Civ 4: The Curse of Dan Quayle

I think Civ4 is a great game. It has all these cool features and elements that really make it something special. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how to combine them in any meaningful way to actually win the game or to at least get a rank ahead of Quayle.

Right now I’m playing on Warlord, and I’ve tried expanding quickly, going with a strong military, I’ve tried specializing cities (though I’m probably not very good at that), I build improvements everywhere, try to build up culture, try to play the diplomacy game, but man, this game just beats you down. My military conquests take hundreds of years (and yes, thats with a ton of catapults), my diplomacy work gets me no where since no one will do what I say, or make fair trades, or stay friendly with me. Improving squares is pretty effective until my cities become irreversible unhappy or sick. My culture/religion game is fairly good, but then my military suffers.

I’m painting a pretty bleak picture, I know. And maybe I simply lack the capacity to do anything right with this game. However, it seems like some of you guys are flying through this game winning any which way you want (conquest? really? I’ve yet to see a single civilization wiped out by anyone) and I think thats what bugs me the most. The game isn’t impossible, but after taking about 1000 years (literally) to take 5 American cities, only to have the French (!!!) sneak in and wipe out 3 of my cities in 4 turns, I’m getting near the end of my rope.

Am I just stupid or are there some reasonable steps for being able to, at the very least, finish with the rank above Dan Quayle?

Count me in as well. Love the game, but man I’ve come close a few times to tossing the god damn game into the fireplace because no matter how hard I try I end up as Quayle :{

It’s a well-known bug. No matter how well you do, you’ll get ranked as Dan Qualye.


P.S. Actually, that’s not true at all, but I figure it will make you guys feel better.

Don’t worry too much about culture unless you’re actually going for a culture victory. If you’re not, then just worry about having enough so that you can work your squares.

Don’t just build whatever buildings. Build what’s going to be particularly useful. Specialize your cities with improvements and buildings based on your empire’s needs and their terrain. Perhaps that town with all those hills can do some mining offset by farming (especially on resources) and pick up an early forge. Maybe that rivermouth city with tons of coast and a couple of silks can head toward trade and do most of your science.

Don’t ignore resources. The first squares every city works will almost certainly be resources. Found your cities around the resources that will be in their radius. Activate and connect your resources as soon as you can.

Don’t stay undefended for long. A couple of Archers in every city is a good early goal. Later on you can think about diversifying your defenders, maybe getting a spearman or an axeman in there. Axemen are nice because swordsmen, a very powerful tool against cities, are melee and thus axemen get a huge bonus against them.

Don’t forget to replace or upgrade your units when they get too obsolete. If you upgrade your old veterans, you get to carry their promotion bonuses over to the new unit.

Don’t build military units without a barracks if you can help it. There may be times when it’s wiser to eat the loss and crank them out, but when you can, that 4 exp really makes a difference. If you’re going to substantially enlarge your army, consider civics like vassalage and theocracy.

Don’t conquer indefinitely. It can be done but it rarely works for me. A few successful wars of acquisition are great for springboarding a diplomatic or space victory. (If diplomatic, kill people that nobody likes. Don’t leave them alive. Try to ally with the third most populous nation, since the second most populous will be your rival in the UN win vote. Please everyone if you can – consider religion, hit singles/movies/musicals, and any excess resources or safe-for-distribution tech you might have lying around.) If you conquer, though, keep an eye on city maintenance and use courthouses etc. when necessary.

Don’t be afraid to raze cities that you know will be shitty for you. Cities can be a net burden on your empire even if they seem to be in the black, because they contribute to the maintenance costs of your other cities. If every city is reasonably prosperous, this won’t be so much of a problem.

Read this thread. Especially the parts about how to wage a successful war and how to promote your units. Even if we weren’t always unquestionably right in that thread, it’ll get you thinking.

I don’t know how the rankings are calculated, but my advice would be to win with a bigger civ, more wonders, earlier in the game, and on a higher difficulty level. Maximize each of those factors to the highest degree possible.

Do you/Are you…

1)Have access to military oriented resources? You need access copper, iron, and horeses to be able to build powerful units for the first 2/3s of the game.

2)Building cities on desirable locations, with lots o’ hammers + food?

