Empire Management

EMPIRE MANAGEMENT

Empire Management is a huge facet of Civilization 5, and learning how to do so correctly is one of the primary tests of skill that allows you to play at higher difficulties more effectively. Empire Management is a rather broad term though, as it governs not only how you run your empire, but the choices you make in regard to your civilization, social policies, religion, and wonders. Effective empire management allows all your choices to be complementary. There are two main choices to make even before you start your game, and those are: are you planning to win peacefully or by conquest, and do you want to build fewer larger cities or many smaller cities? Winning peacefully doesn’t mean playing peacefully, however. If you plan to win peacefully but find an enemy AI settling cities close to your start position, it is usually a good choice to take them out early to give yourself breathing room and space to settle yourself. Large cities have high populations and are typically excellent at building wonders and units, while small cities generate science and gold more effectively. Even when choosing to have many small cities, you will still have a couple of large cities where you focus production, although to a lesser extent than choosing to make all your cities large cities. There are a total of five different empire management strategies, one for each combination of those two choices, as well as a fifth outlier that seems similar but behaves very differently from the rest.

Tall and Wall: a peaceful empire that focuses on a few large cities. Tall and Wall is the easiest type of empire to manage, and is the best for producing wonders and units. It does suffer when producing science and gold, as though it will quickly build buildings that modify those resources, it has the slowest population growth.

Sprawl and Wall: a peaceful empire that focuses on many small cities. Sprawl and Wall will quickly grow its population to meet its happiness, and produces science and gold very effectively. It certainly takes more effort to manage though, and depends on specializing cities to produce wonders and units.

Tall and Maul: an aggressive empire that focuses on building a few large cities before warmongering. Tall and Maul shares many of the advantages of Tall and Wall, with little of the downside, as the initial cities you settle will grow to have high populations and excellent production for wonders and units. Where Tall and Wall suffers from slow population growth, Tall and Maul simple takes the populations along with the cities, meaning it also has excellent science and gold. The main drawback in this strategy is that it can by picky with which cities to keep and which to raze or sell, as it’s usually only interested in keeping well placed cities.

Sprawl and Maul: an aggressive empire that focuses on many small cities. Sprawl and Maul starts off similarly to Sprawl and Wall, where you quickly settle territory and then specialize a few for production. It can then start conquering cities, and it does this especially well. It is the most aggressive strategy, and will readily keep nearly any city is conquers, and keep settling where it find room. It suffers in production though, as even with a few specialized cities, unspecialized tall cities will exceed it.

Insane City Sprawl: the outlier of the group, and by far the most reliant on micro-management. Insane City Sprawl (ICS) starts off similarly to Sprawl and Maul, but focuses on maximizing synergies and minimizing waste. It has the potential to far exceed any of the other strategies in generating resources such as science and gold.

After you decide which strategy you are going to employ, then you must get into the nuts and bolts of it. It is very important to make choices that are synergetic to your empire, and those choices will include which civilization to play, which social policies to pick, and which religious beliefs to choose. There are more choices than for these specific strategies, as many civilizations, social policies, and religious beliefs can be good for any strategy. This article doesn’t factor in unique units though, as every civ has them and they are all generally useful. Not to say that some aren’t better than others, but that is a decision for military strategy, not empire management.

CIVLIZATIONS
These civilizations provide excellent benefits all strategies can take advantage of, such as benefits to science or gold, or they provide different bonuses that all strategies can take advantage of.

Arabia: Trade Caravans synergizes with all strategies except for Tall and Wall, while Bazaar particularly synergizes with Tall and Wall, and to a lesser extent, Sprawl and Wall.

Babylon: Ingenuity benefits science, which is something every civ needs. You may not run science specialists in every game, but that’s a decision that’s independent of how you manage your empire. Walls of Babylon might slightly skew Babylon to Tall and Wall, but defensive buildings in general are mediocre for human players.

Denmark: at first glance, Demark seems to be strictly a militant civ. Viking Fury, however, works best when using it for quick strikes and proactive defenses. You can play peacefully and still engage in war, as long as you don’t keep cities civs other than the one you’re fighting generally won’t mind very much, especially once the war is over. If the leading civ is sprawling around the world, using quick strike tactics to pillage and raze remote cities can be a good way to keep them in check without engaging in all out war. Of course, it’s still a good militant ability for watery maps.

Egypt: Monument Builders definitely favors the tall strategies, who will be building the most wonders. Burial Tomb is the opposite though, as it benefits sprawling.

England: Sun Never Sets doesn’t synergize with any strategy at all, but can be very nice depending on which map you play on.

Ethiopia: Spirit of Adwa will only be taken advantage of with a Tall and Wall empire, but Stele synergizes with the rest.

Greece: while those going for conquest aren’t trying to win diplomatically, they can still take advantage of city-states, and Hellenic League is excellent in that regard.

Korea: Scholars of the Jade Hall benefits science, in two different ways. The bonus to specialists slightly favor sprawling empires, who can field more total specialists. The bonus from wonders built favors tall empires, who will be able to build more wonders.

Persia: Achaemenid Legacy provides a bonus to golden ages, which peaceful strategies will have to most of since they usually have higher excess happiness, while the minor combat bonus during golden ages and Satrap’s Court benefit sprawling empires instead.

Russia: Siberian Riches provides two bonuses: the increase production from strategic resources benefits sprawling empires who want to only work the best tiles with their smaller populations, while the doubled resources benefits tall empires who may only have limited qualities in their territories. Krepost is similar but in a less useful way: sprawling empires won’t build barracks in all their cities while tall empires will be able to push their culture borders easily anyways.

Siam: Father Governs Children increases food from maritime city-states, something sprawling empires can take advantage of moreso, while the increase to faith and culture matters more to tall empires who are limited in how many buildings they can build to generate those resources. Wat provides a flat increase that favors sprawling empires, but the fact that it is a midgame building and would take awhile to build in small cities favors tall empires, making it a wash.

