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Good UB – Bad UB #11: Unique Buildings

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Finale

Finalizing the “Good UB – Bad UB” series with those unique buildings that have some effect, but either no real scenario to use them or other drawbacks that make another pick better for a specific strategy. Some have potential uses in very specific scenarios, but aren´t the best option for those strategies. It´s interesting to know though what you can do with them if you get their civ shuffled to you in a random civ/leader ffa game for example.

Madrassa

Unique building for the Arabian; Replaces Library
+25% science; +4 culture; Can turn 2 citizens into priests and 2 into scientists;
Required to build University, National Epic, Great Library
Available for free on Modern and later starts

The Madrasa is a library that gives a city +4 culture instead of +2 culture and that let´s you work 2 additional Prophet to the usual two potential Scientist Specialists. I can think of two ways of using this, each in a different setup.

In an ancient 5v5 teamer where you get a civ shuffled to you randomly (probably the most played setup in common day-to-day multiplayer games), you can use the Madrasa as a small culture bomb in a front city – it´s probably only worth it, if you´re creative and thus get it build much cheaper.

In an Ironman/ffa game a Madrasa could support a GP economy, making it possible to work Scientist and Prophet specialists easily and early. If you get Arabia in an ffa game shuffled to you – especially if you additionally are Philosophical – the way to go is the GP eco. If you can pick freely, you can probably pull this kind of strategy with a different pick just as good or even better. Egypt with its Obelisk comes to mind…

Read more…

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CTON / ffa / Ironman: When NOT to attack

January 5, 2010 1 comment

I often see unexperienced ffa players (especially those coming from teamers and duels) attacking people without any use, so here are some guidelines on when NOT to attack (being turned around also answering when to attack).

To decide whether to attack in duels and teamers is pretty easy: You do so, if it will hurt your opponent more than yourself. However in any kind of ffa style games, the third-party is added to the equation, namely all the other players in the game. Now the question is not, whether it will hurt your opponent more, not even whether you can kill him or kill him fast. The question is if you gain an advantage for yourself from that attack for the overall game.

Obviously this influences how experienced players play in order to not get attacked, which is close to always a way, that would surely get you killed in duels.  So when you see someone not having much army next to you, so you could kill him some cities, that doesn´t mean you should do so. Because then you are in a war, that costs ressources, while those players who are not involved, happily outtech you.  Actually you can close to always kill someone if you really want to, but rarer attacking someone makes sense.

There are some basic rules you should check before attacking someone. Of course there are exceptions, but as a general guideline they work very well: 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 battlefield.com (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.

Mapsettings

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.

Difficulty

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.

A summary of the ways civ4 is played in multiplayer

October 28, 2009 5 comments

I. ffa / cton / ironman

The setup of these kind of games is pretty similar to the average single player game. It´s a certain amount of players all playing against each other. In CTON (named after the french – female – player who first introduced those settings) and Ironman games “always war” is checked, while ffa (free for all) allows for diplomatic arrangements like open boarders, ressource trades or non-aggression pacts since war isn´t declared automatically upon contact. Tech trading in all forms is usually off in all three, certainly in CTON and Ironman.

A CTON is defined by its turn and city elimination limit and the lack of diplomacy due to “always war”. The most commonly played setup is the ancient start CTON with a turn limit of around 120 and a city elimination limit of 2, meaning the loss of 2 cities results in a defeat for the player. Ironman is basically the same with the big difference that neither a city nor a turn limit exists. These games often end with space race and can last – depending on the map settings and amount of players – for 8, 10 and more hours, while CTONS take around 2-3. While an Ironman basically always starts in ancient, there is theoretically no rule as to where a CTON has to start. Most common is ancient, classical and renaissance work as well. An ffa has usually a turn, but no city elimination limit. With skilled players the lack of “instant war” usually doesn´t make a big difference compared to an Ironman – the abscence of a city elimination limit does though.

In general CTON and Ironman tend towards a “fairer” game in their settings, while ffa is less about a competetive approach towards the game. That means that ffa is mostly played with random leaders, with barbarians, huts and random events on and often on a map that isn´t always famous for providing balanced positions and ressources. This can be beneficial, resulting in an interesting, unexpected game situation. On the other hand often a player or two are screwed from the start due to small land area, much worse land or lack of strategic ressources.

settings examples

Inland_Sea CTON
map: Inland_Sea
size: small for 5-6 , standard for 7-8 players
climate: temperate
sea level: medium
era: ancient
speed: fast
wrap: cylindrical
ressources: balanced
options: no barbs, no huts, no random events, no vassal states, no tech trading/brokering, always war, no spies, unrestricted leaders – no leader/civ picking
turn limit: 120
city elimination limit: 2

Pangae ffa
map: Pangae
size: small for 5-6 , standard for 7-8 players
climate: temperate
sea level: medium
era: ancient
speed: fast
coast: solid
wrap: cylindrical
ressources: balanced
options: no vassal states, no tech trading/brokering, unrestricted leaders – no leader/civ picking
turn limit: 150

Current CCC Ironman
The CCC is a world wide civ clan tourney, the biggest event in the mp world. More on that soon 😉
map: Grid_beta2 (download here)
size: standard, 8 players
climate: temperate
sea level: high
spoke: 3
era: ancient
speed: fast
wrap: toroidal
ressources: balanced
options: unrestricted leader, Pacal as leader banned, India as civ banned

II. duel

A duel is a duel… What´s interesting are the settings. By far most common are ancient or random era start. Ancient is usually played on Mirror, random start on LD_Mirror_Inland_Sea_3a, both duel size. Both maps provide the same land for both players, a key element to a fair duel. The wrap is flat, ressources are balanced. City Elimination limit is mostly 1, in the ancient mirror setup rather 2.

III. teamer

Team games are usually played 5v5 on ancient start and 3v3 on classical to future start. Different setups exist for all eras, some more defensive, some with more attacking possibilities, where defending is harder.

The in the civ multiplayer community most commonly played setting is the ancient 5v5:
map: Team_Battleground
era: ancient
size: large
sea level: low
climate: temperate
wrap: cylindral
team position: start separate
options: no barbs, no huts, no vassal states, always war, no random events
turn timer: blazing
city elimination limit: 2

IV. occ

OCC, the one city challenge was born in the days of Alpha Centauri, when people for the fun of it started playing the AI with only once city. Such games are about bringing your capital to an unreal technology output, usually winning on points by researching more technologies and/or building wonders for points. Some are played with always peace, some include warfare, mostly though in the late stages of the game with massive Modern Armour / Mobile Artillery stacks. Most popular starting eras for OCC are especially renaissance, but also ancient and industrial. OCC games are a subcategory of CTON.

OCC Renaissance Peace
map: Equal_Islands
era: renaissance
size: standard
sea: low
options: unrestricted leader, always peace, no tech trading/brokering, no espionage, no open borders, no internet, no nukes, no space race, unrestricted leaders
turn limit: 130

V. fixed map

Last we have the possibility of playing a fixed map. The main and only commong example here would be an Earth game, a map that simulates the actual world geopgraphy. There are different version with different civs since the game has a limit of 18 players and there are more civs in the game. Earth provides the same land and starting position every time hence each civ has certain ways of dealing with its situation which are the same everytime. Some civs have opportunieties for an early attack, other need to played fora  long term gain.

Various versions of the Earth map for download after the click.

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