Civilization 4 Tips, Walkthrough and Guide

Civilization 4 Tips

If you recently purchased Civilization 4 and are confused as to what to do (we don't blame you, the game is incredibly in-depth) this guide should help. Thanks to jpjandrade for the guide!

Why so many games? If you bought the Civilization IV Complete you have four games on your Steam list (seven, actually, but those duplicates are the Mac / PC versions and are a result of having a third party doing the Mac port). What should you install? Let's do a quick rundown of the options:
  • Civilization IV - The vanilla, original game.
  • Civilization IV: Warlords - The first expansion pack
  • Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword - The second expansion pack
  • Civilization IV: Colonization - A spin off I would recommend Warlord or Chieftain for a start. One thing about Civ is thaof Civlization, based on the original Colonization game by Sid Meier. Gameplay is very different from Civ IV, only the engine is the same.
We'll leave Colonization for later. It's a different kind of game, you should play it, it's flawed in some ways but very fun, but right now we want to get you addicted to Civilization.

So what should you install? If you want the whole thing you should install just Beyond the Sword: it has all the gameplay mechanics and additions from Warlords and BtS. The only difference between Warlords and BtS is some Warlords exclusive scenarios. But BtS has both the vanilla scenarios and the BtS ones, so you'll likely never even think about the ones you're missing from Warlords. Relax, you won't be missing anything.

Now, most people will tell you installing Beyond the Sword and getting the two expansions content is essential. Well, they are right. The expansions add a lot to the game. But I think if it's your first time playing, you're better off without them. First, the vanilla Civ has a tutorial, the expansions don't.

Second, they add some new concepts to the game, on top of those you have to learn on your first playthrough. Well, anyway, it's up to you. Either just install vanilla for now and later, when you win a couple of games with it, install Beyond the Sword or just install BtS right now and get the full experience from the start. Your call.

What are all those difficulty levels? When choosing a difficulty setting, you have to keep in mind that they ramp up pretty fast. Settler level will be a walk in the park. You can do everything wrong and still win, but you probably won't win on Noble for a while. The higher ones? Forget about it for now.

I would recommend Warlord or Chieftain for a start. One thing about Civ is that if you are winning every time you should always increase the difficulty. The game is at the funnest when you feel like you have to outsmart the AI or you won't make it. If every game is as easy as easy can be, it won't be fun for long.

Alright, so you know the mechanics, you understand what food / production / commerce means. You know about the Victory conditions (right? If not, do the tutorial, it's available in the Civ IV vanilla install. I told you you should have installed the vanilla first). But how do you actually win this thing? Well, let me tell you about a website that's going to be your resource from Settle difficulty to Deity:

Trust me, they are fanatics. In the left sidebar there is a link under the Civ IV section called the War Academy. It's a wonderful resource and has enough guides to blow your mind. You should start with the Introductory Courses. In particular, I recommend these two guides: (lot of very good tips. Maybe is not a Tutorial as much as a reference guide, but you should read the whole thing) Is an explained walkthrough, very instructive.

The CivFanatics forum is very, very good for strategies and tips. There's a series of posts by Sisutil called the All Leaders Challenge where he plays a game with almost every leader in the game, playing around 10 turns at a time, commenting on them and letting the members give feedback in each round. It might be a bit too advanced for newbies, but it's very good to get an idea of how advanced Civ players think.

Also in the forums there is a topic called Condensed tips for begginers. The tips are all over the place, but are all sound advice.

Lastly, I would like to give three tips that helped me greatly. I think Civ IV players will be very unanimous that they are helpful, but I would like also some feedback and input from some other redditors:

Specialize your cities and don't build everything on every city. This is the basic one. At first, you'll want your cities to do everything: build stuff, have lots of great people and generate golds / beakers for your empire. This is not a good idea, because then each city will get diminishing returns from the so called specialist buildings: banks, grocers, universities, forges and factories.

Ideally, you want to have production cities, built around hills / production resources, and commerce cities built around grasslands / flood plains with lots and lots of cottages in it's fat cross. Then you build commerce buildings in commerce cities and production buildings in production cities.

A corollary of this tip is that you don't have and you shouldn't build every building in every city +25% gold is useless if your city makes 4 gold each turn. You could better use those hammers to build a military unit. Conversely, if your city is only making 4 hammers a turn, you should bother with a forge.

