key military and civilian resources. The resource screen shows you exactly what resources your opponents have. Some of the resources, like copper and iron, are essential for war. If you enemy has one source of iron and you fortify on that square with good defenders and pillage it, your enemy will instantly lose the ability to make swordsmen — and many other units, unless he has a copper supply as well. No copper, iron, or horses? Suddenly your formerly formidable medieval opponent is back in the stone age and is able to produce only warriors and archers. A few strategic moves of this nature can turn the tide of a war.

Other special resources are worth pillaging also. If your opponent has large cities that are marginally happy or healthy, pillaging a few luxury or health resources can catastrophically damage commerce, tech speed, and productivity across his entire empire. Pillaging of specialty resources in this way has a far greater effect than the pillaging of cottages, since the effects are felt in every connected city.

To Pillage or Not to Pillage

Some argue for pillaging as many of your opponents cottages as possible in order to cause long-term damage to his research and economy. Against a superior or closely-matched opponent, this can be a good idea. However, it can be shortsighted if you have the upper hand.

If I am convinced that I have superior force and can take a city, I don’t pillage cottages, mines, or watermills. Given how long cottages take to develop, I pillage them ONLY when I think that I am unable to take a city outright during the current war. As attractive as the quick gold from pillaging seems, it is trivial compared to having a long-term free revenue source that your opponent built for you — adding insult to injury. Conquered cities will often have high maintenance due to their distance from your capital and the incremental augmentation of city number, and if they can pay their own expenses right off the bat, your warmongering will be much more economically sustainable.


When evenly matched or over-matched, diplomacy plays an immense role. If the Mongols catch you by surprise and burn a couple border cities, what better way to pay them back than bribing their neighbors with tech or gold to declare war on them? Sure, they may have thought they were smart to exploit a momentary vulnerability when their keshiks found a lightly-guarded city…but finding themselves in a war on two or three fronts will wipe the smile off their faces and take the pressure off you. If I am caught by surprise in a war for which I am not fully prepared or do not want, I do not hesitate to trade prime techs to bribe allies to join on my side.

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