Monday, September 01, 2008

For Simon and Kirk

Both Simon and Kirk have both mentioned that they miss my Civ posts. Over the summer, I realized that I am shitty at academic work at night. I just don’t have the focus left that late in the day. So I try to work in the day. At night, I just accept that I need to rest. As Civ takes very little concentration, I’ve played only at night when I’m tired. The beautiful thing is that when I screw up and have attention problems in Civ, I can always scrap that iteration and start another. The fuck-ups don’t cost me much and I don’t get frustrated the way I do with real work. I just never use good attention for Civ. Bad attention only.

I’ve been keeping random notes since June on my attempts to develop a strategy for winning the cultural victory. Over three months, it has slowly but surely developed into this posting. So, without further ado, my bullshit blog entry for the summer:

Talal’s Guide to the Cultural Victory at Warlord Level for Civ 4 Warlords

Recommended Leader/Civ Combination: Louis XIV, France

There are four keys to the cultural victory. These are: (1) use of the organized religion civic to create intense domestic religious pluralism under a single state religion, (2) very little military formation until after the invention of gunpowder, (3) use of open diplomacy and missionary proselytization to create a broad medieval religious alliance for peace and (4) complementing early wonder construction with diversion of all production to the creation of culture starting roughly in the mid-nineteenth century.

I. The Open Relationship as Paradigm for the Opening Game

In my view, the opening game begins with the first move and ends when you have expanded to “natural borders,” i.e. when there is no convenient empty space into which you can expand and further expansion requires revision of borders with foreign powers.

A. The Dilemma: Being a Peaceful Planet with No Weapons

You seek a cultural victory. This means diverting your economy to the creation of wonders and other cultural edifices. The first thing that you need to do is scrap the idea of a military. To arrive at the highest levels of cultural production, you must found a “peacemonger” civilization. Yours will be a civilization like Alderaan or Naboo. Ideally, you will never go to war for the duration of the game.

Imagine some princess in flowing gowns saying “But we are a peaceful planet! We have no weapons!” That’s you. I mean it. It is particularly important that you not go to war before the advent of gunpowder, because you will really have no weapons and surely go the way of Alderaan in a war. After gunpowder, you’ll invest in hardware. You might then go the way of Naboo in a war, if you play your cards right and you’re lucky. Already quaking in your boots? You ought to be. If Obi-Wan Kenobi is your only hope, you’re fucked. Obi-Wan is not powerful enough to help you. Your help must come from God Who made Heaven and Earth. That is, you must lay extensive religious groundwork that, when combined with diplomatic savvy, will guarantee that Grand Moff Tarkin never arrives with the Death Star. Ideally, you will never fight anyone but barbarians for the whole length of the game.

B. Solution: Taking Spiritual Cock in Every Hole while Maintaining a Special Relationship with Just One Religion

Before going to war, the marine is afforded ample opportunity to order additional dog tags. You are only supposed to order more when you have actually lost a dog tag or a set (there are two dog tags to a set), or you need to change some of the information, and the only information that can possible change is your religion of record. You either have a religion of record or they stamp no preference on your tag, but this still makes it sound as though you want something, in fact, it makes it sound as if you’ll take it in any hole, from any pulpit. They make it hard for a non-believer.

—Anthony Swofford, Jarhead

Your goal in the opening game must be to found the maximum number of religions possible. This has several advantages. First, you will need many cathedrals in the end game, which means you need many temples, as you need three temples per cathedral. Your maximum number of cathedrals is governed by the formula: number of religions x number of cities / 3. Max out on religions. Second, you want to make your neighbors attracted to your state religion. Not having a religion of their own means that they have to acquire one from someone. Why not you, especially if you’ve founded all of them? Many civs like to shift to a religion that they invent themselves. The fewer the other civs that have developed their own religion, the less this problem gets in your way. If you found all the religions, the other civs are less likely to defect. Finally, you always want to max out on wonders. Controlling the maximum number of holy cities by founding all the faiths gives you more wonders in the form of creating the religion’s holy temple. Civ religions are like Pokemon, kids. Gotta get ‘em all.

That said, while your “peaceful planet” civ may be a religion whore that will take spirituality in every hole, you must nonetheless adopt a state religion and move to the organized religion civic as soon as you acquire it. You are officially in an open relationship with that religion. Think of it like being Anglican. You’re spiritually open to everything, but only one church gets to be official. That 25 percent discount on building construction and the possibility of pumping out missionaries for every religion in each of your cities is far too valuable to ever sacrifice in the name of some formal commitment to liberalism. Fuck disestablishmentarianism!

Free religion is a no-no for the cultural victory. Don’t be seduced by that “every religion present in a city produces a point of culture for that city” bullshit. You will produce far more culture points with temples, monasteries and cathedrals than you can ever pick up from free religion. A 25 percent discount on the price of constructing those buildings is worth the sacrifice of a state religion. Moreover, the effects of wonders like Ankor Wat (+1 hammer from each priest in city, obsolete with computers), the Spiral Minaret (+1 gold from each building associated with state religion in city, obsolete with computers) and the University of Sankore (+2 research for each building associated with state religion, obsolete with computers) are too much of an asset to sacrifice by giving up a state religion. Needless to say, you will avoid acquiring computers like the plague.

While you may have de facto free religion, actively spreading each faith and constructing temples, monastaries and cathedrals in honor of each, de jure you will never embrace disestablishmentarianism. Moreover, on the domestic scene, you will focus on spreading your state religion actively and uniformly from the beginning of the game in order to create an efficient empire. While you want to spread the other religions too, that can often wait until the middle or endgame. Your state religion is where you bread is buttered, especially as it is the source of your most important political alliances, through the course of the middle game.

C. Opening Tech Priorities

But equally important, your state religion is central to making the strong alliances that will unburden you of costly military investment and tedious wars. From the very beginning of the game, there is only one truly universal trade rule—open borders with anyone and everyone. The more open your borders are, the more likely other civs will pick up your religion and the more likely you will pick up any religions you didn’t invent. Ideally, everyone adopts your state religion as their own.

