The Civilinic Books

Early Conquest Guide
by Peaster


Inspired by Solo's ELG and DaveV's Guide to ICS, I have written a draft of an Early Conquest Guide. DaveV kindly reviewed a short early version, and offered some advice. Now it is a bigger better guide.

Chs 1-5, at least, seem fairly helpful and accurate. But they focus mainly on a single strategy intended for Deity on normal maps. The guide could be much better with more in Chs 6-8 about alternatives, and better advice about how to choose one.

This might take a long time for just 1-2 people. If a few strong players are willing to help out, I am happy to make this a team effort. Maybe we can write something comparable to the ELG. I can send you an advance copy of the guide, but may ask for help with play-testing, collecting ideas, or (re)-writing some of the later sections. For now, here is a

Table of Contents - CIV2 Guide to Early Conquest

  1. Foreword
  2. Chapter 1 - Introduction to Early Conquest (EC)
    1. Welcome to EC
    2. Playing Levels and Styles
    3. The Scope of This Guide
    4. A Typical EC Game
    5. What's Par for the Course
    6. What to Learn, and How
  3. Chapter 2- Notes on the Opening
    1. Cities, Shields and Growth
    2. Making and Using Units
    3. Tech and Wonders
    4. Values
    5. Preparing to Attack
  4. Chapter 3 - Attacking the Enemy
    1. Unit to Unit Combat
    2. Attacks on Cities: Case Studies
    3. Attacks on Island Civs: Case Studies
    4. Attacks on Other Civs by land: Case Studies
    5. Movement
    6. Effects of terrain, units, etc
    7. Summary: Planning a single campaign
  5. Chapter 4 - Planning Multiple Campaigns
    1. The "Farthest One First" Rule
    2. Production and Your Late Swarm
    3. Timing and Combining Campaigns
  6. Chapter 5 - Middle and Endgame Tips
    1. Diplomacy; M.P.E, maps, tech and tribute
    2. Production, Growth and Happiness
    3. Finishing the Game
    4. Game-stoppers and Heart-breakers
  7. Chapter 6 - Other Playing Levels and Settings
    1. Emperor
    2. King and Below
    3. Restarts ON
    4. Barbarians
    5. Huts
  8. Chapter 7 - Other maps
    1. Very poor land (swamps/deserts/etc)
    2. Islands and Continents
    3. Large and small maps
  9. Chapter 8 - Other others
    1. Wonders
    2. Hut Strategies
    3. Trade Strategies
    4. Final Remarks
    5. Conquest after 1000AD
    6. Abbreviations
    7. References, Links, Credits
    8. Table Reference

I have put a lot of very enjoyable work into it. I believe Chs 1-5 already present a reliable system for conquest by about 500AD on normal maps (+/- a few hundred years depending on player skills).
As far as I can tell from forum-haunting, there is not much agreement on what the `best' EC system is (It probably depends a lot on the map). Actually, most forum advice seems to be written by EL players, or players-for-score, and doesn't apply well to EC. Here are some tentative opinions on EC that need testing or discussion:

  1. All you need is Monarchy (among governments).
  2. You don't need trade routes, an SSC, or alliances.
  3. The only attackers you need are mounted units and dips.
  4. Shields beat arrows.
  5. Strategies based mainly on huts are risky, but work well on 1-continent maps.
  6. Island games tend to be shorter, partly because the AI's are weaker.
  7. Games at lower levels have similar ending dates to those at Deity.
  8. You don't need tech after monotheism, except maybe navigation.
  9. Barbarian settings do not affect overall strategy much.
  10. Monarchy 8 turns early is worth less than one extra city.
  11. Starting techs do not affect overall strategy much.

Also, I am still undecided about the ideal city size for EC. The Ch1-5 system involves about 15-20 small ones.
Thanks especially to LaFayette, solo and zenon for help (in other threads). Here are some more ideas that have come up. Opinions or PlayTesters are welcomed.

  1. Play with only 12 cities until you can capture HG.
  2. Instead of MPE, explore quickly (This might work on smaller maps, with restarts off).
  3. When is it good to build ST ? (in general, wonders seem to make more sense on larger maps with decent terrrain).
  4. Does a surrounded AI city tend to produce more defensive units ?
  5. Does the AI tend to build walls more often in wartime or when threatened?
  6. When an AI starts building the Great Wall, do you try to do it first?
  7. Are diplomats a better choice against city walls than crusaders? (My wild guess is each dip has about a 40 per cent chance of taking down walls in the pre-500AD era, which is a good bet if the city is medium/large).

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Early Conquest (EC)

This is dedicated to everyone who has posted a question or advice in the Apolyton/CFC forums. I am especially grateful to DaveV, La Fayette, solo and zenon.

A. Welcome to EC

It is fun to conquer the world, no matter how you do it. Conquering for speed adds even more excitement to the game. A good plan brings satisfaction. A bad one is a lesson learned.

And there is still a lot to learn about EC strategy. Surprisingly little has been written about it. The forums provide some useful ideas, but no comprehensive guide. The best players often use very different strategies, and it is difficult to say which is best.

I am going to assume you have some experience conquering at Deity, even if it's in the year 2000AD. I will lay out a system for conquering around 500AD, Of course, your results will depend on your skill, the map and some luck.

B. Playing Levels and Styles

Most good conquest players start an EC game by building a lot of small cities, preparing for huge shield productivity by 1AD. They aim to conquer with a wave of fast mounted units before the enemy builds a lot of walls, discovers gunpowder, etc. They build MPE to get maps, tech and tribute. They build HG instead of temples and build ST instead of barracks (see Ch8 for abbreviations). While learning, try to play this way too. Some alternatives are discussed in the later chapters.

Since Deity seems to be the most popular level, I deal with it first and give it the most attention. Of course, the system also works at other levels, with certain modifications discussed in the final chapters.

C. The Scope of This Guide

To present the main ideas clearly, Chs 1-5 assume a normal map, restarts OFF, seven civs, single-player, Deity. Practice with these settings first. We will discuss how other settings affect your strategy in chapters 6-8.

The guide is based on ideas from the forums and games by the masters. These games have some features in common - monarchy, no (or very few) city improvements, and advances up to monotheism. If you are addicted to howitzers... sorry, they are not mentioned here. The guide does not currently include much about scoring, huts, or any Wonders besides HG/MPE/ST/Li/Mike's. It assumes you prefer a good reputation, but are willing to be atrocious, if you have to. It assumes you don't black-click or use helper programs. It assumes you will focus on expansion in the opening. I use Civ2 MGE, so this guide assumes a hostile AI, but this should not affect the main ideas much.

A few players have conquered very early (eg 1200BC) by popping a lot of huts before settling their first city. This risky approach has not gained much popularity, and is mostly ignored in this guide.

D. A Typical EC Game

You use some version of ICS to open the game. You get monarchy and trade and HG ASAP. With great care, you grow about 15 cities by 400BC. You don't have many strong units. But you have MPE, and enough maps to decide when and how you will attack. You may still have some production and transportation problems to solve. You probably still need ST and/or LH. So, the attacks might not really start until 1AD or later. But then you hit hard with groups of veteran elephants or crusaders, from boats, roads, rivers or whatever. You take capitals, and then lesser cities. You planned well, and the enemy civs all fall, perhaps in 600AD.

