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The New Player’s Guide to Freeciv-Web Edit

by qrtv

Scope Edit

This text is for new players who want to play against humans on Freeciv-Web. This strategy guide would also help against the AI, but has nothing specific to how to defeat the AI. The guide is general enough to apply to all Multiplayer (MP) rulesets. 

Intro: What is Longturn? Edit

Longturn refers to a mode of play where each turn lasts 23 hours. A turn can take from a few minutes to half an hour or more if you're a big empire at the end-stage of the game. This format makes it possible to play a game with large numbers of human players around the world in different time zones. A typical game runs for about 120 turns, or 4 months. 

Joining a Longturn game Edit

New games are periodically started. The best way to get notified about new games is through the Freeciv Discord server. Games are found on www.freecivweb.org under "Longturn". 

Many of the "Unrated" longturn games are newcomer friendly.

To join Longturn games, you need a Google gmail account. Your email is never revealed, shared, or published. If you are still worried about online privacy, simply make a separate gmail account with no personal info. 

Each longturn game has a GameMaster, who is the referee for fair play. The Settings, Ruleset, and Description of the game are published on Discord by the GameMaster at the start of the game. Rulesets decide the rules of the game. Settings define options like the map, number of players, and victory conditions. MP2 rulesets are the preferred ruleset for longturn games. (MP2=Multiplayer II. MP2-AG = Multiplayer II Avant-garde.) This guide is written with these rulesets in mind.

What do I need to know before starting? Edit

Freeciv is a complex strategy game. Playing Freeciv without knowing the rules is like playing chess without knowing the rules. If you don’t know rules and strategies, you could end up playing around with archers and horsemen while your opponent attacks you with fighter planes!

Freeciv requires calculating and weighing different decisions. You should read the strategy guide further below before you start. You should also frequently consult the online Multiplayer II Manual.

Playing against humans is different from playing the AI. If you can't beat the AI, don't expect to be a dominant superpower in a Longturn game. Instead, prepare to diplomatically negotiate and align yourself wisely. Try to profit from the dynamic struggles and change in fortunes of the superpower pacts. To get an idea of what skill level is necessary to be a strong nation: In a game with no opponents and classic ruleset, you should be able to reach Republic by turn 40 and researched the whole tech tree by turn 100. 

Diplomacy is very important in human games. Even in games where the Diplomacy Setting is turned off, there will be "under the table" diplomacy. Usually it's possible to win the game as an alliance. In theory, a single nation can win either by conquest or by being the first to reach Alpha Centauri in a spaceship. Beware of the settings of each particular game! They are announced on the forum and the Discord channel.

There is a major advantage in cooperating from the start by trading techs and intel. Usually, different pacts and power blocks are formed early. If your nation waits too long to find friends, you might end up with no friends. In this case, it’s likely you’ll be targeted for conquest. In this case, you can still try to make friends with your enemy’s enemy, but it’s better to have support earlier.

Strategy guide Edit

Optimal strategy is generally about optimizing exponential growth of your population, production capacity, economy, and technology. Getting the balance just right between expansion, economic growth, technological development and building of defensive as well as offensive military units, is the key to success. 

Plan ahead! Experts will plan for the end game, already at the start.

On the first turn of play, you wake up in the world at year 4000 BC. You rule your tribe as a despot. You will usually start with 3 Settlers, 3 Workers, 2 Explorers and 1 Caravan. 

The start is the most important part of the game, and luckily the easiest part to train on getting right.

Basics Edit

This section is not a substitute for reading the Multiplayer II Manual. But it does help you focus on the first most important things to become a good player.

The world map is made out of tiles. Each tile represents a certain kind of terrain: for example, Forest, Hills, Grassland, etc. Each type of terrain gives a different output value if worked by your cities. Some tiles have special resources which make them worth more. If worked by a city, each tile gives a certain amount of Food, Production and Trade. (Middle-click on a tile to see tile output. Alt+Right-click emulates Middle-click.) Look at the Terrain section of the manual to see a complete list of Terrain types. Each city can work the area of a 5x5 square minus the corner tiles. A city automatically works and gets output from the tile the city is on, and for each citizen in the city, it can work one additional tile. Instead of working a tile, a citizen can be assigned instead to be a specialist (a taxman, scientist, or entertainer.) A Taxman will give 3 gold, a Scientist will give 3 science, and an Entertainer will give 2 luxury. More about this is in the City section of the manual.

