Before The Beginning
In many ways, Civ V is lacking some of the depth and “one more turnness” we all loved and enjoyed in Civ IV. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game…just different. The market seems to be shifting, and Civ V’s design elements reflect these changes.
Even so, there’s enough in the game to get excited about, and I felt that a short guide was in order. I’m going to try to cram everything I’ve learned by playing massive amounts of Civ V into these pages, but since writing the SMAX guide several years ago, my style has changed somewhat, so if you’ve read the earlier work, don’t come into this expecting the same kind of guide. It’s not. My desire to try and explain things in plain language that’s accessible to everyone though…that hasn’t changed.
Note: I own the Brave New World expansion, and this guide is optimized around that. Several of the key components of the strategy I’ve perfected for the game rely on elements unique to BNW. This is not to say the guide will be without value unless you have that expansion, just understand that you’ll need to mod the strategy a bit to account for this fact.
So…changes. Rather than trying to do a repeat performance of my SMAX Guide, this one’s going to be more show and tell, versus just tell. The same basic lessons from the SMAX Guide will serve you well here, so if you don’t have a copy, you can pick up a free one here (link).
Having said that, let’s just jump right in.
I’m playing a Marathon game on King (Huge, Small Continents) level for this example, using the Shoshone. I personally like them because you get lots of extra workable tiles early on, and because their Pathfinder unit allows you to pick the bonus you get from ancient ruins. I abuse the hell out of both, but again, the basic concepts will work for you, no matter what your Civ of choice is.
Understand that I have a fairly unconventional playing style. In a lot of ways, it is a counter-intuitive playing style. What I mean by that is simply this: Most people, when confronted by a question like “How do you get more science?” Will answer that question by saying, “build science buildings.”
That’s true and fine as far as it goes, but I’m going to demonstrate to you a far better, more efficient and effective way to play. I tend to approach problem solving from oblique angles, both in-game and in-life. The interesting thing about that, and the advantage in doing so is simply that it gives you a totally different perspective ON the problem.
For instance, in answering the question above, “how do you get more science?” I would say, “do it by ignoring science.” That sounds silly on the face of it, but as I’ll demonstrate, it’s anything but. You see, by ignoring science, I free myself up to focus on the things that really matter. See, in my opinion, that’s the wrong question to be asking. The REAL question is, “Where does science “come from,” in the game?”
I can tell you that it doesn’t come from science buildings (library, university, etc.) although these enhance and modify it. No – science actually COMES FROM population. Each point of pop you have generating one beaker of science.
A focus on food, then, increases science. A focus on hammers also increases science, because those hammers allow you to build the science enhancing buildings that compliment the science generated by your burgeoning population. This then, is a very different answer to the question than the first one I mentioned. It focuses on totally different things, and as you will see, doing so has absolutely DEVASTATING effects on the game.
Use this strategy, and you will essentially break Civ.
No one will be able to touch you.
Ready to get started? Me too, so let’s do this!
Just putting a few general notes here to get us started. Consider this to be laying the groundwork and providing the general philosophical underpinnings of the journey that lies ahead.
Although the heading says “your Capital,” this actually apples to every city you build, but it especially matters in terms of your capital. Three pivotal ingredients: A mountain adjacency. A coastal tile. A river.
If you get all three, you win. The more of them you get, the stronger your game will be.
Ideally, you’ll want at least three hills for production and some specialty resources (at least one, preferably two different luxury resources), but this can be worked around.
There are two basic reasons for founding a city: Resource acquisition and blocking (cock blocking! LOL).
Resource acquisition is strategic. Blocking is tactical. Both are important, although resource acquisition almost always takes precedence.
Notes About Ancient Ruins
The tech you get from ancient ruins does not appear to be random. Instead, it “cycles through” the available first and second level techs you could get. Pop an ancient ruin on turn one, and you will ALWAYS get Archery. Pop it on turn 2, and you will ALWAYS get Animal Husbandary.
