This is a guide for players new to Deity difficulty. It’s intended to help you win on Deity as any Civilization, with any victory type you choose, by emphasizing an aggressive playstyle.
Deity difficulty is rightfully intimidating…the AI civilizations have enormous production boosts, additional settlers, and tend to want you dead. They build units so fast that they seem to summon them from thin air, and these units all get a boost to combat. But your squishy human brain is more than a match for them. Here’s a guide on how to beat Deity with whichever leader you prefer, with whichever victory type you’d like.
Just getting the achievement: If you only want to beat Deity to get the achievement, then play a duel map against Kongo, stay friendly with him, found a religion, and convert his cities until you have over half of them. Done. Usually by the Industrial era.
Game Settings – Recommendations
I turn off Diplomatic Victory as it feels sort of random. To win this way, you don’t have to do well in the World Congress, you just have to guess which way the majority will vote, and this becomes predictable after a few hundred hours of game time.
I usually start in the Ancient Era, but I tried it in Classical, and it wasn’t much different.
Pangea is the best for the AIs, but I sometimes play Continents, Island Plates, Terra, and Small Islands for variety.
I prefer Epic because I like to enjoy the earlier eras, but I’ve played up to Online speed with good results. Faster speeds tilt toward Science and Culture victories, whereas slower speeds assist with Religious and Conquest. Oddly, I haven’t found that slower game speeds result in longer games as long as you adjust your victory goals.
Now this is the setting that affects game length. Larger maps are more fun to explore, but the AI will settle every hex of land eventually, and you’ll end up with more cities to manage. I suggest Small maps for a balanced length. Expect Huge maps to consume several weeks of steady play.
I love City States…they add a great subtext to the rest of the strategy, and can be extremely valuable if you take the time to ally with them. And they’re so much less volatile than other empires. So I put in a lot of them, because I know that the AIs will likely snuff out a bunch of them anyway. Don’t peg the meter, though, or you won’t have any room to expand early on…it’ll all be filled with walled city states.
A Setting of 3 means that you’ll see disasters reasonably often, but they won’t grind the game to a slow pace by forcing you constantly rebuild (if you like this, play apocalypse). Volcanoes and rivers become an interesting gamble as they enrich tiles while disrupting your buildings. Sea level rise does mean a huge number of ugly flood barriers in the end game, though.
Generally I leave the default settings, but Legendary Start can prevent having to perform too many restarts to find a decent map. Abundant resources helps everyone and makes the map more interesting to explore. Toggle World Age based on whether you like cavalry or melee units (older worlds are flatter and make horse movement much faster), and whether you favor production or growth.
Choice of Civilization
Your choice of leader
This matters less than you’d think…this game is pretty well balanced, so there aren’t vast difference between the empires. For your first Deity games, I’d recommend picking civilizations with simple benefits. Gran Columbia’s the most straightforward, with a global movement boost and free Great Generals. Nubia gives cheaper ranged units and easier district production. For those who are playing with the basic civilization selection, Egypt’s resistance to flooding and increased Wonder production is helpful and straightforward.
On the other hand, some leaders/civilizations are pretty twisty, like Gaul, the Maori, or Kongo, as they alter basic principles of the game…these are probably better saved until you’ve refined your style on Deity.
Remember when you’re agonizing over your choice: in general the same strategies apply everywhere because the differences are minor. A Modern Armor army won’t behave much differently for any particular empire…it’ll mostly come down to quantity.
Many guides exist on the various civilization and leader choices. I’d say pick any civilization where you clearly understand the impact of the rule changes on your play style. If you just don’t know, go with Rome.
Choice of enemy leaders
I usually choose random opponents, although I like Gilgamesh just because he’s so loyal (and he has a great beard). Unlike in Civilization V, the AI civilizations will never wipe each other out entirely (oddly, even as I was writing this, I finally saw an enemy civilization eliminated early in the ancient era. No idea why…), and their wars with each other are so ineffective that they rarely trade more than one city back and forth. So adding more aggressive leaders won’t alter the game fundamentally, although they will be a little more eager to beat up on the City States. You’ll make enemies of all of them eventually anyway.
Consider trimming the default number of enemy leaders a bit. If you’re compressed against competitors on multiple sides, they will take all the good land with their free settlers, and then crush you with their free and reduced-price warriors. And they will all target you because you are clearly the weakest at the start. You need at least a few dozen turns of relative freedom to start to close that gap.
We’ll spend a lot time on the start because good decisions made here compound throughout the game. (A good first city is way more important than a perfect 7th city.)
This tile is so critical that you need to restart until you get a good one. Deity is challenging enough without starting deep in the tundra or desert, and besides, those games are slow and dull. Your city should ideally be:
- On a river
- On a hill
- On plains
- Near two different luxury resources
- With a mountain nearby
The river gives fresh water and access to water mills and high-quality commercial districts, along with a measure of defense. The hill gives you defense, and the plains hills give production. The luxury resources keep you from being forever short on amenities (a serious issue on Deity), and the mountain will help with your holy site and/or university.
Obviously, you aren’t likely to satisfy all requirements. You might settle for a lake instead of a river (no water mill or flood plains, but a future harbor), or take one luxury if there are multiple bonus resources nearby. You might not have a mountain, so you can plan to settle near one later.
Tundra is dangerous. It’s not only unproductive, but it often extends far from your city, where it will spawn barbarians and blizzards to wreck up your plans. Choose a city near tundra only if the tundra is at the edge of the city’s eventual sprawl and everything else is just perfect.
A little desert is okay. It allows several excellent Wonders, and you can always put districts on it if it’s otherwise unproductive.
