Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tips for winning at Civilization II, various levels

This guide to winning at Civilization II addresses levels Prince through Diety. I have won at all these levels, and this is what I learned...


This section is intended for the beginning player who has triumphed at Chieftain and Warlord level but is beginning to have difficulty with Prince level. It explains how science wins games, and how trade creates science, and how to maximize both and effectively make use of the benefits they confer. I have won many times at Prince level.

At this level you can get many of the wonders, but a good one to start with is Pyramids, because it increases your population growth rate so dramatically.

One thing I would add to the advice below is to always keep at least one settler or engineer making improvements. It may seem extravagant but it is worth it. If you ever pick up any from a hut that don’t require support, keep and use them.

Let's start with the victory conditions and work backward to determine the steps needed to achieve those conditions. Building the spaceship or eliminating all other civilizations are the two possible means of winning the game. Let's consider the spaceship first. Before you can attempt to build a spaceship you need certain technology advances. Technology advances come from science, which is produced by individual cities but which is held as a common pool across your entire civilization. The more science your civilization produces, the faster you will discover new advances. Science is represented by beakers in the city information window. Already we can see that the more cities you have, the more science you can develop. A key point for new players to realize is that, through various decisions you make, it is possible to manage your individual cities to maximize their science output.

We need to understand how science works, and why science, though not the only important element, is the most important one. Later we will examine trade, the foundation of science.

Science is not all you will need to build the spaceship. Once you have the necessary science to start building the spaceship, you will need large production capacity to actually build it. Production capacity is an attribute of individual cities and is not pooled on a civilization-wide basis. Shields in the city information window represent production capacity. The spaceship is built in components and because of time constraints you will need to have many cities working on these components at the same time. Once again, the more cities you have, the better off you are. As with science, you can manage your cities to maximize shield production. Increasing shield production is done by building city improvements, and by building forests near your city. City improvements are made possible by science.

So far we have arrived at the conclusion that we want to maximize science and shields, and have lots of cities. This brings in two new topics: military strength, and gold. These two topics will bring us right back to the topic of science and will introduce the importance of trade.

The military is necessary in order to protect your cities from other civilizations and from barbarians. Military power is necessary even for expansion into virgin territory. The need for military units to accompany settlers becomes clear once you build a city, leave it weakly defended, and barbarians or other powers immediately seize it. While many players skip military units in the first phase of the game, most players thereafter send out a military unit along with the settler and immediately fortify that unit into the city the settler builds, ordering up a city wall as the first item built by the city. Military power also aids in the conquest of cities held by other powers.

At this point I won't go into the a discussion of when to make war and when not to, but suffice it to say that it is a decision that must be made carefully, and failure to use caution will involve you in conflicts which suck the energy out of your civilization and cause you to lose the game due to lost time and resources. Having more advanced units greatly influences the outcome of battles. Unit numbers are not as important as unit type. More advanced units are possible because of advances, which come from science.

A note on tactics: Generally you can divide military units into offensive and defensive. You want to overwhelm the enemy units as quickly as possible with offensive units such as catapults, cannon, artillery, howitzers, armor, and bombers. But you must hold territory with good defenders such as musketeers, riflemen, alpine troops, marines and mechanized infantry. The tank, and to an extent the marine, is an excellent offensive and defensive unit. If you can overwhelm the enemy quickly and fortify behind your defensive units, you have done well. If you do not overwhelm the enemy, your offensive units will be destroyed and your defensive units will be unable to defeat the enemy. The diplomat and spy become invaluable in telling you what units are defending an enemy city, guiding your military units through enemy zones of control, and (in the case of the spy) sabotaging enemy units in the field and at sea (very effective!) and enemy city improvements (such as city walls and coastal fortresses). Don't forget that the spy can also buy enemy cities. This saves lots of time and gets you an intact city with defenders. If you can buy a city, do so. If your units are several generations of advancement ahead of the enemy, conquest becomes much easier. And science makes that possible.

So science is the most important element in both winning scenarios: Spaceship construction and world conquest.

When you get the opportunity to build libraries, do so. They increase science production and only cost one gold in upkeep. If you have a large food surplus in a city and can divert some of that to making a scientist, do so. The scientist will increase your science production in that city. Consider building universities in cities that already produce a fair amount of science, but keep in mind that universities cost 4 gold per turn. And build research labs and the SETI wonder when you can, because they also increase science output. Don't divert all your excess food to science; Keep all cities growing.

