The Let's Play Archive

Civilization 2

by Melth

Part 15: 1240 AD - 1610 AD (Crisis, Exploration, and Celebration)

Previously on God-Emperor of Romankind, the cities of James and Buffalo, NY were captured by a sudden barbarian attack. Persia Eunt Domus, home of the critical Michaelangelo’s Chapel, was about to be next.

Meanwhile, a beachhead had just been established in the Greek heartland, and fierce fighting to hold it was imminent.

All of this in the middle of the revolution to at last create a Democracy.

I have an elegant plan to beat the barbarians and I’ve set my Taxes up to high to bring in some needed gold for it.

Two key steps were rushing all my Horsemen down as soon as the barbarians appeared (they’ll be here in 1 turn) and protecting Persia Eunt Domus. There’s no way to actually survive an attack from the Legions, but what I COULD do was speed-build a Pikeman last turn and block access. This Legion will spend its turn killing it and therefore not seize the critical city. The other barbarians will hold the cities they took.

As you can see, the barbarian took the bait and wasted its turn and got injured.

The next step was switching Romeing Charges and Tiberius to make Diplomats.

And then the revolution ended. I’ll leave the war on a cliffhanger to finally explain governments in detail!

There are nominally 7 government types in civ 2. There’s basically just 3 though: Anarchy/Despotism/Monarchy/Communism, Republic/Democracy, and Fundamentalism.

Max Tax/Science/Luxury %: 60%
Martial Law: Up to 3 soldiers per city can each make an Unhappy citizen Content
Settler Upkeep: 1 Food, 1 Production
Free Unit Upkeep: A # of units equal to the size of the city per city have no Production upkeep
Corruption/Waste: Catastrophic
Celebration Bonus: Celebrating cities don’t suffer the “Despotism Penalty” (See below)
Special: Despotism Penalty. Any tile that SHOULD produce 3 or more of Food or Production or Trade produces 1 less.

Despotism is the default government. It sucks at everything.

The Despotism Penalty means your cities grow slowly since you can’t benefit from Irrigation on Grasslands or most resources. Massive Corruption/Waste means you’ll have no economy at all. It’s not hard to get Corruption rates of close to 100% far from your capital.

You may have heard of “Despotic Conquest” as some kind of Civ 2 super strat. No. That was a Civ 1 strat and sucks now. There is no use for Despotism; Monarchy is better at everything. Switch immediately. What are you waiting for? Do it now!

Max Tax/Science/Luxury %: 70%
Martial Law: Up to 3 soldiers per city can each make an Unhappy citizen Content
Settler Upkeep: 1 Food, 1 Production
Free Unit Upkeep: 3 units per city have no Production upkeep
Corruption/Waste: High
Celebration Bonus: Celebrating cities get bonus Trade like a Republic (+1 Trade per tile that already gives at least 1 Trade)
Special: None.

Monarchy is the average/normal government. It’s available extremely early, is a huge upgrade over Despotism, and is easy for inexperienced players.

However, Monarchy really sucks compared to all the other governments. Even Republic is just much better if used properly, except for the purpose of maximal speed rush conquests.

The other thing is that due to still-high Corruption, still-low max Science rate, and not getting the Republic Trade bonus, a Monarchy pretty much stays primitive forever. It’s very hard to get a real tech edge over the AI, which is crippling for long-term military efficiency.

Max Tax/Science/Luxury %: 80%
Martial Law: Not available
Settler Upkeep: 2 Food, 1 Production
Free Unit Upkeep: None
Corruption/Waste: Low
Celebration Bonus: Celebrating cities can grow every single turn
Special: Bonus Trade. Every tile that grants at least 1 Trade grants 1 more.
Special: Military unhappiness. Every soldier (beyond the first per city) outside cities causes 1 citizen to become Unhappy in the soldier’s supporting city.
Special: Senate. The Senate will force you to accept ceasefires and treaties about 50% of the time.

Republic is available 1 tech later than Monarchy and is well worth the wait. It’s the first expert government, vastly superior to Monarchy for most purposes but only if used with care and skill.

As a Republic, you can’t use a huge, inefficient military as a crutch. Those don’t stop civil disorder, cost tons of Production, and will make citizens Unhappy when used. You also need to Irrigate more before you can support many Settlers. And you will have to adjust your foreign policy to deal with your meddling senate. But all of those problems can be dealt with if you know what you’re doing.

Meanwhile, Republics steamroller Monarchies in long games due to spectacular cash and Science advantages. Having +1 Trade per Trade tile is somewhere between +50% and +100% Trade overall. That bonus is further enhanced by having much less Corruption and being able to set your Science and Tax rates more flexibly. The result is that even while paying for Temples or devoting some of their economy to Luxuries to maintain happiness, Republics can easily maintain roughly double the Science AND Tax incomes of Monarchies.

