Don’t you hate it when you’re racing an AI into space and he launches his ship just a few turns before you can? I know I do. So I devised a strategy to research my way through the Modern Age and get my spaceship in the air as quickly as possible. I’ve used this strategy successfully many times on Monarch, and recently have been succeeding with it on Emperor, including GOTM 4.
First, a few assumptions. You have to have a civ actually capable of winning the space race. All of the tips and tricks in the world aren’t going to help you if Monty has knocked you down to 2 cities or Mansa Musa is already 6 techs ahead of you. This is for the civ who has just finished Rocketry and may be a tech or two behind and wants to catch up peacefully. You should probably have at least 8 cities, with one major production center (usually the one with Ironworks), 1-2 secondary production centers, and the rest can be anything. That’s not a problem if you play on Large or Huge maps like I do, but it’s still easily doable on Standard maps. You also have to have Aluminum and Copper to finish certain parts quickly, but that shouldn’t be a problem either.
My first advice is DON’T PANIC when you see that someone has completed the Apollo Program and is starting their spaceship. You have plenty of time to catch up. One thing I love about Civ IV is that you have to go through almost the entire tech tree before you can launch a ship. There are 8 to 10 techs after Rocketry that need to be researched, so that’s at least 50-100 turns depending on your game speed.
Here’s my research order through the Modern Age, along with the appropriate spaceship parts:
0) Rocketry – When this is complete, you can build the Apollo Program and the SS Casings. Your best production site should build the Apollo Program as quickly as possible. Once it’s done, don’t tie up your good cities with the 5 Casings. Build them in any old city, even if they take 25 turns to complete. Who cares? You still have plenty of time.
1) Computers – This should be your first tech after Rocketry. You need Radio before you can get it, but I usually research Radio before Rocketry because it’s much cheaper. This unlocks the Laboratory, which will help you speed through the other techs. Build labs in all of your science cities. The AI’s tend to research this later than you, so you can get a jump on researching right away.
edit: In the 1.61 patch, the Laboratory also gives you a 50% to building spaceship parts. So this is a vital building that should go in every city, not just the science ones anymore.
2) Plastics – This doesn’t enable anything, but it’s necessary for you to get to Robotics, which is the next step.
3) Robotics – This tech will unlock the SS Docking Bay and the Space Elevator. Although the Docking Bay costs the most hammers to build, it’s actually easier than the Stasis Chamber or the Engine because of the bonus you get with Aluminum. Start the Space Elevator in your best city that can actually build it (has to be near the equator) and the Docking Bay in one of your secondary production centers. If you can rush build the Elevator with Universal Suffrage or a Great Engineer, then even better.
4) Genetics – This requires Refrigeration, so you have to research that first if you don’t already have it. It also unlocks the Stasis Chamber, which is one of the hardest pieces to build. If your best city is still building the Elevator, then you can push the Stasis Chamber off to one of your secondary production cities. There’s still a good bit of time before this ship is done, so there’s no real rush yet. It will get done in time.
5) Satellites – This one is relatively cheap to research, and the AI’s love to get it early, so you’ll get some bonuses and it shouldn’t take you long to get. This unlocks the Thrusters. You need 3 of them, but like the Casings, they should be relegated to minor cities to build. Don’t tie up one of your top 3 cities to build these.
6) Fiber Optics – This unlocks the Cockpit and the Internet. The Internet is unnecessary at this point, because it’s too hard to build and we only have 2 techs left anyway. The city that built the Docking Bay should be done by now, so it can start on the Cockpit.
7) Fusion – Yes, you get a Great Engineer for getting this first, but does it matter? You can’t rush any of the spaceship parts and you should already have the Space Elevator by now. The important thing about Fusion is that it unlocks the Engine. The Engine is the hardest piece to build and your best city needs to be all over this as soon as Fusion is discovered. Often, the AI’s leave this piece until last, and this can definitely be to your benefit (as I’ll explain later).
8) Ecology – This is the last tech that you’ll need to finish your ship. It also has the easiest part besides the Casings, the Life Support. Since your best city is working on the Engine, your next best city needs to be ready for Life Support. Often, I’ve started the Engine as soon as I’ve discovered Fusion, yet I still research Ecology and finish the Life Support piece before the Engine is done. Either way, you’ve achieved a Space Victory! Enjoy the spoils!
Even after all of this, you still find yourself behind in the race, there is a way to win. You simply need to take a Spy to your rival civ, find where he’s building the Engine, and sabotage it. As long as you can stop the Engine, you’re home free. Just stopping the Engine once can often buy you 7-10 extra turns. That should be enough to tip the scales in you favor. If not, rinse and repeat!
I hope you enjoyed my first strategy article!