Deity – One City Challenge Strategy

This is a strategy to get a deity level domination victory using one city. It’s designed to not need any special resources or any world wonders. It makes use of a “permanent alliance slingshot” to enable domination. There are no blatant exploits used and no specific map size or number of opponents are required, however it is easier if you use more than the default number of opponents recommended for a given map size – the more cities any one AI controls the more obscene their research and production will be. A small map with 18 opponents is recommended for your first attempt, if you haven’t beaten deity before or if you haven’t played a one city challenge before. Note that this strategy will allow a space or diplo victory, however to achieve either you will almost certainly need military superiority to distract (read: beat down) the AI, hence the main focus is on a domination win.

Overview of the strategy

  1. Survival phase. No worker or initial land improvements. Period from 4000bc-1ad will typically be one continuous defensive war. The goal during this phase will be to focus on tech, using a trick or two to keep tech parity, while surviving and leveling a unit up to unlock heroic epic and Westpoint
  2. Infrastructure phase. Tech parity with the AI will be lost around 1ad, and the focus shifted to infrastructure development including land and national wonders until 1400ad (epic).
  3. Offensive phase. A PA will be obtained around 1400-1500AD (epic), recovering tech parity. At this point the “national wonder multiplied” production ability of OCC will be leveraged to churn out high XP units and flatten the AI before they pull too far ahead again.

Map settings

  • Map – Pangaea – We want brutal. No girly hiding across the ocean for us. More to the point with only one city we wont be able to construct boats unless we start on the coast.
  • Allow permanent alliances checked – this is the one ‘non-default’ setting used.
  • One city challenge checked.
  • No cheating checked.
  • No reloading, ever (this game is going to involve 293802938 fights, and you’ll go nuts even trying to reload)
  • Speed – I like epic, so your dates may vary if you prefer other.

Start location

We’re only going to have one city, so one ice tile and a beaver isn’t going to work. A reasonable start location would be something like 3 hills, 4 forests, 3 good food tiles (can be floodplains). Notice this isn’t much to ask for – i’d say that’s a fairly typical start – just avoid the really poor ones. If regenerating maps offends you then be prepared to walk before settling (actually, run, don’t walk).

The ‘ideal’ location

  1. All other things being equal you want as much food as possible. Forget about happiness resources, food resources are much more valuable.
  2. Build on a hill. This is not optional. Typically you will fight outnumbered and often out-teched – you will need the hill defense bonus. If it’s by freshwater even better of course.
  3. Coast is fine if you meet the above 3 hill/4 forest production requirement – there is a definite advantage in having some of your food unpillagable by land forces and vice versa.

Leader selection

Saladin (spi/phi) would be my first choice at deity. Philosophical because we’re going to have a lot of specialists working throughout the game, and spiritual because it’s so flexible, allowing civics to be optimized for production & science bursts which will be alternated. (if using philosophical, look carefully at what each early GP can discover, and (more importantly) what you could trade it for. Likely your second GS can discover philosophy at a point where no-one has it. With some quick trading you can probably get almost every known tech in exchange for it, often 100+ turns of research in one hit. Any other leader will likely work however you may want to tweak the strategy to leverage their strengths and be prepared to be behind on tech.

Land improvement

  1. This is going to sound radical, but you don’t need a worker much before 1ad (more specifically when you get feudalism), and you sure don’t want to chop any trees. Trees are un-pillageable production. They slow enemy horses & tanks down, and give you health bonuses (health will be your limiting growth factor for 95% of the game) Three hills and 4 forests (assume we built on one hill, so really 2 production hills) will be enough to pump out a modern unit every turn, once optimized. If you cant resist the urge to make a worker before then don’t ever automate him – or he’ll plant girly cottages over your fine manly trees before you know it.
  2. Don’t develop tiles at all unless they have a resource on them (i.e. Don’t even put a road there). Ideally we want trees everywhere in the fat cross, and any development will stop them growing on empty tiles. Ditto, avoid the temptation of chopping forests on hills to build mines, as the AI loves to pillage, bomb, sabotage and generally destroy your land – you don’t want to have to park a SAM on every tile later – it’s bad enough trying to guard the 3-4 resource tiles you’ll probably have.
  3. Feel free to develop sea food resources

World Wonders

On deity this refers to you wondering how the f*ck the AI can build them so fast. You can sometimes go all out and get one, but you’ll cripple yourself too badly in other areas by doing so. However, if you’re below 100% science feel free to put some hammers into each wonder as it becomes available, then use that cash to keep science at 100%.

