You Can`t Get There From Here In Civ IV

After about 15 Games, trying for a Conquest Victory, with custom settings at: Noble, Aggressive AI, Huge (really ?? ) Map, no Barbs. 6 AI players, I think it can`t be done at that level. Especially on a large Map.

Most of the Wars, against One AI Player, have lasted 300- 500 years alone :shock:


  1. They Nerfed your Early-Mid Game Heavy Hitters; Knights and Cav. both in Attack and Defense, compared to the other non mounted units that either you attack or the aggressive AI will attack them with. It`s very hard, if not impossible to take cities even with a stack of 8-10, which was routine in Civ 3, even against Gun Powder units.

  2. They have reduced their movement rates Big Time to 2 ???..from Civ 3, it seems to take 5-8 times as long to get them across a big ( ?? ) Civ 4 Map to the action. (Plese God, let the movements rates be able to be Modded )

  3. They have turned the AI Cities into Fortresses, almost always built on hills, with large Garrisons dug in. ( In one Game the AI had 7 units in a City in 1200 AD, in another 23 units in a city in 1980`s ) No way to take those without 3-4+ Cats. or Arty. bombardments for 3+ turns.

They by the way have a movement rate of 1, you will grow old waiting for them to get to the action to crack the city as the years fly by.

The AI, if it has Horses, will constantly launch units into your rear areas to pillage the roads, mines, farms , etc. They will do this even as you slooooowly over-run their Cities. It`s not a Bad Tactic for the AI, but it makes you devert more units from your small group of core cities to counter it.

What this all means is, you will Run Out Of Time to pull off a World Conquest, and IMHO, it will be very hard to get a Domination Victory.

I agree that prosecuting a war in Civ 4 is an utter bitch. Defense is heavily favored, and the AI really does know how to rampage through your territory with his horsies and destroy hundreds of years worth of improvements.

It does seem like some mods need to be done on that front. I’ve tried winning a war with a somewhat significant technical advantage (Praetorians/Catapults versus Archers and Chariots) - and it still took 300 years to beat him down.

Just to make matters worse, don’t forget that you have to pay increasing maintenance costs on captured cities (unless you just raze them).

The improvement-plundering cavalry are still a problem but things become manageable once you get railroads established.

  • Alan

The only way to breakthrough city defences i’ve found is lots of catapults and especially focused use of the “city raider” promotion. Once i started making all my Praetorians have 2 upgrades at birth with barracks/theocracy i could finally get through the Longbows and Axemen.

Even if you can’t break through, you can pillage and ruin HIS improvements; which is sad but better then nothing. Plus when your done just sue for peace and most of them will pop out on your side of the border.

But i really don’t see breaking through defences with standard units happening very often. 6 attack vs. 6+25%+45%= loss, pretty much ever time.

Once everyone gets the longbowman and maceman, you absolutely have to have siege weapons/bombers/ships to take down a city’s defenses. From then on. Otherwise you’re just wasting units. Even when you get to modern armor, a plain old stack of infantryman can hold you off pretty good if you don’t knock even just a 40% bonus down. By then, most cities have 60 or 80, though.

I’ve watched my massed hordes just get pasted. My last game before tech trouble got the best of me, I had a stack of 3 catapults and about 6 pretorians dashed against three longbows. Only 1 longbow died, and one of the survivors still had a couple of hit points. I’d reduced the walls to zero with the catas too.

Civ IV is not a wargame, at all. If you keep more than four up-to-date defensive units in a city, it will never be taken. Simple as that.

I actually think I will enjoy that. Large maps with few civs and a nice relaxing culture race. Lovely. Cup of tea.

I’m enjoying it so far, but I think that is pretty unbalanced and fear it will dramatically reduce the game’s replayability in the long run.

The other thing that really bugs me about the new civ is that the landmasses feel so small. (The globe is still large, as you notice when you need to sail across it.) A big selling point of Civ 1 and Civ 2, for me, was the joy of exploration. That seems to be a much smaller factor in Civ 4. I think that will reduce the replayability as well.

It’s still a better game than Civ 3, and I think it is well done, but I’m not convinced I will enjoy it as much as the more “classic” civs or Alpha Centauri. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

I just took Edo from Tokugawa, which was defended by six fortified, up-to-date units, including three Longbowmen (Edo is on a hill).
The game isn’t unbalanced, and it doesn’t need to be modded–folks just need to adjust. It is hard to take cities, but it can be done. I always thought it was a little too easy to take cities in past Civs, so I like this better.