Your early tech order should look like:

1. Mysticism (enables monuments and Stonehenge)

2. Polytheism (founds Hinduism)

3. Meditation (founds Buddhism, allows monasteries)

4. Masonry

5. Monotheism (founds Judaism, enables Organized Religion)

6. Priesthood (allows temples)

7. Code of Laws (founds Confucianism)

8. Writing

9. Alphabet (enables tech trading)

10. Theology (founds Christianity)

11. Philosophy (founds Taoism)

12. Monarchy

13. Divine Right (founds Islam, enables Spiral Minaret and Versailles)

Note that I have you aiming to acquire Hinduism and not Buddhism as your first religion, despite the face that Buddhism is the cheapest religion to found in terms of beaker production. You are concerned with securing your first religion early. Your major constraint is that France doesn’t start with mysticism as a tech, so if there any of the AIs are interested in being religious, they are bucking for meditation right out of the gate. If they had mysticism in their starting package, odds are that they’ll beat you to Buddhism. Say they beat you out to Buddhism by a turn or two. Next, you’ll turn to polytheism. Odds are if there’s another AI who wants a religion, they may beat you to that. Before you know it, you’re chasing Judaism and still have no state religion thirty turns into the game. Aiming for polytheism means you are likely to score a religion on your first try. You don’t want to fall behind. If, by the time that you found Hindiusm, no one has invented Buddhism, go for meditation in slot three and try to score Buddhism. If someone already has it, you can delay meditation until later and pursue Judaism. Remember, Civ religions are like Pokemon—gotta get’em all. Be intelligent in your tech order so that you can keep the AI from scoring. Sacrificing Buddhism can often be a good move.

D. Early Diplomacy

Diplomacy runs on a system of penalties and bonuses. Diplomatic success is a matter of maximizing your positive penalties and minimizing your negative penalties. Remember, you have no weapons. You want no enemies and lots of friends. The most influential bonus is “caring for our brothers and sisters of the faith,” which can reach +8 with some AI civs. This bonus can easily offset minor sins and will make for your strongest assets through the end of the middle game. You must take the religious bond very seriously while still maximizing your popularity with those AIs outside your religious group. This requires very careful attention to etiquette.

As best I can tell, the AI views the world the way that many gay male couples in open relationships do. The basic rule is that fucking around (tech trade) is okay, but on-going relationships (multi-turn resource trades or multi-turn alliances) with other guys are not allowed. So trading tech is okay with anyone, but you should assiduously avoid multi-turn trade relationships with those outside your religious group.

Diplomacy is fairly constrained at the start of the game, as few players have a state religion. Remember, the rule is “Don’t have multi-turn trade agreements outside your religion until the onset of secularism.” Just like you want to practice safer sex when fucking around, while acknowledging that it’s only safer and isn’t completely safe, but without it you don’t get much action, so you must start building your religious coalition by opening your borders to everyone you can. This really is the only multi-turn arrangement you can abide until you have co-religionists with whom to trade. The only reason that you will enter into open border relationships is that you need to spread your religion and open borders are more effective than closed borders for spreading religion.

I stress that these initial open borders should be your only multi-turn trade relationship with powers outside your state religion group. Never trade resources with civs outside your state religion group. You will eventually have to drop the open borders after someone from your group decides to war on the recalcitrant power outside your religion. The more trade deals you are forced to break, the less happy the outside power will be with you. Turning down trade deals isn’t offensive, but canceling them is. Likewise, the outside power is going to want to re-open borders later. You mustn’t be too quick to re-open borders. First of all, by the middle game, they aren’t likely to change religion, so the open borders are less important. Moreover, the outside power is likely to get into another tiff with the AI in your religious group. The AI in your religious group will simply ask you to break off relations again. To preserve your close relationships with your brother or sister in the faith, you will of course have to break off the relationship. You will then incur a second penalty with the outside power. These penalties rack up. The outside power will become increasingly resentful the more times you break off relations. Minimize this effect by not reopening borders again.

You want to be careful in selecting your state religion. I usually grab the first religion I found, but sometimes, if your second or third religion spreads more quickly to your other cities and/or to neighboring foreign cities, it can pay to switch. If you are creating most of the world religions, you will obviously have some religion in common with most of the other AIs. I tend to pick the one shared by the most AIs, to generate the most natural allies.

Things spice up after discovering the alphabet, which enables tech trading. Tech trades are one-shot deals. Remember: one-shot deals are like one-night stands. The AIs in your religious group don’t seriously mind if you fuck around as long as there are no lingering ties with outsiders, so trade techs vigorously. My tech order, with its obsession with founding religions, will give you several expensive techs to trade. Most civs want to trade techs widely and are interested in trading packets of techs of equivalent beakers. Pick up lots of cheap practical techs (pottery, archery, mining, iron working, etc.) that you’ve missed this way. Don’t be afraid to sweeten deals with cash. I am pretty successful with a one gold-piece-per-beaker parity. Start trading with those in your religion to maximize brownie points and then work your way to outsiders with lots of tech to trade. Remember, if you are the first to make it to alphabet (very likely) then don’t trade that tech away too quickly, as you are the only tech trader on the block. Prolong that monopoly within reason. Obviously if someone within your religious group asks you for the tech as a favor, give it to them, as that enhances your diplomacy score.

Requests for help and demands for tribute are annoying and, unfortunately, you’ll pretty much cave to most requests. Remember, you are peaceful planet with no weapons. Often, those outside your bloc will ask for help. Unless the help is exceptionally onerous (e.g. Shaka is one of your immediate neighbors and is asking you for military tradition), it pays to grant it, even if it hurts. Likewise, if a foreign power asks for the tech as tribute, it usually pays to give up the tech unless it is a military tech that will likely be used directly against you in the short-term. For some silly reason, they like you after that. Go figure. The only time it’s safe to refuse onerous requests is when they’re offered as trades. So if Cyrus offers you iron working and a hundred gold pieces for radio, for example, feel free to send him packing. Unlike demands for tribute and requests for help, you can always turn down trade requests without fear of insult. At least, this practice hasn’t bitten me in the ass so far.