SOCIAL POLICIES
Most social policies obviously favor particular strategies over others. There are only a few that don’t.

Piety: this social policy tree has an even mix of policies that favor some strategies over others. The opener, organized religion, and the finisher favor sprawling empires. Mandate of heaven, theocracy, and reformation favor tall empires. Reformation provides equal benefits to all strategies.

Patronage: city-states are useful for all strategies, although this obviously favors diplomatic victories. It makes for a good backup plan when warmongering if you come to a stalemate, though.

Rationalism: much like patronage, most policies benefit all strategies equally. Unlike patronage, science is always useful no matter what your plans are, and this policy should always be picked up if piety is not.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
There are a lot of religious beliefs, from pantheon, founder, follower, and enhancer. There are far, far too many to go over them individually, but some general tenants hold. If the belief provides a flat bonus per city or per tile, it usually favors sprawling empires. If it provides a percentage increase or bonus based on population/followers, it generally favors tall empires. A good example of this is to compared Church Property (+2 gold per city following religion) and Tithe (+1 gold for every four followers). In order for those two to be equal, a city would need to have 8 followers (not population, mind you), and would need 12 population for Tithe to exceed Church Property.

The beliefs that don’t favor any specific empire management strategy would be: faith healers, goddess of protection, sacred path, religious settlements, papal primacy, and defender of the faith.

WONDERS
Wonders can be a lot of fun to build, or very frustrating if you’re competing with against other civs to see who finishes one first. Tall strategies will generally be able to build more wonders compared to sprawling strategies, but building key wonders can be important no matter how you develop your empire. The following wonders would be considered useful for both tall and sprawl.

Circus Maximus: national wonders are usually difficult for sprawling empires to build, but since this one comes early when there are few cities, requires one of the most important buildings to be built for sprawling empires, and provides happiness, a crucial resource for sprawling empires, makes this an excellent nation wonder to build. Tall empires will of course be able to easily be able to build this, and will enjoy the happiness just the same.

National College: much like Circus Maximus, this is an early national wonder that depends on a very important building to be built. Unlike the Circus though, this one is so powerful is can be worth delaying mass sprawling to get this one built. Tall empires will easily build it, usually right after building the Great Library.

National Epic: tall empires will enjoy the benefit this provides, and sprawling empires won’t have much difficulty being able to build it since it requires only monuments. Sprawling empires tend to focus their great person generation in only a few cities, magnifying the benefit of this.

Oxford University: a free tech is always useful, which is good because while universities will be prioritized in sprawling empires, it can still take a lot longer than for tall empires to get them up in every city. The greater beakers gained from late game techs tends to even out the +3 base science this building provides if you build it early.

The Great Library: this powerful wonder is much like Oxford University, but is available very early in the game, and can be worth bee-lining to build. Tall empires that open with tradition should be able to get this wonder regularly even at higher difficulties, although sprawling empires might have to skip it unless they play Egypt or get Monument to the Gods early. Building this to lead into Philosophy and then National College is a common early game strategy, although expansion must be slowed to do that.

Petra: this wonder usually isn’t built quickly, and you can factor it while placing cities. An otherwise rubbish desert location with just a few useful resources like iron or copper can definitely enjoy this wonder. For Tall, it just means an otherwise lackluster area can be worth building a city on, while for sprawling, this wonder is only worth building if you want that city to be one of your core production cities. It is quite nice when there are a lot of desert hills as well.

Notre Dame: the faith is great for tall, the happiness is great for sprawl.

Taj Mahal: a free golden age and some extra happiness is very, very useful. Better when combined with Chichen Itza, although sprawling empires probably won’t find that worth building since golden ages are harder to come by. They will get more mileage out of the happiness, though.

Statue of Liberty: taking advantage of specialists can be a very important aspect of the game, and the extra production can work wonders for both tall and sprawl empires.

VICTORY CONDITIONS

Before I go into the specifics for each empire strategy, I’d like to speak about how the different victory conditions can change your empire. I’m not including conquest/domination victories here, as they change the strategies so much to require their own section. This section isn’t really very in depth as it could be, but really just to attempts to relate how your choices of a victory condition change your other choices to how you run your empire.

CULTURAL
Cultural victories primarily focus on two things: artist specialists and wonders. The basic culture buildings will never generate enough culture quickly enough to win. Tall and Wall has an easier time with culture, although Sprawl and Wall can do it as well, they just have to focus on getting as many artists working as possible. Farms are very important to support the large specialist population, and focusing on building Cathedrals in your cities with faith is very important when sprawling. Piety is very important to fill, which means skipping Rationalism. For tall the final policy should be Freedom of course, while sprawl might still prefer Order. Being able to purchase great engineers with faith allows sprawling empires to quickly finish wonders soon after unlocking them. While nothing else in the tree specifically benefits culture, the general bonuses per city can help you emphasize culture otherwise, as well as support your economy and protect your borders. Because culture in sprawling takes longer to accumulate, you have a higher chance to need to play aggressively near the end of the game to prevent another civ from winning peacefully. Puppet cities are only modestly helpful for a cultural victory, as while they don’t increase the culture cap, they don’t emphasize culture and won’t invest in artist specialists.

DIPLOMATIC
Diplomatic victories really only need one thing: gold. How you generate gold usually would be trade posts, but merchant specialists are another way to go, especially for tall empires. Unlike the other peaceful strategies, diplomatic victories require more presence in world politics. City-states must be defended against large civs trying to attack them, so a non-defensive military presence is important, especially a highly mobile one. Patronage is very important for diplomatic victories, but any of the other ones are fine to compliment it. Commerce does have more synergy than others since gold is so important, but is really only worth filling out on a watery map, especially for tall. Diplomatic is a good fallback for an aggressive empire who comes to a standstill, as long as you left those city-states alone when you went on the warpath.

