Monarch Strategy — Condensed

Ok, I’m feeling all validated from the quick responses to my new threads (I’m new to the forum) so I’ve decided to try something a bit more extensive. I spent the entire day at work yesterday working my way through all 14 pages of this forum and gleaned everything I could pertaining to monarch- or similar-level games. (you can tell how much my job motivates me. fortunately my boss is in another city). the results are below, with a focus on the early game and a special mention for cultural victories. all of this material is entirely other people’s…I came up with nothing on my own, I only interpreted it. I’d love to hear feedback, critiques or rants.

  1. Early expansion
  2. City planning
  3. Early wonders
  4. Religion spread
  5. Diplomacy
  6. Island games
  7. Cultural victories

BONUS: the Killer Kremlin

1. Early expansion

One no-brainer here is forest chopping. I don’t think anyone will dispute that at Monarch and higher some chopping is necessary. The big decision is how far to take it: go for the big land grab and end up with a lot of tiny cities and high maintenance cost, or stop after setting up a core 3 to 4 and concentrate on building your heavy-hitting cities. I found that chopping heavily with 2 to 3 workers per city until 3 or 4 good starting locations are settled worked extremely well. I saved a few forests for wonders, and because I chopped them in my core cities I was able to start out with a very strong triumvirate of production, commerce and Great Person farming. The one thing to prioritize, of course, is resources. If you’re going to stay relatively small at the beginning, you need bronze or preferably iron for expanding further into enemy territory when your economy and production’s going. Stone and marble make a huge difference as well, as they usually determine whether you’ll go for the early wonders or not.

Once the core cities are in place, I prefer to settle 2 to 3 more in an “outer ring”, leaving room for further cities in the middle. This way you push the borders out as far as possible and then back-fill the space that’s left. This is assuming an ideal starting area–it rarely pans out exactly that way. I rarely chop rush expansion at this stage, but will if I’m racing for a critical spot. Maintenance cost is the decision-maker here. I believe it’s a judgment call, based on where your tech is at and how well you need to defend your border cities. If your army is significantly weaker or out-dated compared to the enemies on the border, holding back is probably wiser until you have a stronger military/tech position.

2. City Planning

The biggest thing I learned from all my post-crawling is the value of specializing cities. I believe a good general ratio is: 1 GP farm, 2 production cities, 3 commerce cities. The GP farm needs heaps of food to allow for specialists, and ideally a couple of hills to allow ongoing production–little else. Production cities should have several mined hills and enough farms to keep them going. Commerce cities focus on cottages, of course–ideally on tiles that already have a commerce point if you’re a Financial civ. I like to lay out enough farms to keep the food level at +3.

Once you’ve decided on these, build national and great wonders in them accordingly. Add great people to boost finance and research (and culture, if you’re playing for that victory). Use great engineers to build wonders.

3. Early Wonders

It’s all about stone and marble. If you don’t have either of these, the value of building early wonders at this difficulty level becomes questionable. Conversely, if you have both, you’re set for some big advantages.

Stonehenge is so easy to get, even without stone, it’s crazy to pass up. The AI doesn’t seem to make it a big priority, but it’s invaluable in blocking off your territory and keeping the expanding enemy at bay. It also means you can access the juicy land tiles in your newest cities very early, without having to spend time on obelisks; this is a big, big advantage in those last-built, vulnerable border towns.

If you have stone, the Pyramids are hard to pass up, even with a lot of chopping. I always save forest for this, as it’s big and easy to lose to the AI. The benefit of switching to Representation once you get it is huge: the added happiness means your core cities will grow unimpeded throughout the early game, allowing you to beef up production and, consequently, research and military. The added science bonus for specialists (and you should have some in your GP farm by now) also goes a long way to gaining a strong tech foothold. If you manage the Great Library down the road, and/or the Mercantilism civic, it really takes off.

Finally, another favorite is the Oracle. Marble makes it easy to build in your production city, hopefully with a few forests to chop held for the occasion. Oracle gives you a free tech and, depending on where your opponents’ tech is at, possibly the founding of a religion. You’re given the opportunity to choose the most expensive bonus tech as well, so you can’t lose.

In my last game I managed to build all three of these before I settled my third city. I was extremely lucky, and had marble and stone close by. I started alone on an island, so this might have something to do with it (I believe the AI compensates you for island starts with better starting resources/map tiles). I was wary of sacrificing so much expansion to building these, but the results more than paid off. By the time the other civs found my island, I was in first place.

4. Religion Spread

Spreading religion is good for a bunch of reasons:

  • If you found your own, it means big money. even if you didn’t, you may capture a holy city (or two, or more!) and still get the cash bonus.
  • Diplomacy! alliances almost always stack up along religious lines, so plan to be pals with at least one of the strongest opponents. Switching religions to match an opponent is painless if you spread it first to all your own cities, and they’ll love you for it.
  • Espionage: successful missionaries provide a view of the city’s forces and the surrounding area. (they may also allow you to view the city screen–I’ve actually forgotten to try this! somebody help me out, here).
  • Culture: spreading three religions within your borders is key to a cultural win (see the Cultural Win section below).