I have found that with Legendary Starts you often begin near a Natural Wonder (as do your competitors). Some of the wonders provide huge boosts to your chances. The Giant’s Causeway (+5 to all combat units) is so good it’s almost like cheating, but others like the Fountain of Youth or Matterhorn will give you a great start without being terribly unbalanced.
If a luxury happens to be on a plains hills, then settle on it. Typically, don’t do the same for bonus resources, as they’ll seem to disappear without benefit (they don’t really), mainly because the feature (i.e. marsh or forest) is removed, and so the final benefit ends up at the default “2 food, 1 production.” The one notable exception is copper, because you’ll keep the gold bonus.
You don’t need a prescription here, but I’ll give some generalities:
- Build a scout…they pay for themselves with minor villages (goodie huts) and give you an overview of the surrounding land to plan your next cities. Don’t too attached…it’s dangerous out there.
- Build several slingers and a warrior. You’ll be at war soon with city states and barbarians, and then other empires. You might as well get some experience early, and you’ll need them to guard your settlers. (As you’ll see, I’m not as big a fan of ranged units as others may be, so this is almost the only time I build ranged units aggressively.)
- Build a settler. This should be your build as soon as your city is size two. The AI’s biggest advantage is starting with three settlers, so you need to even this gap quickly. Don’t even think about sending it out unaccompanied, as it will get gobbled up by barbarians and your game will be over before it starts.
Oh, such a honey trap! Wonders look so cool, with Sean Bean’s baritone extolling the glories of your civilization as you watch the animation roll. They give great bonuses, and a big dollop of era score. And 25 turns isn’t that long, is it?
Yes, it is. You want Stonehenge so you can get religion? Build a Holy Site instead…cheaper, with a lot more benefits. Let the AI fall into building the Wonders at first. They will burn production for marginal benefits while you build military units and settlers to carve out your piece of the world. The only exception is the Temple of Artemis…the 4 food makes up for the land it takes, and the amenities boost can increase production and growth dramatically. But even this one is only good if you have the camps and pastures nearby to take advantage of it. I used to try to build the Pyramids, but the AI now prioritizes it and you will most likely experience the gut-wrenching feeling of having it stolen 2 turns from completion. Oops.
The monument and granary are not worth the time until your city is able to build them quickly. Make sure your borders are secure and growing before investing the time into these. Exceptions for expansion content: The monument is a necessary early build in two instances: to build a hero, which is staggeringly powerful and may save you from barbarian hordes. For the Voidsingers Society, the huge faith boost it gives (as the Old God Obelisk) is hugely helpful towards getting your religion jump started.
Early Choices – Tuning your Civilization
You’ll get these once you’ve researched Code of Laws. Use them to increase your attacks against barbarians, and take “God King” for the faith bonus. This essentially guarantees a pantheon, maybe even the first pantheon (you don’t need God King if you have an appropriate natural wonder, Old God Obelisk, or other source of faith).
Choosing a Pantheon and Religion
A pantheon is just plain good. It adds early boosts that will give you a leg up on the competition, and allows you to tailor your society to the land around it, taking advantage of mountains, or rivers, or whichever terrain feature dominates your starting spot. You may not know this if you’ve only played on easier difficulties, but you can lose out on a Pantheon if you don’t get one before all religions have been founded.
Getting the first pantheon is a sort of Grail…it is far better than all the others on Deity difficulty, but extremely difficult to get. Religious Settlements gives you a free settler! This is much better than it seems at first glance…you save a huge amount of production (nearly as much as building a wonder), you can build a city 10-20 turns faster, and your opponent doesn’t get the free city. The AI seems to always take this one first, so you’ll probably only see it if you prioritize faith production and have some luck. If you don’t have it as an choice, then choose one befitting your available terrain or resources. If you can’t decide, just take either Fertility Rites (a free builder is a good boost for any civilization) or Divine Spark (extra Great Person points). These may not be the absolute best choices for you, but they’re never wrong, and help break that decision lock.
I (almost) always found a religion. Religions have effects in all other areas of the game, including production, warfare, science, diplomacy, etc. Not having a religion makes you vulnerable to an AI religious victory (rare, but frustrating when they happen), and cuts you out of a number of wonders and founder’s benefits which can be truly game-changing. Even if you never spread the faith outside of your own empire, you’ll add substantial bonuses to your cities which will make them more robust and productive. Faith itself is a key currency in the game, so the more the better. If you think the race for the Great Prophet is overwhelming while trying to scratch out survival on Deity, then play Arabia (you automatically get the last Prophet) or Kongo (can’t found a religion at all).
Choice of Secret Society
I love these…they add a slightly mystical air to the game, and allow you to further differentiate yourself as a civilization, adding a lot to replay.
- Owls of Minerva: If you don’t know which one to take, take the Owls. The free policy cards are always useful, and you’ll dominate the City States with your free envoys (one for each trade route, cumulative). Easy to use and mostly passive.
- Sanguine Pact: My personal favorite; the Vampire unit is a welcome addition in the early game. He (or she) is free and immortal, so can hold back the early tide of angry neighbors. Later, the Vampire Castles add enormous production to your capital based on where you build it; even later, they let your units travel around the map like airports. Of the societies, this one puts the most burden on the player; the Vampire is pretty mediocre unless you actively involve it in wars…it’s as strong as your strongest unit plus a bonus for each unit killed adjacent to it. Later, Vampire Castles should be extremely carefully placed to maximize benefitis. With smart management this can be the most robust Society, particularly if you want to build a toweringly tall capital.
- Voidsingers: An early boost to faith (from the monument) helps ensure a pantheon and helps with religion. Later, the faith production boosts culture and science, which you’ll need to keep up with AI production if you’ve built a lot of Holy Sites. Late game cultists are of limited utility in my opinion. Choose this society to boost your early game if you’re centering your game around faith.