On a tough map, or with bad luck, it might take longer, but probably not past 1000AD. If you are new to Deity or EC, don't feel bad about an 1800AD finish. I went from 1800AD to 800AD mainly by learning ICS and the basics of Chs. 1-5. Learning the various civ2 `tricks' helps, to a lesser extent.

E. What's Par for the Course

When learning to play the `typical EC game' of part d), you may want to follow the schedule below. You can use it to set goals in the early game and to see where your style needs adjustment. I created this by averaging out data from several games with the same settings as in part c).

The top line suggests that by 2200BC, which is the 36th turn, you should have about 5 cities. This assumes average luck (in finding whales, hut results, etc). Since most cities will be size 1, average production will be low, about 2.8 shields per turn. You'll have about 6 advances, hopefully including monarchy. You should have about 9 units - mostly warriors, with 1-2 settlers and a few units from huts. The other lines are similar, and show that you want one wonder (W) soon after 1000BC, an income (i) of 12g and 25 science beakers (b) per turn by 400BC, etc.

Pay attention to the last statistic in your games. Expect about 125 units on the board at the finish (depending on the map, your losses, and your endgame strategy). For me, practice has gradually reduced this number from about 175 units to under 125. Not only is it a measure of your planning skill, but it gives you a production target, which we will use in Ch.4.

If you fall behind (more than about 10 percent) on a statistic, try to catch up on that. Getting ahead in one stat does not usually compensate for falling behind in another. You can build fewer cities, though, as long as your total production is OK. Note that half of the 50 cities at the end will be captures.

Remember - this chart is for Deity (2 settlers) on a normal map. There is another chart for Emperor level (1 Settler) in a later chapter.

Table I
Yearturn #citiesproduction advancesunitswonders
400BC84t174.345182.5W [i12, b25]
END (600AD?)130504.525a125(20lost)3.5Ws

F. What to Learn, and How

The main skills you need are quick expansion in the opening and planning campaigns. Secondary skills include exploration, climbing the tech tree, battle tactics and adjusting to unusual maps. If you cannot expand quickly enough in the opening to match the chart in part e), try reading DaveV's Guide to ICS in the GL. Many top players do not call themselves ICSers, but still use principles described in this guide. If planning is your problem, practice with Chs 3-5 of this guide on normal maps until you can finish by 1000AD. Later, you can try other ideas/systems, such as those described in Ch 8e.

Keep notes on your games. It is easy to get lost in the details, so take breaks to look at the big picture and make plans. Make notes about your goals for the next ten turns, about your predictions for how the game will go, and about what you wish you had done 10 turns ago. Also, you can probably find saved games, or at least game logs, by the masters in tournament spoiler threads.

Chapter 2 Notes on the Opening

In the opening stage, about 4000BC to 1000BC, you prepare to attack. This requires strong shield production, good tech, and good information such as AI maps. Focus on making a lot of small cities in good locations - about 10 of them by 1000BC. Aim for monarchy asap, before your making your 5th city.

A. Cities, Shields and Growth

Plant cities near/on specials, looking mostly for shields and arrows (a 2 to 1 ratio on average is about right). Each city needs 1 good food square for getting to size 2, but food is not too important otherwise. A city on grass, near shielded grass and two forest squares is quite good, even without a special. Rivers squares are even better. Space your cities about 2-3 squares apart as long as the terrain is good. At least a few should be on the coast. Watch for chances to make a canal city (on two coasts). Very short roads (1-2 squares each) are OK, but save longer ones for later, maybe 500BC.

See DaveV's ICS Guide, or LaFayette's `Three Arrow Strategy', for more ideas. There are also opening tricks you can read up on in the GL/Forums, such as the size 1 city strategy, and the international dateline rule. If a hut is visible at the start, pop it before settling. Let's assume until Ch8 that you do not pop many more huts with your settlers, so you make two cities pretty quickly.

Around 2200BC, you'll have about 4-5 cities, mostly size 1, making 3 s/t, or less. A good size 2 city will make 5 s/t, usually towards a settler. This keeps it size 1-2 for a long time. In the early game, micro-manage. Make sure every size 2 is producing as many shields as possible. Make an exception if you can get at least 1.5 arrows per lost shield from a trade special. Later on, when this gets tedious, I just check the city status screen occasionally for lazy size 2's (where the AI has chosen food over shields).

Make no city improvements and no terrain improvements, which are a waste of precious time.

B. Making and Using Units

Use size 1 cities mostly to build warriors, which can serve as militia and explorers. You may want a few horsemen for exploring the land and tipping huts, and defense against barb's. Most masters prefer 2 warriors over 1 horseman for this, but the horseman requires less support and provides better defense, so it seems OK too. The phalanx or archer unit is usually less effective than a horseman.

You can leave your first size 1's empty for a few turns, sending a warrior out to explore a little terrain, returning as the city reaches size 2. Any spare units can make longer trips, finding huts, good city sites, AI's and map info. But this guide assumes most of your contacts and map info will come a bit later through MPE and boats.

Use your spare gold to rush-build units, especially settlers. By 1000BC, you want about 10 cities and 20-30 units (mostly warriors, a few settlers, and a few units from huts).

On a normal map, defense will probably not be a big issue. But it helps to connect cities with short roads and keep horsemen or chariots (from huts) in a few central cities. Likewise, it is not likely you will be able to attack effectively until polytheism. But if you have some good units from huts, and a nearby target - why not?

C. Tech and Wonders

Read about the 2/3's tech rule, if you haven't already. The important early techs for EC are monarchy, trade, pottery, map-making and polytheism. Assuming no starting tech, DaveV suggests early advances in this order: hr/cb/al/cl/mona. You can gamble by delaying hr, if you aren't worried about defense. Monarchy helps so much with happiness and production that everyone agrees on getting it early. With normal play, you'll probably get it by the time you need it (before making your fifth city, which would otherwise cause rioting). In choosing city sites and worker tiles, I consider 3 arrows = 2 shields, though some people prefer an arrow to a shield. Anyway, try to get monarchy right before an oedo year (2650BC, 2450BC, 2250BC, etc, see the GL) by playing with trade arrows. Then set your science to 70, taxes to 30, and stick with monarchy for the rest of the game. You will raise taxes later, when you have all the tech you need - probably that means monotheism.

Follow monarchy with bw/cu/tr/pot/poly/map, writ/wc/feud, roughly in that order. Solo suggests delaying basic techs like bw/cu/pot in hopes of getting them from nearby AI's, perhaps through vigorous exploration. But try to get trade before 1000BC, for MPE and caravans, which build wonders efficiently. When you decide to build a wonder, plan/rush your caravan production so that they all arrive at your chosen city together. For example, you will need HG when you have about 10 cities. Ideally, your 4 caravans come together for HG very soon after you discover pottery. 1000BC is a good target date for this, but 800BC is OK. You probably won't be able to make a 2nd wonder before 1000BC without hurting your growth rate.

But DaveV writes "If you're on a large continent shared by a bunch of AIs, it's much better to build MPE before HG ( then you can probably extort enough cash to build HG right away)." You will also need enough units to impress the AI. He adds "If you're on an island by yourself, the naval techs become a lot more important. If there's no land in trireme range, then the Lighthouse is extremely important." But for now, we assume a normal map and stick to the plan of HG/MPE, and later on, ST.

The `HG period' (8 to 11 cities) can be a bad time for riots, so prepare a few extra warriors, and expect to turn on a few Elvis's. Don't forget to turn them off again after HG! Send a warrior out with each settler to prepare for cities unhappy at birth. Check the Attitude screen often, to catch some of the riots before they happen.

