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Zigzagzigal's Guide to Russia (BNW)
Russia is a great Civ for those who like to build up a strong empire before sending it to war. With bonuses to production and strategic resources, it can raise huge armies to overwhelm opponents. This guide goes into plenty of detail about Russian strategies, uniques and how to play against them.
Note: This guide assumes you have all game-altering DLC and expansion packs (all Civ packs, Wonders of the Ancient World, Gods & Kings and Brave New World)
Is there, or has there ever been, or will there ever be a land alike that of Russia? It is not a country which can simply be ruled as if it was another; it is essentially a vast continent which happens to be within the same state. And yet, for the distinct contemporary nature of Russia, it has not always been this way. Its origins lie in a diverse set of peoples entering the region over many centuries; the Greeks, Persians, Scandinavians, East Slavs and more, leading to the eventual creation of Kievan Rus', a powerful federation set up in the late 8th century of the common era. In the 13th century, it would fall to the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Mongol Empire. It would take two centuries until the Grand Duchy of Moscow (otherwise known as Muscovy) would be able to break this rule and reunite the lands once held by Kievan Rus'. While this Russian state was able to expand and gain power at first, come the mid-16th century, Russia experienced weak leadership followed by chaos. But Russia was to rise once again - under Peter the Great and later Catherine the Great, the state grew in size and military power to be a true Great Power by the early 19th century.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian Empire was a major power in Europe and in the world, but there was growing discontent within the country. An unexpected military defeat to Japan in 1905 as well as the First World War worsened public mistrust of the government, giving a chance for the Communists to take control. This lead to a brutal civil war, where the Communists would emerge triumphant. In 1922, they would form the Soviet Union - a vast nation dominated by Russia and from 1924-53, dominated by Joseph Stalin. Stalin's rule was brutal and cost the lives of millions, but nonetheless the Soviet Union would emerge as one of the biggest victors of the Second World War. It would not be long until many Russia's fellow allies - America, France and Britain to name three - began to mistrust them and vice versa. Both America and Russia armed themselves with vast arsenals of nuclear weapons in the Cold War, with no direct fighting but terrible indirect wars. This eventually ended in the mostly-peaceful revolutions across eastern Europe from 1989-91, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many parts broke off from Russia, leaving a smaller (if still the largest state on Earth in land area) country behind, and one with less confidence in this brave new world. But now, Russia's government is determined to once again make a mark on the world and return Russia to a position of strength, while on the other hand, there are concerns that it is becoming increasingly authoritarian. You are now to take control of this vast land and attempt to find a path for this new Russia. Are you to continue on this current trajectory, or will you take a different path? Can you build a civilization that stands the test of time?
Before I go into depth with this guide, here's an explanation of some terminology I'll be using throughout for the sake of newer players.
Beelining - Focusing on obtaining a technology early by only researching technologies needed to research it and no others. For example, to beeline Bronze Working, you'd research Mining and Bronze Working and nothing else until Bronze Working was finished. Finisher - The bonus for completing a Social Policy tree (e.g. Free Great Person for Liberty.) Meatshield - A unit that can soak up damage on behalf of another. Standard melee units are often good at this job. Melee Units - Throughout this guide, "melee units" typically refers to all non-ranged military units - whether on the land or sea. "Standard melee units" refer to Warriors, Swordsmen, Longswordsmen, Spearmen, Pikemen, Landsknecht and replacement units for them. Opener - The bonus for unlocking a Social Policy tree (e.g. +1 culture for every city for Liberty's opener) Spotter - A unit which allows a ranged unit (usually a siege unit) a line of sight with its target. Typically, siege units have a higher maximum range than their sight radius, hence the need for spotters. Tall empire - A low number of cities with a high population each. "Building tall" refers to making an empire a tall one. UA - Unique Ability - The unique thing a Civilization has which doesn't need to be built. UB - Unique Building - A replacement for a normal building that can only be built by one Civilization. UU - Unique Unit - A replacement for a normal unit that can only be built by one Civilization or provided by militaristic City-States when allied. Uniques - Collective name for Unique Abilities, Units, Buildings, Improvements and Great People Wide empire - A high number of cities with a low population each. "Building wide" refers to making an empire a wide one.
At a glance (Part 1/2)
Russia has a tundra start bias. While a notably poor starting bias, it does tend to put you in areas that can be more easily defended in the early-game, giving you time to improve your infrastructure and raise armies.
Russia's UA and UB don't take too long to kick in - both starting in the ancient era - but their UU isn't available until the industrial era.
Unique Ability:Siberian Riches
All tiles with strategic resources (Horses, Iron, Coal, Oil, Aluminium or Uranium) gain +1
Improved horse, iron and uranium resources within your territory provide double their normal quantities
This stacks with the Third Alternative tenet from the Autocracy ideology to create quadruple quantities of the respective resources.
Resources from trading or from allied City-States are not doubled in quantity.