Go to war early but don't go to war often. If you never go to war you won't expand much and won't get a good head start. There are two optimal moments early game to go to war: when you just research Bronze Working and get bronze, build lots of Axemen and attack the closest neighbor so you get him before he builds good units, and when you research construction and you build catapults.

If you have gone beyond Construction and didn't conquer any territory you either started alone in the continent (which is usually a bad thing) or you blew it. The reason why conquering is so good is that more land is (almost) always better and the map generator makes sure that each Civ starts in a good location, specially the capital, so having two capitals in control is a no brainer. Just make sure you are careful when expanding (see below).

Don't go broke with overexpansion. Each city you have and the distance of the city from your capital increases it's maintenance. Eventually, you'll start losing money and will have to reduce the science production to pay for your cities. Needless to say, getting behind in science is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to you. So when going to war, always keep a look at your science slider.

As a rule of thumb, it should be not less than 60%. If it's 60%, stop conquering and start growing. This is specially important if you start very far from your nearest neighbor. In that case, taking his capital early can cripple you instead of giving a huge boost.

Civilization 4 Tips and Hints

Thanks to UsedOnlyTwice and Harri5on for the following Civilization 4 tips:

I play on Monarch difficulty. My strategy is that I tend to balance play with a highly creative race and focus on tech and military. I am playing with the Rise of Mankind mod so the tech path is slightly different.

Finally, I know that building civilizations is fun, but as you go up the difficulty level you must learn the art of war.

- Ensure that your capital is in an excellent location with lots of food resources. If its not. Start again.

- Initial tech focus should be 1) exploiting resources 2) connecting cities 3) then a mix of religion, social organisation advances and tech advances

- I treat the military tree slightly differently. The AI is very unlikely to attack you at the beginning of the game. Thus, unless circumstances differ (such as close borders), you can get away with investing in military only when you reach technological milestones such as axemen or swordsmen. In fact, barbarians are a good indication of where your military tech level up should be until you reach the the swordsman level, then you have to watch your neighbours.

- Invest in your first three cities as the major production and scientific centres. All other cities should be established for territorial or resource grab reasons as they will not reach maturity until the middle ages unless they are in an incredible location with lots of food and shields.

- For this reason, establish new cities (after the first 3-5) as garrisons and build defences first and foremost. Your strategy should depend to a large degree on the geography of your territory. Border regions should have heavy defenses with walls and lots of units, inland cities light defenses and a focus on building city achievements that will promote tech and finance advances.

- Cut all forests on the tiles immediately next to city walls to ensure that attacking armies cannot build a siege next to the city. Montezuma's jaguars are nearly invincible in a forest, you have to defeat them on open spaces.

- Watch out for growth at the expense of tech development. Growth will begin to slow down your tech advances while going for Monarchy/Alphabet/Currency/Code of Laws - i.e. the early stages of medieval. Make sure you get at least one of these before your expansion throttles your growth or you are fucked (in the dark ages - not progressing technically, and not able to afford new units)

- Either start a religion and spread it, or conform to the most popular religion with your neighbours. Holy wars can fuck shit up pretty badly.

- If you are next to Montezuma or Shaka they WILL declare war on you sooner or later. You might be able to win Shaka with religion but Monty is just about war. Prepare for it and wipe out Monty as soon as you have the chance.

- The big military tech advances are between stone/bronze age and iron age, iron age and machinery age, machinery age and gunpowder age, and gunpowder and modern age. Your goal should be to be at the next military age AT LEAST at the same time as your rivals (to maintain integrity) or BEFORE to get territory from your rivals.

- After the initial start up phase, attacking cities is a waste of time unless you have catapults. In fact, I tend to focus on getting the middle ages (macemen and trebuchets) before everyone else and begin my attack.

- Forget about investing in ships until the exploration age when they become seriously powerful. At the beginning of the game have them to protect food resources from pirates and to explore, unless you are playing an island map of course.

- Once you have established your territory in the middle ages, it becomes very difficult to dislodge yourself and others without serious technological advances and military investment. Wars proliferate during this era but go nowhere. Stock up on siege weapons and surprise attack someone already occupied with another war.

- Focus on territories next to yours so that supply chains can reinforce units. Expand, expand, expand.