Sid Meier's Civilization V

Sid Meier's Civilization V

58 ratings
4-City Fast NC Opener
By Broseph Stalin
This is a visual guide for play against high-level AIs. We'll shoot for four cities and a National College by turn 100.
Hey guys! This is a short visual guide I put together to show people how to do a 4-city Fast NC (National College) Opener. This is a great way to start your game, and builds into a great midgame that can be used for any Victory Condition. It works on all difficulty levels, but is made with Immortal and Deity in mind. There are multiple ways to accomplish this build, but this version works very well.

Our goals are simple: Four cities and a National College. This will give you the footprint for a 'tall' empire (large cities, but not that many) with the option to expand more as the game goes on. The National College is very important for getting your midgame research going, and a fast one is necessary to compete with the boosted AIs. We'll strive to plant our cities and build the National College by turn 90ish.

Game settings, if you're curious: Deity AI, 11 civs, large map, Communitas map. Playing as Poland, because I've actually never played them before and want to see for myself what the OP's about. They also don't have any unique abilities that significantly affect our early game. Let's get on with it.
Opening Moves

Turn 0. I'll often reroll a couple times to find a start I like, but this one's pretty good. What should you look for? A few things:
  • Mountain: This is a big one for me. Mountains allow you to build Observatories, which grant +50% science in the midgame. Having one by your capital is especially desirable.
  • Coast: Obviously we don't have this here. Can be huge, significantly boosting your trade route potential -- that means both gold from external routes and food and production from internal ones. Also allows the production of naval units. This is the biggest downside to this particular start, but it's offset a little because land starts will give you more tile options.
  • River: Multiple smaller bonuses. Boosts trade route gold and allows building water mill for early growth and hydro plant for late game production. Most importantly, it provides fresh water, which will significantly boost your growth.
  • Resources: Three salt and one wine -- awesome. Each luxury provides necessary happiness, while boosting tile yields. Salt is considered the best in the game, because it boosts both food and production. Pasture tiles also offer a great mix of food and production, and food generators like wheat, bananas and deer are also very desireable.
  • Terrain: Subtler, but still very important. Many players swear by starting on a hill for the extra production. Looking around at your vicinity, you'll learn more about a city's potential. Rivers boost food, as does grassland, where plains provide a balance and hills offer more production. Chopping forests will give you a much-needed early production boost.

We begin the game by teching Pottery and building a Scout. Pottery gives us two crucial early buildings and opens three new tech paths; the Scout is crucial for exploring our surroundings and discovering goodie huts, which will give you significant boosts. You'll also discover city-states, identify neighbors and find some likely spots for your cities. I build two to start the game, unless I'm playing on a wet map such as archipelago.

Let's take a look at our tech tree. Our eventual goal is Philosophy so we can build the NC, but that's 43 turns we can't afford when vital early game techs are left to be researched. The first four techs are crucial. The next seven are more situational.
  • Pottery -- As mentioned, this comes first for me. Offers two great early buildings.
  • Animal Husbandry -- Usually comes second in my games. Reveals horses and allows caravans, which will give you a gold boost and an even better science boost from the AI's tech lead. If you can connect for that science bonus, consider building a caravan early on.
  • Archery -- Archers are the backbone of your army. A key tech for defense and fighting barbs. Don't skip this one. I got it from a hut, but would have teched it anyway.
  • Mining -- Production, production, production. Allows mines and chopping.

As for the rest, you'll grab Calendar and Writing on the way to Philosophy, Trapping or Masonry if they unlock a luxury, Sailing if you're on a wet map, and will probably save Wheel and Bronze for later.

Here we are at turn 11. You have a few options for what to build next, but not enough time and production to build it all. I usually say pick two of the following: Shrine, Granary, Monument, Worker, Archer, Caravan. Shrine for pantheon/religion, Granary for growth (espec with wheat, bananas or deer), Worker to improve your dirt (these can/should be stolen), Archer for defense and city-state quests, Caravan situational if you can nab the early science boost. You can build a monument also to speed your policies a bit, but I usually don't find it necessary, even with the recent patch. I built a shrine and then a worker at this stage. Shrine because I'm going for a religion, worker so I can start improving this salt, and because there aren't many city-states or rivals in the area whom I could plausibly steal workers from.

Take a look at the land, while we're here. We're only on turn 11, but with the vicinity revealed, we should already be thinking about where we'll expand. Pay special attention to Uluru, in the top right. It's an awesome faith wonder, making that a priority. It would actually pay off to build a Settler right away, but then this wouldn't be a guide to a standard opener. But keep an eye open to those possibilities.

The AIs will constantly ask for embassies. JUST SAY NO. It shows them your turf and encourages them forward settling. I don't accept embassies until after t100 or later.