Build and Research Order

Our first goal is to build a library as early as possible, however we need to take a specific route to get there:

Build a barracks

Research hunting, research archery (co-ordinate to finish on same turn as barracks ideally)
Build 3 archers (We cant afford the gamble of going for bronze or iron working before the first attacks start, so archery is the only safe bet. We want to be attacked, as we need to level some units to unlock heroic epic & westpoint – doing so before any land is developed and AI armies are still small is optimal. 3 archers will get you attacked with a good chance of surviving, 4 or more tends to delay attacks and increase the odds of the AI waiting till it has swordsmen. Better to let them attack right away and sue for peace once the swords arrive than have to survive 10-15 turns of getting your butt kicked. Pre building an extra archer (stop production with 1 turn remaining and leave in queue) adds some insurance.

Give your archers city defense 1 and fortify them in the city (don’t move them out for any reason – we’re defending only at this point). Next promotions are city defense 2 & 3 then hill defense 1 & 2 as that bonus stacks. Send your initial warrior out to scout – his goal is to make contact with every civ before he dies, if possible.

When you start building your archers research animal husbandry, then writing. If you have sea food resources then go fishing, pottery, writing instead (little slower this route but not much).

After the archers are completed if you have remaining turns before writing is complete then depending on your judgment of the situation either build more archers, scouts, or workboats. If you are unsure, or have nothing else useful to build then build archers. Try not to exceed your free unit cap though, we cant afford to drop science yet.

Secondary goals during this phase:

Get food production up high enough to support 2 scientists as soon as library is done.
Make a scout and try to map as much as possible. Soon we will need to know who borders who, who has what strategic resources and where. Also hopefully we will be one of the first to research paper – which is often some easy gold for selling our map to civs who are missing areas. If your immediate neighbors are all at war with you and you cant get a scout out don’t worry too much though – just a bonus if you can.

You next goal is to research alphabet as early as possible and build some GP points (equally critical). This boils down to keeping 2 scientist specialists working for the next x turns, uninterrupted.

It’s likely you will be under attack for most of this time, and your production will be low. You can still build a few useful things, but try to avoid removing those scientists unless a real emergency occurs. Use judgment to build replacement archers, walls, obelisk, granary, lighthouse, harbor etc – whichever you need the most.

Secondary goals

Get open borders with everyone
Finish scouting all the land and consider deleting scout in favor of +1 archer
Start deciding who you want to make a PA with later, and agree to absolutely everything this AI asks of you (see later section for details) – having any red items on your relationship with this civ will make things harder/more expensive later. Ideally you want someone a long distance away, ideally with a religion you have access to, and ideally who likes a civic which isn’t too useless (incase you need to switch to it to boost relations later) – if you look up the civilopedia entry for a leader it says which civic is their favorite.

Once you get alphabet start trading as much as you can. Any trade puts you better off than when you started it. Plan ahead though, you cant trade bronze working till 1 turn after mining, iron working till 1 turn after bronze etc – so Don’t trade your assets away too cheaply on the first round.

All other things being equal, trade with the most backward nations first (want everyone close together in score, and want the latest techs from the lead researchers not the old techs from them). You ideally want to plan 5-10 trades ahead. Think of it as a game within a game – your goal is collect every tech, even though some appear initially un-obtainable.

Leave your scientist specialists in place and research drama next. Monarchy will be a tempting alternative but has a much lower trade value as every AI will have it by the time you do, whereas drama (which you want early for globe theatre anyway) is much easier to trade for other techs.

When you get your first great scientist build an academy

Once you finish drama and have your first Great Scientist then drop your scientist specialists for a while to focus on production (build a theatre and the globe theatre unless you need something else more urgently – globe allows a lot of whipping in emergencies).
Back fill any buildings which will give a noticeable benefit and raise your population to the max happiness cap (ready for caste system when we’ll switch everything back to science shortly).

If you get monarchy before you’ve built the globe theatre then switch to hereditary rule for the extra happiness.

Keep pop maxed to the limits available. Depending on how many trees and food you may need an aqueduct, granary etc – build what you need most. Don’t stress too much about health cap though – it’s not nearly as damaging as happiness cap, which is why our main goal is to get the globe theatre up asap.

Note that once you build the globe theatre you can trade away all your luxury resources for health resources ideally, or sell them to the highest bidder if not (2 gold a turn is still better than nothing) – you have no more happiness worries at this point, and your pop is limited solely by health and food.

