Playing Civilization III, Part 2

The Early Game

If you want to be successful in playing Civilization III, you need to master the early game. This is where attention to detail can really pay off. Consider this early sequence:

You start off with a Settler unit, and one or two other units depending on your civilization type. Expansionist Civs would start with an Explorer, for instance, while all civs start with a worker. You may want to look around and see if the tile you are on is the best place for a city. My own rule is that unless I see a clearly better site within 1 tile of where I am, I settle in place by pressing the “B” button (Build a city). You don’t want to spend a lot of time wandering around looking or the perfect spot while the other civs are already settled and building units. Some people say you should never not build in place because you lose a turn of production, but I think this is extreme. I think missing one turn to get a city that will do better is a good bargain because you will get the benefit of the better city for hundreds of turns. In any case, by the end of turn 2 you have your city in place. Now what?

Since you have a worker, you can begin developing your city. You ultimate objective is to turn out another Settler unit, but that won’t happen right away. Your city right now has a population of 1, and producing a Settler unit uses up two units of population. That means you have to get to size 3 before you can pop it out. Meanwhile, you have no time to waste. First, take a look at your city. At this point it is a 3×3 square with 8 workable tiles (the center tile is automatically worked by the game, you don’t need to worry about it). And for your 8 workable tiles, you have one worker (set by your population). What should that owrker be working on? If you just let the game (Governor; we’ll talk about the Governor later) decide at this point, it will probably make the right choice, but you want to be sure. Which tile has the highest Food yield? If you have a Grassland or Flood Plain tile, or maybe a tile with a Special Resource like Wheat or Cattle, that will give you the most Food. And at this point none of your tiles is developed. When you think you know what it should be, open up the City screen by clicking on the city, and see what the game picked. Did you agree? If not, what do you think the game was trying to do? Maybe you missed something. Your center City square will produce 2 Food, 1 Shield, and 3 Gold automatically (for the first city), so you will be able to start producing units or buildings, though with only 1 Shield it may take a while. A Bonus Grassland is the perfect tile in this situation, since it gives you one added Shield, doubling your Production, plus 2 Food, which means you are building population. Your one citizen consumes 2 Food, but you get that from the City Center, so the two you get from the Bonus Grasslands tile go right into the Food box to “grow” a new citizen.

Government Type

At this point we need to intrioduce another concept, Government Type. At the start of the game, your government type is Despotism, and you cannot get our of that until you have researched other governments further in the Tech tree. Don’t worry about that too much right now, we are still talking about the Early Game. But one of the parameters for being in Despotism is that any yield above 2 is reduced by 1. So, if you put your citizen to work on a Flood Plain tile, you don’t get 3 Food, you only get 2 Food. And if you irrigate a Grassland tile, you similarly only get 2 Food. So irrigating a Grassland tile is a waste of your worker’s time. This leads to the rule: Mine green, irrigate brown. This is really only applicable to the early game, and in the late game if you have workers you could go around and chage things, but if you have played your game well by the time you get to the late game tile yields are not your biggest problem anyway.

Let’s see how that works with a two tiles, one Grassland, the other Plains, in an early game where you have two citizens. If you do nothing, you have:

  • Plains: 1Food + 1 Shield = 2 total
  • Grassland: 2 Food + 1 Shield = 3 total
  • Total from both tiles = 5

If you irrigate the Grassland and mine the Plains (which you might be tempted to do)

  • Plains: 1 Food +1 Shield, plus 1 Shield from Mine = 3 total
  • Grassland: 2 Food +1 Shield, +0 Food from irrigation because of Despotism = 3 total
  • Total from both tiles = 6

If you mine the Grassland and irrigate the Plains (mine green, irrigate brown) you get

  • Plains: 1 Food + 1 Shield, plus 1 Food from irrigation = 3 total
  • Grasslands: 2 Food 1 Shields, plus 1 Shield from Mine = 4 total
  • Total from both tiles = 7

So you get a net of one additional Shield from following the “Mine green, irrigate brown” rule. And that is one additional Shield every turn, which could mean up to double the speed on building your first units. In the early game this is very important.


So we have seen how we can improve our production on tiles through micromanagement. But we have only looked at two of the three things that tiles can give you. What of the third, Gold (aka Commerce). There are two types of tiles that produce Gold without any improvement, Coast and Sea. Recall that Coast is immediately adjacent to land, and Sea is roughly equivalent to Continental Shelf, i.e. shallower water in a lighter color. Sea tiles produce 1 gold, and Coast tiles produc e 2. But what about land? Your City Center will generate some amount of Gold which can vary, but will be at least 1. And like all City Center yields, that comes automatically without any citizen being assigned there. To get more Gold, though, you need to build Roads. For each tile that has a Road and which has a citizen assigned to work it, one additional Gold will be added to your revenue. That said, in general Gold is not your first priority, particularly in the early game. In a new city, I would first move my worker onto a tile that I can irrigate, since that adds Food and you need Food to generate more citizens. But once I have done the irrigation, I would build a Road before doing anything else, because it uses up a turn for your worker to move, and since you are already on the tile it is most efficient to build the Road right away before moving. Once I have done that, my next priority would be to build a Mine to get increased Shields, and again as soon as the Mine is completed I would put a Road on it.

Suggested Rule: Never let a worker leave a square without building a road in it. It wastes worker moves, and you will want to put roads in all of your squares eventually anyway.


Of course, there is more than just Food, Shields, and Gold to think about. There are also tiles that contain special resources of one kind or another, and you will want to grab those resources whenever you can. There is a list of all of these resources at the Civilization Wiki site. But the short version is that there are 3 kinds of resources: Strategic, Luxury, and Bonus. Strategic Resources are ones that enable you to build certain kinds of military units, and they are revealed at different times in the game when you discover a key technology. For example, when you start you only have Warriors as military units, and they are (1,1,1) units, which means they have an attack strength of 1, a defense strength of 1, and a movement of 1. So this is the bottom of the military tree. To move up, particularly in terms of mobility, you need Horses. To get Horses, you first need to discover The Wheel, and then you will see Horses appear on certain tiles on the map. But for you to have those horses, you need to build a road that connects them to your cities. Do this successfully, and you will get a pop-up message congratulating you for doing this. Note that the horses do not need to be within the BFC of a city, but they do need to be within your empire The next major Strategic Resource is Iron, and you need to discover Iron Working before that appears on the map. For this, you need to have the tile within your city, build a Mine on it, and assign a citizen to work it. These resources continue up to Aluminum and Uranium, so there are always new ones to find as you progress.

The next key resource type is Luxury Resources. These have two effects. They can add to happiness in your cities, always a key consideration, and also add Commerce (i.e. Gold). Like Horses, they need to be within your empire, but not necessarily within the BFC of a city. And you can also access these by building a road to connect the resource to your cities. Examples of these include Dyes and Wine.

The last category is Bonus Resources, which add to the yields on a tile. Examples of these include Wheat (adds 2 Food) and Whales (adds 1 Food, 1 Shield, and 2 Commerce). To gain the benefit of these bonus resources they need to be within the BFC of a city of yours, and you need to put a citizen to work on the tile. And these Bonuses are added to any other yields, so if you have Wheat and also add Irrigation to a Plains tile you can get to 4 Food (1 from Plains, 1 from Irrigation, 2 from Wheat).

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