At a certain point city size becomes a liability and produces discontent. At that point, sell the sewer system and take steps to stop growing the city.

The factors for winning Civilization II do not relate in a simple linear way. There is a web of mutually reinforcing effects. The web can get confusing, but fortunately it all boils down to science. Take wonders, for example. Beginning players may underestimate the importance of wonders, and that is a mistake. Wonders are crucial to winning games and can prevent you from winning games if the opponent possesses them. Wonders can increase production, increase science, increase battlefield strength, decrease costs, promote science, prevent civil disorder, and aid in diplomatic transactions and in government stability and flexibility.

Fortunately, obtaining wonders boils down to science and gold, plus a trick with caravans. Building a wonder successfully depends on bringing to most resources to the project the fastest. Science is critical once again because the permission to build a given wonder comes to you only after you discover a given science advance. So being the first to discover that advance gives you a time benefit. Be the second to discover an advance, and someone else may build the wonder. Science enables you to build city improvements that increase production, which can be brought to bear on wonder projects.

Here's the trick with caravans: Build a lot of caravans (eight to twelve or more) and keep them on hand for the next time you have the opportunity to build a wonder. Begin your wonder and immediately convert the caravans into wonder production (march them into the city that is building the wonder). In this way you can build a wonder in one turn. It is not only a good trick, it is essential. The computer players are doing it, and you must too. If we trace back to how those cities were able to produce so many caravans, military units, and gold, we come to city improvements that multiply shield production or tax revenues such as the factory, manufacturing plant, marketplace, bank, and stock exchange. These are made possible by science.

In the early part of the game, horsemen can be used instead of caravans, for the same purpose described above. They are cheap, travel quickly, and add a good number of shields. But settlers add many more shields. So use them instead, if you can. This dovetails nicely with the need to build cities, roads, trees, and irrigation. But you shouldn’t keep settlers on hand for the next wonder, given that they stunt growth.

Another factor influencing city shield production is population size. Build the aqueduct when the city reaches size eight, and the sewer when the city reaches size 12. Otherwise the city cannot grow. What makes these improvements possible? Science.

Citizen happiness is a very vexing problem for beginning players. It is easy to ignore happiness when playing at Chieftain level, but it cannot be ignored at Prince level and higher. Unhappiness in just one city can destroy shield production in a city and across an entire democracy. Many players come to believe that democracy as a form of government is unmanageable because of frequent unhappiness. That's a mistake. Once you understand the causes of unhappiness, it is relatively easy to manage democracy and other forms of government. In democracy, for example, you basically have to keep your troops at home and you practically lose the ability to wage offensive war.

However, you can build the Shakespeare’s theater wonder and all people in that city are content, no matter what. So you can base all your excursion units there and field an army. And an air force of hideous weapons. Build it in a port, just in case you want a navy.

You may need to set the civilization-wide tax rate to include luxuries at 20 percent. But you should aim to build the contentment wonders. Sometimes you need to set the luxury rate higher, to compensate for units being away from home, or other unhappiness inducers. Or you can use entertainers and build happiness improvements in the city in question. Use the attitude advisor available from the menu to easily administer happiness. Click on the city names in red and assign entertainers, temples, cathedrals, and other happiness inducers as necessary. In the long term, go for wonders that induce happiness, such as the cure for cancer and Michaelangelo's chapel. If you have enough of these wonders, you can put armies and fleets into the field and your citizens will still be content. What makes these happiness inducers possible? Science.

Corruption is a problem that builds up cities and can be seen in the city information window. It consumes shields. It can be dealt with by courthouses and government choices. What makes courts and governments possible? Science.

Government type is another thorny issue. Beginning players soon discover that despotism has the flaw of low productivity plus corruption, and monarchy as the problem of corruption. Republic and democracy have higher production and science, but they also have the accursed Senate, which represents the peace-loving nature of your population and severely restricts you from making war. Turning in desperation to fundamentalism, the beginning player is attracted by the lack of restrictions on military action, the virtual lack of support cost for military units, and the complete elimination of need to worry about citizen unhappiness. No one is unhappy under fundamentalism. But fundamentalism contains a fatal flaw: Science production is cut in half. For this reason, fundamentalism may be fine at Chieftain and Warlord levels, but it is unacceptable at higher levels -- unless you discover Espionage. A player who possesses Espionage and the spy can steal almost all necessary advances from enemy powers (and from friends!).

