My Religious Experience

In this thread, I threatened to create an AAR/strategy guide for religions. Now that the game is complete, I can begin.
The questions to be answered are:
[*]Are religions any good
[*]Are multiple religions any good
[*]Should I found one
[*]How do you maximize their benefits
[*]What victories should you shoot for
[*]Can you get all the religions[/LIST]Are religions any good?

There is certainly some debate over whether or not a religion is worth your while, and you should experiment for yourself to find your own answer. My answer is this: Yes!

My personal focus is usually on increasing my hammer output, with secondary focus on science. Sufficient Culture is needed to get the borders out there, Gold is merely a means to keep my science slider high, and Food, Health, and Happiness only serve to feed the production engine. My military will come when I have the production. Now you know my general strategy.

With that in mind, having a state religion gives you culture to get your borders popped, Monasteries cheaply boost your research and culture, and Temples give you happiness and a small boost to gold and hammers in the form of a Priest, plus some culture on the side. Simply having a state religion gives you 1 culture and 1 happy in cities with it! With religious Civics, you can get a 25% boost to your building production, +2 XP to your units, or +100% Great People Production, none of which should be casually dismissed. Lastly, any foreign cities that share your state religion give you a huge 40% discount on espionage actions there – you will often get Visibility out of such cities fairly cheaply, and they make a great place to cheaply steal techs.

Religion also gives you a relations boost with everyone else with that religion, with the caveat that you get worse relations with those with heathen religions. This is probably the strongest motivator for or against religion in a particular game – you can’t always afford to have the whole world against you.

Are multiple religions any good?

Additional religions beyond the first have less direct benefit because you don’t get the culture from the religion itself, and it doesn’t affect your diplomacy, but you get all the other benefits. Additionally, you have the flexibility to change your religion if the one you chose falls out of favor in the world AND there’s a lot more Happiness available, saving you from needing Police State’s WW modifier.

By having multiple religions, you can build multiple Monasteries and Temples in a city, and have multiple Priests. Two religions can be significantly more useful than just one, but there is a definite diminishment of returns beyond that. Still, it’s really cool to have +195% science in your science cities before Scientific Method cancels your Monasteries. :goodjob: (+295% with Oxford, +205/305% if you’re Korean.)

Should I found one?

Having your own religion is nice. You get 5 culture in the founding city (unless you switch to a different one) and if you build the Shrine with a Great Prophet, you get gold for each city that has your religion. Match this up with Wall Street and all 3 (or 4 if Mali or American) gold-boosting buildings, and you can get 3 (or more) gold for each city! This usually means at least an extra 10% on your research slider if you keep spreading it around. (But see Post #8 for a more extreme example.)

If you get an early religion, it should be easy to get it to spread to all those non-religious cities out there, meaning you can probably safely switch to it to start benefiting. A later religion will require some consideration of your situation. Are there a lot of pagan cities? Are my neighbors Pagans? Can I get my religion to them quickly enough so they convert and then spread it themselves? Therefore, it’s not always a good idea to switch to a religion you founded, but you can still get the gold benefits from it.

I’m not one to mortgage everything to get an early religion. Even when I have the ideal start (we’ll get into that soon), my natural inclination STILL leads me away from early religions, but I do try to pick up one of the later ones if I can, so I often end up with Taoism or Islam.

By successfully going for an early religion, you get access to the cultural and happiness benefits right away, and it spreads to some of your cities without you having to spend hammers on Missionaries. The trick, though, is being successful in your bid. An AI that starts with Mysticism will almost certainly go for Buddhism, and at difficulties higher than Noble, will likely get there before you. So most people try for Hinduism, a goal that can sometimes be achieved even if you don’t start with Meditation, but requires that the AIs didn’t either. Even then, Judaism might still be attained if you’re quick.

How do you maximize their benefits?

The techs behind the early religions give you access to the religious buildings, plus the Oracle and several other Marble-benefiting wonders require them. Oracle and Schwedagon Paya give Prophet points, while the Temple of Artemis gives you a Priest – these can be used to pop a Great Prophet, who can establish the Shrine and give you money and spread your religion faster.

Building Temples allows you to have Priests, and if you build enough (not sure what the number depends on, but it’s 3-6) you can build a super-temple (Cathedral), which allows 2 more Priests. (The Shrine allows 3, so you can get some serious Prophet points if you have need of a second Shrine.)