The other gigantic advantage of Republic is that you can use powerful Celebration strategies. Civ 2 multiplayer is basically Monarchies trying to rush and end the game fast and Republics trying to hold on a few more critical turns to celebrate themselves into invulnerability.

Max Tax/Science/Luxury %: 100%
Martial Law: Not available
Settler Upkeep: 2 Food, 1 Production
Free Unit Upkeep: None
Corruption/Waste: None.
Celebration Bonus: Celebrating cities can grow every turn
Special: Bonus Trade. Every tile that grants at least 1 Trade grants 1 more.
Special: Military unhappiness. Every military unit outside of cities causes 2 citizens to become Unhappy in its supporting city.
Special: Senate. The Senate will force you to accept ceasefires and treaties all the time.
Special: Fragile. If any city is allowed to remain in Civil Disorder for even 1 turn or you try to violate a peace treaty or do something underhanded with a Diplomat, your government collapses into Anarchy and everything is ruined
Special: Unbribable. Enemy Diplomats/Spies cannot buy your units or cities.

Democracy is Republic but more, enhancing its strengths and its weaknesses. It definitely requires skillful play to manage but offers tremendous advantages.

Its other great strength is that it’s available earlier than the other late-game governments and is, in fact, unlocked on the way to getting them.

Achieving 0 Corruption early on is a massive Science and money boost for big civilizations. With that plus invulnerability to bribery, Democracies automatically win any Diplomat/Spy-based wars. It’s also great for making the incredible power of Celebration strategies easier to use.

Max Tax/Science/Luxury %: 80%
Martial Law: Up to 3 soldiers per city can each make TWO Unhappy citizens Content
Settler Upkeep Cost: 2 Food, 1 Production
Free Unit Upkeep: 3 units per city have no Production upkeep
Corruption/Waste: Negligible
Celebration Bonus: Celebrating cities get bonus Trade like a Republic (+1 Trade per tile that already gives at least 1 Trade)
Special: All Spies are trained as veterans.

Communism is a nearly strict upgrade from Monarchy and is significantly better. Doubly-effective martial law is critical for big cities later in the game, eliminating Corruption and Waste finally makes it possible to actually get Science and gold from cities far from your capital, and being able to finally go up to 80% Science/Tax/Luxury is also nice for flexibility.

That Settlers cost more Food to maintain is a nuisance, but not actually a big deal at this point in the game since you should have plenty of spare Irrigation built up.

Communism is the least-useful government in the game. For one thing, it’s the last available. Also, just learning the tech that unlocks it hurts you forever by making your Cathedral city improvements (and Michaelangelo's Chapel wonder) help fewer citizens.

More importantly it’s just not that much better than Monarchy. Even Republic can give Communism a run for its money overall and is significantly better in Science and Taxes

And most importantly Communism isn’t the best government for either spaceship OR conquest wins. Republic/Democracy clobbers it in Science and is thus way better at spaceship wins and also at setting up for conquest wins, since you have to be higher tech than your enemy for that. Fundamentalism is far superior at the actual conquest part of conquest wins. And again, both of those are available sooner. So there is no strategy for which Communism is ever the best choice at any point.

Its only unique perk, all Spies starting as veterans, is also outclassed by both Democracies and Fundamentalisms. Democracies are impervious to the most dangerous things Spies can do. And Democracies and Fundamentalism both have vastly more gold, which is the fuel on which Spies actually run. Being a veteran Spy only really decreases the chance of the Spy dying after a mission, which is less important than being able to do the mission to buy a city or unit in the first place.

Max Tax/Science/Luxury %: 80%
Martial Law: Unnecessary
Settler Upkeep: 2 Food, 1 Production
Free Unit Upkeep: 10 units per city have no Production upkeep
Corruption/Waste: Negligible
Celebration Bonus: Celebrating cities get bonus Trade like a Republic (+1 Trade per tile that already gives at least 1 Trade)
Special: Can train (mostly useless) Fanatic units
Special: No unhappiness EVER.
Special: Improvements/wonders that would turn citizens Content generate gold instead
Special: Science production is halved.
Special: Smaller penalties for diplomatic treachery and things like nuking cities with Spies.

Fundamentalism is the 3rd big type of government in the game and unlocks shortly after Democracy. Nicely, its 2 tech requirements are core techs for just about any strategy.

In many ways it’s the opposite of Republic/Democracy. It’s fantastic for newb players and there’s basically no headache or difficulty to running it at all ever. And it’s absolutely great at waging wars but terrible at Science.

The really nice thing about it is that getting gold from Temples, Colosseums, Michaelangelo’s Chapel, etc. and not needing to devote any of the economy to Luxuries makes Fundamentalist governments nearly as rich as Democracies for a while. In the true lategame no one can possibly be as rich as a Democracy though.