The choice of wonder-city is not important (no SSC). Any of your central cities producing the caravans works well.

After the techs listed above, the main target will be monotheism, though it is unlikely you will get that far in the opening stages. And if you prefer, you can play without crusaders.

D. Values

I find it enjoyable to reason things out - Why is it wrong to build mines and temples? Should my settler spend 5 turns finding a better square? If you enjoy that too, I offer a few notes you can play around with (but you can safely skip this section if you like). In the early years of a typical EC game, I estimate -

1 Shield = 1.2 Beakers = 2 gold = 1.4 arrow = 0.4 turns (by 1 settler)

Also, I believe there is a natural `interest rate' of about 5 per cent. This means one shield per turn (forever) is worth about 20 shields right now. This principle also applies to arrows or gold. You can work out the mining issue from this, or see why the KRC wonder is not advised for EC.

In evaluating a city site, the main question seems to be -how long until a city on that square will produce a settler? (assuming you are getting enough arrows) This is more of an issue on strange maps.

Note - I am not a slave to these numbers; I often rush-build units at 2.5 gold per shield. Also - beakers lose their value after a certain point (eg monotheism / feudalism). Shields in homeland cities become less useful near the end, and gold becomes more useful by comparison. But spend gold pretty freely when you have it, because you do not get interest on it.

E. Preparing to Attack

Usually, 1000BC is too soon to attack. You want to attack mainly with groups of at least 3 strong fast units, which you probably don't have yet. Settlers are better investments than attacking units, so far. Your nearest neighbors, no matter how annoying they are, are not too important anyway (see Ch 4 about this). But even in 1000BC, try to plan out your tech and wonders so you can send out a few triremes, diplomats and/or elephants by 600BC. This is one of the main things you can do to put the `E' in `EC'. If restarts are on, try to attack even earlier.

Chapter 3 - Attacking the Enemy

First, a word about units - plan to attack mainly with small groups of 3 to 6 crusaders - veterans, if possible. Non-vet elephants are OK until you get monotheism, but they will have a hard time if they meet city walls. Vet ellies might replace crusaders entirely. I will call these various mounted units `cavalry' (the true Civ2 Cavalry Unit is not part of EC strategy). Diplomats are very useful for bribing cities after the capitol is down. A settler can make a colony, perhaps 5 squares from the enemy, from which you can rush-build attacking units. You don't need other units, except some militia.

For true EC, you won't have time for musketeers, cannons and so on. Delaying your attack for such units probably doesn't help anyway, because you give the AI more time to build up. If you attack before 500AD, you'll face relatively weak phalanx/legion type units, with fewer walls, and your crusaders will shine.

The earlier you can get send out a group of cavalry the better. With enough practice, you might aim to do this before 500BC. You probably can't do much with slower units like catapults or weaker ones like horsemen. If you get some archers, for example, from your first huts, maybe you can take a nearby city, but you can't plan on it.

In general, attack the capitol of each civ first, if possible. Then your dips can bribe many of the other cities. The first city often seems hardest to crack, so build up some extra force for that.

This rest of Chapter 3 focuses mainly on how to use your cavalry to defeat the enemy, and especially how to take cities. Then we will turn to long-range planning.

A. Unit to Unit Combat, Terrain and Movement

The simple rule when you attack the enemy in the field with a crusader is - you win. A fortified pikeman on a mountain would be an obvious exception. You might bribe him, or back off and hope he wanders away.

You will lose units mainly when the AI attacks you first. For example, you have to slog through a forest to get to those ripe un-walled cities - and a hidden chariot takes out three of your units in a blink.

You have several options to avoid this. Use rivers, roads or triremes if possible. A crusader can step off a boat onto grass and attack in the same turn. If you have the time and the units, send a pikeman, explorer or a warrior ahead of your cavalry. Or, stop your cavalry unit before using all it's movement points, which lessens the chance of an ambush. Avoid stacking units, to minimize the risk. It is usually worth delaying your troops in these ways for safety's sake.

B. Attacks on Cities

This is what conquest is all about. Usually, an enemy tribe starts to crumble after you take its first city, especially if it is the capita. Let's imagine that you have chosen your target city. How do you attack it?

Build up a strong force before you attack (and we'll talk numbers in a just a moment). You will be curious about how many defenders are inside, but don't waste a diplomat on investigating a city unless your decision is really tough. If in doubt, bring in more troops. The troops that are waiting can fortify about 3 squares away, preferably not stacked (unless you find an empty fort), preferably on a road/river. Non-vet units might look around for victims - chances to become vets.

Now, how to approach the city? If it is a coastal city, try to attack it by unloading from boats onto a nearby grass/plains square and attacking the same turn. Or, if there is a road or river into the city, you can amass troops on it, at a safe distance, before attacking. Without these benefits, you must plan more. On non-roaded grass, place your troops 2 squares away, preferably on one of the "diamond tips" [eg due north] where the AI cannot see you. Again, try not to stack your units too much (AI bribery is possible, but rare). You might use a spare warrior/phalanx to fortify a key square or to block counterattacks.

It is unlikely that the city will be completely surrounded by forests, hills or mountains. But, if so, amass extra troops 2 squares away and move them up to the city all on the same turn. If you suspect the AI has elephants or catapults inside such a city, try to fortify a pikeman or two near it first. If you don't care about reputation, this kind of city might be a good place to lose yours (make peace and sneak attack).

If the city is not walled, you can expect most of your attacks to succeed. Typically such a city will have 2 defenders, such as archers. With luck, you can take the city with 2 crusaders, plus 1 horseman (or whatever) to enter. With roads, or against a small city, you might even succeed without the third unit.

At your own risk, you can even send a lone vet crusader out against small unwalled towns (c3 or less). If the civ is too poor to rush-build, you may be able to remove the defender the first turn, and enter the town on the next. If it has two defenders, you probably lose.

Walled cities tend to be bigger, with maybe an extra defender, depending on whether you have worn the enemy down in the fields. Plan to use at least 6 vet.cru's on a size 5 walled city, which I call a c5+. Remember that a city on a river will be tougher, so add a couple of attack units for that.

More rules of thumb -
Attacking with non-vet ellies against c4 (no walls), plan to use 4 units. For size 5, plan to use 5 ellies, and so on. Don't attack walled cities with non-vet units. A crusader is worth about 25 per cent more than an ellie. Attack with less only rarely, only for a clear reason. In practice, the question is often not "What should I attack with?" "What can I attack with?". If you have other units only 2-3 turns away, it is usually wise bring them in before the attack, to raise your odds.

Solo suggests these rules of thumb:
For cities without walls, 4 non-vet crusaders are plenty for taking out cities with 2 defenders and 6 will be enough for bigger cities with 3 defenders. For walled cities, about 12 provide enough cushion to assure victory.

Here are some statistics you can use to form your rules.

Factors that depend on City Size
391.5 0.2

This data comes from 31 cities from 4 of my games, all from 400BC to 300AD. As you can see, there were 12 c4's, which had an average of 2 defenders each, including 0.3 veterans (on average). I counted warrior as 0.7 units (but they were not too common). Almost all these units were fortified. Roughly 10 per cent of the cities had walls. The average city size grew from 3 to 4 over a period of about 150BC to 250AD. The average number of defenders per city grew from about 1.6 to 1.8 over that period.