3)Not expanding beyond the Happiness limit (you create anymore and you’ll just create unhappy citizens)

4)Using seige weapons to their max potential?

5)Have a combined arms army?

6)Have good relations with at least 1 or 2 other civilizations that you can depend on? nations?

One thing I do is to always have at least one or two of my cities to be building a military unit at all times. Try switching it up between improvements and military instead of only building units right before you’re about to get yourself into a war. I think you’ll find that you can support a much larger army than you think w/o going bankrupt.

Thanks Unicorn, some of that stuff I did know and I was skimming that thread before, its just more a question of using everything in tandem to actually win. I can survive until the end and a lot of the time have the highest score but outside of almost having a space victory I can’t see myself winning any other way.

I played a game yesterday where I basically built no military, maintained around 5-6 cities and pumped up as much culture and science as I could. I was still disregarded in diplomacy, couldn’t get 3 cities with legendary culture status, and ultimately lost the space race. It was a fairly depressing loss.

I would like to say that I am learning things like using civics the right way, managing my specialists, city squares and improvements, maintaining defenses and trying to stay friendly. Combat is getting easier and proving more fruitful, but man, its still as frustrating as ever. I remember reading the Civ4 threads before I got the game, and people we’re complaining about the combat. At the time, it seemed reasonable to assume they were just doing it wrong, but man, it just seems completely impossible when you approach a city and it has a bunch of longbowman and elephants and archers.

Anyway, I’m starting to get really whiny now, so… on with more ideas!

And now to answer the questions:

  1. Yeah, I grab those resources (and any others I see) as soon as they appear.
  2. Of course. I always try to get some plain squares and maybe a hill or two for hammers.
  3. This one I definitely need to manage more carefully since I think its hurting me more to just have my cities grow out of control.
  4. I think I am. I build 4-6 catapults and barrage cities to lower defenses and then suicide a few for collateral damage. Should I build even more?
  5. To what extent? I tend to use the most powerful unit but I can see how having effective unit counters would be better.
  6. I try to have good relations with whoever I can, but it doesnt seem to mean a lot. I can get them pleased with me but I never seem to benefit (though that may be just bad luck)

Oh, and always do this right before you’re about to attack a unit:

Choose your current stack hold down the alt-button (or was it ctrl?) and hover over the enemy stack to see what the battle results will most likely be. It’s sometimes easy to forget that weakened units will fall quickly to even the crappiest of units…which is where healing units come in handy.

Okay, first of all… have you read the manual from cover to cover? Yeah, it’s big, and you don’t -have- to, but if you haven’t, it’ll help.

Secondly, don’t feel bad about playing on Chieftain over and over until you get a grip on how various things work together. It’s single player. You don’t have to impress anyone.

It’s this comment that made me think you’ve not yet read the manual. The city screen has an “Avoid Growth” setting in the automated resource thingy. You totally don’t want unhappy people. Also, you don’t necessarily want gigundo citties with 20+ population. A few, sure, but there’s nothing wrong with a few cities with 5-10 people in it that never grows, but consistently pumps out lots of units, or commerce, or whatever. Even wonders, potentially, if you find a sweet enough spot with lots of production and one or two mega food squares.

Also, consider Slavery. That clears out unhappy population pretty fast, and the penalty is pretty laughable, unless you do it a lot. Even then, so what? Build temples and stuff. I am personally, utterly disgusted by the practice of slavery, however… it’s a game. It’s a fabulous tool for building structures. Might as well use it when it’s appropriate.

  1. I think I am. I build 4-6 catapults and barrage cities to lower defenses and then suicide a few for collateral damage. Should I build even more?

Siege weapons are the meat and potatoes of combat. I build relatively few of the other kinds of units, then use them to escort stacks of 10-15 catapults/cannon/artillery. I roll up to a city, bombard the defenses to zero % in one turn, then throw the ones with the fewest XP at the city until everyone there has been pounded down to 1.5, 1.1, 0.8, that kind of thing.

Then I roll in and take the city with my full strength toolbox units like axemen, spearmen, horse archers, etc. They end up taking very little damage and getting a crap ton of xp. I do this regularly and by the time I get to 1900 AD I’ve got a dozen or so level 5 guys who are actually worth paying the money for to upgrade them to SEALs or tanks or gunships or whatever.

