After the long, grueling marathon nuke-fest domination victory, you might want to ease off on your nerves and play a quick game or two to enjoy the variety Civ IV has to offer. I have found that one of the most enjoyable types of games are the One City Challenge, and a very entertaining, yet absorbing way to go about it is to aim for the diplomatic victory.
For starters, you might want to play on a standard, normal speed, pangaea map wit 7 opponents. Permanent Alliances are an interesting variant to this, but for now I shall deal with the non-permanent alliance aspect of this game. Also the following strategy will work well up to Prince, as I have not yet tested it on Monarch.
As far as I can see, Gandhi offers a good set of attributes to play this one on. Since we won’t be going to war too much, we won’t need an aggressive trait, nor will creative, expansive or philosophical be very useful because it is an OCC. Gandhi also starts with two pretty good starting techs, Mysticism and Mining which allow for some early wonders giving you a tech head start that you cannot otherwise do without. Spiritual is helpful primarily for the no-anarchy bonus, while industrious is important for the wonders you will be in a race for.
Your broad strategy is going to be something like this:
Keep up in tech till at least the Enlightenment
Keep the four most powerful civs (in terms of population and area) happy, i.e. , always above ‘pleased’.
Wipe out the two weakest civs without lifting a finger yourself.
In the initial phases, aim at getting ALL the religions up to Christianity. This is important because you want your neighbors, even if it is Izzy or Alexander, to share the same religion as you and thereby not attack and destroy you at the first opportunity they get. Also, Organized religion will give you a good production boost in the race to the early wonders. Once you have Theology, switch to Theocracy, and stay there while spreading only your one, true religion. As far as spreading goes, in the initial stages, it may be enough to get one-two cities of your neighbors to have your religion in order for that civ to convert, but if you miss a particular religion, it may be necessary to spread it to at least three-four before the opponent converts to the religion of your choice.
Do not worry about worker techs until u get to alphabet when all of them will come in a couple of turns and with a Fast Worker or two, all the important resources and improvements will be up and running before u know it.
Pyramids may not be a worthwhile effort as the bonus in switching to representation may be marginal as compared to the tech boost of Oracle+ Great Library, and maybe even Parthenon forest permitting. Another thing to note: Keep some forests in place in the fat cross and do not chop them ALL for cottages. As far as possible chop forests on hills for mines and then the ones next to rivers for the cottages. Leave the others for the hammer and health bonus.
Send off a couple of warriors on scouting missions and keep only two-three units for defense against any wandering barbarians.
You must aim to get the Stonehenge as early as possible for the Great Prophet who will build u your great shrine. The Great Shrine is absolutely necessary given that research will always be at 100% and your only source of income will be through missionary activity.
Diplomacy in the early game will revolve around getting your nearest neighbors to switch religions and keeping out of early wars. Hook up all your resources as a priority and start trading any excess instantly. You will need the ‘Fair trade relations’ bonus later.
Trade any tech with the most backward Civ first and the most advanced last. This is to allow you to get the most techs out of the trading. E.g., if you are the first to Alphabet (as u will likely be in most games), trade with the guy who has the least techs more than you, then with the guy slightly more advanced than the last one and so on. It seems fairly obvious, but can be forgotten sometimes.
Once you have the tech lead, and say a Science Academy, turn your great people into super-specialists for the jump in production and cash (and later in research). Of course to maintain a tech lead, you will need to cottage spam, but keep in mind the necessity of keeping some forests in reserve.
Here, you will not need to go after many wonders. Hanging Gardens is a good option for the health boost, but the Globe Theatre and the National Epic are a must. National Epic to churn out more GP, whereas the Globe Theatre to give you a great boost in happiness..you won’t have to worry about it any more. Trade away all the luxury resources you have linked up to. Gift it to those not so happy with you and sell it to those already pleased or above. This way the less pleased will be happier with you AND you will make a few quid while you are at it.
Diplomacy will become key here, and the middle game will make or break your chances in the end game. You may lose the race to philosophy and Divine Right to somebody like Mansa Musa or Hatshepsut, but to keep them following your religion, make sure that you have spread your religion to almost all their cities. It is also around this time that aggressive civs will start to go to war with the others and you must be absolutely careful in deciding whether to go along with them or not. Usually, by now, you will know who are the leaders and who are nowhere in the reckoning. Pick on the guys nowhere in the reckoning. Pick on the last and second last civs, and tie up alliances with ALL the big civs to wipe out these guys. You may want to contribute troops to the effort, but you are better off spreading the faith and building monasteries and university to keep up science. Oxford University is an obvious must-have.
The important part in all of this is deciding whom to break off trade deals with and whom NOT to antagonize too much. Keep the following broad rules in mind…
1. Never antagonize any of the aggressive civs by breaking off trade
2. When two equally aggressive (or equally not-so-aggressive) civs are in question, antagonize the one you have better relations with.
