Posts Tagged ‘game mechanics’

Components of Score

March 16, 2010 1 comment

There are four components to your score in Civ: population, land, technology, and wonders. Combined, in ways explored here, score can be a vital goal in multiplayer. At other times, however, score has little to do with how you, or your team, are fairing in any given match. Given the right evidences, score can clue you in about what your opponents might be doing or how they are approaching their match strategy.

The “scoreboard” is a quick and easy glance while you’re in a match, but is not always a good measuring stick regarding how you or your team might be doing overall. In multiplayer, it is key to fine-tune the way you read score, and apply your knowledge to where your score, and your opponents’ scores, are at any given point of the game. In the final analysis, score contains the components that ultimately make you successful in Civ, but knowing when score is important can be key to meeting any match’s victory conditions, circumstances, or long-term score goals. Knowing how to best balance score’s components, how and when to grow your score, knowing how to read other scores, and tailoring your game goals, both short- and long-term, to your score, and its components by extension, are perhaps the best combination of tasks to consider when using score to your advantage in multi-player.

When Score Is Important
Having the top score is central in any multiplayer match where the time victory is enabled and no other victory type is likely to be achieved. Usually, this occurs in matches where there is a turn limit and military efforts in the match have been stymied or stalemated. For example, score is often a key component to certain situations in OCC, CTON, and team events.

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The “Happiness Cap”

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

General thoughts

City happiness is an important factor of civ – whatever the settings are, you´ll always have to deal with keeping your cities happy. In teamer games that are restricted to one era, you will either run Hereditary Rule, basically giving you unlimited happiness at least till you move out for an attack or additionally use the culture slider. This text is not about how to most effectively avoid (too much) unhappiness especially when slaving, but about the concept of the happiness cap (aka “happy cap”).

The happy cap defines the maximum population your cities can reach before becoming unhappy.

Of course you can define a happy cap when running Hereditary Rule and/or using the culture slider – the interesting part though is the happy cap without those two. In teamer games you don´t necessarily want to grow your cities to bigger sizes and additionally running 10% or 20% culture doesn´t hurt you as much as in a long solo game like Ironman or ffa, where you will want Representation or Universal Suffrage eventually and where sacrificing research in order to increase the culture slider for happiness is not an option if you´re planning on doing well in the game.

The concept of the happy cap is most important in Ironman/ffa. There you basically have three phases:

  1. before Monarchy for Hereditary Rule
  2. from Monarchy on
  3. when switching from Hereditary Rule to Universal Suffrage (or Representation)

When planning how to plant your land, you need to be aware of how big you will be able to let your cities be when switching away from Hereditary Rule – this is where knowing the happy cap of your empire is key. It´s very difficult to win an Ironman or ffa with 5-7 opponents when not being able to leave Hereditary Rule. The lack of Universal Suffrage or Representation and the additional upkeep and production of police units hurts too much.

Let´s get into defining the happy cap and analyzing possible strategies resulting from it. Remember, a city with one unit in it has as a basis a happy cap of 5, a capital 6. That´s 4 (5 in cap) without the unit and one more with it – the unit having nothing to do with Hereditary Rule. A happy cap of 5 means the city can support population 5 without any citizens becoming unhappy (negative effects on happiness like Slavery taken aside).
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Good UB – Bad UB #10: Unique Buildings – Sea Special

February 11, 2010 5 comments

There are no just good or just bad unique buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in a game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.

This edition is all about sea related buildings. Those suck, if there is no or few sea, obviously – so there is no point in judging them for land based setups. Instead I´ll try to come up with scenarios where they could be of use.


Unique building for Carthage; Replaces Harbor
Can only be built in a coastal city; requires Optics
+1 trade route; +50% commerce from trade routes
+1 health from Fish, Crab, Clams

The Cothon is a harbour that additionaly provides the city that built it with one more trade route. It does half of what the Great Lighthouse does,  if you get it into every coast city of your empire. In any game where you cannot profit massively from additional trade routes picking for the Cothon is not an option. In order to profit from Trade Routes you need most of your cities being planted next to sea, you need quite a few cities overall and you require the possibility to trade with other civs. Consequently in any game played on “always war” hence no diplomacy (and with it no open borders for trade routes) you won´t profit from picking Cathage (unless it´s a teamer Ironman).

The main way of trying to use and abuse the Cothon is a game on Archipelago or a similar map in a Single Player or ffa game where any city is a coast city and getting the more profitable intercontinental trade routes comes automatically. Build the Great Lighthouse and the Cothon, negotiate open borders with any opponent you scouted quickly with Caravels and watch the output from Trade Routes play a more significant role in your overall GNP than ever before. Read more…

Good UB – Bad UB #9: Unique Buildings in civilization multiplayer

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

There are no just good or just bad unique buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in a game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.