By using Workers, you can make improvements to tiles to enhance the tile output. You can even change the terrain type of some tiles: for example, changing Swamp to Grassland. The Terrain section of the manual covers all of this.

Getting Started Edit

The first thing you want to do is to explore the world with your Explorers to see more of the map. Then you want to find suitable spots for your Settlers to build cities. It's not crucial to build cities on your first turn. Instead, you want to explore and pick the best spots for your cities. We will now discuss important considerations for choosing spots for cities.

Food is the most important resource in the start. Quick growth is vital to tribal survival, and Food allows your cities to grow. Each citizen of a city uses 2 food. For example, a size 3 city would use 6 food. Generally, you will want each city to get a food surplus of at least 2 food. This means your first size-1 cities should bring in at least 4 food. 

Production is important too. All tribes start with the Despotism form of government, which gets a 75% production bonus in your capital. You probably should choose to build your capital in a spot that offers high production resources, such as Coal, Buffalo, Pheasant, Oil, or Peat. The first city you build will be your capital. This can be changed later, but at high cost. Be careful. 

Some tiles also produce Trade points. Trade is converted to gold, science, and luxury. Your tax rates determine how trade is divided into these three types. Luxury becomes important later in the game, when keeping your citizens happy is a concern. For now, most strategies keep tax rates at the default: 40% gold, 60% science, 0% luxury.

It’s important to remember that any tile that gives an output of 3 or more Food/Trade/Prod, will suffer a -1 penalty during Despotism. 

Plains-Buffalo, Forest-Pheasant and Hills-Coal are all solid choices for the tile to settle a city on, since you will get +2 Food and +2 Prod automatically from the first worked tile. (You get +1 Food bonus on the city-tile for most types of terrain.) Plains and Hills will therefore give +2 Food. Mountains and Deserts will give +1 Food. (River-Deserts will give +2 food.) 

Of course, it's not only the tile you settle on that's important, but the combination of surrounding tiles the city can use. 

It can also be good to settle a tile with an extra Food bonus: Desert-Oasis, and Plains-Wheat. In Despotism these will give +3 Food. Jungle-Fruit is especially good, giving +4 Food in Despotism. Sure, these only give +1 Prod instead of +2 Prod. But they can be a good choice when fast city growth gives quicker access to surrounding high production tiles.

Less often, it can be good to build cities on tiles that give +1 Food:  Swamp-Peat, Gold-Mountain, Iron-Mountain, and Desert-Oil. But you will either have to build a Granary or have a high Food tile nearby to compensate for only getting +1 Food from the city-tile.

The "boring" Grassland terrain can still be a good choice to settle on, especially if it has good tiles nearby. It gives 2 food, 1 trade. It also gives a bonus +1 prod for the city centre tile, which you would not get if you settled on a different terrain tile nearby. When you change government, it will give 3 food without needing irrigation. As long as you have good tiles nearby, grasslands tend to be solid choices.

Another thing to have in mind when making your first 3 cities is corruption. In Despotism, corruption is horrible. The farther a city is from your capital, the more corruption it has. In general, if you make cities within 3 tiles of your capital, they can get 2 trade without suffering any corruption, giving you 1 science and 1 gold per turn. Farther away you will suffer losses in trade income, unless you compensate by using tiles with resources high in bonus trade.

You now have a basic idea of how tiles work, and how to consider tiles for where to build cities. You now are ready to build your first 3 cities. 

Initial goals Edit

Your first goal should be to quickly multiply your cities. You can double the number of your cities roughly every 11-14 turns, until you run out of land. Despotism is a terrible government for growth, so your second goal is to quickly get out of Despotism to a better government. For this you will need to research a better government.

Your Workers aid in this by building roads. Roads are very important for two reasons. First, they let your Settlers move faster to the spots you want to settle. Secondly, Roads give +1 trade to most tiles, increasing gold and science output.  

In addition to roads, Workers are important for other tile improvements. Irrigation can help you get more Food, which is vital to your growth goals. And on some tiles, mines can give you production bonuses, which will help you produce more Settlers faster.

Besides (1) settling as many cities as possible and (2) getting a better government, you have a third goal that is equally important. You need to keep an eye on your neighbours. It’s not uncommon for a neighbour to want land and resources you also want. They will be tempted by the opportunity to conquer your undefended cities. Keep your eye on neighbours and build defensive units if necessary. In the early game, the best players usually make as many Settlers as possible, while somehow having the minimum military necessary to defend themselves and claim control over new lands.

