I’m starting to win on Emperor pretty regularly so I thought I’d post this. I’ve played standard maps and won but I find small maps more enjoyable since the game can be finished faster.
1. Civ Choice
I usually choose a Financial civ that starts with mining so I can research BW immediately to chop and find copper. This means I play with Catherine, Victoria or Mansa Musa. My favorite is Victoria since the expansive trait is so nice in high level play. Industrious is weak since only a couple wonders are necessary and you only need to build one or two. GW is great in the latter parts of the game but since he lacks mining and mysticism, that’s at least one extra tech you need right off the bat to chop and expand borders. Catherine has mining and doesn’t need mysticism so that’s quite a starting advantage.
2. Starting Position
If you are new to Emperor, there is no shame in regenerating your map to get a good spot. It doesn’t always work for the best though. I’ve had a two gold, two crab start but my next 5 cities were near or in ice. Gold/gems + a food resource is the best starting position.
3. Opening Sequence
First techs researched should be BW – Wheel – Masonry/Mysticism – Animal Husbandry/Pottery – Writing then depending on your situation IW/Alphabet/Math. Alphabet if you need to immediately trade for the worker/religious techs you skipped. IW to mine the jungle covered gems or math if everything is going great and you want currency to finance your expansion.
4. Initial Cities
Use your initial guy to pop some huts and scout your first 2-3 settler sites. Do not let him wander and get killed. You need him for barb protection. -2g means you need cash infusion immediately. Look for sites that can pay for themselves. Do not plop your settler down in jungle if you can get a river somewhere else. Conquer that beautiful jungle area later after you have IW. You want 1. food. 2. gems/gold/ivory/furs/silver 3. metal/horses. (Ex. City 2 with fish + gold and City 3 with wheat + copper) A gold mine with no food source really sucks because you won’t be able to work it.
If you get boxed in and can only build 1-2 cities then immediately change strategies and go to war or the game will be lost.
5. Initial Build Sequence
Worker – Settler – Settler. New city builds Worker first. Chop the settlers. Do not overbuild unless you have gems/gold/silver and enough food to work them. 10% research has never worked for me. Build new cities close to home to save on maintenance costs. Do not build 12 squares away to get the stone. It isn’t worth it and another AI will settle 3 turns before your settler gets there anyway. If barbs are an issue, build warriors before workers in your new cities.
6. Initial Worker Actions
Build roads. If your cities are all on the same river (never happens) then you automatically get trade routes. Otherwise, you must build them. Build them to bring your science back up 10%. Hook up your food and resources and build cottages on all grassland/flood plains.
7. Initial Wonders
If you do not choose Catherine, you’re going to need culture. You need Stonehenge. Plus, it only costs 3 chops. Very cheap. Nothing is worse than Hatty or Cyrus building 3 squares away and stealing your cows/copper. Build Stonehenge in a city close to an AI city so you can culture steal their land and make later invasion easier. Stonehenge should be complete around 1500 BC or AI will get it. Then if you have Stone or enough forest, build Pyramids for Representation. Otherwise, skip it and try to get it later by conquest. Later use the GE from the Pyramids to rush the Great Library. No other wonders necessary.
8. Early Religion
If you research Math – Currency – COL, 5 out of 10 times, you’ll end up founding Confucianism. Do not convert. The rest of the world will be hindu/jewish/buddha. Do not make enemies. +1 happy isn’t worth getting killed. Org religion is very nice but you can switch over later but not with your founded religion. Do not convert (in the early game) to anything unless Isabella or Monty is nearby and you are unprepared for a very early attack. You can still build the Confucian shrine and spread the religion for the money but I rather conquer shrines and focus my hammers on military.
9. Early Research Trading
If you missed out on the pyramids then trade for Monarchy for hereditary rule. Trade for Calendar if you have calendar resources nearby. Victoria + Pyramids + Calendar = multiple early pop 10 cities and practically seals the victory. Most AI will not have currency or COL before you. Get currency before your first prolonged war. Be researching CoL during your first attack. Waiting just allows the AI to catch up to you or leapfrog you to feudalism. Attack while they only have archers or archers + spears.
10. Pick Your First Opponent. Know Thy Enemy
Your first war is really just a skirmish for 1-2 cities. Get open borders and scout them before attacking. See what they have defending their border cities. Chariots or axes are good enough for the first city. You can build Swords if they only have archers/spears. Otherwise, axes are probably the best choice. Expect to lose 1/2 your invasion force. You must attack a neighbor because cities too far away will kill your economy. Who to attack?
I like to attack financial or aggressive civs first. These types have the ability to beat you and should be eliminated while you are on equal tech footing. Monty with a tech lead or parity in the mid – late is hard to beat. Other considerations are who can you attack without making other AI enemies. Get peace after the first war then build replacements and go for the kill. Some civs are dumb enough to agree to open borders after you’ve already attacked (Egypt will love you until they are exterminated). Keep scouting.
Non aggressive civs will usually only have a handful of defenders per city and no roaming units. Monty/Khan/Capac will have units attack you before you even get to their cities.