Unique building for Persia; Replaces Grocer
+2 health
+1 health from Banana, Spices, Sugar, and Wine
+25% gold
Can turn 2 citizens into Merchants


Unique building for Babylon; Replaces Colosseum
+2 health
+1 per 20% culture rate

Both the Apothecary and the Garden provide an additional +2 health, one being a Colosseum, the other a Grocer. The only use for Colloseums/Grocers is in longer games like Ironman and even there those two are very low priority and mostly get only build in a few cities if at all. Health on the other hand isn´t too hard to come by, especially in longer games where you expand vastly (or lose).



Unique building for the Dutch; Replaces Levee
+1 hammer on the city’s river and water tiles
Can only be built in a coastal or riverside city

The Dike is is a levee that additionally provides water tiles with 1 hammer. Also you can build it into any coast city, not just cities next to a river. not just the  It´s a great building that finds its uses on many different settings. Any setup that involves Space Race and water can make good use of it. With Golden Age you can have tiles that otherwise wouldn´t be doing any production give you 2 hammers per turn. On maps like Archipelago or Islands the production coming from dikes can be a big portion of the overall production of an empire, giving the Dutch player a significant advantage over a non-Dutch in the later parts of the game, be that for Space Race or for producing units.

For Good UB – Bad UB part #1 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #2 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #3 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #4 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #5 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #6 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #7 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #8 click here

Good UB – Bad UB #8: Unique Buildings in civilization multiplayer

January 8, 2010 4 comments

There are no just good or just bad unique buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in a game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.



Unique building for Celts; Replaces Walls
+50% defense (except vs. gunpowder-based units)
-50% damage from bombard (except from Gunpowder units)
Required to build Castle
Free Guerilla I promotion for land units

The Dun are walls that additionally provide land units with a Guerilla I promotion. At first look this sounds pretty interesting, but there are aspects about it that limit the uses for this building a lot. The first is the fact that you are already Celtics, having a Guerilla I promotion on your Swordsman anyway – meaning the only other units in an ancient game where the promotion makes sense and is applicable is the archer. Since the Dun requires Masonry to be researched (which is in most ancient games very low priority) AND has to be build first, your double-hill archer come pretty late to do any damage with their additional ability in the early parts of the game, where this could still be possible. So for sending out early archers the cost of getting two buildings (barracks, Dun) and a low-priority technology is too high to make that effective. You´ll rather be sending out Swords anyway – and not build the Dun and not research Masonry very early. Read more…

Ironman/ffa: maps, difficulty, settings – How to adapt

December 23, 2009 5 comments

Continuing the series on Ironman/ffa (see here for “Traits in ffa and Ironman”) this article is going to describe what impact different maps and other options like difficulty have on the game, how you need to adopt your game style to that and what influence that has on how good the different traits and civs are, with a special focus on choice of civ.

Ironman or ffa-diplomacy

First games have to be categorized into two groups: Ironmans and ffa-diplo games. both formats can be played on all kinds of maps, but the game format itself already has a lot of impact on the way the game will be played.

Ironman means that the game is played with always war option checked and no kind of communication about the game being allowed. This makes the game a lot more militaristic, because you cannot keep yourself safe by negotioating non-aggression pacts (nap), but have to keep a constantly updated defensive force at your borders. Especially Ironmans on open maps like Pangaea often become very aggressive. Still there is a lot of unspoken diplomacy in an Ironman, which I will describe at another point.
As an additional note happiness is a far bigger issue in Ironman than in ffa-diplo, because you cannot trade any resources and are stuck with what you get from the map generator.

ffa-diplo games are more communicative then Ironman games, so they are more peaceful in most cases. People can make non aggression pacts, trade resources and have trade routes. This favours peaceful buildup and makes waging war more difficult then in an Ironman. Additionally war weariness is a far bigger issue, because the decrease from always war option doesn´t take effect. Something important you should talk about before starting an diplo game, is weather you are ok with 2v1 and breaking diplomatic agreements. For example in the german ffa community (BF) both was very uncommon, though not strictly forbidden by the rules, (Btw. If someone is talking about BF-style game, he means this format), while in other communities it is more common. One way or the other making sure beforehand that everyone expects the same from the game, will spare everyone a lot of trouble afterwards.


