Hi, and welcome to my first strategy guide! This guide is to help you intrepid space travelers pass me on the road (errr… space superhighway?) to Alpha Centauri. I’m going to explain my method for getting the space ship as fast as possible, for glory in the Hall of Fame.
Many players see space as their fall-back option, or as the easiest win condition when all else fails. This guide is not for you. We want an excellent space win, before 1800, on Noble difficulty.
I’ve had the urge to write this guide for a long time now, but when patch 1.61 came out, it ruined everything. Because of 1.61, this guide is bound to be controversial. I’ve finally learned to abandon hope of using my old tricks, and learned to enjoy the greater challenge I face. I think you will too. It was too easy to get the ship out before 1700 in 1.52. Here’s what changed:
Your tree chopping axes are made of nerf
Not only do you get less hammers for chopping now, it takes you longer to do it! We’re going to clear-cut the forests, eventually, but now we can take our sweet time to do it. So be it, this strategy was overpowered and overused before.
The Hall of Fame requires more AI opponents now
More opponents + less chainsaws = less land = war is not optional. Peaceful building was a phrase you’d often hear in conjunction with the space race before 1.61. Post patch, it is my contention that you must war with the AI in the beginning to get enough cities to win a fast race. They just expand too fast for any other strategy to work. I’ve never been able to diplomatically convince an AI to give me some of his/her cities. I feel foolish for trying. If anyone here can tell me how I can get 9-10 cities out on standard map size (that’s where the competition in the HoF is) without going to war, I am all ears, baby.
So, let’s get started.
Win Conditions: All enabled
New Random Seed… Off
Game Speed Marathon
Why? Because early war is a lot easier, and we’ll be able to take over a civ entirely before 1AD. The guys at Firaxis have better balanced the game speeds now, so if it weren’t for the early war, whatever game speed you prefer would probably be okay.
Map Size Standard
This guide works fine for other map sizes, but as I mentioned earlier, for now all the competition is at standard map size, so that’s what I play. I want you to play it too, because so far the competition is kinda weak. POrtiz has a 1590 win on patch 1.52. I’d like to see him pull that off in 1.61. Yes, P, if you’re reading, that IS a challenge.
Look, the Hall of Fame allows us to play without these annoying little buggers. So we’re going to! Okay?
Map Type: Continents
Continents stands out in my mind as the best map-type for our purposes.
For one, we don’t want to make everyone angry when we kill their friend. The AI is friends with whoever you attack, it seems like. This is minor, because warring on a friend is only a -1 penalty, but it is a factor. This strategy depends on no one attacking you, because your defenses are going to be very minimal.
Which brings us to point number two: the farther away the other civs are, the less likely they are to attack you. In fact, this is going to come up later in the guide.
Point three: you can adopt the dominant religion on your continent without worrying about making the other civs angry, because they haven’t met you yet, and by the time they do, you’ll be able to switch to free religion.
Pick your Civ
We have two options here. We can be risky and pick a civ that was good at the space race in 1.52, like Gandhi, Catherine, Lizzie, or the all time King, Qin. Or, we can go the safe route and pick Julius, because we just know that we will dominate whoever is unfortunate enough to be around when we get our Praetorians.
There are many threads out there about axe-rushing to early war, I won’t waste your time repeating them here. Suffice it to say, if you go with Qin, you’d better get those axes out fast, and when you’re done you’ll need to chop some settlers because the AI won’t have time to build as many juicy cities for you to steal. However, I am quite sure this strategy will still work with that method, it will just be a little harder.
Caesar’s unique unit, the praetorian, is nearly guaranteed success when it comes to early conquest, and so I’m going to focus on him. Plus, I’m pretty sure someone’s gonna come along and whup me (us?) with Qin sooner or later, so we’ll have a challenge when that happens.
Pick your opponents
Yes, it’s a big hunka burnin’ cheese, but once again, the HoF rules allow it, so it’s best to take advantage of it.
