Playing Civilization IV, Part 4

Leaders and Civs

One of the important advances in Civ 4 is in the Leaders, and what they bring to the game. Each Leader will have two attributes that provide bonuses to your empire. Note that the Beyond the Sword expansion added to what came out in the original version, and you should be playing the latest version anyway, so I am giving the values for that version. They are:

  • Aggressive
    • Free promotion to Combat 1 for all melee and gunpowder units
    • Barracks and Drydocks have half the production cost
  • Creative
    • Plus 2 culture per turn for each city
    • Library, Colisseum and Theater have half the production cost
  • Expansive
    • Plus 2 Health per city
    • Granary and Harbor have half the production cost
    • 25% faster production of Workers
  • Financial
    • One additional Commerce on any space generating at least 2 Commerce
  • Industrious
    • Plus 50% production for Wonders
    • Forge has half the production cost
  • Organized
    • 50% less civic upkeep cost
    • Factory, Courthouse and Lighthouse have half the production cost
  • Philosophical
    • Plus 100% Great Person rate
    • University has half the production cost
  • Spiritual
    • No anarchy when changing Civics
    • Temple has half the production cost, as does the Cristo Redentor Wonder
  • Charismatic
    • Plus one Happiness in each city
    • 25% less experience needed for Unit promotions
    • Plus one Happiness from Monument and Broadcast Tower
  • Imperialistic
    • Double the rate of Great Generals appearing
    • Plus 50% to Settler production
  • Protective
    • Archery and Gunpowder units receive free Drill 1 and City Garrison 1
    • Wall and Castle have half the production cost

These traits are assigned to specific leaders, which matters because some of the Civs have several possible leaders. For example the Americans can have George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Franklin Roosevelt. And the British can have Elizabeth I, Victoria, or Winston Churchill.

In addition to the traits or attributes peculiar to each Leader, each of the Civs has starting technologies that they begin the game already knowing. For instance, a number of Civs start the game already knowing Mysticism, and Mysticism is the only prerequisite for researching Meditation, and the first person to research Meditation discovers Buddhism. So one of those Civs will be highly likely to get Buddhism, and if you are not one of them, your chances are very low.

Then there are the unique units. Each Civ gets a unique unit which takes the place of one of the regular units in the game, and is more powerful than the unit it replaces. For example, there is an early military unit called the Axeman that all players can get. But if you are Greece you get the Phalanx as a replacement, and it has an added 100% defense against Chariots, which are the main offensive units in the Ancient era. And there is also a unique building for each Civ, which will provide some added benefits.

Finally, each Leader has a Favorite Civic. This is important in Diplomacy. A Leader will tend to be more friendly to other Leaders who adopt the Favorite Civic.

So, with 34 Civs and 52 Leaders available in the game, there is a lot to consider. An in-depth examination of each possible leader would take up a lot of space, so I will point you to a table that summarizes all of these on the CivFanatics site: Some study of this would repay your time in improved strategy. But the main thing is that there are 52 different options for starting a game, and each one can either help or hinder your strategy. If you want to pursue a particular strategy, you should pick a Leader that fits. Or if you let the random chooser pick your Leader at the start, you need to carefully consider how to maximize the benefit by choosing a strategy that fits with the Leader.

As an example suppose you want to conquer the world as soon as possible. The first thing I would do is take an Aggressive Leader. Among these are Alexander (Aggressive, Philosophical), Montezuma (Aggressive, Spiritual), Hammurabi (Aggressive, Organized), Boudica (Aggressive, Charismatic), Tokugawa (Aggressive, Protective), Genghis Kahn (Aggressive, Imperialistic). Kublai Kahn (Aggressive, Creative), Stalin (Aggressive, Industrious), Ragnar (Aggressive, Financial), and Shaka (Aggressive, Expansive). So we have 10 possibilities here, and no two of them are the same. You can build a strategy around any of them, but it would not be the same strategy. What about the unique unit? Alexander has the Phalanx, which is a good Ancient unit, but it is a somewhat more defensive unit than an offensive one. The Zulu’s Impi is another Ancient Era unit that is interesting. It isn’t stronger than the Spearman it replaces, but it has double the movement. With Stalin you have the Russian unique unit, the Cossack, which replace Cavalry. These start to matter much later in the game, so if you want to conquer early this won’t help.

