Playing Civilization IV, Part 1

First of all, it has to be said that Civilization IV is where the Civilization franchise made a big leap in depth and complexity. Of course, every version makes changes, But if you learned on the original Civilizaton you could pick up the changes in Civilization II pretty easily and play the game with the muscle memory from the first version. Similarly, Civilization III made a few changes, but you could adapt fairly easily from Civilization II and get up and running. But with Civilization IV major changes took place that pointed the way to how Civilization would develop in Civilization V and Civilization VI. That said, there are things that don’t change. You still start out in 4000 BC with a tribe of nomads that is ready to settle down and make a city, you will then need to make units to defend your cities or attack other civs. You will build buildings to improve your cities, and you will use your worker units to develop your lands. And you still can earn a Science victory by sending a spaceship full of colonists to Alpha Centauri, or a Domination victory by sending your armies on a rampage of devastation among your enemies. But the victory conditions have changed a little:

Victory Types

  • Conquest – This is pretty straightforward. Just eliminate all of the competition.
  • Cultural – Have three cities with legendary culture.
  • Domination – Have at least 30% of the world’s population and at least 65% of the world’s land area.
  • Space Race – Be the first to land your colonists on Alpha Centauri
  • Diplomatic – Be elected world leader by the United Nations, or in the Beyond the Sword expansion you can be elected by the Apostolic Palace, reflecting the increased importance of religion.
  • High Score – if no one has won by any of the above, the game ends in 2050 AD and the civ with the highest score is the winner.

In looking at this list, three things tell you something about the new features. The Cultural Victory, the Diplomatic Victory, and the Apostolic Palace variant on the Diplomatic Victory reflect some of the changes in this version. Religion in particular starts to advance past “the opiate of the masses” that is was originally in Civilization, and begins a development that will continue in Civilization V and Civilization VI. That is one of the changes we will dig into. Others include new tile improvements, expanded resources, an espionage system, and a whole Civics system that modifies your government. Finally, as Soren Johnson made clear in the quote we looked at, this game is made to be modded, and I think from Civilization IV on you have to consider Mods when you look at the game.


A quick web search for “Civ IV Mods” will give you plenty of leads on good possibilities. Here are just a few pages I found reviewing mods:

The first thing to point out is that some mods actually ship with the game. Right now I play Beyond the Sword, the final expansion of Civilization IV, and when I start the game I can click on Advanced, then Load a Mod, and I can choose from 12 mods that are already there. Among them are Final Frontier, a mod that puts the Civilization IV engine in a space environment. And there is also the very popular Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization, which changes the game to more closely match the actual history, such that, for instance, civilizations arise and die at various times throughout the game. These are examples of mods that alter the game play. Others create Fantasy environments, or recreate Master of Orion II with the Civ 4 engine. So you see there is a lot to look at here.

The other category of Mod is the one that improves the interface. Civilization games have a ton of information available, but it is not always easy to access. That is one reason why modders have created these improvements. The one I recommend for any player comes under this heading, and it is BUG (Beyond the Sword Unaltered Gameplay), and a further development called BAT. As implied, this mod does not change the gameplay in any way, it just improves on the interface in ways that make the game easier to play. You can get the BUG and BAT mods from Sourceforge. But note that these Mods are only available for the Beyond the Sword expansion. This is because they are written in Python, and that capability was only added in Beyond the Sword (BTS). In earlier versions of Civ IV the Mods available tended to be done as XML, and you only needed to drop the file into the Mods folder. There is a useful download site for Mods at CivFanatics, and this site also has instructions on installing Mods, so this is a good place to get up to speed. I encourage anyone to check these out, but of course the game is perfectly playable without using any mods, particularly if you go to the last expansion of the game, BTS. But the wealth of Mods available make this game infinitely replayable.