Number of attacking units required to destroy a phalanx
 Fortification/Terrain/Vet Bonus

The numbers across the top are the number of bonuses (+ 50 per cent) the phalanx has. For example, the column under the "2" might represent a phalanx that is 1) fortified and is 2) a veteran. If it is also on a river, look under column "3". Since city walls add 200 per cent, count that as 4 bonuses.

I have left out some rarely-needed columns, and do not claim the numbers are terribly accurate. These stats are based on tests of about 10-20 attackers starting out adjacent to a city with about 4 defenders. They do not include losses you might suffer getting into attack position. You will need an extra unit to enter the city, and should include extra attacking units as insurance.

How to use the chart? Ex: Let's assume you are attacking a c4+ with vet ellies from a distance of two. Table I suggests the city has 1.7 non-vet defenders and 0.3 vets. They are probably fortified, and the walls add 4, making them types 5) and 6). So, Table II suggests you need 2.3 x 1.7 units for the non-vets, and 2.4 x 0.3 for the vets, which is 4.63 ellies. Use no less than 5 vet ellies (I'd suggest 6) for attacking, plus any available unit for entering. Expect to lose 2.63 ellies (on average) in the process.

You might run into a city that defies the odds. It might have 6 units waiting for you. It might have built an early barracks, and have 3 vets inside. It might have pikemen with extra bonuses. So, build up a larger force than suggested, if you have time, and watch for clues that a city is going to be trouble. [You see traffic, the civ has feudalism, etc].

You can try using dips to sabotage enemy walls. I haven't studied this option very carefully yet, but estimate that most walled cities will have just one other improvement, and your first dip has about a 40-50 per cent chance of getting the walls down. If you can use more dips on the same turn, your odds go way up. The production cost of the dips you lose this way is probably less than what you'd lose in a direct attack (not sure).

After the capital is down, is it easier and faster to bribe cities than to attack them (but do some of both, to keep costs down). Some typical costs are: c1 = 60g, c7 = 350g, a vacant c2 = 50g. Also, you will probably rush-build the dip, adding about 60g to your cost.

After taking a city, sell the improvements (you can keep barracks/walls a while). I usually change the production to dips unless I really need something else. It is rare that the AI will try to retake/bribe the city very soon, but watch out.

C. Attacks on Island Civs

These are not too different from continental attacks, so read this section and the next one together.

Recommended strategy: After using MPE to get a map of the island, send two boats (four crusaders) to capture a city within one square of the sea. Ideally, it should be about size 3-5, without walls, so that you can win it without razing it. Choose the capital, if possible. Once you take this outpost, you can heal up and rush-build more units (mainly diplomats if it was the capital).

This works faster if you have back-up units on the way when you take that first city (this is also good insurance against disasters at sea). The plan can fail if the city builds walls during your voyage. But hopefully you can find another victim city, or will start so early that this doesn't happen too often.

It is pretty risky to try this with less than four units, or even with 4 virgin ele's. If you haven't made enough ele's yet, you might send a settler along instead, to colonize. It is really annoying when the AI (at peace) asks you to withdraw your troops from an AI city's ZOC, but a nearby colony makes this less of a problem. Instead of a settler, you could send a diplomat to bribe the first enemy city. If the enemy has no good target city on the coast, you can easily modify any of these options, but travel over land is a bit slower and riskier.

After landing, your boats can either return home, or disband for shields, or hang out. I usually let 1-2 boats hang out, in case my units conquer the island in time to move on to another target. Don't worry too much about leaving defenders or militia behind.

A typical island invasion takes about 5-10 turns and costs about 400g. You'll get some of that gold back. If the civ has the Great Wall, all the cities get city walls (in effect). So, take out the wonder-city ASAP to get the GW yourself. You might even decide to build the GW before an AI does, but that's a lot of shields you could spend on units.

D. Attacks on other civs by land: case studies

This applies to civs on your continent, and to nearby island civs which you plan to attack by ferrying troops across a channel. These invasions tend to be a bit slower unless there are good roads, so you may want to treat these like island civs and attack by sea if you can. But you might choose a land attack anyway, so you can deliver more troops, so

About 10 attack units is typical. The main delay is amassing enough units near the capitol, but then it is usually over quickly. Another option is a blitz attack starting at a boundary city with about 4 vet.cru's (before walls). Send or build more units asap.

One useful strategy here is to make outpost cities near these civs, probably during peacetime, about 15-20 turns before you really need to attack. It's a good use for excess settlers, and the inevitable border skirmishes usually work in your favor. Try to settle about 5 squares away from the enemy, on the side nearer your homeland, and prepare to defend.

E. Movement

Movement Tips: When building a road or city, let the settlers take their turn first. Use the `pre-rushed settler' trick if you like. Also, if you are undecided about where to send a unit, let it go last. Making cities on hills/swamps etc can speed up a road, especially late in the game.

If the enemy is poor, with small towns scattered across grasslands, consider the risky lone-crusader idea from part c).

F. Effects of terrain, units etc

- incomplete -

G. Summary: Planning a single campaign

Assuming the civ is about 4 cities and is not walled or spread out, you will need about 6-8 units to take over. The first 4 should arrive together and attack together. Some of the others may be rush-built later, especially in the case of a big distant island civ.

The invasion will probably be over within 10 turns after you arrive, or about 4-5 turns after you near the capital. Reserve about 400 gold if you expect to rush/bribe, but expect to get a lot of that back. As discussed in Ch 4, you may move your best troops on, before victory is complete, especially if it is not urgent.

Add 2-5 turns to your estimate if the civ is spread out, has more cities, or has few roads. Try to use your speedy dips in these cases. Add a few units if the civ has feudalism (pikes), walls, or some other scary feature.

Quotes by La Fayette
Those results are in accordance with my own experience. Therefore: not much to add, except that I have studied thoroughly the problem of destroying walls with dips and spies (the results have been published in the GL "Info dips and spies", but SlowThinker kept them in the 'to be discussed' part, since he was not completely satisfied).

Most detailed results are to be found here

Anyway, here is what can be kept in mind:

There are 2 methods, but diplomats can only use method #1 (method #2 = only for spies).

I'll give some details about method#1 (since spies are beyond the horizon of EC).

When the diplomat (or spy) attacks, the first "improvement" destroyed is USUALLY the improvement (or unit) under production, followed by the improvements in accordance with the list in the city screen, walls being last.

(I think that SlowThinker disliked the "USUALLY" and that is why he didn't publish those results in the summary, but I IMO I can't be held responsible for the slight random factor introduced by the authors ).

Anyway, to make it short, if there aren't improvements inside the city, you are on the safe side if you attack with (n + 1) diplomats = 100% chance that the walls will tumble down.

(but you have also a very slight chance to see the walls down after an attack with one dip

Thanks! I took a look at the diplomat thread. Not only were the conclusions interesting, but SlowThinker placed a nice table there. I still don't know what is causing those large spaces above mine.

Even though walls may come last, diplomats seem like a good idea. Here's a quick analysis. Suppose the walled city is size 4. The player does not know what is inside. But assume two defenders and a temple (and walls). I see three main attack options;

  1. Do not use diplomats. Attack with 5 vet elllies (for example) and expect to lose 2 or 3 of them. Our loss of units is 80 or 120 shields.
  2. Use 4 diplomats (1 investigates and 3 sabotage). Then attack the unwalled city with 2 vet ellies and expect both to live. Our loss of units is 120 shields.
  3. Same as b) without the investigation. Loss is 90s.