SCIENTIFIC
Scientific victories require the least investment of all the victories, as science is already very important for all empires. You will need a few production cities to build the parts, but the only empire that might have trouble with that is ICS. It is the fallback victory condition if you go to war with both civs and city-states, and reach a stalemate near the end of the game. The only social policy that really matters is Rationalism, but even that doesn’t matter if you can maintain the tech lead. Since Piety will usually be skipped, faith isn’t as important, especially for tall empires who will have the weakest faith generation.

TALL AND WALL

Tall and Wall settles only a few cities over the course of the entire game, mostly in the early phases. It takes advantage of the free buildings provided by tradition to the first four cities founded. lt is able to build nearly every building desirable in their cities, and almost all cities will have the production to build wonders. The populations will be very large, and the culture borders will extend very far. It benefits from percentage increases to resources the most, as it has the highest populations per city and thus the highest base resources being generated. Since the empire is small, the army needed to defend it is small as well, so there is little emphasis on building military buildings or units, giving this strategy even more time to build wonders. Tall and Wall is typically the only strategy to actually build defensive buildings such as walls and castled in all its cities. This empire usually maintains the best relations with other civs, and will get the best trading opportunities. It is also the easiest to defend because the power is so centralized. Playing a one city challenge would also fall under this category, and tends to be the most extreme form of Tall and Wall. Since this is a peaceful strategy, the type of victory will be either cultural, science, or diplomatic.

CIVILIZATIONS
The best civilizations for Tall and Wall are those that support small, centralized empires.

India: There is no civ more focused on Tall and Wall than India. Population Growth is fantastic for growing your population, while Mughal Fort would only ever be built in this strategy.

Netherlands: Dutch East India Company makes your already good trade deals even better, when you can trade what few luxuries you have for luxuries you don’t have, and come out better for it. Polder is basically a better farm, which you will want a lot of to boost population growth.

Sweden: Nobel Prize requires having declarations of friendship to have any effect, which can be difficult if not impossible with aggressive strategies. The extra influence to city-states really helps diplomatic victories.

SOCIAL POLICIES
For Tall and Wall, the choices for social policies is rather simple. In addition to the general ones listed above, the Tradition and Freedom policy trees are the best choices. Honor and Autocracy usually aren’t worth investing in, as you simply won’t get into that much combat with this strategy. Most of the bonuses for Liberty, Commerce, and Order scale per city, which makes them poor choices when you only have so few cities in total.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Faith is something that can be difficult for Tall and Wall to accumulate. Since there’s no late game faith buildings, you are forced to build wonders that generate faith to accumulate it quickly. Also due to the mechanics of how faith spreads, you will heavily rely on missionaries and great prophets to spread it.

Dance of the Aurora, Desert Folklore, Goddess of Festivals, One with Nature, Religious Idols, Stone Circles, Divine Inspiration, Monasteries, and Reliquary: Sprawling empires typically only want to work the best tiles, and half of these beliefs boost rather poor tiles. The other half boost rather rare tiles, which can be plentiful in small groups but rare overall. These are all heavily dependent on your start, of course, but you can usually pick up one of them. Boosts to faith are much more useful for tall empires since it is much more difficult to accumulate.

Fertility Rites and Swords into Plowshares: maximizing population growth is very important for Tall and Wall, and you will try to keep on good terms with other civs.

Monument to the Gods: this strategy will build the most wonders of all of them, and this belief helps you pick up some of the less important but still useful ones.

Interfaith Dialogue, Holy Order, Messiah, and Missionary Zeal: since you have so few cities and thus spread religion passively very slowly, bonuses to missionaries and great prophets are extremely useful.

Tithe: since this belief scales per follower, compared to Church Property which scales per city, it is a better means to generate gold for a tall empire.

Peace Loving, Pilgrimage, and World Church: only peaceful strategies can take advantage of beliefs that depend on foreign cities.

WONDERS
Tall and Wall is definitely the best strategy for wonder spamming, especially when going for a cultural victory. Having multiple high-production, high-population cities coupled with bonuses to wonder production results in nearly any wonder being worth building. High difficulties will demand choices though, although still allows wonder spamming in some fashion. All national wonders would be considered good wonders to build in this strategy, and the following world wonders would be considered best of the many choices.

Temple of Artemis: wonders in the early areas tend to be very competitive to complete, as you don’t have enough time to solidify a tech lead in order to gain access to them first. Of the wonders recommended here, this would be the lowest priority, but still very valuable to tall and wall. The extra growth is excellent, as is the bonus production for ranged units – the best defending units in the game.

Stonehenge: if you want to found a religion while playing tall, this wonder is how you do it. Since you won’t be building very many shrines or temples, generating faith relies primarily on wonders for empires with only a few cities. This is the first and most direct means of doing so, and is well worth bee-lining to as a starting strategy. It does mean giving up the Great Library, but that can be a worthwhile trade.

The Hanging Gardens: the bonus food is amazing this early in the game, and is still greater than what a hospital provides. Definitely an amazing wonder for a one-city challenge, it is still very good for a more typical tall and wall emipre.

The Colossus: when combined with the opener for Commerce social policy and built in the capital, this may be your entire solution to gold when going tall and wall. With a lighthouse built, the only tiles that beat this in food and gold production are riverside farms or trade posts. Sprawling will generally get much less mileage out of this, since they rely on their many trade post cities to generate gold, and prefer to focus the capital on production.

Great Mosque of Djenne: considering the heavy reliance on missionaries for tall empires to spread their religion, this wonder is almost mandatory if you plan to convert the world.

The Hagia Sophia: any wonder which provides a decent amount of faith is usually worth building when going tall and focusing on religion, and this one provides quite a lot. Assuming you’ve already enhanced your religion, the holy site combined with the base faith results in an amazing +9 faith from just one wonder!

Chichen Itza: Tall and Wall usually has more excess happiness than it knows what to do with, which results in frequent golden ages. Increases the length by 50% makes this an excellent wonder with good timing.

