How to Beat Your Kids in Civilization 6

Normally I don’t let my kids play video games for two long time, but I have made an exception for civilization 6, since it is a game it takes a while to actually get anything done in and I consider it a highly educational game.

My own interest in fields as diverse as history, political science and economics got spurred initially by playing the first version of civilization years ago while I was still in middle school.

The modern incarnation is even more packed with historical references. Not only, do we end up discussing historical world leaders, but we also talk about what different technologies are. For instance by kids ask what exactly is “replaceable parts” and why was it important? So I get to go into a tangent the importance of tolerance for mass production. Of course you need to wrap this up in a language kids in elementary school can comprehend.

They are also intrigued by all the various wonders one can build in civilization such as the Venetian Arsenal, or famous people like Leonardo da Vinci all which produce numerous teachable moments.

Half the fun playing is of course to try to beat dad. And this is where it gets interesting. To them they seem to be well ahead of me initially and yet somehow I always end up coming on top every time. To teach them about strategic thinking I ask them each time, why they think I end up winning every time despite seemingly lagging far behind.

The Difficulty of Understanding Long Term Effects of Short Term Decisions

This is where it becomes difficult to connect the dots. Here is what my kids see when they compare outcomes until we get to the modern age:

  1. Dad is always far behind in technological development. Half the fun is laughing at the primitive archers I am moving around while they have musket men and cannons.
  2. Dad seems to have less of everything: wonders, universities etc.
  3. They have bigger armies.
  4. The kids get more of the famous people.

Yet at some point everything flips around, dad is researching faster and starts rapidly catching up. He is making bucket loads of gold coin and buying whatever he pleases. Armies grow larger and more sophisticated. Meh we don’t like this game. Why don’t we start a new one dad?

So what am I doing different? I confess I don’t actually know the ins and out of Civilization 6. It is a very detailed game with lots of special tactics. However I basically follow exactly the same strategy as I developed years ago when playing Civilization 2. My priorities are in given order:

  1. Expand your cities very aggressively. Build settlers as fast as possible. Make any decision that will let you crank out more settlers.
  2. Focus hard on food production. You want your cities to grow rapidly.
  3. Production capacity. Prioritize putting cities where you can get hold of forrest, mines or anything that can grow your production capacity. However there needs to be access to food production for initial rapid population growth.
  4. Connect cities. Send traders between cities to connect them by road. Why is this important? Because to make your empire work effectively you need rapid transport between cities. You need to be able to send builders from a city that can crank them out, or settlers quickly from one end to another to expand empire. You need to be able to send soldiers quickly to cities under attack etc.
  5. Make money. Money is very important in modern civilization. More so than in the past. Without it you cannot secure important hex tiles before competitors. It is also invaluable to have a supply of money ready for times of war to quickly buy units.

These priorities give long term benefits. Initially these priorities put you behind. While dad is building settlers to create new cities the kids are building a campus with a library amplifying science output. Or they are building a market place brining in more cash.

Hence the kids will start off making more money and researching faster initially.

This may seem like an advantage. Why would not having more advance tech early accelerate your development?

Limits of Science

The problem is that in Civilization you are almost never limited by science. Typically you are limited by production. If you got the tech to build a tank early in the game it would not matter all that much because your cities would take forever to build it.

A real world example of this exist in WWII. Germany built 1350 Tiger tanks. A tank completely superior to the American Sherman tanks. One Tiger could easily knock out 4–5 Sherman tanks before it got knocked out, if at all.

Sounds great to have the Tiger tank right? Except the Tiger was far more complex to produce. Basically German tech was ahead of German production capacity. America produced over 20 000 Sherman tanks. They rolled off the assembly line so quickly that getting 4 of them knocked out in a battle against a Tiger tank was of no significance.

The same goes for Civilization. Unless you are really far ahead of your opponent in terms of military technology, production capacity will beat technology. A stronger unit can be beaten by multiple weaker units.

Basically science has to evolve in tandem with production capacity. As you are exhausting the types of buildings you can build and can build units very quickly, that is a sign you need to advance your science.

However if you have lots of buildings you can build in your cities and lots of good units but it will take you forever to build them, then it is signal that you are wasting resource advancing science faster than you need.

Limits of Growth

Once you have built a campus, a library and a university you cannot really expand the science output of your city apart from the tiles you work or by assigning a special governor.

Basically if you want to keep expanding scientific output, you need more cities to build campus and libraries in.

If you down prioritize expansion early on, you may not have room available to grow. Your opponents may have grabbed all the desirable land.

That is why I try to expand quickly early on to grab an area to support around 6 cities. It is not just about your own growth, but also about denying growth to your opponents.

It is better to expand early than later because settlers and builders cost much less early in the game and a city settled early will accrue more benefits over the course of the game than a city settled much later.

Having multiple cities rather than a few well developed one is important for multiple reasons:

  1. One of the most important source of income is traders making trade routes. You can typically get max 1 trader per city, because each marketplace or harbor built gives you a trader.
  2. Luxuries. If your civilization cover a small area, the chance that you get hold of strategic resources and luxuries is diminished. To make your cities large you need amenities to grow them and one of the best ways of achieving that is through luxuries.
  3. Specialization. A lot of effects in civilization depends on some specialization. Having multiple specialized cities will give more total output than a few large cities trying to be everything.

Here are some examples of how specialization works in Civilization.

Production Specialization

Putting mines in multiples of two next to an industrial zone gives you production bonus. Putting districts next to an industrial zone gives you a bonus as well. But remember it always has to be 2, 4 or 6 otherwise you don’t get a bonus. 3 mines gives the same bonus as 2. 1 mine gives you zero bonus.

A aqueduct gives you 2 production bonus if adjacent to an industrial zone. Of course it deprives a whole area of other production when you built it, so think careful about where you do it. Maybe you want to work the tile instead of having an aqueduct there. But keep in mind that aqueduct can give you two production without being worked. You cannot work every tile anyway.

Food Specialization

Kind of like mines, two farms next to another farm gives that farm 1 food production bonus. Hence if you build farms in triangles of three, every farm hexagon is next to two other farm hexagon and you get a total of 3 extra food.

Money Specialization

You got the same with money. Putting districts next to commercial district, next to a harbor or resources in the sea giving gold coin bonuses gives you further money production bonus.

There are several other specializations like that of course, but it is just to give you an idea. I tend to prioritize production cities and then assign the production cities a second role such as making money, food, science or culture.



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