The terrible Science penalty will completely cripple Fundamentalist governments in the long-run unless they can keep conquering cities (and thus stealing techs) with steady momentum or already have a sizable technology lead. Fundamentalist players should never, ever not be conquering someone.

Generally speaking, I still prefer Democracy for waging wars despite the difficulties since being able to continue racking up new technologies and pulling in even more money to use with Spies is hard to turn down. But a Democracy used to develop a tech and economic lead and then switched to Fundamentalism can blitz the whole world at once very efficiently.

Back to phase two of my plan, the Horseman from Rome is ready to strike. I had to count squares carefully before beginning since if he arrived with only 2/3 strength left, the powerful Legion might well have killed him even on defense and thus ruined everything.

Legion cleared, now I have a straight shot with my first Diplomat.

He incites a revolt. Barbarian cities are always incredibly cheap to buy. Why?

Well it’s about time I discussed the details of inciting revolts, or “buying cities”.

First, how does one incite a revolt? Just order a Diplomat (or Spy) to move into a non-capital city which doesn’t belong to a Democracy. There’s no penalty for only having 1/3 or 2/3 move left. You can freely cancel back to the map after checking the price and move elsewhere or do something like steal technology instead or sell some buildings for gold first. Also, you can bribe off a boat. That’s broken.

What are the effects? Well it’s basically the same as conquering the city. You get a bit of gold, you steal a technology if they know one you don’t, the city size shrinks by 1 (But size 1 cities are taken intact), and certain city improvements may or may not be destroyed seemingly at random. And then of course the city is yours. But there’s one key difference: you also receive ALL of the enemy units in the city or within one square of it. Incredible.

Oh and your Diplomat dies, but a Spy may randomly survive and become a veteran.

All’s fair in love and war, so that’s the end of it if you don’t have any kind of treaty with the civ in question. But if you have a ceasefire/peace/alliance with them and incite a revolt, several bad things happen. First, your diplomatic reputation takes a big hit. Second, they can declare a war on you without any diplomatic penalty. Third, if you are a Democracy, then your government collapses into Anarchy. When you have a treaty, you will also have the option to “subvert” the enemy city instead of just inciting a revolt. This costs double and has the exact same effects without the above problems.

Speaking of price, what does this actually cost? Well one finds different versions of the formula in different places and none of them are 100% right. The following is approximately right:
Price of inciting a revolt = ( City Size x ( 1000 + Enemy Treasury) ) / (Distance from Diplomat to Enemy Capital + 3 )

So we can see immediately that the price increases linearly with city size. A size 3 costs thrice as much as a size 1 and so on. Distance and Enemy Treasury are more complicated.

First of all, Distance appears to be capped at 16 normally, 10 for communists. It’s important to note that it’s distance from your Diplomat- not from their city- to their capital. So you get different prices in different squares.

Now generally speaking, distance to enemy capital will be quite high- probably at or near the cap of 16. This is especially true on larger maps and when starting a conquest from the fringes of enemy territory.

Thus a decent rule of thumb is that a city costs (50 + Enemy treasury/20) per city size. You can check the exact enemy treasury in the embassy page in the foreign minister menu. Bear in mind that the real cost will be a bit higher (significantly if the city is closer to the capital). This formula says that buying Killdeer last update should cost about 510 gold, and the actual price was about 550, so you can see it’s a decent approximation when you need to predict a cost ahead of time.

There are a few simple cost modifiers:
1) Price is x 0.86 if using a Spy instead of a Diplomat
2) Price is x 0.67 if using a veteran Spy
3) Price is x 0.5 if city undefended
4) Price is x 0.5 if city in Civil Disorder
5) Price is x 0.5 if you founded the city
6) Price is x 2 to “subvert” instead of “incite revolt”

Those modifiers are powerful, but hard to actually use. Spies (let alone veteran ones) aren’t available till very late in the game, and unlocking them requires getting the horrible Communism technology.

Having the city be undefended usually means you’ll have had to kill all its defenders. At which point you could seize the city for free anyway. Either buy it intact or wreck and conquer it, don’t wreck it and then pay to buy something you could take for free.

You can’t feasibly force a civil disorder. You’d need to find a huge AI city and then kill all its defenders to end Martial Law and use Spies to destroy its Temples. See above.

Obviously either you founded a city or you did not found it and you can’t change that to lower the price.

