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Ironman/ffa: Interaction of traits and choice of leader

December 29, 2009 4 comments

This article continues my series about Ironman&ffa, taking my previous articles on Traits in ffa and Ironman and Ironman/ffa: maps, difficulty, settings – How to adapt as a basis. I recommend reading them first.

So after those two, what is this article still about: I want to explain why picking certain trait combinations isn´t good, though the single traits are. For example on Grid Ironman Fin and Philo are good traits, but Elizabeth isn´t a good pick (though not a bad one as well).

Why two good traits don´t make a good leader

It’s a simple thought: Fin is good, Philo is good, so picking both should be just fine. This doesn´t work out for two major reasons: First both are economy traits and second they are contradicting each other in the strategy they need to be played out properly. Fin needs fast expansion, while Philo is favoring slow expansion. Philo needs cities to work farms for food, specialists and production tiles for wonders. Just with Fin those should be working cottages – they cant do both at the same time. So both traits lose momentum.
On the other hand if u are picking an expansion trait together with one of them, they help each other. This works slightly better with Fin then with Philo but is useful for both nonetheless. Take Exp/Fin for example. Expanding faster will let you work more cottages earlier and the other way round Fin will keep your economy from crashing while power-expanding.
Philo doesn´t interact that good with Exp, because the true power Exp lies in being able to slave efficiently early, because of the cheaper granaries. But with Philo you should not be slaving that much, because u need cities being constantly on high pop, either for building wonders or working specialists. So imp is working better with Philo, because you have mines for wonders anyway and will also be chopping more, with having some more workers. This is because having high pop cities early requires more workers for getting enough tiles going. As soon as you reached that state they can do other things. This fits perfectly, because imp makes chopping a lot more useful. As a matter of fact Philo/Exp is still better than Philo/Imp, just because Exp is such a strong trait. But you will notice that the difference is significantly smaller than between Fin/Exp and Fin/Imp.

So in general the traits you pick need to interact with each other, so they both enhance each others effect. Or if that is not possible at least do not decrease each others effect.

Expansion traits are great here, because they interact well with everything. Some traits interact better with expansion traits then others (Fin,Org compared to Philo/Imp), but in general they always help. Most picks are based on picking one economy trait (Philo/Fin in most cases) and one expansion trait as helper.

Exp/Imp – The Curiosity

This is a special case. With economy traits picking two of the same kind isn´t good, but with expansion traits this can work out. Basically those two enhance each other, giving you the fastest possible expansion. This lets you grab huge amounts of land, which should turn the game in your in your favor later. However there is another limit to expansion: Your economy. So you will have to focus on working some cottages to prevent it from crashing. Still how well this exactly works out depends on the land. If u can plant some gems/gold with your first 3-4 cities it will go smooth. As long as you got some rivers and get some cottages going fast enough everything is OK. Lacking both you are in trouble and have extra-focus on working cottages, slowing down your expansion.
On higher difficulties Exp/Imp is impossible to play, because there is no way to deal with the maintenance costs.

Agg + Expansion Trait

Having Agg with an expansion trait (Exp if u can choose of course) is a nice combination for any kind of open land map. You can use the expansion trait to get some cities going fast, then fight an early war (Sword-Axe stack). If u attack someone who has neither he doesn´t have a chance.

Or the other way round you can use Agg for expanding heavily grabbing a lot of land. People will think twice about planting aggressive into your direction or even attacking you.

 

Org as an Expansion Trait

When playing on higher difficulties (only then picking org makes any sense), Org is working like an expansion trait. Not in the way of getting workers/settlers faster, but by allowing you to expand at all. When having Org you will be able to expand faster then others, simply because you can afford it economy wise. This works out because on higher difficulties the limit is not how fast you can get settlers/workers, but if you can afford planting another city. This render real expansion traits rather useless, making org a good alternative.

 

Choosing your Leader

This last part explains, how to actually approach choosing a leader, with all the information given in my articles.