Unless you’re making a push to severely wipe someone out, there’s no need to stay in a state of war for hundreds of years. Make an army, start demanding tribute from someone (hopefully they declare on you so you don’t get war unhappiness), then move in and smack them around a little until you have an advantage. Then sue for peace. Then use the ten turns of guaranteed civility to make more cannons and move them to the front lines. You’re going to go through a lot of cannon. It’s cool, they’re cheap.

  1. To what extent? I tend to use the most powerful unit but I can see how having effective unit counters would be better.

It’s important to save your most powerful forces for defense. It’s easy to take any city, provided you have enough catapults. Cities don’t go anywhere. Where you need to be prepared to apply force is in response to aggression against you. The AI can smell weakness like a pack of hyenae.

  1. I try to have good relations with whoever I can, but it doesnt seem to mean a lot. I can get them pleased with me but I never seem to benefit (though that may be just bad luck)

I usually play on Monarch or Emperor now. (Don’t be impressed, I’ve been playing Civ since 1992 or so.) I find it undesirable to be friends with -everyone.- People get snippy when you trade all over the place. It’s good to be aware of the traits that civ leaders have and play to them. If you run into Tokugawa and Montezuma during the first 500 years of the game, you know how that’s going to work out. Pick one to buddy up to, harrass the other, and wait for an opportune moment to declare war and/or betray your neighbor.

Finally, something I recently struck upon as a great idea, is cottages on all flood plains, instead of farms. Turns out, 3 food and 7 commerce is much sexier than 4 food and one commerce. Build cottages on every flood plain and grassland space you can early, they’re fantastic once they get up to Town.

Religion is key. Get those religions before your enemy, and then spread them around the globe. If you have the holy city with the temple wonder in it (built with a prophet) you will get 1 gold for every city that has that religion every turn (x2 with the Sprial Minaret). This can provide a huge amount of money, and can support a very large empire.

It also has a secondary benefit: any civilization that hasn’t founded a religion themselves can be converted to yours. This tends to make them very friendly. You can pick and choose your enemies this way. Choose them carefully. Make enemies of weak neighbours you want to take over, and friends with peaceful nations if you share a continent with crazy aggressive leaders, like Montezuma.

If you have all the religions first, you can more easily control which religions everyone else has, and collect huge sums of money. This is highly unlikely, though, as you will usually miss out on buddhism or hinduism as they are alternative early tech routes. You can, however, get pretty much all of them bar one, meaning that you can isolate the one guy who gets the other.

Make sure to build wonders in your cities that give you prophets: Stonehenge is a great early one for this, and it is also cheap and very useful.

Expand within your means, but do expand. Don’t stay with 5-6 cities for the whole game, just because that is what your empire can afford at the beginning. As your money increases, increase the size of your empire. Do this through settlers or conflict, whichever is easiest and cheapest. Towards the end of the game, with careful religious management, you should be able to support a vast empire, while still have taxes at 0-10% and collecting a huge income from religious dues.

I’ve actually experienced the opposite - I had a dominating game and ended up as Augustus Caesar with a UN victory early in the 1900’s - kind of a letdown to get that high this quickly.

My basic (current) strategy on Continent maps boils down to this:

Technology - Win the religion race - start with a civ that gets Mysticism to start, and focus on getting Polytheism or Meditation - then Monotheism. With any luck you’ll get 2 of the 3 ‘early’ starting religions and you can convert to Organized religion immediately, while ‘freezing’ out the other civs.

After this, I get all of the ‘basic’ techs, and then bronzeworking - then research ‘normally’.

Building - Don’t hinder the capital city as it gets to population 3 or 4. Once at pop 4, I start to settler boom from the capital city, and get one or two cities with barracks in support pumping out defenders for the new cities. City boom until every square inch is covered by your cities, barbarians, or enemy civs.

Improvements - I don’t bother building workers and improving tiles until I’ve defined a ‘safe’ area, opposite the area where the barbarians will be coming from - until that point, I tend to only improve tiles right next to my cities - tiles that can be defended from the city proper. After bronzeworking, I will spit out one worker per city and have them begin clearcutting forests(again, in the safe areas).