Schwedagon Paya allows you to switch to any religious Civic, much like the Pyramids allow any government Civic, and if you have Gold, you get a production bonus for it. Its actual usability, though, could be debated. Consider your situation carefully. In my experience, getting it for Free Religion usually isn’t worth giving up Organized Religion, but you might play differently. (FR is better with lots of religions than just a few or none.) If you’re Religious you can use the various civics without wasting time with revolts.

If you’ve got a lot of spread on your state religion, then most of the time it’s a good idea to shoot for the Apostolic Palace, because of the hammer bonus. Each religious building of the AP’s religion is worth 2 hammers, and you don’t even have to be of that religion to benefit from it. An extra 4-6 hammers might seem useless, but that’s an Engineer or three, without the expense of a Forge or Factory, AND you get to assign a Priest!

The Sistine Chapel will probably become available next. Even though I rarely get Cultural Victory, I still like to get it because of its border-popping powers – religion isn’t even needed, but you get a big +5 bonus to each building of your religion, nothing to sneeze at.

The Angkor Wat is available with Taoism’s Philosophy, and gives your Priests (but not Prophets) +1 hammer. This gives them the power of an Engineer, PLUS that extra gold! And temples are cheaper to build than Forges, and you can have a lot more of them, and then you can build super-temples for even more Priests long before you can build Factories and Industrial Parks. AW itself lets you use 3 more Priests! The only downside to AW is if you need Great Engineers, but at least settled Great Prophets are worth gold. Even so, if you’ve only got one religion widespread, especially if you don’t have Stone, AW can be skipped.

The Spiral Minaret becomes available with Islam’s Divine Right, and gives +2 gold per religious building of your state religion. If you’ve already got a bunch of Monasteries and Temples, this will probably let you shift your sliders up 10%. An extra 2-6 gpt per city is significant to a faltering income, and if you otherwise have need of Marketplaces and Grocers (and you need a number of Banks for Wall Street), then those cities get to multiply that instead of 0.

The University of Sankore gives +2 Beakers to each religious building of your state religion. Likewise, you can pair up your otherwise unneeded research buildings to give them something to do instead of nothing (and you need a number of Universities for Oxford anyway). Since you should have lots of Monasteries, their +10% will get that much more to do. However, I’m less enthusiastic about UoS, because the effect is much less noticeable. Even with a lot of qualifying buildings, you’re unlikely to see even a 1 turn gain on your research, UNLESS you have your slider set really low (like because you need a ton of gold). Still, one turn less per tech isn’t bad, so I build it if I can.

Now, once you’ve got all these things, you have to be wary of certain techs. Scientific Method kills off your Monasteries’ science bonus, and you can’t build any more of them then either. Computers kills off UoS, SM, and AW. And Mass Media kills off AP. This may mean you want to avoid those techs for as long as you can to keep benefiting from these Wonders, but it all depends on your situation. (In short, I’ll get those techs if other players are getting or nearing them because I don’t want them getting free Great People or the Internet, but that’s me.)

What victories should you shoot for?

There’s really no easy answer to this, but religion is very beneficial to Cultural (thanks to its culture) and Diplomatic (for the diplo-bonuses). I find the production bonus from OR gets my buildings built quicker and also means each population point I whip gets me more hammers. And who will turn down free hammers, gold, science, and culture toward whatever their immediate or long-term goals? Religion is a tool which can be used for whatever end you want. Anything you can do, Religion can help you do it quicker, and the more you invest in it, the more it pays off.

Can you get all the religions?

The short answer is you have to be incredibly lucky on difficulties harder then Noble, and even then it’s not a gimme.

In the thread I mentioned above, I conducted an experiment to find the answer, part of which appears in post #11. I just finished that game and have some interesting results to report.

To summarize: I had to play as Wang Kon of Korea (no choice), I had to settle on a Riverside Plains Hill with Gold (anything with a Coin would do) AND had to have a Riverside Grasslands Hill with Gold (Silver or Gems would do too) next to it so I could work it immediately. I had to build a Worker first, and mine that second Hill. Then I had to spend a turn of research on Hinduism to fool the AIs into all choosing Buddhism, then I could switch to that and get them both. (Going straight for Buddha always resulted in someone getting Hinduism first.) Unable to let up, I had to get Masonry and Judaism next before I could do much else. Once I had the worker, further builds were for Monasteries. Most importantly, I refrained from doing anything that would cause Revolution until I had 4 religions safely in the bag, and the 5th almost finished. I couldn’t afford even that one turn of anarchy, nor the risk of a slave revolt.