E. City Management and Expansion

Your goals for the opening game:

(1) Build a territorially large empire, to eventually be packed with cities. You will need many cathedrals to pump up your culture values in your top three cultural cities. This means you will later need oodles of temples.

(a) Remember that you don’t want to build too many cities too quickly, as this will ruin your economy. Note that in Civ 4, there isn’t an effective limit on the number of cities. Rather, your limit centers around adding too many cities at one time. Add them slowly but surely.

(b) Work instead on maximizing territorial acquisition by building cities that are somewhat far apart from one another. One of the nifty things about being Louis XIV is that you start producing culture immediately, just for being you. Build Stonehenge and each city will start life with an extra +1 culture above that. Your high cultural production rate as France will allow your borders to expand quickly, creating a connected, contiguous empire. You can later fill in the unused land within your borders with new cities.

(c) Don’t be timid about getting into pissing matches with the AI over territory. The AI will be quite deliberate about building cities next to yours in order to “box you in.” It will deliberately leave large gaps between their capital and their new cities in order to build a city adjacent to yours. Don’t hesitate to surround their city with new cities of your own. Remember that you will very likely draw adjacent AIs into your religious alliance. They’ll love you as a brother or sister of the faith. If the subjects that they so stupidly planted near your cities desert their cause to bask in the superiority of your culture, how can they really mind? After all, secretly, they themselves yearn to throw in the towel and be ruled by you. That is, they wish to be ruled by you until liberalism. After that, they lose their sense of deferring to their cultural superiors. But by then, the cities will be yours.

(2) I recommend grabbing Stonehenge as your first wonder. Adding a monument to each city will give you the early cultural advantage in seizing territory.

(3) There are two resources you want more than all others: stone and marble. These are vital for building early wonders. Make serious efforts to acquire one if not both of these.

(4) Select a single city to be your great people farm. Ideally it should be built on a desert river with fertile flood plains. You want it to grow to be huge. Typically, this is my capital, but if you find, say, a two- or three-river flood plain, it surely helps to build a city there and make it your great people farm.

(5) Center your wonders in only three cities. Often these will be among your first four cities. Show some flexibility here, but commit by the middle game. This is particularly important for your culture-producing wonders. Later cities can be financial and production powerhouses. These are appropriate places for non-cultural wonders.

(6) Remember, you are George Lucas’ small planet with no weapons. I do create initial warriors to protect my cities against barbarians, but often those warriors will not be upgraded until the discovery of liberalism and gunpowder in the endgame.

II. The Middle Game: Loving and Caring Brother or Sister of the Faith

In my view, the transition from the opening game to the middle game is marked by the expansion of your borders to the ocean or the borders of other states, i.e. the expansion of your state to occupy all the “free” land available to it. I rarely seek to create overseas colonies. Like most other versions of Civ, it rarely seems to pay to be a naval power. Overseas conquest is even more costly in Civ 4 than the other iterations and navies are usually used simply to bombard cities to ease the job for land units or simply to annoy you. I build naval units only as needed. Whole games go by where I don’t build any ships other than workboats. Under our strategy for cultural victory, the middle game is about balancing a building program

A. The Democratic War Theory

The middle game in our particular strategy is a time to build cultural edifices, spread your various religions and lay out economic infrastructure. “But what about war?” you ask. You aren’t telling me that you can continue until gunpowder with nothing garrisoning your cities nothing but fuckin’ warriors, are you? In the words of the immortal Dinur Blum, “Yes. Yes I am.”

Civ 4 seems fairly unique among the other iterations of the game in that you can avoid warfare fairly easily. This is especially true for the Middle Ages. Civ 4 is fundamentally anti-Kantian and neo-conservative. In Civ 4, the medieval religious worldview dominated by monarchies is, ironically, fundamentally peaceful. It is rare that I am forced to make war prior to liberalism. In contrast, the advent of liberalism and free religion is the most likely time one will experience war in our posture as “a small planet with no weapons.” The moral of the story is that in Civ 4, liberalism is for neo-conservative gun-toting types. Religion is the path to perpetual peace.

Your strategy is to cultivate an alliance centering around one of your many religions (remember, following the tech order recommended for the opening game, you probably have most of them). In the transition to the middle game you will typically see an emerging religion. Adopt it. Then look around and see who you want to get on your side. Typically, conversion can be achieved by using missionaries to convert three of their cities. Very few of the civilizations put much effort into uniformly spreading their state religion. With very few exceptions, converting three of their cities will tip the balance in favor of your religion of choice. The AI will change religions in order to reap the benefits of having a state religion that is more present in its cities.

Trade resources with everyone who adopts your religion. Give occasional or even regular bargains. Show you care for your brothers and sisters of the faith. So you’re a soft touch—who cares? On the Last Day, the Good Lord won’t ask you if you gave too much to beggars like Catherine the Great (although I must say that I have a consistent urge to tell the little slut to stow her smile and batting eyelashes, I’m queer and could really care less). And, recalling more worldly concerns, when you’re a small planet with no weapons, face it: it doesn’t pay to be stingy! Remember the most important fact of all: you have no onerous military for which to pay. You can afford generosity. Remember, while the competition is building catapults and duking it out like the primitives that they are, you’re building the Great Civilization of Untold Wealth and Glory! Your population revels in salons, temples and cathedrals while theirs squats in their hovels. Surrounded by such splendor, munificence is an expense you can afford.

The bottom line is the “We care for our brothers and sisters of the faith” bonus typically goes as high as +6 and can even reach +8 with the likes of Isabella. Add to that the +4 bonus for “fair trade relations” (i.e. they rape you and you smile) and the members of your alliance will adore you. If you’re good at spreading your religion, you can become the darling of the world until liberalism. It’s such a pity that you can’t build the United Nations before liberalism. The diplomatic victory would be an easy triumph in the medieval era.