The Porcelain Tower: the free great scientist is good, but the bonus to research agreements is better. Only a peaceful empire will be able to take full advantage of this wonder.

SPRAWL AND WALL

Sprawl and Wall settles many cities through the game, first clustered near the starting position, but eventually branching out into remote sections of the world. If the land has a few resources and/or some workable terrain, it’s worth settling a city there. This strategy attempts to play peacefully, although it is more difficult than Tall and Wall, as many civs find land grabs threatening. It’s key to maintaining good relations with civs to not grab land near their borders, or you’ll end up in constant war for the rest of the game if you do. Sprawl and Wall uses bonuses that provide per city bonuses, such as those in Liberty. It’s important to have a few production specialized cities, most likely the capital, where you emphasis farms and population growth along with mines and mills. The other cities are allowed to grow slowly, and are mostly filled with trading posts. Wonders can still be useful in Sprawl and Wall, and you’ll build more of them than in Sprawl and Maul since you aren’t building such an extensive military. Even the tall cities won’t be as tall as those in true Tall and Wall cities though, since you will lack much of the growth modifiers. Since this is a peaceful strategy, the type of victory will be either cultural, science, or diplomatic.

CIVILIZATIONS
The best civilizations for Sprawl and Wall are those that support large, dispersed empires.

Austria: Diplomatic Marriage is one of the best ways to expand peacefully even when there’s no more room to do so. You don’t take a diplomatic hit as you would for taking out a city-state either. You should still be cautious about taking a city-state that borders a civ, as they will incur clashing borders and build resentment. Coffee House is icing on the cake, although typically will only really benefit your production specialized cities.

Carthage: Phoenician Heritage is very powerful in watery maps, less so for continents, and only moderately useful for pangea. It is still excellent regardless, as it lets you set up trade route income instantly as well as removing maintenance to support it.

Celts: the faith per forest from Druidic Lore is nice at first, allowing you to quickly set up a religion without even building a shrine. Its usefulness wanes as time passes though, but Ceilidh Hall is exceptional for a sprawling empire, as happiness can be a real issue when you still have room to expand.

China: Art of War won’t get much use in a peaceful game, but Paper Maker is great. Gold can be a real issue early in the game, especially before you research trade posts. With China, that’s not much of a problem.

France: Ancien Regime is a really fantastic early in the game, and you can completely ignore culture buildings until you have finished your initial setup phase. It’s better in pangea type maps where steam power is less important.

Inca: Great Andean Road will save you a lot of gold in maintenance, and allows you to move between cities much easier with workers. Terrace Farm will rarely be built, but when it is it can be ridiculous in its effectiveness. With the Inca, the number of locations you can drop a city that can support itself is certainly higher than for most civs.

Iroquois: The Great Warpath will save you a lot of time building roads, as well as maintenance to support a trade network. Longhouse ensures your production cities will really be producing a lot while still having the food to support population growth.

Maya: The Long Court is nice, but the synergy comes from Pyramid, which will ensure every city will be producing a lot of faith and science almost immediately.

Polynesia: being able to explore and settle remote islands immediately can be very powerful when playing a sprawling empire, as it allows you to sprawl even if you’re closed off by neighbors on land. Make sure not to overextend though, as those remote cities will need defending. Moai is decent for a cultural victory, as it provides 1/3 of an artist specialist which can feed itself.

Rome: The Glory of Rome, despite being a percentage increase, is actually more suited for a sprawling empire than a tall one. The reason being is that by specializing your capital for production, you ensure it builds buildings quickly which then allows all the trade post cities to gain the benefit from it.

Songhai: River Warlord isn’t much for this type empire, although the extra gold from barbarian huts can be nice at times. Instead, it is Mud Pyramid Mosque that is useful, providing a maintenance and free culture from an early game building.

Spain: Seven Cities of Gold is marginal but can be useful if you get lucky. Sprawling empires typically put more effort into exploration, and some of the bonuses provided by natural wonders can be very useful. Conquistador is also perfect for this kind of empire though, as it functions as a settler and scout combined with a knight to quickly explore new territory and settle cities without needing an escort.

Sweden: Nobel Prize requires having declarations of friendship to have any effect, which can be difficult if not impossible with aggressive strategies. The extra influence to city-states really helps diplomatic victories.

SOCIAL POLICIES
For Sprawl and Wall, the choice for social policies is rather simple, much like with Tall and Wall. Since you have a sprawling empire, you’ll want to pick up Liberty and Order, as they both provide excellent bonuses for this play style. Honor and Autocracy aren’t worth it if you’re playing peacefully, and the general ones are good choices as well. Sprawl and Wall does have an additional choice in Commerce, which plays well with a trade post empire, and even more so if you have a lot of coastal cities.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Compared to Tall and Wall, this strategy has a much easier time developing faith through shrines and temples, especially with Organized Religion. It is also much easier to passively spread religion, so missionaries and great prophets aren’t as important. Instead, the focus on beliefs should center on increasing the returns per city. The free great person from liberty is also a great way to found a religion, and can be well worth it if you want to get your religion up and running quickly.

Ancestor Worship, God of Craftsmen, Goddess of Love, Messenger of the Gods, Sacred Waters, Ceremonial Burial, Church Property, Initiation Rites, Asceticism, Choral Music, Feed the World, Guruship, Liturgical Drama, and Religious Center: these beliefs all scale per city, and are a great way to increase your returns without having to worry about tiles.

God of the Open Sky, God of the Sea, Goddess of the Hunt, One With Nature, and Oral Tradition: these beliefs all scale per tile, and they are all common tiles to be working. Since the population per city is generally low, you will only want them to work the best tiles, and these beliefs make the best tiles even better.

Peace Loving and World Church: only peaceful strategies can take advantage of beliefs that depend on foreign cities.