Note: Installing the BAT mod on my Steam version of Civilization 4 has so far not worked for me. There may be some trick I haven’t stumbled across on how to do that. But I also have Civ 4 in my GOG account. GOG can connect to Steam and pull all of your games into the GOG Galaxy application, and that is often easier to deal with. You can get this at GOG Connect, and in GOG I found it a lot easier. I located the ZIP file for the mod at SourceForge, copied it into the Mods folder for Civ 4, and extracted it there. Now when I start a game of Civ IV in GOG Galaxy, I can go to the Advanced option when starting and load the BAT mod.

Tile Improvements

One of the issues with the earlier versions of Civilization was that the only choice you had for tile improvements, in most cases, was to irrigate or to mine. So you would plop one or the other down on every tile, and the only decision was which one to build. The Civilization IV team wanted to shake that up by introducing new tile improvements, and they really did it in a big way. Here are the improvements you can build in Civ IV:

  • Camp – Unlocked with Hunting, lets you improve sources of Deer, Furs, and Ivory.
  • Cottage – Unlocked with Pottery, this is an important improvement to build your economy over time. It has to be worked, i.e., you must place one of your population on it. If worked, it grows over time into a Hamlet, then a Village, and finally a Town, and the Commerce produced grows with each level. So it may not produce a lot for you right away, but if you make the early investment it can pay off big in the later game.
  • Farm – This increases your food yield, but it is also necessary to unlock the Corn, Rice, and Wheat resources. You have to build a Farm on them to get the benefit.
  • Fishing Boats – Unlocked with Fishing. This tile improvement is not built by a Worker, but by a Work Boat unit. You need Fishing Boats to get the benefit from Clams, Crabs, and Fish. Also, note that unlike Worker units, Work Boats are used up when they create Fishing Boats or Whaling Boats (See below).
  • Forest Preserves – Added in BTS. Unlocked with Scientific Method. Adds Happiness, possibly Commerce, and may cause the Forest to spread.
  • Fort – Unlocked with Mathematics, gives defensive boost to units stationed there.
  • Lumber Mill – Unlocked with Replaceable Parts, adds to the production output of forests.
  • Mine – Unlocked with Mining. Increases production output, necessary to produce mineral resources like Copper and Iron.
  • Offshore Platform – Unlocked with Plastics, necessary to utilize oil resources on ocean tiles.
  • Pasture – Unlocked with Animal Husbandry. It improves Cows, Horses, Pigs, and Sheep.
  • Plantation – Unlocked with Calendar. It improves Bananas, Dyes, Incense, Silk, Spices, and Sugar.
  • Quarry – Unlocked with Masonry. It improves Marble and Stone.
  • Roads and Railroads – Roads unlock with the Wheel, and Railroads unlock with Railroad. Mostly add movement, but Railroads can add production to Mines, Lumber Mills, and Quarries. Note that unlike earlier versions of Civ, Roads do not add Commerce any longer.
  • Water Mill – Unlocked with Machinery, adds production, can add food or commerce when some civics are discovered.
  • Well – Unlocked with Combustion. Allows oil production on land.
  • Whaling Boats – Unlocked with Optics. Built by Work Boat units, they improve Whale resources.
  • Windmill – Unlocked with Machinery. Adds Food and Commerce.
  • Winery – Unlocked with Monarchy. It improves Wine resources.
  • Workshop – Unlocked with Metal Casting. It adds Production.

Note that many of these improvments can have added effects when certain civics or technologies are discovered. For the details I recommend this page on the Civilization Wiki. Also, note that one of the changes in Civ IV is that there are more resources, and many of these tile improvements are needed to take advantage of them. For example, a key resource is Horses, since mounted military units are both powerful and can move more quickly. So you want to make sure you are developing any Horse resources you find by placing a Pasture on them, and then connecting them to your cities with a road network. Similarly, you will want to develop your Copper and Iron resources by placing Mines on them and again connecting them to your cites via Roads. For this reason, our next topic will be Resources.

Note: I want to again remind you that you can only work tiles within the BFC of 21 tiles for any city. You may have other tiles that are within your empire, but if they are not in the BFC they cannot be worked. You can put roads on them, however, to complete your road network.

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