In a nutshell, the above strategy leads to an incredibly weak, vulnerable, inefficient massive empire at the beginning - which grows into an unbelievable juggernaut in hammers and research as you spread state religion and build courthouses in the middle ages.


I find it’s very difficult to win a non-space victory, so if you want to do that, I would turn off space race at the beginning of the game. I once won a culture victory before anyone spaced, but other than that every game I’ve played has ended in a space victory (either mine or the AI’s).

I was still disregarded in diplomacy,

Later though you say many people were “pleased.” That means you weren’t disregarded. One thing that takes some getting used to is that the AI is a lot stingier in this game (and some AI personalities, like Tokugawa, are practically misanthropic). My experience is that your best allies will, at most, make mildly unfavorable (to them) tech trades and will enter a defensive pact. I’ve never had, for example, an alliance with anyone. I agree with the poster who said that the key is in not trying to please everyone. Pick some folks fairly early and make them your friends.

couldn’t get 3 cities with legendary culture status,

Unless you are specifically going for culture pretty much from the beginning, this is very tough to do. You really have to revamp your whole game to get a culture victory, as far as I can tell. Play someone who is Creative – I like the Germans for Creative and Philosophical (extra great people, which means more Artists). You need a small number of cities (I think four is good – three cultures plus one military unit producer; six is also good so that you can have six of each temple, = two cathedral-type buildings). And you really need to focus on culture. Build wonders that get artists, and beeline for important cultural techs like Drama (lets you adjust the culture slider) and Liberalism (lets you switch to Free Speech for +100% culture) . You need to make aggressive use of the culture slider, at the expense of your bank account and research (in my culture victory, once I got Liberalism, I cranked up to 60% culture; once I had Rifling I went 100% culture). I had my designated three culture cities producing culture as often as they could, although that I think isn’t super-necessary (they were all on high-commerce sites, so didn’t have a ton of hammers anyway).

it just seems completely impossible when you approach a city and it has a bunch of longbowman and elephants and archers.

It’s really not. You just need more force than you’ve needed in any prior Civ game, and experienced units are important. I use a slightly different strategy than jafd. I usually take enough seige weapons to get the city to 0% in 1 or 2 turns. I then suicide one seige per 3 defenders or so – enough to weaken them, but not so many that I’m taking the defenders down to 1 or 2 health. I then roll in with Swordsmen (or their equivalent), all of whom have at least Raider 1 from a barracks (as the war rolls on I usually have guys with Raider 2 or 3 – it’s the only promotion my Swordsmen ever get). I will lose a few, especially on a really tough city (like a city built on a hill with Longbowmen inside – it’ll probably take 2-4 Swordsmen to take out the strongest defender). I try to bring a couple good defenders (like an archer unit and a spearman), preferably with Medic.

It’s really doable and shouldn’t take that long. But you HAVE TO BRING OVERWHELMING FORCE. I think that’s where people get hung up. If you can’t take a city in 1 or 2 turns, you aren’t going to take it for 10 turns – because every time you hit “end turn,” the defenders inside promote and super-heal because of the promotion; the AI upgrades their tech to max; and the AI moves in reinforcements from other cities and rush-builds reinforcements from the build queue. You have to be able to take them down fast, or you will just get bled to death. My goal is 1 or 2 turns of bombardment, followed by 1 turn of real attacks.

I tend to use the most powerful unit but I can see how having effective unit counters would be better.

I find unit diversity most important on defense (where you get to pick the matchup). Not so much on attack, where the enemy gets to pick the best defender against you – it’s really unlikely that your Spearman is going to get to attack a mounted unit, unless the enemy is down to one defender.

Sometimes it does matter, though, so I usually try to bring at least one each of melee and mounted units. A Swordsman with Raider is theoretically better than a Horse Archer, but that can change if the defender is an Axeman (+50% vs melee) or a Longbowman (first strike). I usually select a couple units and compare their attack odds. Sometimes you’ll be surprised. Most of the time, though, it’s what you’d expect – usually there’s both a spearman-type and an archer-type in the city, so a Swordsman is your best bet (or gunpowder unit later on).

Two words for you: worker chop.