We don’t want any industrious AIs, especially if we’re gonna play Caesar. They have too much of an advantage over us for getting those early wonders out. Other than that, I don’t much care for Monty or Toku, although as long as they’re not on your continent they can actually be a help to you.
Now, I know what you’re about to say… “Well, as long as I’m picking my opponents, I can dump Izzie and Cathy like the worthless little religion founding, theocracy switching, blaming you for not having Buddhism PMS harlots they are. Not so fast, bucko. At least put in one of them, because they both like to found early religions, which makes them a good target if they’re on your continent, or a convenient scapegoat if they’re on the other side of the world. Either way, you will finally get your revenge, I Promise You.
With Caesar, we have the luxury of taking our time a bit in the early game, because no one can stand up to our Praetorians when they come. We’d prefer not to face a bunch of Axemen, but we can take them down if we have to.
Learn to adapt
I’m not a fanatic about regenerating maps. I’m not going to accept an ice/tundra starting location, and I’m not going to accept a location where the only resources I have aren’t available until calendar, but other than that, I’m flexible, and so you should be. Learning to adapt to environment is one of the most important skills in your arsenal.
So, my opening build strategy depends on my starting location. If I’m next to the sea, with a fish resource, I build a work boat. Otherwise, I start making more warriors for scouting.
Once, I had 4 gold nearby, 2 within my capital’s fat cross, 2 within the perfect distance for another city to plop down, with just enough room for expansion without overlapping tiles. Needless to say I was the first to ironworking. Since Caesar gets no financial boost for cottages, so it made sense to develop enough to build the gold mines and work them and still grow, rather than plop down a bunch of cottages right away, because the early boost was worth the later penalty.
Farms boost production by 33-100%
Slavery is the only way this strategy will work. Therefore, we want to focus mainly on population first, with the balancing interest, finances for our science output. The more citizens we have, the more we can use that whip. Don’t get addicted to stonehenge and avoid researching calendar. We need those happy faces to win.
We don’t care about founding a religion, spamming missionaries will be way too expensive in the very early game, much better to capture a holy city (with luck). With bronzeworking, we can chop out 1-2 settlers/workers to get those crucial resources we need for this strategy to be successful.
Don’t enslave them right away.
Don’t (necessarily) switch to slavery right after you get bronze working! Wait until it matters. The theory being, the earlier the anarchy, the more it will penalize you later on, because growth now means many times the growth later. Husband your farms and gold wisely in the beginning.
The Governor may be good enough
If you have the patience and skill, you should work every tile in your city manually, but only sometimes. After experience, you learn to recognize the tiles that need to be worked, and you will realize that some combination of governor’s buttons with automated citizens will often give you what you want. This is especially true if you take great care with your workers.
With your workers, you can take a lot of the stress off the governor so that even a computer could figure it out. It all depends on which resources and tiles you improve, and what you grab when you send your settlers out. Wonder hunting all the time is not a good strategy, but grabbing a few key wonders when you have a chance is a strong move.
On Noble difficulty, in the early game, the strongest move is to grab the Oracle, on the same turn as you finish Code of laws. Sometimes your resources hook up just right to do this, but you can pull this off even without marble. Gold is a big help to this strategy, so if you see it, think about doing it, but don’t count on getting the Oracle. If you have gold and good production in your capital, the boost to production will let you whip out those evil Praetorians 50% faster.
Focus on the Science
Spamming cottages isn’t good enough. We will dominate technically. If you can find a way to keep your first cities very close to you, and avoid the temptation to go a long way for that marble, stone, or banana, you may get early boosts to happy faces and healthy cheeks, with science. The -1 or -2 in the beginning will slow us down quite a bit. Since we’re taking a risky strategy by not expanding as quickly as possible, we need to use the small edges that we can get to create a larger civ in the end.
Our Praetorians will keep the peace until it doesn’t matter anymore, but if not, our catapults will be the last military unit we build. We can make the AI forget that we attacked their friend, with time. And the alphabet.