Next you want to research code of laws and then civil service (caste system/bureaucracy are both very powerful in an occ).

Once you get feudalism (likely via trade, as all AI will have it before you) pay to upgrade an archer to a longbow – the AI will sniff around you but the sight of a longbow seems to make them much less likely to attack any time soon. Congratulations, you’ve survived phase 1, and can now relax on research somewhat and catch up on infrastructure.

Consider building a worker or three at this point and start improving your land (don’t chop any trees in the fat cross). Keep some gold on hand for emergency upgrades of more archers to longbows if possible.

Once you get code of laws max your scientist specialists and research civil service (bureaucracy) as soon as possible.

A mini-pattern now exists for a while

  1. Do a science burst (caste system+representation+pacifism*) and use your (hopefully already maxed) population as scientists (don’t be afraid of temporary starvation if it saves a turn) to discover things.
  2. Trade techs for gold/other techs whenever profitable.
  3. Do a production burst (org religion* for buildings, theocracy* for units) whenever you have something valuable to build (slightly subjective depending on exact situation – a forge is a good generic first item if in doubt).
    *Need to turn on a religion to use these – don’t do so if it will annoy too many people. Religions start wars faster than anything else – if in doubt, avoid them.

Research (or trade) order

Paper (nb, trade/sell your map to anyone who wants it)
Education (for University and Oxford university – build both as soon as available)
Liberalism (free religion for tech bonus when not using a religious multiplier)
Astronomy (build observatory asap)
Scientific method (see own and enemy oil – strategically critical)
Communism (to ensure PA is available asap)
All of these have a decent trade value. The main tech you want to trade for is military tradition (westpoint and defensive pacts) which should be easy via this list
Build monasteries when you get a religion
Build heroic epic once unlocked (see if anyone will trade you marble for something)
If your borders are being squashed (eg small map/18) then hermitage may become a priority
Possibly build more workers, if you have a lot of good tiles unimproved – feel free to chop outside of the fat cross (but try to wait till producing something with a bonus such as heroic epic with marble). Once the AI gets spies you will want enough workers to build your best land improvement in one turn. For example on epic speed if you have oil then you will want 6 workers so you can rebuild your well ‘instantly’, so you are never without oil. You’ll find that stacking 20 military units on the tile isn’t enough to prevent the AI spies taking it out every other turn.
Build Ironworks once available
Switch to environmentalism as soon as available
Build hospital and red cross when available
Build pentagon if available (often your first world wonder but not guaranteed)
Things to ignore – temples, market, grocer (unless you have those goods which give +health), bank, courthouse. Obviously create military units throughout as needed to replace casualties but avoid exceeding your free troop limit unless a situation is really looking grim.

You may or may not get to the end of this list before you get your PA, and switch to offense, so some notes on key concepts may be useful at this point:


This is where the game will be won or lost at deity. It’s the one area where you can compete with the AI.

Decisions which demand you side with Civ A or Civ B
-“declare war on x”
Only ever agree to a war if it’s your PA target who’s asking

-“stop trading with x”
This boils down to knowing who you want to keep happy. You literally want to write down a pecking order of who you least want to annoy, working downwards to folks you don’t care about annoying, and then use it to accept/deny every request based on siding with the higher person on your list – consistency is key here.

Decisions where an AI just wants something
-give us tech x
-give us 100 gold
-give us resource z
-convert to civic x
-convert to religion y

These are an easy way to increase relations and are typically worth agreeing to. The one exception to this is if they ask for an expensive tech (unless its your PA target civ asking). If you agree to supply a resource be aware you can cancel it after 10 turns, and often charge them for it at that point.

If you do refuse to give a tech then its often worth seeing if the civ has something to trade for it. This wont salvage the politics, but it does alert you to a potential tech trade.

Tech trading

When you get to the later techs there can be some advantage to holding them back. Until 1000ad or so though just trade anything you can with anyone who will – they’re all so cheap that an AI who wants them will have them before you know it.

Once you get currency or paper Don’t be afraid to trade techs for cash whenever you need it, and maps if you haven’t got around to making a scout yet. Often by selling a tech cheaply for whatever gold a few civs have you can get enough to trade the tech and gold to an advanced civ for another tech.