Despite the slightly greater expected loss, trying b) seems better than a). The first dip reveals everything - If there is no temple, or many defenders, option b) is cheaper. If there are lots of improvements, we can still switch to plan a). The first dip does not have to wait for the others. I think plan b) makes even more sense for larger cities (with more defenders). There is less risk in plan b).

The drawback is - I (we?) usually have more ellies in play than dips. If I had 8 vet ellies nearby and no dips, I'd go with plan a) to save time.

Option c) costs one dip less than b). I am not sure how to analyze it yet, so maybe it needs testing. IIRC, two dips played in one turn are very very likely to take down walls in a 200AD city, which means c) is not really very risky. So, I tend to favor c).

Chapter 4 - Planning Multiple campaigns

So, you demolished the Mongols in 800BC? Wow! And the Japanese in 500BC? The English, Aztecs and Germans by 200AD? But the Romans had a walled city on a little island in the far corner of the map - and you couldn't get them until 1300AD? Well, the only date that counts is the last one, 1300AD. You probably are not planning well if your last 2-3 conquest dates are more than a few turns apart.

This short chapter is about planning for the earliest possible finish. Having an overall plan helps with patience, success in attacks and overall satisfaction.

A. The "Farthest One First" Rule

In the story above, you should have noticed the Roman problem as soon as you got MPE, and sent loaded triremes there ASAP. In most games, the most distant civilization determines your EC date. Get there ! Forget about gold and wonders and city growth if you have to. Start early. Get map making, build some triremes and ele's, and send them off. Make notes about when and where the units will be produced and meet the boat, etc. This simple advice should take years off your score, but there are some cases where you will have to adjust -

B. Production and Your Late Swarm

If you take the advice in part a) to the extreme, and sacrifice everything to send out a few flotillas by 1000BC [I usually aim for about 500BC], you may have problems making enough cities and units to handle the other 5 civs.

How can you know? Well, on normal maps I usually have about 110 units on my Defense Minister screen at the end of the game. This number is my production target. We'll discuss the number more later, so let's assume for now that 110 is also your target. You need to estimate when you will get there. How? Well, if your cities each make about 4-5 s/t,

N cities will produce about N units every 10 turns.

So, you get a target date for your 110 units. If it is later than your target date for killing the Romans, then production is critical. In Chapter 3 language, your Type B conquest(s) are likely to take longer than your type A(s). You should focus on growth/shields more than attacks until the type A's become critical. Make settlers, cities, HG, review ICS ideology, etc, and delay units/roads/ST/LH.

Now, about the target number (110). When I started learning EC, I was finishing with 175 units, but it has gradually come down with practice. So, pay attention to your final stats after each game, and adjust your target number accordingly.

You may need to adjust it for other reasons, too. You will notice that most of your final units never see battle (unless you are very effective in using your late swarm). So, you may choose to build/sell barracks in your homeland cities to fund your attacks. Obviously, this plan will reduce your final unit stats.

Recently, on some unusual maps (small, poor terrain, and/or 5 civs), my final unit stats have been much less; about 50. Island maps also seem to reduce the number at least 10 per cent. If you build more wonders or cities, this will reduce your target number just a little. In summary, unusual maps make your target pretty fuzzy, but it is still better to include it on your plans than not.

C. Timing and Combining Campaigns

So, to put this all together, list your 3-4 campaigns (soon after MPE), and decide which type they are (A,B or C - see Ch3). Estimate a victory date for each one. Add a few turns if the campaign includes 2 or 3 civs, or if the cities are spread out (diameter over 10sqs). If you can recycle units from an early conquest into later one, you may speed up your victory date, but this is hard to plan much in advance.

Focus on the conquest with the latest victory date and let that influence all your decisions about production and troop movements. Find ways to reduce that date, maybe by rush-building, diverting or recycling units. Ideally, you now have realistic plans to finish all your conquests at about the same time, with a target date of maybe 800ad. With practice, you may be surprised how close you come to your target date. Hopefully, you will even find your target dates decreasing from game to game, towards maybe 300AD or even less.

If you have included type C's (flex-civs) into your plan, you probably do not have to make a careful schedule for them. Just don't let them become critical. Switch effort from those to the type B's at the right moment, so that every campaign ends by your target date.

Strict ICS may produce excess settlers by 1AD. Plan early for how to use these (for outposts, roads, etc) or just stop making them. With less than 30 turns left, an attack unit is usually worth more than a Settler.

Chapter 5 - Middle and Endgame Tips

A. Diplomacy; M.P.E, maps, tech and tribute

This section has been tested on Civ2 MGE, which has a more hostile AI than version 2.42.

MPE is huge for gaining tech, maps and tribute. So, get it early. Then, take notes about your enemies' techs (the white ones and map-making) and cities, etc. If they are at war/peace with other civs, that can tell you a bit about their location (in case you can't get their map).

Then give away tech to raise a civ's attitude. If you are a beginner, you may be reluctant to give away tech. But read about tech-gifting in the GL. I am still reluctant to give away feudalism (pikemen) and may have second thoughts about monarchy and poly. But the AI is rarely able to take advantage of your gifts.

If the civ has tech you need, you can trade tech instead, They must be at least neutral towards you for this. When they are AT LEAST cordial, and you both have map-making, ask to trade maps. If they say no, you can probably give some more and try again. `Worshipful' should always be enough. I prefer to give tech, but you can give gold (or units) instead, and can sometimes get it right back by demanding tribute.

After you start giving, try not to let them go until you have their map. With MGE, they will not remember your kindness. If they get away, you will have to start over. Try to avoid war until you have their map. If you cannot, make peace at any reasonable cost, which usually brings them up to neutral. Then go for gifts and the map.

Later on, MPE may show that a civ has built more cities, so make peace and get their map again. Otherwise, finding those cities with your units can be a headache [but there are tricks explained in the forums to help with this - eg, black-clicking, the nearest city trick].

Sometimes they accept a gift and rudely say good-bye. Maybe that is just bad luck, but they do tend to repeat this behavior for a while.

You can try doing all of the above as soon as you make contact with another civ, but without MPE it is harder (you don't know if they have mapmaking, or tech that you need, etc). Apparently this option works better with 2.42 because you get a second chance.

In general, do not make alliances. They can be costly to break when it is time to attack, and your allies will not usually help you anyway.

After getting the map, you can start demanding tribute. There is a chance they will declare war, but that's usually good (unless you are busy building an outpost on their island, for example). To get tribute you must intimidate them a bit, by having enough units on their continent. According to zenon, the total of your attack factors must exceed the number of their units.

Getting tribute on an island map takes some planning and patience. On a large land mass map, you just need MPE and about 20 warriors.

If the 2/3's tech rule forces you to research something you don't need, choose an advance that another civ has, and trade/extort for it. Then you can switch to a tech you actually want, without loss of beakers.

As a simple rule of thumb, quit science after monotheism + feudalism and then raise taxes. I have made exceptions (for navigation, etc.). Maybe quit even earlier on a `fast' map (eg a small one).