First of all you have to analyze the settings: Unusual difficulty? Space for how many cities per player? Open land map? Water map? Ironman/ffa diplo? How probable are early wars?

All this as to be taken into account. Now the most important question is, if there is anything you definitely need to pick, e.g. an expansion trait on pangaea, or fin on archipelago. If there is a must pick (which happens rather often), this narrows down your options for the second pick, to those interacting with the first. Now think about what strategies are probably going to be working best and which you prefer to play. Doing so also take into account how the above mentioned factors rate up/down the traits (higher difficulty rater up org, much space rates up fin). For example on pangaea with a lot of people, the game is most probably going to be very militaristic, so picking Agg to your expansion trait makes sense. This gives you initiative and the possibility to fight early wars. Of course you can still pick Fin, but you should be aware, of being in a defensive position towards the Agg players from the start.

On maps with a lot of space, Fin is probably a must pick, if its allowed. Philo is still an option, but a risky one. This leads to picking an expansion trait second, because they interact best.

Also you should consider, if there are any peculiarities you want to plan for, like rushing Great Lighthouse with Industrious on archipelago.

In general in most situations picking one of the big economy traits (Philo and Fin) with a expansion trait is the way to go, but there are a lot of specific situations the settings can create (often doing so on purpose to break that monotony). So always check twice. This should not be hurried.

happy picking

Shizanu

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.

Traits in ffa and Ironman

December 19, 2009 5 comments

Introduction

The following Article is about the individual usefulness of traits for ffa and Ironman type games (for description of game types see here) and how you have to adopt your game style to those traits in order to put them to full use.
Some traits are only useful in certain situations or on certain settings, e.g. organized. Others require a very specific game style to be of use, e.g. philosophical. So there aren’t just good or bad traits in general, but you have to decide by the settings and the game style you want to play. Also u may be playing a game with random leaders, so you have to fit your game style to the traits you got, not the other way round. For this it’s important to be familiar with the possibilities of each trait, not only your favorites.

Financial

+1 commerce on every tile, that already gives 2 or more commerce.

Financial gives one of the strongest long term boosts to your economy. The big point here is, that fin allows you to get more commerce of your land, then it originally provides. The bonus of fin is not bound to a specific point in the game, but will work from the first to the last turn, thus making it very useful plus providing you with a lot of flexibility.
Someone may build his libraries faster with creative or get his cities going fast with exp, but, presuming you get the same amount of land, in the end you have the same buildings and cities, but just get one more commerce of each tile.

The two major points of use for fin are working cottages and water tiles. The big point about water tiles is, that fin is the only way to “improve” water tiles, besides certain building everyone can build. Because of this fin becomes disproportionally strong on maps with lots of water like Archipelago, Islands and Hub. The effect on cottages of course should be used, so when you are fin you should be playing some kind of cottage economy. While fin is making cottage economies terribly effective it also kind of binds you to using a cottage economy, which can be a disadvantage.

Expansive

+25% production of worker
+100% production on granary and harbour
+2 health in each city

Well, Expansive is of course for expansion. Not much of a surprise.
Expansive is one of several expansion traits, but definitely the most useful of those. The bonus on workers is pretty useful, but you have to understand, that this is only on hammers, but not on food changed to production. Since you will often be making your workers with food overflow this isn´t too imbalanced.
What makes expansive  really useful is the 100% hammer bonus on granaries reducing the cost of a granary from 2 slaved pop to 1 slaved pop. This enables you to grow a new city to pop 2 and slave a granary, thus doubling the slave-production output of that city, providing you with a big boost. With expansive u can plant a new city, connect one food tile, slave a granary and you have a well running city with 3-4 worker turns investment.
As you may have noticed exp should not necessarily cause you to build more workers, but can actually enable you to manage with less, speeding up your expansion even further.