Don’t expect a fair deal from the AI. They’ll want to rip you off on each trade offering say a 1200 beaker tech for a 1800 beaker tech. This is a huge plus in your favor, as it severely limits how much they trade amongst themselves. You can trade a tech to Civ-A and contrary to popular opinion he wont give it to Civ-B until Civ-B can offer fair value for it. Meanwhile you can trade it to 5 civs taking a loss on each deal but adding up to a large net gain. Note however that sometimes you can get them to increase their offer fairly significantly or at least throw in their map and any cash they have. In the early game ultimately you want to take whatever deal they offer – because you’ll hopefully get 5 other deals for the same tech, and often some deals from the techs you got in trade. Note you want to avoid techs which the AI beelines for – as they will have no trade value.


First Don’t even think about founding one. Second, the benefits of +1 happiness is worthless. The only real advantages then are org religion (+25% building, theocracy (+2 unit XP) and pacifism (+100% gpp). None of these are worth starting a war over. So, 80%+ of the time you Don’t want any state religion except in the very rare scenario where the whole world has the same religion.

Typically you will find half the world is Buddhist, and the other half is Hindu. In this scenario, you want to have no state religion. If someone asks you to switch to a religion then feel free to do so – it’s a free and easy +1 to relations (just make sure to switch back as soon as available). If you like micromanaging then perhaps consider switching to Buddhism when trading with Buddhist civs and vice versa with Hindu ones a few turns later – personally I haven’t resorted to doing this, except when it comes to starting wars or making defensive pacts or PA’s.

Preparing for defensive pacts and permanent alliance

As early in the game as possible, pick one leader, who’s borders are not going to be near yours anytime soon (say by 1200ad) and do anything they ask. Yes! for 4 thousand years you get to be their biatch. Aside of agreeing to their demands (even going to war) the main task here is to always monitor which civ they dislike the most – and Don’t trade with that civ. Definitely never trade with anyone they are at war with. By 1200 or 1300 ad you want them totally happy with you. This will often require that you spend time using their favorite religion and/or favorite civic. As soon as its available, ask them for a defensive pact. If you somehow upset them and there is a red item or two you may need to give them a gift (trade techs with others for a gift they Don’t have, or sell techs to others for a cash gift. One decent tech or around 800 gold is usually enough to add +2 or more to your relations at this point.

The PA stage can be difficult if you’ve never got a PA before, so to walk through an example:
Lets say you want a PA with Catherine, because you like the way she shakes her hair at you and her lands are far away from yours.

First, from 4000bc do everything she asks you to do. Wars, trades, giving her tech, doesn’t matter – just suck it up for now.

Second, from 4000bc always check to see if she’s at war before you trade with someone (this hurts relations real bad and I cant find any trick to having it forgiven).
Third, around 500ad start using hereditary rule (her favorite civic).
Fourth, around 500ad, if available, convert to her religion.
Obviously monitor your friendliness and adjust the above as required. Be aware that sometimes civs will drop their religion as soon as they get the free religion civic available around this time – so Don’t rely too much on the religious element of the modifiers.
Fifth, as soon as available get a defensive pact in place (find a gift to bribe with if its red)
Sixth, after 20 turns or so start checking if a PA is available, and plan to have a gift ready for a final bribe just incase its red (once the PA is signed you will both get all the other parties techs, so any tech gift here isn’t being wasted).
If a third party offers you a defensive pact then don’t take it! If someone declares war on them you’ll declare war automatically on that person and break your DP with your target civ, possibly losing relations – in a worst case scenario you could end up at war with your target, which would be er “strategically sub-optimal, Sir”.

Assuming you’ve been nice to the target since the start of the game and are at +10-15 relations you’ll find they agree easily to the DP and PA regardless of how weak or technologically backwards you are – as they like you more than anyone else.

So, you now have a PA. Things to note:

  1. You can now ask the AI for any of their resources and they will give them to you. (so Don’t take their only coal and trade it away!).
  2. You can see the ai’s cities (check out that growth and production!).
  3. You can see what the ai is researching and ask them to change it.
  4. Your research is added together (makes sense to always research the same thing as them for faster times).
  5. Your relations with other AI’s has just dropped somewhat. They’re all somewhat miffed that you made a PA with someone else.
  6. You probably now have access to bronze, iron, coal and maybe oil for the first time. If you have coal and railroads Don’t forget to railroad your lumbermills at this point.
  7. Team projects are now gray if one of you is building it (hint: build the pentagon yourself as soon as available, if your pet AI starts it and allocates to some backwater dump of a city it really sucks if they lose that city in a war).
  8. The AI will insist on giving you any spare happiness resources they have, even though you don’t need them. If you refuse they will keep asking until you go insane, so you might as well just take them when offered and be done with it.


