Quick Start Challenge
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Again, if you would like to try your own skills at this developing this start position you may download the exact map that was used for GOTM8 with all the civilizations and barbarians located in the same opening positions. Click here for the instructions to download the GOTM8 start positions replay scenario.
The rare circumstances that support the decision to move?
There are really very few good reasons for you not to take your first settler and plop that first city down right where you start the game. Moving your first settler will put you one turn behind in the game and will usually move you one step closer to your enemies and any barbarians that may exist on the map.
When you consider the option to move rather than settle, it must generally be based on a significant gain in position that will offset the loss of ten points of score plus the first turn’s value in growth, production, commerce, and research.
There are several conditions that might indicate that an initial settler move is a good idea:
1. The start position is located right on top of a cow or wheat bonus or other high food value square.
2. The start position is in the middle of hostile terrain or a very isolated position.
3. The start position is one square away from contact with the coast.
4. If you can see a substantial military advantage that will be gained by a move of one square.
There may be other good reasons to consider the opening move versus settle option, but the four reasons listed above make up my primary reasons that would drive me to look further at the move option.
In this Russian start position example there is no visible coast, so we can exclude reason number 3 in the list above.
If we look closely at our starting square and check the terrain info option from the right click menu, we will find that we are standing in a flood plain square. To our southwest there are six more flood plain squares that will all be located within our boundaries if we take this start position. All of these squares can never be improved to produce even one shield of production per turn. There will be lots of food for growth, but shield balance may be a problem. Flood plains also carry the risk of disease that can kill off our civilian population. We could consider a start position in the middle of a mass of flood plain to meet the definition of “hostile terrain” in reason number 2 above.
In the V1.21 and subsequent patches, the food production from the center square of any town or city has been fixed at two food units no matter what the real food production for the terrain and/or bonus resources might really support. This limit is the reason that you will often want to move off of a cow or wheat resource. Flood plain squares have the capacity to produce three or four food units when improved, so you could view this position as partially meeting the test for reason number 1 above.
When you carefully look at the image of the raw view of our start position, we can see that there is hill next to a river located to our north and this would make a great early city position because it is near to plains that can be irrigated and also has at least two floodplain squares within its reach. The mountains to our north and east hint that another hill, which may support an early city, may be located nearby in that direction. The hill immediately to our southwest would still give us access to almost all the flood plain squares but would give us a free defensive bonus of 50% for all of our military units. Building our city on the hill would instantly increase the output from the hill to five power units (2 food, 1 shield, 2 gold) and we would be gaining an improvable flood plain square. The worker turns required to improve a flood plain square would be eight turns versus nineteen turns for a hill square. The military benefits of the hill positions for cities and the fact that we could cluster three or four early cities around a shared flood plain makes a very strong case for meeting the test in reason number 4 of our list above.
In this position we are lucky enough to be an expansionist civilization and this gives us a scout unit that can provide us with more information to help evaluate our terrain options before we make our final decision.
Scouting the position before making a final decision
This start position continues to illustrate how important it is to understand that your strategy must be matched to the terrain and the special abilities of the civilization that you choose to play. We might consider moving our initial settler with any civilization we might play, but the scouting benefit of playing as an expansionist civilization gives us several choices that can reduce the risk of delaying the settlement of our capital city.
Even without moving any units, we can inventory our surrounding terrain squares and project what the squares just beyond our full view might look like. If we move our scout unit straight to the west, we will reveal the unknown terrain squares indicated by the blue and orange double question marks. If we move our scout to the hill south of our current position, we will use the same number of moves but will benefit from the fact that a unit on a hill will be able to see out twice as far. This scout move would reveal twice as many new terrain squares to help us decide if moving our settler really is the best move.
We must not forget our global map position as we consider the choice of scouting routes. Our minimap of the world indicates we can expect more conflict to the west north and east if we are searching for our rivals and more open terrain. In this case, our anticipated settler move is to the southwest onto the H+ square and this settler move will instantly reveal all of the terrain squares marked with orange letters plus strong hints at almost all the terrain squares marked with yellow letters. Probing to the south with the scout will duplicate most of this information but it can reduce the risk of a bad movement decision.
Once we choose the scouting direction, we want to carefully move the scout in two individual steps instead of using the pathfinder to move both steps all in one motion. This cautious movement is just intended to give us the clearest possible view of our surrounding terrain without missing some important tidbit of reconaissance. Moving cautiously will often allow us to see enough of the next terrain squares that would be out under the black fog so that we can decide what those terrain squares might be.
The scout movement reveals the content of almost all the terrain squares that will be included in the territory of our capital city. This view makes it easier to evaluate the differences between the terrain power of our opening start position versus the terrain power of our anticipated new capital location on the first hill.
The table below lists the terrain squares that were lost from the northeast side of the position and compares those squares to the new squares that would be gained on the southwest edge if we relocated our settler to the hill.
There is no loss in total terrain power by switching between the two positions, but in the move gives up five terrain squares in the opening position that would see no use during the ancient and middle ages. In exchange we only gain only one square of little value and several valuable squares that would may not be able to use just because we have too much power to use with a maximum population limit of twelve citizens. These squares that would be of little use in either case are highlighted in rust brown colored text in the table above.
Pointing out how to see the second Wheat bonus
This is a minor sidebar topic, but if you look very closely at the map in the opening moves, you can actually see the northeast wheat resource peeking out from under the black fog. This is not blatantly obvious and most people would miss it in the opening decision processes but it is clearly visible in a zoomed in graphic without using any sort of cheats or other graphics mods. What makes the wheat visible is the reflected splash from the adjacent mountain square that just barely reveals the top of the wheat sheaf. You will see a similar effect from hills and mountains on many maps. I have adopted a practice of checking some terrain squares very closely when I think it might influence my opening move decisions. The decision to move the settler up onto the hill reveals the resource anyway, but it was still a nice piece of information to know.
Taking the plunge
So we take the risk and jump up on top of the hill. What do we think this buys us??
In addition to gaining a 50% defensive bonus against all attackers, our opening city placement strategy begins to jump off the map even before we begin to consider our opening worker move sequences and build options. Even before we officially settle our first city, we can identify four additional hilltop locations for our core cities and three of those locations will have early access to flood plain squares to help promote rapid growth. We have sacrificed one of our opening moves to buy ourselves a powerful position plus greater knowledge of our surroundings. One pseudo advantage of knowing that we will be behind our rivals in terms of city development is that we can use the F11 demographics information screen to list the top five cities in the world and this screen will list the capital cities of five of our rivals right from the start of the 3950 BC turn. If you have carefully read the pages of this article that relate to understanding the power of basic terrain types, then you can use this F11 screen data in 3950 BC and then again in 3500 BC when the capitals would normally expand to give you a fairly clear picture of what at least five of your rivals may be doing in terms of their start positions.
Let us finish up this investigation of starting positions and opening move sequences for Civ3 by looking at how we might play this relocated Russian settler. Then we can compare the various approaches and perhaps try our own skills at a few “Quick Start Challenges.”
Continuing this example by – Playing the Relocating Settler Position
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