If you move troops into view of a city with which you are at peace, that civ may ask you to withdraw (you may get a warning first). This can be really annoying if you have spent 20 turns getting them into position. If you refuse to withdraw, you will lose reputation AND the enemy gets to attack first. The best solutions are to avoid peace, to delay your advance, and/or to build a colony nearby (to accept the withdrawn troops). Do not trust the AI even when you are at peace. They will sneak attack (which gives them attack bonuses). This is especially likely on a crowded/small map or when you build a colony too close to their cities.

Notes on your colony: Place it about 5 squares away from an AI city - far enough for safety, but on the same continent and close enough to attack quickly later on. Place it pretty far from your homeland, but not past the civ(s) it's intended for. Don't worry much about specials, corruption, etc. It is mainly for rush-building, healing, and withdrawal of troops. [Warning - if restarts are ON, it can affect re-spawn location].

Notes from solo about MPE (with 2.42):

... it may be a good idea to skip this wonder, too. Instead of making 4 caravans to build MPE, build triremes earlier and start exploring instead. The boats are essential later for transporting troops and are needed now to get the first two colonies established early enough to produce two more. MPE is more important in EL games, where the AI become very useful as research assistants; but in EC games, once Monotheism is discovered, research is over. A few useful tech trades are likely via the first few AI contacts made by exploration, which is probably enough help to get to Monotheism quickly.

B. Production, Growth, Happiness

Aim for about 70 units and production of 100-120 s/t by 1AD. You might use 30 anemic cities or 15 super cities. Remember - you probably won't finish with less than 110 units on a normal map, so don't neglect production.

After about the 10th city, I get tired of micro-managing the worker squares of the size 2 cities. I want shields, but the AI chooses food. So, every 2-3 turns, I look over the city screen for lazy ones producing under 4-5 s/t and just fix those. I don't try to predict riots, but just fix each one with an Elvis (or by leaving a size 2 city empty) until I can find a spare warrior, or reduce the city size. I start to ignore ICS principles after about 10-15 cities, allowing some to reach size 3, and reducing my production of settlers. Roughly, I stop making settlers about 30 turns before my target date for finishing.

Some people favor fewer/larger cities, up to size 6, backed by Mike's and/or Pyramids. They can get almost the same production levels with less rioting. This has not worked out very well in my play testing. I feel that Mike's is too expensive and comes too late. But I admit my testing is not conclusive, and that I probably don't play the Mike's plan perfectly.

C. Finishing the Game

Every few turns, re-evaluate which campaign is critical and focus on speeding that one up (eg, by rush-building). Take reasonable risks in that campaign, rather than waiting to build up over-whelming force.

Do not take risks in non-critical arenas - if you can wait for backup instead. Waiting within view of an enemy city may induce it to fortify more troops inside (but this claim has not been well tested) so I suggest waiting 3-4 squares away.

Bribing is faster than conquering.

Watch out for new cities popping up at the last moment. If you don't care about reputation, you can make peace briefly to get maps and tribute, and then attack again.

The homeland may become irrelevant towards the end. Use it to make gold, or last-minute wonders like Magellan's, or your late-swarm if you need one.

DaveV writes

In the late game on a large map, cash is more important than shields, so you can rushbuild units at the front line. Units that will never appear in battle aren't worth building: maybe this is the time for the old "build and sell barracks" trick.

D. Game-stoppers and Heart-breakers

These disasters have ended some promising games. Most are pretty unlikely, but they are a warning not to relax too much. You might want to avoid these:

  1. The most common game-stopper is to lose too many attack units in battle, or in transit, ones needed to make a distant campaign work. Of course, you keep playing, but you may have just lost 10-15 turns. This probably won't happen often if you build ST and attack with some patience. But as DaveV writes
    Early conquest is an aggressive, risk-taking game. My ICS writeup concentrated on a safe, guaranteed win. For a really early conquest, you have to take some risks and have some good luck."
  2. You are playing in a tournament with some unusual rules, which you didn't read carefully, or forgot about.
  3. You have shipped your 4 elephants 100 squares to surround the most distant capitol. But you have made an alliance with them (doh). You cannot break it, except through diplomacy, and then your elephants will be sent home. BTW - nearby triremes are also sent home in this case.
  4. You are trashing the last civ when a settler escapes in the dark and makes a new city. On a small island - one square only.
  5. Your good friends, the Aztecs, sneak attack in 2000BC and take one of your 5 cities. This may set you back several hundred years. Use a cheap warrior as a buffer against this, and keep a horseman nearby. Don't ignore barbarians either. Once you have diplomats, you can use them to bribe back lost cities cheaply.
  6. La Fayette writes
    I always remember my first big conquest game where I was fighting the mighty Mongols: I had just taken 2 rather small cities, each with heavy defences; I had about 20 strong units parked inside the cities in order to protect them after the fight; then came 2 of those smiling young diplomats who bought back the 2 cities for a few gold (half price for previous owner + city disorder ), with all my proud conquerors inside.
  7. The `stupid' AI does seem to notice when you stack units, and seems more likely to attack those. Which can really hurt a small invasion force.
  8. You may run into an AI super-city; a) built on a river or hills, b) walled, c) with more than 2 defenders and d) with pikes. Even two of these problems in one city is pretty bad luck. You can try bribery (if it is not the capital), sabotaging the walls, inducing the defenders to attack, or coming back later.
  9. People have reported computer crashes wiping out their games. Use the auto-save feature, and make saves yourself every 20 turns or so (which also helps you analyze your game later).

Chapter 6 - Other Playing Levels and Settings

A. Emperor Level

This level gets almost no attention in forum/GL posts, though it is fairly popular in GOTM's. It is hard to win quickly, because you start with only one settler, and lag behind Deity growth most of the game. The main advantage is happiness; you might even omit HG and Mike's, with city sizes up to about 3-4.

I suggest an extreme ICS at the start, with fewer militia or early wonders. Try to catch up with the Deity growth charts by 1000BC. After that, play as if on Deity, catching up on wonders and units [MPE around 800BC, first triremes out about 500BC, then ST, etc] until about 400BC. Delay HG until you see the need, maybe about 400BC. Your growth and unit-count will probably start to lag again, but you should catch up to the Deity statistics around 1AD, and can expect similar finish dates.

Emperor Schedule (averages of just a few games, mostly on normal maps):

2200bc: 4c, pr3.2, 5a/8 i6/s8, 3.3u

1000bc: 10c, p3.8, i8/18s, 8a/7@tr, 0W, 14u: 3S,9w..

400bc: 15c: p4.6, 15a/10, i13/s30, 400g, 1.9W, 33u: 2S,23w..

1ad: 20c: p5, 20a/30, i42/s16, 600g, no riots, 57u: 3S,23w,10e,6tr,4dip..

END 420ad: 42c, 25a i65/s25, 110u w 35cru (20lost)

Grigor adds

At Emperor level, the Size 1 settler strategy is imperative. This means do not found your city unless you will be able to work a forest square or better. Be careful - working a pheasant makes the size 1 strategy impossible." This seems like good advice for lower levels, too.

B. King and Below

The only times I have played these for EC were in GOTM's with weird maps. The growth and production rates seem similar to those on Emperor level until about 500 BC, when King/Prince gets ahead. Skip HG/Mike's if you aim for a very EC, before about 400AD. Consider building Pyramids to promote city growth. At Prince level, you can easily keep size 6-7 cities happy with just HG + militia.