Code of laws before we fight
This is typically my research strategy in the early game:
Wheel, Agriculture, Bronze, Pottery, Animal Husbandry, Iron Working, Writing, Beeline Priesthood, Code of Laws.
After Iron working, start pumping out Praetorians (only from cities with barracks, give them City Raider I), and placing them around your first victim’s city borders, with writing and open borders, move one in to spy on what units they have. By the time we have Code of Laws, we should be near ready to attack. To have overwhelming odds of winning, we’d need about 50% more units, but 1:1 will usually win if Victim doesn’t have a good early UU. Mansa can give us trouble here.
It’s very rare indeed that we start Hinduism, Judaism, or Buddhism, so a good target is a nearby neighbor who did. We will have good relations with everyone who’s left, so spamming missionaries will allow us to run at higher research rates. It’s worth warring out of your way to get the religion if necessary, if the religion has already spread to lots of the others on your continent. If everyone is densely packed in, you may be able to take down the civ in between as well, without too much trouble, giving you two enemy capital sites and likely a boost in the form of key resources.
However, if we founded confucianism, one of our closest neighbors will do just fine.
Chopping a few forests during this time is not a bad idea, getting a few extra Praets out will allow us to have defense in our cities, and chopping the forests immediately adjacent to the city gives us extra protection in the city proper.
I like to have the war over in a few turns if possible, just enough to walk up to each city with the separate stacks of praets. Sometimes you will have to prioritize. Choose the enemy capital first, and the cities closest to your capital second. Try to take down at minimum 3-4 cities within 3 turns. At the capital, use 50% more attackers than they have defenders. At the border cities, you can usually use 1:1 or one extra attacker. You can send reinforcements from your cities, and from the enemy capital if you have a few extra there after defeating it.
Be sure to place your attackers in such a way that you only have to move one square to threaten the city itself, if possible. We’re going to take all their workers, so don’t worry about capturing them. Worry about the cities.
At the capital, just find the outside border with the minimum path to the city. Ideally, it would be towards your capital, relative to the enemy capital, with a hill, so you could see invasion/defensive forces leaving the capital, as sometimes happens.
At the border cities, start your invasion from in-between your cities and the enemy border city. If it still hasn’t gotten past the fat cross, place your troops within one square of threatening the enemy city. Sometimes, when the whole strategy comes together, you can take down the whole civ in a few turns.
If not, try to leave 1-2 rookie defenders behind in the enemy captured city (only after the whole stack has healed from capturing), and marshal your veterans together to take down the stubborn 1-3 cities who opposed your will the first time. A war that goes on past 10-15 turns is starting to become a disaster. Your enemy shouldn’t have catapults yet, if they do you messed up somewhere.
If it’s around 1ad – 200ad, and you have captured 5-6 enemy cities, for a total of 8-9, you’ve done well enough that you can pull off a space win by 1600-1800, depending on circumstances. If you need a few more cities, you may have to attack another rival right afterwards.
For the purposes of this strategy guide, The Oracle is the most important wonder of them all. It won’t kill you if you don’t get it, but you should try to get it if it is available after you beeline Priesthood, as you are researching code of laws. If you can arrange it so that you get Code of Laws, The Oracle, and 5-6 enemy cities on the same turn, well what are you doing reading this guide? Just choose civil service as your free tech, switch to Bureaucracy, enjoy the anarchy bonus of not having to pay for the maintenance of those enemy cities for a few turns, and chop some courthouses with the newly captured workers.
Sometimes we will have the chance to make the Ai fight with each other, due to our generous nature, and pleasing disposition. And Technology. The evil civs who hate everyone are good scapegoats. Blame them for everything. If they make a demand on you, do your best to get them in a war. They’ll forget about how you didn’t pay them their tribute. This may get other civs involved, friends attacking other friends, and so forth. Be careful not to upset the balance against you, while bribing other nations to war with each other. The AI just can’t balance research and war. You’ll be that much more in control, and that much more the master of the world. Try not to give up pleased relations with any but your scapegoat(s).
