World Size: Standard
Land Mass: Normal
Land Shape: Continents
This was my first game of Civ III, and I intended to play it through no matter what happened, rather than start over. I ultimately lost this game, but there were times when it looked much bleaker than the way it ended.
SPECIAL NOTE: this game was played on the original release version. In the wake of the first patch, version 1.16f, game elements have changed, rendering some bits of my commentary here obsolete. This is still a solid report, however, with still-useful insights at a beginning level. So I will let it stand, unaltered. Here it is, the first game of Civ III that I played:
I started out in an unfavorable position. My units began on a hill, away from the coast, with only a few plots of grassland nearby. I turned out to be located on the north end of the smaller of two continents. The Aztecs were nearby, just a couple of city lengths to my south, and expanding in my direction. My initial strategy? To build a granary first, then pump out settlers in rapid fashion. As it turned out, this plan was flawed.
Some of my initial difficulty arose from erroneous presumptions carried forth from Civilization and Civ II. Civ III has some striking differences, more even than I could have imagined. Here you can see I've sent my only worker on a road building streak, and he's down at the intended site of my second city, clearing out the forest there. So what's wrong with this? Two things. Firstly, I did not yet realize that grasslands and plains can now be mined. Thus, an already bad situation is made worse by failing to mine, which slowed my growth. Secondly, settlers now automatically clear away any forest or jungle in the squares in which they settle. Forest and Jungle are now terrain modifiers of a sort, not inherent terrain types as in previous games. So I wasted a good dozen worker-turns clearing a square that would have been cleared automatically. Play and learn, that's what this game was about. And if you learn from mistakes, I must have been learning a LOT. :)
Barbarians sprang up to my west, so I had to build some military units to fend them off. I was "waiting" to grow to size 5 before I churned out the settlers, which was another mistake. Every other civ in the game had FOUR or more cities before I finally plunked down my first new settlement. How I worked out of that hole, I am still not sure. Note also that my science rate is 80% on Bronze Working. Another mistake, which I'll detail more a bit later.
One of the biggest changes in the game is the requirement for FRESH water to be able to irrigate. I'm not sure how realistic that one is, considering that in the real world, rivers and lakes are far more abundant than represented in this game. Nevertheless, it is a gaming reality that you may start (as I did here) in a region of land with absolutely no sources of fresh water. This means that until refrigeration (electricity) comes along, you can't irrigate at all. This certainly slows the growth of your population, but it's not all bad. If you mine out all your land, you will have a surplus of shields and build improvements and military more quickly. It takes longer to mine than to irrigate, though, so naturally it's better to have some fresh water on hand. Fresh water is huge in another regard, too: any city built next to a river or lake does not require an aqueduct to grow larger than size six. This has three effects: firstly, you can grow larger than six before you get Construction (not likely to happen unless you start with at least two luxuries nearby, but still perhaps useful, especially for churning out more workers quickly (see my Pointers section for more on that). Secondly, you don't have to wait to build a costly aqueduct (100 shields!) in order to keep growing. Thirdly, those 100 shields could have been dedicated to building a library or colleseum more quickly, thus vastly improving your cultural rating (getting an early start on culture is most of the cultural battle: the early bird gets the worm). So building next to fresh water can overrule other concerns. It may be wiser to build in an otherwise less-than-ideal location just to avoid the need for an aqueduct, as the benefits of that are simply huge in the development of your new city.
Some of the fun of Civ III, however, is not going to come from finding out what you can do with ideal lands. Oh for sure, that will be fun. But trying to overcome the adversity of crappy land may be even more interesting. If nothing else, take from this first spot report of mine, that you can make mistakes and suffer bad luck and still make something good out of it.
The AI's (Artificial Intelligence -- shorthand for your computer opponents)... The AI's are adept at expansion. In Civ and Civ2, the AI's were somewhat incompetent at expansion. A dedicated player could easily out-expand them in almost every situation, and then overwhelm them with your sheer size, overcoming the penalties of higher difficulty by out-producing the enemy. In Civ III, nothing could be further from the truth. These AI's are rabid expansionists, and they will fill every last inhabitable square of the globe at their earliest convenience. Rapid expansion on the player's part is no longer a matter of dominant strategy. Now it's a question of sheer survival, as you must get a decent slice of the pie before it's been completely carved up and consumed. You'll have to figure out what to do in each situation, but place some priority on resources, as much as on strategic positioning and border formation. Also, corruption is now a huge factor, so you have relatively little to worry about from enemies with far-flung empires. Cities more than a certain distance from your capital will be forgotten wastelands of corruption, all but useless. Not even courthouses can salvage anything out of some of these. Thus the most important thing, in my current estimation, is grabbing a strong stake in the land near your capital. Those are the cities that will carry your empire to its destiny, whatever that may be.