B. Diplomatic Strategy

Now, Talal, I can hear you say. It can’t be that easy. Well, you’ll be shocked to see that it is just that easy in many iterations of Civ 4 at the warlord level. Of the fifteen or so iterations I’ve played while starting to write up this strategy (I’ve played another dozen or so while writing it up), about a dozen have run very smoothly with minimal fuss. In most iterations, I can’t even build the Heroic Epic, because I don’t have any units that are tough enough to qualify. Often my toughest units got that way fighting barbarians. That said, naturally, this strategy isn’t completely foolproof. The moral of the story is not to be a fool and, instead, be a keen diplomat.

Your basic strategy in building an alliance follows the following rules:

(1) Your first priority is to add any warmongers on your borders to your religious alliance. These guys have to be secured before anyone else and are a serious concern in the opening game. They must be secured by the middle game.

(2) Don’t be distracted by the emergence of larger, non-warmonger states in a religious alliance if you haven’t secured your warmongers on the border. You may want to join the alliance of the cool kids, especially when they adopt your current state religion, but you need to secure that warmonger far more urgently, even if it means you can’t be friends with the cool kids. It hurts, I know, when three nifty powers accept your state religion and the bordering warmonger latches onto one of your secondary religions instead, but dump your state religion in favor of the warmonger’s choice. You’ll pay dearly if you don’t.

(3) Don’t offend AIs. Give them gifts and cave regularly on tribute. You can afford to be generous. The only time you really want to be stingy is when you are building a wonder and an AI wants the tech so that they can beat you to it. Be stingy then. No, repeat, no other civilization can be as fabulous as yours. You may never deny yourself a single splendor when pursuing the cultural victory. Remember, you can always make a gift of something else, if they’re asking to trade. If they ask for help and/or tribute and caving means that you’re going to lose the wonder, use your common sense on how much you can afford to offend the AI in question. Losing a wonder sucks, but sometimes it’s needed. But again, try to avoid denying yourself any splendor. Taking a reputation hit sucks, but losing a wonder can suck worse.

(4) By the middle game, you are going to have to cut off the universal open borders. Be prudent in selecting who to annoy. Obviously, you never betray a brother or sister of the faith to a heathen. Those requests you simply rebuff. In the cases of an infidel warmonger demanding a cessation of relations with an infidel non-warmonger, sell out the peacenik. If the infidel peacenik approaches you first about the infidel warmonger, rebuff the peacenik. Your goal is to accommodate warmongers while maintaining your religious alliance. Your worst grief is if you get a rupture within your alliance, i.e. one ally attacks another ally. See Ragnar below.

(5) Don’t get distracted by your hopes of converting a large neighboring non-warmonger country. If someone in your alliance (usually a warmonger) demands you close off the open borders with a non-warmonger infidel, always cave. Give up on expanding the alliance. It’s just not worth it. The warmonger will resent you and you’ll pay later. Moreover, you’ll probably get more than one of these demands in succession and converting an AI takes time. Each rebuffed request lowers your score. Odds are you wind up pissing off your warmonger and never actually get the peacenik infidel converted. This is often true of Hatshesput. She just isn’t worth it.

(5) After you close borders on an infidel, never re-open them. You’ll be asked to cut them off again the next time your warmonger wants to beat up on them. Each cut-off counts against your popularity score. Just cut them off the once and only do one-off trades from then on. One break in trade relations can easily be weathered. Several will bite you in the posterior.

C. The Problem Children of Civ 4

Civ 4 has problem children. Knowing something about the leader personalities is a serious asset. You particularly need to manage what Maltz (gotta love the handle) at calls the “zealots” and rather too optimistically calls the “pet dogs.” The archetypical zealot is, of course, Isabella. The pet dogs are essentially the warmonger leaders like Montezuma, Ragnar, Tokugawa, and Shaka.

(1) Zealots

(a) Isabella—The Biggest Bitch of Them All

In Civ 3 Isabella was this absolutely fabulous, glamorous woman from the Mediterranean who made flamboyant requests, but always said, “You make me so happy, Little Bear!” whenever I gave her what she wanted. I could imagine chatting with her at a streetside café, sipping espresso. In contrast, Civ 4 Isabella is a dour, fanatical, hyper-religious little girl. Many of the denizens of call her “Izzy.” Sadly, the nickname fits. She is undoubtedly Civ 4’s biggest problem child.

Your first problem dealing with Izzy is that she must, repeat, must have a religion. She will reliably beat you to Buddhism. She can often beat you to Hinduism. In fact, I’m beginning to think that she often targets Hinduism first, although I’ve seen her hit Buddhism first a few times. I find in any game where I fail to land Hinduism, odds are that Izzy is in the game. If she lands Hinduism, try for Buddhism. If there isn’t anyone who is particularly religious in the game, then the odds are good that you can pick Buddhism up, as Izzy doesn’t have a Pokemon plan of her own. She is a one-religion-kinda girl.

Once she has a state religion, she rarely changes it and adopts theocracy as soon as possible, closing down conversion possibilities, even if she opens her borders. It will rarely work out that she is forced to pick up one of your religions. As you will be good at spreading your key religion, your religion, not hers will spread globally. Therefore, she is very often going to be outside your religious alliance and will require extensive management.

If you are very successful at building a large, global religious alliance and Izzy falls behind in tech, then you will have fewer problems. She will simply try to bully you for key resources that she lacks, like coal, oil or iron. Believe it or not, if you cave to these demands while she’s weak, she’ll adore you. She just loves her military resources. The trick is to feed her when she can’t afford to bite your hand. She’ll just purr. She doesn’t purr nearly as much when you feed her when she can afford to bite your hand. Moreover, please note that while she may not feel she can attack you, she’ll still attack others where she can. As a result, she’s a costly bitch to keep if you are trying to avoid being dragged into combat.

When she lucky enough to develop an ally or two, she can be a serious irritant. If she’s getting lucky at building a religious alliance, consider joining, if you can pick up her religion. She’s fiercely loyal to her brothers and sisters of the faith and is completely disinterested in free religion. She’ll typically stay loyal to the end if you share a religion, by which time she’s likely to behind in tech and pathetic. If you can pick up her religion, she’ll love you forever.