Philosophical

+100% great people points
+100% production for universities

Philosophical is one of the strongest traits in the game and the second big commercial trait besides Financial. But it also is the most difficult to play and in its effect very dependent to how you use it.
The big point of philo is of course the bonus on great people points. The production boost on universities is nice, but nothing important like all production boosts on buildings in mid and lategame in Ironman. This is because on a game lasting 200 something turns, it doesn’t matter much, if you get something some turns later, as long as it does not directly influence your early expansion like the expansive trait for example. Of course it helps, but there are far more effective bonuses available. The bonus on Universities is actually one of the better ones, because when having teched Education you need them for Oxford as soon as possible. This can make some difference in the race for Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty etc.
Now the bonus on Great People can only be used, if you are getting any kind of Great People points, which does not happen by itself.
There are two ways of getting those points. First is working specialists in your cities. Without Philo you can usually only get two great people with just working specialists in your cities before the
lategame, if you don’t use Pacifism or National Epic, which both have to be researched and dont necessarily are on your tech path. Also whether you can use Pacifism is dependant to how much military you currently have (need to have) due to the additional significant unit upkeep cost of that trait.  National Epic only helps in one city and requires a fitting spot to be effective.
With Philosophical you will get far more great people from working specialists in cities, because you can get some in other cities then your national epic city as well. This enables you to use a GP rotation system, making GP in various cities each one in turn, while the others collect GP points again. Also in lategame with Mercantilism and possibly Statue of Liberty or food overflow from corporations GPs will pop automatically, providing you with enough of them to run the necessary golden ages.
This alone makes Philo a useful but not powerful trait. What can make Philo the strongest trait in the game is the combination with wonders and a super city specialist economy. For this you have to grab as many of the early wonders as possible. Which actually doesn’t matter that much, though of course Artemis Temple and Great Library are especially good.
These early wonders will automatically provide you with a constant Great People flow throughout the game. Best is if u got a good production city early, so that you can build those wonders all in one city.
Now you will most likely pop Prophets, some scientists and maybe an engineer. These great people you immediately settle in thet wonder city. Since these GP provide you with more hammers this leads to an exponential effect: hammers => wonder => great people => more hammers => more wonders => more great people => more hammers => …
Besides getting tons of wonders with some nice effects all the settled GP will produce huge amounts of science and gold. Later you put University of Oxford and either Globe Theatre or Wall Street into that city. This way just like with fin you can gain far more commerce from your land, then it originally provides. A single city working about 15 tiles will make the commerce that usually takes 4-5 cities to get. This tactic is especially strong on small maps. When everyone is having 12+ cities the bonus of fin working on all those cities will outweigh the boost of Philo on ur single wonder city.
This leads to the big problem of Philo: Its use is very dependant on circumstances. For a wonder economy wonder ressources are very good, if not vital, those you don’t always get.
If u have to wage war Philo wont help you, while with Fin you will still get better tech from your cottages while slaving units. Also the use of Philo varies strongly with map size. The lesser land you have, the more effective Philo becomes in comparison to other traits.

Imperialistic

+50% on production for settlers
+100% on great general points

Imperialistic is another expansion trait, probably the second strongest. +50% on settlers is pretty much and will enable you to slave a settler after preproducing it for one turn in any pop-4 city, while without Imp, you have to preproduce 26 hammers into the settler, which can take some time, depending on land situation. Thus your cities don’t necessarily need mines or anything to get expansion going.
Also Imp provides you with very interesting options of making very early settlers. When you e.g. have a pop-2 city with plains cow and plains copper, you can easily just produce settlers there. In addition chopping a lot early settlers becomes really attractive as imp.
Being Imperialistic forces you to play slightly different from Exp. Probably you will end up building granaries pretty late and slave little. Settlers are easily made with 2 chops and some production turns or just produced in cities with good ressources. Imp should also change your settler/worker ratio significantly since it’s often more effective to first plant a city and then get the workers to improve it, or at least have less workers when planting.
Still Imp is clearly second to Exp, because the boost from granaries is just too strong for a fluent expansion curve.