C. Restarts ON

A conquered civ may come back. Different tribe, same color, usually a different location

It has been asked - "Why?". This setting adds a huge luck factor, and at least 5 turns to most games. But it adds variety, and you may have to play with re-starts on if you play tournaments. If restarts are ON, you must add another "campaign" to your list. It is the last to finish, so treat it as critical. That is, spread out your spare units (eg tri+cru) across the lonely parts of the map to chase re-spawns. Use MPE to find them, and build extra triremes to hunt them. Expect to finish with 10-15 more units than usual.

Here is a strategy I've tried several times. It seems to work only about half the time, but doesn't cost much when it fails:

  1. Kill your first civ ASAP. It will probably re-spawn into the map's main `re-spawn zone'. Find this zone by using MPE to get the new civ's map. Sometimes an AI kills the 1st civ for you, so pay attention to the text messages!
  2. Send 2 crusaders to kill the re-spawn before finishing off any other civs. If it has made a city, do NOT capture it - RAZE it! Likewise, do not build an outpost city nearby. You want the other re-spawns to come there too, and a nearby city will deter that.
  3. Leave your units in that zone, to wait for more victims.
  4. There is some luck involved here, so spread out some other troops/boats, as in the usual anti-respawn plan.

For more on re-spawns, see La Fayette's Apolyton thread.

D. Barbarians

I have not noticed that the barbarian setting has much effect on my games. Raging hordes can be good, since they often bother the AI's more than you - and each leader is worth 150g. Consider putting a phalanx on a mountain to lure the barb fighters to their deaths, and then get the leader with a horseman.

Barbarian cities are easy to bribe, which may be the cheapest way to get an outpost near an enemy civ. And if the barbs take one of your cities, bribery is a good way to get it back. You can also bribe the barbarians themselves, and may even get cheap NON-units.

E. Huts

With huts, there is some risk of unleashing a swarm of barbarians, getting un-wanted tech or of causing support problems (during despotism). But in general, it's good to tip.

DaveV writes

Hut-hunting is crucial in the early and even mid-game. It's probably worth delaying founding your first city on a small map, especially if there's no good special nearby.

DaveV uses mainly horsemen to tip huts, but many people use warriors. Try using a dip for huts on grass, so you can bribe any barbarians that pop up. A cavalry unit just off a boat can do the same, and retreat back to the boat if necessary, without even slowing down the boat.

If you tip huts before founding your first city, the units you get do not require support, and you will not get barb's. If a hut is visible at the start, it is wise to tip it first. We'll briefly discuss some extreme hut strategies later, in Ch.8.

Solo writes

Just a note about MPE, which I consider almost essential in a game where restarts are on. It's needed if you want to track down respawns quickly.
Another note on general strategy is that I'm finding that a huge army (more than 30 mounted attackers) may not be needed. It may be better to start with fewer cities and wonders, allowing search and destroy to commence earlier. Looks to me that the Lighthouse is the only required wonder when restarts are off.

Chapter 7 - Other maps

We have assumed so far that normal terrain and climate will provide a good base for expansion in the opening, and for production in the middle game. But a doctored map or an arid climate can really slow your growth. Likewise, an island map or an off-sized map will affect play.

A. Poor land (swamps/deserts/etc)

Arid climate: Expect lower production rates (eg about 2.7s/t per city at 1000BC, instead of 3.9). This will affect expansion, so you may fall 20 turns or so behind normal growth. Gold and rush-building take on greater importance.

So, try harder to explore for huts and good city sites - specials, rivers, and even grass. You can worry less about large cities and riots, and can use Elvises rather than lots of militia.

Play a leaner game. Omit SunTzu and delay HG until you really need it (until you have about 8 Elvises at work or are producing 80s/t). You may have to delay monarchy 1000 years.

A cold/wet climate is not a problem for growth. Extra rivers are good, but extra lakes, forests etc can slow down your cavalry. Try to move mostly by boat.

If you play in tournaments, you will probably face some hand-made maps designed to take you out of your normal game. On an extremely resource-poor island (see GOTM45) with no grass, consider terraforming near specials before settling, and using your 5-6th settlers for mining/forests. Explore the coastlines for specials. Build triremes to find better land. Try the ideas suggested above for arid maps. Consider the size 1 city trick, even for Deity level.

B. Islands and Continents

If you somehow know the map has only one continent, with huts, you can try a hut-popping strategy (Ch.8). But the normal Ch 1-5 system works well too. You can expect lots of early tribute if you intimidate the AI by building 20-25 warriors and/or capture a few cities. You can make MPE your first wonder, to help get tribute quickly.

If the map is medium to large, with separated small islands, build the LH early to get your invasions going on time. With less early tribute, your economy is a bigger issue. So, quit science and raise taxes earlier.

You can expect to finish as quickly on an island map as on a continental map. Maybe because transportation is faster, or because the other civs tend to be weaker. In effect, you can start the endgame earlier on an island map.

If your home island is small, go for map making sooner and expand onto other islands (but not much after about 500BC, since this can be slow to pay off). If you find none, build LH ASAP and consider going for navigation and caravels. If the map is huge, build Magellan's soon after ST. As usual, focus on getting to the most distant civs as soon as you have MPE and Li.

Outposts on enemy land can be useful in invasions, as noted above. I prefer to capture outposts, rather than use boat space on settlers. Settlers are slower, but safer. If things go wrong, a single settler, plus enough gold, might save your attack.

A big late swarm is harder to use on an island map, so a huge population is not so crucial. Relax the ICS style earlier (around 700bc to 500bc) to produce more attackers, or wonders. You will not need as many Settlers for roads or new cities in an island world. Consider raising taxes to 70 percent soon after polytheism, depending on how much you want feudalism, monotheism or navigation.

C. Large and small maps

A large map will increase the likelihood that your Type A campaigns are critical ones. So, plan your boat departures and first attacks earlier. Growth can wait a bit.

If the large map is mostly land, make a few more settlers and build 1-2 major roads. If speed is really crucial, planting a city (on a hill/swamp/river etc) is faster than making a road square.

A small map may save you about 200 years by reducing transportation problems. Expect to finish with fewer units than above (perhaps 70).

On a small map, you may lack space for growth, and the neighbors may sneak-attack . Consider yourself at war from the start. If you are lucky, one AI may remove another AI. Build a few more military units (eg horsemen) in the opening for defense, but then focus on growth.

Small island-maps can be played more like continental maps. You can probably omit LH, and can probably use a late swarm on the nearest neighbor. Devote fewer troops to early defense than on a normal small map.

Chapter 8 - Other Strategies

This guide has presented a reliable system for EC by 500AD on most maps. But there are many reasonable alternatives and it is not clear which strategy (if any) is the best one. Now, we present the known alternatives.