11. New cities
Build Courthouse – Forge – Library in new cities. Do not switch into builder mode after your first victory. They will want revenge. Keep building units and war until you finish them off (2nd attack phase usually requires cats) or at least until you take the cities worth taking. They’ll be furious the next 2000 years but most will never research past CoL and will never be a threat again.
12. Mid Game Research
Get Literature for the Great Library and rush it with your Pyramids GE or build it (in your GP farm). Research bureaucracy – Machinery for macemen. Use bureaucracy and build Heroic epic in your capital. Research Guilds – Banks and then beeline (open the tech tree and click on Rifling or Military Tradition) to your UU be it Riflemen or Cossacks. These will allow you to eliminate the tech leader when behind or even on tech. Make some trades. Never trade military techs unless they are out of date. Focus on researching military techs.
13. Mid Game War
If you aren’t strong enough to take on the leader now, take out the rest of your rivals with macemen + cats. (Check the Info screen to see how you match up on production, GNP and troops) Be sure to vary your attack force and throw in some elephants/pikes/knights to defend your attacking stack. You will be taking cities with the macemen and cats so focus on them. Throw in a medical explorer. If the tech leader is Monty/Khan or other aggressive, you’re in for a tough end game. Try to stay on decent terms with them until it’s time to eliminate them.
14. Mid Game Building
Build banks in all your commerce cities. Build harbors in your coastal cities. You get Education about the same time as Rifles/Cavalry so I usually skip the Universities as I need all production focused on military towards the end. Science will usually be around 60-70% unless I am blessed with great land or have stolen some nice shrines and then it’ll be 80-90%
15. Mid Game Workers and Cities
I usually automate the workers around this time. Too tedious to tend to everything after you have 30-50% landmass. I like to finish my games in one sitting. You should have done most of the work already so as long as you have production cities with lots of farms/mines and commerce cities with grassland cottages, you should be fine. Be sure to build the Forbidden Palace in the middle of your new land. It will raise your science bar at least 10%.
16. End Game Research
Beeline for your UU. You should get Redcoats around 1000-1100 AD. Then beeline for Democracy. Switch to Emancipation during your end game war. Unhappiness will cripple the AI and the AI never researches Democracy before you unless you are very behind them. If this happens, switch to Space Race mode. You’ll probably lose anyway but if you can raze 1-2 of their production cities, you’ll have a chance. Pure peace/Space Race is usually a loser unless you have the tech/production advantage but if you have the advantage you wouldn’t be building the ship. Only other way is to have friends you can bribe into a war and if you’ve been following my guide, there’s no one left.
17. End Game War
If you weren’t the tech leader then your final opponent will have rifles and cavalry slightly before you or around the same time. If you chose Catherine or England, this is not a problem. Cossacks v. Cavalry = ~90% win ratio. Redcoats v. Rifles or cavalry = ~75% win ratio. An end game against Mansa is a breeze because he may be up in tech but he doesn’t build an army. Amass troops and go for the kill. Monty/Huana is different. They will have a troop advantage. I have won games where my army was listed as 500,000 and Monty was rate 850,000. I still won. The key is winning 5-1 or better and that is very doable.
You must declare war first so the war is fought on your terms. Usually they have a very profitable buddha/hindu shrine. If that city is close, take that one first. If the culture is too strong then raze it and get peace quickly. It will seriously cripple his economy. Put 5-7 rifles in your border cities and keep 5 or so in your capital in case of a sneak attack. Do not pillage. You do not want your guys out in the open.
The AI will slam your border cities with troops. Let them attack you. Let them pillage. They’re border cities, they suck anyway. After their units are injured, finish them off but leave the last catapult in the stack so your units do leave the safety of the city. After you fight off the first and second waves, dangle a worker out in the field. They will send in a lone cavalry or rifle to take your worker. Then take out their rifle with your cossack and move back into the city. Repeat. Eventually you will lead the troop category or at least be even. When this happens you can attack with impunity. They will keep 95% of their troops in cities on defense. Go on a rampage. Turn your culture up as high as you can afford to seal the domination win. You should get a victory around 1100 to 1300 AD.
18. Slam your flag into the ground and watch the world turn red
Diplomacy: The key to the military win is to fight wars on your terms. Always be the attacker, never the attackee. This is accomplished by being strong and making friends. Except for morons like Alex, civs will not attack you if you have a high % land/pop, share a religion or a military tech advantage. Share a religion with the civ you fear. Give them tribute whenever they ask. Just be sure to cancel the one way Gold trade after 10 turns. Stay on the warpath and you will only have 1-2 civs to fear and one will be an enemy of the other. Turn one against the other and profit.
You can bribe Alex to attack his “friend” Monty. Then wait 5 turns and back stab Alex. Alex will hate you but your relations with Monty will go up. (-1 war ally, +4 mutual enemy). You can take Alex’s established cities which are immediately profitable while Alex pillages and razes Monty’s cities. Both enemies get weak and you win.
Pyramids: If you lose out on the pyramids and they are built on the other side of the world, don’t quit the game. Use hereditary rule for the +happiness. It is very satisfying to miss out on them and still win. It’s much, much harder but it can be done.