Unique Unit:Cossack (Replaces the Cavalry)
A mounted melee unit
Military Science Industrial era 1st column (10th column overall)
Combustion Modern era 2nd column (13th column overall)
*Assumes a normal speed game. **Requires 1 Oil resource to upgrade.
No defensive terrain bonuses
33% combat penalty when attacking cities
Can move after attacking
33% combat bonus against wounded units*
*This bonus is not the Charge promotion, though it has the same effect and stacks with it.
Positive keep-on-upgrade changes
33% combat bonus against wounded units
Unique Building:Krepost (Replaces the Barracks)
A building of the Unit Experience line
Required to build
Bronze Working Ancient era 2nd column (3rd column overall)
*Assumes a normal speed game.
Great Work slots
Provides 15XP to all units built in the respective city
Reduces the gold and culture costs of acquiring new tiles in the respective city by 25%
Reduces the gold and culture costs of acquiring new tiles in the respective city by 25%
At a glance (Part 2/2)
Note these scores are a matter of personal opinion based on experiences with the Civilization. You may discover a way of utilising the Civ more effectively in unconventional ways.
Russia works best at domination - it's what links all three of their uniques. Extra production can help with cultural and scientific victories while extra quantities of strategic resources can be traded away for gold to bribe City-States with, although due to the unpredictable nature of where strategic resources turn up, they're not the most reliable possible routes.
Similar Civs and uniques
Austria is probably the Civ most alike Russia, and not just for their effective Cavalry UUs with good keep-on-upgrade bonuses. Both Russia and Austria are good at acquiring extra strategic resources (Russia with double quantities of horses, iron and uranium, and Austria by annexing City-States) and are decent at peaceful land acquistion (Russia via Kreposts, Austria, again, by annexing City-States.) They also both have above-average production - Russia has +1 production on every tile with a strategic resource, while Austria's Coffee Houses are unrestricted Windmills with a general 5% production bonus instead of a 10% bonus just for buildings.
Another Civ with strong tile acquisition and a Cavalry UU with keep-on-upgrade features is the Shoshone.
Same start bias
Russia's tundra start bias is shared with Sweden.
Similar to the UA
Russia gets double quantities of iron, horses and uranium; Arabia gets double quantities of oil (and, via their Bazaar UB, double quantities of luxury goods.)
+1 production for strategic resources functions similarly to the +1 production for pastures found in the Hunnic Unique Ability. While the Huns have all pasture resources revealed immediately but strategic resources are revealed over the course of the game, Russia's ability does not require the resources to be improved to gain the production bonus.
Of these, Cossacks are most alike Hussars - both are excellent to use on the offensive against vulnerable enemy units.
Similar to Kreposts
Two other Civs have direct bonuses to tile acquisition - America can buy them for half-price, while Shoshone cities start with over double the usual number of tiles.
Unique Ability:Siberian Riches
Above: Note the extra production on the horses, and the fact I have 4 horses available rather than the 2 this tile has.
Russia is a Civ that's excellent at building up a huge army. With extra production from strategic resource tiles, as well as three different types of strategic resources being doubled in quantity, they can build a lot more of certain units faster than most other Civs.
In the beginning...
Russia really gets going in the late-game, while the early-game and mid-game are best used to prepare for that. You'll have a few hurdles to get over on the way to your UU, most notably Russia's particularly poor starting bias of tundra. You shouldn't spend ages moving your Settler to get out of the tundra, but it's pretty important to build new cities early on as Russia so you don't get overdependent on your tundra capital.
Expansion will also be important for securing strategic resources. Because most strategic resources don't reveal themselves for quite some time, you'll want to have plenty of tiles (and hence cities) to increase your chances of having lots of strategic resources. The Liberty Social Policy tree (along with Tradition's Opener) and your UB will aid you there. As for the earliest two strategic resources, it's useful to research Animal Husbandry and Bronze Working fairly early on so you can locate them, settle there and take advantage of the good amount of production.
Be sensible about your wide expansion. It's more about having a large number of tiles than a large number of cities, so don't overstretch your happiness - you'll need it once you start capturing cities. Equally, don't neglect science. As is the case with any Civ, getting the National College built before turn 100 is an excellent way to ensure you don't fall behind with science prior to Rationalism.
Using your UA, pre-Industrial era
So, you'll want your empire to cover a decent chunk of land prior to late-game strategic resources being revealed. But what of your UA in the meantime? Well, horses and iron will be worth an extra point of production, which makes infrastructure building faster.
It's not a bad idea to build a city near a high-production area (i.e. one with lots of horses and iron) and attempt to grab the Alhambra and/or the Brandenburg Gate wonders with it. The former is a fairly competitive wonder to get, making it fairly difficult to pick up, while the latter comes at the same technology as your UU meaning there's a much greater chance you'll have it before anyone else. Both those wonders will be of great benefit to have when building your UU, especially if you can manage to get both in the same city.