In Civ III, you can no longer irrigate hills. This would come as news to the Incans, who constructed simply masterful irrigation systems in bona fide mountainous terrain, but this is a reality now in Civ III, so you have to account for it. Hills can longer be irrigated, while grasslands can now be mined. Tundra, also, can no longer be irrigated. I had no tundra terrain here, though. What I had was hills, mountains, and jungle. And coastline. One square of desert, one square of plains, a few grassland, but lots more grassland under the jungle. It takes a hugely long time for workers to clear out the jungle, though.
There are a number of points regarding this screenshot. Firstly, take a look at Cattaraugus. Note that it is landlocked. This was a mistake. The reason I plunked it down there was to get that silk within range of the city. That turned out not to be necessary, as cultural borders will expand eventually. I would have been much better off to place this city one square to the northwest. I could then have settled a second city over there, on that jungle square jutting out into the bay, before the Aztec culture expanded that far. I would have been much better off with a stronger Cattaraugus on the sea, and a second half-city that close to the capital. That leads me to my second observation. I almost didn't bother with Tonawanda. That land up there was simply HORRID. One fist, one plains with a horse, one hills with a horse, one shared hills with Grand River, two more hills, the rest mountains and coastline. That city was stuck at size 2 until it could build a temple. Then I got the fish and grew to size 4, but was stuck there until it could build a harbor, ever so slowly. However, long term, this pathetic little splotch of property (built ON a hills, I forgot to mention) turned out to be a major contributor to my progress. It ultimately never grew past size 15, but it far and away exceeded any and all expectations I had for it. I settled there mostly because I had nowhere else to go, and I figured it would be worth doing, just didn't realize how much yet.
If I had it to do all over again, I'd have built Grand River on the hill with the gold, built Tonawanda on hill to the right of the horses, built Cattaraugus more to the north, and had a fourth city down by the silk. I'd have squeezed a full extra city out of this land, but of course I hadn't fully explored ALL of my land yet when I build Grand River, so I just made the best of it at the time that I could, and that was true each step of the way. Still, I think it helps to analyze what could have been improved upon, for future reference.
Another mistake I made was being afraid to chop down the forest/jungle in which my luxuries were located. I could have improved Allegheny in particular if I had chopped that forest down a lot sooner. They had plenty of hills over there, and not enough grasslands. Luxuries do not ever seem to disappear, so that was a false worry.
Being a religious society, temples were half cost, a mere 30 shields to build, so of course I was building those first in every settlement. This led to my people having the strongest culture on the continent, and that likely helped me in ways I still haven't understood. It also helped in ways I do now know about, but did not anticipate. More on that a bit later.
Over to the right, you can see a size 2 city. Like Tonawanda, Oil Springs was a "fixer-upper" settlement. I settled next to two dyes in the jungle, on the shore. I had, literally, two hills, a few mountains, and miles and miles of jungle or coastline. That city took 80 turns, one at a time, to build a courthouse, and it wasn't until workers had cleared out some of the jungle squares that the city began to grow at all. Eventually, it was a major city, but for most of the game, it was a struggling colony, yet also my only source of tradable goods, those two surplus units of dye. Below it is another jungle city on lands even worse. A second iron was in the mountains there, but the Aztecs beat me to the punch and settled the location first. I was simply NOT going to tolerate that, so I marched my troops over there and went to war. The city was captured quickly and easily, as to be blunt, that was MY territory, strategically, and the Aztecs had stretched their neck too far in trying to grab it. After taking the city, I was quickly able to re-establish peace with a small reparation (a few gold, I think), but Iroquois-Aztec relations suffered for quite some time after that, and tensions ran high at times.
Finally, to the north you see "the colonies". It was my great misfortune to take the first galley I constructed, at Tonawanda, and circle the continent clockwise. I was unaware of the island to the north until I saw rival ships darting off in that direction. By then, of course, they had grabbed most (almost all) of that island, and carved it up as colonies. When I did get up there, I found one sad little plot of land left and grabbed it, even though it was surrounded and would not have much land to work with. Consider how close this island was to my nation, and how far away from the others, I made the fateful decision to go to war once again to expand my territory. I selected the Americans as the target, because they had two settlements on the island, and because they were farthest away from me (and so I hoped they posed the least threat). It did not take my Mounted Warriors very long to grab the two American colonies. I then had three of the five colonies on the island. Sadly, corruption for each of them was abominable, so they were each constructing temples at one shield per turn, and then courthouses at the same slow pace. Arrgh.
