Civilization V: 8 things you need to know before you start

Napolean scene

Civ V is going to be out in just a couple of days. It's really, really good. We've been playing it for weeks now, learning the intricacies of its systems, the importance of economy, and the hilarious consequences of nuclear stockpiles. We have some advice to impart. Here goes.

1. Save everything in the cloud

Civ V, like Torchlight before it, is a Steamworks enabled game. That means you can save games via the Steam cloud. When it's working, it's pretty much the best thing in the world - it means you can stay up all night being rude to Ghandi, then finish the punch-up in your work lunch break on a different PC, or on your laptop during a commute. The saves are uploaded as if by magic.

However, it's easy to forget to turn it on when you start. You have two separate groups of saves - to save in the cloud, you need to click on the circle in the top right hand of the save dialogue.

2. Ratchet up the difficulty

If you've played Civ before, don't play on the default difficulty level, Chieftan. My first game ended in the late 1800s, when I obliterated musketmen with paratroopers near Capetown. You'd think that would be the greatest moment of all time. But it was just kind of sad. At the default difficulty level, I found the AI a little too passive. Move up to at least Warlord. Go on. You can handle it.

3. Get your head around gold

It seems to me that the economy plays a huge role in Civ V - more so that previous games. Gold isn't just for buying new units and city improvements; you can also use it to purchase tiles around your cities, too. And you'll need it for bribing city states (more on those later).

Purchasing tiles is important because you'll want to buy resources - if a nearby tile has horses, it can be turned into stables, and then, once you've researched the wheel, you can start fielding chariots.

But here's the thing. You can also buy multiple units a turn, and you can pump them out from a newly captured city. One tactic I've taken to using is raiding cities with no intention of holding onto them - but razing them and spending the money on new units. I'm a cock like that.

You could, for instance, put all your efforts into capturing one city, then use that city to buy dozens of laser guided missiles - and launch them next turn. That's known as a 'dick move'.

4. Understand city states

New to Civ V are city-states - independent single city entities that act as a buffer, nuisance, or ally. They're a political pain in the proverbial. They'll get grumpy with each other and then each demand that someone take the other out. You can ignore them if you like, but if you agree to their demands, and do a good job, they'll let you trade resources. Be aware though that your rep with them decays, so any alliance is only temporary. If you've got the cash, they can also be bribed.

5. Be aggressive

The default map style generated in Civ is “continents” - i.e. at least two large landmasses with smaller islands. That usually means you'll share the map with just a single other Civ, and a couple of city states. If you defeat the enemy Civ early, you'll have the whole continent to yourself. This will give you a huge advantage.

6. Upgrade your troops

Once a troop becomes obsolete, you don't have to delete him. You can upgrade him to a new technology for a cost. Catapults can become cannons, cannons can become artillery, artillery can become rocket artillery. If you're smart about where you're spending your money, you can keep a smaller compact force from day one and have the same units fighting your battles in 2049.

If you win battles, your units will level up. If they level up, they will fight like tigers. A level 4 musketman will decimate unlevelled rivals. If you can't win a fight, don't fight it. Preserve your resources.

7. Enjoy the end-game

Here is a picture of a laser-death robot annihilating Seoul. It is funny. Just be aware that you'll want to pump out dozens of the things, but you'll need a stock of uranium for each one. But you also need uranium for nuclear power stations, and nuclear weapons. That's one of those 'interesting choices' Mr Meier seems to love so much.

8. Otto von Bismarck is a cock

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