Tips to navigate trough the more difficult games vs AI.
Guide to Basics
During the expanding phase, dont just blindly keep your spending at 100% food. Every turn, look at the tech tree, see what techs you would like to buy next turn and how much science is needed. This can be any sort of techs, but mostly its yield techs that require some coin to be spent on science.
Early on while you are still flagging highly contested lands, you may spend 10 or 20% on science sometimes if thats just what to get a significant tech, before doing so you may also check what you want to flag next turn and if that will still be possible with 10-20% less spending on food.
As you progress trough the expansion phase, you can gradually spend more and more on science. Once the contested lands are flagged and its mostly filling in uncontested lands, you may spend the majority of your coin on science if there are worthy yield techs to be bought.
Move to Coin Spending
A common habbit (And advice in other guides) is to split the game in phases:
- Expand all you can.
- Get all the yield techs.
- Get the waste techs and buy units.
- Swich to military spending.
In previous sections i explained you should gradually move from 1 to 2. Now i tell you to gradually move from 2 to 3. If you keep focusing on expanding and yield techs until you have them all, you will then get into a rather long period where you are spending all your gold on the waste upgrades while having nothing better to do with your science and food than just buy power techs and upgrade cities.
Now i am in no way saying those aren’t useful, but they are not your top priority. So to avoid this, start spending money on waste techs rather than converting it to science or food a bit earlier. Again, do it gradually. You check every turn how much money you need to buy the next tech, the rest is spend on waste techs. Thats how you subtly shift from 2 into 3.
As i explained how you gradually shift trough the phases, you also gradually shift into military phase.
You have read guides that try to make you believe you need to have a sharp shift between growth economy and military economy. That, sorry to be blunt, is noobish. It works fine for easy missions, but not for hard ones.
Your neighbour may often buy units earlier than you like. Simply buy 1 or 2 units yourself while spending very little on their power. They are always power 1 and that helps you defend your lands in combination with some power techs and city sphere of influence. If needed, you buy them another power level for only a few gold. 2 units with power level 2 really makes the difference in early conflict. And so you also gradually move into the military phase.
Late game is all about coins. Science and Food are going to be a bit of a side show. The priorities of waste reduction should reflect this. At easy games you can have that luxury of thinking “ill buy ALL waste reductions before fighting any wars”, you cant keep thinking like that at hard difficulties.
Coin waste reduction is top priority. Food and science you do with left over bits of gold. Try to hold off on the final coin waste reduction tech though until you got the quest that reduces it to 0 if you buy the 3% one. There are also quests for buying the final waste techs on food and science but those are not important since you will not be turning gold into food and science anymore anyway.
The military power waste reductions are bought when you reach certain levels of military power. This is because due to rounding, the next level up has no advantage over the previous one before you reach this level of power. And then when you do reach it, the fact that your waste actually goes down when you buy the waste reduction reduces your power loss for spending the gold there.
- Buy 65% when you reach power level 3.
- Buy 55% when you reach power level 5.
- Buy 50% when you reach power level 11.
So again, gradually shift into the power waste reduction while you are actually fighting.
Play the Power Slider
Just like in early game you dont blindly keep the food slider at 100%, in late game you dont blindly keep the power slider at 100%.
Look at the power of your enemies. See if you are about to conquer or lose lands this turn. See what power you seem to need to conquer or preserve them. Be on the safe side and count on your enemy to increase his military power by 1 and grow its city, but don’t massively overpower him more than needed. Adjust the slider so you have enough military power to achieve your goals but not more. The remainder of the funds is saved.
As you keep doing this, your saved money can be used to buy the power waste levels as indicated in the previous section and to add more units without massive power drops because you spend all your money.
Look at the map, the positions and relative powers of players and plan accordingly. Lets take fertile crescent as an example:
The 2 easy tribes in the west will always be dominant on this map. You need to keep an eye on them and try to keep them balanced as well as you can. If one gets dominant over the other, there is the risk he will run away with victory.
You can balance them by choosing whom to fight.
For example, The blue Turks (sorry i use the names that correspond the names of their current day regions) border the yellow Greeks who tent to be dominant. If the Greeks are dominating Egypt, you want the Turks to fight the Greeks to keep them in check. On the other hand, if Egypt is dominating Greece, you don’t want the Turks to fight the Greeks so they can fully concentrate on keeping Egypt in check.
If you are bordering the Turks, you can choose to threaten them, which keeps them busy and away from Greece. Or you can choose to passively defend against them which will send them to fight the Greeks. This works more or less in a chain reaction so you can influence the entire map by choosing whom to fight.
Alternatively, if possible, set yourself in a position to fight the AI that is most likely to take the win and take him down yourself.
As explained in previous section, you want to choose wisely whom you threaten and whom you defend against. Also, you cannot be actively fighting against all your neighbours. This is the main factor for the diifculty level of a tribe, how many neighbours you have to deal with. The map borders dont fight you, coastal borders dont fight you until late game.
So it’s important to understand how the AI works and how you actually can defend passively. Military units project just as much power to the tile next to them as the tile they are actually on. So keep them 1 tile away from the border to defend your border without threatening your neighbour. The AI has no script to “give up a tile of land” or to do a “strategic withdrawal”. It defends any tile it possibly can. So know that if you defend by putting your units at the actual border, you are threatening them, and they will come back to defend, threatening you. An escalation without end. Fortunately you have the brain to stop this escalation. Defend from 1 tile away and you will live mostly in harmony as the AI will escalate with eachother.
Of course you will also use cities to project extra power. In fact, a few nicely grown cities might be all you need to defend your border without any units until really late in the game. The cities power will add up so having a nice line of size 4-5 cities can easilly end up giving your tiles all 6-8 power from cities.
Then there is another line of defence and that is the power techs. It is good to already have a plan where your border will be already during the earliest expansion phase so that your entire border exists of as few biomes as possible.
When playing Canaanites on Fertile Crescent for example, it is great to move north and grab any plains and river tiles you can there. They are paramount for your early food. In the long term however, you can accept that you will lose those tiles and you will defend exactly at the border where desert goes into plains. You place your cities 1 tile away from this desert border and you buy only desert power. This sets you up for a great defensive late game and losing those few river tiles there doesn’t matter much when your have 50 desert tiles with all yield upgrades.
Having your defenses secured like this gives you freedom to use your military units offensively where you decide to. While i explained before to be aware of the shifting powers on the world map and how to influence them, i usually have a plan in early game whom will be my first target for an offensive war. So i will spend all my food to grow the cities on the other side of my empire so i can passively defend that side and have basically no city defence at the side where i choose to attack.
The game can also influence this decision. If on one side you succeed to get a nice defensive line with properly placed cities and a single biome to defend but on the other side your border looks like a mess, then it’s fate that decided for you.