Creative

+2 culture/turn in every city
+100% production for libraries, theater, colosseum

Creative has two aspects, both being valid, but only in combination making it really useful. +2 culture/turn make it an expansion trait, sparing you the cost of monuments and enabling you to plant the spots you want without the problem of cities only starting to work after having spent 10 turns on building a monument and waiting for expansion. This can be especially useful when needing a strategic resource fast.
The production boosts are only interesting when you want to build libraries very early, which is the case when being Philosophical and wanting to go for early scientists. Both traits together make for a very fast Academy in capital giving your tech a nice early boost. Still you should be careful with investing too many early resources into this, because delaying early expansion can prove fatal. More on this with economy strategies and game types.

Organized

+100% Production on courthouse, lighthouse
-50% civic upkeep

This is a very tricky trait. On standard ffa settings with noble difficulty, standard mapsize and room for about 10 cities it’s pretty useless. Civic upkeep doesn´t rise to noticeable amounts before lategame – and you never pick anything just for lategame.
City maintenance costs aren´t dramatic either, so getting courthouses a few turns later won’t hurt you. However when playing with higher difficulty or on smaller maps, city maintenance rises a lot faster when expanding. Now it can be interesting to have Org to get courthouses early in newly planted cities keeping up your science rate. This is most interesting when picking Org together with Holy Rome´s improved Courthouses (read about the Rathaus here).
Additionally higher difficulties rate down expansion traits, which Org often has to compete with for being picked, because you don’t want to get cities as soon as possible, when they will ruin your economy. This makes Org an interesting option from Monarch difficulty upwards. With higher difficulty civic upkeep also becomes a more relevant factor too. Still Org is only useful on large maps with room for at least 10 cities.

Of course when being Org you should get code of law rather early.

Industrious

+50% production on wonders
+100% production on forges

Of course interesting point are the +50% production on wonders. This will enable you to decently build wonders without wonder ressources. Anyway there is a problem. Some people will always have the wonder recourse and still be faster. But if you have wonder ressources you don’t really need Industrious. So this trait is only really useful, if you go for massive wonder spamming, but whether that is possible depends on your opponents game style, resources and traits. Thus it’s much of a gamble.
Industrious is one of the traits you are probably never going to pick on your own, but can come in handy, when getting them via random leader. There is much worse – and nothing really to say anymore.

Spiritual

+100% Production on Temples
No Anarchy

Spiritual isn´t good, isn´t bad and doesn´t really change much. It’s a trait, that’s useful, but nothing you are going to pick of your own choice. Also you won’t change much about your game plan, except maybe switching civics once or twice more often. Of course Spiritual favours caste system phases for GP making, since you don’t need a Golden Age for those, but it’s no necessity.

Charismatic

+1 happiness
+1 happiness with monument
-25% EP for unit promotion.


Ah, finally we have hit one of the most useless traits there is for ffa. To say something positive: With the extra happiness you can go Math before Monarchy in a few more situations.

Aggressive

Free strength 1 promotion on melee and gunpowder units.
+100% production for barracks.

Just like Chm, Agg doesn´t help with buildup, so it’s not useful in general. Still there are some situations on close open land maps where you will be grateful for being Agg. People are less likely to attack you, and most of all Agg opens up the possibility for killing someone with an Axe/Sword stack if you dont have enough space.
If you want to “use” Agg actively, attack someone with Axes/Swords or Maces. Anyway don’t attack someone just because you are Agg. Just use it to have an easier war.

Protective

Free city defense I and Drill I promotion.
+100% production on walls and castle.

Erm… Protective makes it less likely that you are going to be attacked early… else… ask random generator for something better.

About the Expansive trait and traits in general

October 22, 2009 1 comment

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”.

Conclusion
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.