Settlers are Workers First

Quick Start Challenge
How to play

Civ3 Opening Plays
- Improving Terrain
- Terrain basics
- Terrain types
- ID your power
- Rivers and position
- Forestry operations
- Workers and Settlers
- Get out the Axe
- Plant & Cut Crews
- Intense Profit

Opening Sequence Examples
- Mixed Terrain - Germany
- Flood Plain - Russia
- Grassland - Iroquois

Civ3 Example Games
- GOTM9 Japan Campaign
(ancient age warfare example)
- Index

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Known Bugs and Glitches

- The Corona Bug
- The Scared2Death Bug

This may seem like a really obvious topic, but 95% of the civ3 game players probably do not think of their settlers as having the ability to clear jungles and forests, build roads, complete irrigation, and lay down railroad. It is very common to see novice players send a worker over into a patch of forest or jungle to clear a square of terrain so they can then send a settler over into the same square to plop down a new town.

When you place a settler on a given terrain square and tell it to build a city, the settler will instantly clear any forest or jungle from the square and build roads to reach the edge of the square. If you immediately abandoned the new town, the town would evaporate, but the cleared terrain square and the vestige of the road network would remain. In the later game, the square would also have a railroad in place even if the location was not even connected to coal or iron. The square would not automatically show irrigation, but when a city is in place next to a source of fresh water it automatically conveys the fresh water to be available to all the surrounding squares (note this does not work on hills or tundra). A settler is effectively a mega worker that can perform all the worker tasks necessary to set up a town.

Terrain type settled


Worker tasks performed by Settler



Lost *

Forest near fresh water (not on tundra)


clear forest - build roads - irrigate




Jungle near fresh water


clear jungle - build roads - irrigate






clear forest - build roads - save improve






clear jungle - build roads - save mine cost






build roads - save mine cost




Any other flat terrain


build roads




* - The lost shields of potential production bonus should be recognized, but they do not offset the worker turns saved because you would have to expend 10 additional worker turns to harvest the 10 shield production bonus and this would be a net short term impact of zero.

** - other flat terrain types can begin with raw power levels of 1, 2, or 3 elements, but 2 is shown as the average and for simplicity.

Click here for an image of this table that can be printed or posted in message board discussions.

Settle NEAR Forests if Possible

We have been through a fairly detailed analysis of how to settle your first town and when it might be a good decision to move the first settler. For the most part, starting in a forest square would not be a strong reason to move the first settler. For settlers that follow the follow the first town, you may want to incorporate a decision rule of:

TRY NOT SETTLE on a forest square UNLESS that square:
- opens the only access to a body of fresh water
- connects to the road network back to your capital
- connects to the road network forward to a key chokepoint or resource
- contains a luxury or strategic resource that you DO NOT already have connected.

If you open quick access to fresh water, you can usually begin irrigation processes more quickly and increase your growth rate in fewer turns and with fewer worker turns of improvements. This time gain can offset the lost value of the cleared forest.

If you can instantly connect a road network through the forest, this will often reduce corruption and waste and gain your extra shields of production and extra gold from commerce even from the very first turn the town is settled. These other power gains will offset the lost shield production bonus. If you are racing to beat your rivals to some object then there is no faster way to connect up a network of roads and defensive positions than to use your settlers in strategic tandem with your workers. The workers build roads on the open terrain and the settlers bust through as much of the forests, jungles and hills as possible.

Dropping a settler directly on top of a luxury or strategic resource in a forest square will add the shields and gold bonus values from the resource directly to the output value that your will receive from almost every turn of output from that town. These bonuses are subject to corruption and waste penalties so there is some relationship between the benefit you can receive and the distance you are away from the capital city.

By adopting a strategy of settling near forests, you will usually found towns that have access to open improvable terrain on at least one side while preserving the forest squares on the other side to enhance your early production capacity.

Settle in the EDGE of Jungles Where Necessary

Your decision rule for settling in or near jungles is targeted at a similar “half-in – half-out” philosophy but the reasoning is a bit different. You want to use your settlers to clear every possible jungle square, because this saves you 31 to 33 turns of worker effort. So your decision rule should be:

SETTLE ON AS MANY JUNGLE SQUARES AS POSSIBLE, as long as the position of those squares:
- is at least two squares away from the next nearest town (can drop down to a one gap if you are an ICS guru).
- does not significantly reduce the power of your three or four most powerful terrain squares for that town.
- does not leave you with less than six terrain squares that are not desert, hills, and mountains.
- does not pull you one square away from coast or fresh water.