Likewise, after liberalism and the secularization of the other players (for me, the segue from the middle game into the endgame), it may be worth your while to go to the trouble to convert to her religion if you’ve managed to acquire it by the later stages of the game. Strangely, religious AIs don’t seem to have a bias against secularists at all (can you tell the game was designed by secularists who don’t really understand how religious people think?). The general movement of most AI players to secularism means that, suddenly, Isabella, whose identity is as locked into religion as yours is with this strategy, has lost all targets but you. This effect is especially pronounced when you border Spain. She won’t invest nearly as much in her culture as you will. In the endgame, your cultural production will be so grand that your borders will sweep across what used to be her territory (more on cultural bombardment in the endgame below), as her citizens abandon her due to her obvious cultural inferiority. What can I say? The people have taste. Avoiding war means adopting her religion.

Delightfully, if you border Isabella, this will be quite easy. Her citizens will bring along her religion with them as they flock to join your fabulous culture. Yes, retooling your fabulous culturo-economic research machine to her state religion can be inconvenient and a little costly, but not as costly as war, especially war without an army. Remember to convert to her religion early so that the full +8 bonus has time to manifest. If the bonus isn’t high enough and she’s really having territory sheared away, she will attack you, even if you are her brother or sister of the faith. I have had to arm early in one game to fight her off when I wasn’t able to convert early enough.

(b) GandhiWeird and Irritating Little Fuck

He’s not a warmonger like Isabella but, like Isabella, he must have a religion. If you get beaten out to both Hinduism and Buddhism, the odds are that both Gandhi and Isabella are in the game. Much like Hatshesput below, Gandhi’s always unpopular and I’m not exactly sure why the other AIs hate him. Everyone will want you to break any deal you have with the little fucker. Avoid him in an alliance wherever possible. His unpopularity will make you suffer. Even if you have the same state religion, you might seriously consider only making tech trades. Too many people will want you to break your trade deals with him. What sucks about this is that Gandhi never stops asking for deals. If he’s in your alliance, you may have to trade techs with him just to keep him at the “pleased” level. He definitely loves it if you give him a bargain. His +4 “fair trading” stat crops up quickly.

He’s also a pain in the ass outside of your alliance. Again, he never stops asking for trades. He’ll want to open borders with you every ten minutes or so. He’s irksome. He also refuses to talk for turn upon turn if you break a trade relation with him. Plus, the little shit actually attacked me four or five iterations ago. I really don’t have his psyche down. What’s funny is that after I beat him in the war, I later adopted universal suffrage and he really started to love me. If you adopt his preferred civics, apparently he’ll forgive anything. He’s a weird and irritating little fuck.

(2) The Divas

(a) Hatshesput—The Little Diva

Hatshesput isn’t a zealot, but she can be irritating, due to her lack of popularity and her need to express her terminal uniqueness. First, she’s never popular. There are always players who will want you to break off ties with her. I’m not sure why, exactly. I suspect that this is because she, like your Louis XIV character, has the creative attribute. Her borders will expand rapidly due to the extra cultural production, pressuring her neighbors. Unlike your Louis XIV, however, Hatshepsut probably doesn’t spend as much time finessing her neighbors with diplomacy as you will if you use the strategy outlined here. So you might want to avoid a religious alliance with her if she’s not located on the map in some way that makes it vital that she be part of your alliance. You will pay a price in popularity being loyal to her, especially when she borders many other states.

In the opening game, unless Hatshepsut’s missed out on developing her own religion, she will always abandon your faith for one of her own. Often you’re in luck. She’s not as hell-bent on immediately founding a religion as Izzy, so your Pokemon routine may work and you’ll get ‘em all beforehand. But in some iterations, she’ll develop her own religion. “No problem,” you say to her. “I ain’t too proud. I’ll adopt your religion, baby. Let’s just get our alliance on.”

This is easier said than done. Say you adopt her religion. Unlike Izzy, Hatshepsut is always fond of open borders and rarely seems to adopt theocracy, so it’s likely you can get pick her religion up and transplant yours. “Great,” you’ll say. “We are one big happy fleet.” The problem is, Hatshesput has to be special, so the bitch will then switch again to a different religion, maybe even your old religion, just so she can show her the world she’s unique. “Ha!” you can hear her saying. “I don’t ever take the lead from the human player. He may have an actual brain, but I’m still special!

Worse yet, the fuckin’ bitch has spiritual as one of her attributes, so she can change religions at whim without experiencing anarchy. This guarantees that you’ll never be able to keep up in her game of switching religions to be unique. You’ll ruin any forward momentum in your culturo-economic program and still not get anywhere with her.

Lesson learned: Don’t try to convert to her religion early in the game. If you need Hatshepsut in your alliance, don’t bother with her until the middle game. The only way you can lure her from her own religion is to integrate her into your alliance by converting three of her cities to your state religion. She may need to be special, but like anyone else, she sees the benefit of having more of her cities belong to her state religion than less, i.e. she won’t pay an economic price to be special. Given the importance of focusing on expansion and wonder creation in the opening game, you probably won’t be able to afford the missionary investment before the middle game. Hatshesput cannot be an early ally. If you pick her up later, you pick her up, but she can’t be the cornerstone of an alliance.

(b) Chairman Mao (ironically) is an exception among the leaders in that he will spread his state religion uniformly across his empire. Converting him proved impossible in the last iteration I played with him, i.e. I’ve spread my state religion to seven cities and still no conversion. The logic behind his strange position on the opiate of the masses eludes me. Of course, Gandhi made war on me last game, so the AI, while somewhat in character, obviously is never a total match.

(3) “Pet Dogs” or Warmongers

Your general strategy with warmongers will depend on their location with respect to you. Your first religious priority is to pull the “warmonger next door” into your alliance. Be extra generous. Make them love you. They have claws and you’re a small planet with no weapons. Moreover, if you’re their only neighbor, very often entering a religious alliance with them early will marginalize them for the whole game. Warmongers become powerful by winning wars. If they have no one upon whom to war because they love their only neighbor, they just atrophy.