Longbowmen are particularly formidable defenders in hill cities (and pretty damn good in any city). Six Praetorians is not enough to take out three Longbowmen in a hill city. If that’s the strongest unit that you have, then you need more of them. You also need some combined arms. Remember that those Longbowmen have a considerable Strength advantage over your Praetorians. Even if you knock down the walls, they are still fortified, in a city, on a hill. Which means they are probably closer to Strength 12, versus your Praetorians’ Strength 8. And they get First Strike, which means that your Praetorians are probably getting shredded before they can deal any damage. At a minimum, you need some archers of your own, to wear the defenders down before you send in the Praetorians (that will negate the defenders’ First Strike).

The old Civ tactic of making a super stack of heavy hitters like Knights is a lot less viable in this game, so don’t use it. As Matt said, catapults are a must for wearing down city defenses, at least until you have gunpowder. If you try to beseige a fortified city without seige engines, you are going to suffer very heavy losses. In fact, unless you have a crazy-large army, you are probably going to lose. But you also need some combined arms in your main attack force; a stack of infantry isn’t going to cut it. And even with the right units, you want to have a strong numerical advantage over the defenders–a bare minimum of 2 to 1, though you may need a lot more than that depending on the situation (Longbowmen in a hill city).

While you are building up your forces, beseige his city. Sit units on any terrain tiles that give him production to hamper his efforts at building more defenders. Pillaging is also very useful–it gives you gold and can send the city into starvation and kill it’s productivity. If he has military resources like Horses, you definitely want to take those out. (The AI likes to pillage as well, so keep units in your rear to catch all the mounted units he’ll try to sneak past you).

You are going to suffer somewhat heavy losses even with the right army, so it’s also good to have some cheaper units that you don’t mind losing to soften up the defenders. Cheap ranged units are good here, because they negate his defenders’ First Strikes.

When you finish bombardment and start your assault, use your cheap, expendable units first. Don’t bother Alt-right-clicking when you attack… the odds will just depress you. Most of these units will die. It’s okay, you’ll write a Heroic Epic to honor their memory later. The point is not to kill the defenders (that would be great, but it won’t happen)–at this point, you are just trying to wear them down. If you can get everyone in the city down to half strength before all of your cheapo units die, then you are doing pretty well. Units that have the Withdraw Chance characteristic are useful at this stage. They’ll need it.

Then you start sending in your elite infantry, whatever those happen to be. Ideally these units have been trained explicitly for this purpose–they should have at least City Raider I or II under their belt. That makes a huge difference.

I usually prefer sending in my artillery units to soften up my targets more so than my weak units.

It’s possible for a weak unit to get killed off by a much stronger one without ever winning a round, but with seige weapons you’re guaranteed to do at least some colleratal damage.

…but yeah, I don’t think a conquest victory is feasible in a very large map. I’m playing on the Earth map as the Chinese on Noble and while I’ve been pretty agressive in my game, The most I’ve been able to take out so far are the Mongols and the Japanese (I’m in 1900)

What Ben said. War is definitely a lot more difficult in Civ 4, but it’s not as difficult as it seems at first. Maybe the OP is right and it’s impossible to win a war victory on the hugest maps. I don’t know. I tend to doubt it, though, because it sounds like many people are using Civ 3 “Killer Stack” strategies, which don’t work as well here. You have to wear down defenses and you have to use appropriate units. If the city’s defended by ranged units, you should definitely be attacking with guys who are immune to First Strikes (either naturally, or via two Withdraw promotions) or who have City Raider II. Like Ex-S, I tend to throw away a catapult as my first attack (it collaterals the whole defender stack, although it usually dies–sometimes it withdraws). And you need a numerical advantage, especially if your techs are close. Plus some guys for mop-up operations against enemy commandos.

I think that stuff all adds to the game and also makes it more realistic. Maybe world conquest is more difficult, but that’s not ahistorical – that’s exactly what happened to guys like Alexander and Hitler. You get spread too thin or, if techs have advanced somewhat, you discover that a well-defended city is very difficult to take even if you have a huge, technologically superior army (say hello to Stalingrad, Moscow, and the Battle of Britain). If you think it’s not historical or realistic for a smaller number of primitive units to cause significant casualties to a modern occupying army, you might give the president a call – he probably has space for you at his war-planning table.

