Need help on Civ IV

Just got into this game again. I just don’t get how combat works. I’ve read up on it, looked at all the little statistical minutiae, but I’m just getting nowhere. Two or three enemy units will flatten cities defended by similarly experienced units, but I require stacks of over a dozen units to get into anything similarly defended by my enemies.

I’m obviously missing something, and hoping it’s a common “issue” assuming stuff about the combat model which isn’t true or something. It feels like I’m playing a game of chess where I have to take every enemy piece twice before I can get it off the board.

Can you be more specific about the units involved in both scenarios? Archers, for example, are two to three times better then Warriors at defending cities and it shows.

In general, when attacking, hold down ALT and mouseover the enemy. The lower left corner of the screen (ought) to tell you the bonus’ involved and the % odds of victory in a given battle. That will, at least, help you determine why attacks are going so poorly.

Harder to help in the defence area until I know what units were involved in the fight.

Chris Woods

Specifically, when I attacked an enemy city (no walls) with a stack of about 6 Praetorians (Roman bonus swords), 7 longbows and 3 catapults, and lost all but about 7 units defeating the three longbows, maceman, and war elephant within. It was like being Soviet Russia in WWII.

On another city of mine just a little later, however, defended by two longbowmen and an archer, the enemy rolls up what looked like three maceman, wins three fights in a row and destroys my city.

I just never know what’s going to happen in a Civ IV fight. I’m totally mystified by every outcome, even when I win. The “odds” popup in the bottom left corner rarely seems to correspond to who wins.

You say you had catapults? Did you bombard the city before attacking? Even if a city doesn’t have walls they still get a defensive bonus from culture that you can see below the city itself (20%, 40%, 60%, 80% are the usual numbers depending on how advanced the city is). Bombarding the city knocks this down. Catapults and other siege units also have the ability to damage all units in a stack so it’s often best to send them in first to soften up the defenders even if they’ll lose the fight.

Good tips. I knew about bombardment but didn’t know you could use it when there were no city walls. Someone else also told me that the default level of Noble is too hard, especially for people bringing their Civ II/IIb assumptions with them, so I think I’ll notch it down for the next game.

especially for people bringing their Civ II/IIb assumptions with them

That’s most likely your problem. Check that stuff at the door. :)


Longbowmen are the best non-gunpowder defenders and better than some gunpowder defenders, they have good strangth and get bonuses for defending cities. Macemen are also stong. The best idea with Rome is to attack early with your Praetorians as they are the stongest units around until lowbows and maces start turning up. A good idea for Rome is to beeline for iron working in the tech tree and get them out early and then kill off your closest neighbour.

There are four sources for defender bonuses when attacking cities;
-city is on a hill? +25%
-unit has fortified for 5 turns? +25%
-a city has walls? +50%

and the most subtle,
-culture bonus +20%-+100%

You can see that it’s very easy for scuzzy units like archers to get some infuriatingly high cumulative bonuses.

What’s strange is that you can use the catapult to reduce the defensive bonus of a city even if that bonus was granted by culture. It’s a strange feature though it can make sense in a very abstract way.

My biggest dissapointment was that they removed what i thought was a good feature; unit’s attack values being equivalent to it’s hp/strength. So a unit that was ‘wounded’ would have a reduced attack value. They removed this effect in a later patch. I uninstalled the game and haven’t used any patches just to retain this (to me) insightful feature.

According to the patch readme, they didn’t eliminate that feature… they just toned it down. So a rifleman (power: 14) that’s been knocked down to 10% hit points will have a power of… say… 8, rather than 1.4. (I don’t know that actual algorithm, so “8” is just a number I made up.)

BTW, I agree: I prefer it the way it was. That wounded rifleman should have a power of 1.4. Made the game more interesting.

Be sure to look at what promotions the enemy units have (and what you have when defending). A defending archer unit with City Garrison gets an additional + 20% (on top of fortification, city position, archer city defense bonus, etc.). If the attacking macemen have City Raider and/or Cover, they can get a 20-50% bonus against your defending archers as well. Aggressive civilizations, especially, are diligent about building barracks so they can get promotions off the bat, and the AI is pretty good about choosing counters to whatever you’re focused on.

Don’t forget the rock/paper/scissors tradeoffs either. In stack combat, you always go up against the best defensive unit for the unit you are attacking with; sometimes it pays to attack with different unit types and not just more units, same goes for defense.

And always make sure your units are at full health before attacking; unless you’ve got a near-certain win (90%+), you’re going to be losing a lot of units. Flanking can help (the promotion, not positioning), but honestly, it only works about half the time at best. Really, the ALT-mouseover thing is great for figuring out whether it’s worth attacking with that particular unit or not.

But, yes, until you start to get a handle on the tweaks to strategy in Civ IV, Warlord is going to be a lot more forgiving than Noble.

Hope that helps.


General strategy:

Make sure where you’re attacking from. If you need to cross a river into a city there’s a penalty for that. Stay in a forest or mountain if possible. Go in and use cats or cannons to destroy defenses down to zero. Then use them again to do damage to the entire stack inside the city. Mop 'em up with the regular units afterwards to march right in. Don’t attack with injured units. That’s a sure way to lose them. Keep a healer (upgrades) with the stack so that they repair quicker.