- Hermetic Order: Initially my least favorite, these guys are growing on me. This is one place where I always “save scum,” as they are entirely dependent on Ley Lines, an otherwise invisible resource which adds a +2 adjacency bonus to districts. In other words, if you pick this society and have no ley lines, it’s essentially worthless. [I think (based on two or three games) that Legendary Starts tend to place Ley Lines around city start locations.] They tend to come in clusters, though, so if you have a bunch around your starting cities, they can really boost your districts, especially if you’re building away from mountains (which would normally help Campuses and Holy Sites). Later bonuses are also useful, especially in the very late game when you’ve accumulated great people. Pro tip: Anytime you can, build cities directly on the ley lines.
Choice of Hero
Heroes will be introduced as you interact with City States (mostly), and as you make discoveries on the map. To balance their strength, they have a limited lifespan. There are many, many choices, and you can eventually recruit a lot of them. However, only the first one you choose is affordable for an early civilization. Which should you take? (Note: Any hero is a good hero in the early game).
- Hercules: Yes, he’s tough. He’ll smash his way through just about any enemy, and can hold off an activated barbarian camp on his own (as can a lot of heroes). But equally important is his ability to complete a district instantly. This is a literal godsend for the early struggle…you get a dozen turns of production for free, which can accelerate you towards great people and let your early cities focus on making units.
- Hunahpu & Xbalanque: I may not be able to pronounce their names, but the twins are probably the best heroes overall for the early game. They hit hard, sure, but the real benefit is their “recruitment.” Any unit killed becomes a full-health unit of yours, with all movement restored. Not only does this reverse any assaults on your cities, it provides you with a near-instant army to garrison cities and guard settlers. Those pesky barbarians become loyal citizens instantly.
- King Arthur: If you need to take out a tough enemy early on, he’s your best choice. He is fast and hits hard, but his real benefit is his Accolade. I use it to create ultra-strong Questing Knight units out of my inexpensive scouts, creating an early heavy cavalry strike force. They’re short lived, but working together they can even take out walled cities (like City States), and will stomp other civilization’s non-walled settlements.
Early Choices – Governors
The best strategy games are about opportunity cost. Nowhere is this better illustrated than with Governor Titles, which offer great advantages but come in very limited supply. If you’re playing with Secret Societies, then you have even less available governor slots (a fully leveled Society requires four Titles, but you only get one extra for meeting your first Society). Here’s my take on the best use of your first Governor Titles:
Use your first title on your Society to start reaping those benefits right away. You may want to save a Title if you have a specific Society in mind…the most difficult to get is probably the Sanguine Pact, as you can’t join them until you clear a barbarian camp, and even then it’s only a 70% chance.
“ The King of the Chop/Rush.” If you have a city with a lot of forest, and you want to build things quickly, Magnus is your best choice for first Governor. His ability works as soon as you can cut forests, and gives a much needed bootstrap to all early builds. One more promotion and he can make settlers without the population cost, which is a wonderful talent on long games, where that population point may take 20 turns to replenish. Players new to Deity may be a bit squeamish about wholesale deforestation…my advice is to save that conservationist mentality for the late game. You can always replant the forests then, right?
The extra builder charge is quite efficient, with a “buy 3, get one free” effect. You won’t be using builders for awhile (most tile improvements need technologies to unlock), so she may be a better second governor than first. An exception is a promising coastal city…her Fisheries improvement turns starving coastal communities into solid growth machines. She can then move to another city and build Fisheries there, and so on.
None of her abilities are bad, and none are extraordinary. Extra expansion is great, as you can help close gaps in your empire as the borders grow, and you’ll save money from having to buy plots. The Foreign Exchange is potentially an easy source of money, but the game makes it very challenging to tell if foreign routes are passing through a city.
His first tier ability is fair, but his second tier “Laying on Hands” is extraordinary. One turn of rest equals full healing for any unit. You’d think Victor would be the best leader for a city on the front lines of a war, but the easy healing makes Moksha the winner. Not a first-line choice, but not bad in the First Conquest Age (my term; see below). He is also the only way to heal religious units other than a holy site.
The other governors are best for more mature empires. A general rule of thumb is to only promote a Governor to the first or second tier before getting a new one, i.e. go wide, not tall on Governors.
The Early Game (Ancient through Medieval)
I think of the game as occurring in several stages (which are only loosely connected to the game’s Eras), and your success in each will push you towards victory. A good rule of thumb is that if your overall score is the highest of the group by the late Industrial Era, then you’ve got the game in the bag. Consequently, I won’t spend much time at all on strategy past then, because you won’t need it.
The Nascent Age
This is the first few turns, and I’ve covered it pretty extensively in the “Getting Started” section. Some additional tips:
- Exploration is critical here. Push back the darkness, contact tribal villages, and meet your neighbors. Every discovery helps your Era Score, and being the “first” to do anything is usually worth more. Explored areas will show new barbarian encampments, which is critical to the next stage.
- Explore in a spiral around your starting city. Unless you’re butted up against a coast or a map edge, send your warrior (and later, scout) in an expanding spiral around your capital. This allows you to reveal all of the good spots for nearby second cities, and you’ll be closer to your capital in case of emergencies.
- Identify a spot for your second city within the first ten turns.
The Barbarian Age
Barbarians on Deity are lethal. Before worrying about neighbors and plotting conquests, you need to defend yourself against an enemy which wants only to kill you and burn your cities down. Not only have I personally been reduced to rubble by barbarians, I’ve come across AI empires caught in a death struggle with an activated camp.
- Barbarian Camps will appear in explored territory with a notification to you. If the new camp is anywhere near your territory, it is now your top priority. Other schemes can wait; send your melee and ranged units en masse to wipe it out.