Our policy screen. We're going Tradition, because it is exceptionally strong for smaller empires. Plan to go down the main line, picking up Aristocracy when necessary to speed up the NC.
Never Settle for Less Than Your Best

Now we build our settlers. Because we're planning to hard-build all four libraries, the faster we get all four cities up, the better. So we hard-build three settlers in a row. If necessary, build or buy an archer -- I end up buying one to deal with barbarian harassment.

The worker steal. Easy as hell to take em from city-states. Grab it, take it home, make peace with the CS or wait to see if you can steal another worker. You can also steal from your rival civs, but it's trickier. Rule of thumb: if your unit will take three hits right away, from a city or warrior or archer, you can't take the worker. AIs will usually accept a peace from you pretty quickly, but sometimes the more aggressive civs will prolong the conflict. So this strategy is risky, but there's another upside -- you get to harass your neighbor a bit. Particularly useful when you're grabbing a settler near your turf. A no-brainer when you're grabbing a Shoshone settler near your turf.

A few things here. The obvious: our pantheon. It's good to take a look at your turf early to see if you can get a good pantheon bonus. If you want to found a religion, faith boosts are usually necessary. I opt for earth mother, though +4 faith from natural wonders would have also been a good one.

Our first city is now up and running. I usually advocate building an archer first in this first city, but our production isn't very good and there aren't any woods nearby, so I buy the archer and start hard-building the first library after a couple turns.
Library Time

Here we are on t65 with all four cities up and running. The expos are all building libraries, while the capital builds a caravan for the science and gold boost. Now that we're closing in on the National College, we begin to tech Philosophy. It should finish around the time our libraries do.

Let's talk city placement. A city can serve many purposes:
  • Science: My top priority. Usually my capital ends up being my main science city, but sometimes you find an early city with mountain coast and good production (or just trees) to build the NC in. Science is mostly based on population, so you'll want your science city to get BIG. Coast helps for this, but with the right dirt, an inland start can pull it off just as well. You'll want to have secondary science cities, anyway; Krakow especially will fill this role for us.
  • Production: My second priority. Important for both military units and for wonders. You'll want to have good production in your capital. I usually try to have one more high-production city. That'll be Wroclaw in this map: hills and mining luxes. With two production cities, it'll be easy to keep up on military units while still allowing either city to work some of the time on infrastructure or the occasional wonder.
  • Great People / Culture: You'll need fresh water for that garden, and enough food to support several GP at a time. That'll be Lodz for us. You can also sync this up with your capital (or science city), since all specialists grant science with Rationalism. I usually prefer a capital that leans production as a secondary, though, and Warsaw is better suited for production anyway.
  • Coast: A good coastal city offers a few bonus. Trade routes, for one, are better over water, and they'll get a gold boost from rivers and resource diversity. If your capital's on the coast, coastal cities offer a big food/production boost from internal trade routes. This can often make expansions beyond four cities somewhat useful.

So Warsaw is our science city with a secondary focus on production. Wroclaw is a production city. Lodz is a GP generator and culture hub. Krakow is a secondary science city with a big faith boost from Uluru and a nice coastal position.

Keep defense in mind when placing cities, also. We're on a peninsula, which makes things easy. Wroclaw and Lodz are a little close, but they're in a prime position to defend us from Japan. With that setup, Japan practically can't touch us.

Notice also that our capital is building a caravan. Let's see why.

+4 Science, +5 Gold -- not bad. With five pop, Library nets just 2.5 science. So we build caravan first.

Here we are closing in on the National College. Turn 76, five turns from finishing our final library.

Make sure you grab Aristocracy before building the NC. Don't delay your NC because of it, but strive to pick it up beforehand.

And here's our tech web after finishing Philosophy. I usually shoot straight for Construction so I can build Composite Bows. Getting conquered, especially early on, is easily the number one way most players throw games. Don't get greedy, build those CBs so the enemy won't wreck your cities.

There aren't any other big techs to gun for here. Don't gun for early wonders. You'll want to start working towards Civil Service and Theology so you can pick up Education.
Building the National College

On Turn 82, we begin work on our National College. Meanwhile we're teching Construction, building archers in one city and walls in another. This is so we don't get steamrolled by Japan, who's looking well-equipped. We build the Granary in Wroclaw because the city will need the growth boost. More growth is more production is more soldiers.

I finished the National College on turn 91. Mission accomplished. Now we build up our military and fill in whatever's missing. I could use another worker, for instance, if I want to get these cities really popping.

Here's our science. See where that red line jumps? That's the NC. As you can see, at higher levels the AI gets some big science boosts. With NC, you start to look competitive.
What Next

From here, you'll wnat to shoot for Education. Universities are the next big step in our science game. You'll want to get these up and running with as many science specialists as possible.