I cannot describe the possible effects of every map, but fortunately they can be categorized into three major groups:

very defensive maps:
Hub, Islands

semi defensive maps:
Ring, Wheel, Grid

open land maps:
Pangaea, Continents, Hemispheres, Fractal, Archipelago &co (basically all the usual “realistic” maps except Islands)

Very defensive maps

The most important characteristics of those are that land grabbing doesn´t play a role and war is virtually impossible till mid/late-game.
This downrates expansion traits, because one of the major reasons for picking those, is that they will let you grab more land then your opponents and thus enable you to convert your early advantage into a longterm advantage as well. But since the amount of land is basically fixed from the start of the game, this isn´t possible here.
Elizabeth (Philo/Fin) is probably the best choice for those settings, but all other Fin and Philo leaders are possible as well. Not picking any of those two traits ins´t recommendable.
Since these games will often develop into pure buildup contests, also your civchoice should be focused on such in a longterm perspective. Civs with UBs that provide happiness (Maya, Ottomans) are very useful and Netherlands is very useful as well, because the Dike will provide you with a lot of useful extra hammers in lategame.
UUs are unimportant, with the exception of Indian Workers for buildup and Eastindiaman and Berserks for boatings.
In general your strategy should be aiming on a longterm buildup race. Expand carefully and get your tech going fast.

Semi defensive maps

Those are very similar to defensive maps, but another factor is added into the equation: landgrabbing and early wars.
On Ring, Wheel and Grid you can fight land wars from the beginning of the game, so everyone has to take care of military from the very beginning. On the other hand attacking someone early rarely makes any sense (only if the map is very small in comparison to the number of players), so you are still focussing on buildup for the major part of the game.
Different is, that you have direct land connections to your opponents, so there is land to fight for. This makes picking expansion traits important, because otherwise your neighbours will settle faster and also can more easily afford building military in the beginning, so they can pressure you and cut themselves a good chunk of land. So better do so yourself.
This is more important on Ironman games, because with diplomacy you will often agree on a “settling-line” with your neighbours very early.
Depending on the mapsize Medieval wars become very attractive (Though on maps with more then 8-10 cities per player they rarely make sense). Especially conquering a weaker or unsuspecting player with a prepared cata-ele-mace stack and quickly slaved knights to rush into the breach can be a way to go.
Also attacking in lategame becomes more of an option, though mostly in Ironmans. When you are leading by a couple of techs on reaching Assembly line, you can attack with Infantry and Artillery covered by Machine Guns.
Games are still decided by space-race in most cases – basically all in ffa-diplo. In Ironman it happens that the leading player can conquer one player after the other and it is also safer for him to win that way.
Best leaders are those with one expansion trait and one buildup trait, like Pacal (Fin/Exp), Victoria(Fin/Imp), Peter(Phi/Exp), Civchoice is the same as on very defensive maps, though Netherlands isn´t as good, because there is less water, but Rome and Byzantine become a possible pick for midgame wars, though not very good, because announcing what you are going to do is never the smartest thing.

Open land maps

On open land maps there is the biggest difference between ffa-diplo and Ironman games. While with ffa-diplo they can, depending on the players, still be quite peaceful, in an Ironman you will be on the brink of open warfare from the very first to the very last turn. FFA-diplo games will be similar in many cases, at least under the surface.
War is possible at any point of the game, so you have to keep your eyes open and your power high all the time. The best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war.
Furthermore landgrabbing becomes a huge issue, because borders are in no way pre-designed by the mapskript and have to be fought about.
How tight things actually become is dependant on the mapsize. When players are hardly able to plant 6 cities each, several wars will certainly take place early. With about 10 cities each, landgrabbing is still a huge issue and expansion traits most important, but fighting wars isn´t useful early because others will take away the land you could have settled.
In general you should only start a war (except early rushing), when you have planted all the land you can get. Just planting cities is always cheaper then taking them from someone else.
On tight open land maps an expansion trait is basically a must pick, you may even prefer a second or Agg to Fin or Philo. Though when playing something like Hemispheres, where it is more likely to have some space and a continent with two or three player, economy traits become better again.
The choice of civ is changed more dramatically. On the one hand the “natural” mapscripts provide less happiness resource problems on average, while on the other hand picking civs for UUs becomes a lot more interesting.
You can pick for Anti-rushing UUs like Holkan and Skirmisher. You can pick for rushing UUs, like Immortals, Impis and War Chariots and you can pick for midgame UUs like Praets and Catraphacts. On an open land map you will probably be picking UUs over UBs.
Anyway this category has most variety. A Hemispheres map with 5 continents and 7 players, is more like Islands, while Pangaea is the worst aggro map you can get. Check the mapsettings carefully, also taking factors like sealevel into consideration before deciding on your picks. Furthermore you should get some experience how big the individual mapscripts are. For example a standard low sea pangaea with eight players is still very tight, while low sea, eight players on Hemispheres is a huge map with lots of space.