I also had a Marble site within the BFC, which I quarried next, then got The Wheel to hook it up and built The Oracle. With that, I bulbed Christianity while I was busy researching Confucianism. Once I had that, I had 5 religions all in my capital, and it was safe to start building settlers and monopolize on my tech lead. I got Taoism and Islam almost at leisure, both of which wanted to pop in worthless cities. (I tried reloading to get them to pop in the capital, but it didn’t look like it was gonna happen after several tries.)

In the above situation, I don’t think it’s impossible to get a start like that. I’ve seen much better starts, and there are plenty of posts around here as proof. However, such starts are very unlikely, so I had to make a few minor adjustments to the map, adding those three resources (and taking away one for “fairness”) and giving myself the needed plains hill.

Wang Kon is needed because he is Financial AND he starts with Meditation and Mining. There are 8 other civs with Meditation, but if you manage to get a game with none of them in it, then as long as you’re playing one of those 9, you should be okay. Again, very unlikely unless you choose your opponents (most people don’t). The Financial trait was needed to give 3 coins on the river city AND 3 on the other Gold. Nothing less will work, and even this isn’t good enough without fooling the omniscient AI tech choosers. The plains hill is needed to get your worker out fast enough to mine the second gold, which gives you the needed boost to win the race to Judaism. There are 3 civs that start with Mining and Meditation: Korea, India, and Maya, and if they are not your opponents, then the rush to Judaism isn’t as heated, and you can probably do without Financial or Korea.

It took numerous reloads and over 3 hours to find this one combination that worked. No huts popped any of the desired techs. (Indeed, in the final run that worked, I didn’t get ANY techs from huts. I got BW twice and IW one of those times! 😡 )

The After Action Report

In addition to the above starting info, I also had Standard map size and game length and 7 total civilizations (normal) on a Custom Continents map with Low sea level, and on Prince difficulty. I wound up having 3 major continents with 2 civs on each, except mine, which had 3. AIs were Asoka/India (my first choice to accomplish this task, btw), Monty/Aztecs (our other neighbor), Shaka/Zulu, Hatty/Egypt (those two together), Ragnar/Viking, and Perry/Greece (those two together).

With two Gold and Marble on a river with a Financial civ, you’d think I had an easy game. I did, but it was nerve-wracking at the beginning. With all my effort devoted to getting those first 4 techs and the 3 religions that came with them, I couldn’t focus on anything else beyond hoping my Warrior found a useful hut. Pittances and maps were all I got. And one Scout. As always, I was on the end of a continent, and there was someone close by to grab up all the land and cut me off, in this case, Asoka.

He was the chief reason I had to devote all my energy to getting those religions; without him, I probably could’ve pursued Judaism with slightly less vigor, and might’ve felt safe not going after Christianity and Confucianism before founding a second city.

My other neighbor was Monty, but luckily he was far enough away not to matter, and at the rate Asoka was going, I’d get cut off from him anyway. But, the techs flew by quickly thanks to the mined Gold and quarried Marble, and I managed to claim the Oracle and Christianity with it before spitting out a Settler to claim a nearby good spot.

I got Confucianism just before settling him, so had 5 religions in my capital, 2 new records for me – I’ve never had 2 religions spawn in the same city, and never had one in my capital. I considered trying to get all 7, but I was losing lots of good spots to Asoka, and I was sure my dramatically lengthening research times were only going to cripple me if I didn’t get some Settlers out there. This was NOT an OCC!

I managed to get a few cities sited well, but Asoka just kept cranking Settlers like there was no tomorrow. I was starting to go broke, with my Science slider down to 70%, before I was finally able to get me a Great Prophet. I chose Christianity as my state religion because it was the first one I got with a Missionary, which I immediately used on my second city. I then went into Slavery and OR at the same time.

Barbarian cities kept me from scouting a route around the continent for trade routes, so I had to put together a small force of Axemen to take their cities. As I worked on my third Barb city, Monty decided that his 2:1 power ratio was good enough to declare war with. So he sends an Archer and a Chariot, thinking he’s going to smack my Axe out of the Barb city I just took and declares war.