If you have a buffer zone between you and the warmonger, especially if the buffer zone doesn’t consist of members of your religious alliance, you can often ignore the remote warmonger. One game, Monty was across the continent from me with Saladin and Hatshesput as the buffers. I allied with Saladin early. Naturally, Hatshesput refused to join our alliance. She needed to be special. So Monty comes along and wipes out Hatshesput. My huge cultural production allowed my borders to sweep into her former territory after her culture had been eradicated. Monty likes to destroy cities, but doesn’t have a ready supply of settlers to replace the territory. I quickly founded new cities there and, essentially, took virtually all the territory Monty conquered for myself. And all the people rejoiced!

When warmongers bully me, I usually cave, except for giving military techs to them when they look likely to make war on me next turn. It’s usually not worth the trouble to defy them. The major exception is when they finally get too “annoyed” and start making multiple outrageous demands in a short time period. This means the AI has already decided to go to war with you and is just looking for an excuse.

When they get into that snitty mode, I’ve never managed to buy them off. I don’t even try anymore. If things get that bad, the war is inevitable. You need to make sure that things don’t get that bad by providing a ready supply of gifts. The upshot is that if this happens toward the end of the game, by that point, hopefully you have become a large planet with weapons.

Also, see if you can keep warmongers busy by encouraging them to fight each other (this is Maltz’s “pet dog” idea). As you conduct diplomacy, keep an eye on who they might like to make war on. Pay them to fight the people they want. If they’re fighting the people they want, odds are they aren’t going to be fighting you. I really haven’t made enough use of this strategy yet. I tend to get too relaxed about diplomacy at times. You’ve got to watch the little AIs like a hawk. They have all these irritating foibles that need regular, patient management. You’d think the little shits would learn to just bask in my splendor, but alas, no. They all want their special attention.

Here are the warmongers who typically have shown up in my games:

(a) Saladin—Your Ideal Warmonger

Saladin is the ideal warmonger in your alliance. He loves having a religious ally, is quite reliable and, when it comes to bribes, is a fairly cheap date (unlike Catherine the Great or Gandhi). He’s never attacked me when I’ve been a brother of the faith. The key is to remember that he loves theocracy. If he’s on your border, the trick is to convert him or convert to his religion early. Once’ he’s adopted theocracy, you’ll have to convert to his religion. You won’t be able to spread yours in his territory.

(b) Tokugawa—Generally Manageable If You Nab Him Early

Unless Tokugawa happens to be isolated on a large continent where he can expand, he’s rarely a threat in the middle or endgame, especially in Warlords. He is aggressive and protective in Warlords, which is a sucky combination for winning games. Having a seasoned military is just not that much of an asset in Civ 4. Building an army large enough to facilitate conquest distracts from building infrastructure, which means Tokugawa inevitably falls behind in tech. The only game-dominating Tokugawa I’ve seen had a continent to himself.

If you share borders with him, however, you must, must, must ally with him early in the game (i.e. convert him to your faith or adopt his). The expanding borders created by this cultural victory strategy place him under immediate pressure, as he has no cultural priorities at all in the early game. His early military advantage combined with the weak military advocated this particular cultural victory strategy means that Tokugawa will be at your throat in the early game if you don’t forge an alliance quickly. Your advantage is that he doesn’t really found religions of his own, so if you neighbor him, there’s a good chance that he winds up picking up your religion.

If he doesn’t pick up your religion quickly, the situation can become quite thorny. Tokugawa does seem to have the medieval Japanese isolationism that his real life counterpart had. Getting him to open his borders to your missionaries in the early game is quite difficult. Moreover, he may well pick up someone else’s faith and then, you’re really screwed, because your faith becomes a heathen religion for the guy and he hates your guts. I’ve had one abortive start where Tokugawa picked up someone else’s religion and bordered me. It’s like building an empire next to a hornet’s nest. Not fun at all.

But most games, he’s quite manageable. He likes to adopt a religion. Odds are that he picks one of yours. Just convert to that, no matter the cost in terms of having to spread the religion through your domains. You don’t want to border him and not be a brother or sister of the faith.

(c) Montezuma

Monty is bloody. Having him in your alliance will require extensive management, as he loves making war. His affections don’t come cheaply. If he borders you, convert to his faith ASAP. You need the brother and sister of the faith factor to grow to his max for him to be manageable. That max is fairly low (like +3 or +4), so get in with him early and give him lots of presents to keep him happy.

(d) Ragnar

Ragnar is a rough guy to have in your alliance. He’ll make war on other members of your alliance. I’m not sure about how to deal with this. My instinct at this point is to never have open borders with him after the opening game and never make multi-turn trades with him, i.e. treat him as if he were an infidel, except pepper him with regular once-off gifts. This way, you’ll piss him off by not breaking relations with other members of the alliance, but you won’t piss the rest of the alliance off. I’ll have to see how this works out the next time he crops up in the mix.

(e) Shaka

Shaka is only loyal if he’s been allied with you for a long time. You can have an almost clean milk-bottle with him (no negative penalties) and if he’s only recently converted to your religion, he’ll attack you on a dime if he thinks you’re weak and he can pick up a few cities. He’s the most like a Civ 3 warmonger of the bunch. He can have absolutely no beef with you diplomatically and will attack because you are weak. As far as I can tell, he is the warmonger least mesmerized by diplomacy. If he’s in your game, you need to start taking care of him early. He is guaranteed to be a thorn in your side if he is not a long-standing member of your alliance.

D. Middle Game Tech Order

I’m assuming that in the opening game, you acquired the basic technologies that allow you to set up your economy by trading your high-beaker religious civs, e.g. philosophy, for large packages of common techs. So I’m not going to rank things like iron working on this list. When last we discussed tech, you’d just acquired divine right. Start building Versailles and the Spiral Minaret immediately. Hold back on trading divine right until you’re done with Versailles. Versailles is a popular wonder and AIs will want you to give them Divine Right in order to beat you to it. Unless you estimate that you’ll be in bad diplomatic shape if you don’t cave, this is where to rebuff them. Having Versailles means that, once you’ve built the Forbidden Palace, you can have three capitals. This makes your economy very strong.