From there, it depends on your priorities. If you're playing a culture game, try to swing some midgame culture wonders, such as Leaning Tower, Uffizi and Louvre. If you're playing a domination game, you might take a cap or two. For diplomacy, make some relevant CS friends while building Forbidden Palace if possible. If science, just keep teching and teching. For any condition, you'll still want to prioritize science techs.

Here's my empire about 50 turns later -- not long after finishing my universities and locking in my science specialists.

You'll notice I founded a fifth city. I liked the spot, and I don't normally stick that rigidly to four cities. This'll provide some extra science and production, and will also help strengthen my faith a little bit.

And here's the Infoaddict Science screen. With fast NC and an Education beeline, your tech really gets going in the early game.
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Spicy Eggplant May 21 @ 4:48pm 
Cool guide.
Broseph Stalin  [author] Apr 23, 2016 @ 2:59pm 
Just coming back to this, but I don't advocate building a granary in all cases and in this case I did not build a granary in my starting city until after cranking the settlers – and even then, maybe not until after NC! I did build a granary in my production city, which sorely needed food. And granaries can be a useful pickup, especially if you have relevant resources nearby.
Politic Revolutionnaire Apr 3, 2015 @ 6:06am 
Yeah the granary speeds it up by a turn or so compared to the 10 or so turns it takes to build the granary in the first place however i see your point you want to grow as fast as possible so trying to build the settler faster is a good idea.
Broseph Stalin  [author] Apr 3, 2015 @ 4:25am 
And Danilka, you'll find 90% of Deity level guides place science as the #1 priority in the early game. You will find some that advocate expansion (to be clear, you're apparently for LESS early expansion) or religious development, but a science-based focus is A.) The most common priority for a basic build and B.) The point of this guide.

I don't know what your point is 'if the terrain around doesn't yield any food'. I have very, very rarely had any trouble with food in my capital or in the surrounding area -- and at Deity or Immortal, you will certainly run up against happiness barriers before food becomes a problem, anyway. And you seem to be talking long-term growth, in which case it doesn't matter whether you get your granary on t20 or t80.
Broseph Stalin  [author] Apr 3, 2015 @ 4:19am 

Granary is not useless, the +2 food is converted to production on the Settlers.


The second city starts with one pop and won't be able to build Settlers until it grows to two. Overall, the science bonus you get from 1-2 extra population is very small and isn't worth delaying your cities for, especially if that pushes back the NC. Your city will grow soon enough anyway.

If you really wanted fast science, I would push up the Caravan, as at higher levels they give 4-5 science apiece. But overall, it's more valuable to get an NC and as many well-placed cities as possible.
craigslist0874 Jan 18, 2015 @ 9:11am 
hey...just wondering why not build just one settler from capitol and then keep searching science in capitol while secoinf city builds the other two cities....sure....may take a little longer but at least not delaying science by 30 - 50 turns???? from city 3 and 4 buid workers and archers....just wondering????
PRPE7UAL Jan 12, 2015 @ 3:33pm 
Interesting strategy, I will definitely give it a try, with babylon of course ;)
Politic Revolutionnaire Jan 10, 2015 @ 4:03pm 
Building a granary in the context of your stratey is useless as it will cost maitence and provide no bonus while building your four settlers. If you wish to mantain high population cities making those settlers as early as you encourage is down right harmful. Also on higher difficulties the benifits of accepting the embasy outway the consequences due to the fact that the AI will almost always agressively spam cities and will do that for the entire game no matter if they have your embassy or not.
TheDanilka99 Jan 5, 2015 @ 8:56am 
I always start with a monument and follow it up with a granary, but more importantly your capital would not grow for many turns while you are buliding those settlers (30-50 on standard) this can become a problem later in the game if the terrain around it doesn't yield any food. I see that the main goal of the guide is to develop scientifically early on, but this could cost you in other areas.
Broseph Stalin  [author] Jan 4, 2015 @ 7:53pm 
Tom, you're welcome to your opinion. In my defense, Mining was an early priority, but so was an early pantheon, and we didn't have any workers to start the game anyway, making Mining a useless tech. I didn't want to take a million pictures, but I grabbed mining right after Animal Husbandry (and the guide advocates early mining) which synced up very well with my first worker. Mining is worthless without a worker, so you absolutely do not need it right away in these circumstances.

You say so many settlers in a row 'cripples' your capital because it doesn't allow enough buildings. What buildings? I see this argument all the time, but it rarely comes with specific suggestions. You only get one chances to set up your initial footprint for a civ game, so we prioritize that. Any buildings can come after that. You won't be seriously crippled by delaying a monument till Legalism or a Granary till t80.