Civ 4 City Maintenance @ High Difficulty

Anybody playing at Emperor or higher?

I got to 9 cities and the city maintenance costs were such that I had to lower my science rate to 10%. And this is with just one warrior per city, three or four libraries, and a couple of obelisks and lighthouses.

I find that a little excessive. Actually, it’s untenable if you don’t found a religion so you can build some temples and keep your cities from getting mad when they hit 5 population to get enough commerce-- which is enough to keep from going bankrupt and get the dunce cap on Pliny’s List of Most Advanced Civs.

You can’t really expect people to stay at five or six cities until they get Code of Laws, can you?

And this is just at Emperor!

In my current game, I had three cities when I discovered Code of Laws, and I was doing fine. It’s 1500 now, and I’m at war with Japan, and have taken several of his cities, and I’m still not up to nine yet. Not on Emperor, but still. You can get by on fewer cities, and I think you’re meant to. Large empires get unweildy, especially early on. I sort of like that aspect of the game, actually.

I dunno, to me that sounds about right for Civilization. Playing at any of the difficulties that penalize you and give advantages to the AI has always been an exercise best left to the min/maxer players.

Just go check out some of the game of the month threads at civfantatics to see what I am talking about for civ2 or civ3. They go into such excruciating detail with planning each and every turn it boggles the mind.

Believe that Mr. Soren Johnson, who graciously posts here, has mentioned in interviews that Civ 4 was meant to stop the “rampant expansionism” that was so easy in Civ 3.

As mentioned, game is very possible to win with fewer cities; culture victory just requires that you have 3 cities with extremely high culture rating, for instance.

Which is of course highly amusing given the same damn thing was said about Civ3 and its corruption rules so that it wasn’t as easy as civ2.

And this is with just one warrior per city, three or four libraries, and a couple of obelisks and lighthouses.

I don’t think this has anything to do with the maintenance cost. Your maintenance cost is based on a) the number of cities you have, b) their distance from each other, and c) what civics you’ve implemented.

-Tom

Yeah, some of those civics are pretty expensive. And Mercantilism, in particular, has a pretty high hidden cost if you have trade routes with lots of your neighbors. I looked into switching to Mercantilism in my current game, realized that I’d lose one or more five-to-six gold trade routes in each city, and shelved the idea. A free specialist in every city was really tempting, but I just couldn’t afford it.

You know, the thing I liked about Civ I and II was the “rampant expansionism”. I loved taking over the world. One of the things I didn’t like about Civ III was its corruption and the attempt made by the designers to make me play their way, not how I wanted to play. I know the rampant expansionism leads to all that irritating late game city management, but it should be possible to allow an easy way of automating that while at the same time allowing people to be Genghis Kahn if they want to be.

That’s your problem right there. City cost is now based on number of cities, it’s got nothing to do with your city improvements. You have 9 cities with cruddy economies.

You know, the thing I liked about Civ I and II was the “rampant expansionism”. I loved taking over the world. One of the things I didn’t like about Civ III was its corruption and the attempt made by the designers to make me play their way, not how I wanted to play.

I dunno, you can still get plenty big, you just can’t do the garbage ICS strategy of spawning an endless number of cities with no economy to cover the earth. I’m pretty sure taking over the world still works just fine.

The problem with the previous civs is that the rest of us who didn’t like the aforementioned ICS were forced to play that way to be viable.

You can be, but your civilization has to really be focused on it, I think. You can’t be Genghis Khan and still have an otherwise balanced civilization–this game has a pretty strong guns-or-butter dichotomy. If you want to play the merciless expansionist, you have to tailor your empire to that. You aren’t going to have as much of a focus on culture or science (but neither did the Mongol Horde). And eventually you may have to make concessions in how you run things or you won’t be able to hold it all together, though that is also pretty historical.

Expansionism can help pay the bills, too, because pillaging is actually pretty lucrative, in addition to being a critical military tactic.

I’m glad they’ve finally killed the ICS strategy. Having a core of 5-8 fully functional cities and a few dozen that were little more than settler shacks with no facilities or infrastructure always felt too ‘gamey’ to me. Flipping the upkeep from buildings to cities was an inspired design choice. Now we have smaller empires, with better developed cities. It feels like they’ve cut away alot of the dead wood - micromanaging shields and happiness and all those dozens of settler pumps in the late game - and delivered a richer game experience.

You haven’t really been able to play Infinite City Spam since Civ I/CivNet, as they fixed it in Civ II. Certainly you could still spam cities, but not the one city next to each other nonsense from the first game. Civ III pretty much put that entire strategy to bed: you couldn’t play anything like that even if you wanted to. I felt it was a bit heavy handed, personally, and I found myself restricted to fairly small civilizations. If they’ve strangled that strategy still further, then I’m going to be disappointed, but I’m hoping it is like Ben says, and that I can do both, just with different costs/benefits.

“Noble” level is the one that has no benefit/penalty to AI or human, and is quite capable of kicking my puny human carcass (especially with barbarians rampant).

I had this same effect playing at Prince level so I am not sure it is related to the difficulty level. Basically overexpanding (11 cities by 1AD) set me seriously back in research for a good chunk of the game, and I never managed to get back to number 1 in research before the end of the game.

However there are economic benefits to overexpanding. You do wind up with a larger production base, and cosiderably more territory than the more cautiously expanding AI. This means (usually) more resources and, despite tending to fall behind the tech curve for awhile, an improved capacity to wage war.