Compared to military conquest, "inciting revolts" has these advantages:

1) Low-tech. Diplomats are available in 2 techs or less.
2) No costly armies. Military conquest typically requires building dozens of soldiers, each costing at least 40 shields. Plus Barracks and the like. And upkeep. And many of those units will be lost. This strategy requires a few Diplomats that cost 30 shields and have 0 upkeep.
3) Free armies. You get ALL the defenders for free. This huge since the AI loves to build tons of soldiers. With Leonardo’s Workshop their primitive troops become modern for free too.
4) Easy deployment. Diplomats are fast and ignore Zones of Control and are thus incredibly easy to field.
5) Usable during peace. If you choose to Subvert, there isn’t even any kind of penalty.
6) You can take size 1 cities instead of destroy them.
7) Can be done right off of boats. No one else but late-game Marines can take a city right off a Trireme. I cannot overstate how game-breakingly powerful this is compared to the extreme difficulty of a military conquest of your first city on another continent.
8) Diplomats are good to have around anyway. They’re great scouts, can also do useful things like establish embassies, have 0 upkeep, etc.
9) Chance of success is always 100%. This is especially absurd considering that many less useful Diplomat/Spy actions have a huge chance of failure.
10) There is no defense. No amount of soldiers help. No River or Mountain helps. No City Wall or SDI Defense helps. In fact, all of those things help YOU because you get that stuff.
In peacetime they can expel a lone Diplomat, which only slows you down by a few turns. If you stack your Diplomat with a military unit to make your approach, they have NO WAY to prevent you walking up and then taking their city. You can even get the military unit through their Zone of Control by moving the Diplomat first and the military unit after it (you’re always allowed to ignore ZoC to move into squares your units already control).
Contrary to popular belief, stationing Diplomats or Spies in a city doesn’t prevent it from revolting either. No, the buyer just gets a pile of new Spies and Diplomats to use. Once again, this is especially absurd because Diplomats and Spies CAN prevent weaker Diplomat actions like stealing technology.
Filling both land AND sea borders with an unbroken ring of thousands of stacks of 2 military units at all times could prevent Diplomat access. If it was possible.
Being a Democracy does prevent revolts, but that’s not available for thousands of years and isn’t good except for expert players anyway.

What are the disadvantages?
1) It costs gold. Not, you know, a LOT of gold. Not compared to the amount a good player can generate every single turn late in the game. And especially not considering that the inciter get to steal part of the victim’s treasury and sell their buildings and use their troops upon success.

Diplomats make all military units obsolete and break the game harder than any other tactic or strategy. Infinite City Sprawl? Child’s play. Caravan shenanigans? A joke. It only helps the enemy! Celebration? Well it’s a good setup for mass Diplomats. Nuclear weapons? They can be blocked, halve the population of the city, don’t let you get the defenders on your side, and require you to actually get a soldier in position to take the city. Also they’re only available late. Even the “ultimate” Spy attack, planting a nuclear weapon, is less useful and has more problems than just buying the city.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I could crush the Sioux in less than 30 turns if I just bought the city of Killdeer. With that place to produce Diplomats and defensive units in the middle of their territory, all I would have to do is set my Taxes high and buy city after city in a Civ 2 zombie plague as they spent their resources on increasingly feeble attacks against defenses they built.

Mass incite revolt so completely wrecks the metagame that Science, government (other than Democracy), happiness, choice of military units, all but the most basic tactics, and indeed every part of the game except how much gold you have become wholly irrelevant.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s also incredibly boring. Knowing you will succeed 100% and don’t need to think hard or play carefully takes all the fun out of the game. Civ 2 already has severe problems with that later on because you generally spend the last 6 hours stronger than everyone else combined. But with Diplomats the problem hits from basically the instant you decide to employ mass revolts.

I consider the very existence of the "Incite Revolt" option to be the worst game design choice in the entirety of Civ2. In fact, it’s one of the worst single ideas in any game I can think of. It makes the whole rest of the game- including all the good parts- totally unimportant, dominates all other strategies, and is no fun at all to use. And this is not really a fixable problem. Just making the cost higher or adding a failure chance would not solve the fundamental issue of being better than actual conquest in every way other than costing gold and being incredibly dull to use.

And that’s why I won’t use it except against barbarians. Including random barbarians that can seize cities instantly and wipe out any defenders was also a very bad design choice.

So to return at last to the original question, barbarian cities are cheap to buy for several reasons. First, barbarians have 0 treasury. Second, they have no capital and thus the distance is treated as maximum. Third, the city used to belong to me and thus the price is halved. With treasury 0, distance 16, city size 3, and the city having been founded by me, the formula predicts a cost of 79. Very accurate.

So besides getting my city back, I got a Legion. With 4/2 stats, they’re basically upgraded Archers. Their problem is that the techs that lead to them aren’t prereqs for important early stuff. And, like Archers, they cost too much to be worth building when more specialized units can do better.

I’ll take this city back too and score another Legion. I’ll send those to Japan. I think I can be ready for war by the time they arrive if I time things carefully.