Communism is a government most players scorn because in the real world it is worthy of scorn. But communism in the game contains advantages that make it compelling. Science is not restricted, corruption is eliminated (a far cry from in the real world!), and right after communism you can research the spy unit (without exaggeration the best unit in the game), and you can start the United Nations wonder, a wonder that essentially forces other powers to make peace with you if you want them to. Use either democracy (my favorite) or communism, and always try to build the UN. How do you discover the various forms of government? Science. The Statue of Liberty wonder allows you to switch around among the various government types (regardless of whether you have discovered them yet) without the usual period of anarchy. What makes wonder production possible? Science.

With the issue of science firmly pounded into your head, finally we get to trade.

Spaceship construction, wonder construction, and military conflicts are often aided by the expenditure of large amounts of gold. Gold can be spent to produce enough shields to build a spaceship component, a military unit, or a city wall that you need sooner rather than later. Gold can also be used by your diplomats and spies to bribe units and cities. It helps buy wonders. It costs more to rush the construction of a unit, spaceship component, or city improvement, but it is sometimes worth it. After science, gold helps win games.

We are all Flikr with converting gold to production (paying to build units). But you can also convert production to gold: Build some unnecessary temples and barracks and immediately sell them.

Like science, gold is held as a pool on a civilization-wide basis, and gold, science and luxuries all come from trade.

This is because taxes are taxes on trade. Shield production is not taxed, nor is anything else in the game. Trade is the only thing that is taxed. Taxes result in three things: gold, luxuries, and science. You set the proportion by which taxes generate these three in the tax rate dialog.

Trade is the foundation of success. Trade generates gold, luxuries, and science. I'll say that again: Trade generates all three factors that help you win games: science - which leads to advancement and all the benefits described already, gold - which you can spend to meet sudden needs including bribing cities and spaceship components, and luxuries - which keep your citizens happy and producing.

Trade underlies success. You will win the game by maximizing trade (as long as you don't choke your science and your production by bad decisions).

Now for the biggest secret of generating trade, and the humblest one, that is so easily overlooked: Build roads in every single square of your city radius. Roads generate trade. I'll say it again:

Roads generate trade!

And trade generates gold, luxuries and science. Science wins games. So build roads and win games!

You actually have to have people working a square to benefit from the roads in it. Stands to reason, just like shields and food.

There are ways to create and enhance trade. First of all, as your city population grows, the population will work more of the 21 city squares. Each of these squares when worked will generate some combination of food, shields and trade. The marketplace is a great investment once your city is producing at least two gold units in taxes, because it only costs one gold per turn to maintain and it increases trade, taxes, and luxuries. Caravans also increase trade when sent to distant cities, foreign cities, and cities on other continents. The primary importance of the caravan is still to build wonders, but the caravan is also great for generating trade.

Allow your city to grow (don't choke off its food supply, and give it aqueducts an sewers when the time comes), build roads in all city radii squares, build the marketplace and other trade enhancing improvements, and send out caravans to establish trade routes once you have enough caravans to build a wonder.

Trees produce a lot of shields, so plant a few forests around your cities if there are not already some within the radius.

Corruption will cut down on trade. Build courthouses or convert to a form of government that reduces or eliminates corruption.

Where you choose to build your cities can also give you a head start on trade. Build your cities on top of features such as buffalo and oases, because this automatically develops them. Build on top of hills with grapes, or mountains, for defense.

Hopefully this document has provided you with an answer to the question of how to win games at Prince level. It skips over the question of how to fight wars. That is a whole topic on its own, and indeed there are smart ways to fight and stupid ways to fight. By concentrating on trade and science, you will have enough of a technology advantage so that you can learn those lessons on your own.

