The Civilization V One City Challange Part 1: All the Pretty Things I’ll Never Have…


I play a fair amount of Civilization V, and recently I’ve been wondering if there was some way I could turn some of the time I spend playing into content for the blog. Then I remembered the one city challenge, a concept that has long intrigued me, but that I’ve never gotten around to trying. Until now.

For those of you who’ve never played it, Civilization V (Civ 5 as I’ll be referring to it from here on out) is a turn based strategy game in which players begin with a single city at the dawn of civilization, and then attempt to expand their nation through colonization, invasion, cultural and scientific domination. At least, that’s what happens in a normal game. In the one city challenge the player only gets one city, whereas in the course of a standard game they might have anywhere from four to over fourteen cities within their borders, depending on play style and map size. Thus the difficulty of the challenge should be clear: the player, in this case, me, must survive with a solitary city in a world dominated by larger, more powerful empires, some of which will undoubtedly seek to obliterate me.

For those of you who’ve played the game, here’s a list of how I set up my game.

Map type: Continents.

Map size: Standard.

Difficulty level: Prince.

Game pace: Standard.

Game era: Ancient era.

World age: 4 billion years.

Temperature: Temperate.

Rainfall: Normal.

Sea level: Medium.

Resources: Standard.

All victory types on (not that I’m likely to be achieving any of them, though).

And under advanced options I have Random Personalities and Allow Policy Saving turned on, as well as the One City Challenge option of course.

I am playing without DLC, save for the Mongolians, and I think they come with the steam version of the game. Also, I have the AI players set to random, so the Mongols might not even be present.

And lastly, I will be playing this challenge as India, since that nation’s bonuses are some of the best for small empires.

Well, I think that’s all of the boring stuff out of the way. Let’s get to it!

<Turn 1>

Well, I was hoping for a coastal location, but I suppose this will do. Being riverside will give me some production bonuses in the future, and the presence of gold, cotton, and stone is a nice medley of resources.

I find the tile on which one’s first settler spawns is usually the best place to make a city, at least in the immediate area, and spending too much time looking around before building your first city can give your opponents a dangerous head start.

Behold, the city of Delhi, my first, last, and only city for the next six thousand years!

Since I think that a cultural victory is the only one even remotely possible for me to achieve, I start by queuing a monument to boost my cultural output.

Next it’s time to choose a technology to research. I like to pick tech early on based on the natural resources around my starting area, so I select mining to make use of the gold that I anticipate being the next tile my borders will expand to.

<Turn 2>

I begin to move my warrior to the east to start exploring. Usually the main purpose of this early on is to scout out locations to build new cities, but since I can’t do that I’m hoping to find some other countries or some ancient ruins (ancient ruins are bonuses that, if one of your units walks over, can grant maps of the surrounding area, weapons for your unit, tech, culture, gold, population for your cities, or the location of a nearby barbarian camp).

<Turn 3>

Speak of the devil, there’s an ancient ruin right there!

It also appears as if I somehow turned the help pop ups on… Oh well, maybe they’ll help me explain things in the future.

<Turn 4>

Well, that will come in handy; with my warrior upgraded to a spearman I should be more than a match for any early game barbarians I run into.

<Turn 5>

Well, I’ll be, another ruin right next to the first. I’m rarely that fortunate.

<Turn 6>

Ooooooh, I love getting free tech! I’ve always thought it’s one of the best ruins bonuses there is. I wonder what it will be.

(When you unlock a new tech in Civ 5 it presents you with a pop up screen telling you what the tech is good for and narrating a historical quote that has something to do with said tech. Also worth mentioning is the fact that some techs, such as animal husbandry, reveal resources previously not visible on the map; in this case, horses.)

Not a bad tech to get. I just hope that I end up having some horses near enough to Delhi to make use of it.

<Turn 7>

Having now turned south, my spearman finds the city state of Lhasa. City states are AI controlled cities separate from any of the AI empires. They have varying attributes and personalities, and the available interactions and political options regarding them are very basic when compared to those of a full civilization, but they can still make valuable allies. Usually the easiest, and quickest, way to befriend a city state is to bribe it with gold, but it takes a lot more than I have right now, so I’ll leave them alone for the time being.

Lhasa’s close proximity, and their cultural trait, might make them an attractive ally in the future, especially considering I’m trying for a cultural victory.

<Turn 8>

My spearman begins to head west now, and a French unit comes within range of Delhi, triggering the diplomacy screen. Unfortunately there’s not much to do in the diplomacy screen this early in the game, so I politely say goodbye.

<Turn 9>

Ah, my research is done! Now I just need to build a worker in Delhi and I can start mining some gold.

It’s time to pick the next tech to research, and I settle on masonry so that I’ll be able to take advantage of the stone just south of Delhi.

<Turn 10>

Nice; the monument is finished, that will really help boost my culture.

After considering things for a moment I decide to build a quick scout next in order to speed up my exploration.

Hmmm, my spearman has found a barbarian camp. I could probably take it, thus eliminating a possible threat and gaining a small bounty of gold, but that would take time that I’d rather spend on exploration right now.

<Turn 11>

My spearman continues to explore in a north-west direction.

<Turn 12>

Another ruin! I’ve been pretty lucky with them so far, but I have a bad feeling that that French warrior is going to beat me to it.

Yep, I was right. Oh well.

<Turn 14>

Since the French warrior seems to be heading west, I turn my spearman to the north, hoping to find a few more ruins and completely forgetting that that’s the direction the French unit came from in the first palace.

<Turn 15>

My scout is finished, and immediately send it north.

Next I queue a worker so that I’ll be able build farms and take advantage of the resources near Delhi.

I’ve also earned a point for the social policy screen (points are earned based on the culture per turn output of your empire). Civ 5’s social policies are like talent trees that grant specialized bonuses to your empire. I choose to enter the Tradition social policy, which is intended for small, cultural empires.

<Turn 16>

My scout and spearman continue to explore to the north of Delhi.

<Turn 17>

My scout finds the southern border of France, which appears to be under attack from a barbarian.

<Turn 18>

Having little interest in France for the time being, I send my scout East across the desert that separates our two nations.

<Turn 19>

Well, in moving east my scout has run into a barbarian camp. While scouts in Civ 5 aren’t completely helpless, I doubt they could last long in a straight fight against a fortified barbarian. I’ll have to move away quickly next turn.

<Turn 20>

Uh oh, looks like they’ve got reinforcements, and a captured French settler as well!

Before I deal with that situation however, it’s time to spend another social policy point. I choose Aristocracy in case I decide to build one of the early game great wonders. (Wonders are buildings, such as the pyramids, the colossus, the great wall, etc. that take a long time to make, provide excellent bonuses, and can only be built by one Civilization once per game. For example, if you are two turns away from completing the great lighthouse, and another Civilization beats you to it, you don’t get the building and all of the time you’ve spent working on it is wasted. So they are a big risk, but most provide big rewards.)

Aw, my spearman finds a near perfect place for a city. A hilltop, riverside tile, a nice mix of resources nearby, and plenty of potential farmland across the water. That’s one of the frustrating things about the one city challenge thus far: discovering so many shiny resources and fertile land, and knowing that none of it can be yours.

Huh, turns out that barbarian wasn’t done moving yet. But my scout survived the attack, and if all goes well I still might escape.

Well, I think that’s enough for part one. See you next time!



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