I really want to make this Crusader a veteran. With that bonus, he’ll have a total defense higher than 6 while on his Mountain. I’ll take down the Archer stack and then retreat.

Huh. Well that was improbable. I did get veteran status, survived an attack from the Warriors as expected, retreated safely to my Mountain, and then lost my Crusader before it could fortify. This Archer ran out of Athens and attacked at 1/3 strength (1 Attack) against my 4.5 Defense Crusader and won. Now I’m going to have to cede most of this island and try to fend them off near Achilles’ Heel, where THEY’LL have the terrain advantage.

Another Caravel with 3 or 4 barbarian Legions on it. At least this time I have 1 turn of warning.

The “Second Rome” is founded.

This time a Diplomat wouldn’t have been any good because the units are stacked up and thus unbribable and I didn’t want to lose and re-buy any cities. Instead I bought some Crusaders and crushed the Legions.

I’m going to need to rush-buy a Crusader here too.

Meanwhile, Caravans + Rome’s huge Production crank out another wonder. This one is great; it never expires and grants +2 move to all of my naval units. That’s a 66% movement bonus for Triremes and Caravel and 50% for most other naval units. Massively helpful for exploration. Better yet, since launching an attack just costs 1 move, it lets your warships kill more enemies per turn.

Finally a good category for me!

The Greeks have fallen right into my trap. My 5 attack Crusader will shred the Elephant. And then the Catapult. And then anything else he sends my way.

Oh he’s in for it now.

With Magellan’s Expedition, my Trireme is FAST.


With just a little bit of an initial investment, a city here can easily blossom into a size 21 metropolis that rakes in well over 60 Trade, is invincible, and has ~40 Production later on.

Those who never played Civ 2 but paid close attention to my mechanics talk will be scratching their heads right now. Afterall, Irrigated Hills only give 2 Food and each Ocean tile only gives 1 Food. A city has a Food cost per turn of 2 per size. Therefore, this city will start with 1 surplus Food, slowly grow to size 2, and then have 0 surplus Food and thus never grow. Terrible!

This is where Harbors come in and why they’re amazing. A Harbor costs 60 shields (small for a building). It has a small upkeep of 1 gold per turn. And it makes every Ocean tile the city works give +1 Food. Which makes it a solid candidate for the best thing ever.

Most land cities stop growing when they run out of Grasslands (Irrigation helps a bunch). But Grasslands are pretty rare. That’s one reason why bigpox is bad; it’s just really hard to make a bigpox city due to major Food limitations unless you have amazing luck with the nearby terrain.

In contrast, coastal cities with Harbors grow as long as they have Oceans. Each Ocean gives them 2 food, which precisely matches the Food cost of the extra citizen who works that new tile. Just like with un-Irrigated Grasslands. But Oceans are common. They’re everywhere! Thus, cities with Harbors can grow almost indefinitely! This one will reach a natural size of 21! By comparison, the land-based Japanese city of Kyoto (which has absolutely MASSIVE amounts of Grassland nearby), would just barely reach size 22 if every single tile in its range was Irrigated. And Oceans give oodles more Trade than Grasslands too.

The other great thing is that, because cities cannot be founded on Oceans, coastal cities never end up surrounded by your other cities the way interior cities do while playing smallpox. Thus with Harbors they can all still grow a lot. This clear, massive advantage of using Harbors to make it possible to turn dozens of tiny cities into dozens of big cities is another reason I have trouble believing that anyone actually plays pure smallpox. Building no city improvements is intuitively and provably inferior to building Harbors in places that can benefit from them.

However, I’m going for a fairly quick win and it’s late in the game and it would take me a long time to get a Settler out here. I won’t really have much time to reap the benefits of this city and may therefore skip it in favor of one which will pay off faster.

And now to reveal the grand plan: for hundreds of turns I’ve been setting up to demonstrate and explain the archetypal Celebration strategy. That’s why I’ve held nearly all my cities at exactly size 3, founded dozens of them, developed all the happiness wonders, built only coastal cities, built Harbors and Marketplaces nearly everywhere, and rushed to Democracy.

This is excessive. A much better way to play Celebration is to use several brief, inelegant bursts of We Love the X Day throughout the game (starting after getting Republic and Hanging Gardens or maybe Michaelangelo’s Chapel). My goal was mostly to demonstrate how to execute one of those bursts optimally since that’s the part most people struggle with, but in practice you should definitely start ASAP and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Recall from last update that the cities of a Republic/Democracy grow every single turn as long as they "Celebrate" (no Unhappy citizens and at least 50% Happy), are at least size 3 already, and have at least +1 surplus Food. Also, there’s a size cap of 8 without an Aqueduct and 12 without a Sewer System.

To get that many happy citizens, I’ll need to set my Luxuries up to about 40% (many people recommend 80 or even 100%, but that’s huge overkill if you know what you’re doing).

