This sections details some of the most important aspects of the game: the different civ traits and the 16 different civs. Which ones are good? Which ones are bad? And how do I get the most value out of each one? Those are the rhetorical questions I hope to answer in this section.
Commercial: This is the single most undervalued civ trait out there. The vast majority of players don't understand how powerful it can be in the right situations. First of all, what does the commercial trait do? It was unknown exactly what it did for some time, but eventually the programmers revealed that it produces an extra gold piece for each city (size 7-12) and 2 extra gold for each metropolis (size 13+). It also decreases corruption by 12.5% (or 1/8). That's it. No shield discounts on marketplaces or banks, nothing like better trades from other civs. That's all. Popular wisdom was that the commercial attribute was worthless. So why am I saying that it can be extremely powerful?
Let's look more closely at what being commercial gives. The starting tech for commercial civs is Alphabet, which is the most expensive of the starting techs, giving them an advantage in researching ancient age tech. Commercial civs can thus get a jump on Writing and start closer to techs like The Republic and MapMaking than anyone else. The extra gold from cities sounds like nothing much, but if you have 25-30 cities (pretty average for a game on a standard-sized map), the commercial trait will pull in an extra 50ish gold EVERY TURN. Over the course of a whole game... that's a LOT of cash. Corruption is also slightly lower for commercial civs, maybe not drastically so but enough to bring in another 50ish extra gold on a standard map (this value would get adjusted up or down by map size, but the percentage would remain the same). Try adding up the effects of 100gpt extra every single turn, over the course of hundreds of turns, and you begin to see the power of commercial civs. I estimate an average game on a standard-sized map will see a commercial civ get some 30,000 extra gold over the course of the entire contest. And money is the thing that powers all diplomacy in Civ3; with enough money you can literally get the AI civs to do almost anything. I personally consider the commercial trait to be 3rd in strength behind the industrious and religious traits, though that is partly due to my playing style that emphasizes lots of trading. Keep in mind too that the latest patch (1.29f) strengthened the commercial trait by lowering the corruption factor from 12.5% to 25%, which should almost double the amount of extra gold a commercial civ gets. Now more than ever, this is NOT a wasted civ trait.
Expansionist: Another civ trait that was widely misunderstood when the game first came out. Expansionist civs are the only ones who can build scouts, and they cannot get barbarians from goody huts. And that's all the benefit that they get. It's understandable that many players initially weren't impressed with this ability, but a series of games played on Huge Pangea maps proved that this trait can also be amazingly powerful in the right situations. With the expansionist trait, this is the single most important thing to remember: The value of the trait is directly linked to the amount of land on the map. In other words, on larger/Pangea maps the expansionist trait is very strong. You can use the scouts to pop hut after hut, getting tons of free techs/units/settlers, contact other civs first and then broker contact between them, and make a ton of money selling your superior world map. On smaller/archipelago maps though, the value of the expansionist trait goes down drastically. If you are on your own island all alone with no goody huts, the expansionist trait is precisely worthless. Under the right conditions though... Bamspeedy accumulated every single Ancient Age tech (they are the only ones you can get from huts) by 2710BC in one game on a Huge Pangea map. Based on your map settings and where you start, the strength of the expansionist trait is variable. Keep this in mind when deciding what game you are going to play.
Industrious: I'll put this simply: Industrious is the single most powerful civ trait there is. Hands down. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING compares with the strength of double speed workers forever. What do you need to maximize? Shields? Industrious workers can mine those mountains in a sensible amount of time before Replaceable Parts. Food? Irrigation comes in half the time and jungle can actually be cleared out in a reasonable time with industrious workers. Commerce? It only takes industrious workers 2 turns to build a road, 1 turn (!) after the discovery of Replaceable Parts. Industrious workers can turn the wild terrain of the starting map into productive worked tiles at a rate unimagined by normal workers. And since you need to produce fewer workers from your cities, growth is actually sped up that much more. Don't forget to considered that all captured (half-speed) workers will actually work at the same rate as normal non-industrious ones! You can also railroad your territory in half the time, speeding production in the early industrial age tremendously. Industrious is a civ trait that is powerful regardless of whether the map is large or small, hot or cool, wet or dry: every map has tiles to be improved. The industrious trait also provides a few extra shields in very large cities too, as if the faster workers wasn't enough. There is one caveat to this though: you MUST control the workers yourself. The trait is wasted if you automate the workers. I personally think anyone who automates workers is shooting themself in the foot (the AI workers make REALLY bad decisions) but to each his own. In the author's opinion, industrious is definitely #1.