I sure hope you got Code of laws before you totally crashed your economy. Especially if you took down a far-off rival, you need those courthouses right away. Once you have 6 of them, build forbidden palace in the dead civ’s ex-capital (or his most central ex-city). Soon after, we will lead the world in technology.
Caesar, the maiden who never says no
When the other AIs ask you for techs, give them up. Soon you’ll be friendly with them and won’t have to worry about getting attacked. If all went well, you have a holy city, and the other civ or civs on your continent have your holy city’s religion. If this is the case, switch to that religion, and be even more friendly.
When an AI you have pleased or friendly relations with asks for a tech for free, give it to them, immediately go back into the trading table, and ask them for a favor. It can be money or a cheap tech, and they will give it to you 99% of the time, until much later in the game. Basically, you get to have your cake (good relations), and eat it too (you get something back for your generosity). It’s not as good tech-wise or economy-wise as a fair trade, but you need good relations, and it’s better than nothing. Thanks to InFlux for this tip! (original thread here: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=168208)
No GP farm
Yep. That’s right. You heard me! We only would want scientists/engineers. We can get scientists with caste system, but we have to give up slavery to do it, and since ALL of our cities are going to be science cities, we can’t afford it. Engineers don’t come for free, even with caste system. Academies are nice to have, and we’ll try to get a couple, but we’re not gonna give up both slavery, and an entire city of commerce/science to do it. We don’t need artists at all, and we only need one prophet, which is practically guaranteed anyway.
Instead, we want to get hanging gardens (+2 great engineer) and Oxford university (+1 scientist) in the same city, and we don’t want them polluted by other wonders. It’s very likely that the best place for this is your capital, since your capital is going to dwarf your other cities science-wise. Plus, your capital probably has enough food that we can run a couple scientists to try to get those academies. It’s mostly important that you get one academy, but two or three are also nice!
Legal Civic – Bureaucracy
We don’t have to have a single wonder to get an outstanding space race win. However, some are very helpful. Of the early wonders, I’d say that the Oracle is the most important for us to get, followed by the Oracle, followed by the Hanging Gardens. For the Oracle, we want to get the code of laws – civil service slingshot, described in a lot of forums. Essentially, you complete the Oracle after you have already researched Code of Laws, then choose Civil Service as your free bonus tech. For one, this will give us Bureaucracy, and for two, this will allow us to chain irrigation to our farms. Both are very important, and the sooner we get them the better.
However, don’t panic if you get beat to the Oracle, as the massive influx of gold we’ll get will allow us to run at a higher research rate.
We’ll run Bureaucracy as soon as we get it, and keep it for the entire game. This is almost a no-brainer, as all the other legal civics have something to do with military, which we don’t care about. Free speech is tempting with its +2 gold for every town, especially since we’re going to have libraries, universities, and observatories in every city. However, by the time it becomes available, even if it would slightly increase our research, we probably want to keep our production bonus in our capital. I can’t give you a hard and fast rule here, you’ll have to gauge the situation for yourself when the time comes.
If we get the pyramids, representation is okay, but I favor hereditary rule, for a few reasons. First, as discussed earlier, we aren’t running a GP farm, so there goes a major benefit. Secondly, it’s just so much easier to pop out a cheap unit to fix your happiness early on, and you’ll get to have a much larger population in the early game. Plus, we get to abuse those slaves pretty hard, without paying for it in terms of happiness.
In addition, since so many of the AIs seem to favor Hereditary rule in the early game (go figure), we’ll get a little boost to our diplomacy. And best of all, pyramids aren’t essential to our strategy. Any strat which relies on always getting a wonder is flawed, don’t let anyone tell you differently
For this reason, when you don’t have anything good to build in a city, build a cheap military unit. We won’t need a lot of them, but the less you have the more you’ll need to play “musical chairs” with them, moving them around in anticipation of happiness problems as your cities grow. Since we’re not going to be wonder hogs, there will be plenty of times that we don’t have something to build.