3. When it is between a neighbor and a civ further off, keep the neighbor happy, unless it conflicts with rule 1.
4. Avoid antagonizing Mansa and Hatshepsut as they are the best ‘givers’ of tech in the game, unless it conflicts with rule 1 and rule 3.
As far as tribute requests go, give to all except the smaller civs whom you can bully and threaten at will. Accede to all the tribute requests (mostly reasonable) except changes in civics which throw research or production out of whack.
When you break off the trade, you will need to give some gifts to get them back to liking you once both of you are on speaking terms.
Keep a close tab on the relations screen with your Foreign Advisor. Keep checking as to how much the top four guys like each other and, occasionally, see if you can spot the one who is the favorite of a large number of civs. If you are NOT the favorite with more than this one civ, start gifting to the civ which does not like you as much and see if you can convince them to break off trade relations, or nullify whatever is causing such friendliness, such as same religion (different from yours) or same civic.
As far as science goes, pick up those techs not often chased by the AI unless you are in the tech lead still and can get the important ones before the AI can. You must, at all costs aim for the Liberalism slingshot, and any tech that grants you a free GP (Music, Economics). Look to maximize tech in your city and ignore any city building which will not maximize your tech. In that regard, markets, banks, courthouses, and temples can be ignored from the production queue. Do not let up on your missionary activity and keep spreading your religion as it will be a great source of income.
Once you have gotten to Liberalism, do not switch out of Theocracy. Keep Liberalism out of reach of as many civs as possible, but trade away other techs. Follow the same principles as in trading resources. Give generously to the poor and trade with the rich. By now, you should be close to Scientific method and Nationalism, and a tech leader, with only four, at most five competitors, with the four largest, all pleased or friendly with you.
As far as research goes, do not be in a hurry to get to Scientific Method. More often than not, it actually causes your research to come down because of obsolete monasteries and Great Library. Instead, aim for Constitution so that you can get Representation in, make sure you have sufficient specialists (including super-specialists), build an Observatory and THEN go get Scientific Method.
Around this stage, when you are in the tech lead, if there are at least 5 other civs still in the game, concentrate on eliminating that one last civ. At this point you should be the most popular leader with the big Four, who are ready to do anything for you…for a price. Gift a few technologies every now and then to the more backward of the Four to improve your ratings with them and keep your immediate neighbors happy.
Your research path from now on will lead you first to Physics (for the free Great Scientist), then to Biology and Medicine (population boost will be important, even if it is only 5-6 more, it can make the difference between a diplo win and space race loss), then on to Electricity, Radio and Mass Media. Along the way, time permitting, get a hold of either Rock n. Roll or Broadway and gift away all the musicals/hits to the other four. Make sure to have saved a Great Engineer to rush your UN (just in case one of the AI is also in the race..usually never the case, but does no harm to finish early either) and begin the process of voting..
As far as diplomacy goes, make sure you get Military Tradition as soon as possible. Around this time, as Liberalism starts spreading, you will start to lose your +4/+5 bonuses because they have shifted to Free religion. Keep holding on to Pacifism until you see yourself falling behind in tech and observe the other civs also switching to Free religion. Therefore, you must get to Military Tradition as soon as possible, sign Defensive Pacts with ALL the others once the fifth and weakest Civ is eliminated. At this point, if you have traded maps properly, you will have know what are the sizes of each civ. It may be a bit boring, but go through each civs cities and count how many citizens are there and therefore, how many votes that civ has. Obviously the largest one can be found by looking at the Victory Advisor (?), but it is also important to note what percentage of votes will you be able to corner. If you have been nice enough to all, you are likely to get ALL their votes, except your immediate competitor for the post, so in most circumstances, a win should not be that difficult.
However, given the amount of warfare, it may be entirely possible that one civ has just about enough to prevent you from winning. One way to remedy this would be to give ALL the other civs, except this one, Biology AND medicine (often ignored by the AI), get these other three to switch to Environmentalism, and wait for a few turns to get the other three to improve their populations and get you the win. If the largest civ is also on your border, you could pump up culture, use a culture bomb or two and reduce some cities to rubble through cultural expansion. In the meantime, DO NOT GET embroiled in a war under any circumstance. Keep a close tab on the relations between the big four, and break off DP if you think there is a high chance that Napoleon is going to pick a hissy fight with Victoria. However, if one of the combatants is the main competitor for the post of Secretary General and does not share a border. Feel free to engage in the fight ONLY AFTER you tie up a global alliance.
Normally such a game won’t take beyond 2.5-3 hours so it should be a good break from a long back-breaking Conquest/Domination game and can also help improve diplomacy skills for higher levels.
Hope it was useful.