1. Paper (this gives you the University of Sankore)

2. Education (enables university, which adds culture and improves tech acquisition)

3. Liberalism (enables free speech, which adds 100% to your culture and, if you get there first you get a free tech—for me this is usually gunpowder)

4. Gunpowder (you can’t be a small planet with no weapons forever, after all)

5. Civil service

6. Nationalism (especially if you have marble—the Taj Mahal has a nifty cultural production per turn)

7. Military Tradition

8. Literature (hopefully you will have traded for this already)

9. Drama (this gives you the theater, plus you now can turn up the culture slider a few notches—again, hopefully you will have traded for this already)

10. Music (this gives you cathedrals, which are critical to the endgame—again, hopefully you will trade for this again)

11. Calendar (this one is complex. You don’t want to pick it up too soon because it cancels the impact of Stonehenge. But you can’t build plantations until you get it. Moreover, you eventually need it if you are going to get to Astronomy and building salons. If you don’t have calendar by this point through tech trades, you need it now)

12. Optics

13. Astronomy (this gives you the salon, a research boost with a free artist)

14. Printing Press (handy for the economy)

15. Replaceable Parts (converts forests into lumbermills, the environmentally sound way to develop your economy)

16. Scientific Method (this one hurts, as it wipes out all your monasteries. But you need it to get to the all-important radio. Just bite the bullet).

17. Physics

18. Electricity (Broadway is another cathedral with tradable fringe benefits)

19. Radio (the Eiffel Tower is central to your efforts, as it gives you a broadcast tower in each city—100% culture production bonus. Moreover, Rock’n Roll is another cathedral with the same sort of nifty trading bonus as Broadway)

20. Mass media (this gives you Hollywood, again a cathedral with a nifty trade bonus and also the United Nations, which is your backup plan to victory)

E. Middle Game Building Priorities

I don’t know if my building priorities in the middle game have really jelled. Rather than develop concrete target lists, I have a few fluid rules.

1. Concentrate culture-producing wonders in your three Cities of Limitless Karma (CLK). Remember the goal is to build three cities with a cultural value of 50,000 points. Avoid wasting culture producing wonders a city that is not destined to have legendary culture. I find I am fairly confident about the identities of my CLKs by the middle game.

2. Focus on making your second-tier cities into economic and production powerhouses. Every empire needs these. Your disadvantage in the opening game is that, beyond building roads to marry your cities to your resources, you won’t really be doing much with your first cities but creating wonders and occasionally generating missionaries. It’s pivotal that your second-tier cities be able to complement the CLKs by being highly productive.

3. Recall that you want three capitals—You need to think about spacing. You should be able to build Versailles early enough that the city where you chose to build it is actually one of your three legendary cities. When it comes to the Forbidden Palace, you may have to build it outside of the CLKs in order to place it where it will have the most economic impact. This is a balancing act.

4. Lavish your whole empire with temples and monasteries, making certain to favor your state religion in building order. Favoring your state religion is always important as the Spiral Minaret and the University of Sankore will make your temples and monasteries generate extra revenue and beakers. Depending on city size and the number of luxuries with which your empire has been blessed, building other religions’ temples before building your state religion’s monastery may be important to keep the people happily at work. But after maxing out state religion buildings, I usually prioritize temples over monasteries.

5. Lavish your whole empire with libraries, theaters, salons and universities. All but theaters are critical to your scientific efforts. Moreover, all but salons directly produce culture. This keeps border pressure up on your irritating neighbors who dare build cities so close to your splendor.

6. Build banks, courthouses, markets and grocers, first in your second-tier cities and then integrate them into the CLKs as gaps come up and you can’t build cultural edifices. Use common sense about the order in which to build them. Start with banks, as they bring this highest bonus. If a city is suffering from health problems, obviously putting in the grocer first makes more sense. If you are at war, obviously churning out cavalry is more important.

7. Keep an eye on health and happiness. The lack of “civil disorder” in Civ 4 means these factors can slip under your radar for extended periods of time. You should rarely have happiness problems with all your religions and their accompanying temples. Health is a more serious challenge. Build aqueducts and granaries promptly. This is a particular weakness of mine. Since Civ 1, where I learned that big cities are stupidly costly cities, I’ve always been bad about city growth. I need to learn to be more lavish with public health investments. Bigger cities are much more helpful in these later iterations of Civ.

8. As the middle game draws to a close and you invent liberalism, begin military industrialization. Now is the time to build barracks and stables. It’s time to replace those damned warriors with musketeers and cavalry units. You will always be the weakest power, but war becomes increasingly defensive as the game progresses. If you have diplomatic savvy, you should be able to hold off the bastards for ten turns until you can buy peace. If you are ahead in tech, you may well be able to build the Pentagon.

III. The Endgame: Dropping the Cultural Atom Bomb

You now have the wherewithal to construct the final wonders of your career: the Eifel Tower, Broadway, Rock ‘n Roll, Hollywood and the United Nations. The first four have significant cultural value and should be constructed in your CLKs. The UN can be built anywhere convenient. By this point, typically one or two of your CLKs have only mediocre productivity, as the industrial cities may now have factories. As it is imperative to construct the cultural wonders in the CLKs, don’t waste that precious production capacity for the UN. Build it anywhere.

A. The Divorce from Science

Once science has given you the mass media, it really has rather little to offer you. You need to make an economic decision now about how much more technology you really need. You may want factories, you may need military equipment—pick up what you need. But really, it is now time to shed the repressive, choking skin of technical empiricism and embrace fully the decadence of unstructured spirituality and unrestrained self-celebration. It is for your people to experience a lifestyle divorced from economic and technical limitations, in which their every libidinal desire is satisfied by participating in a culture of ultimate and intoxicating superiority. Now the time has come to slide the slider to 100 percent culture, zero percent science. Marx’s dream of communism was nothing compared to this. This friends, is the true end of history.