What about the doubled quantities of horses and iron? That's not something you actually need to worry about too much. At least for now. You'll need horses for your UU, but you're very likely to have a higher supply of them than you'll ever need. As for iron, double quantities of it won't really change how you play in combat. Non-unique Swordmen and Longswordsmen have only a small window of usage before being outclassed by a resourceless unit (Pikemen in the case of Swordsmen, and Musketmen in the case of Longswordsmen.) Frigates, the other unit of the three requiring iron, are very good but come at the other end of the tech tree to your UU, something you should be focusing more on. As a result of these factors, you'll have plenty of horses and iron you can simply trade away to the Civ that needs it most, in return for something like gold or luxuries.
The Industrial Era and beyond
Get Military Science and Dynamite as soon as you can (making allowances for useful wonders or scientific technologies) so you can build up a strong industrial-era army, ready to unleash upon the world (more on that in the UU section.) Beyond those technologies, start focusing on ones reveal strategic resources. It'll help you get an edge to production to keep churning out military units faster than your opponents can, but more importantly, you'll need to know where those strategic resources are so you can get them before you need them to upgrade your army with. Leave it too late and you might end up with your Cossacks against enemy Landships.
Remember that coal, oil and aluminium are not doubled in quantity by your UA. Coal's important for building Factories with, while oil and aluminium are dominant strategic resources for building a range of units with. If you've built enough Cossacks to match your limit of horses (assuming you have enough gold to cover the maintenance costs) you're likely to not have enough oil to upgrade them with. The Third Alternative tenet from Autocracy is a good way of solving that particular problem.
Above: For iron, horses and uranium, your UA coupled with Third Alternative quadruples the amount of resources created by your improved tiles.
We've looked into the rest of the resources, but now let's look at the final one - uranium. Usually, its rarity makes it scarce, but for Russia, you can make even limited supplies into something scary for opponents to face. With Third Alternative, you'll have plenty to build Nuclear Plants with (for their strong production bonus) and still have a lot left for the main use of uranium - nuclear weapons. Russia's the only Civ in the game with a direct advantage to nuclear warfare, making it a good option if conventional warfare hasn't made much progress. Nonetheless, nuclear weapons come late in the game, so you shouldn't really depend on them. They're a fallback option, not a main route to victory.
Play peacefully in the early-game
Build wide in order to grab lots of tiles
Be sure not to neglect science or happiness
Get Animal Husbandry and Bronze Working reasonably early so you can take advantage of the production bonus on horses and iron
Work towards Military Science and Dynamite, with diversions for scientific technologies
Attempt to grab the Alhambra and the Brandenburg Gate, preferably in the same city
After Dynamite, work towards technologies that reveal strategic resources for more production
Use the Third Alternative tenet from Autocracy if needed for enough oil to upgrade your UU
Nuclear weapons make a good fallback option if conventional warfare fails
The Krepost isn't a particularly powerful Unique Building by any means, but it's purposeful. As I said in the UA section, you'll want to get a large number of tiles to ensure you get plenty of strategic resources. That's something this UB helps you out with, as it makes tiles up to 25% cheaper through both culture and gold. Costs always end in a multiple of 5, so the exact reduction may vary.
Above and Below: The effects of Kreposts aren't actually visible in the city screen, but they do make a difference. Gold costs of buying tiles increases as you buy more, though with a 25% cost reduction, the difference in pure numbers is lessened.
This effect is identical to that of the Angkor Wat wonder, though only for the cities that have this building constructed. Having both together means 50% cheaper gold and culture costs than other Civs without the wonder (aside from America) when obtaining tiles, which means you can chew through many more tiles than before. Not quite twice as many, due to the way tile costs rise, but it should be enough to make quite a difference.
A different, and more reliable way to build upon the Krepost's bonus is by taking Tradition's Opener. With the two bonuses together, even cities with fairly low culture outputs can acquire tiles at a quick pace. Cities prioritise strategic resources when acquiring tiles through culture, so you may not need to spend much gold buying tiles at all - leaving more for upgrading or maintaining units.
So, you know what Kreposts do and how to build upon their bonus. Now let's look at where they should go. Barracks aren't normally buildings you'll have everywhere early on in the game, and if you try filling a wide empire with them, their maintenance costs will cause you trouble. As such, you'll need to be strategic where to place them.
Here's a few examples where it's best to hold off building Kreposts (at least, until you can more easily afford to maintain them.)
Coastal cities with few nearby land tiles (oil is the only strategic resource that can appear offshore, so it's not worth using a Krepost just for that)
Cities near one or none current strategic resources
Cities with a very low culture output (if you don't have much cash to spare to buy the tiles instead)
Cities with a very low production output (they need to build up the rest of their infrastructure first.)
Once your economy's picked up a little, that's when you can really make use of Kreposts in your entire empire. Aside from letting your cities' borders expand faster, having lots of Kreposts means you can make great use of Militarism, an Autocracy tenet which adds two points of local city happiness to all experience buildings. You'll need all the happiness you can get when making conquests.