The war with the Americans was my first real taste of Civ III warfare. It was, for me, a defensive war, but I got to experience first hand the new reality in which the old Zones of Control have been watered down. Some American troops (and they sent WAVES of troops, must have been at least two dozen total units) bypassed my massive defense at Niagara Falls and even captured a couple of my workers. I didn't lose any cities, and I did recapture the workers, but some of my improvements got pillaged. After I fended off the Americans and made peace with them, I settled into a consolidation phase. I moved significant forces to the island, to deter any hostilities over there, and build up most of my defense at the stronghold at Niagara, with a minor force at the captured Aztec city on the coast. The rest of my cities had at most two or three defenders. I ended up building a lot of musketmen and riflemen, and upgrading them with gold. I was slow to advance to Replaceable Parts, not yet realizing the vital strategic advantages to getting full blown Infantry and Artillery into the field, as well as doubling worker efficiency. I can't imagine a scenerio now in which I would opt NOT to go straight to Replaceable Parts (perhaps with a pit stop at Industrialization) unless I was deliberately opting to roleplay a particular construct (and embracing less-than-ideal strategic options by design) rather than playing just to win. As such, I "wasted" a lot of gold on strategically unwise troop upgrades. I'd have been better off to retire some of those forces, but the American onslaught in our war had been so determined and numerous that I was perhaps rendered a bit paranoid about defense matters.
Now you finally get a look at the whole world. Things are not looking good, as the Germans have already swallowed Russia, except for her colonies on that tiny rock of a mountainous island in the far north. That place made Tonawanda look like a garden paradise, so the Russians were already effectively out of this game. How the Germans crossed through English land and consumed Russia in a matter of a few turns, I do not know, as all that took place before I made contact with them. (I saw it on the replay, after the game: whew! I'm not kidding, a couple of turns. I can only guess that the Russians lacked vital resources, like Iron, Horses, and Saltpeter. Something went terribly wrong for them). The Germans got an edge in science going (no surprise there) and beat the rest of the world to almost all of the middle ages world wonders, which only put them further ahead. The fate of the world was probably sealed when they built the Hoover Dam, which was right around the time of this screenshot. Nevertheless, I played on, and I am very glad that I did, as I not only held on and learned a lot, but STILL managed to make a real game of this one.
With no rivers in my territory, I learned to my dismay that I could not build hydro plants. Arrgh! I had no choice but to build coal plants and suffer through a lot of pollution.
Yet one of my greatest mistakes was yet another carryover presumption from former Civ games. Look at that last screenshot and observe the pattern of my railroads. Note that I've built railroads through all the hills and gone out of my way to avoid grasslands where not strategically mandatory. BIG mistake. I was operating on the Civ2 principle of railroads only improving shield output. Instead, this game harkens back to Civ1, in which railroads boost almost every square. Not quite, though. They do nothing for forest squares, which doesn't quite make any sense to me. Nevertheless, what railroads now do is to add one food to squares with irrigation in them (not +50% food, but ONE food added, period) and add one shield (again, not 50%) to squares with mines in them. As far as I can see, there is no resource benefit to building railroads through any squares without either irrigation or mining.
I realized my error when I finally noticed, in my capital city, a square producing four food. I thought it was some kind of mistake, or bug, or I didn't know what, but after investigating, I realized that was a square with a railroad. When I built another railroad in an irrigated grassland square, and it added a food, I was banging my head on the desk, because shields were something I had PLENTY of. It was food I desperately needed, and I was wasting piles of turns improving the wrong land first. Ooops.
As many serious strategic mistakes as I made, one wonders how I still managed to survive, even on only Monarch difficulty. Well... I don't think I'd have done so well on Emperor, with this gameplay, so it was a good thing. In fact, it was a real eye opener to get beat at Civ at any difficulty, since it had been quite some time since I lost a Civ game of any kind. Of course, I didn't play all that much Civ2, but more on that in another report.