Achieving the goals Edit

For the two most important goals of multiplying your cities and getting a better government, beginners should consider two typical ways to achieve these goals. 

1. The Straight and Simple Method. This the "simplest" one. Start researching Alphabet, and set your future tech goal to the next government you want, either Monarchy or Republic. (Set future goal with middle-click.)

Make each of your 3 starting cities build Settlers (In an emergency, Settlers can be changed to Warriors without losing any invested prod). When your cities reach size 2 they will be allowed to complete a new Settler. You will want it out as quickly as possible. Use high prod tiles and possibly some gold to finish it faster. After you reach 6 cities, repeat, going for a total of 12. At this point, you should be close to discovering the tech for a new government. 

Keep in mind, the first 4 citizens of a city are contented. This means they work without complaining or penalties. As you get more cities, the number of first citizens that are content is reduced. This depends on your form of government. For example: in Republic, you can have 13 cities with 4 citizens content by default. (Government section.) If you go to 14 cities, only 3 citizens will be content by default, and the fourth will be unhappy. As cities grow in population, it becomes a challenge to keep your citizens happy. You will need to invest in Luxury tax and/or Buildings or Wonders.

By now you should have tried to make an ally or two to trade tech with. In case you have found someone, one of you should have sent a Diplomat to establish an Embassy, which makes it possible to trade tech.

As you finish your 12 or so cities and get very close to researching a new government, you may optionally want to sacrifice some growth for a few turns, and change some of your citizens to Scientists. This can be good if it helps you get the new government several turns earlier, if the sacrifice isn’t too high. Some good players favour doing this. You can figure out if it’s worth it by considering the gains from the new government: less corruption and the elimination of the -1 penalty on resources 3 or higher. In any case, when you have researched the new government, you are ready for Revolution. After a turn of Anarchy, the new government takes effect.


2. The Pottery Strategy. This is not very different from the first method. It involves an extra step of researching the Pottery tech first. This strategy requires more skill, and can potentially give some slight advantages. But there is greater risk of inferior performance if you are less skilled. When you get Pottery, you can then build a Granary in 1 to 3 of your starting cities.  

For a city to grow from size 1 to 2, it needs to accumulate 20 food. To grow from size 2 to 3, it needs 30. Pottery tech allows making the Granary building. After a city grows to a new population size, a Granary gives you half of the required food as a free bonus. So, when a city with a Granary grows from size 1 to 2, it gets 15 food for free. The city keeps the free food after it shrinks from building a Settler. This means that after building a Settler, you only need 5 food to regrow the city to size 2.

Choosing which of your cities to make a Granary in, depends a lot on which cities you plan to make more Settlers. Typically, the cities suitable for a Granary are the ones who can tap extra high prod resources when they are at size 2. If you’re new to this strategy, it’s safest to make a Granary in just 1 city: usually the capital with a high production bonus.

Before you discover Pottery, you will build Barracks in the cities where you want Granaries. When you get Pottery, you will change the Barracks to Granary. Be careful to not finish the Barracks before you finish researching Pottery! Especially in the capital with high production bonus! (You can change a citizen working a high prod tile into a Scientist to slow the production of the Barracks and accelerate the discovery of Pottery, or you can delay starting the Barracks for a few turns by making a Warrior or doing a few turns of Coinage.)

In all other ways, the Pottery Strategy is basically the same as the first method. After some practice, if you do either of these strategies correctly, then… congratulations! You should now have at least 12 cities, a decent government, and a nation competitively large and developed relative to the other nations of the world!

3. Other strategies. We don't want to say that these two strategies are the only ways of achieving the goals, but they are solid and well tried. There exist different strategies from those described in this guide, but we'll advise to stick to the basics until you learn the game better. 

The Well-digger unit Edit

This unit was introduced as a patch for starting positions with no water nearby. It costs a lot in upkeep for each turn. It’s very easy to mismanage. The most accepted opinion is to only use it if you need a water source for irrigation. This doesn't stop some players from building rivers for 10 turns. But you are warned, it seems good players don't favour this! Over-using the Well-Digger can result in a punitive loss to the acceleration of your early growth.

What now? Edit

Now you should have over 10 cities and either be a monarchy or a republic! Now it's getting really interesting!

(The end, for now. This guide will be expanded in the near future)

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