Is there a general strategy for not sucking at the game overall? I don’t know if I completely lost touch or if something changed from a recent patch, but where I used to be dominant on Noble I am now falling behind in every manner. Did the AI get a boost from a patch or something?

One tip I haven’t yet seen mentioned is to play with the latest patch. In earlier builds, I noticed that the odds were often inaccurate when I was using wounded units. The patch that changed the combat power (mentioned by Anaxagoras & TheSelfishGene) also seemed to make the odds accurate again.

I’m a veteran of all the previous Civ franchises, and Noble puts up quite a fight for me. I’m finally starting to win consistently after reading the CivFanatics & Apolyton forums, although I still get Dan Quayle/Ethel the Unready ratings.

One change is that wars last longer, I believe, and that might be a difference that you’d not have expected and you didn’t adapt yet.

My biggest problem is maintaining my military. You need to keep your ‘Power’ high enough to ward off being swamped by attacks from other civs, which can set you back to such an extent that you’ll never catch up unless you find a different way to win. Besides getting on everyone’s good side through spreading your religion and dissuading attacks through military strength, there doesn’t seem to be any other general strategies that can tackle any and all map types.

Oh, but I’m pathetic at this game on Noble, having only won one game at that level so far, so the fact that you used to dominate on Noble suggests you know far more about this game than I do. I just can’t find it in me to build military like the other civs. We civ builders just aren’t liked very much.

The biggest difference between this Civ and the last couple that i’ve played is the dynamic between growth, expansion, and culture/research.

In previous Civ games, building the “library” was just step 1 on a five tier reserach construction tree. Now, every building, ever villager, every turn is much more important. The game seems to pass much faster then in previous games because of the change in scale (fewer cities, smaller maps, ect).

This is important because you don’t want to waste time building units, buildings or research techs you don’t need.

If you decide to run a war you really have to go balls out. You can’t just attack with your existing army and still keep building granaries in your cities.

My favorite Civ so far is the English with Elizabeth. Financial + Philosophical is a fantastic combination; you get powerful Great Peoples more easily, and considerably more money to use their research abilities. Here’s a quick cookie-cutter Elizabeth build;

-Try to rush to get the Pyramids wonder. Do everything you must, kill anyone you must, to get some stone. B-line to stone, and get the wheel to connect it to whichever city is going to build it.
-Get Representation after the Pyramids are built and Caste System. Caste System is 10x better then slavery imo, and is your default civic in the legal catagory till modern times. Caste lets you build Artists in outside areas without any buildings, letting you easily spread culture. Makes the Creative trait more or less obsolete. Representation lets those artists generate research.
-Make cottages in all floodplanes by default. Lighthouses on coasts. Financial rakes in the money. Perfect city is floodplanes + arid forests nearby. Huge growth, huge money, pretty decent production.
-Use the pyramids+philosophical to get a free early Engineer and rush whichever wonder you want the most.
-Past the medieval era, when you go to war with Redcoats, drop research to 10-20% and buy upgrades for every single unit still left. Don’t leave any archers around, make them all modern.

Pyramids+Representation+Caste System is a powerful combo useful for any civ, but imo financial/philosophical really makes the best use of it. On noble you should always be the tech leader unless you drop your research down during a war.

Also, if you’re a warmonger, convert to the religion of a neighbor you don’t want to fight, rather then spending all the time trying to convert them. This gives you brownie points for free, and give you some natural allies until the modern era. Let them declare war on you, and after the war your relations will be 0; declare war and you’ve ruined your relationships forever with the cumulative negatives.

I have not played on 1.52, so I apologize for any inaccuracies ahead of time. This used to work.

When it comes to assaulting a well held enemy city (and this is pretty much the only type of enemy city you will see) you need to be making full use of your catapults. As people have mentioned, you need to get rid of that defensive bonus by bombardment. The next step is to attack with your catapults. They wont win, but they will damage all the units in the enemy stack (this will have less of an effect with the latest patch, but every little bit helps). Plus they have a chance to retreat. Only once you have done this should you attack with your Praetorians. And don’t attack with your longbowmen at all. Great defensive units, but wasted on offense. You will just be giving his units XP if you attack.

BTW Has anyone played on the new Marathon speed? Just how contemplative is it?

Culture W’s are quite easy on Noble. No idea how to win a space race there though or to conquer the world.

I played marathon speed twice. It was interesting as it really gave me time to use units in wars before they became obsolete. The downside being it seemed like there were a lot of turns where I was just hitting the next turn button if I wasn’t at war, while I waited for research/production to finish. By the late game, tech differences with other civs were exagerated to the point where it became less enjoyable than prior games because either thier units were so antiquated as to be pushovers, or mine were so far behind that I was the pushover :)

Ultimately, I went back to epic speed, which for whatever reason just strikes the right balance for me. Which, in my view, is where each turn is meaningful, requires some planning, and the things I build contribute in a immediate way. At lower speed settings, time just goes by too swiftly for that to happen.


Thank you all for your tips.

we’re actually going to be splitting the difference in the next patch…