A. Wonders

In general, building a 200-shield wonder will slow you down about 3 turns. Or more, if you build it early, or adopt a low-growth style. But they make game-play easier, and the best ones pay for themselves. The list of best wonders is debatable, but here's a list of reasonable ones, in decreasing order:

I recommend HG pretty early because it allows you to grow past 12 cities by 500BC without major rioting. Most good players build it at Deity level. Solo is experimenting with a very lean approach that omits HG (only LH) and uses fewer cities.
It is required if re-starts are on, and I believe it is required if you play MGE. With version 2.42, you might replace it with enough early exploration and AI contacts.
Among the big three recommended in Chs 1-5, this is the most debatable. It costs more than 7 barracks and is harder to build. Barracks can be rushed easier and don't require feudalism. They aid with healing. They can be sold. But if you want about 10 cities to make veteran attack units, ST is more cost-effective than barracks. Play testing suggests it is OK to build ST - or not. It probably makes the most sense on a big continental/varied map.
Even non-vet ellies will usually win against non-walled cities on plains. But I suggest building veterans by 300BC,
ts value depends a lot on the map. On most island maps it is required for getting to the AI quickly by trireme. So, plan to build it soon after MPE gives you a look at maps, and before your first flotillas depart. Even if you can find coastal sea routes, you will probably save time with LH. It is usually not required on continental maps or even small island maps.
It seems hard to get to navigation in EC games, and I no longer try. But if you do, consider building Magellan's late in the game with your relatively useless homeland cities.
Mike's is the most cost-effective solution to unhappiness in large cities. In combination with Pyr, and a little more space between your cities, you might match the shield production of an ICS player. At present, I am not convinced that's worth 400-600 shields, though Zenon has had some success with it.
A couple of players have tried using LW to promote swarms of horsemen to knights or dragoons. The drawbacks - it is hard to attack very early, and the promoted troops are not veterans.
Pyr (without Mike's) does not make sense in an ICS/Deity game. MAYBE if the terrain is so bad that your cities can't grow normally. It could work in a Prince/King level game, where you have a "free Mike's" and want bigger cities.
The rest
The other wonders are not used by good players. Maybe a creative genius will find a new plan, but until then - do NOT build the GL, Oracle, Col, KRC or CO. The only reason I see for building the Great Wall is to stop an AI from getting it, but even then I probably wouldn't do it.

B. Hut Strategies

DaveV and Mangor420 have posted amazing BC conquest dates in recent tournament spoiler threads. They both tipped a lot of huts.

DaveV writes

I think the record for early conquest was set by someone who never built a city, but just conquered with hut units. On a large map, there are so many huts that you can get most of your tech from them, as well as lots of free units."
For some reason, this idea has not become popular. Maybe it is very risky and/or it depends on hut-finding programs, black-clicking, etc. I tried it a few times without success. Once, I discovered that I was stuck on a large island, far behind in terms of growth. Another try just produced some worthless tech before being slaughtered by the AI.

Even if you do plan to make cities, you can tip hut(s) first, so that the units you get are NON-units, and there is no risk of barbarians attacking you. I will tip one if it is visible at the start, but do not go looking for more until I have warriors. After that, I will usually tip any hut I see - with a little caution before monarchy (about bad tech or support problems) and about barbs close to my cities.

Another version of this, explained by Mangor420 in a GOTM spoiler thread, is to start normally, but get seafaring/explorers asap. Apparently, explorers tip huts pretty well, and he finished in 450BC. He reported some luck in getting advanced tribes near his enemies.

Grigor writes

OK, I am trying the seafaring/explorer strategy. There are some things to work out, but it seems to take 300-500 years off my conquest time. I drop the first two cities ASAP with no roads and set workers to maximize science. I take Map Making as the off tech to Monarchy and then Pottery and Seafaring. I get an average of 5 huts before getting a 9-barb hut which kills the explorer - and more if I can start early - which average to 1 unit, 50g, an advanced tribe/nomad, and a tech for each explorer, plus meeting most of the AI and uncovering the map fast. Pretty good return on investment, and it is especially good on the poles.
Some issues with this strategy include: How many explorers to build - I think 2 on a medium map. When to build them - before the fourth city or after the second - How to combine with trireme construction. Under what conditions is it possible - certainly with 2 free techs toward Monarchy or Seafaring and a pretty big continent.

DaveV adds

The other nice thing about explorers is that they can get to the front line in a hurry. When you need one more unit to capture that empty city, an explorer works as well as any other, and it is more likely to be able to reach the target.

Of course, you must decide whether the explorer is worth more than other units you could build with 50s, and about the detour to seafaring.

C. Trade Strategies

It appears that a few players such as Tim the Enchanter, Slowthinker (and perhaps Elephant and others) have used trade routes in some EC GOTM's. I have not gotten many details of their strategy from spoiler threads or forum questions. But in the recent Apolyton 2004 Holiday Tournament, Slowthinker posted an amazing 1AD conquest using an ingenious trade-based strategy. I recommend reading the spoiler thread for his explanation, but the key points seem to be:

It is too early to tell if Slowthinker's clever strategy is better than our conventional one. He used an early version of it in GOTM41 to post a 40AD EC (also on an island map). That was at King level with only 5 civs. I used the Ch 1-5 strategy to finish that game in 120AD (not posted). My first guess is that his strategy requires more understanding of Civ2 than ours, but is faster, at least on island maps. It also appears fairly reliable, though it has not been tested very much.

D.Final remarks (govt, SSC, large cites, etc)

Most EC players try to get to Monarchy ASAP and then stay with it. Maybe a temporary switch to Republic makes sense. Other gov'ts seem too far up the tech tree.

Science is mainly important up to monotheism, which you can usually get by about 100AD. So, there probably isn't time to build and use an SSC in an EC game. Some higher techs that have been mentioned in threads, but not often used - Nav, Rep, Fundy, RR.

Larger cities: Zenon achieved the earliest conquest in Aug04 by building Mike's and Pyr's by 500BC (in addition to our big three!). By 1AD, his 21 cities were mostly size 3-5 and were producing over 6s/t. He had 95 units, including 26 crusaders. He won in 460AD with restarts on. Possibly, his success was due to his skill in the opening - he might have done just as well using smaller cities.

La.Fayette's "Three Arrow Strategy" is a method for getting to monarchy quickly, even at the cost of some growth. The idea is - if you see no specials at the start, try for a city site (eg near the ocean) where you can get at least 3 arrows, and therefore, two beakers. After monarchy, you can play for growth. Probably, 3arrows works best on an arid/poor map, where growth is slow.

E. Conquest after 1000AD

Hopefully, most players can learn to finish by 1000AD with this guide and enough practice. But if tournament directors find new ways to delay us, we may need to use musketeers and cannons and ironclads. For now, browse the CFC War Academy about using such units and associated slower strategies.

F. Abbreviations

I have tried to curtail my addiction to abbr'ns, but in case I threw some in, here's a key:
auattacking unit
CFC CivFanatics
EC early conquest
ECGthis EC guide
ICS Infinite City Strategy
GL Great Library (the wonder or the forum)
GOTM Game of the Month (at CFC)
LH or Li Lighthouse
pr production (shields)
sshield (or maybe science)
ST SunTzu or SlowThinker or Super-Trade city
u unit

G. References and Links

Every serious beginner should read DaveV's guide to ICS in the Great Library and ElephantU's Tips for New Players at CivFanatics (in the Strategy Forum). The GL has an interesting section on the Combat Formula, which you should read if your games deviate much from the crusader-vs-phalanx model described in this guide. LaFayette has a thread about beating re-starts and one about diplomats. CivFanatics has a "War Academy" (like a small GL). As far as I know, this is the only Civ2 EC strategy guide.

I have learned a lot from reading the forums at both sites, and have shamelessly used many other peoples' ideas to write this guide. Solo has been very generous with ideas and testing. I also learned a lot from the games of DaveV and Zenon, which they were kind enough to post during the August 04 tournament. Solo's ELG and DaveV's ICS guide (in the GL) were an inspiration to get started.

I expect to edit and update the ECG for at least a few months, so more contributions are welcome.

THE END (for now)

H. Table Reference