Here is a sample narrative for winning a game. You start the game with one settler and you notice you are next to a buffalo on the coast. You move one space and build a city on top of the buffalo. Do not explore the black area. Build two settlers. One settler walks a short distance into the blackness and founds another city on grapes growing on a hill. The other settler begins building irrigation and roads around the first city. Repeat this process until you have four to six cities. You come in contact with another civilization and begin building phalanxes and city walls in your cities. You eagerly explore the thatched huts that usually yield gold, friendly settlers, advances or military units. Exploration and founding new cities is your goal, not war. Make peace and alliances now. This is the best time for that, as other civs are not envious of you yet. You develop a huge network of roads around every city and build a single road between cities. You monitor your tax rate to maximize science while still running a positive budget. Build markets. Build horsemen or settler, then caravans in preparation for your wonders. Keep an eye on happiness and build temples and play with the luxury rate in the tax menu as needed. Build triremes and explore your shores, which hopefully leads you to other shores. Build a diplomat and establish embassies with neighbors. This will tell you their technology level and how many cities they have. Never go to war with a civilization with which you do not have an embassy. If very weak and small neighbors attack you, eliminate them. Make peace with the strong ones. Build cities and fortresses on mountains in places that block the ability of opponents to explore, expand and invade. Your discoveries should be coming rapidly, every four turns or so, or faster. Start the wonders that you can, and complete them with the caravans. Keep a reserve of caravans on tap. Build libraries and convert some food to scientists. Keep climbing the technology tree, and get democracy as fast as you can. Build the Statue of Liberty. Convert to Democracy or Communism. Then if you are a Democracy, research communism so that you can research espionage, and build the spy unit and the United Nations wonder. You avoid major wars until you have accumulated many of the wonders and are ahead in the technology race by a wide margin. In addition to the science and production advantage over your neighbors, you have a deeper population happiness. You can play conqueror now if you like, or continue to defend your borders and build the spaceship. You should always be prepared to win the game by building the ship, however, since conquest, even by the advanced player, is not always possible within the time constraint of the game ending in 2020. Some players prepare the ship for launch and then keep conquering in order to add to their score. If some opponent has a wonder you find irksome (such as the Great Library) or is starting one you don't want them to have, (such as the Manhattan Project), consider conquering the city in which it is located, and then forcing peace with the U.N. Always protect your capitol well once the space race starts, and especially after launch.

Well, that’s all this guide can tell you. Have fun, and send me a postcard from Alpha Centauri.

Tactical notes:

You can bribe barbarians fairly cheaply with a diplomat or spy. This can be useful if you need to pick up some extra cannons.

Question: If you bribe a barbarian that is nearest to an enemy city, will it be supported from that city?

If you are fighting democracies, watch for shifts in government on their part, at which point you can start buying their cities.

If you are a democracy having trouble getting past the Dove Party's aversion to war, and you own the statue of liberty, call for a revolution, launch your attack, and then just choose democracy again when the menu comes up.


Don't forget to go hunting for wonder cities and don't be shy about taking them.

Take the enemy capital before, or immediately after, their launch.

Give away the railroad secret so they wire up for you.

Stop your research cold just before you get fusion. Let the other powers launch, then finish fusion and launch.

The Eiffel Tower only seems to benefit the player who built it. Taking it may not help you. Building it can keep your reputation spotless as you continue to break one treaty after another.

Build staging cities near the other capitals during times of peace (or war), and stock them with enough spies and heavy units to take the capital. Then wait. When the enemy has launched his spaceship, or is about to, take the city. If you wait too long, your attack will not destroy his spaceship. For example, taking the capital after ten years of flight did not destroy the ship.

If the enemy launches before you do, you can switch your production to components (any production) and disband as many units as possible, and spend all your money, to add enough propulsion and fuel to your ship to win the race. It does not matter if social chaos ensues, your goal is to launch the ship. You can deal with the social order after launch.

A screen of transports backed by heavy ships should be put up around all water approaches to your capital when the spaceship is near to being launched or after it is launched.

Normally you should not build a navy of any kind, other than transports and one or two carriers (before cruise missiles -- afterwards, the carriers are toast. I speculate that maybe Aegis cruisers next to carriers can help by extending their shield, but this is not known). The most effective naval weapon is a transport loaded with spies. After two or three sabotage hits, the enemy battleship or Aegis cruiser is ready to be sunk by another unit. Perhaps (perhaps), a task force of transports with spies, carriers, and an Aegis cruiser MIGHT be able to survive.

We do know that destroying the city where the Manhattan project was built does not remove nuclear missiles from the build menu.

While seeking to pick up goodie huts everywhere, remember to send expeditions to the south and north poles in order to pick up the goodie huts that may lie there.

One way to attack a city by surprise is to drop two engineers next to it, and order them both to build a fortress square, which will be built that same turn. Then unload numerous spies and assault units (cannons, tanks, etc.), into that fortress the very same turn. The next turn you will be asked to leave, and then you begin your attack.

Note that this tactic can be used to project force inland: The two engineers who built the first fort can build a string of them, and the assault units come along This can even be used to cross hostile ground between inland cities, allowing your troops to be fresh when they attack.