At the time, I was working on CS because I needed Maces to defeat the Barb Axes and Archers. For reasons unknown, Monty never carried out his attack, and backed off, but I knew that wouldn’t be the end of it, so I bribed Asoka into declaring against him.

Once I had my Macemen, I headed out to end the war. Monty took a couple cities from Asoka, which made nice additions to my empire, but it was slow going building up the needed numbers. I should’ve gone for my Hwachas (Cats) a lot sooner than I did, but I had to get some other stuff first. I couldn’t let anyone else have the Great Library, now could I? I thought I needed it to catch up, and since I had the Marble……

I continued to dump hammers into Macemen and the occasional Archer and Crossbow and Horse Archer and Pikeman until I simply couldn’t go on without my Hwachas. By then, I also had Trebs, so I build a few of each and they began the long march to Monty’s besieged homelands.

Since there wasn’t much cost to being at war, I didn’t bother with peace. It cost Monty a lot, though: he couldn’t build much, I slowly stripped his resources to keep him from building Axes and Horse Archers (which cost me dearly, when I wasn’t careful of them) and he whipped a few extra defending Archers when he could. When the artillery finally arrived, it didn’t take much time at all to smash the defenses and then take the cities that I had laid siege upon around 800 years before. He fell fairly quickly after that, with the war lasting nearly 1000 years.

Just before the final blow, I was contacted by an Egyptian Caravel. I had completely ignored all naval techs (I usually get Astronomy ASAP), so I was wondering how long this would take. I had all 7 religions by then, and was cognizant of spreading ONLY my state religion to outsiders, so I shunned Astronomy as long as possible.

Buying Hatty’s map was all it took to prove the world was round – I didn’t even have the ability to build Caravels yet. But I changed that, by buying the needed techs from her, then upgraded my defensive Triremes and sent Missionaries looking for cities. It took hardly any time to get all 4 other civs to convert to my religion. I started sending more overseas to help it spread before I researched Astronomy (which would uncork all the religions), but before many could get there, there was an election for Religious victory.

Hey, that’s a good idea! I’m in the perfect situation: I have just enough votes that I need only one more player to vote for me and I win! of course, everyone abstains. My competition was Shaka, who had just force-vassalized Hatty, who was sending boats out to contact everyone.

I had a ton of votes. Asoka had a ton of votes, but he’d built S. Paya so he was in Free Religion, and was therefore not up to be voted on. Everyone else had just one Christian city, but they converted as soon as they got it, with Shaka having the biggest. I now had to decide what to do in the next 10 turns before the next vote came up before I was forced to take Astronomy or Scientific Method. I set my Science slider to 0% for the gold (just got Infantry – skipped Rifles entirely and never built a Musket), which also gave me time to plot.

First, I wanted to make someone besides Shake my rival, because Hatty had to vote for him. That was a lot of votes, and maybe if Shaka wasn’t in the running, my good relations with her would swing her my way. I chose Ragnar, since my relations with him were worst, and Perry wasn’t so ticked off about my getting Open Borders with everyone. I had to do something with Asoka, though. So long as he was in FR, he couldn’t be a rival, but he still had a ton of votes – almost as many as me if he switched! The power gap was widening as I upgraded my troops, so I thought maybe a short, sharp war would take away enough of his power that he would capitulate, and then be forced to vote for me.

So I started moving my forces for an assault, but this was going to take a while because of the distances involved – many of my troops were still in the new lands Monty freed up, and the continent was pretty wide. No railroads yet because I’d gone for Factories instead. In preparation to get Asoka’s vote in the meantime, I used a spy to bust him out of FR, hoping the relations boost would be enough to get his vote when the elections came up next, before I was ready to attack.

Then he surprised me by offering to become my vassal, when my power was only 1.6 times his. I thought I needed to be at 2.0 or better! Shaka was still al little more powerful, so this was probably a golden opportunity!

It was then that I found out that Vassals can still run for election. I didn’t feel like prolonging this any longer, so I reloaded from a couple turns back, and Asoka was still willing to be vassalized, so I vassalized him, and to keep him from being my competition, I had to change to Free Religion and then use a spy to change him too. Since I built the AP, I was still in the running, so when the election came up, I won!