When you combine the traits some interesting possibilities emerge. No one of them is definitely superior, it is a matter of adapting your strategy to take advantage of the possibilities. For instance, just by picking an Aggressive leader you can build Barracks at half the production cost, and Barracks means the units you produce start out stronger, which is good. But there is more to consider. There is a saying that amateurs talk about strategy, but professionals talk about logistics. If you want to be successful, keep that in mind. For instance, there is upkeep, and armies cost you money every turn. They cost even more each turn if they are outside of your territory, which represents the cost keeping them supplied. The mathematics of how this is done can be complicated, but if want to look into it you can read this page on the CivFanatics site: But knowing this, and knowing that finance is really important, an interesting combination might be Aggressive plus Financial, and there is one Leader with that combination, Ragnar. The Viking’s unique unit is the Berserker, which replaces the Maceman, so probably closer to Medieval and to Ancient. But it comes with Amphibious capabilities. On an Archipelago map with lots of islands, this starts to look like a very interesting option. Another consideration is that you need to build roads to move your armies around quickly, and that requires Workers, so the Expansive trait here might make Shaka a good choice here. And he has the Impi as his unique unit, which is also a very mobile unit. The point is that each of these leaders can fit some strategies and circumstances, but no leader fits all strategies and circumstances.

And we just looked at the possibilities for a Conquering victory. Suppose instead you wanted to be more peaceful and maybe go for a Culture victory or a Science victory? Then I would start by looking at Leaders with the Protective trait. These are Saladin (Protective, Spiritual), Mao Zedong (Protective, Expansive), Qin Shi Huang (Protective, Industrious), Churchill (Protective, Charismatic), Charlemagne (Protective, Imperialistic), Tokugawa (Protective, Aggressive), Wang Kon (Protective, Financial), Sitting Bull (Protective, Philosophical). and Gilgamesh (Protective, Creative). So again, we have nine possible Leaders, and no two alike. The reason why you might want to go with a Protective trait is so that you can protect your empire while focusing more on either Culture or Science. Now just having the Protective trait is not enough, you need to build up your armies to a sufficient strength that they deter aggression from the other players. And you also need to continually upgrade your forces to keep up with the other players. You don’t want to be defending with Axemen when the others are attacking with Cavalry. If you are going for a Science victory you will naturally be researching the new technologies that give you more powerful units, and that suggests that maybe a combination of Protective with Philosophical, which Sitting Bull has, might be a good choice. But another way to look at it is to pick Industrious as your second trait, because you will want to build all of the science buildings as fast as possible. And when you have researched a new military technology like Gunpowder, you can use your forge to crank out the new units.

Culture is an intriguing option that appears here for the first time. As in Civ 3, Culture expands your borders and gives you more territory. And another holdover from Civ 3 is that cities can flip allegiance from one player to another when there is a large imbalance in culture. And cities get a defensive bonus as the lebel of culture goes up. The victory condition is to have three cities with Legendary Culture, which is 50,000 Culture on normal game speed, but increases for Epic and Marathon. But knowing you need to get 3 cities to this level means you have to be strategic about earning Culture, and not spread it willy-nilly over your Empire. The starting point is to pick a Leader that gives you advantages, and generally that means you want to go with a Creative leader. Creative leaders get added 2 culture per city (and that is 2 per turn, so it does add up), and they get production bonuses for Libraries (2 additional culture per turn) and Theaters (3 additional culture per turn). These Leaders are Willem van Oranje (Creative, Financial), Hatshepsut (Creative, Spiritual), Zara Yaqob (Creative, Organized), Louis XIV (Creative, Industrious), Pericles (Creative, Philosophical), Suryavarman II (Creative, Expansive), Kublai Khan (Creative, Aggressive), Catherine (Creative, Imperialistic), and Gilgamseh (Creative, Protective). Again, 9 leaders, all different. When you look at the Culture bonuses from religious buildings, Hatshepsut looks like an attractive choice. But another very reasonable choice is Philosophical because you get more Great People, which is a source for a lot of Culture as well. So Pericles is also a good choice if you are going for a Culture victory. And Wonders can be great source of Culture, so the bonus from Industrious makes Louis XIV a good choice as well.

You can win with any Leader, but picking one that fits your goal makes it lot easier. But learn to modify slightly what you do for each Leader. If you go with Hatshepsut you need to commit to heavily investing in and promoting religion as you primary strategy, whereas with Louis XIV you will be preparing to build Wonders and orient your strategy that way. But that isn’t all you need to consider. So next we need to talk about Civics.

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