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I was new to the series when I first purchased this game a few months ago(with the Brave New World expansion pack), but after playing the first 3 difficulty modes I got a good hang of the game. However, when I tried playing on the Prince difficultly level, I was brutally defeated.

Within a few turns after starting the game, I had civilizations declaring war on me. If I concentrated on military development, then the happiness of my empire plummeted and I experienced a shortage of workers and resources. A non-militaristic focus got me mauled by my unfriendly neighbours in another attempt.

What is the best way in which I can be up and running here? I could barely make it past the first 80 turns.

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  • I've never had them declare war on me that fast. They warned that I shouldn't settle near them and all, but no war. As it's far from a solid answer I'll just comment. I think it's most important to find a good balance between expanding your civilization, military power and happiness. None of these should be low.
    – Izzo
    Mar 5 '15 at 12:38
  • The best is to know well the civ you take and play accordingly to their bonuses. A civ that got good military bonuses won't fare well if you play to win with culture or diplomacy. It can work but it is harder. Read on the civ you want to play with, learn its strenght and weakness and adjust your style to it. Or pick a civ that fits your style. Mar 5 '15 at 13:09
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I won't go into specific build orders because they can be difficult to apply and I only really know one*. I'll try to keep advice general.

Scout the area around you early. On a continents or pangea map, a scout should be the first thing you build. Use your scout and warrior to explore the areas around you for ruins and city states - the rewards from these more than pay for the scout.

Try to meet your neighbours with your scouts too. Different leaders have different personalities - as a general rule anyone known for trying to take over the world is likely to do the same in Civilization.**

When you do meet your neighbours, it helps to avoid pissing them off. Even if you do plan to destroy them later, keeping them happy means you can get the advantage later. Things you should ideally avoid doing include***:

  • Attacking or bullying city states they are protecting
  • Building too many cities (and taking all the land)
  • Building cities in land they consider 'theirs'. If it's closer to their capital than it is to yours, or if they were going to build there, it's a bit of a faux pas

If you don't do anything to annoy the AI, they usually won't attack you unless you're exceptionally weak. You don't need a massive army to defend yourself- a few units are enough thanks to the AI's poor unit management. Archers (and their upgrades) are extremely good at defense. Leave one in a city and it can bombard a unit every turn at no risk to itself (until the city is actually taken). Add walls and the city becomes almost impregnable.

*It's my Maya specific build order and I don't want to risk tournament players seeing it in case they point out how bad it is.

** Also Gandhi

*** Human players also don't like me doing these. Just ask @shanodin

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There is a wealth of advice and strategy articles in the CivFanatics forums, including technical articles detailing the game mechanics. These were invaluable for getting me to Emperor in Civ4 and really boosted my enjoyment of the game.

Here is general advice you can use throughout the game and that applies particularly well in the early game.

Expansion

  • Scout early to find your second city location. It should have a decent grouping of new happiness resources. Multiple types are good, but three or four of one type will be good for trading later. It should be close, but it's okay if there's room for another city in between, but be wary of settling too close to a warmonger or expansionist leader. You probably won't beat the AIs to their second city, but don't delay much past that or they'll pick that spot off with a third.
  • Don't upset your neighbors by settling too close, expanding too fast, or attacking their city-state protectorates.
  • Avoid unhappiness. It's okay for very short durations on occasion but severely hurts your population growth. Hook up happiness resources before founding new cities or send a worker with the settler and buy a resource tile if necessary to hook it up immediately. During war, consider selling poor cities to far-off friends or weak rivals, burning them to the ground (watch your warmonger rating), or bypassing them entirely.

War

  • Build "just enough" military units to keep your power level close to your neighbors. If it drops too low, they'll see you as an easy target. The InfoAddict mod (also available in the Steam Workshop) is invaluable here, but the base game's demographics chart may show this too.
  • Let the enemy come to you. The AI is pathetic in combat and will merrily march its troops to slaughter. Fall back inside your territory, use your city defenses (defensive buildings help), match promotions to terrain, build/buy a few archers, and retreat injured melee units to heal.
  • Once in full retreat, chase down and wipe out the invader with healthy units but don't duplicate their mistake. This forces them to waste resources rebuilding their army/fleet and with some Honor policies earns you culture and/or gold.
  • If you can't take a city (tough without siege weapons), pillage their improvements for cash and roads to slow their movement and break capital connections. Keep your units alive unless you need to cut the chaff to save money.

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