About 2 months ago, after winning a tough setup monarch game with ease (don’t get me wrong, it took plenty of attempts to do that), I decided to try my hand playing online. In those 60 odd days, I have discovered three things about online Civ 4:
A) Gamespy is a steaming pile of monkey plop (but that’s not what we’re discussing here thank God! )
B) I play Civ much better than the average online player (although I am by no means the best of the best or anything, I have my awful games as well as my good ones)
C) A lot of players try using strategies that work offline but fail miserably against aggressive, thinking humans.
So, I decided to compile this little list of the 10 most common mistakes I see mainly-offline-players make when playing online. I confidently postulate that a player who can win on noble will be significantly, SIGNIFICANTLY, better than the average online player if they can avoid making any of the following boo-boos:
1) Rushing to found an early religion without mysticism
It’s very simple: if you do not start with mysticism, and two other non-teamed civs do, your only chance of getting one of the early two religions is if they both go for the same one. Even then, you can lose out. In the above scenario, you are significantly less than 50% likely to get one of the first 2 religions. If you desperately need an early religion online (and most times, you don’t: rarely have I had a game go on long enough for the religious bonuses to make a big difference), be spiritual. Otherwise, change strat.
2) Starting to build wonders that have been available for a while.
If the pyramids have been available to build for 10 turns before you start, don’t you think someone might just get there first? Huh? So often I hear people say “Oh how unlucky was I, I missed by 1 turn.” It’s not luck buddy, it’s called lack of planning (yes, i had this happen to a team-mate today, a team-mate who told us how great he was at the start…and died first well before 500 AD). If you start building a wonder late, expect to lose it, ESPECIALLY if your civ is not industrious and an opponent’s is. Pretty simple stuff, and yet why do I see people make this mistake every time I play online?
3) Fail to build a military.
This is by far and away the most common and most dangerous mistake to make. In fact, it’s so common that I can’t remember an online game where it hasn’t affected someone.
It is all well and good building a solid economy at the start. It is also all well and good building wonders. But, when your opponent who has diverted his hammers into axes instead of large triangular shaped tombs comes knocking at your door, those pyramids and libraries are just gonna stand there and let themselves be captured without so much as lifting a brick to stop it.
The AI only tries to win a space race victory. Sure, it can backdoor its way to another type of win (usually time), but it only plays for space. Humans online, on the other hand, almost invariably play for conquest. In fact, you can safely assume that anyone who is not on your team plans to destroy you, and you’ll be right 99.9% of the time. Additionally, if you lose a city to the AI, if it was important it’ll normally remain for recapture (or you can reload, if you don’t mind being a wee bit lame). Human’s raze, most of the time, and there are, obviously, no reloads. Do I need to tell you that if you lose your capital online, you are basically dead?
EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DO IN AN ONLINE GAME SHOULD BE DONE TO INCREASE YOUR MILITARY!!! This does not necessarily mean you should build units exclusively (although at least one or two cities probably should): increasing commerce increases money which allows more troop upgrades, building forges or the Heroic Epic allows quicker army building, happiness resources allow more tiles worked which can increase both commerce and hammers etc etc. But remember: EVERYTHING is simply a step on the path to military might. If a decision you make does not further your military cause in either short or long term, rethink it.
As an example, I recently played a 6 player ffa on a large continents map. I declared war on England in 1580. I had somewhere in the region of 30 cossacks (playing as Catherine). England’s defences? One swordsman per city, accompanied by a whole archer in the capital (oooooh!). In 1580. Shortest war I’ve ever had…
4) Attempting to win by space, time or culture
Do I actually need to explain why this is a bad idea online? Everyone gets told when you are close to achieving those goals. Everyone will declare war on you as soon as you are. You will not be able to achieve these goals while keeping a comparable military to a human warmonger, and you will be crushed.
Maybe a real expert (faaaaar better than myself) could pull this off. Unless you are that expert, you win by eliminating your opponents. End of story.
5) Not looking at the game setup properly
Cast your mind back to point 3, to the story of that 6 man ffa. Why did England only have swordsmen in her cities? Because the player involved was going for a cultural victory (which, as we now know, is a mistake 99% of the time anyway). What makes this particular mistake even worse? CULTURAL VICTORY WAS BLOODY DISABLED IN GAME SETTINGS!!!!
If you don’t want to look like an idiot, check the game settings before it starts. Please. I’d advise paying particular attention to whether barbs are on or off (and frankly MP should have no barbs, because they can be horribly unfairly distributed on some types of map i.e. the earth map, england will get none, russia will be swamped).
6) Not assisting allies in a team game
A lot of online games are played either 2v2v2v2v2 (etc) or 3v3. This makes research go a lot faster, and having others to share in the glory/blame can be a lot of fun (and provides a good excuse for defeat too!) However, it becomes significantly less fun when you realize that you’ve joined a 3v3 game and gotten lumbered with two players who, with the exception of combined research, are basically treating it as a ffa.
In a 3v3, the team that attacks first is very likely to concentrate its forces on ONE opposing team member. Now, should that mean that the one team mate should fight off the troops of three opponents single handed? It shouldn’t, but it often does.
If a teammate is under attack, and you are not, send what you can to him ASAP. Money is good. Troops are, obviously, superb. Any happiness resources or health resources you can possibly do without are also great. Fact is, you lose your third team mate, you have 2 researchers v 3. Put another way, lose the first team member, lose the game 99% of the time. If a teammate is under attack, YOU are under attack!
7) Trading with players who are beating you
If you’re playing to win, you’re playing to conquer. We’ve established as much. That means that the person offering you the trade is at some point planning to attack you. Now, that’s not a problem if you consider yourself to be ahead in military. However, if THEY are ahead in military, odds are that the trade they are offering will benefit them more than you (if it doesn’t, you’re probably against a rather inexperienced player…or noob, if you’d prefer ).
I’m not going quite as far as to say you should absolutely never ever ever trade with a more powerful civ online…but I would be wary to the extreme. At least consider it carefully before you do, as I have been able to get people to give me iron for fish in the past, while playing as Rome. Can you see why that might not be a great idea?
8) Neglecting to build a navy on a map with lots of ocean
It’s easier to sink a fleet carrying 20 redcoats/panzers/cossacks than it is to kill 20 redcoats/panzers/cossacks. You should keep that in mind if the map suggests amphibious invasions are likely. Remember, a human will probably use far, far more military to attack you than the AI ever does, and if you can kill multiple units in one foul swoop in a ship battle, you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself.
9) Waiting too long to go to war
Attack as soon as you have the advantage. Don’t hang on…and on…and on until you feel you have an absolutely brutal military…because if your opponent is competent his military should have grown at a similar rate. If you have the advantage (first to liberalism, for instance), press it ASAP. If not, better get a move on, because your opponent will be after you soon…
10) Not passwording your civ at the start of the game
OK, this one isn’t really a game issue, but still, do you realize how irritating it is to have people constantly joining the game when its in progress? Very, is the short answer. But if everyone passworded their civ like the game prompts you to, it wouldn’t happen. So please, for the sake of others, password your civ. You’ll be glad you did, trust me.
Whew, that took ages and its bloody hot in my PC room right now and I’m all sweaty and desperate to take a bath! However, in conclusion I just want to remind you of point 3: it is your military might that decides whether you win online. No military? No chance. If you pick up nothing else from this essay (because it is an essay ), pick up on that!
Any and all feedback gladly accepted provided it ain’t rude.