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Five Tips To Step Up Your Civilization V Game

by Adam Biessener on Sep 21, 2010 at 08:00 AM

There's a lot to learn about Civilization V, even if you're an old hand at conquering the world. (You read our review, right?) Once you get a handle on the basics of settling cities, conducting diplomacy, and maybe get a war or two under your belt, it's time to start thinking about the next level. Here are a few tips to get you past Prince difficulty.

Trade those luxuries! Luxury resources like silk and wine keep your people happy. The happier your empire is, the quicker you trigger Golden Ages. However, there is one more thing that luxuries do: sell for lots of cold, hard cash to the AI. Hit F4 to pop into the diplomacy screen and see who has money in the bank. Click on them and see which of your resources they're interested in. You can generally get 200-300 gold in cash per luxury, or trade straight up for a resource you don't have. The ideal situation is to trade away luxuries you have multiples of – you get no benefit from having more than one of each type. However, I find myself doing much better when I trade every luxury I possibly can without going into empire-wide unhappiness (which quarters your growth rate, which sucks). You can also extract some value by trading away strategic resources like horses and iron, but I wouldn't advise sending those to anyone you share a border with for obvious reasons.

Sail those waters! This one doesn't apply so much to Pangaea-type maps, but if you play on any other type of map you should prioritize building a few triremes early and caravels when you can. Discovering new city-states and rival empires can pay massive dividends, especially if you're trading those luxuries like you ought to be. I find myself beelining for caravels more often than not just to discover new lands across the ocean with new people to sell things to. Yes, even at the expense of delaying my industrial revolution for a few turns.

Build those units! However much military you think you need, double it. Seriously. Barbarians can and will wreak havoc on under-defended empires, and you take a serious diplomatic hit with rivals if they think your military is weak. I know you want to build that water mill, but consider a spearman instead. I don't feel comfortable unless I have at least two relatively modern units per city in my empire, and that's if I'm not at war or feeling like starting one. You should have one city pretty much cranking out military full-time, constructing only the essential buildings for their mission: Granary/Barracks in the early game, extending out to Armory/Forge/Factory later on. Skip cultural, scientific, and happiness buildings.

Specialize those cities! This one is old hat for Civ IV players, but the concept of city specialization is even more important in V. Buildings start to cost a lot of hammers to build in the Renaissance era, to the point where you couldn't possibly build everything everywhere even if you wanted to. You may want to build Factories everywhere because production is key, but do you really need a Temple in every city? Or a University? No, you do not. You need more riflemen. Napoleon isn't going to conquer himself.

Raze those conquests! Conquering new cities is a glorious and effective way to increase your empire's moxy. The problem is that occupied people are a pain in the behind to keep happy. Adding a single conquered city to your empire can send your entire civilization into unhappiness, which sucks for a number of reasons. Rather than use your entire productive output feverishly building Colosseums and Theaters everywhere, why not burn the uncooperative bastards' homes to the ground? Worked for Rome. The point is that denying a resource (in this case, a city and all its production and territory) to your enemy can be just as effective as gaining it yourself. And if you're not building Theaters, you can build more riflemen. Because you need more riflemen. And probably some cannon. Mmm, cannon.