Itinerant Preachers, Religious Texts, and Religious Unity: these beliefs all enhance your passive religion spreading, allowing you to not even bother with missionaries except for remote cities. Religious Texts is the best of the three, especially after Printing Press.

Cathedrals, Mosques, and Pagodas: these buildings are excellent for a sprawling empire, as they help to create a snowball effect with faith. Say you have ten cities, each with a shrine and temple as well as Organized Religion. That right there is +5 faith per city, and adding just one of these adds another +2 or +3. You’re looking at +70 or +80 faith per turn without even building a single wonder!

WONDERS
Sprawl and Wall won’t be building nearly as many wonder as Tall and Wall, although it will probably build as many as Tall and Maul – but completely different ones. Only one or two cities will probably have to production to build wonders, although all you really need is a high-production capital and either marble or Monument to the Gods to be competitive. This strategy will eventually be able to build all the nation wonders, although it may take much longer than usual to do so.

Machu Pichu: trade routes are a major source of income for any sprawling empires, and increasing it by such a large amount can be a large increase to gold generated per turn.

The Forbidden Palace: considering you are playing peaceful, all your cities will be considered non-occupied. Happiness can be a major issue for any sprawling empire, so wonders that address it specifically are usually worth investing in.

The Porcelain Tower: the free great scientist is good, but the bonus to research agreements is better. Only a peaceful empire will be able to take full advantage of this wonder.

Big Ben: considering that production is usually low but gold income is usually high, the wonder meshes perfectly with a sprawling empire.

Eiffel Tower: more happiness is always welcomed, even if you’re not going for a cultural victory.

Neuschwanstein: surprised to see this here? Castles aren’t that difficult to build once your expansion period slows down and you start building up populations. Bonuses per city this high is very powerful.

CN Tower: the extra population and happiness will be a major boost when you control a dozen or two cities, and the free broadcast towers are useful even if you’re not going for culture.

TALL AND MAUL

Tall and Maul starts off like Tall and Wall, settling a few cities and developing the population and infrastructure. Tall and Wall uses this time to build wonders, while Tall and Maul is preparing for war. It may still build a few key wonders, and will be better at it than the sprawling empires, but it’s main focus is on the troops. This type of conquest focuses on building a strong base to continuously churn out units in war time. Since the number of cities is smaller, it will have to go through periods of peace to continue developing the infrastructure as techs are unlocked. When conquering cities, it’s important to only keep the good ones – capitals and any city placed in good terrain with resources. Small cities that can’t support themselves are just a drain on the resources, and not worth keeping around – raze or sell and move on. The cities that are captures can either be turned into trade post cities to generate gold for the massive armies, or developed into true tall cities by building their population and production. City-states are usually let alone or allied, as other than a luxury resource or two, they are pretty often in crappy terrain. Generally, Tall and Maul will need much more trade post cities than production cities, as it doesn’t have the high free unit maintenance that sprawling empires do, although the maintenance for buildings and roads will be much less of a problem. It will never be as wealthy, although the science and population will be comparable once you start warmongering. The production will always be better in this empire, and wonders and units are much easier to build from scratch.

CIVILIZATIONS
The best civilizations for Tall and Maul are those that support aggressive, centralized empires.

Aztec: Sacrificial Captives can be a lot fun, and plays perfectly for warmongering. Floating Gardens is also good for this strategy, as rivers make great places to settle cities anyways, and the AI favors them as well.

China: Art of War is great for aggressive play, although you won’t get much use out of the Paper Makers compared to a sprawling empire.

Germany: Furor Tuetonicus is at its strongest in this kind of empire, as unit maintenance is highest here. The free units are just icing on the cake.

Inca: unlike sprawling empires, the gold saved from maintenance isn’t the real value here – it’s the ability to move troops through hills quickly, maintaining defensive positions while moving through enemy terrain. Terrace Farm is nice but will very rarely be built, although it works well with high population cities and observatories.

India: despite being perfect for Tall and Wall, India does reasonably well with this kind of strategy. When playing India aggressively, it’s even more important than usual to not keep weak and pathetic cities, as the drain will be higher thanks to Population Growth. Mughal Fort can be completely ignored, but it’s not like it was very important for Tall and Wall either.

Japan: Bushido is all about fighting. Not much more to say than that.

Ottomans: for a continent map Barbary Corsairs is good, for anything with more water it is awesome. Much like with Germany, unit maintenance will be a large drain on the coffers.

Rome: The Glory of Rome won’t be much of a factor in the initial cities you settle yourself, but will allow the cities you conquer to quickly build the infrastructure you desire.

SOCIAL POLICIES
For Tall and Maul, the choice of social policies depends on whether you want to focus on your empire or your military more. The first choice is either Tradition or Honor, although I would suggest Tradition to help you quickly develop your cities, since you generally delay warmongering until you’ve got a strong group of core cities. Piety, Patronage, and Rationalism are all fine choices. Commerce can be useful on watery maps, but most of it just isn’t synergetic enough to justify investing it. The final choice will be either Autocracy, Freedom, or Order. Freedom has several weak policies, such as Universal Suffrage and Constitution, while Order’s bonuses might not be much since the total number of cities you control won’t be terribly high. Planned Economy is definitely the best policy in Order, although it might not be worth investing in other policies just for it. My suggestion: Autocracy, and have fun with it!

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Tall and Maul will have trouble building faith early in the game, unless you go for a faith wonder. The number of cities will be low, and since they are spread out, you will need missionaries and great prophets to spread religion. Basically, this strategy uses the same beliefs as Tall and Wall, with a few key differences.

Dance of the Aurora, Desert Folklore, Goddess of Festivals, One with Nature, Religious Idols, Stone Circles, Divine Inspiration, Monasteries, and Reliquary: Much like for Tall and Wall, boosts to faith are much more useful for tall empires since it is much more difficult to accumulate compared to sprawling empires.

Fertility Rites: maximizing population growth is very important for Tall and Maul.

