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Since the city doesn't grow when I build a worker or settler I find myself wondering whether I should build a barracks (and granary if I can) first before building a unit.

What's more efficient?

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

Typically your first build should either be a warrior/hunter, worker, or settler. Don't build buildings right away, the bonuses you get from them early on aren't enough to offset the slowdown in exploration and expansion.

While it might seem like you are slowing yourself down by building a worker or settler first, keep in mind that the city tile itself is always worked. So as soon as you have built two cities, you are working 4 tiles, at about the same time as your one city would've achieved this by growing to size 3. Fast forward to when both your cities grow to size 2, and you are working 6 tiles, much faster than if you had tried to let your city grow to 5. And the gains continue to amortize from there.

This is especially true if your initial city has a space with extra food/shields to build the first settler faster.

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The city tile itself point is a good one. – Andrew J. Brehm Jul 16 '10 at 14:29
Also, a finished settler is a population unit. – Andrew J. Brehm Jul 20 '10 at 15:36

A worker or work boat is the best unit to build immediately nearly 100% of the time. Additionally, you should generally research one tech which will allow you to exploit a resource near your starting city and then research bronze working for the ability to chop-rush additional production, or go straight to bronze working if you can already exploit a resource. Tons of analysis has been done on civ4 and you can find the answers to most questions here:

Specific to this question:

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Worth noting that the AI builds a worker VERY EARLY. I can not recall off the top of my head but it may be the first thing they do. I believe I found this out playing a custom team game with a computer ally (team games get you shared sight) and playing the first few turns. The only other way I can think of discovering this is using the map editor early in the game to reveal everything*.

*No cheating, just studying the landmass options.

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When you build a settler or worker, any excess food goes towards the production of that unit, rather than towards city growth. For that reason, early settlers / workers tend to be counter productive -- the additional food and hammers of a 3-population city can crank out a new settler/worker faster than a 1-population city, and generates additional commerce too.

I'm no pro-civ player, but I usually wait till my cities are 3 or 4 population before building my first worker or settler (and if you get lucky and get one from a goody hut, you can delay even longer!)

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What do you build instead of a worker/settler? Barracks? – Andrew J. Brehm Jul 23 '10 at 10:21
warrior/scout (2char) – Raven Dreamer Jul 29 '10 at 17:30

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