Militaristic: This is another civ trait which has a variable value based on in-game conditions. The big thing about militaristic civs is that they have double the chance to promote every time one of their units wins a battle. Anyone fighting a war will notice this immediately, and the programmers confirmed this recently online. More veteran and elite units means that your units will survive longer, and there is a greater chance to produce a great leader with more elites running around. What many people don't pay attention to is the fact that militaristic civs pay half the shield cost for barracks, harbors, coastal fortresses, and city walls. All of these city improvements are naturally designed to help fight wars. Militaristic civs also start with the Warrior Code tech, which allows them to produce archers right from the start. If you are going to try and rush another civ early in the game, a militaristic civ is the one to pick. The common wisdom is that militaristic is one of the best traits in the game, and the militaristic civs get played over and over again. I'm not going to disagree with the power of this trait in a war, but I would amend the power of the trait to this rule: The value of the trait is directly linked to the amount of warring that the player does. If you are going to be doing a lot of fighting, this trait will help out a lot. If you are going to be doing a lot of trading and stay peaceful with other civs, militaristic will do next to nothing. I think the reason why people like this trait so much is that 1) many people play Civ3 like a real-time strategy (RTS) game and try to kill everything as fast as possible and 2) the benefits of the trait are very obvious for the eye to see, not like the subtle benefits of the commercial and expansionist traits. There's nothing wrong with the militaristic trait, but again be aware of its strengths and weaknesses before choosing civs with this ability.
Religious: This is the trait commonly considered "the best" in the Civ3 community. Religious is indeed powerful, enough to be the #2 trait in my opinion, but I still think it gets trumped by industrious. Well, let's look at what the religious trait does for you. It grants half-cost temples and cathedrals as well as reducing anarchy time during government changes to 1 turn. Although these benefits are simple, they are very powerful as well. One improvement that every city needs, regardless of size, is a temple to provide both culture and a happiness bonus. When cities reach a size around 8-10, they almost always need a cathedral as well to prevent civil disorder (depending on difficulty level). And the religious trait will cut the cost of these very necessary buildings IN HALF, greatly speeding up the cultural progression of your civ while keeping your people happy. It's no accident that the religious AI civs almost always dominate the culture graph, due to their cheap temples. Before the 1.21f patch, it was easy to whip temples immediately with religious civs even in extremely corrupt locations, and to a certain extent that can still be done now. In any case, you would have to be a fool not to see the benefits of cutting the time to build vital city improvements in half during the early game, where speed is of the essence. The fact that you also get 1 turn transitions between governments is almost too big of an advantage. Nothing hurts worse than having to wait 5, 6, 7, or even 8 turns in Anarchy waiting for your government to change. Religious civs don't have to worry about this, and have the flexibility to change governments often, even alternating between peace and war governments if desired. These benefits are too strong for anyone to ignore the religious trait, although I believe that the industrious trait in the hands of a skilled player is stronger. For beginning players, the easy culture and governmental flexibility of religious civs makes them good "learning" civs. Don't be fooled by that description though, because religious civs are still strong when used by top players on the hardest difficulties.
Scientific: Now here's a civ trait that has been rendered impotent (at least on the higher difficulty levels) by the way the AI has been programmed to be the game harder. Of all the civ traits, scientific is the only one that is a waste in a normal game on Emperor/Deity. The scientific trait certainly LOOKS good, giving libraries, universities, and research labs at half cost. Scientific civs also get a free tech at the beginning of each era. It sounds like a great deal, and it is if you are playing on Regent difficulty or lower. The problem is that when you crank up the difficulty, it becomes cheaper and easier to buy techs from the AI civs than to research them yourself, at least in the pre-industrial period of the game. On Deity especially, you CANNOT out-research the AI, so any commerce going into science is a waste (except in certain circumstances... I can't go into detail here though). And if you are putting no commerce into science, you don't need libraries built at all. In my two Deity wins, I built no libraries until I reached the Modern Age, to use an example. I've also found that the 3 free techs you get (almost always Monotheism, Nationalism, and Rocketry) will rarely provide a major benefit in the game. I also find scientific to be a painful trait because it makes libraries cheaper than temples, and when you want to build a cheap cultural building it's better to have the happiness benefit of temples than the research addition of libraries (especially in corrupt cities). It's really a shame, because this should have been a strong civ trait. However, the way the game is programmed and the way that tech gets devalued through trades makes this a worthless civ trait at the highest dificulty levels, though it can certainly help the player out in grabbing a tech lead in a Warlord or Regent game. Now when the expansion pack comes out and people get to play one another and not just the AI, expect this trait to have much higher value.