Monument to the Gods: this strategy may build a decent number of wonders, especially in the early game before mass conquest commences.

Interfaith Dialogue, Holy Order, Messiah, and Missionary Zeal: since you have few cities which are fairly spread out, and passive religion spreading is very slow, bonuses to missionaries and great prophets are extremely useful.

Tithe: since this belief scales per follower, compared to Church Property which scales per city, it is a better means to generate gold for a tall empire.

Just War: well this is always fun. Spread your religion via missionaries, then declare war and reap a sweet combat bonus.

WONDERS
Tall and Maul has two main reasons to go tall before conquest: high production for units and for wonders. It may not be a bad strategy to delay mass conquest until you build a few critical wonders to take advantage of. Of course, you still retain the ability to build wonders later in the game, but by then you should be focusing more on units to continue your conquest than wonders. National Wonders will be easy to build, especially the ones that come early before you begin your major conquest efforts.

Temple of Artemis: wonders in the early areas tend to be very competitive to complete, as you don’t have enough time to solidify a tech lead in order to gain access to them first. Of the wonders recommended here, this would be the lowest priority, but still very valuable to tall and maul. The extra growth is excellent, as is the bonus production for ranged units – excellent for both offense and defense.

Stonehenge: if you want to found a religion while playing tall, this wonder is how you do it. While you will eventually be able to build many shrines and temples, your early game will most likely mimic tall and wall in faith generation. This is the first and most direct means of doing so, and is well worth bee-lining to as a starting strategy. It does mean giving up the Great Library, but that can be a worthwhile trade.

Statue of Zeus: this wonder allows taking down cities to be an easier process, although clearing out enemy units is usually the greater burden. This works very well the archer units since the bonus is additive, not multiplicative, with the bonus siege units get against cities.

Great Mosque of Djenne: considering the heavy reliance on missionaries for tall empires to spread their religion, this wonder is almost mandatory if you plan to convert the world.

The Hagia Sophia: any wonder which provides a decent amount of faith is usually worth building when going tall and focusing on religion, and this one provides quite a lot. Assuming you’ve already enhanced your religion, the holy site combined with the base faith results in an amazing +9 faith from just one wonder!

Alhambra: the culture is nice, as is the castle. The real bonus is the free promotion, which is especially useful in your main unit production city. If you have a period of peace during the time this is unlocked, it can be well worth building.

Brandenburg Gate: this wonder is much like the Alhambra, but more flexible as it gives all units their first promotion free. Stacking it’s effects with the Alhambra, the Heroic Epic, and the regular barrack-type buildings can result in some seriously high-level troops being produced.

Pentagon: large armies and fewer cities can result in high unit maintenance, and upgrading them all can be a serious problem for your pocketbook. While this wonder is powerful, it comes very late for the effect, so only consider building it if it looks like it will take you all the way to the Information Era to win the game.

SPRAWL AND MAUL

Sprawl and Maul starts off like Sprawl and Wall, quickly building settlers and claiming the surrounding terrain. Depending on how close your neighbors are, this phase can end very quickly. The next step is to quickly build a passable military, usually relying on a tech advantage or unique unit to give the power to begin conquest. Unlocking swordsman, catapults, or horsemen will usually quickly usher in this second phase. The third, and most likely final phase, is a continuous series of aggressive campaigns. Moreso than tall and maul, sprawl and maul has the ability to continuously put pressure on enemy civs. Tall and maul relies on several high-production cities, which means it usually must go through periods of light warfare to build infrastructure after researching several techs. Sprawl and maul usually only has one core production city – the capital – at least early in the game, but is less reliant on it overall. Sprawling empires have two main advantages over tall ones: higher population leads to higher science, and more gold generated from non-core cities, mostly thanks to that higher population. The higher city count reduces total unit maintenance (although this is partially countered by higher building maintenance) coupled with the greater income from trade routes and trade posts means gold purchases are far more relevant. It is still a good idea to designate a few high-production, high-population cities for wonders and unit production.

CIVILIZATIONS
The best civilizations for Sprawl and Maul are those that support aggressive, dispersed empires.

America: Manifest Destiny has two parts – increasing sight for land units, which can be useful at times, especially for siege units, but not very strong overall. The second part cuts the gold cost of buying tiles in half, which can save you a lot of gold when building a sprawling empire, as it lets you focus on what sprawling empires do best (generate gold) and downplay what they do worst (generate culture, especially if not puppets). Neither half of Manifest Destiny are very strong, but if you manage an empire than can take advantage of both of them, then America can actually be an excellent choice.

Carthage: Phoenician Heritage is very powerful in watery maps, less so for continents, and only moderately useful for pangea. It is still excellent regardless, as it lets you set up trade route income instantly as well as removing maintenance to support it. Being able to move units through mountains allows you penetrate defensive terrain easily and makes taking enemy cities easier.

Celts: the faith per forest from Druidic Lore is nice at first, allowing you to quickly set up a religion without even building a shrine. Its usefulness wanes as time passes though, but Ceilidh Hall is exceptional for a sprawling empire, as happiness can be a real issue when you still have room to expand. It is a midgame building though, and may take awhile for puppets to build. This is a shame since it is a cultural building.

China: Art of War won’t is a powerful military ability, while Paper Maker can be powerful for sprawling empires. Gold can be a real issue early in the game, especially before you research trade posts. China is very well suited for this kind of empire.

France: Ancien Regime is a really fantastic early in the game, and has strong synergy with puppets, giving you a strong backup plan to win cultural if domination becomes a stalemate. It’s better in pangea type maps where steam power is less important.

Germany: Furor Tuetonicus is strong in any empire with fields a large army, although a sprawling empire can handle a large army easier than a tall one due to how unit maintenance is calculated.

Huns: Scourge of God is unique suited for this kind of empire. Starting with Animal Husbandry allows you to quickly enter the warmongering phase, while the extra production to pastures is excellent for sprawling cities who only want to work the best tiles anyways.

