Home > game mechanics > About the Expansive trait and traits in general

About the Expansive trait and traits in general

I will try to explain why expansive is the best trait in an ancient era start game on noble difficulty (THE multiplayer difficulty) on average, no matter whether it´s single or multi player. On average, because there are many aspects to civ. Each game provides a different overall situation a player has to work with – and sometimes being expansive won´t be the best possible trait. The difficulty of the game plays a big role, so do the map and other settings. The ideas of this text are true for all civ settings, which sometimes results in expansive not being the best. Still the reason why it is so good on noble is the same why other traits are preferable on other settings.

The reason for both – expansive being the best or not optimal in different starts – is the same. In a game of civ there are no restrictions as to what a player can do. That means everyone can get all technologies and an unlimited amount of units EVENTUALLY. The key word here is eventually. Only thing that stands between a turn 0 start with a settler and a stack of 400 modern armour is time, or in civ: turns. The same is true for starting with one settler and getting to say 4 cities with granaries, barracks and one culture expansion, being improved by 5-6 workers and producing units.

Civ is a game with mechanics that work exponentially. The further you get into the game the higher your overall production and technology output become. When you have 4 cities with granaries and 6 workers improving your land, you will produce more hammers (production) and accumulate more commerce (technology) then with the 1 city you get from your starting settler. Exponentially now means that you don´t increase those factors equally each turn, but by more and more every time, at least in the beginning of each game. You don´t go from 2 to 4 to 6 to 8 to 10… hammers, but from 2 to 5, to 8, to 12, to 17… (of course those numbers don´t reflect an actual scenario). Say 2 opponents have the “same” land – that means that both will reach a certain amount of production and commerce. The key to civ is now to get to a certain point FASTER then your opponent, to gain turns on him. By doing so you become able to produce more and to tech better, which then enables you to overpower the opposition and … win the game.

Whatever you do in the early turns of the game counts most. Since the mechanics work exponentially you want to go up in levels of production and commerce as fast as possible.

Taking the example from above:
If you go from 5 to 8 hammers 1 turn earlier then your opponent, you will gain 3 production on him. Those 3 then eventually enable you to gain even more. For example you could get another worker a turn earlier then your opponent with those 3 hammers and improve a ressource earlier. If you continue gaining turns, you can reach those 4 cities with granaies, barracks and monuments a couple of turns earlier then your opponent and gain a significant advantage in producing units on him.

All civ traits have to be evaluated by how much – in a specific game setting – they make you gain turns on your opponent (since eventually everyone could do anything, remember?). With Philosophical you gain turns on getting Great People, with Organized you can gain turns by building court houses faster and getting lower upkeep (=faster tech) and so on. Aggressive on the other hand let´s you gain turns, because you get barracks faster and because you can slow your opponent down even better probably, since the first warriors you send out have combat I, giving you odds on a not promoted warrior. Actually slowing down (or choking/harrassing) is this aspect that makes expansive not the best trait every time (next to game settings). Since all is about gaining turns on your opponent, you can also get an advantage by instead of being 3 turns faster yourself with producing the first 2 workers for example, slowing your opponent´s first 2 workers by some turns. This is the art of choking, harrassing and organizing earlier attacks – which in itself deserves a couple of articles.

Example: Expansive vs. non-Expansive
Let´s see now how expansive makes you gain turns. I´ve put Lincoln (Phi/Chm) and Mehmet (Org/Exp) in ancient starts with similar land. Both have a 2-hammer start, a 5-food tile next to their cap and chops. Both try to do the best possible build up move, going 2 workers first.

The following table shows the amount of hammers each accumulated. 40 Hammers turn 8 means that those hammers are already “in”. So the turn that shows 40 hammers also sees the first worker build and ready to move.

Here are two slide shows showing the game situation this table is displaying.
Compare especially the last shots, showing the current state of development.

The Expansive player gained 4 worker turns and 3 turns of production in his city over his opponent. He had 2 workers turn 11, while the other side achieved that by turn 14. His development is roughly 25% better at this point.

All traits have advantages and disadvantages. Overall the best traits are those that allow you to gain turns on your opponent early on. Expansive is the Queen in an ancient era noble start (and not only there), because next to getting a bonus on those early workers everyone has to build, you get the big bonus on granaries, which allows you to get those very fast, gaining even more time by growing faster. Later on the health bonus can become very important, too – depending on the settings you are playing. Whatever settings you play, the traits that let you get a significant bonus early on are prime candidates for “best trait”.

Remember, whatever your goal is in a specific setup – no matter if single or multi player – whether you are playing a couple of opponents or in a team game, whether it´s early or late era, those traits that allow you to gain turns on your opponent in the early stages of the game are those that shine. Of course that gain has to be sufficient enough that you can set up a game plan that allows you to beat an opponent that might be playing a strategy with traits that could potentialy provide him a big turn gain in the middle or late game outweighing your early advantage.


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