B. Construction

Once the slider slips over to full culture, your CLKs should produce roughly 400-700 units of culture per turn. Your goal is to push this per turn average as high as possible by constructing as many cathedrals as possible in your CLKs. This means you need to spread every religion you have to as many of your cities as possible in order to build at least nine temples for each religion, giving your one cathedral per CLK per religion. This is how you max out cultural production in your CLKs.

If you are at war, you may need to divert non-CLK production to weapons. When not building temples, you can always divert your non-CLK production toward science, if need be. The endgame really is all about the CLKs. When the CLKs are not building wonders or cathedrals, divert their production to culture. After a CLK has reached 50,000 culture points, you can divert its production to whatever else you need.

C. Diplomacy

Now that you have founded the UN, elections will be possible. So much will rest on the identity of your opponent. If it’s Izzy, you may well win the diplomatic victory, as everyone hates her in most iterations. If you have an opponent who is fairly loved and you win the election, you need to sumptuously bribe the AIs with gifts of technologies, luxuries, hit movies, hit songs, and hit musicals. You want to keep them voting for you. Once you are secretary general, never propose free religion or free speech. Free religion drives a stake into the heart of your productive machine. Free speech means AIs who have not adopted free speech will adopt it, and gain a 100 percent bonus to their cultural production, which may serve to limit the spread of your borders across their territory. If another AI is secretary general, oppose free religion and free speech. Usually you can win on free speech. Free religion can be iffy, as few AIs are religious in modernity.

Don’t give away any of the critical cultural techs (electricity, radio and mass media) until you have built the appropriate wonders. You can’t let the AI have these key wonders first.

D. Victory

When your CLKs have all reached 50,000 you win. Life is sweet.


Sean said...

That is amazing really. I wish we lived closer so we could play some games.


Sean said...

I guess I am always a warmonger in this game. I open borders rarely, though I try to get all religions. I also like to play on the hugh real earth as either Egypt or Persia. I like Persia because I can conquer India quickly as well as Egypt.

Its fun but mindless. I think the combat AI is tedious though so I find myself oftne going something akin to your route.

Cuphound said...

I'm really glad you liked the strategy, Sean. Though I thought you'd already written off Civ 4 a while back.

It seems to me that a warmonger route would have to focus on early conquest. I may actually try to develop that sort of a strategy at some point.

My problem is that I don't really enjoy Civ 4 combat because it's complex. Back in Civ 3, I could create a power economy, churn out a dominant weapon and spread across continents. Conquest was a fun and satisfying ero boost in Civ 3. War in Civ 4 is so damned incremental, costly and technical. I've never really found it to be pleasant. You have to work so hard at being a conqueror of the world in Civ 4.

It seems that the key just has to be early conquest. But then you don't build fine wonders and decadent cities. Those are some of the most fun parts of the Civ games.

Dinur said...

I'd like to say that I appreciate my quote right before a picture of Cheney. I think my motto should be "I'm as evil as Cheney, with better hair."

Cuphound said...

Hey Dinur--

I can't believe that you actually read this post. You aren't usually a sci-fi/fantasy/computer game kinda geek...

As for the Cheney comparison, don't give yourself airs. You clearly have forgotten that Allan Bloom is the evil Bloom. You're just a precocious twelve year-old.

Will you never learn? Next thing you know you'll be starting your essay by rewriting the non-disputable facts from the question set.

I forbid you and all other precocious freshmen to get your PhD before me. Enough is enough/

Sean said...

So my latets enterprise is with nationstates at it is where you create your own utopia.

Here is a link to mine.

Mine is not quite my ideal utopia and I am not sure why the taxs are so high. I think it is a Republican mod since all my social welfare programs seem to sink the economy.

Cuphound said...


I ain't movin' to the Holy Empire of Triapalos! Fascist, racist, inquisitionist ultra-authoritarians with a shitty economy.


Where are the fabulous cafes? Where are the wonders of the world? Where is the richly diverse consumer economy?

Yours is the Anti-Big Bear Empire.

The thing that scares me about you, Sean, is that in your fantasy life, you yearn to be Hafiz al-Asad.

I bet no one gets laid in Triapolos, either. I'm just waiting for Civ 5, where I hope they will add the Sexual Revolution and you can start building bath houses in your cities. We could even have the Safer Sex Tech Improvement. Then my gaming pleasure will be complete....

So how does your game work?

Cuphound said...

Here, Sean, I founded one.

I don't promise I'll do much with it.

Cuphound said...

I had a chat with Simon tonight who has tried the strategy. He had a problem that the barbarians seem to get too tough for him and without improved weapons, he couldn't hold them back.

I quickly realized that he was playing the game on the large planet size. The strategy was designed for standard planets. In the large planet size, it takes far longer for the players, both human and AI, to occupy the earth. Barbarians roam in those spaces and their weapons technology improves over time. Barbarians can't be fended off with diplomacy, so my strategy won't work without significant retooling on a large planet.

Simon is busy trying to work out a warmonger strategy. 'Tis exciting!

Sean said...

Hey Talal;

Poor Nation-States Triapolos..her Civ 4 counterpart always seemed to be so much nicer.

So being the God fearing Catholic I decided that I should support the Inquistion's efforts to ban BDSM. Now apparently my secret police are pulling people from their house at night.

I think Syria is even more open than Triapolos at this point, I am fearing that we are walking through the kyber pass from Myanmar to Afghanistan...bypassing India and Pakistan along the way.

Sean said...


When I played on the large and huge worlds, which are what the duplicate earths are. I was having heaping problems with Barbarians. I think my Egyptians initally started out peaceful, but the barbarians established very powerful and productive cities in South Africa and the Congo, which changed my entire approach.

In my Persia game I was able to pursue both cultural and expanisionts. The core of the Persian Empire being Persopolis, Yerevan and Tehran and the rest being military producers.

After producing so many cultural things having cities devoted to military expansion seemed natural. My armies are neither lean or mean and barely effectgive. Mass numbers of poorly equpieid troops always wins the day in the Empires of Sean