Kreposts aren't particularly powerful in themselves but synergise well with your UA to help you secure strategic resources faster.
Don't just build Kreposts everywhere straight away - target them so they don't strain your gold too much.
An interesting theme of Russia's uniques is that they all have a feature that is the same as an existing, non-unique bonus, but stacks with it. The doubled resources from Russia's UA stacks with Autocracy's Third Alternative. The bonus Kreposts have is identical to that of the Angkor Wat (though the latter only needs to be built once to affect all cities.) And the unique keep-on-upgrade attribute of Cossacks is identical to the Charge promotion - a 33% bonus against wounded units. Cossacks with Charge are 66% stronger against wounded units, giving them an effective strength almost as high as a promotionless Landship!
However, just because you can stack bonuses doesn't mean it's necessarily the best choice to make. If you've managed to stack the Alhambra, a Military Academy and either the Total War tenet or the Brandenburg Gate (or both,) you can get Cossacks straight to the March or Blitz promotions. March offers a lot more survivability, which is important for a melee unit with no defensive bonuses. Blitz, on the other hand, is generally more effective for maximising damage output than Charge. If you don't have the Alhambra, though, or are building Cossacks in other cities in your empire, it's probably best just to stick with Charge for damage maximising.
Above: Wounded Riflemen are toast.
Cossacks with the Charge (or Blitz) promotion are excellent for cutting through wounded units, but for their bonus to work, you'll (obviously) need to ensure the unit is wounded in the first place. Artillery and Bomber-class aircraft are excellent for this purpose, as they can deal damage from far away, and you only need a little damage for the bonus of Cossacks to work. Artillery and Bomber-class aircraft are also good at dealing with cities, something Cossacks are not (though their speed makes them good at getting the last hit on a city to take it over.)
Ultimately, Cossacks take a strength of mounted units (dealing damage to units) and build upon it.
Special promotions kept on upgrade
33% combat bonus against wounded units
Build plenty of Cossacks and get plenty of oil and gold to upgrade them with, because they turn from a reasonable (if not particularly spectacular) unit into something rather special. All the units in the promotion line beyond Cossacks are armoured units and gain from Lightning Warfare - an Autocracy tenet which makes armoured units faster, deal more damage in attack and ignore Zone of Control. Ignoring Zone of Control makes it easier to pick off retreating wounded units to finish them off.
Like with Cossacks, armoured units can't do everything themselves. Artillery (or Rocket Artillery) as well as Bombers will continue to be useful for wounding units and dealing with enemy city defences. Bring some Fighters or Anti-Aircraft Guns as well so your former-Cossacks don't end up being killed quickly by a stack of enemy Bombers.
Russia works well with a fairly conventional warmonger Social Policy route. Start with Liberty to aid with early expansion, followed by Commerce to help support the maintenance costs of having large armies and finally, once you're in the renaissance era, go into Rationalism to keep your technology rate high. The one exception to this standard path is taking the Tradition opener (as mentioned in the UB section, it synergises well with Kreposts and your UA.)
This Opener adds culture in every city, meaning they can acquire tiles faster (and the increase in Social Policy costs from having more cities is lessened) helping you to gain strategic resources faster.
Combined with your UA's bonus to strategic resource tiles, you can get new cities off to a strong start, ready for churning out an army rapidly.
A free Settler and faster Settler production in the capital reduces the amount of lost growth dedicated to building Settlers, and helps you to more quickly secure the good strategic-resource-filled city spots.
Lots of new cities need lots of tiles improving. Citizenship lets you get that done faster. It's also handy after you've captured a city that you've heavily pillaged the surroundings of - this Social Policy makes it much cheaper to clean up that.
When warmongering and when building wide, unhappiness is one of the biggest problems you'll have to address. As such, that makes Meritocracy a useful Social Policy to have.
A free Golden Age, and new cities won't increase your Social Policy costs as much. Helpful, if not exactly game-changing.
An interesting strategy here is to get a Great Engineer, then keep it until the Alhambra's avaliable to grab the wonder in a single turn. The wonder's strong synergy with Cossacks makes this a rather effective move, but infrastructure wonders (such as Petra) are also good to ensure you can churn out as many Cossacks as possible. Alternatively, use a Great Prophet to secure or enhance a religion, or place an Academy with a Great Scientist so you can get to Military Science sooner.
Tradition's Opener makes your cities acquire tiles much faster. This goes well with Kreposts to ensure you get as many tiles (and hence strategic resources) as possible.
Once you enter the renaissance, you should switch to Rationalism unless you're particularly struggling with gold output and haven't got Wagon Trains yet.
As your starting position is always near at least two luxuries, capitals tend to have a high base gold output, so this Opener will almost certainly make a difference. Not a huge one, but a difference nonetheless.
Probably Commerce's best Social Policy for increasing gold output. Road and railroad maintenance costs are cut in half, while land-based International Trade Routes become more profitable. Land-based Trade Routes are a less prone to being pillaged than sea-based ones, so you may need to rely upon them during times of war.