- Barbarian Scouts are the most dangerous units in the early game. Once they spot one of your cities they will try to report back, getting an exclamation point over their heads. They will then beeline back to an encampment and that camp will “activate,” spawning up to a dozen units to return to your city and try to conquer it. City States and AI empires may also activate camps, which then somehow decide to hassle you instead.
- Barbarians units don’t heal. Use this to your advantage, because you can attack fortified spearmen even with a minor defeat, then heal, and attack the wounded barbarian again.
- Barbarians can’t conquer your capital. Capitals can’t be razed, and that’s the only form of governance barbarians can do. So don’t worry too much if a wave of barbarians is knocking down the capital city’s health…they can’t finish it off, so just be patient until reinforcements arrive.
- Killing barbarians is good for you. All of your units should cut their teeth on barbarians (and don’t worry about running low; they will just keep spawning). You can get the first level quickly. Additionally, several early science and culture boosts are tied to warfare, and barbarians will suffice nicely. The most important is probably the boost to Archery, which occurs when you kill a unit with a slinger. This is nearly impossible for an unsupported slinger, which is why I advise you NOT to send just one unit after a camp. You’ll need those archers for the next stage of the game.
- Clear every camp you can. If a City State’s units are attacking a camp, send a scout to hang around, then dart in to clear the camp. It can be as much era score as building a wonder, along with some much-needed gold.
- Don’t wait for them to come to you. If you play on easier difficulties, you might be used to sitting in your city and hitting them from relative safety. Instead, fight them in the countryside, away from vulnerable farms and mines. Make them attack across rivers and into fortified positions.
The First Age of Conquest
If the barbarian age went well, you’ve now got a crew of veteran units, and you’re starting to meet other civilizations, who are expanding into your world. Time to cause trouble.
- Attacking City States is mostly for experience. They are all walled on Deity, so you can’t just send a wave of warriors to take the city. Even heroes generally can’t do it at first. You can probably do it with Arthur and some knighted scouts, but it’ll be a struggle. On the other hand, you can attack the City States to get some free builders, or just to hone your experience past level 1 (barbarians give only a token experience point after the first promotion).
- Diplomacy with AI civilizations is generally pointless. They’re preset not to like you on Deity, so even if you waste money on a delegation they will most likely have a negative attitude. Add to that the secret society penalty (three-quarters of them won’t share your society, and that’s a big hit), and the fact that they are mostly militarily stronger. If you want a friend to trade with, then pick a civilization far from you geographically and give favorable trades to win them over. It won’t last, most likely. Sending an initial delegation is a use of valuable currency that might be better used saving toward a builder or trade unit.
- Aggressive settling is the best way to ensure some breathing room later. Settle as far forward as you can to create a shell of your territory with room to backfill later. If you’re spread thin militarily, then you should be more conservative so you can rescue cities from sudden barbarian appearances. You can settle anywhere without a loyalty penalty, or with a small penalty (I’d advise no more than -6 so that you can correct it with a governor.) Settle very close to City States, as they do not expand much so you can use that land.
- Attacking weak AI cities is the biggest hurdle for players new to Deity. If you’ve gotten into bad habits on easier difficulties, you may have too few units, or you may be reluctant to declare war on seemingly friendly neighbors. Squash that thinking! Those little outlying cities are unwalled, usually horning in on good territory you want for yourself, and are essentially a free settler. See warfare tips for how to knock out those pesky settlements.
- Settling pattern helps you interlink your empire for future growth. Cities should be about 4-6 tiles apart (10-12 if you’re trying grab good land for later backfill). Closer cities can better share resources like farms and districts, which boost other farms and districts in neighboring cities. This is often overlooked in easier difficulties, but on Deity it’s critical. Many districts have “reach” between cities for some of their later improvements (factories, stadiums, etc.), so plan accordingly.
- Ring your capital with cities. In other words, make it a priority to secure land in all directions around your capital. It’s likely going to be the most productive city and certainly the most valuable, so having a buffer of smaller cities protects it and lets it focus on big tasks like settlers or wonders.
Classical and Medieval Warfare
This is intimidating on Deity. The AI can crank out units like fast-food hamburgers, and when you click one of your units to estimate how successful they’ll be in an attack on an AI unit, you’re confronted with lots of grim numbers, such as the +4 from difficulty. Enemy cities are even worse, often shooting you as soon as you’re within range, so you have to either retreat or die to get in a shot or two. But fear not! Let’s explore warfare in the Early/Mid-game (archers, crossbowmen, swords, and catapults.)
I didn’t realize how great these were until I played Deity and was forced to use every tactic in the game to survive. They will turn the tide.
- They stack with regular units. I felt pretty silly when first I realized this…battering rams and siege towers can be linked to regular units like swordsmen, and they effectively give a special power to that unit and all others attacking that city. “Units do full damage to cities” is a game-changer.
- Chaplains aren’t technically support units, but they can stack with support and regular units, and give a huge boost to healing to all adjacent tiles. This extra healing lets you keep your wounded units within strike range of cities without having to move immediately. Just keep fortifying your units, and they’ll heal back most of the damage they take from the city if the gap in strength isn’t too large. The boost is huge…it “acts as a Medic” which is a +20 healing rate. This quintuples the normal rate in enemy territory. (Note that chaplains can’t heal religious units, only military.)
Melee Units are Awesome
You like to play it safe with ranged units, and that got the job done in other difficulties. It won’t work here, so use your melee units on the front line. The tactics here favor melee units, and can add huge boosts to combat strength not available to ranged and siege.
Surround and Advance
Remember that cities only get one shot from their walls, and possibly another from any ranged units inside. If you send units in one at a time, they’ll get picked off. A better strategy is to mass units outside its range, and then send all units in together. Only one or two can get hit, and the others can get their shots in safely.
