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In the beginning of a game you will have 1 or 2 Settlers, depending on how the AI assesses your position on the map. You'll get 1 if the AI determines you're in a strong position. The difficulty level also influences the number of initial settlers (the first two levels always supports two settlers). Find a map location that has a combination of the following features:
- Beach or Coastal with Plains and/or Grassland within city influence area. Essential for food production and growth. If your capitol is directly on the coast, don't worry as much about terrain for farming, since your populace will harvest the sea.
- Its always beneficial to settle on or near squares with rivers
- At least one Trade Good (Pearls, Diamonds, Beaver etc).
- Not on a Swamp
- Some Forest/Hills/Mountains within the influence zone of the city (2 squares).
Don't be afraid to look around for a turn or two before building your first (and by default capitol) city. The most advantageous position for a city is a coastal Forest/Jungle or Hill tile with a river flowing through it. This adds the Production, Food & Gold bonuses of that tile automatically to your city. Additionally a Forest or Hill tile will add the +50% terrain defense bonus to the Defense rating of any units Fortified as garrison in that city. Building a city on top of a Trade Good is fine since it means your citizens automatically work that good, adding Gold to your treasury. Furthermore, building a city on top of a Trade good means the resultant trade route cannot be disrupted by enemy units unless they capture the city.
One your city is founded start developing, start with a list like this:
- 2-3 Warriors.
- A Granary- Food storage, prevents starvation and allows for faster population growth. Requires Domestication.
- A Marketplace- +50% gold for that city.
- 3 of your most powerful military units, most likely these will be Phalanxes. The most effective combination at this period is 2 Phalanxes supported by 2 Archers.
- City Walls- +4 Defence rating for units Garrisoned within the city. Requires Stoneworking.
- A Settler. Build a Settler after every Wonder.
- As soon as possible, build the Labyrinth. Requires Shipbuilding.
For harder difficulties, like "Deity", build two warriors and a settler. The faster you expand your empire, the better.
Set your Public Works (PW) percentage to 20%.
You will know certain Advances. These are pseudo-randomly generated by the AI but most likely you'll know Domestication and Mining, maybe some others. Research Domestication if you don't know it, Bronzeworking, Shipbuilding and Stoneworking in that order.
Once you have 2 warriors built, use one to explore. Fortify the other one as a city Garrison until you can replace it with at least a pair of fortified Phalanx or a Phalanx and an Archer/Mounted Archer. Warriors are more effective in reconnaissance than Mounted Archers because they can see 2 squares around them. Use them to find Ruins. Ruins are fundamental sometimes they will give you an Advance, military units or Settlers, a new city or gold. Find them. Explore them.
Once all of this is established, start developing Tile Improvements using your Public Works (PW). Start with enhancing Food production by placing Farms or Nets on every square you can within the 2-square site-radius around your city. Some sea squares will cost more to place Nets on than normal (300PW vs. 200PW)-this means that there is a Undersea Trench underneath it, making placing a Net there +50% more extensive in PW. Your citizens will automatically start working those squares in preference to other squares and receive a +5 Production boost. Placing the Nets there will result in a +5 Food boost. If you have a river flowing through Plains or Grassland near your city, place your Farms there. Improve all food-producing squares before placing Mines.
Once this is accomplished concentrate on building the Labyrinth and the Sphinx, exploring and founding cities to claim Trade Goods. Once you have more than one city, start building Roads between them. Avoid building them over Swamps.
- Your Settler's starting position is usually the best tile in your immediate location to build your first city, so don't bother using it to scout first. However, if you are playing an island map with a lot of water, make sure your first city is built adjacent to an ocean tile so you can build ships.
- At the beginning of the game, change your work week to 12 hours and minimize gold and food rations to maximize production, economy (so you climb the tech tree faster), and growth. Raise the food when you start incurring riots.
- The sooner you go for Theocracy, the better.