Landsknechte and their upgraded equivalents give you twice as much gold when you capture a city. That works quite well for stockpiling cash ready to upgrade Cossacks. Additionally, buying Landsknechte and upgrading them is cheaper than directly buying units in their upgrade path, which is useful if you need a rapid defence. Nonetheless, this isn't that powerful a Social Policy for Russia - it's mostly useful as a stepping stone on the way to Mercantilism.
Mercantilism adds to the base science output of cities (rather than a science multiplier) meaning you get more out of it with more cities, rather than a higher population in each city. That's rather handy to Civs like Russia which work better building wide. Additionally, if you have some excess gold, Mercantilism makes purchasing items cheaper. In the late-game, if you're conquering in new continents, try annexing a city and buying an Airport there so you can keep airlifting units in. It's far safer and faster than escorting units over seas (especially with enemy Submarines about.)
Great Merchants, Engineers and Scientists raise the costs of each other. The latter two are generally more useful than Great Merchants, making this Social Policy fairly useless - except for the fact it leads to the powerful Protectionism.
Luxuries are one of the most effective happiness sources, as they aren't restricted by the population size of cities, and as you conquer and settle more cities, you'll get a greater variety of them. As such, boosting their happiness contribution by 50% will make it significantly easier to support city conquests.
With the Economics technology, trading posts will now add 3 gold to a tile (and 1 science on top of that with Free Thought.) It makes a good alternative to working food tiles in cities you don't want to grow too tall.
Keep your happiness positive and you'll be rewarded with a global 10% science boost, helping you keep up with the technological changes in late-game warfare.
So long as you have some specialists, you'll get a boost to science. It's a more immediate boost than the one offered by Humanism, making it worthwhile as a first choice in Rationalism.
It's not a bad idea to dedicate a city to Great Scientist gain, considering how useful they are. That means you can make use of the faster Great Scientist generation rate offered here.
Tall cities will gain quite a bit from the bonus to Universities, while cities you're trying to prevent growing too much can still contribute towards science by working trading posts. A very good Social Policy, on the whole.
This frees up quite a bit of gold tied up in scientific buildings, meaning you'll have a lot more for maintaining units with, or as a buffer in case your International Trade Routes get pillaged.
By this stage of the game, Research Agreements probably are unviable to make due to the need for gold to support your military and the fact most Civs won't want to trade with a warmonger. Still, Rationalism's finisher makes one near-unusable policy worthwhile.
Grab a technology that's either expensive or highly useful for free. For maximum gain, don't take one you're already in the process of researching. Additionally, this policy lets you buy Great Scientists with faith. Generally, by this late stage of the game, using them to rush technologies will be more useful than planting Academies.
For the greatest synergy with Russia's uniques, take the Autocracy ideology. This section will cover the best tenets from the first "inverted pyramid" of Autocracy, so that's three level one policies, two from level two and one from level three.
Level One Policies - Autocracy
In the late-game, technologies that reveal strategic resources and technologies enabling units which use them are often on opposite ends of the tech tree. Using Spies to steal technologies (which this tenet helps with) enables you to focus on one end while leeching the technologies of the other end from other Civs, giving you a bit of a tech advantage overall.
Elite Forces has only a minor benefit (it closes the gap between wounded units and those at full health by 25%) but it's nonetheless useful for keeping your units alive after they've been injured. Replace this tenet with Universal Healthcare if you have issues with unhappiness.
A decent, maintenance-free source of happiness. Goes particularly well with the Neuschwanstein wonder.
Level Two Policies - Autocracy
Note that all level two Autocracy tenets will work well for Russia. You should use your own judgement. If happiness is strained, for example, go ahead and take Militarism or Police State.
This ensures you have plenty of oil and aluminium around for late-game warfare, as well as providing you with more uranium than you'll probably know what to do with. If you've got no problems securing late-game strategic resources, substitute this policy for Nationalism (so you've got plenty of gold for upgrading your Cossacks with.)
Cossacks upgrade to armoured units, meaning with this tenet you can have fast, Zone of Control-ignoring units with a significant increase in damage to wounded units. Slower wounded enemy units will find it difficult to escape in time.
On top of that feature, your Great Generals will receive a speed boost, enabling them to match the speed of your speed-boosted Landships (they'll still be slightly slower than Tanks, Modern Armour or Giant Death Robots, though.)
Level Three Policy - Autocracy
So long as you chain your wars together (as in starting a new war shortly after you've taken another Civ's capital and made peace with them) and act fast, you can secure a world conquest in the number of turns this tenet offers its attack bonus for. Former Cossacks with the Charge promotion and Lightning Warfare will now deal over double their base strength when attacking wounded units, making it easy to steamroller your way through enemy armies.
Religion can help build upon Russia's strengths. Wide-building Civs have a natural advantage to founding a religion as you'll have more cities to build Shrines and Temples in.