A small army just can’t take a walled city in the early game. You need enough units to move them out of enemy territory when they are at half health and send in replacements while the first folks heal. The chaplain (a promoted apostle) will help with this, sitting the rear helping healing. (Baseline healing rates are 5/10/15/20 per turn for enemy/neutral/friendly/city hexes.)
Melee and horse units should take the defensive promotion as their first or second choice to avoid surprise deaths from that archer you didn’t know was there until you finished moving forward. After that, however, it’s probably best to wait until the unit is damaged to use its new promotion. It’s hard not to use it right away, but you’ll love the 50 free hit points when you really need it.
Another overlooked tactic. If all passable tiles are within the zone of control (one hex radius) of an attacking unit, then the city is under siege, and can’t heal every turn like usual. Look for the little heart/slash icon to tell if a city is under siege. This makes taking an unwalled city a very quick process, and definitely helps with walled cities as you can sometimes take the city without breaking the defenses. But wait…why isn’t that city under siege?
- Is Victor the Governor? He has an ability which blocks siege altogether. Nothing you can do about it.
- Is there an open water tile? Melee units’ zones don’t extend to water tiles. You’ll need a ship.
- Is there a river? Melee units’ zones don’t cross rivers. You’ll need a unit on the far side of the river.
- Is there an archer in the bunch? Ranged units do provide control of the hex they’re standing on, but have no control over adjacent hexes (unless you choose a dubious promotion for them). You’ll need more units.
Leverage Combat Strength
Every little bit helps or hurts…even a 3-point difference can turn a loss into a victory. You’ll need to use every advantage to win on Deity! It’s easy to see your opponent’s defense and your offense by hovering over the targe, but very hard to know the opposite.
- Flanking and Support are the same in most ways; flanking is for offense, support for defense. Every friendly unit near the target adds a flanking bonus to melee attacks; every friendly unit adjacent to the defender adds a support bonus. Large armies win! Support your front line troops and they will be much harder to kill. Surround a city shoulder to shoulder and do more damage. (Flanking only works for melee attacks, and doesn’t cross rivers.)
- Terrain can be a major benefit or minor hindrance for a defender. The game calls hills, forest, and jungle “ideal terrain,” and all are +3. (But remember that hills stack with the others.) Swamps and marshes give the defender a -2, and make an ideal target.
- Injured units need healing. Their effectiveness drops off fast as they take damage, reaching as high as -10. Get them out of the line of fire.
Don’t Buy Catapults
Want to take a city? Use a siege weapon, right? Nope. These fragile, defenseless things are only good for promoting to better siege units. You’ll spend an eternity building them and rolling them to the front, and then enemy cities will target them as soon as they roll into range. They can’t fire and move on the same turn, so you’re lucky to get in one shot (at reduced damage) before having to retreat to heal near-fatal damage. Spend production on a siege tower instead.
The Middle Game (Late Medieval through Industrial)
You’ve gotten through the barbarians, elbowed neighbors around, and now you’ve got a decent plot of land to call your own. Now what?
The Eight-City Age
For most games, you need about eight cities, and the sooner the better. You probably clawed your way to three or four before, but now you’re stalling because there are so many things to build! Districts, traders, ships, and maybe even a Wonder or two are vying for your production. But you need a lot of land and population for several reasons. Here’s the hows and whys…
- Specialization allows one city to produce settlers, one to make units, one to work on religion, etc. It’s hard to specialize without enough cities, so find space for new ones. Land that didn’t work before might be better now that you can develop it with your improved technologies. Not every city needs a river in this age. Just make sure you can place an aqueduct…any tile next to both your city and a water source or mountain will work. (Did you know that oases can hook to aqueducts and provide fresh water as well?) Coastal cities are a lot more viable with harbors to boost production and trade.
- Land is valuable for its own sake. Eventually you’ll need oil, aluminum, and niter that you can’t see on the map at first. The bigger your empire, the more likely you’ll be self-sufficient on these resources late. Oil in particular will make or break your late game.
The Age of Evangelism
Your religion has probably been a little neglected while you scramble for land, but as your core empire takes its final shape, your religious zeal needs to be your first overtly aggressive acts against surrounding AIs. Your burst of religion will help you in many, many ways, including loyalty, culture/science, Wonder opportunities, and more.
Missionaries are fine for early self-conversion, but are easy prey for enemy apostles. Beating an enemy in religious combat is like a double hit of evangelism to every city nearby (it both reduces the target religion and increases your own).
Apostle promotions are mostly situational, but some are much better than others. Chaplain lets you have a medic LONG before getting the support unit. Take Debater as soon as you see it, and do not use all charges on that apostle! It can be used for the rest of the game to pick off enemy religious units. Heathen Conversion is either useless or absurdly powerful…barbarians tend to be relatively scientifically advanced, so you can instantly double your military power by converting a pile of barbarian muskets or field cannons. In Deity, this can be a way to get units beyond your current technology level.
- Defining your religious beliefs uses two hard-earned apostles, but it’s worth it. Tip: Before using the apostle to enhance the religion, pick a promotion you wouldn’t otherwise want to use it up (Indulgence Vendor, anyone?) The best beliefs for purely aggressive spread are probably Mosques and Holy Order, because they allow your faith to buy units which are both cheaper and more effective than your opponents.
- Convert cities in adjacent blocks. This allows your religion to have an increasingly strong wall of faith, making enemy conversion less effective.
- Prioritize enemy cities with holy sites. Unfortunately, they won’t start building missionaries for your religion, but it cuts the supply of enemy units.