In the wake of the 1.29f patch, the Scientific trait has since become much more viable than it was when I wrote the above section. Now a human player has a much better chance to begin doing their own research sometime in the Industrial Age on Deity, and even earlier than that in Emperor games. This is probably a very dominant trait on Monarch and lower difficulties, but I have no experience with them since the 1.29f patch came out, so that's just a guess. Scientific is by no means a bad trait, but it is not as powerful or useful as Industrious or Religious in most circumstances. The greatly increased cost of Nationalism in 1.29f Civ3 means that getting this tech for free can provide a huge benefit to Scientific Civs in the early Industrial Age. I would now probably say that the Scientific trait rates as high or higher than the Commercial trait for high level games.
There you have my opinions on the six civ traits. Ranked from top to bottom, I personally like
* Expansionist (variable based on map type)
* Militaristic (variable based on warring)
Now onto the 16 civs that use these traits in combinations of two.
Rome: First of all, the Civ3 manual is incorrect: the Romans are Militaristic and Commercial. They are NOT Industrious! The Romans have the Legionary as their unique unit (abbreviated UU), a 3/3/1 replacement for the swordsman that costs 30 shields. What can I say about the Romans? Well they're my favorite historical civ (says Sulla :) but definitely not the best in Civ3. The Militaristic trait is good for fighting wars naturally, but it combines rather poorly with the commercial trait, which is best used in trading (keep in mind that commercial is now stronger under 1.29f though). The fact that the Romans get no cheap cultural buildings also tends to hurt them a lot; the AI almost always has terrible culture when it plays as the Romans, and to be honest so do I when I play as them. The UU is one of the better ones, but its bonus point is in the wrong place! Swordsmen are attack units, not defensive ones, so the Legion having 3 defense doesn't really do that much for them. In all honesty, Legions are best used as early pikes; put them in your cities and it's going to be hard to take you out in the ancient age. The fact that Legions cannot be upgraded is another strike against them (this is no longer the case in the PTW expansion, of course). One good thing about the UU is that it comes early; in my opinion, the earlier the better with unique units. You can trigger an early golden age or save Legions for whenever you want want one (this is true with ALL the early UUs). All in all, the Romans are a mixed bag; they do a lot of things OK, but nothing exceptional. Not the best civ out there by any means.
Greece: The Greeks often get a bad rap from the Civ3 community, but they can do a lot of things well. Conquering the world is not one of them however. The Greeks are Scientific and Commercial, and their UU is the Hoplite, a 1/3/1 replacement for the spearman. The civ traits for Greece are an interesting bunch. Scientific is largely a waste when playing on the high difficulties, although the cheap libraries do help the Greeks build up a solid cultural base. Since libraries provide 3 culture/turn to a temple's 2/turn, the Greeks tend to do well in culture by just putting a library in each city. This can lead to happiness problems though. The commercial attribute and the Hoplite I see as fitting together very nicely though for the Greeks. To put it simply, the Greeks are the best civ to play for a trading game. With Hoplites in your cities you're virtually guaranteed to survive the Ancient age, and the commercial attribute allows them to sit back and rake in the cash. You can probably also sell the free scientific tech at the beginning of each age for lots of cash too, provided your civ gets there first. I really love the Hoplite, a cheap 20-shield unit that can be used all the way up to the Industrial Age as a defender. I probably haven't stated this explicitly enough: the Hoplite is one of THE best UUs in the game, hands down. They are the best defensive unit to build right up until rifles - would you rather have one musket with 4def or THREE hoplites with 3def? The one disadvantage is that you will likely get the Golden Age from the UU at a strange time, or too early to be of much help. The Greeks also are not configured well for taking over the world, with a defensive UU and no kind of militaristic attributes. All in all though, they are a solid civ excellent in trading and good for beginners due to the protection the Hoplite offers.
Germany: The Germans seem to be a VERY popular civ in the Civ3 community, almost certainly due to their warring attributes. The Germans are Militaristic and Scientific, a combination that seems to work decently for conquering the world. Their UU is the Panzer, a 16/8/3 replacement for the tank. I don't personally like the scientific trait very much, but anything that provides cheap culture is good to have. Doing your own research on the higher levels is a waste of your time though, so be aware that the Germans will not get much advantage here. To use the Germans to their fullest, you essentially have to go to war a lot and let the Militaristic trait shine. The Germans start the game with Warrior Code and Bronze Working techs, meaning they can build cheap barracks, archers, and spearmen all from the start of the game! And, if that's not enough, the Germans are only 1 tech away from Iron Working and swordsmen. The Germans are a great civ to use in an early game "rush the AI civs" gambit - exactly the kind of game that I avoid. They will benefit most from extensive fighting, so if you plan to be the Germans go out and hurt your enemies! (Though not at the cost of civilization development hopefully.) Now the Panzer is an interesting unit in a bunch of ways. On the one hand, it comes too late to be of much use; in fact, about 80-90% of games are decided before you reach Motorized Transportation. So most of the time it won't help you win the game, in other words. But if you DO reach that era and the game is closely contested, the extra movement of the panzer can literally blow a game apart. I have been able to blitz large empires in under 5 turns with the power of rails + the 3 movement points of Panzers. Just mobilize for war, produce nothing but panzers, and it's "Game Over" time for the AI. For a detailed description of this, see my GOTM8 report or Sirian's "Rumble in the Jungle" game on his website (I have a link on my links page). The Germans are good to use if you want to kill everyone else, specifically very early or late in the game, which is why they (sadly) get played over and over again.