Inca: Great Andean Road will save you a lot of gold in maintenance, and allows your military units to maneuver through enemy terrain easier as well as maintain stronger defensive positions. With the Inca, the number of locations you can drop a city that can support itself is certainly higher than for most civs.

Iroquois: The Great Warpath will save you a lot of time building roads, as well as maintenance to support a trade network. Longhouse ensures your production cities will really be producing a lot while still having the food to support population growth.

Japan: Bushido is all about fighting. Not much more to say than that.

Maya: The Long Court is nice, but the synergy comes from Pyramid, which will ensure every city will be producing a lot of faith and science almost immediately.

Mongolia: the main benefit of Mongal Terror is the boon to mounted movement speed, but Sprawl and Maul can handedly take advantage of the bonus when attacking city-states, who usually have the highest defense cities as well a large number of units protecting it nearby.

Ottomans: for a continent map Barbary Corsairs is good, for anything with more water it is awesome. Much like with Germany, unit maintenance is a large cost, although not as much of a bother as for tall empires.

Rome: Much like Sprawl and Wall, your capital will be a major production city, while the majority of your other cities will have low production and focus on trade posts. The Glory of Rome will ensure any cities you from conquest will be productive that much quicker.

Songhai: River Warlord can be very nice when playing aggresivly, although it still a small boon. It does become much better on aquatic maps. The Mud Pyramid Mosque also has great synergy, providing a maintenance free and extra culture from an early game building.

SOCIAL POLICIES
For Sprawl and Maul, the choice for social policies is complex, depending on whether you want to focus more on the militant or economic aspects of your empire. The first choice is Liberty versus Honor, and this decision is best made in regard to how much room you have for peaceful expansion. If you don’t have any neighbors nearby, Liberty will let you expand quickly and efficiently, as well as give you a free great person (most likely to found a religion). If you find your neighbors to be nearby or sprawling themselves, going Honor and immediately building an army of warriors and archers is a workable strategy. Commerce is another policy that can be useful, but usually only if you’re on a watery map. The final choice will be Order versus Autocracy. If you find managing your empire easy at this late point in the game (perhaps by spreading a religion with good bonuses), choosing to improve your military might be the better choice. Going into Order will make managing your empire easier, as well as increase your science to help out tech your enemies.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Much like Sprawl and Wall, spreading religion will be easy with many close cities, although you will have to invest in inquisitors for the cities you take over, especially the capitals. Otherwise, faith is easy to generate and the focus on beliefs should center on increasing the returns per city. The free great person from liberty is also a great way to found a religion, and can be well worth it if you want to get your religion up and running quickly.

Ancestor Worship, God of Craftsmen, Goddess of Love, Messenger of the Gods, Sacred Waters, Ceremonial Burial, Church Property, Initiation Rites, Asceticism, Choral Music, Feed the World, Guruship, Liturgical Drama, and Religious Center: these beliefs all scale per city, and are a great way to increase your returns without having to worry about tiles.

God of the Open Sky, God of the Sea, Goddess of the Hunt, One With Nature, and Oral Tradition: these beliefs all scale per tile, and they are all common tiles to be working. Since the population per city is generally low, you will only want them to work the best tiles, and these beliefs make the best tiles even better.

Itinerant Preachers, Religious Texts, and Religious Unity: these beliefs all enhance your passive religion spreading, allowing you to not even bother with missionaries except for remote cities. Religious Texts is the best of the three, especially after Printing Press.

Cathedrals, Mosques, and Pagodas: these buildings are excellent for a sprawling empire, as they help to create a snowball effect with faith. Say you have ten cities, each with a shrine and temple as well as Organized Religion. That right there is +5 faith per city, and adding just one of these adds another +2 or +3. You’re looking at +70 or +80 faith per turn without even building a single wonder!

Holy Warriors: Sprawl and Maul doesn’t have the production that Tall and Maul does to create units, especially early in the game. Usually, this lack of production is compensated with the increased gold generation buy purchasing units with gold. This belief adds another facet to this dynamic: using faith to buy units, which is another resource sprawling empires are excellent at generating.

WONDERS
Of all the main empire strategies, Sprawl and Maul will have the most difficulty building wonders, as your production cities will focus on units as well. Of course, you will be take wonders over through conquest, but that’s not really something you can plan out ahead of time. This strategy will most likely never be able to build all the nation wonders, or at least not the later ones.

Statue of Zeus: this wonder allows taking down cities to be an easier process, although clearing out enemy units is usually the greater burden. This works very well the archer units since the bonus is additive, not multiplicative, with the bonus siege units get against cities.

Machu Pichu: trade routes are a major source of income for any sprawling empires, and increasing it by such a large amount can be a large increase to gold generated per turn.

Alhambra: the culture is nice, as is the castle. The real bonus is the free promotion, which is especially useful in your main unit production city. If you have a period of peace during the time this is unlocked, it can be well worth building.

Brandenburg Gate: this wonder is much like the Alhambra, but more flexible as it gives all units their first promotion free. Stacking it’s effects with the Alhambra, the Heroic Epic, and the regular barrack-type buildings can result in some seriously high-level troops being produced.

Big Ben: considering that production is usually low but gold income is usually high, the wonder meshes perfectly with a sprawling empire.

Eiffel Tower: more happiness is always welcomed, even if you’re not going for a cultural victory. Probably only worth investing in with a puppet empire, as otherwise you just won’t have enough social policies.

CN Tower: the extra population and happiness will be a major boost when you control a dozen or two cities, and the free broadcast towers are useful even if you’re not going for culture, especially for puppet empires.