Money is also very important for making this work smoothly, so it’s best to set Taxes up high for a few turns beforehand and keep them at least moderate throughout.

Now highish Taxes and Luxury mean low Science. That’s obviously bad, which is why executing your celebrations with maximum efficiency is key. You should (typically) have every single city that’s size 3 or higher grow every single turn and then stop when that’s not possible.

Now Celebration is an expert-only strategy because it requires serious setup to make it work. If you don’t get a bunch of cities to size 3 at the same time, don’t get into Republic/Democracy fast and store up plenty of cash, don’t get the Hanging Gardens and Michaelangelo’s Chapel, don’t foresee the need for important city improvements before actually needing them, etc. then you cannot do it well. Plan ahead. From turn 1.

Beyond that, it requires intensive city micro to make it work. You MUST check every single city every single turn and have a complete understanding of what is required to maintain Celebration growth to really get anything useful from this strat. It’s as much an art as an algorithm, but I’ll try to explain the general approach step by step.

1) Have a milestone to start in mind and plan for that. Maybe the instant you get Hanging Gardens. Maybe Democracy with 500 gold in the treasury. Make sure everything is ready to go when that happens. Micro your cities so as many of them as possible hit size 3 at or before that turn. Make sure they’re done with or nearly done with any key city improvements like Harbors, Markets, etc. when the turn hits. Do NOT wait around for half a dozen turns trying to get one more city ready. The faster you start, the faster you start reaping the permanent benefits.

2) Set Luxuries to 40%. Set Science to 0-20%

3) Go to the attitude adviser menu shown above.
a. If ANY cities size 3 or greater do not have 0 Unhappy (red) citizens and at least ½ Happy (teal) citizens, then go to that city’s menu and see if you can rearrange which tiles the city works to attain 50%+ happy citizens without making food surplus go to 0 or below.
b. If you can’t, consider if speed-building a Marketplace to boost Luxuries 50% would fix it.
c. If b wouldn’t work, either forget about that city completely or (if there are several like that) crank up the Luxuries another 10% and go back to 3a.

4) Then check every single city individually to make sure it has positive surplus Food.
a. If ANY cities size 3 or greater that are going to celebrate do not have at least +1 Food, see if you can rearrange which tiles the city works to get enough Food without going below the required number of Happy citizens.
b. If you can’t, consider if speed-building a Harbor would fix it.
c. If b wouldn’t solve anything, forget about the city or (if there IS enough Food available but only by lowering happiness too much and there are several like that) crank Luxuries up another 10% and go back to 4a.

5) So now every city is either a lost cause or will work this turn. It’s critical to get a headstart on making sure they keep working next turn. The main thing you can do in regard to that is build good city improvements. Pay to speed-build them if necessary. That’s what the money is for. Remember to do everything you can to notice and rectify problems in advance. This procedure may help, but it’s not an exact science:
a. If the city is size 8, consider whether it has enough good tiles that no other city can use remaining that it could grow to size 12 without celebrations ending and without cramping its neighbors forever. If so, build an Aqueduct. If it’s speed-built at size 8, the city will grow to 9 at the start of next turn. If not, consider building a Settler. This will allow the city to grow right back to 8 as long as it will still have enough Food.
b. If the city is next to lots of Oceans, priority 1 is a Harbor.
c. Marketplaces are extremely valuable, both for sustaining celebrations and profiting afterwards.
d. Once in a while, a city may be cramped by many nearby Ocean tiles being unexplored and thus unavailable. In that case, consider building a Trireme, scouting with it, and then disbanding it a turn later to help make a building.

6) At this point, take your turn as normal.

7) Next turn, start back from step 3. Repeat every turn until something (lack of funds to buy needed improvements, too much Unhappiness, lack of Food, all cities hitting size 8, etc.) stops more than about 30% of your size 3+ cities from growing if you keep up the celebration no matter what you do. At that point, you should probably stop immediately. You can do it again later when more cities can benefit.

This kind of message is just one of those things I love about playing Civ. It’s just fun to hear sentences like “The Sioux capture the Greek city of (Aztec city name)” or “Every turn the Vikings sneak attack, often with nuclear weapons.”

So I get the barrage of 50 messages saying every city of size 3 or greater is now celebrating. Note the sizes of all cities in this screenshot.

Instant jump from 2 to 3+ million as massive growth hits.

Scouting continues.

Never get tempted to attack a land target with a scout ship. It pretty much always ends in disaster and misses the point of what you’re there to do.

Wheee! Every single city that was higher than size 2 has grown at once! Now I repeat the algorithm.

And again. In 3 turns, nearly every city is going to hit the size 8 no-Aqueduct limit. That is generally where one should end the party. In 5 turns you can take any number of cities from 3 to 8, more than doubling Science and Taxes forever.