Once your key infrastructure list is complete and you have your PA signed, you’re ready to lay some smack down.

Now you have coal and iron and railroad your military production bonuses will be huge (better even than the AI) viz:

Forge +25%
Ironworks +25%
Coal +50%
Iron +50%
Heroic epic +100%
bureaucracy +50%

In short, you only need like 20 base production (you did save that tree, right?) in order to output a tank every turn (so keep everything in excess on science). Note that eventually the UN imposed civics will cut your production down, so get all the bonus buildings built before then if possible.

Meanwhile, the XP bonuses on those new units will be..

west point
red cross
Vassalage (IF you have enough base production to not need bureaucracy to output a unit each turn)

So 10-14 XP units, possibly with a free medic one promotion (hint, get march as a first promotion on your artillery. Your units spend a lot more time moving than anything else – and artillery doesn’t need combat bonuses as much as normal units do).

Depending on where you’re at in the tech tree you will probably now want to build artillery and tanks, maybe a few gunships if you’re low on cash (pillaging pays well..) Once you have a decent stack built don’t hang around – we need to start killing people.

Deciding who to attack first

Often there is a geographic reason to select a target. If for example they are between you and your pet AI. If not then all other things being equal, attack the most powerful civ. Typically they are the closest to a space win and/or the united nations. The one exception to this is if you’re missing strategic resources and someone close to your pet AI has them.

Again, don’t hang around as the AI can still easily out-tech you and its likely you will no longer be able to trade any techs (you’re going to be too advanced). Note that even with you and your pet AI tag-teaming research its very likely you will now fall behind rapidly in tech to someone who has more cities.

Things to note on wars:

The first 10 turns of a war are often the worst. While you’re in their lands the AI will throw every spare unit at you, and on deity they can have a lot of units. So, once you start attacking don’t offer a cease fire– kill them off after you’ve broken their back initially. Only accept a cease fire if you’re losing and need to regroup.

Often you will find the AI has half its units in its capital city while are almost unguarded. Get a stack close to the unguarded cities before you declare war and often you can take them out in the first turn of declaring. Teach them a lesson for demanding Meditation from us in 3000bc wont it.

For any important cities (those with resources or wonders or strategic location) wait until your partner civilization has troops close then send your tanks in one at a time to make sure you leave one defender alive so your partner civ can capture the city on the next turn. If you’re winning the war then this works well, as your partner civ will have units with you on the offensive. If you’re losing however it can be very hard to get your partner AI to have troops with you and you will likely have to level a few good ones to turn the war around.

Move to the next city and rinse/repeat until that civilization is dead.

Be careful of defensive pacts and other permanent alliances – Don’t start any wars vs multiple AI unless you’re ready for some heated action (specifically your partner civ may be low on defenders in all the recently captured cities and you may need to help reinforce them).


Artillery – medic 1 (free) + march. I’ve started going with combat 1 and after this 2 (instead of the obvious city raider) recently as artillery seem to have to defend themselves five times for every one time they get to attack a city.
Tanks – collateral damage is a must-have it turns them into quasi-artillery. Then city raider or combat to taste (combat for defending the stack while moving at speed 2).

Be aware at this point that your remaining threats are:

  1. An AI getting too far ahead in tech (hence you’re attacking the strongest first) – note that individual civs, and definitely PA’s can still leave you in the dust on research.
  2. The league of nations locing out all the good civics (always kills me that civs who would never normally use a civic will happily vote for it to be mandatory.. how’s that work!).

Pretty much by 1600-1800ad you should be able to see that the game is in the bag.

If you try the strategy don’t be put off if you’re last in tech, that’s pretty much normal aside of a couple of points where you can catch up (notably when you use a GS to discover philosophy and when you first make your PA). You’ll find that as you get better you’ll be closer to parity that much more often, but the game is still winnable without.

In case useful to anyone, attached is a starting save for a very solid deity start location on a small map/18 AI. This will provide about the easiest occ deity game you can get (it will still be brutal before you’re done) and would be a nice learning map. I wont say more to avoid spoilers for anyone who wants to try it. If anyone has particularly hard or easy occ start saves it would be good to post them here – occ is far more dependant on start position than a regular game is.

Comments and improvements are always welcome. Thanks to all those who provided initial feedback and are helping to fill in the gaps.

Attached File
File Type: civ4savedgame PC200 BC-4000Small18.Civ4SavedGame (42.5 KB)

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