I could’ve just waited 10 more turns, but really, why?

This makes my first Religious win, and the first time before SM or Astronomy or Railroads. The year is 1730, turn 256 or 500 (51.2%), and the score is 59,710 (Augustus Caesar).

Of note, although I spawned 19 Great People, and pretty much always had a 34-47% chance of getting a Prophet, I only spawned two of them. I have Asoka to thank for spreading my religions all over all his cities – if I’d gotten more Prophets, I would’ve made a lot more money, maybe even been able to keep Science at 100%.

I can attribute the majority of the victory to being Financial and the critical early boost from the gold and river, but the two Shrines and the 5 religion-Wonders were worth a considerable amount too. Having 7 religions, my capital had +180% science (7 Monasteries, Academy, Library, Seowan (University +10%), 2 more firsts for me. (Never had that much %age without Oxford, and never had more than 3 Monasteries in a single city.) Mercantilism proved quite useful, since I knew it was going to be a long time until I needed trading partners, and that free Specialist combined with Sistine’s culture meant I never had to wait more than 5 turns to get my first border pop. Being able to build a productive Monastery (2 Hammers, 2 Gold, 2 Science) meant even lousy city locations were productive and cheap.

It’s curious to note that with just me and Asoka voting for me, because our votes were halved, this was just enough to get the victory – had I spread my religion more to the new lands, it wouldn’t’ve worked. Religious victory gives you a very narrow margin; it’s very easy for there to be someone with enough votes to keep you from winning all by himself, and then he’s going to be your election opposition so you can’t win. A Religious Victory requires a bit of good luck and careful management to be doable.

The following was written after the initial post.

Ok, I’ve started another game with less goodness to my start. It was pretty much an average start, with a river, but I wound up needing to add Gems to a riverside Grassland Hill (for variety) and Marble nearby (for the Wonders) again. In the previous game, I had 6 coins to start with, and then when the Gold got mined, I had more, but I had enough production to crank out a Worker quickly enough to develop it so I could get to Judaism quickly enough. One of my chief rivals was Asoka, who has the same starting techs as Wang Kon, but isn’t financial.

This game, I played as Asoka, and chose all the Civs that did NOT have Mysticism or Mining as starting techs, except Japan, because I knew that with this more normal start I couldn’t compete with any of those. This time, my principle competitors were Washington and Hammurabi, and I only had 3 Coins to beat them with.

Ham didn’t have anything special going for him beyond his AI advantage with me playing at Prince again. He was able to beat me to Hinduism because Hindu+Buddha > Hindu+Mysticism, so he didn’t even need his AI advantage. That was a surprise for me. What should’ve been less of a surprise was Washington, and by extension, ANY Civ with Fishing. They get 4 coins, so they can win the race even more quickly. However, I managed to figure out a way to beat them both, and as before, it involved misdirecting the AI’s omniscience.

A single turn of Hindu research at the start wasn’t enough, because neither of them started with Mysticism. It takes them 5-6 turns to research Mysticism (not sure exactly, but GW probably needed only 5 and Ham 6). The trick is to research Buddha for 3 turns, then switch to Hindu for 3 turns, then switch back, grab Buddha, then grab Hindu. I couldn’t be sure if they could base their teching decisions on how much research I had devoted, but I knew they knew which tech I was working on, so as long as I was working on the “wrong” tech, I could push them where I wanted them. If they can see how many beakers I’ve invested, then I needed to have an about-even amount of research.

This funky dance may seem odd to you, but here’s why it’s necessary: They can beat you to Buddha if you just spend 6 turns on Hindu, so if you have 3 turns of Buddha research already under your belt when they see you researching Hindu, they choose Buddha, then you finish Buddha first since you’ve got it 1/3 of the way done!

I again had to build a Worker as the first thing, and this time, without the benefit of a Plains Hill to settle on, it took a LONG TIME to get him. While I didn’t check to see if they went after Judah, I am confident that their research was sufficiently slow that when I got the Gems mined for the research boost, this made the difference. That extra Worker-turn helped too, thanks to the Indian Fast Worker’s move of 3 – it got the Gems online 1 turn sooner.

I was worried that the extra time it took to build the Worker and get those first 4 techs researched were going to ruin me. On my island were Ham and Gilgamesh – or Gilligan, as he is known to his detractors. Luckily, I have about half the island to myself, and they are small, but even though my power is low compared to Ham, he hasn’t sent his Bowmen after me. Being Spiritual and being able to switch to the religion he chose may have helped. Gilligan went with a different one, but I managed to get him converted.