This section covers the best choices of beliefs for Russia, although highly terrain-dependent choices (including most faith Pantheons) have been left out, so you should use your own judgement a little. Getting a faith Pantheon, even with a wide empire, is a good idea to secure a religion sooner and hence get a better selection of beliefs.
Dance of the Aurora
You might as well turn your tundra starting bias into something positive. If you're likely to work a lot of tundra tiles, this creates a strong supply of faith. If there's relatively few tundra tiles at your starting position, or the tundra tiles don't have any resources, taking a different faith Pantheon instead is a good idea.
Messenger of the Gods
An excellent way of offsetting the increasing cost of technologies as you found more cities.
So long as you place your cities carefully, this belief is a decent way of offsetting the happiness issues of a wide empire.
God of Craftsmen
This is a helpful Pantheon for getting new cities off the ground. Particularly useful if you intend to settle quite a number of cities before building the National College.
God of the Open Sky
An interesting choice as horse resources, when improved, will be particularly effective tiles. More culture will help your cities to expand their borders faster, hence helping to secure plenty of strategic resources.
Goddess of the Hunt
I've placed this low down on the list of Pantheons as it's a little unconventional (it's a Pantheon usually aimed at tall Civs.) So, why take it? To offset the problems of having a tundra start. Deer are likely to occur in such areas, which are improved by camps. With this Pantheon (and with a Granary) they produce a strong food output that helps overcome the poor food yields of tundra regions.
Tithe or Church Property
Both of these are sources of per-turn gold, handy for supporting unit maintenance costs with. Tithe is better if there's many tall cities around, or if Civs of other religions are using Missionaries heavily (Tithe can get you gold even without being the majority religion in a city, which Church Property cannot.) Church Property is better if most cities around aren't particularly large.
Got a strong faith output but an unspectacular culture output? This can use the former to help solve the latter. The culture World Church makes won't help your cities' borders to expand, but it will be helpful towards getting Social Policies and ideological tenets.
Not a spectacular source of science, but every bit helps on the way to Military Science.
A very strong Follower belief for wide-building Civs, allowing you to buy maintenance-free buildings with an output of 2 happiness, 2 culture and 2 faith.
More faith but less happiness than Pagodas. Still maintenance-free, and still useful.
An easy way to get some happiness in cities without needing to spend faith.
If you've taken Sacred Waters, this belief goes very well with it. Aside from the free one from the Hanging Gardens wonder, Gardens can only be built in certain cities - including riverside cities. If you've been deliberately settling next to rivers to get the maximum potental out of Sacred Waters, therefore you can make the most of this belief, too.
Ignoring the Great Art slot, (which as a non-cultural Civ you probably won't need,) Cathedrals are half as effective as Pagodas for the same cost. That may not sound particularly good, but they're still maintenance-free buildings offering happiness, culture and faith.
This belief offers a production modifier of up to 15%, which is a good way of building upon the production offered by your UA to create cities capable of building units or wonders at a fast pace. The only issue is you need a city of at least size 15 to take full advantage of this, and as the game goes on and more other production multipliers appear (Factories, Nuclear Plants, etc) the relative effect of this multiplier reduces.
A way to help newer cities get off the ground. Try purchasing a Workshop, then manually filling the Engineer slot to provide a rapid increase to production.
Religious Texts or Itinerant Preachers
Both of these are ways of spreading your religion without spending faith - handy if you want to want to have some spare for buying faith buildings with. Religious Texts is more helpful if you want to expand your religion in the first place, while Itinerant Preachers is better if your religion is already established in multiple cities (as it allows cities to contribute towards religious pressure from further away.)
Holy Order or Missionary Zeal
If you want a more effective religious spread than that offered by Religious Texts or Itinerant Preachers, these are good options. The former makes Missionaries cheaper, the latter makes them more effective.
You've got quite a long time before your UU comes available, hence giving you time to spread your religion to future targets, allowing you to exploit Just War's bonus later on. One effective move is to have plenty of Missionaries and/or Great Prophets ready a short time before you want to invade a Civ, move them in and convert their cities, then invade before they can be converted back.
If you're playing peacefully up to Cossacks, you'll have a good opportunity to shape the World Congress your way prior to the war. Note "priority" in this section refers to how high you should prioritise your votes if it comes up, not how much you should prioritise putting them forward. Decisions not listed are usually clear in their context which way you should vote (e.g. an embargo of a luxury you own.)
Low priority Vote no
Great Writers, Musicians and Artists aren't as useful to you as Scientists, Merchants and Engineers.
Cultural Heritage Sites
Medium priority Vote no unless you built a decent number of wonders in your peaceful stage or have conquered plenty of wonders
Medium-High priority Vote no
City-State trading offers a more secure route of trading than full Civs, when most of the world mistrusts you. City-States can't unilaterally pillage your improvements or declare war on you, after all.