Now, a very real danger here is that we will neglect happiness for the quick fix of hereditary rule and its overpowered 1 unit = 1 happiness euphoria. So don’t do that. You should build coliseums and whatever temples you can, and you should watch the AIs like a hawk for extra happiness resources you can trade for.
We’re going to whip those slaves silly until they get unruly and force us to switch to emancipation. Even then, we may give ’em one last whip out of spite for telling us what to do.
Mercantilism is out the window. It makes the AI pretty angry, and it’s pretty weak overall, not even worth the anarchy IMO. Who cares about a specialist in every city, when it’s been statistically proven that the best thing to do is to generate all your GPs in one place?
Free Market looks really good when it becomes available, and that’s because it is really good. We’ll breathe a small sigh of relief with the small bonus to our economy. The question here is, what will the anarchy do to us, since the bonus will be relatively small? For this reason, I tend to save this one for when I’m switching some other civic, so that I pay less of an anarchy cost for it.
State property is undoubtedly better for our economy, and we will switch to it as soon as we can, and run it for the rest of the game. The food bonus to workshops will be very useful in the end game too.
Ah, the bane of Civ 4! This one can make you or break you. If you followed this guide, it’s likely you own the dominant religion on the continent and have switched to it. In that case, Organized religion is a big-time no brainer in the early game, before you get civs visiting you from across the ocean, who have never heard of Hinduism, and aren’t sure they like it. Usually they seem a little concerned about it.
No matter, by that time we’ll probably have been the first to discover liberalism, and we’ll switch to free religion (but not before!).
Liberalism-> Biology Slingshot
Since we’re focusing every city on science, we have enough techs to spread around a bit, to keep good relations, and still be the first to liberalism, after having researched the scientific method. Every now and then you will get beat to it. If you can avoid it, don’t give up the techs that lead to liberalism. Don’t go to war over it, but if you have pleased relations you can risk saying no to their “requests”. Biology is the key to the stars.
After the war, my typical research path is something like this:
Mathematics (chopping bonus)
Calendar (happy faces)
Monarchy (happy faces)
Alphabet (keeping other civs happy)
Drama (happy faces)
Currency (happy faces)
Chop/whip, do whatever you can to get 6 universities, and Oxford in your best science city. Make sure the city has enough food so that you can run a scientist or two for the great scientists to build your academies.
Guilds (gold, later)
Astronomy (only if I am very far ahead of the AI would I gamble on Astronomy, but occasionally I do)
Biology (free tech from liberalism, if not, beeline for democracy, then Biology)
Democracy (pretty soon our slaves will revolt, after someone else discovers Emancipation)
Now you’ve got a stable, fast growing civilization, and we’re in the endgame.
Science before Commerce
Whenever possible, build the science buildings first, then the commerce buildings. We want:
Courthouse (only in enemy cities), Granary, Library, Market, University, Observatory, Bank
About the time you build the bank in most cities, you’ll be switching to Universal Suffrage and Emancipation. The people have spoken (by refusing to work). You may want to take a time out here to finish your key science buildings by changing your research to 0% for a few turns.
Now we have to switch gears from whipping our slaves to paying our citizens to build stuff for us.
We need to buy stuff, so building the Kremlin is a good idea. The Kremlin is second in importance of world wonders, behind the Oracle, so it’s a toss-up between Communism, for the Kremlin, and Physics, for the great scientist, after Biology. I advise communism first.
When a city has nothing better to build, that will contribute to the space goal, build wealth, so we can run max science rate, and buy key buildings in straggler cities.
Identify key endgame cities
We want a tightly choreographed ending, with a balance between production and science. Now is the time we need to start to think about converting lesser science cities to production cities. With state property, we can have our cake and eat it too. Workshops will give us +3 production on a square, with no food penalty. So far, we’ve balanced our tiles to produce enough food to work cottages/towns on all of the other squares. It therefore makes it fairly easy to convert to production in these cities, just change towns to workshops.