The earliest part of the game proceeded pretty much as before: Build Temple of Artemis, Build Oracle, grab Christianity with it, built Great Library to maintain tech parity, establish 5 religions in the capital before getting that Settler out…. This time, I’m not the clear leader. While I do have techs they lack, it’s not stopping them from keeping up to date. I’ve also missed MoM this time, and my lack of Stone is ticking me off, wasting a lot of time building the helpful religious Wonders. I also delayed my Settler a little to get Confucius in my capital, like last time.

However, this time, I haven’t ignored Caravels. I had a Whale (rare for me) and wanted it, and I’m just now starting out investigating the world. While this game is tighter so far, I’m pretty sure that I can leverage my Missionaries to get a few early allies nearby and then get Astronomy to get the needed trade routes going to fuel the next burst of activity. Also, I’ve gotten a lot more Prophets this time – 4 so far.

Enough of that. Now it’s time for what I saved this post for: some specific strategies for using your religions to get what you want.

The Likely Scenario

In a normal game, you’re not going to get all the early religions even if you try. You’re quite likely not to get any of them without a carefully plotted start, and will have to settle for a later one. The effects of this depend on the kinds of maps you play on, and the number of players. The maps I’ve played these two games on have multiple continents (I think there are 5 this time) and each one has 2-4 Civs. This means that some of these islands have a good chance to not get any early religion.

AIs with differing religions will likely not trade techs, and may even war on each other, wasting resources that could otherwise be used for teching and finding you because of the diplomacy hit. AIs with the same religion should conversely be more likely to trade techs and less likely to war on each other, because of the significant diplo-bonus. But what if this island has no religions?

This is where “Worst Enemy” comes in. Each AI chooses who it has the lowest relationship with and that player becomes it’s Worst Enemy. They will not trade with that player, and get pissy if someone else trades with them. With a limited pool of Civs on a given island, it means Worst Enemy plays a significant role in retarding relations and tech trading until you get to about 4+ Civs. If everyone is on a Pangaea and there are plenty of players, then Worst Enemy isn’t going to play a significant role in retarding development.

What you can do about it Pagan Islands

If you have multiple continents, and you’ve seen one or two or all three of the early religions on your continent, then you want to bee-line for the mid-religions to deny them to others and then get Caravels. This lets you send out Missionaries of your religion to the Pagans and get them converted. If you have your own founded religion and it’s different from your state religion, this is a GREAT opportunity to spread that one instead, build up some free income, and then switch to YOUR religion and gain a bunch of allies. This works well if you can get Apostolic Palace in YOUR religion to get aid defeating your new enemies who’re breathing up all your oxygen on your continent. It also works well if you’ve already got YOUR religion well spread in your lands and those of your neighbors. It’s nice to have the Shrine of the world’s religion!

Once you’ve gotten your religion (whether yours or your state’s) spawned to 2-3 cities per civ, go ahead and get Astronomy so you can start trading with your new friends and accelerate the spread of all the religions you have. Hopefully, your chosen religion will spread more rapidly than the others, so no one switches. It’s also a good idea to continue grabbing up unresearched religions to keep one of the Pagans from getting it and wanting to switch to it.

Heathen Islands

There is likely to be one or more continents out there with its own religion thoroughly saturating it. If you don’t have any on your own continent, you can be sure they’re elsewhere. In such case, you can either work towards converting to one of theirs (preferably the one with the most power or the one most willing to give you techs) or you can work on trying to convert them. Either way, it’s not going to be fast or cheap, but if you’re all still in the process of claiming land, then the new cities make good targets for auto-spread of religions, so try to be sure your desired religion has its Shrine built to maximize this.

Your third option is to do nothing and live with Heathens calling YOU the Heathen. This tends to make it harder to tech, and may lead to being attacked. As usual, AP makes a handy tool in the hands of the right religion. Don’t be afraid to change religions to get it built to the best religion for your purposes if you need to, but remember it won’t change its religion once it’s built.

