Playing Civilization IV, Part 2

Build Queues in Civ IV

The interface for the build system in Civ IV is a little different. When your city is finished building something (units, buildings, Wonders, etc.), and there is nothing being worked on, a popup screen will give you a chance to select the next build item. That is handy, but what it won’t do is let you set up a build queue to construct several things in order. To do this, you need to select “Examine City” at the top of this popup window, which opens the City screen. (You can also open this at any time by double-clicking on the banner with the city name.) In here what you will see is small icons representing the things you can build, and by clicking on these icons you can set up a queue which you can see on the bottom left. If you simply click an icon it becomes the current build item at the top of the queue, but if you Shift+Click you add items to the queue consecutively. For example, I might want to set up a new city, for which I need a Settler. But I want to have a military unit along to protect the Settler, so I could first click on (for example) a Warrior, then Shift+Click on a Settler. And for good measure, Shift+Click again for a Worker that I can use to build a road to the new city and which will then develop the tiles. Another nice trick is to Alt+Click on a unit. That will tell the city to just keep producing that unit over and over until you stop it by going into the City Screen and replace it with something else. This is a big time saver if you are embarking on a war and just want to keep the units coming. And if you already have a queue in place and need to add something at the top, Ctrl+Click will insert that at the top of the queue.

In the early game it is fine to just select the next item from the pop-up window. But as you get more cities and things get busier it really becomes more efficient to use the Examine City option and populate your Queue. But then there are times you need to make a quick change, such as if another player declares war on you and you need to switch to producing military units. In that case, opening your Domestic Advisor screen, using the icon that looks like a house on the upper right, will show each of your cities and what they are currently producing. In addition, you can see how much production capability it has (seen as the number of hammers) so that you can go to the most productive cities and have them crank out the emergency units.

Research and Technology Advance

The other choice you will be faced with right away is what technology you want to research. You can only research one technology at a time so again there are hard decisions to be taken. You start by looking at your land. If you see animals like Sheep, Pigs or Cows, you will want the Animal Husbandry tech to build pastures so that you can exploit the resource and help your city grow. Also, Animal Husbandry is required to reveal Horses on the map, and you will want to build a pasture for your Horse resources so you can build Chariots and other mounted military units. And speaking of military, an early tech most experienced players will get as soon as they can is Archery which gives you a military advantage over any player that doesn’t have it yet. Or if another player has it, you will want to get it to preserve the balance of power. Another important early tech is Mining. Many of the players start with a knowledge of Mining, but if not you will have to research it yourself. And if you have Bananas, Dyes, Incense, Silk, Spices, or Sugar, you need to research the Calendar in order to build Plantations to exploit the resource. So a survey of the area is always the starting point. Then you need to consider your neighbors. If they are nearby, there will be fighting, and you need to be prepared. Horses for chariots and mounted units, of course, but to get Swordsmen, the first really serious military unit, you have to research Iron Working. In Civ IV you generally won’t be attacked too early, but you need to build up your strength since weakness invites attacks. And if you can only research one things at a time, you can see how you will be torn between choices.

There is another way, however, and that is to trade with other players. The ability to trade techs is unlocked when you discover Alphabet, which is a fairly early tech. And you should trade as often as you can to build your list of available technologies. Yes, trading techs means the other guy also is building his list of techs, but if you don’t trade for his tech, he will just use it to trade with other players, and you will get left behind. The best thing, if you can do it, is obtain a tech either through research or by trade, and immediately try to trade it to every other player for techs they have. I would argue that even if your tech is more valuable, trading it still makes sense for two reasons. First, if your valuable tech is traded multiple times, you are in essence trading it for 3-4 other techs, and even if they are not as valuable individually, collectively it is a bargain for you. Second, the way the tech tree works, a “lesser” tech you may have bypassed will probably be a required prerequisite for some other tech you will soon want, and getting it through trade saves you from having to invest your science resources to research it yourself and waste turns. A good demonstration of why this works is that the programmers of the game program the AI players to trade like crazy with each other, and so should you.

Sometimes you know you want to get to a Tech that is further up the tree, and it will have prerequisites. You can go to your Science Advisor (icon of a Beaker on the upper right), or if you have just finished a tech and need to choose you can select “Show me the Big Picture”, and either way you will have the Tech Tree laid out for your inspection. Find the Tech you are desiring, click on it, and the game will automatically research all of the technologies needed for the one you want, creating a research “queue”. Also, when on this screen you can mouse over the techs and see what they open up for you. Generally techs can open up new units, new terrain improvements, new buildings, and even new Wonders. They can also open up new Civics you can take advantage of. So spending some time on this screen can pay off in guiding your Research strategy.

Wonders and Projects

Each Civ game has had Wonders you can build that offer certain benefits. The innovation in Civ 4 is that there two types of Wonders. Great Wonders are Wonders that can only be built once per game, which makes them the same as Wonders in every previous Civ version. But in Civ 4 you now have National Wonders, which can be build once by each player. So you will always have a chance to build these, subject to the prerequisites, and can never be beaten by another player. One way these are distinguished is that Great Wonders are mainly available as soon ass you research a key tech. So, as soon as you research Electricity, you can build Broadway. Or as soon as you research Assembly Line, you can build the Pentagon.

National Wonders, on the other hand, can also require merely discovering a technology, but some of them also tend become available when your civilization reaches a certain level of development. For example, once you have researched Drama and have built 6 Theaters, you can now build the Globe Theater. But the key is that each player in the game can build their own Globe Theater is they wish, once they have met the requirements.

There are also two kinds of Projects, similar to the Wonders. World Projects can only be done once per game, and the are the Internet and the Manhattan Project. So once they have been built by any one player, no one else can build them. And with effects of the Manhattan Project apply to every player as well. Once it is done, everyone can build nukes and build bomb shelters. I have frequently been in games where I deliberately avoid doing this project even though I met the requirements, just because I didn’t want to deal with nukes from the other players. And there are National Projects as well, SDI and Apollo Program. The SDI project gives you a 75% chance of stopping nukes from other players, and the Apollo Program is essential for a Science victory since this the requirement for building the Spaceship parts needed to send your ship and claim victory.

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