- Heal your units frequently. Damaged units are less effective in combat, less effective at conversion, and vulnerable to being killed (which reverses any positive effect they might have had). You could use gurus, but they are so vulnerable themselves that I usually just move wounded units to holy sites to heal. Trying to stretch a damaged unit is a rookie mistake that you will soon regret…the AI is more competent at religious combat than military combat.
- Make use of religious combat bonuses. Several policy cards give bonuses; defending on your religion’s ground gives a large boost, and there’s flanking and support bonuses just like in melee combat.
- Hide like a rat when you need to. The enemy units can’t hit you inside cities and encampments, so hide wounded units there until it’s clear to go back and heal.
- Don’t fight to the death. If you’re gonna get killed, use that last charge on any nearby city. It won’t be effective, but it’s a whole lot better than hit you’ll take from losing the unit.
- Inquisitions are very rarely necessary. Inquisitors are strong and cheap, but have no utility outside your borders, and you have to waste an apostle just to have access to them.
- Finally, make sure you have either Cross-Cultural Dialogue or World Church (these give bonuses to science and culture respectively). Why? You won’t be able to keep up with the AI in both culture and science by building districts, but if you get help from your religion, then you can get a little breathing room in the race to keep up. I favor World Church, because it seems a little easier to keep up in Culture, but either one works.
The Second Age of Conquest
As your religion begins to organize, and you’ve built a solid national identity, it’s time to start pushing into enemy territory. (We’re roughly in the Renaissance now, but the oddities of the tech tree make this only marginally important.) You’ve either built, bought, or stolen a decent military; your economy is reasonable, and barbarians are an occasional nuisance. On easier difficulties, you can now “Next Turn” your way to a dull science victory. On Deity, however, the other civilizations will keep even with you in science, and then outbuild you in the Space Race. Or worse, you’ll succumb to their culture. You’ll find any sort of victory you’re pursuing will be augmented by a health military attitude. After all, today’s real-life scientific and cultural nations generally have a long history of military assertiveness. Not a coincidence.
- Have at least two encampments. These are less critical in the early game than barracks were in Civ 5, because they only give a bonus to experience gained, not outright promotions. However, those promotions are important, and you want your units to promote quickly so they survive and thrive in the field. You need two so that you can have one with a stable and one with a barracks. Both should be in high-production cities, preferably paired with an industrial district.
- Build multiple copies of each unit. Corps and armies are so important that you don’t want to have to wait to make them. See Middle Game tips for properly combining units. Yes, it matters.
- Razing cities can sometimes be the best option. The AI builds a lot on snow, desert, and volcanic tiles. But how you do it makes a huge difference how much hate you’ll generate. See Middle Game tips.
- War disrupts the AI priorities. Attacks will cause redirection of resources from Wonders and districts to military units. If you’re careful with your units, this allows you to get a production advantage, and finally start to catch up. Use diplomacy to draw other AIs into fights which break up partnerships between AIs and reduces their income from trade and alliances.
Middle Game Efficiency Tips
Corps and Armies
…have a lot of little rules that you should know. The following is true if either of the two units being upgraded meets certain criteria (it doesn’t matter which one absorbs the other):
- Any upgrades from wonders are kept for the combined unit (e.g. Water of Life)
- The highest XP total of the two is kept. That unit’s promotions are kept.
- Upkeep cost of the corps is 1.5x, and an army is 2x the base unit. A bargain.
- Resource upkeep is the same as the base unit. A huge bargain.
- Combined health is some sort of average of the two (i.e. forming a corps does not heal the unit, so be careful).
- They keep the best “educational” background. So if one unit is green but came from an encampment with a military academy, and the other is descended from that first warrior unit who is now a grizzled musketeer, the corps will get the benefit of the academy.
Bottom line on corps and armies…generally it’s best to combine old, experienced units with new ones fresh from an upgraded encampment.
It’s often the best choice. If the city is in a bad spot strategically, or if it’s just going to flip right back to the enemy, then why keep it?
- Razing immediately generates an enormous permanent penalty in grievances (see Grievances) which can make any future diplomacy harder….however, another option exists….
- Allow the city to rebel, then retake it. A much better choice. There’s no penalty for razing a free city. Go for it.
Don’t worry about progress
The AI will still be beating you to most Wonders, and still be ahead on score and in science. You might be catching up in culture if you’ve been careful, but your goals should be firmly fixed on getting those eight cities, and then getting your religion in shape.
These are still secondary, but you should work hard to get one in particular…the Taj Mahal. I once did an informal count, and found it was worth about 100 Era Score by the end of a game. Essentially, it removes one variable from your list of worries.
Era Score and Dedications
Dark ages are scary to anticipate, but they’re not really much different from Normal Ages. You’ll have a little harder time keeping cities in line if you’re stretched thin, but a compact group of eight cities won’t cause much trouble. The additional policies aren’t great, but some can be useful. What you really want is a Golden Age, because this actually gives your civilization new powers. You’ll be able to cause some enemy cities to rebel without lifting a finger, and you can boost some capacities. For the first five of my made-up “Ages” I recommend you take Exodus of the Evangelists. What?!? “I never took that before in Emperor difficulty, and I won just fine.” True, but…
- Four great prophet points per turn is the real prize. Unless you’ve done the near-impossible (and unadvisable) with Stonehenge, then you are unlikely to have a religion by the end of the Ancient Era. You’re essentially guaranteed one if you pick this Dedication.
- The extra spreads and movements are critical to getting through the “Age of Evangelism” quickly and smoothly. You will grow your religion amazingly quickly.
- If you’re not in a Golden Age, then Dedications provide no bonuses; they’re just a way of getting into a Golden Age. Even here, it’s hard to beat this one…two points for each city means around ten era score if you just use it on your own cities.