Basically though, yes, at some point you need to let your cities develop and gain the commerce to support your enlarged empire. Cottages are a great investment in this regard.

I am thinking the best strategy is to figure out the expansion curve, such that you expand steadily but slowly as your core cities develop enough commerce to support new cities.

Playing last night, I managed to culturally surround an inferior neighbor.
The only real asset the Indian city had was a lake; everything else was being lost to my fast-food consumer culture. I broke our open borders agreement so this guy couldn’t go anywhere and then had to put up with hundreds of years of diplomatic proposals to:
[ul]Reinstate open borders. Yeah, why not give him the opportunity to position armies outside my cities.
Trade world maps. This one cracked me up because all he could see was me.
Trade him 1 gold for a fish. Anything to build good will, I suppose. I of course denied it and watched him continue to harvest fish, his only real commodity, and have nothing productive to do with them.
[/ul]
I love this game.

ICS was alive and well and loathed in Civ’s II & III. Soren Johnson, the lead designer of Civ IV, states in the manual (page 177) that the ICS strategy was targetted to be killed by them in Civ III, by turning up corruption and, when that proved unsuccessful, again in Civ IV, by reworking maintenance costs.

Clearly someone was still able to play Infinite City Spam, eh? >.<

Maybe you were able to put up twice or three times as many cities in Civ 1, but I don’t think the tactic is defined by numbers; it’s the process of only really developing a few core cities and leaving dozens of others laying fallow, so they contribute to your commerce and score, but never get big enough to riot. I’m glad that strategy looks to finally have been excised.

Corruption meant that your spammed cities were non-productive. I think there was an assumption that a city with no production capability was worthless. But the very fact that you held the territory was worth something, and the core cities where your real production took place could be used to fund the unproductive cities and buy any needed improvements.

Even Civ 3’s non-productive ICS spam was incredibly annoying because of the way culture and resources were tied into territory ownership. The AI would continue to erect cities in the little unfilled gaps between my cities and the coastline. (Invariably, that’s where critical resources would later show up.) That means that the only effective Civ 3 strategy was to wall off a piece of the continent and repeated demand that the AI removed units from your territory. Of course, this all got fixed with Civ 4’s closed borders. Yay!

  • Alan

ICS was alive and well and loathed in Civ’s II & III. Soren Johnson, the lead designer of Civ IV, states in the manual (page 177) that the ICS strategy was targetted to be killed by them in Civ III, by turning up corruption and, when that proved unsuccessful, again in Civ IV, by reworking maintenance costs.

Clearly someone was still able to play Infinite City Spam, eh? >.<

Maybe you were able to put up twice or three times as many cities in Civ 1, but I don’t think the tactic is defined by numbers; it’s the process of only really developing a few core cities and leaving dozens of others laying fallow, so they contribute to your commerce and score, but never get big enough to riot. I’m glad that strategy looks to finally have been excised.[/quote]

Well, I used to play online with the guys who invented the ICS strategy back in CivNet, and it definitely was not possible to play the exact same strategy in Civ II because Firaxis introduced a few new rules deliberately to prevent it, such as not being able to build one city right next to another. ICS was eventually banned from CivNet ladder anyway, so anyone who played there regularly had few problems converting over to Civ II. Civ III, however, pretty much crushed the popular strategy of the first two Civ games, and pretty much forced the player to follow the path that the designers wanted in order to prevent that irritating late game city maintenance. There was absolutely no ICS, as it was originally understood, in that game

ICS was basically this: build nothing but settlers until you had researched knights, then build nothing but knights. Cities would be spammed in every single possible space. The strategy was banned because it was unstoppable, and eschewed most of the basic principles of the game. There was no government change, no city development, no unit variation - just settlers and knights. You couldn’t get away with this in Civ II, but you could build a great number of undeveloped cities and profit from that more than actually developing your civilization.

I think the point is that there while Civ II did away with that particular strategy, Civ IV does so in a way that is not only effective, but also makes more sense historically, without encouraging large empires of purposely underdeveloped cities (sort of a “lesser ICS” strategy that was still very prevalent in Civ II and III), and without removing the possibility of playing an expansionist strategy. You just have to deal with similar problems that imperialistic civilizations had to deal with historically. I’m fine with that. It also opens up the possibility of playing a viable non-expansionist civilization, and I think that adds another layer to the available strategies.

In fact, I have a theory that my big mistake in my current game, in which I had intended to shoot for a cultural victory, was that I expanded too much. You need at least three cities to win a cultural victory (with a culture rating of 50,000 in each), but I think it may be a mistake to have too many more than three cities if you are trying to win with culture.

Here’s why: as you expand, your borders move away from your core cities, and you start to need cultural improvements in your periphery cities just to keep neighbors from chipping away at your borderlands with their culture (because you can be sure that they are investing in culture along their borders). If you put all the big cultural improvements (like wonders or Artists’ Great Works) in your core cities, your border cities will suffer for it. The solution, I think is simply not to have too many border cities. Shoot for a small empire of four or five cities, maybe, and try not to expand too much from there. With the smaller empire, you can rely on your core cities’ cultural clout to keep your borders stable, plus you’ll have an easier time defending yourself (and you will want to focus exclusively on defense, because you don’t want to expand). It all makes sense, too–the idea of the cultural victory is to build better cities, not more cities.

I may have to try that in my next game.