Meanwhile, the war continues. It has been constant fighting around Achilles’ Heel, so my Crusaders are getting worn out. I’ll speed-buy a new one.

The idealized 3-8 Celebration is rarely possible or entirely desirable. In real games, you often have a bunch of cities joining in late or a few snags that slow one or two down. Or you have some which can benefit from Aqueducts and thus need to go clear up to 12. But keep the turn count as small as you can.

Here’s the stuff you read my LP for. As your cities grow, they start competing with each other for tiles. This is where you need to be an expert with city micro. It’s not enough to manage each city individually, you must also consider how to distribute good tiles between multiple cities.

For example, Rome here is about to stop partying. That one Unhappy citizen will ruin everything.

Turning people into Entertainers to solve the problem could stop my Food surplus down to 0.

What I need is to acquire a bit more Food so that I can make some Entertainers without trouble. But there’s no good Food tiles left! See those ones with white outlines? Those are wonderful Irrigated Grasslands, but the white outline means another city is using them and therefore Rome can’t.

Gnome was the problem. The black tiles were ones Gnome was working that Rome couldn’t have. As you can see, Gnome is still doing great without them.

There is NO advantage to having a surplus of +5 Food or so instead of +1 during celebration, so don’t be wasteful. Keep every city at +1 or so instead of one city being at +4 and one city running out of Food and therefore no longer growing.

This becomes more critical as your cities go beyond size 8 or in interior cities.

As you can see, Rome is now working perfectly.

I never got that message before, but I assume it’s just the version of “Civ A and Civ B sign the City Name Pact to contain Roman aggression” message you get when you have embassies with everyone. Just means I’m doing well.

Given their new secret alliance, I assume they want an excuse to declare war on me again. Whatever.

… what?

This makes no sense at all.

Of course not. Diplomacy with Japan has been dull because they have no techs and won’t share maps or do anything.

Darn it! Shoo!

Well I have a good new wonder anyway. Sun Tzu’s War Academy makes all your newly trained troops spawn as veterans and all your old ones become veterans after a single battle. That’s amazingly useful for conquest players.

I can buy Crusaders, but that’s not enough. The barbarians will have time to sack these giant cities if I just do that. And they’ll cost tons of money to buy back because they’re huge cities, and the process will shrink them too. I can’t let that happen.

So I activate my Horsemen and have them run into Nome and Gnome. Those cities will shrink when the Legions inevitably win, but they won’t be conquered. Then next turn I’ll have my Crusaders ready.

Rome has hit size 12, and therefore cannot grow any more without a Sewer System city improvement. And that won’t be available forever. Plus it’s almost never worth growing past 12.

A Marketplace here will let this celebration continue. They’re perfect for that little extra Luxury oomph in problem cities.

Just as planned, the Legions were held off and my Crusaders wipe them out.

Haven’t really talked Aqueducts yet. They’re a niche building which newbs build WAY too many of.

Aqueducts unlock very early on (with Construction) but aren’t useful till later. They cost a fairly high number of shields (80) to build and a painful 2 gold in upkeep every turn. And as I said, they let cities grow to size 12 instead of 8.

But that’s rarely worth it. Any good strategy is smallpoxish, so cities are packed in. So beyond size 8 they probably only have bad tiles available and thus may not naturally grow anyway. Let alone produce enough new Trade to be worth the expense.

Furthermore, beyond size 8, you’ll likely need additional anti-unhappiness buildings like high-upkeep Colosseums.

Even under a Celebration strategy, you should definitely not build Aqueducts willy-nilly. Identify a few cities which have loads of good tiles only they can work and build Aqueducts only there.

5 turns in and mostly done.

Don’t make the newb mistake of continuing to waste your economy on massive Luxuries when only a few cities are actually still growing. I’ve just build Aqueducts in some of those places and I have a few more growing elsewhere, so I’ll go another few turns.

The more Luxuries you’re using, the more cities need to be growing to justify continuing the celebration. One decent rule of thumb might be to stop when the % growing is less than your luxury % +10.

The “Third Rome” is crammed onto the northern peninsula.

Romulus and Remus are the cities of my first colony island.

One big reason I’m still celebrating is that Achilles’ Heel just hit size 3 and can therefore now grow. This city is extremely important.

The Greeks have taken dozens and dozens of casualties, so they want peace.

King now.

This won’t work, I just want to show that.

Like I’ve said, the treacherous senate will overrule you to sign basically any treaty you’re offered. Under a Republic the chance of this happening is a much more reasonable 50%.

Once in a blue moon the Senate will accept just a ceasefire and let you reject a peace treaty.

Just thought I’d check.

This Trireme has now circled the north pole. Time to grab some Settlers for colonies.