I did a really, spectacularly boring series of tests to bear this out. I never got any other result, and I ruled out the fact that the seed wasn’t randomized before each test. Mostly, this amounted to me generating a shitton of maps until I found a ruin in the appropriate timeframe. Very boring. I don’t recommend it.
In any case – I’m satisfied that the tech pops are NOT random, but rather, proceed through in an orderly fashion, although I did not continue the experiments to work out what the precise order is.
The Overall Strategy
In broad strokes, here’s what I intend to do: I have come to see my civ itself – the civilization I build as a whole, as a meta-wonder. I have taken to calling this meta-wonder MOAB, which stands for “Machine of Absolute Badassery.” You’ll see why as we build it together, and you’re gonna love it.
You’re not JUST building cities and units…you’re building a functioning, kingdom-sized (and perhaps eventually, a continent spanning) machine. A machine of power and prosperity.
Note that this meta-wonder is suitable for all styles of play, from peaceful builder, to howling warmonger. It is robust enough to handle all of it. While this is certainly not the ONLY way to play, it is the way that I play, and when you follow in these footsteps, you’ll find that you don’t just win the game…you utterly break it. You crush it, and can actually achieve all the victory conditions, simultaneously. A completely dominating way of playing.
Build the machine I’ll be describing in this example and walkthrough with single minded focus, and you’ll get a stronger Kingdom-sized wonder than if you build it haphazardly. You won’t BELIEVE how easy it is to win any way you choose by following this plan.
One thing you’ll hear my friends say about me: I’m a bulldog. Once I get an idea in my head, I don’t let ANYTHING pull me off task. You’ll see that in what’s about to unfold.
From the first turn of the game, Civ is about solving problems. The more of them you solve, and the more effectively you solve them, the better and stronger your game will be. To that end, you’ll see that I tend to “flip the script” a lot when looking at a problem that crops up.
I don’t see them as problems, but rather, as opportunities.
If I get beaten to a wonder I was chasing, I don’t whine about it and restart. Instead, I look at the boon I’ve just been handed in the form of an infusion of gold, and come up with a devastating way to use it. If a rival Civ settles on a city spot I wanted, I don’t get mad about it – he’s just blocking those Raging Barbarians from pestering me. When I’m ready to settle my city there, I’ll take his, burn it to the ground, and plant my settler.
Whatever the AI does, it doesn’t matter. I’m confident that my plan will overcome it. 😉
All that to say, whatever happens – whatever unexpected shit comes up, we are going to find a way to deal with it together in this walkthrough, and turn it into an advantage for US. We’ll deal with it, and incorporate it into the plan. We DO NOT allow it to pull the plan off course or out of kilter. Ever. If we get pulled off plan, then the game is already over, and we are well and truly toast.
We stick with the plan at all costs, ‘k? Still with me? Then let’s go make the world tremble!
Here’s our start, and it’s looking pretty solid! There’s a lot to like here…
I’m including two screen shots. One to show where my two starting units began, and one to show where I moved my Pathfinder, and what it revealed. Opting to head due west, in order to end my turn on the high ground, I was able to push back a fair bit of fog, and revealed a second wheat tile. That, combined with the marble and the salt will do great things for the starting city (Salt being one of the better luxuries you can start with – building the mine actually gives you a hefty resource bump, and you can improve the tile with but a single tech).
MOAB objective #1 – The Formation of EASY Company
Here’s where we build the first piece of MOAB. Our Kingdom will be extremely inwardly focused for an extended period of time in the early game, and possibly on into the middle game. What actions we’ll be undertaking (and there may be a few, depending on the particulars of the game), will be focused on our immediate neighbors and the city states we find ourselves near (if any).
Even so, we’re going to need eyes on the rest of the world, so we’ll be building a group of units I refer to collectively as “EASY Company”. Yes, I have a thing for acronyms. In this case, EASY is “Exploration And Special-ops…Yippie!” EASY Company will initially consist of our starting scout (Pathfinder, in our case), but we’ll add a second to it, and eventually a single galley. Two of these three units will be exploring our starting continent, the coastline around it, and any islands or other land masses that are adjacent.