INSANE CITY SPRAWL

Insane City Sprawl (ICS) is a heavily micro-management empire that requires a lot of effort, but can provide excellent gains in return. It is essentially a specialized version of Sprawl and Maul, that focuses on min/maxing every aspect of the empire. Unlike Sprawl and Maul, you don’t just settle cities in decent locations, you settle them everywhere. For example, let’s say you explore your nearby area after starting the game. With traditional Sprawl and Maul, you’d pick the best spots to settle now and a few more that might be good if a resource is revealed there. With ICS, you analyze the maximum possible cities you can fit in that area, even if several are in otherwise terrible locations. While resources and good tiles are important, maximizing synergies is even moreso. ICS requires capping population to continue expansion, and must micromanage each one to maximize efficiency. Initially, each city placed should be placed three tiles away and with the populations capped at three as well. This causes the trade route income to balance out the road maintenance. Once you get a few happiness bonuses (coliseums, religion, etcetera) you can slowly increase the population for all cities, although you won’t be able to get to six population or higher until you can build theatres. Of course, you will still want one or two high-production cities to build wonders and units. Because of the need to heavily micromanage all your cities, you will never maintain a puppet empire. It may even be worthwhile to raze and resettle the area.

CIVILIZATIONS
The best civilizations for ICS are those that maximize efficiency per city.

Carthage: Phoenician Heritage is perfect for ICS on watery maps, as trade route maintenance will be one of your biggest expenses. The ability to penetrate mountains is just an added bonus.

Celts: ICS is limited by happiness like no other strategy, so any civ that provides happiness on a unique building will work well with ICS. It is unfortunate that the building is a rather low priority one otherwise.

China: One of the best civs for ICS, as you need military strength to continue expansion, and libraries are typically the first building built in any new city.

France: Ancien Regime is another ICS friendly civs, allowing to you quickly gain social policies, especially since you won’t be maintaining puppets.

Huns: Even moreso than Sprawl and Maul, Scourge of God works very well in ICS, for much the same reasons. ICS though will want to raze and resettle sometimes, and halving the time it takes to do that can pay dividends in how much total gold and science you generate per turn.

Inca: Great Andean Road will save you a lot of gold in maintenance, and allows your military units to maneuver through enemy terrain easier as well as maintain stronger defensive positions. Terrance Farms may be the only source of food in some city locations, which lets the Inca ICS in certain terrain much easier.

Iroquois: The Great Warpath will save you a lot of time building roads, as well as maintenance to support a trade network. Longhouse ensures your production cities will really be producing a lot while still having the food to support population growth.

Maya: The Long Court is nice, but the synergy comes from Pyramid, which will ensure every city will be producing a lot of faith and science almost immediately. When a city only has three population and a library, adding +2 science will increase total science generated by about a third!

Mongolia: the main benefit of Mongal Terror is the boon to mounted movement speed, but ICS will definitely be taking city-states to maximize city placement.

Ottomans: for a continent map Barbary Corsairs is good, for anything with more water it is awesome. Unit maintenance isn’t really as much of a problem for ICS as other strategies though.

Rome: For the same reasons as Sprawl and Maul, Rome will increase your production in the cities that need it most.

Songhai: River Warlord can be very nice when playing aggressively, although it still a small boon. It does become much better on aquatic maps. The Mud Pyramid Mosque also has great synergy, allowing you to gain social policies quickly.

SOCIAL POLICIES
For ICS, the choice for social policies is actually much simpler than for Sprawl and Maul. Because the focus is to maximize synergies with having many small cities, starting with Liberty and ending with Order are really the best choices overall. Honor can be picked up after Liberty to complement it, but Commerce should be given priority over it, as the synergies it provides overwhelm those in Honor. For example, Sprawl and Maul may have the time and resources to build walls for extra happiness, but ICS never will. ICS is the most focused on generating resources from cities, such as faith, gold, and science, and should choose social policies to maximize that focus. It will also have the most difficulty generating culture, considering it will have an overwhelming number of cities and no desire to puppet them. More than any other strategy, cherry picking specific policies from trees instead of taking a few weak ones to fill it out can be a good choice. Liberty and Order are both worth completely filling out. The only really good policies in Honor for ICS are Discipline and Military Tradition; for Piety that would be Organized Religion and Theocracy; Commerce is worth filling out on a watery map, otherwise only the right side is worth investing in. Rationalism can be difficult to take advantage of, as you may struggle with happiness, and find your cities taking a very long time to build any science buildings. Secularism and Free Thought are the best policies in the tree. Scientific Revolution is pretty much worthless, as that far in the game you most likely won’t have a single friend after all the warmongering.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
ICS has the easiest time generating faith and spreading religion compared to any other strategy. It may struggle initially to found a religion, which is what makes the free great person from liberty so valuable in ICS. While in any other strategy, I’d say you could safely ignore religion and still win the game, ICS really depends on certain beliefs. The beliefs here are similar for Sprawl and Maul, although there are a few key differences. Beliefs that enhance certain tiles are generally not useful, since you may have a single tile in range of multiple cities, and only one can work it.

God of Craftsmen, Messenger of the Gods, Ceremonial Burial, Church Property, Initiation Rites, Asceticism, Feed the World, Guruship, Liturgical Drama: these beliefs scale the best per city for ICS, and special note should be made about Messenger of the Gods and Guruship, which are both by far the strongest beliefs for ICS.

Itinerant Preachers and Religious Texts: these beliefs both enhance your passive religion spreading, allowing you to not even bother with missionaries except for remote cities. Religious Texts is the best of the two, especially after Printing Press.

Pagodas: this building can make or break ICS, as adding two happiness per city for zero production is incredibly powerful. While you can still ICS without it, you will have to make up the happiness deficit in other ways.

Holy Warriors: ICS will generate faith by the bucket-load, especially if you invest in Organized Religion. While Pagodas are an excellent investment for that faith, this is a viable alternative if your civ or other beliefs can make up for the lack of happiness.

WONDERS
ICS doesn’t really build wonders. It may want to invest in one or two, but even then that’s stretching resources very thinly. The wonders it would want to build are all pretty much the same as Sprawl and Maul. I would say that the best wonders to build would be Machu Pichu and Big Ben.

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