Grievances and Diplomatic Penalties
Grievances are a little skewed in this game. Some make sense, others don’t.
- If you declare a surprise war, you get a large initial grievance, plus a multiplier for each city you keep afterwards. Makes sense.
- Formal wars are better, so chose this route if you have no other causus belli.
- Even if they attack you, you’ll get grievances for taking and keeping their cities.
- You get a lot of grievances for razing cities. Makes sense, again.
- If they ask you to keep away from their borders, and you declare war, you still get grievances for keeping troops near the border. Makes zero sense.
- If they ask you to stop converting, and you do it anyway (even if you convert a city by killing one their aggressive religious units) you get grievances. Makes little sense to me.
Diplomatic penalties pile up based on grievances, some fair, some not. If you keep one of their cities, even if it was originally a city state that they conquered, you get a permanent penalty. Same with razing cities or converting holy cities. You also get penalties with that civilization’s allies if you occupy a city (yeesh), and more penalties just for having grievances with any other player. You get more penalties with some AIs for building on the coast, or near mountains, or building Wonders.
Bottom line: Don’t worry too much about all this grievance stuff. You’re going to be hated if you do anything other than roll over (and if you do that, you’ll get penalties for being weak). Interestingly, one of the best ways to reduce these penalties is simply to wipe out a civilization completely…it eliminates the grievances and penalties associated with that nation completely.
Renaissance and Early Industrial Warfare
True to actual events, this age of warfare is bloody and long, with grinding wars and stalemates. It’s still worth it! If you take a passive approach and stay safely within your borders, you may get so far behind that you lose the Science Victory.
…should be your friends by this time. Many of the best trade policies involve allies, which includes city states where you’re the suzerain. They won’t help you much in your wars, but they provide a distraction for AI armies. By the “Second Age of Aggression” they are much harder for the AI to conquer, and act as a sponge for enemy armies.
Think of yourself as a raider
Conquering walled, established cities is nearly impossible but if you have a good road network and a decent-sized army, you can pick off newly built cities. Burn districts, plunder traders, and generally gobble up their resources to help your economy grow. It’s worth it; plundering a single commercial district can pay 20 turns’ worth of maintenance your unit. A religious district yields enough faith to buy a missionary, and prevents the enemy from building their own units.
Build melee and heavy cavalry
You may be used to relying on ranged and siege. For all the reasons we’ve discussed, this is a bad idea. Melee units and heavy calvary can resist the inevitable ranged attacks when you approach cities, so take any promotions which help this. Ranged units from prior eras should be promoted to crossbows or field cannons and used mainly to defend cities. Siege is still relatively useless; bombards are expensive, and still can’t outrange city attacks, so all the drawbacks of catapults still apply.
The AI has a reputation for being terrible at war
This is only partially true…offensively, the programmers left off the key ability of the AI to link support units, which is basically a major bug. However, the defensive AI is pretty competent (especially with Urban Defenses), so be careful as you approach defended cities.
Raiding wars distract the enemy
…from building science and culture buildings. This will slow them down, and help you catch up.
You get experience from being hit
A fortified musketeer (or cuirassier) with a chaplain can sit and soak up city attacks nearly infinitely, getting 2 XP per turn, every turn. (This seems like an exploit until you realize how historically accurate it is.)
You get experience from hopeless battles
Attacking a walled city in melee will do very little damage, but as long as your unit won’t be badly damaged in the attempt, it’ll net you at least 5 XP.
It’s very hard to heal damage taken from the combined attacks of an encampment and a city, particularly if the AI suddenly builds a ranged unit in that encampment, adding a third attack you weren’t ready for. Approach from angles which minimize this. Alternately, you can attack just the encampment and avoid the city itself; useless except as practice for your units.
Newly built units
…can attack and move. (Newly purchased units cannot.) The AIs have such a production boost that they will build units regularly, giving you a sudden new threat. Prepare for this by not allowing wounded units to linger within range.
Simple advice, easy to mess up. Losing units costs production, time, and war weariness. Losing a veteran unit can put a major dent in your whole strategy. It’s better to retreat and heal than try to get that last blow against a seemingly vulnerable field cannon (who actually has three friends just inside the fog of war). Move units in groups, scout with fast units or great generals (they are immortal). Don’t use a unit’s whole movement when approaching the edge of the visible map so you can save a bit for a hasty retreat.
Mid-Game Warfare – FAQs
What about Siege Towers?
With a siege tower, you have a chance of taking a walled city, but only with a lot of units. Make sure, however, that those walls aren’t Renaissance Walls, which make siege towers useless. And only non-cavalry units will benefit anyway (logically).
City defense values seem so high. What can I do?
The number comes from many sources. Districts, capitals, walls of various levels, hills, and garrisoned units all add to the number. In simple terms: Older, larger cities are harder to conquer. You’re still a raider, so go for the easy targets and stay clear of the tempting capital city with the Pyramids in it. (Even though you really want it because they beat you to the Pyramids by one stinkin’ turn!!)
Why does that city have skyscrapers?!?
When you force them into war for long enough, the Deity AI will often somehow beeline to the Steel technology. This isn’t very useful in general, as the Artillery you get from Steel can’t be built without refining (they need oil), but it does give all cities Urban Defenses. It produces the weird effect of modern-looking cities in the pre-industrial era (which I think is a bit buggy), but Urban Defenses almost eliminate any chance of a city capture in this Age. Even brand new cities will instantly have 400 fortification points, high defense values, and excellent ranged defenses. You should still raid and build experience for your units, however. Also, isolated AI cities can sometimes still be prey.
What about the Navy?
The AI doesn’t build much in the way of Navy, and the oceans are vast so fights are difficult to find. Coastal raiding works a little for Norway, but less so for everyone else. Unless the map is mostly islands, Naval units are best used in limited quantities to escort embarked land units. Spend time and effort somewhere else.