5. Diplomacy

There aren’t a lot of surprises here. Align your religion with the heavy hitters, keep trades going continuously (even at a loss), give them what they want in tribute as often as you can (without giving away important techs) and try to build up a heavy cash reserve for instigating wars and other deviousness. My impression is that a diplomatic victory at monarch or higher is extremely difficult, but I’m starting a thread on this to find out.

6. Island Games

I used to restart whenever I found myself alone on an island. No more. Being alone on an island gives you two big advantages: you don’t have to spend money or research on military, other than to defend against and eventually conquer the barbarians, and you don’t need to expand quickly. I didn’t realize how advantageous it is to expand slowly until I tried it. It means you can keep your tech level at 70-80% until your entire island is filled. This goes a long way in making up for the lack of early tech trading.

The disadvantages are (as I just mentioned) a total lack of early tech and resource trading with the AI players, and hitting a brick wall expansion-wise when your island’s filled.

For these two reasons, I think islands are custom-made for cultural wins. You can specialize your technology to focus on culture, civics and key wonder building since you don’t need any military defense, and you don’t need to be a contender in the tech race since you’ll switch to 90-100% culture 2/3rds of the way through anyway. Which brings us to the next section:

7. Cultural Victories

I didn’t think cultural victories were even feasible at higher levels, and had no idea how fun they are to play until I came across an excellent post on the strategy behind them. Sorry to the author…you deserve heaps of credit for this one. In a nutshell:

  • Plan on having nine cities or more. some can be crap. more on this later.
  • Go for Drama early so you can start out with theatres quickly for a big long-running bonus.
  • Gear at least one GP farm to spit out almost nothing but great artists (building 1 or 2 appropriate wonders there will accomplish this).
  • Choose three cities from the beginning that will be your cultural winners, and build national/great wonders to maximize their culture. My three winning cities were production, commerce and GP-oriented, respectively. My GP farm had heaps of cultural specialists–you need the specialists here anyway to pump up the GP output. My production city built wonders to raise the culture rating, and I money-rushed and great-engineer-rushed wonders in my commerce city to raise ITS culture rating.
  • Join a few great artists to your culture cities early on to even out the rate at which they climb, but hold back at least half a dozen or so for endgame culture-bombs. They provide less culture overall, but it’s not always easy to predict which cities will need the boost.
  • Spread at least two other non-state religions to all 9 cities. there is an “advanced” religious building for each religion that gives a 50% bonus to a city’s culture. the trick is that you can build 1 for every 3 temples of the corresponding religion you own. This is why 9 cities are optimal. 12 is likely too high in maintenance. A couple of the nine can be paltry, and settled late. All they really need to do is build a temple! Nine temples of each religion will allow you to build all three advanced religious buildings in each of your cultural cities.
  • Once you get to riflemen, set your research to 0% (or 10%, if you have to) and max out the culture. If you’re at a decent spot in the tech race, by the time the AI players have infantry and tanks it will be too late. If you’re on an island, it’s even safer. Build wealth in as many of your other cities as is feasible to help keep the culture slider high.

This formula worked perfectly for me in an island start on monarch. I finished around 1950AD, while the AI was still several big pieces away from finishing the spaceship. A couple of the weaker AIs attacked me, but I easily repelled their landing parties until I could sue for peace. (Interestingly, the only civs to declare war on me were Jewish and I was the founder of Islam. Coincidence?). The biggest problems I had were gearing the GP farm to spit out only great artists (there were a few scientists, prophets and engineers before I could get a culture-generating wonder built there), and my inability to spread non-state religions until the other civs found me.

Elizabeth is tailor-made for a cultural win. Financial means you can get the techs you need at a decent rate and get massive culture when you max out the slider in the endgame. Philosophical means heaps of great artists (and other GPs to ramp up the tech level and rush cultural wonders). And her UU is redcoat (rifleman). Perfect–it’s the last and best unit you need!

I really loved playing a game with minimal war and no ulcers over the mid to late game tech race. It was fast because there were no military units and wars to contend with, and it wasn’t boring because the building, research and GP placement is so strategic. The score is abysmal–because you stop researching 2/3rds of the way through the game–but there’s nothing wrong with being the underdog!

BONUS: The Killer Kremlin

I had to include this in the post, just because it sounded so cool. I’ve never tried it, but the original poster used it consistently on Emperor level.

Make a bee-line for Communism as soon as you can. Make sure your bank account’s fat by the time you get there (keep the slider down a bit the last few turns to make sure you have heaps of money when you get the tech). Rush the Kremlin when you get it, and set your research to 0% the next turn. Set all your cities to start building financial buildings, and on the following turn rush those too, taking advantage of the new cheaper cost. Keep the tech slider at 0% for as long as you’re comfortable to maximize your cash and buy, buy, buy!

Well, that’s my epic. I’d love to hear feedback on it, and anything critical I may have missed. Hope you enjoyed it!

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