This strat is absolutely key for a fast start. Build a worker as your first item in every city. Research bronze working as your first tech, no matter what. Then start chopping down forests in your city radius for massive bonus hammers. You will expand faster (chop those settlers out!), build wonders and city improvements faster (chop chop, hello Oracle!), and build armies faster (chopity chop chop chop, goodbye neighbor!). If you don’t have lots of trees in your starting area, bail on the game.

Works for me. I never play on less than Prince, and my usual winning score is somewhere around 20K.

Cultural victories made easy:

Ooh, that Tokugawa is such a piece of shit. If he is your neighbor, kill that fucker as soon as you can, because all he ever does is sit there refusing to trade and then eventually attack you with swarms of Combat I units. What a fucking choad.

If you guys wouldn’t mind critiquing my game go ahead and download my current savegame.

right click save as

I’ve just about steamrolled Mao but Alexander declared war on me and Ive fallen far behind in the tech race :{ I dunno if I can catch up or not.

Alright, good news: I finally won a game (on Warlord anyway). I managed to get a diplomatic victory, though I think Space and possibly Cultural were within my reach.

Some of the stuff you guys said was useful. I think getting bronzeworking right away was helpful to boost early production. Keeping my cities from expanding out of control was definitely good and helped me maintain happiness and health levels. I played the combat game a little smarter and actually took it to the Russians (they kept one city alive the whole game).

By the end, when it became clear that the UN victory was the only way, I managed to get Saladin on my side (after he abstained) by converting to Confusinism and I kept Caeser and Bismark happy enough to vote for me. So all in all, pretty satisfying.

My favourite part: I finished one rank ABOVE Dan Quayle! Things are looking up!!!

Alternately, you could just enter the WorldBuilder and fill the entire area with forests. It’s faster than creating a new game.

Hey, why stop there? Just enter the WorldBuilder and create settlers and buildings with one click!

Anyway, I like worker chopping too, but sometimes I need as much health bonus as possible in the early game. Or I want Lumbermills later. Or I’d rather start with a religion.

JMR, I had a quick look at your save game. It seems to me the two problems you are having in that game are with religion and diplomacy. Religion is the main problem. You have the Buddhist holy city, and you built the holy temple, but you picked the Jewish religion. This is helping a little in diplomacy, but it’s hurting your income tremedously. I think you should have been spreading the word of Buddha, especially to the nations who haven’t founded a religion, like Napoleon and Caesar. If you had sent missionaries to these guys early on, you’d have been able to convert them to Buddhism, and also have money pouring in from their Buddhist cities.

Your diplomacy seems a little messed up. You’ve got two wars going on, one against a nation who could have easily been kept on your side (Caesar). It’s best to assume early on that nations that found a different religion to you (like Mao) are going to be enemies later on, and anyone who is aggressive too is likely to be a problem. Anyone who is aggressive and of a different religion is going to get nasty really quickly, and should be isolated asap. I find spreading my religion to all the nice people near to them and getting them on my side is the best approach. If you can keep people like Alexander busy with wars against other nations, he’s less likely to invest his energies attacking you.

If I’d have been you I’d have kept Caesar sweet, even giving in to his demands for technologies occasionally. I’d have kept open borders with him, which increases his friendliness and allows you to send missionaries. I find it’s best to have open border agreements immediately with anyone, unless there is a good reason not too. Someone you know you’ll have to fight eventually may as well be blocked from your lands immediately. In your game I’d have tried to convert Caesar and Napoleon to Buddhism, and then made a Buddhist pact against my heathen neighbours.

With your religious income sorted out you could have afforded to use better civics too, and supported a war against Alexander and an increased size of empire. As it stands you look set to go down to 50% science research, with bad civics, and a nastly diplomatic outlook where Napoleon looks to be your only friend for the entire game (I wound’t trust the Incas).

Alternately, you could just enter the WorldBuilder and fill the entire area with forests. It’s faster than creating a new game.

Hey, why stop there? Just enter the WorldBuilder and create settlers and buildings with one click!

Anyway, I like worker chopping too, but sometimes I need as much health bonus as possible in the early game. Or I want Lumbermills later. Or I’d rather start with a religion.[/quote]

Considering this is a game - supposed to be fun, he should do what works.

Personally, when I get into a situation I don’t like in Civ, I quit for the night and attack it again the next day. Whatever works.