Further notes on mapsize

You will probably be playing 90% of your games on standard size, so this doesn´t matter much. However it should be mentioned that the mapsize in the options is having an impact on the rise of city maintenance costs in relation to the number of planted cities. So if you ever get to play a small map, you should consider it equals to slightly increasing the difficulty, so you should give Organized and early courthouses some more consideration.


Most MP games are played on noble difficulty. However in Ironman and ffa games players sometimes decide to use higher difficulty for a change. This has influence on several things, especially the value of certain traits, the way you have to expand and the use of waging war.
Higher difficulties rate down expansion traits heavily, because expanding fast will let your economy crash hard. Organized becomes a very useful trait, because city maintenance and civic upkeep costs are higher. In general the focus is changed to economy traits, and picking two of those becomes a far better option.
Additionally you have to adopt your game style in general. Focus on working cottages very early and think twice before planting another city. Same goes for war, because another 6 cities will have a bigger impact on your city maintenance in all cities and thus your science rate.
Concerning choice of civ higher difficulties make Holy Rome and Zulu interesting picks, because you can reduce your city maintenance costs by 70%/75% instead of just 50%. (read here about Ikhanda/Rathaus) This can have huge impact. Though Holy Rome has the better and more straightforward boost, Zulu is probably the better choice, because Holy Rome´s starting techs are very bad, while Zulu is having good ones. This also depends on weather you are building barracks anyway, because you are in an aggressive game or not.

Starting techs

When choosing your civ, also check the starting techs of each, besides UB and UU. This is an often underestimated factor that can cause quite some problems with early expansion. In Ironman and ffa you should go worker first in 95% of the games, so that worker needs to be able to do something. When you have starting techs mysticism and fishing they don´t help you at all. Now Imagine you have only an animal food resource and lots of forest. You need to research two techs (Agriculture/Hunting + Animal Husbandry) to be able to connect your food (resource and then another two (Mining + Bronze Working), till your worker can do something else.
Basically they can be rated like this:
1 Agriculture, Mining
2 Wheel
3 Hunting
4 Mysticism
5 Fishing
The first two will let your worker immediately do something useful, while enabling you to research tech Animal Husbandry and Bronze Working immediately as well.
With Wheel your workers at least always have something to do and it’s a pretech for Pottery.
Hunting at least enables you to research Animal Husbandry right away, though not being of much help itself.
Mysticism and Fishing are virtually useless, though the first at least is something you always need at some (early) point.

Picking a civ with only one starting tech of 1 and 2 is ok and leaves you with a very low risk of getting problems. Picking two bad starting techs is something you should avoid.

Tricks #1: The Culture Bug

December 17, 2009 4 comments

The “culture bug” allows using production and in some cases surplus food of a city twice in one turn. In order to do so you need to work culture as a production item (requires Music) in a city and queue (Shift + click on item) another item behind it. If the city´s culture expands the turn you do so, the hammers the city produces are used twice, once for the culture, once for the item behind it. If you queue a worker or settler, the food is used twice as well, going once into the city´s granary and once into the worker/settler.

The gain of this is that you get especially the first culture expansion in all cities one turn after planting without having to sacrifice a turn of production. One turn is a lot in terms of micromanagement on many settings, especially teamers from Renaissance to Future. It works with all expansions though, be that the first at 5 culture points (quick speed!), 50 for the second or 250 for the third.

Be careful though, the city manager will change the tiles the city uses towards those that produce the most food if you put culture in front of a worker in the production queue since cities accumulate food to grow when working anything then a worker or settler. That means that if you put a worker into the produciton queue and then culture in front of it, it might be that the overall production of the city falls below the needed hammers to get the culture expansion and the culture bug isn´t triggered instead the city accumulates food and works culture, but doesn´t get the next expansion. Change back manually to the correct tiles!

I did a video showing the culture bug, sadly the recording software used – while potentially being just fantastic – is still causing trouble. I tried it many, many times and it either stopped recording for no reason or caused other trouble. The mail to the support is out so that hopefully in the future we can provide better quality. The video I can present misses the “switch back” of tiles towards food instead of production and only shows the queuing of a worker (food also used twice!), not of something else (only hammers used twice!). Additionaly it “flickers” and can only be set to full screen when going to the actual site where it´s hosted, because wordpress doesn´t support Java.

I really hate writing this passage instead of just presenting you with a good video, but I hope that even this lousy one has some value and promise to fix the problems in the future in order to be able to embed videos in proper quality, with all content and an acceptable full-screen option!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To watch the video in full screen click here, start it and click “full” in the middle of the player

Categories: game mechanics Tags: ,