Warring Heathens

You may find a continent with opposing religions fighting each other, or more commonly, your own large continent having lots of Civs with differing religions. In a case like this, there’s really not a lot to be gained by researching your own religion. It might even be worth your effort to have NO religion, so you don’t have to get picked on. I personally am too in love with Organized Religion (and Pacifism during Golden Ages) to NOT choose a religion, but if you see yourself having multiple religions in your cities with no clear choice, Schwedagon Paya and Free Religion may be the best decision.

Having no religion means you can’t get really good relations with anyone, and that makes it harder to trade techs, but if you’ve got a hellacious spy network going on, then you don’t care. I’d say the prime benefit of No Religion is that you’re unlikely to be anyone’s Worst Enemy unless you try to be.

Your Pagan Island

If you should happen to have no religions on your own continent, it behooves you to get Caravels out there and Astronomy to get religions into your territory. Try to resist the temptation to choose the first religion that hits your shores, because as sure as you do, half of your cities will get some other religion and you’ll have to switch again (or build a ton of Missionaries). So wait until you’ve got several cities with a freely spread religion.

While you’re waiting, you’re getting culture, you can still build Temples for the happiness and Priests, and you can probably still build a Monastery and then Missionaries. But more importantly, you’re getting a chance to scout out the world and build up a handful of Espionage Points so you can get some idea of which Civs are best to try to align with. THEN, pick a religion and get it spread to the rest of your cities. You might even want to use Theocracy to prevent the wrong religions from spreading while you do this work. (Or you can continue to choose no religion.) At this point, it’s not a bad idea to try and get your chosen religion spread to your neighbors so you don’t have to fight them.

Slightly More Specific Strategies

You have 1 religion: It’s a good idea to switch to it, spread it to your cities and neighbors to get them to switch. The benefits are culture and happiness, plus whatever other religious Wonders you have or can build.

You have several religions: If you have no state religion, then each religion in your city gives you culture and the ability to build the buildings. If you’ve got Free Religion, you also get a happy face for each one. So at some point, unless you have all the religious Wonders working for your whole empire, it’s better to switch to having no state religion. FR makes this choice a little easier. Even if I had 5+ religions in all my cities, though, I don’t think I’d give up AP, SM, UoS, and SC, but I haven’t examined the benefit/loss ratios of such an unlikely scenario, so do your own figuring. Even when I founded all 7 religions, I didn’t have a ton of diversity. (Asoka did in the first game – he was a Missionary-building maniac!)

You’ve founded multiple early religions: In my experimental games, it was VERY useful to NOT choose a religion until my capital’s borders had popped several times. 17-27 culture per turn until I got all 5 early-mid religions got my border out in a hurry, and I didn’t have to worry a whole lot about exploring my immediate surrounds or animals messing with my Worker. It did a good job of claiming a lot of land to keep AI explorers and Settlers out too. I probably shouldn’t have chosen any religion until I had the ability to use the religious Wonders, but I love OR too much to delay for long.

Don’t found a city just before researching a religion, unless you already have a Missionary there: Because 99 times out of 98, the new religion will go there, and you’d rather have it in a more developed city. Unless you WANTED it there.

Don’t forget what your state religion is: In this second game, I had to switch to accommodate the AI’s choice, and promptly started flooding the wrong Missionaries to my new cities! While I still got the money when the Shrine eventually got built, I needed the culture boost to get the borders to pop.

The best Civ/Leader for grabbing early religions: Spain with a Financial leader. Mining would be good, except when I have Mining, I can’t get an honest minable resource. Spain is the only Civ with Mysticism and Fishing, and as I saw in the second game, the Americans leveraged their 4 coins from Fishing to buy Mysticism AND Polytheism before I could get Meditation and Poly. Spain can probably grab them without need for anything but a decent coastal start, and if you pair up a financial leader, you can grab Hinduism AND Buddhism quickly. However, you’ll probably falter against Wang+Korea at getting Judahism because you’ve got to backtrack for Mining to get Masonry. Your only hope is to have a lot of seafood and to grow your population fast enough to get enough extra coins. It can probably be done if Wang doesn’t have anything to mine. If unrestricted leaders isn’t your thing, then anyone who starts with Fishing and is Financial (several to choose from) can do it.

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say on the subject for now. I’ll open the floor with particular interest to those who have specific strategies on how to leverage religion into doing what they want. I reserve the right to further edit either of these posts as I discover new things, or if someone comes up with a good zinger I need to steal.

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