Questions in specializing
So one thing that I have learned in my first two games is that specializing by buysing one or two kinds of great people and making their resource is the best bet. But that leads to me to several questions.
1. Should I specialize in one or two resources?
2. What differences should I expect between specializing in tech, specializing in production, and specializing in food, or between the three different combinations of the two of those?
Specializing in production is good early on because
A. it allows the most versatility in conversion
B. armies can win eras
C. it's price is usually stable
D. it attracts big dowries
But later on...
A. you aren't able to win as many contests because harvest income provide maze moves and puzzle pieces
B. armies are only valuable in getting wonders from other civs for victories
C. trickle income can provide half as much as full harvest for production at pop 16 and higher
D. the floor on price varies a great deal more.
I kind of regret going production heavy because I missed so many opportunities to win.
I usually specialize first on food, later (= somewhere between Village Green and University) on science. Production depends a lot on the market and game situation, because you have to invest a lot (>1000 hammer per 2 guys for a forge, guard towers and roads) to have a decent output. If you only need few 100 hammers, trickle income, bubble popping and the market provide enough. In other games, when the price of production skyrockets, production can be king. But I also build very few granaries (usually 1 per 4 farmers), because I don't think it's worth 800 hammers to increase the output of a single farmer by 3 or 4.
Generally, it surely helps to have at least 1 very good farmer and worker throughout the game to attract dowries and win contests. It's also good to save up any harvest you don't need at the moment to be able to react to extreme prices on the market or other situations like battles.
IMO big individual scores come from food specialization. One of the simplest reasons for this is that Stonehenge has no scientific prerequisites, whereas Pyramids does. Specifically, it's rare for any nation to get Ceremonial Burial in the first 14 hours, meaning that you've spent harvests at some point without the benefit of the appropriate wonder.
However, food specialization is essentially piggybacking off of the hard work of other people for the first third of the game, in order to then carry your nation through another third of the game, depending on when you switch to science. You're relying on the size of your nation and its perceived defensive capability to maintain your grip on your wonders. It's not a very team-friendly strategy. I say this as someone who won a game at pop 20. I had some very good players in my nation, but a couple of them tuned out in the late game.
You can still put guy 7 and 8 on science, that is usually enough to come back in the science race after Literacy. Also bubble popping does a lot, you need only very few bubbles for a maze move. Winning the first 3 eras isn't that important if you lay a foundation for later wins instead.
But you are right, you somewhat depend on your team at the start - but you can pay it back later.
I go a production/food combo until I am ready (with a nice uni/VG setup) to go science.
A good food strategy usually needs a good production strategy in its own civ to work with, or else anything it builds later in the game will be difficult to hold on to. Pair both, and add in the possibility of both switching to science, and I've found it to work well.
I typically focus on production because I don't want to bother figuring out the food sites properly. :P It's quite possible to win that way; you can pull it off in the right team or game with as little as 10 population.
As for great people...having a variety is still very useful. Supporting a non-food strategy with cheap great prophets when you can get them helps a lot. Being able to finish wonders on demand is great, especially at the end of the game. That, though, is more a matter of specializing in gold, regardless of your city's actual productivity.
@sucinum I never tried bubble popping for science in early eras. I might now that you told me it generates moves quickly. But like you, I don't really care about early tech wins. I feel like getting iron-crafting and irrigation are more important.
@dkk Food can be kind of tedious. When you get >4 houses in the same area early on, you have to do a lot of tweaking. Production is pretty straightforward: find a ecstatic site which can make the tight triangle with iron. Repeat as needed. I've played both, and I understand how annoying food can get. It is moderately more satisfying to beat on people.
However, I don't necessarily think a food strategy is any more dependent on a good production strategy than a good science strategy, or really any other strategy. To me, all strategies are going to benefit from good production, for the reason you mentioned. I can see an argument for saying that a science strategy can make up for production deficiencies by getting a tech first and buying new units cheaply. However, I think the difference in trickle values makes it about equivalent.
As Sucinum mentioned earlier, a lot of this depends on the mass perception about how the game is going to go. For some crazy reason, even experienced players occasionally like to stickfight with 1atk vs 1def units. It blows my mind, but it happens. Production will be king of those games. But as people settle down and learn to play, food will become the bigger race. That's my prediction for 5-10 completed games from now.
Going food early brings very little to your civ in the first half of the game. That is the drawback. You lack the army to defend your civ or otherwise help in science and defense.
If your civ survives, then you pay back in the later half of the game with superior science research.
Early in the game it is quite possible to go food through dowries and exploiting Barbarians, rather than farmers. Unless you stumble on to a great orchard spot with your first tower, you get more returns with 4 guys and a lumbermill in a big forest.
@Glinda that's a question of setup more than intent, isn't it.
An optimal 4 farmer opening has a flat 1400 production cost with 200 of it unrecoverable. 4x house, a 2x2 field of corn, and a large granary which buys for 600, sells for 400. That setup has a flexible output based on happiness. An optimal 4 worker opening has a more consistent expected happiness, but a flexible production cost based on the number of roads and towers required to find 4 forests in a bunch. Sometimes you're luck enough to open with 4 forests visible and a road running right through the middle of them. Other times, you're stuck with individual trees. The sunk cost for opening with production is at least equal to the sunk cost for opening with food. It is probably 150-250 production more, based on the likelihood of the starting roads going through multiple forests without any adjustment on your part.
I think it's more like "Unless you stumble onto a large group of forest, you will get better results from corn."
And, as I mentioned, Stonehenge is faster than Pyramids.