We need good intel in order to figure out how best to use our mighty machine once it’s built, and that will be the job of EASY company. I don’t want to say that this is THE most important military group in our Kingdom, but if not, then pretty close. By the time we’re done, they’ll be a devastatingly versatile and effective fighting force. To that end, our very first build will be a Pathfinder, which will give us two thirds of what will become EASY Company, and put us on the fast track for fast and continual exploration of our starting landmass.
MOAB Early Settlement Strategy
The short answer here is, we don’t have one. We will NOT be rushed to build our second city. When we select a build site, we’ll have better information, courtesy of the techs we’ll have researched to that point. No – our first goal will be to build the Great Library, taking Philosophy as our free tech, and immediately build the National College, which will give us an early game research edge that will only grow over time. Only when this national wonder is in hand will we concern ourselves with expanding our Kingdom to include a second city.
We’re going to be able to do this because in the Ancient Era, EASY Company will be one of the most powerful fighting forces on the planet, and even if we start a little trouble (and we might), we’ll never be in any real danger from anyone, no matter who our neighbors might be. Again, this is no idle boast, this is simply a side effect of the WAY we’re going to play the game out. The specific shape of our strategy here leaves absolutely no doubt about the statement above. None.
When we DO settle, we want our second and third cities as far from our capital as we can get them. Optimally 7-8 hexes, although in a pinch 5-6 will do (this, in order to give our capital the maximum number of workable tiles, because our capital is going to be HUGE).
The same basic rules for settlement apply. Coastal, river, mountain adjacency. All three if we can get it, and as many of those as we can get otherwise. One of our four cities needs to be on or adjacent to a desert tile if we have one in our sphere of influence.
The general shape of our diplomacy will be this: Our nearest neighbor will be seen as our rival, if not outright enemy, from day one. We will seek to hobble our nearest neighbor from turn one. Anything we can do to harass, delay, or slow down the development of our nearest neighbor, we’re going to do it. We’re going to ambush settlers, steal workers, and generally be total douchebags to our nearest neighbor. Note that this also includes any city states in our sphere of influence. We’re going to kidnap workers, demand tribute, and basically be complete shitheels to everyone around us.
We’re going to do this because it works. It’s effective. Consider: Let’s say that there are 20 city states on the map. Let’s say that impossibly, you meet all of them first and get 30g each for doing so. Maximum gold = 600g.
A SINGLE worker would cost you 700g to buy. It’s no contest. It’s always a better deal to steal workers from city states. Note that if you steal one worker from any city state, you’ll still get gold when you meet new city states. If you steal two or more workers from any combination of city states, you no longer get the gold, but so what? The workers are vastly more valuable, and we can always extort money. We don’t build workers, EVER. We take however many we need from our nearest neighbors.
Oh…and we don’t open borders with anyone. Ever. We’ll take open borders with other Civs if they offer it as part of a trade, but our borders will remain closed to everyone for the whole of the game. No exceptions.
MOAB Research Priorities – Attacking The Tech Tree (Ancient Era)
Our first tech is always Pottery. ALWAYS. This is because Pottery unlocks three “second tier” techs (more than any other), and makes it more likely that we’ll GET a second tier tech from an Ancient Ruin. Writing is next so we can begin our run at the Great Library, then Mining for chop and enhancing our production, after we steal our first worker.
While the Great Library is building, we’ll get Calendar so we can snag Philosophy as our free tech, then Sailing (which will allow us to round out EASY Company and get a boat in the water…which we’ll pay cash for, as opposed to building), plus anything else we need to bring whatever specials we have within our borders online.
Once that’s done, we’re heading straight for Mathematics, so we can build the Hanging Gardens (we’ll be starting off with the Tradition social policy tree). And that’s it. That’s the shape of the early game research approach if you’re serious about building MOAB. On the next page, we’ll go through the Ancient Era to see if I can do all the stuff I just bragged about above. 😉
Proceed to the Ancient Era.