Here’s a little guide I thought up for beginners looking for that first cultural victory. I’m sure advanced players will have different or perhaps better ways of getting there, but I think this could be called a good summing up of tips needed for a cultural victory. These tips are generally developed from my mistakes in getting my first few cultural victories, and also what I have done well, and apply in general to the earlier difficulty levels (i.e.. up to noble).
OK the first thing you need is a civ and a leader. The best traits for a cultural victory are certainly creative and philosophical, followed by industrious. The other traits will probably have very little effect on a basic cultural strategy, except maybe spiritual with it’s cheap temples. Therefore I would say the best leaders for cultural victory, in a rough order are:
Frederick: Creative and Philosophical.
Louis: Creative and Industrious.
Gandhi: Spiritual and Industrious.
Hatshepsut: Spiritual and Creative.
Saladin: Philosophical and Spiritual.
Other leaders could work, but I would personally say these five leaders are the best.
Secondly, you have to be focused on getting that cultural victory from very early on, turn one if possible. It takes a very long time to get 3 cities up to 50,000 culture each, so you have to be committed.
I will now look at the main area’s of the game and what you want to do within these areas.
It goes without saying that you need three cities for a cultural victory. In reality you will find it hard with less than 6 cities and 9 is optimal. The reasons for this are that you want to get a few ‘cathedrals’ in a few religions in each of your 3 big cities. You need 3 temples for every one cathedral, so the max cathedrals in one religion you can get is 2 with 6 cities and 3 with 9.
When it comes to early expansion you want your 3 main cities up quite quickly, but don’t rush it for maintenance’s sake. The longer they have to build up that culture, the better. If you get these cities up quickly you may want to give it a rest before then plunking down cities four five and six, though it depends on how much commerce you are producing, your position and the expansion rate of the AI. Don’t worry too much if you only get to cities 6 or 7. The AI rarely builds up it’s culture at the rate you are doing so you are very likely to pick up one or two mid game.
With regards to the placement your big three cities should really be in good positions with plenty of food (growth and GP) and production (building and wonders). Generally you want one city with lots and lots of food as GP farm major, with the other two going really going as GP farms minor. Commerce shouldn’t be so important in these cities; if you wish (and generally you will) you can specialize one or two other cities onto commerce with some cottage spamming – this can also help your science.
Early game technologies will depend on two things:
1. The technologies your civ starts with.
2. The resources nearby.
You want the worker actions necessary to hook up your resources quickly, but the order depends on what resources there are and how quickly you can get those techs. You have to decide for yourself because each situation is different, but don’t think this section is so important as it seems. Longer term priorities are more important as the benefits to our strategy become fewer and farer between, but at this stage of the game almost anything benefits your strategy. The one exception is that you don’t want to worry much about military techs past bronze working for quite a while unless you are swamped by barbs or next to an aggressive civ who doesn’t like you very much.
My personal strategy is to beeline to writing in the quickest way possible (usually via pottery or priesthood) depending on my start, then to go for alphabet, then trade for most other things- pretty standard i guess but it works.
In the game there are certain periods where you want to go for little “blocks” of technologies that get you various necessary improvements and wonders for your win.
Literature > Drama > Music (requires Mathematics)
Physics > Electricity > Radio > Mass Media
Code Of Laws > Philosophy then Civil Service > Paper > Education > Liberalism (use free tech if gotten to get Nationalism)
Religion + Military
Hang on a minute, you say. Those areas arn’t linked at all! But in some very important ways, they are when going for a cultural victory. You may find as you trot along that researching cultural techs and building cultural improvements is somewhat damaging the huge threatening army you usually have hanging over Mansa Musa’s head when going for domination victory. It has to be said that your military will suffer as what are usually your 3 biggest military cities are caught up building Broadway and the Hermitage. Military thus is your second priority in all your other cities after they produce the temples and theatres and universities needed to build cathedrals and national wonders in your big cities. Thus your diplomacy has to be very delicate as it is unlikely you will survive a full scale attack from Caesars Praetorians. I have definitely found that religion is by far the easiest way to make a neighbor love or hate you. However you really want to found your own religion in a culture game. It is certainly a great advantage to do so, however if you do it is very very important that you spread it far and wide to keep some friends as protection. If you then found 2 or three religions try to keep them to the confines of your own civ merely for shrine income and more temples which = more cathedrals.
I like to found lots of religions in my culture games if only to stop Alexander from founding one himself and getting very angry with me for not accepting Christianity into my Confucian society. You will find that the 4 later religions (the ones that start with a missionary) are founded with techs you want as early as possible anyway. Founding a religion is always a great advantage but if you staunchly stay Islam out of pride when the rest of the world is a Hindu alliance, it is unlikely you will survive a very long time.
The other advantage spiritual civs have in any game is their ability to change their government and thus game plan almost a will. This is great particularly if you are attacked as described above. However you generally want to stay to a general set of civics for the long term:
Government – Representation usually to keep your science up (you should have a lot of artists), and to stop revolt in the cities where you want every living soul working. Perhaps Universal Suffrage but never the other two unless spiritual and attacked (other civs won’t be able to afford the anarchy).
Legal – FREE SPEECH!!!! It is SO important that you get Liberalism and get this instantly. Up to then you want Bureaucracy as your capital should be one of your culture cities.
Labour – Research COL and get Caste System so you can begin to spam out those great artists in your GP farm. I don’t think you really want anything else- don’t bother with slavery unless you are spiritual to bring civic upkeep down.
Economy – Mercantilism is ideal but Free market and perhaps SP may work depending on your empire, it’s your call really. I would like to ask a question to all BTW, does anyone ever use Environmentalism?
Religion – My preference is always OR until Philosophy when it’s a quick switch to Pacifism for more GP. I can’t see any other way personally as you shouldn’t need a military (Theocracy), and Free Religion comes at a point where science is becoming less important and great artists are becoming more important.
Ideally you want a GP farm which also has high production as it should be one of your 3 culture cities (If you can get another one running INSTEAD OF this one outside your 3 culture cities this is perhaps better). It should produce nothing but artists with the odd scientist if you want and prophet for a shrine if needed. However this shouldn’t stop you from having quite a few artists in the other culture cities just for the 4 culture they produce (6 with Sistine Chapel).
In culture games I work on the philosophy that any wonder (that produces culture) is a good wonder. However you should prioritize the following, particularly if your behind in tech or not far ahead:
Rock N Roll
Parthenon (especially if Philosophical)
Spiral Minaret (if low on cash)
Statue Of Liberty
These wonders are more than useful though not top of the list:
Try and get the rest if possible. With regards to national wonders you want:
National Epic (in GP farm)
Globe Theatre (in GP farm ideally)
Hermitage (in city with least culture/turn)
Balancing the culture slider with research is of personal preference. I generally start at 10% once I get Drama, and move slowly up at the expense of research un till the mid/late industrial age, where its 100% for the finishing straight. Note that if finances take a tumble it should ideally be the research slider not the culture one that is reduced at first. I would say that you are more confident the earlier you stick this up to near full, but I personally like to know I would have a technologically adequate army should Napoleon stab me in the back. I also like to have some research so I can be sure of getting the later wonders needed – Hollywood, Broadway and Rock N Roll.
So there’s a crash course in the culture victory. Feel free to comment and be proud that you have one the game with a cultured, peaceful civilized civilization for once instead of a warmongering, barbaric one.