With all these shields and all these coal plants in operation, and all these mines running, I had a lot of pollution. The pollution drove me to team up my workers so I could clear out polluted squares the same turn they became infected. This led to me discovering and puzzling out the fact that the game has some serious bugs regarding pollution. I hope these get fixed soon, as they are an enormous pain in the butt. The game doesn't stop giving you the production from polluted squares, in cases where a city is maxed out in size and turning its excess population into entertainers and taxmen. If you then clean up the pollution and reassign a worker to the square, you get double production. This means your city can grow beyond its self-sustainable size, or shave a turn off its production, yet any time you modify the city's land or the city changes sizes, the game "corrects" the overproduction and you may then be stuck with an unwanted food shortfall. It's just a real pain in the rear, and it is also a minor cheat, yet it's not entirely clear when the bug is hitting you. Some times I thought it was, and didn't reassign a worker, and actually suffered unfair loss because the bug was NOT hitting me, yet I reacted to fear of it. It was just a lot of work to try to keep track, so I hope that this problem is patched up and soon. It's a major distraction late in a game. For the most part, once my cities have all their land being worked, I clean the pollution up but don't mess with the city. It's still getting the production of the polluted squares, so I let it work that out for itself. Problem is, if another city shares the polluted square, it may grab the square, thinking it's open (when it shouldn't be) and the mess deepens. Whether you are of a mind to exploit bugs, or want to get out from under them, either way you need to know about this one. You'll have to pay attention in-game to fully understand, so keep an eye out.
Since you get the same benefit from railroading a grassland with a mine, as you do for a hills or mountain, do the grasslands first. Do irrigation first, for cities that still have a lot of growing to do and have been growing slowly. Definitely don't do it the way I did it here. :)
One of the surprising things that happened was an American city across the bay revolted and joined my empire. This was a cultural takeover, something I didn't even know was possible. (If you haven't guessed, I didn't read through the manual, but relied instead on the Civilopedia and my knowledge of prior Civ games). The new city, Buffalo, was not in the best location, but it gave me a foothold on the doorstep of the Romans, and it gave me a second place to mass my military. I had to ferry units across the bay via ship, so I dragged a few vessels over there and transferred lots of infantry and cavalry over to defend my new city.
Eventually, the Romans made demands of me that I refused to grant, and we went to war. Buffalo suffered a near-total loss of surrounding improvements as it came under siege. However, the city itself was in no danger of falling. My artillery decimated charging enemy units and my soldiers mopped them in ruthless fashion. This is where I learned the extreme tactical value of a strong bombardment element. Artillery can't wipe out any forces, but they sure can soften them up for you.
While defending this city, I acquired my first-ever Leader. I used him to form up an army, and of course I won some victories with that army, so that opened up the chance to build the Heroic Epic and the Military Academy, which I would do. I made a mistake here, though. I used different unit types in the army. I didn't understand at the time that the unit values would be averaged for the whole army. It certainly seems wiser to me now to use all the same troop type in an army. I haven't found any way to Unload a unit from an army; it seems that once you add units, they become permanent elements of that army. This has some down sides, and I'm not sure it's realistic or wise. Perhaps there is a way to unload units I just haven't found yet? If you know of such a way, send me a message.
An army makes for an extremely valuable military asset. You get a unit with triple health, which can make for a great assault tool against strongly held enemy fortifications, as well as a nearly unbreakable defender in any city with a barracks (which heals units entirely between turns, if they spent the whole turn there, just as in Civ2).
Leaders are a bit of a luck factor, but not too bad. More of a percentage thing. If you get veteran units into extreme combat in a war, your odds of getting some elites and acquiring at least one leader seem pretty good.
The randomnity of strategic resources, on the other hand, is not (to me) a welcome luck factor. It's not so much where the resources appear -- that I can cope with. But they have an ENTIRELY TOO GREAT of a chance to be "consumed" and disappear, and that is TOTALLY random. It's fixed at the start of the turn before it happens, but I have found that if you backtrack two turns, you can prevent a resource from randomly disappearing. Both in this game, and in subsequent games, the resources were disappearing a LOT, way too much, unrealistically too much considering how rare they are. No game of Civilization ought to be turning for good or ill on the random luck of the dice on a single turn somewhere, regarding one key resource you have to fight and scrounge to secure. I don't have many complaints about this game, but the disappearing strategic resources is a silly random factor that has no strategic place in Civilization. This ain't Master of Magic, right? It's a strategy game, not a dice game, right? ... Right?
Anyway, as luck would have it, I had no plains or desert in my region, so I had no oil. My Iroquois army climbed to nearly a hundred infantry units, but I could not build tanks or any decent ships, nor any planes, because I lacked oil. The only civ who had extra oil to trade was... the Germans. I eventually traded them an arm and a leg for twenty turns of oil, which got me eight or ten tanks, some ships and planes, and got me into the game. From there, I was able to march on the Romans and take over one of their oil resources, but that took some real effort.