We’re not going to do this until it’s time to build Apollo, but it’s time to start thinking about where it will be. Usually it’s the city that is only producing 50-60 science flasks, that would have been a military production city if we were fighting a lot of wars.
Beeline for Rocketry, Assembly Line, Industrialism
After Industrialism, if you have saved up a couple of different types of great people, it’s a good time to get Coal Plants in all of your cities, with a golden age. Try to have at least banks, if not markets and grocers too, in your main commerce producers before you trigger the GA. Following this guide, you will probably have generated an extra prophet and merchant. They will do nicely, if you haven’t spent them on something else. We’ve been running near max science even without the merchants trade routes, hopefully, so there was no reason to spend him on that. We should be getting at least 600-800 gold per turn by now with science at 0%. Which means a prophet that we don’t have a shrine city for, and a merchant that’s worth $3900 on a trade mission are better spent to get us some production and gold, quick-like, for 16 turns, for an extra boost to production at a key time. Try to help the cities that are worse off, but also the ones that are best off, and leave the middle to build them honestly, unless you have money to spare.
Turn science down to zero at least to get coal plants in your key cities. Build each one for one turn before you buy it, because it reduces the cost by a large amount.
If you have saved a great engineer, hurry the ironworks in your best production city. Otherwise, build it there the old fashioned way.
After Apollo, build casings in your worst 5 science/production cities, and after Satellite, leave your two strongest production cities available to build the big parts. Build Thrusters in your 3 next-best, as they become available. Use your judgment here to convert towns to workshops in some of your lesser science/production cities. You don’t want to cripple your science, you need to balance it little by little against production.
Space Elevator is a big help, but it comes so late the only way to make it useful is by beelining to it. It will shave only a few turns, but that could be the difference between #1 and #2 in the ranks. The clincher is that we can get rid of our health problems that have started to creep up with Genetics soon afterward. We need it anyway for the Stasis Chamber.
Hopefully one of your production powerhouses is next to the equator and you can build the space elevator. Regardless, every city not currently building a part should start on a laboratory. You can finish a few of the key ones with money, if you have some extra. Use any engineers you’ve saved on rushing the elevator. I sometimes have them pop up right around this time, or a bit before.
Get started on your stasis chamber in one of your best production cities.
Put the cockpit in your second best production city.
After fusion, you may consider filling in one of your key science cities with workshops, if you haven’t done it already. You should be working yourself up from the bottom with each of your cities doing this conversion. Put the engine in your best production city.
Ecology, and game over
After ecology, find the city that will build the life support the fastest, and be sure not to overlook a city that is already building a spaceship part. You won’t have more than 1-2 parts left at this point, Enjoy your victory!
Balanced research at first, focus on growth, happy faces, and Iron. Go for Code of Laws, Oracle, Civil Service slingshot if possible.
Quickest war possible with Praets, even if it means chopping a few forests.
Focus on happy faces and Biology after initial expansion war(s). Give up techs freely, and take all the civs gold in trade before leaving the in-game negotiating table. Try to avoid giving up Liberalism. Go for Liberalism-> Biology slingshot.
In the endgame, convert science cities to production cities, generally worst first. The endgame is a balance between science and production.
With further experience, I’ve found it a bit more difficult than it was pre-patch to go for the liberalism->biology move, with 6 starting opponents (although I’m still convinced it can be done), but it’s still very easy to get on smaller maps (see my duel record in the Hall of Fame). It doesn’t change the thrust of this guide, however. If you are nervous someone will get liberalism before you can crank out scientific method, go ahead and research it, and choose something on the path to Biology as your free tech. I still firmly believe Biology is the most important tech after civil service. The window of time available before you’re forced to switch to universal suffrage/emancipation allows you to get universities and observatories in all your cities with slavery.
Also, I can’t believe I left out the Taj Mahal. I’ll be updating the guide eventually to incorporate it, but the gist is this: try to get it right after you discover assembly line, drop your science to 0, and buy factories everywhere (by this time you should have nearly all the commerce buildings in every city too!). Think of it as the Taj Mahal -> factory spam slingshot.