Siege weapons do collateral damage when they attack, which I’ve found is key to wearing down large stacks of defenders. The trouble is that the standard siege attack values are pretty low, so you’ll definitely need a few City Raider upgrades first.

  • Alan

Actually in Civ3 while the super stack of heavy hitters was viable. a combined arms approach was less wasteful. Having 20 or so artillery protected by a few riflemen or infantry accompany your heavy hitters resulted in less losses and whilst seemingly slow was more efficient. It sounds like Civ4, which I only got yesterday. is rewarding what many players considered sound tactics in the earlier version and punishing rush tactics. Also early archer or swordsman rushes were a way a lot of players sought to even out the AI’s advantages at higher difficulty levels. I’d expect the developers to seek to counter that tactic in a new version, just as they’ve countered the 4 turn settler factories.

Regardless of whether the OP is right or not, the gist of what you are saying is that simpler strategies worked in the earlier Civs but won’t work in Civ 4. I suspect that will lead to some dissatisfaction with the game.

I haven’t tried to actually conquer the entire map, but I’ve had no troubles in conquest. Raid and Counter Raid. Use appropriate unit match-ups, such as collateral damage vs. large stacks. Max out recruitment bonuses. Build Roads/shipping to the front. Draw the enemy out of his citadels by attacking his improvements and weaker cities – take advantage of the fact that if he defends them all he perforce must split his forces.

As far as I can tell the biggest problem with wide scale conquest is the ramping city maintenance costs. IMHO it makes sense to conquer enough to have a comfortable advantage over your neighbors, and then look inward. I suspect it may even be a better deal to let your enemy’s captiol live in return for tribute; if you’re looking for total conquest you can come back after you’ve technologically lapped him.

I like that it’s hard to take cities. In addition to the epic, normal, and quick settings, though, I’d like a setting that makes units, military units anyway, quicker to build. The problem is that there’s still not really enough time to conquer in the early ages on epic, since it takes longer to build every unit too. You just get more turns to move them compared to the other game speeds.

last night in my game on warlord I went after spain, her biggest cities had at least 8 guys in them. 4 semi up to date, rest random units. I used cannons to break the defenses and got the chance of winning to 20.4-10.4
and I still lost 3 infantry to longbowman. Both at full health at different times during the war.

Best part was watching my war elephant knifed to death by some kind of archer :)

You can’t just start a war from turn to turn… you REALLY have to prepare and organize and recon (especially enemies WITH friends)… also use diplomacy and get an ally to help if you want that war! DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE DIPLOMACY IN THIS GAME. And don’t just think that starting a war will be recieved easily by neighbors. You have to be prepared for alot of non communicative/angry/cautious civs.

As well I alawys thought the conquest / ICS victories in 4x games were a bit ‘cheesy’. Conquest in Civ 4 sort of mirrors the ebb and flow of a ‘real life’ civ. In fact how long did it take Rome to conquer ‘just’ Europe and parts of Africa and Asia? Alexander was stopped in India, WWI was fought over less than a few hundred miles, and Hitler never really reached Moscow…the same rules apply to Civ 4!

I REALLY LOVE CIV 4. It’s not just war anymore! You have the importance of religion, diplomacy and culture. The ‘feel’ of it is MUCH more open ended. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you actually win (only 1 time for me so far at Noble difficulty… and that was a TIME victory only).


In the real world of weekend warrior players and kids, I think this is going to translate into a lot of frustration.

How the hell can people be crying “the knights were nerfed!” Waawaaa, this other unit was nerfed!

For cripes sake this is not an MMORG, nor is it Civ 3.01 It is Civilization 4 ! Firaxis set out to make a new game, not a slightly update Civ 3. Damn, if you want a slightly updated Civ 3 - go download some of the 50,000 mods available for it. In the meantime stop chastising Firaxis for moving the game into a new era and not stradling us with the same thing we’ve already played. I can’t believe how narrow-minded people are :evil:

Oh, give me a break. When Firaxis called the game “Civ 4”, they were intentionally looking to attract players of the previous games. Ergo, carping about differences is fair game. If you want to make a game with no particular expectations, call it something else.

I don’t hate Civ 4. It does many things well (e.g., religion is neat), and shows a great deal of polish. I like it better than Civ 3 (which I really disliked). But from what I’ve seen so far, wars are much, much more difficult in Civ 4 than they were in previous Civs, and I don’t think most gamers are going to find that “fun”. I just played a game where I avoided war altogether until after 1800. I don’t think I ever came close to doing that in the prior Civs.