Medium priority Vote no
Medium-High priority Vote no
If it goes ahead, use your strong production to seize the top prize so a cultural Civ doesn't benefit from doubled tourism.
International Space Station
Low-Medium priority Vote yes
Your production base gives you a good shot and gaining the prize, which isn't just good for scientific Civs.
Natural Heritage Sites
Low priority Vote no unless you have a Natural Wonder of your own
Very High priority Vote no
You're the only Civ in the game with a direct bonus to nuclear warfare, so make sure you keep that option open.
Scholars in Residence
Medium priority Vote yes unless you're the leader technologically speaking
Medium priority Vote yes
Standing Army Tax
High priority Vote no
Medium priority Vote yes unless you're busy with building military units
With your strong production base, you should have a decent chance of seizing the cultural bonuses for yourself.
Russia's strong production base makes them unusually good at building wonders by the standards of warmongering Civs. Here's a selection of the best wonders for them, arranged alphabetically in each era.
Pyramids (Liberty Only)
Two free Workers and faster Worker speed really helps you improve the areas around new cities quickly. The faster Worker speed is also useful for cleaning up freshly-conquered cities if you've been pillaging them a lot.
If you'd rather dedicate your midgame to infrastructure than having to build up a defensive army, the Great Wall is excellent for that. It synergises nicely with the large borders Kreposts can offer you, although it has a significant downside in that it goes obsolete with Dynamite - the very same important technology you need to build Artillery with.
If you're settling cities rapidly, the Oracle is a good way of offsetting issues with Social Policy gain that may present by giving you a free one.
One of Russia's highest-priority wonders due to the fact all melee land units (including Cossacks) produced in the city with Alhambra will be one tier of promotions higher than they would be otherwise. With this wonder and an Armoury, you can get new Cossacks straight to Charge. Add two from Total War, a Military Academy or the Brandenburg Gate, and you can get them straight to March or Blitz.
The unique effect of Kreposts, but applied to every city. This, Kreposts and Tradition's Opener will make culture-based tile accumulation very fast even in cities with low culture outputs. That means more tiles and more potential for more strategic resources.
Borobudur or Hagia Sophia
Want to get a religion going? Here's two wonders that really help out with spreading your religion, as well as offering bonuses to faith generation for future religious spread (or buying faith buildings with.)
Need more gold to support units, buildings or just things in general with? Here's a nice source of that. The requirement of needing a city near a mountain to build this wonder makes it a little less competitive than some of the others around this time.
10 points of global happiness is a massive help in supporting wide empire through the mid-game. This is a particularly useful wonder, but also one that's hard to pick up as many other Civs will be going for it.
Porcelain Tower (Rationalism Only)
Even if you can't get many Research Agreements going, a free Great Scientist is still a very useful thing to have.
Big Ben (Commerce Only)
Together with Mercantilism, this makes purchasing items significantly more affordable. A good move later on in the game is to purchase Airports in captured cities in new continents so you can rapidly airlift in reinforcements.
A little less powerful than the Alhambra, but still very useful for reasons that have already been stated. Aside from those reasons, the Brandenburg Gate has another advantage - it gives you a free Great General. If you haven't already been to war prior to this point (and got a Great General via that means,) it'll really help get your Cossack/Artillery war off to a good start.
Low on both cash and happiness? Neuschwanstein turns Castles into not only maintenance-free sources of happiness, but ones that actually make money. Plus, some culture, too.
Prora (Autocracy Only)
A source of happiness, which is exactly what you need as a warmongering Civ. The free Social Policy's nice, too.
Chances are, the core of your modern, atomic and information-era armies will be upgraded units. While late-game upgrade costs aren't particularly high, every bit of money you save will be useful.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Russia's not that difficult a Civ to pick up, though there are a few errors to avoid while playing the Civ which are worth pointing out.
Spending ages moving your first Settler
Tundra is bad. Starting several turns behind is much worse.
Focusing too much on your capital
Your tundra start bias gives you a weaker capital than most Civs. It's highly likely that a different city, positioned near multiple strategic resources (or just in a good spot generally) will overtake it to be more productive and hence suitable for building wonders in. If you've only got enough spare happiness to grow one city to a good size, make it the city with the best potential, which often won't be your capital.
Building Kreposts everywhere in the early-game
Early on, gold supplies are often quite tight. It's not worth putting your empire into bad debt simply to maintain having your UB everywhere. Later on in the game, when you have more excess gold, then you can build your UB without thinking too much about maintenance costs.
Spamming cities everywhere
Be careful with your city placement. True, more cities means more tiles and hence more strategic resources, but it's possible to have too many cities. Due to the Social Policy, technology and happiness penalties of building too wide, it's generally better to expand too little (like I ended up doing in my screenshot game for this guide) than too much.
