Improving Your Opening Play Skills

Quick Start Challenge
How to play

Civ3 Opening Plays
- Improving Terrain
- Terrain basics
- Terrain types
- ID your power
- Rivers and position
- Forestry operations

Opening Sequence Examples
- GOTM8 June 2002
- Mixed Terrain - Germany
- Flood Plain - Russia
How the AI plays
Balance food/shields
"Pop rushing"
Balance and rush
When to relocate
Playing "Catch up"
- Play the example scenario

- GOTM10 August 2002
- Grassland - Iroquois
- Mixed Hills - French
- Green Caldera - Aztecs
- Play the example scenario

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

List of updates to this article

Items below this point
are maintained seperately
from this strategy article
and may not always available.

Known Bugs and Glitches

- The Corona Bug
- The Scared2Death Bug

Few things will have a bigger positive impact on your game play than investing the time to understand how the opening move sequences can improve or impede your enjoyment of the game.

If there was a perfect sequence of moves to get the most benefit out any Civ3 starting position then you would just memorize those moves and use them like a nuclear mace to destroy your opponents. There is no one perfect sequence of moves or one perfect build sequence that will always let you win the game. Instead, you have to understand a few key tactical and strategic decision processes that will let you discover the best sequence of moves to match your current game circumstances.

About this series

This series of web pages includes some basic concept information that should be considered a “must read” for any player new to the Civ3 game. Even if you have played a previous game such as Civ2 or SMAC, you should probably read through this information to make sure you are not importing any misconceptions from your prior experiences. If you are an experienced Civ3 player, then please read this basic information to provide a common frame of reference for other technical and strategy discussions that may follow.

We can look at the opening move sequences as a set of tactical tools that can be used to support your big picture strategy. If you understand these tactics well and can apply them as almost second nature, then your strategies will be more successful in shaping the results of your game to provide a challenging and enjoyable game play experience. These tactical skills apply to every strategy, every terrain position, every civilization and rival combination, and every possible difficulty level/map size combination.

We would like to initially set major strategy considerations aside and focus on these key tactical tools:

·         Understanding basic terrain values

·         Assessing the most powerful terrain squares in your start position

·         Understanding your relative position in the world and how this affects movement choices.

·         Adjusting your terrain power and position assessments for the impact of rivers

·         Prioritizing terrain squares based on proximity to your key assets.

·         Maximizing the benefit of early Forestry Operations

After we have a better understanding of the key tactical tools, we will walk through a progressive series of examples to explore how we can assess and exploit the power of our starting positions.

Some of the secondary tactical considerations we will begin to explore in these examples will include:

·         Worker task sequencing (what do you do first)

·         Adjusting city governor emphasis

·         When to micromanage food, production, and commerce

·         When relocating your first settler might be of benefit

·         “Using the Whip” in post V1.29 start positions.

Click here to read through the fundamentals.

What’s in the Examples – AND What’s Not

These examples are taken from actual GOTM terrain and map positions. You have the option to download a scenario file that includes each set of GOTM example starting positions and then you can play along with the examples or conduct your own test sequences and experiments for comparison. Do this!!! It may be the most valuable civ3 download that you ever complete!!

We will not be totally ignoring strategy in the examples, but try not to let yourself get too wrapped up in the precise build order that may be used to demonstrate how the tactical skills can be applied. The examples will follow a fairly standard build sequence that is focused on building some military units to support trying to expanding our empire at the maximum rate possible.

We do not want these examples to be a debate of issues like “we should build a spearman instead of an archer” or “we should build a scout instead of a warrior” because in the big picture if you understand the tactics to get the most out of your start position then you will have the luxury of making those choices. If you can’t get the most out of your start position because you don’t understand the basics, then those strategies will almost always be less effective.

In the examples, we will not push out our exploration and settlement boundaries even though these would be high priorities in a real game. We will just stockpile any settlers or other units around our capital city and compare the starting sequences to see which approaches would lead us to have more of these valuable assets earlier in the game. If we were to settle the new towns in these examples, the complexity of the discussion would go up exponentially for each new town that was added and this would quickly make the discussion very complex. We will not ignore map position issues in the examples, it is just that we deliberately do not take full advantage of our settlers, exploration, and position elements as they extend beyond the boundaries of our initial start position.

We will not focus very much of our emphasis on exclusively generating commerce (gold) and conducting diplomacy. This is not because these two issues are not important, but it recognizes that the ability to succeed in these two areas is heavily dependent on succeeding at the other tactical tasks. If you can expand your empire and grow your power base, you will have the necessary income and diplomatic power to succeed in many areas.

We also will not be focusing any discussion on the technology choices and research decisions that you should be making in each of these start positions. There are right and wrong answers to the research questions and they depend on what civilization you are playing, what difficulty level you are playing at, what your greater start position and map situation looks like, and what strategy you have chosen. These considerations are heavily impacted by the early random results from things like goody huts and contacts with your rivals. This whole tech strategy discussion is another big series of topics and it heavily dependent on the skills we will discuss in this set of web pages.

Here’s a list of quick links to the

·         Introductory discussion of opening plays

·         A German mixed terrain example from GOTM8

·         An Iroquois Grassland example from GOTM10

·         A Russian Flood Plain example from GOTM8
(note that this example actually provides an exploration of the impact of four different decision options)

Other related topics:
Discuss this article/ask questions on Opening Play Sequences in the Forums - - hosted by CivFanatics
Compare your opening play skills to other players in a Quick Start Challenge - hosted by CivFanatics
Cracker's unofficial CIV3 skills toolbox - some favorite tips and tricks
Support information - copyrights and usage, link to this site, how images were prepared

© 2002 by
All rights reserved. Please read the Terms of Use.
Send mail to our webmaster with technical questions about or potential problems with this web site.

This page was last updated on: August 31, 2002