You want to use your settlers to chew up as much jungle as possible when your position on the map will force you to deal with the jungle. Settling the jungle is usually not as high of a priority as settling other more productive terrain but when the patches of jungle make up a significant portion of your core areas, then they need to be brought on line to help you deal with the radial corruption and waste factors.

If you are forced to settle in a really ugly terrain position that includes mountains, hills, desert, jungle and a few plains; then the jungle squares may be your only chances to uncover some grassland. In this case your settler should be placed on a hill or in the desert next to as many of the jungle and plains squares as possible.

Colonies as expendable shortcuts to quick roads through rough terrain.

The ability that workers have to found colonies should form a very minor subset of this discussion of working through forests and jungles in alternative ways. This special case only works on hill, mountain, forest, or jungle squares that have a luxury or strategic resource in place and these squares must be outside the boundaries of your current territory.

When you can position any worker or slave on top of a resource square you will have the ability to click on the “Build Colony” command button. The worker or slave will vanish and in its place a cute little pile of buildings will appear and connect to your road network. When this colony gets absorbed into the boundaries of a city or town, the colony buildings will vanish but the road network will remain. Using the “Build Colony” function to expedite roads will have no effect on the surrounding terrain, so you have to weigh the value of the instantaneous gain of the extra road segment versus the cost of permanently losing the worker or slave. You basically expend the equivalent of 30 power points to gain an instant road segment that would have cost six to nine worker turns. You might save one or two movement turns to expedite forward movement of units or this could reduce the corruption and waste penalties in a frontier town spread over a few extra turns.

In most cases, I do not think the road expedite by sacrificing a worker to build a colony will be of any net value to your game position.

Tandem operations and planning ahead

After you have founded your first several towns, you will generally have the opportunity to send workers forward to prepare sites to receive new settlers. The priority improvement in these cases is almost always roads because of the increased movement and military access benefits. DO NOT clear forests at a timing that will complete the clearing task before the settler has founded the new town. If you get this process down to a fine art of game play, you can build roads out to the last square before your proposed city site and then start clearing the first square of forest up to ten turns before the settler arrives. Perfect timing will found the town and immediately dump a ten shield production bonus into the production bin.

If you clear jungles in advance of sending a settler to found the town, make sure you leave jungle in place at the location you have chosen for the center of the new town. Clearing jungles and building some roads around this center site will yield almost instant benefits when the town is founded.

When a settler founds a new town at the end of a road network, the road is effectively extended forward by one additional square. Workers following one turn behind the settler can fan out into forest or jungle squares beyond the town and begin clearing operations in the next turn. Streams of workers and settlers can drive forward a “string or pearls” made up of alternating towns and segments of road and this technique can penetrate through bands of forest and jungle in less than half of the normal time require to connect to the far side of the barrier.

When you found a town in a location that has some existing forests, it may be helpful to develop the skill of capturing a quick “screen shot” of where the forests are located. If you have the grid on and crop these images down a bit, you can just save them away in a map folder for the towns in your game. You can refer to this starting map later in your game to help your remember which terrain squares have already been cleared of forests. (Note: the game does not include a built in helpful hint to help you recognize squares that have been previously deforested. There is an internal flag that is stored for every map square and it indicates if the square has already produced the ten shield production bonus. It would be nice to have this flag accessible in the scenario editor and also to add a simple asterisk to the terrain info display to indicate that this square was on cleared land. Until this feature is added in a future patch, you have to develop some simple rules and external tools to help you manage forestry records.)


Settlers are an underutilized resource to help maximize the benefit of early forestry operations. A settler can found a town and complete the save at least 31 turns of worker effort every time the settler is carefully positioned to take out a square of jungle terrain. Settlers can extend irrigation and roads through barriers of forest and jungle and save 17 to 31 turns of effort.

Using settlers to clear jungle or forest should not be the primary driving force that leads you to select where a new town is founded, but when your general strategy leads you to an area that includes jungle and/or forest squares in the proposed boundaries of a town, you should settle near forests if possible and settle in the edge of jungles when necessary.

Carefully avoid placing towns on top of one of the only forest squares in a proposed town location unless all the other possible locations have less food production potential.

Next Topic – Forestry Operations prior to the discovery of Engineering

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This page was last updated on: September 18, 2002