The Civil Service Slingshot

We've been throwing around the issue of the Civil Service Slingshot a lot at Realms Beyond lately, so I thought I would take a minute to demonstrate just what that looks like for readers who might not be familiar with the subject. For the purposes of the discussion, we've heard a lot of evidence about how the Civil Service (hereafter "CS") slingshot is not overpowered, or how it's no stronger than a Pyramids/Great Library strat, or whatever. Let me show you just how unbalanced a REAL slingshot grabbing early Civil Service can be!

First, a quick background for my readers who don't play Civ4 obsessively. The CS Slingshot refers to obtaining the tech Civil Service at an early date, in order to get Bureaucracy civic's capital-boosting effects into play. The most common way to do this is through use of the Oracle wonder (researching Code of Laws and then using the Oracle to take Civil Service), but it can also be grabbed with a Great Prophet IF Masonry has not already been researched. Needless to say, both of these routes are somewhat gamey, and were not anticipated by the developers. Under the right circumstances, increasing commerce and shields by 50% in the capital at an extremely early date can knock things seriously out of whack. But enough theory, on to an actual example.

This game was an undocumented one that I played from the Warlords expansion (I've played a lot more games than I've written about). This is from the final test build that I worked on, which turned out to be the same as the release version, so I'm not giving anything away by posting here. Playing as the Koreans (Financial/Protective), I draw a floodplains/river starting position with corn and gold resources. After popping Mysticism from a tech on the 2nd or 3rd turn of the game, I researched Polytheism and founded Hinduism:

I had no particular plan in mind for this game, but a starting religion certainly couldn't hurt. With a Financial civ, however, and all those floodplains at the start, this looked like the perfect setting for a heavily cottaged capital. As if that wasn't bad enough, there was also a gold resource on the river (which would yield a disgusting NINE commerce for my Financial civ once mined) AND a corn resource for fast growth. Heh. I'm sure our Civ vets can see where this is going. I think it was Blake (?) posted recently that floodplains at the start can drop a game's difficulty by a full level, and that would certainly be the case here. This game is on Emperor, by the way, with all the default settings.

A couple dozen turns pass, I found a second city, and my capital looks like this:

It turned out there were horses at the start too, adding good production and even more commerce. At size 5, Seoul is already out to a disgusting 30 beakers/turn, and it will only get worse from here. Once I finished this settler, I decided I would push for Code of Laws and build the Oracle to try for the CS slingshot. As expected with this commerce-heavy start, I finished the needed tech first, founding Confucianism in 925BC:

Then the Oracle finished three turns later and I took Civil Service with it, as planned:

Meanwhile, my second city of Pyongyang had both cattle and wheat resources, but zero hill tiles to mine for production. That made it a natural candidate to run Scientist specialists; I swapped to Caste System civic and ran FOUR of them, who produced a Great Scientist in record time. Then it was back to the capital for an Academy in 350BC, and, well... you can imagine the results:

ONE HUNDRED FIVE beakers/turn in BC years. "Congratulations, you broke the game!"

I blew right past the AIs and left them in the dust. This was Emperor - didn't matter one iota. Just look at that bar for Iron Working above, ouch! Even scarier was the fact that Seoul wasn't even close to being topped out yet on commerce. I still had room for four more grassland cottages, to say nothing of working the sea for commerce or adding additional trade routes! Yikes.

At this point I just... lost interest in playing. I don't know what I was looking for in this game, but this wasn't it. My neighbor Shaka was still being intransigent despite my attempts to butter him up with religion, and a city that SHOULD have flipped to me refused to do so. (I'll have more to say on culture flips and why they're so problematic later on in one of the upcoming Epic reports.) In short, I wasn't enjoying things anymore, so I saw no reason to continue. Here was the final map:

Nangoma was the city that refused to flip. I knew exactly how the game was going to go (tech to Military Tradition and then crush everything with cavs), and I had already gone that route in my game Cathy's Romp. Nothing against Warlords either, but this wasn't the game I was looking for.

Now this certainly doesn't resolve things one way or the other, but I did want to highlight the fact that the CS slingshot can literally break the game under the right circumstances. There's nothing wrong with using it, but understand that you really weren't supposed to have access to that much candy quite that early.