Civilization II

Civilization II (released in 1996) has often been referred to as the best computer strategy game of all time. It's certainly very addictive, and I've personally spent far too much time on it in the past. But I'm rather surprised at the sort of praise it attracts, because it has substantial defects.

The good

The bad

Given all these defects, it's surprising that the game is so addictive. But it is.

How to win

There are two basic approaches to the game: peaceful and warlike. It's deliberately designed so that you can win either way. Unfortunately, the peaceful way is more difficult, takes longer, and becomes really tedious and troublesome because of all the city maintenance you have to get involved in, all the nuisance attacks from the programmed opponents that you have to keep fighting off, and the awkward restrictions of republican and democratic governments.

Therefore I have to recommend the military option. And this is how I go about it.

My objective is to control all cities on the map as soon as possible (I try to minimize the length of the game because I enjoy it less and less as it goes on). To do this I need resources, and you get resources from cities. So I build as many as I can, as fast as I can. I try to build each city three squares from the last one, so that military units can move from one city to another in one turn by road. Cities that close to each other can never grow to maximum size, but I don't plan to grow huge cities anyway (they take a lot of troublesome maintenance): just lots of smaller ones.

I try to have a military unit there already when building a city. Completely undefended cities attract opposing units and barbarians, and it's so annoying to lose a city without even a fight.

A city should be building a settler unless:

If it's not building a settler, it should be building a military unit, ship, caravan, or diplomat. Don't bother with public buildings until you have at least 14 cities; after which the inadequately-documented “riot factor” sets in and gives you unhappiness problems the more cities you build. This problem goes away when you move to communism, but it inhibits expansion under monarchy. Garrison each city with three units to keep the population under control (and for defence). Harbors can be useful in some cases.

There are four Wonders worth building: the Pyramids (as soon as possible), Sun Tzu's War Academy, Leonardo's Workshop, and the Statue of Liberty. If you play at Deity level (I don't), add Michaelangelo's Chapel to that list. I try to avoid the temptation to build other Wonders, though I like capturing them. The Hanging Gardens may be worth building.

I try to use settlers to build new cities whenever feasible. Terrain improvements are tempting but less important. I build roads first, because they speed up movement and also increase city trade. I then consider mining hills. For some reason I become irresistibly tempted to irrigate, but irrigation should be low priority unless a city needs more food to grow at all.

I go from despotism to monarchy as soon as possible, then from monarchy to communism as soon as possible. The quickest way (though never quick enough) is to research Democracy, build the Statue of Liberty, then have a revolution and select communism. Communism gives you fewer problems than any other government (in this game, anyway!), and still allows you a reasonable rate of scientific research (unlike fundamentalism). Don't even think about republicanism or democracy: they're more trouble than they're worth.

The main use of caravans is to allow multiple cities to contribute towards building a Wonder. It's probably not worth building caravans for any other purpose. But remember you can finish off a Wonder with cash, if you have enough cash. That's particularly useful if you get a warning that someone else is about to complete the Wonder you're working on.

The main use of diplomats, oddly enough, is to knock down city walls. If you're finding it hard to attack an opponent because of his city walls, assemble a force of diplomats and sabotage the walls.