Ally with the most powerful civilization you find in the early game.

Spaceships launched by the opponents can be destroyed by taking the capitol of that country --- up to a point. For example, when I took the enemy capitol after their ship has been in flight 11/16 of the way, nothing happened. But taking the city within a year or two of launch is reliable.

Spies can repeatedly foil a construction project such as the Manhattan Project.

Paratroopers can show you where land in the blackness is. The jump icon will be negative over water and positive over land. Likewise, if terra cognita is in range, and is occupied by enemy units, the paradrop signal will be negative, even if you cannot see the enemy units.

Keep in mind that spies can plant nuclear devices. Guard the sea approaches to you capitol well! Consider moving the palace inland.

It turns out that you cannot land a paratrooper on a carrier.


The following advice regards how King level differs from Prince level. Continue using the Prince-level tricks except as otherwise noted here.

Also note that it regards the Large World setup and not small or medium. Large world tends to result in you getting an uncrowded start.

It seems like happiness management is much more difficult at King level. Republics can become very unhappy, especially as distance from the capitol increases. So stay a despotism until you have built a powerful happiness wonder such as Michaelangelo’s Chapel, or until you can get to monarchy. Switch to monarchy, never republic. Build the pyramids, then pursue the chapel first in your technology quest. Staying despotic has the advantage of increasing production, because the first three units per city do not need to be supported. After getting the happiness wonder, go for Leonardo’s workshop. If someone else gets Great Library, don’t worry, because you can focus on getting electricity, which cancels the library.

However, the Great Library is a truly advantageous wonder to have. Try to get it.

Don’t be afraid to just keep expanding by building settlers in the early game, leaving your cities undefended. The pirates can often be bought off. Don’t try this is you have selected Raging Hordes. Also don’t build city walls or aqueducts too early. Just spread out as fast as you can. The first product of each new city should be a settler, food permitting. At a certain empire size limit you will need to begin adding troops to the empty cities in order to keep them happy. This will make good sense, since you will have run up against your neighbors by this point. And then on the perimeter at least you will build walls. One effect of this rapid expansion seems to be that you have enough income to pay for the temples you need, as getting to the chapel takes a long time.

Once you have the chapel, it is a short jump (via Feudalism) to get to Bach. Build Bach. You need happiness.

The city menu that shows you supported units can help reveal to you the location of hidden cities. It will say “Near London” even when you don’t know where London might be. Have a unit wander around and keep checking the menu.

The enemy will tend to attack you at the point nearest. You can ‘bleed’ the enemy of excess combat capacity by taking one of the most defensible cities on his main island (preferably at the tip of a peninsula), and fortifying it with good defensive units and well as one offensive unit, as well as walls and a barracks. The energy this bleeds off from the enemy may limit expansion and development in other areas.

When the enemy concludes a ceasefire or treaty with you, if they intend to immediately break the agreement, they will issue that little speech about “Though we sign this peace of paper...”

Go easy on the aqueducts. Since overpopulation leads to discontent, while you are first spreading as rapidly as possible, and trying to use your resources to build settlers, forego the aqueducts and build them later, after Bach.

Build all the happiness wonders. Do not neglect women’s suffrage or cure for cancer. If you can manage Shakespeare’s Theater, do so. (I took it from another power). It’s best if the theater is a port. You can use it to field a large army and navy and still keep everyone happy.

If you squat a unit on a resource square used by an opposing city, they will bark, but then they leave it and you get to use it for your city.

At a certain point when you are really dominant, your rate of scientific advances can become too rapid. Each time you get an advance it would be best for you to be able to make sole use of it, against your enemies or in building wonders. However, at higher levels such as King, your enemies steal your advances quite often. Slow down your science and make use of the increased income. Slam them with the advantage you have in production capacity. For example, they may have cannon too, but you will have more cannon. For example, don’t make things hard on yourself by letting them get flight, which you developed too soon.

In my King-level win I chose to conquer the planet, largely because I was concerned about the stealing of technology, and concerned about the combined strength of the other civilizations. I reasoned that an offensive approach would keep them on their heels.

This is a lot like King level. Use the same strategies.

This is a lot like Emperor level. Use the same strategies.

Spaceship recipe

structural: 37

propulsion component: 8
fuel component: 8

habitation module: 1
life support module: 1
solar panel module: 1
flight time if fusion powered: 5.9 years