- Unless you are playing on a map with a lot of barbarians, decrease your military readiness to "at peace" until a faction becomes hostile toward you (angry face in the diplomacy tab). This will reduce your army upkeep cost, but units only get 1/2 the health bar (except special forces like Samurai).
- Learn to use Build Queues in the City tab. Saves a lot of time especially when you know you're going to build the same improvements and units in every game.
- Have at least two units fortified in each city. Use a combination of melee and ranged attackers, for example two Legions and two Archers. An army of this style, fortified in a city with City Walls, can destroy an attacking army of 9 units (4x Phalanxes, 3x Samurai and 2x Legions) without even losing a single unit. Your defending Legions will be in critical condition, but they will heal in two turns.
- Never send a Settler to build a new city alone. Always send a military unit for protection, like a Phalanx, and fortify the escort inside your new city.
- When a ruin gives you a city in an inconvenient location, go into your City tab and select "demolish city". Your city will be replaced with a settler. You can do this with any city of 3 population or less.
- Don't be afraid of war.
- It's largely a waste of time, resources and troops conducting an offensive war before developing Cannon/Ship of the Line. Build a strong force of 4+ Cannons and other units (you develop Musketeers at about the same time, so it might as well be them) and move it adjacent to the desired location-enemy city etc. Bombard the location for a while. This will kill enemy units at low risk to your army, especially if you fortify your Cannons while they bombard. Bombarding also destroys City Improvements-like City Walls. I've found this tactic to be most effective when there are a minimum of 4 bombarding units in the attacking army or when coupled with Naval gunfire support of a minimum 4 Ships of the Line (the first Naval unit that can Bombard)
- Pikemen are a good front-line Renaissance unit and can be trained quickly and cheaply. They are ideal for defending a city when combined with musketeers or cannons. Pair them with settlers when moving to the location you want your new city built.
- Never use Biological Warfare (i.e. the Infector unit). Whenever a different Civilization uses that attack against you, declare "No Truce" and set out to destroy them. Build a massive force of Nukes and nuke them back into the Stone Age. Stealth Bombers (which hold two nukes per unit) and Stealth Subs (which hold four nukes per unit) are a major advantage in this form of warfare because they can bring nukes within range of enemy cities very quickly.
- Swamps are useless terrain except when they have an Alligator Trade Good on them. Never build a city on them because when Global Warming occurs (almost inevitable) the Swamp tile will be converted to Water and the city will be destroyed. Terraform them whenever possible. Always Terraform them into Plains at the cost of 600PW once Industrial Revolution has been discovered.
- Piracy is your friend.
- If you have built Stone and Bronze age Wonders (i.e. The Labyrinth, Sphinx etc.) delay researching Age of Reason as long as possible. Once this Advance is discovered, by anyone, all of these Wonders become obsolete and you lose their benefits. For this reason, as soon as you research Trade, despite having the Labyrinth, build a handful of Caravans. Therefore as soon as the Labyrinth becomes obsolete, there is minimal disruption to my trade network.
- If you have built the Labyrinth, build enough Caravans to sustain your most lucrative trade routes before Age of Reason is researched.
- If an opponent is threatening to complete a crucial wonder, like the London Exchange, send a Spy to find the city building it and a swarm of Lawyers to halt production until you can complete it.
- Placing a city on an isthmus with Garrisoned units within it is a good defensive strategy as is limits enemy movement through it. If the isthmus is narrow enough, enemy units cannot advance past the city without attacking it. Where there is 1 land square separating 2 bodies of water, building a city there allows your ships to sail though, shortening their trip.
- The AI might assess your initial location on the map as weak and give you 2 Settlers to start the game with. This is actually a major advantage because it gives you 2 cities for free.
- As soon as possible, research Corporate Republic and change your government.
- One of the best offensive forces you can build is a stack of 5 Storm Marines and 4 War Walkers.
- Build undersea cities near volcanoes, then build undersea mines on the volcanoes. A mega undersea mine on this space can give you over 200 production on just one tile!