Why does the AI build so many anti-cavalry units?
Ranged and anti-calvary units don’t require resources, so as you pillage them, the other civilizations will be reduced to these units. This is particularly true in the last three Eras, when you’ll see a ridiculous number of Modern AT armies pouring out of enemy cities.
The Late Game (Late Industrial through Information Age)
I’ll limit myself to a few tips here. If you’ve held on until the Modern Age, and your overall score is the highest in the game, you’ll almost certainly win. Here’s how to make sure:
Capture enemy cities
What was a very difficult tactical process in the Mid-Game becomes breathtakingly simple. Create/promote two artillery armies and a couple of screening melee armies. After you develop flight, build an observation balloon (no District or resources required); link it to an artillery. Now the artillery can hit from three spaces, over all obstacles. Find a relatively safe spot, and relentlessly shell the city. Once the walls fall, the city can’t fire back, so you can advance your melee units close to the city. Take it when its health is low or nil. Find new cities and do this over, and over, and over. If you can’t hold a new city, let it rebel and raze it.
Long mountain ranges are common on Pangea Maps. A mountain tunnel anywhere in the range connects to any other tunnel in that same range. If you didn’t know this, you’re in for a treat…it’s like having a teleporter to get new units to the front.
Build them everywhere. Connect all your cities, build them under your military units at the front, and link all your Mountain Tunnels. Each link must be placed manually! Tedious, yes…the developers decided not to allow any sort of “build to destination” option like in Civilization V, ostensibly because of the use of coal or something. Because of the coal requirement, you will see your greenhouse emissions go up. It’s worth it, though, when your transit times fall to half what they were. Note: Cities do NOT default to railroads, so you have to build railroads inside each city tile to get full movement benefits.
Late-game districts are powerhouses, and help you finally get those great people you’ve been missing out on. As you develop them, you’ll see your outputs of all the good things increase dramatically from turn to turn.
With safe cities in the interior of your empire, you can now dedicate some of that huge production to building Wonders. The AI will often leave out wonders with a lot of requirements (Great Zimbabwe, I’m looking at you), but now you can build these and most of the Modern and later ones. Three which are particularly good to have are Estádio do Maracanã, Amundsen-Scott Research Station, and the Biosphere. The Stadium solves amenities problems throughout your empire. The Biosphere will remove the need for power plants and improvements, if paired with the Tier 4 government Synthetic Technocracy; this government produces 3 renewable power per city which is tripled by the Biosphere. Amundsen-Scott gives absurd bonuses (up to 40% science and 20% production empire-wide) but has build requirements which are very challenging. To get it in time for it to be useful, you need to build a dedicated city in the tundra near the snow fairly early (late Industrial-ish) with a Campus bordering a snow tile. The production requirements of the Wonder are impossible without 4-5 heavily enhanced trade routes coming out of the city. Finish it, and victory is essentially assured.
Kind of a fun mini-game, and I always play, but probably completely unnecessary (except defensively, so they don’t keep assassinating poor Governor Pingala). Yes, you can spend 50 turns building and establishing a spy, getting local informants, and carrying a mission with a decent chance to blow up a Spaceport…or you can send in a tank and do it in one turn. If you want to use spies, I suggest assigning new spies to Siphoning Funds (which has a relative high chance of success) from a smallish city. Smaller cities are less likely to have defensive measures, which you can’t see in the percentages! Do this until you’re promoted to level 2 or 3, then take on other missions depending on the promotions you’ve chosen. This process takes an incredibly long time, so if you’re serious about spying, use policy cards to make it more efficient.
Amenities and National Parks
The only way to knock down the AI is to periodically conquer their cities. You’ll end up with way more than you need. As your empire expands, your amenities requirements will become difficult to maintain. You can partially alleviate this by carefully razing cities (see above). National parks provide as many amenities as if you’d found a new luxury (total of four). So, you have a naturalist…why can’t you build a park?
- 4 tile diamond? The park must be in a vertical diamond, or it won’t work.
- Are all tiles Charming or Better? This is often a sticking point, alleviated by the Eiffel Tower. You can also remove nearby mines or jungles to assist.
- Are all tiles owned by the same city? If not, try to swap them to get the pattern you need.
- Do I actually own all the cities? If a city is “occupied” during a war, you can’t build a park.
- Is there an improvement somewhere? The one that’ll slip past you is the Mountain Tunnel.
- I can build it, but I don’t like the name. You can’t rename a park, but you can change the name of the city which owns the tiles. Then found the park, change it back, and the park will retain the custom name.
Other sources of amenities
Most amenities are local, except luxury-based amenities spread around to the cities that most need them. By the late game, most of your cities will need a Water Park or Entertainment Complex to assist with the load. Ski resorts are a quick amenity in a tile you can’t otherwise use (but don’t do it before considering a National Park). Interestingly, many City States offer buildings to their Suzerains which will give an amenity. This is often NOT in the hover text in the builder menu, so check in the City State description.
This is essentially a local amenity, except negative. I’m not quite sure why, but I rarely have any issue with this despite being almost continuously at war. In a recent game I was at war for 100 turns (with a short break in the middle) and only had a single negative amenity in one city from weariness. I am extremely careful not to lose troops, and I use formal wars or other causus belli in all wars, which probably helps.
Conclusions – Win However You Like
With the other civilizations deep in war weariness, with key cities razed or captured, and your culture and science ascendent, you can now pick your path to victory. The simplest is just to construct Space Race projects, but any path works…true to history, culture, science and faith follow military might. I hope you’ve picked up a thing or two you didn’t know before. Congratulations on your hard-won victory, and on getting through this ridiculously long guide!