China: The Chinese are one of the most undervalued civs in the game. Perhaps they don't get played as much because Western audiences have little interest in China? In any case, the Chinese are Militaristic and Industrious and have the Rider as their UU, a 4/3/3 version of the knight. The combination of these two civ traits works really well together, with industrious workers speeding up the production of military units and building roads to the enemy cities while the militaristic trait offers up cheap barracks and lots of promotions. Again, if you want to get the full value from the Chinese, you will need to fight a lot of wars. The Rider gets little attention, but it is a VERY powerful unit. Having 3 movement versus 2 movement makes all the difference when it comes to blitzing enemy empires. I have never seen an AI civ able to stand up to a prepared and coordinated attack from 3-move units. The Rider is upgradeable to cavalry, making it much more useful than dead-end units like swordsmen (again, this is no longer true in the expansion). The Golden Age for the Rider also tends to come at a very good time, when your civ has likely changed government to Monarchy or Republic and can use the production boost to leap into 1st place and stay there. The big disadvantage is that the Chinese get no bonuses on cultural buildings and will likely be hurting in that area. Although I also have very little personal experience with the Chinese, I can say with confidence that they are an excellent one to take into a bloody game of warfare, especially in the Middle Ages. Try them out if you are used to playing as Japan and you might be surprised at how well the Chinese do.
Japan: Here's another civ that everyone seems to love. The Japanese are Militaristic and Religious, another excellent combination to have. Their UU is the Samurai, a 4/4/2 replacement for the knight that does not require horses to build. Like the Germans and Chinese, the Japanese are an excellent civ to take into a violent kill or be killed game of Civ3. The religious trait actually doesn't mix as well with the militaristic trait as it used to, when its cheap temples could combine with pop-rushing to whip out tons of troops without undue happiness problems. It's still a great combination though, and you can use the 1-turn anarchy to switch between wartime and peacetime governments. Militaristic and religious provide a balance between fighting and city building that seems to work well for many people. I do feel that militaristic combines better with industrious for a real warmonger's game though. The UU Samurai is extremely popular, and with good reason as it's an excellent all-purpose unit. Again though, I can't help but feel that the extra point is in the wrong place, since Samurai are attacking units and not defensive ones. But with defense equal to the musketman, Samurai are extremely versatile units that can be used both to attack and defend. They upgrade to cavalry too, which is nice. The UU Golden Age for Japan also appears in a great spot, same as for China. The Japanese are a very strong civ for those who like to do some fighting balanced with some city development, and it's reflected in their great popularity.
India: This civ is absolutely adored by some players for reasons I can't quite understand. Maybe it's because their UU looks so cool... The Indians are Religious and Commercial, and their UU is the War Elephant (commonly refered to as the "jumbo"), a 4/3/2 version of the knight that needs no resources to build. I interpret the two civ traits of the Indians to mean that they are best used in a builder's game. The religious trait gives the cheap culture foundation that will help keep the people happy while the commercial trait provides a ton of money to use in diplomacy. If you have the goal of playing a peaceful game based around city development, the Indians are a good choice. I don't think very much of their UU though. The jumbos certainly look awesome, but their only benefit is that they do not require resources to build. While in certain circumstances this could be very helpful, generally if you don't have any iron or horses you have bigger things to worry about than not being able to build knights. I also find that it's pretty easy to get other civs to trade you resources you lack if you have any kind of reputation. Jumbos also upgrade to cavalry, which makes no sense logically but is very helpful. The Golden Age from the UU does come at an excellent time, although the Indians are not well-configured for warfare so beware. In many ways, I consider the Indians to be a better version of the Greeks, with the religious trait instead of the scientific one. The War Elephant is definitely not as good as the Hoplite though. While you certainly can use the Indians to play a warmonger's game, they are probably best used in a peaceful game where their civ development traits are at their best.Continued on next page...