Like I said before, polar cities are pretty much always great and Hoth is no exception. The reason is that they’re basically the same as island cities: really hard to attack and extremely prosperous and capable of growing to enormous size once they have a Harbor.

This is yet another reason why pure smallpox is an obviously terrible idea. Polar cities and island colonies and so forth can always be made into gigantic metropoli with a tiny investment in things like Harbors and Marketplaces without in any way penalizing your other cities since there’s no space around them to build more. So play those cities more bigpox and play the land ones more smallpox.

The Great Library gets me a garbage tech. Knights are Legions with 2 move, which would be great except that once again there are more specialized units available faster and cheaper. Like the almighty Crusader.

Time to stop the party. It’s been a slightly inefficient 13 turns instead of 9, but I have a lot to show for those extra 4. Basically all of the following is a busy one-turn cleanup of the party and its aftermath.

Immediately drop to 0% Luxuries and check the attitude screen. If you have just a few red cities, patch them up with a few speed-bought Temples or the like, or with Entertainers while they build Temples themselves. If you have a ton of red cities, crank the Luxuries up to 10% and then manage the few that remain. You definitely shouldn’t have to go over 10% to eliminate all civil disorder. 0% is feasible if you didn’t go over size 8 anywhere.

Banks can be good for this. Basically they’re like a second tier of Marketplace, but more expensive. This changes everything about their use.

You should build a Marketplaces in every single city as soon as feasible as a Republic/Democracy. They cost 1 gold per turn, but produce City Trade x Tax Rate x 0.5 gold. Thus a mere size 3 city with 10 Trade and a tiny Tax rate of 20% already breaks even. You can get a serious profit every turn with a real city and real Tax rate. And that’s not even getting into the Luxuries generated.

But Banks cost a whole 3 gold per turn. With 20% Taxes, it would take at least 30 Trade to pay for itself. With 30-40% Taxes like I’m going to have, they’re a bit more viable. But still definitely a specialty building. You build these less to make real money and more to generate some Luxuries with no net money cost.

Every advanced tech is randomly unavailable at once. I’ll pick up Bridge Building. For one thing, it’s a prereq for Railroad, which is game-changing. It’s also nice on its own since it lets you finally build Roads on tiles with Rivers. That’s great for mobility AND Trade. Of course, I have unusually few Rivers to use it on.

I’ve been building 1 wonder per 5 turns or so for a while now. Adam Smith’s Trading Co is great for anyone playing a hybrid strategy- and especially a Celebration strategy. It makes every city improvement that would normally cost 1 gold per turn (like Temples, Marketplaces, Harbors, and Libraries) cost 0 instead. When you have, say, 50 cities with 2-3 little improvements each, that can be hundreds of extra gold per turn. Forever.

Time for trade route Caravans. Many guides tell you to have Caravans establish trade routes ASAP, but that’s bad advice. Early game you desperately need wonders. And you don’t have Roads everywhere and your Trade sucks in every city, so you’d be lucky to get +2 Trade per route. Some might give +0. Thus it’s better to spend the Caravans speeding up wonder construction early on. This phase is the time for trade routes.

Now the one-time gold payment (and thus supply and demand) don’t matter compared to the Trade bonuses. And what matters isn’t just getting the biggest trade bonuses you can, but getting big bonuses out with maximum speed in many cities. Every city can have only 3 trade routes, so it wastes time (and therefore Trade) to have high-Production cities that can flood out the Caravans establish routes with each other and then have no others to make. Instead, have the high-Production cities establish routes with low-Production cities. That will give you the most routes/turn.

Here’s the new route! +5 Trade is about the best you can reliably get at this point, though something like +8 is possible between 2 size 12s. But 3x 5 is a nice 15 per city and when many of my cities only have about 25 Trade, that’s a gigantic increase. Oh and as clarification, the listed 38 INCLUDES the Caravan +5.

Interesting! I sent out a Settler from my colony in Japan and found out that the Japanese have finally established a second city. It looks ripe for the picking.

And as planned my giant army has finally arrived in the south of Japan. Everything has proceeded like clockwork with my celebration ending as I’m finally in position to begin the war to end all wars.

There’s one last move to make. Sell every Aqueduct in every city which has hit size 12. Aqueducts are needed to GROW beyond size 8 but not to stay there. If your city is done growing forever, then an Aqueduct does nothing but drain your treasury for 2 gold per turn. Reaping 80 instant gold from each one sold is nice too.

I’m rich! I rake in more money than most people’s entire treasuries every turn and I have about 4x the Science I had before my celebration began.

Time to get serious.

Just in time, nearly the entire Ocean has been explored. I now know the layout of everything except Sioux territory. And with my colonies and control of the seas, I now own well over half of it. Time to turn that into 100%.

Delenda est Carthago!