Spamming Swordsmen or Longswordsmen
True, you have doubled supplies of iron, but that doesn't mean you should try hard to fill that increased limit. Swordsmen and Longswordsmen are slow units, take damage every time they attack and are quickly outclassed by resourceless units (Pikemen in the case of Swordsmen, Musketmen in the case of Longswordsmen.) They're useful for acting as meatshields (taking damage on behalf of other units, such as Crossbowmen) but you don't really need a large army filled with them as Russia.
Using Cossacks alone
Cossacks are weak against cities. You can't make a successful invasion with them alone. You'll need to bring Artillery with you, at the very least.
Into the modern era and beyond, it's important to bring some kind of anti-air capability, whether that's Anti-Air Guns, Fighter-Class aircraft or Destroyers (if you're fighting close to a coastline.) Otherwise, your former-Cossacks will be formerly-living.
Depending on nuclear weapons
Nuclear weapons come very, very late into the game. They're effective, but they're also expensive to build. They should be a backup option if your Cossack/Former-Cossack wars aren't enough, not a main strategy.
The Motherland Falls: The Counter-Strategies
Russia's powerful as a late-game warmonger, but takes time to really get going.
Playing against Siberian Riches
Russia's UA depends entirely on their ability to settle or conquer spots near lots of strategic resources. Taking horse or iron-rich spots in the early-game greatly lessens their UA's potential prior to the industrial era, which will set them back for the rest of the game.
The sources of iron, horses and uranium Russia have may make them twice as many of the respective strategic resources as other Civs, but it also means that pillaging them will cost Russia twice as many resources as it would for other Civs. If they've been building units up to or near their strategic resource limit, a little bit of pillaging will almost certainly drive them into the strategic resource penalty (all units they have of that resource type will have a huge disadvantage in combat.)
Russia's UA gets scary in the very late-game, where doubled supplies of uranium make them much more able to build a nuclear arsenal than other Civs. If Russia builds the Manhattan Project, be prepared to make a technological detour to Telecommunications to build Bomb Shelters with. Again, if you're at war with them, targeting their strategic resources is a good idea. Uranium's a rare resource, and just a couple of pillages could be enough to cut off Russia's entire supply of it.
Playing against Kreposts
Kreposts allow faster tile gain, but the maintenance cost attached to them as well as their niche usage means they're unlikely to be built in newer Russian cities - at least, at first. Once Russia's economy grows and is able to build more Kreposts, keep some gold at the ready to buy tiles with if needed. Alternatively, the Angkor Wat wonder will close the gap between you and them.
Playing against Cossacks
Cossacks are deadly against wounded units, but no better than regular Cavalry when up against units with full health. Make use of long-range units such as Artillery and Bomber-class aircraft in order to wound them safely from a distance, as that way you can deal damage without the Cossack being able to immediately retaliate.
Once Cossacks can be no longer built by Russia, simply target the armoured units that used to Cossacks, as once they're dead, their special promotion can't be brought back.
Strategy by Style
Russia's tundra bias is the main factor to consider here. On the one hand, it tends to give them a poorer start than many, but on the other hand, it makes them more out of the way (and hence harder to invade) due to the fact tundra occurs near the poles on most map types.
Russia's high quantities of iron and horses means they're likely to have above-average numbers of units requiring them. Send in fast units to pillage their strategic resources so you can force a strategic resource penalty upon them. Kreposts may create above-average border sizes for Russia making it a little harder to reach their individual cities, so you might want to bring a few more units than usual to account for this extended time in enemy territory. Like with all wide-building Civs, a diversion attack on one end of their empire can buy you valuable time to move a proper army in from the other.
Bring long-ranged units to help deal with Cossacks, or invade Russia from the sea (where they lack such advantages, aside from double iron allowing them to build more Frigates.) Make good use of aircraft, and be sure to cut off Russia's uranium supplies before they become a major problem.
Kreposts allow Russia to expand their cities' borders without having to pay as much attention to culture. On the other hand, their high production makes them more likely to build wonders, and hence get culture from there. As such, Russia's overall culture output may not be that much different from a standard wide-building Civ, but may be more focused in a small number of cities. For the more aggressive cultural players among us, taking over a couple of these cities is a good way to slash their cultural output.
Unable to invade Russia? There's other ways you can weaken them. Taking the Alhambra so they can't build it as well as passing Arts Funding, the Standing Army Tax and Nuclear Non-Proliferation in the World Congress are good ways of causing them problems.
Russia can raise large armies thanks to their UA, but they have little in the way of advantages towards the gold cost of maintaining those armies. As such, passing a Standing Army Tax in the World Congress will be particularly effective against them. Nuclear Non-Proliferation's also good to prevent them making use of their high supply of uranium.
With a technological advantage, you can reveal strategic resources earlier than other Civs. Getting Atomic Theory early (it adds to Academy science so it's worth picking up anyway) reveals uranium spots before Russia knows where they are. Then, if Russia has any of those spots, you can invade them and take those cities before they find out. Alternatively, head to Telecommunications immediately after Rocketry and Satellites so you can build Bomb Shelters if need be.
These guides cover every Civ in the game and can be used as quick reference guides.