Before I traded for that oil, I tried to rally the world against the Germans. I did get the English, French, and Americans to declare war on Germany, but that turned out to be a mistake. Germany swallowed France whole in about ten turns, even as I sent three galleons of troops across the sea. I used English territory and a Right of Passage to set up my attack, hoping to pick on those distant and weak Russian cities under German control. Well, I came too late. I arrived and cut the German territory into two, cut their road and lines of supply, but even as I took hold in the mountains in the middle of their continent, they rolled out the Panzers and that was all she wrote for England and France. They swallowed the rest of the continent in short order. I had about two thirds of my expeditionary force in the mountains, and oppressive war weariness forced me to sue for peace. The Russians built a colony over there and I conquered that, establishing a presence on the German mainland and securing a luxury resource for the next forty turns or so. That was the point at which I traded an arm and a leg to Germany for some Oil.
When the oil deal ran out, Germany threatened me and demanded the one thing I had finally managed to earn: some techs they didn't have. I concentrated on the Computers and Genetic Engineering line, and for the first time since early in the game when I built the Colossus, my people started building world wonders. I got SETI and both medical wonders, and this pissed off the Germans. They wanted my tech, I refused, and to war we went. I had moved out of the mountains to that Russian city, but a swarm of Panzers rolled over that in just two turns. The Russians were the world whipping boy now, so Germany and I carved up that Russian rock of an island (it wasn't worth it, actually). The Germans also declared war on the Americans, as had the Romans, and the Americans were the next ones wiped out. The the Germans set their sights on the Romans. I had enough ships and artillery to fend off even the great German battleship fleet and German transports. Like the real Germany in WWII, controlling western Europe, I had troops fortified all along the shore, and since the AI's don't seem fond of using Marines, that made my lands impregnable to German invasion. I punished any ships that tried to bombard my shores, but by now I had SO MUCH military, I could only afford 20% into science. The rest was paying maintenance on my cities and armed forces. I had territory one third the size of German lands, or one fourth, yet an army comparable to theirs. I had grown quite militaristic, with nothing else to do with all that high production in my cities, with my mountainous homeland.
I was actually incurring huge losses on the Germans, and had an expeditionary fleet harassing their shores, starting to feel I was turning the tide militarily, and I was punishing the collaborating Aztecs, my close neighbors, by finally unleashing my full wrath on them. They were losing a major city every other turn now, but it was late, oh so late. My spaceship was coming along, but the Germans were ahead. They had been slowed down when they had to go Communist to prosecute their wars, but they had SUCH a lead, it was too much. I had one tech left to go, and two more ship components, when the Germans finished their ship in 1995 and the game was lost. There wasn't much left of either the Romans or the Aztecs. It was all Iroquois (me) and Germany.
If you examine the final screenshot, you'll see Centralia and Tyendenaga in there. Small cities. Big mistake. In Civ1 and Civ2, I would often fill in gaps in my land late in the game by building more cities, tiny little things to increase my score a little more. BAD move here. Every extra city you have increases corruption, and the smaller the world size, the worse the effect. There is actually a point past which adding or capturing more cities can render current ones useless and impose a net drain on your civilization. I know better now. Certain situations early in the game may warrant building half-size cities, to fill out your land, especially if you don't have a lot of cities and a lot of ground. But following the example of the AI's, who will go to any lengths to establish new colonies even at the most distant ends of the earth, is a bad idea. Build a strong nation close to home, use your Forbidden Palace wisely, and don't overexpand. As crazy as that would sound for Civ or Civ II, for this game there IS a point past which more cities are actually not desirable, unless they are strong cities, or on your current borders, or holding key world wonders. It might even be better to raze cities to the ground, in some cases, even if they just rebuild them. You'll have to sort that out. I'm still gauging this issue.
I hope you enjoyed this report. I'll write another one as the opportunity presents.
If you would like to try your hand at replaying this game, you can Download the Save File and unzip it to your Civ III/Saves directory. These saved games are over a MB each, but they compress very nicely into zip format, so it's not at all a long download. Unfortunately, I do not have a save from the first turn. This save file is from 1550 BC, where a couple of my mistakes and choices dictate the scenerio, but there should be plenty of room in there for you to set your own destiny. If you decide to try it, feel free to drop me a line when you're all done to tell me how it went for you.
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