A while back I created a strategy thread on the french which turned into an interesting discussion on how to play that civilization. As it seems that many are doubting the strengths of Russia, I thought it might be a good idea to get something similar going there. So I'll write up some observations on Russia, their bonuses, and how they might be utilized.
Feel free to discuss your thoughts on Russia, how to play them, what's good about their bonuses, or simply a write-up of one of your russian games (and your observations on what worked well, what could you have done differently, etc.)
Initially, I'd like to say that I think Russia are underrated. They are one of the least obvious civilizations, I agree, but when you've tried out how they play, they'll grow on you. I think the bonuses are a lot better than they seem at first sight, and put together they give an overall strong civ.
Starting: Russians begin with more of the map visible
Ancient: +1 food from plains
Medieval: defensive units receive the Loyalty upgrade
Industrial: Half-price Riflemen
Modern: Half-price Spies
Local Area Map
This might not be the coolest bonus in the game, but it does help a little:
- You get to see whether there are some nearby islands.
- You'll know the locations of the nearest friendly huts and barbarian villages (if any that close, but there usually are).
- You'll discover any nearby dead ends, and you'll save turns by not sending your exploring units there.
- You get an early look in the area, that might give up a better location for your capital (in the long run). As plains are better than grassland when you're Russia, you might not need the two grasslands in your starting location.
All in all, this bonus speeds up your exploring, as well as often giving you a better location for the capital and a head start on planning your early city placements. I think the bonus is far from useless.
Extra Food from Plains
Now, this is a really strong bonus, especially this early in the game. I don't think many people realize how good it actually is. I've seen some people comparing it to the japanese sea food, noting that sea is more common than plains. That's true, but their overlooking a very important fact. Plains already produce food! While the japanese doesn't sacrifice much growth through research, the russians get massive growth, as their food tiles just got even stronger.
Lets see what this does. When growing a city, you'll want to get your workers to produce as much food as possible (that gives faster growth). So in the early game you'll want to work those tiles with 2+ food. Cities with the most tiles producing 2+ food are the ones that get largest in the early game. With the russians this includes plains, so don't hesitate in building your cities near them. In fact you should try to get at least one city with 3+ plain tiles. When working such tiles, you'll get a lot more growth than the japanese will, unless they sacrifice their research.
As a side note: The japanese bonus will really help growth later on, but they need some time before it becomes an advantage in growth instead of research.
In the late game, the cities that get largest are those with the most food production, which most likely comes from granaries and plains. But wait! Those cities had the best growth early on as well with Russia! Which practically means that you'll have some huge cities compared to the enemies if you've placed your cities a little smart.
So what is the benefit of larger cities? You'll get more production and trade through working more tiles (and from the city workers), and even more culture in those cities that have culture producing buildings. You shouldn't take lightly on that advantage. It helps you on the path to ALL victory conditions.
When playing Russia, I'd carefully consider if it might be a good idea to rush an early granary in a plain heavy city (or two), to get a major head start on a mega-city (or two). Since you'll most likely catch up later due to larger cities, it might be worthwhile to sacrifice some trade (and maybe a little production) early on. Find that nice balance that keeps you safe while still growing.
In addition to helping you out on getting larger cities, this bonus opens up for a lot more viable city locations. Lack of food will seldom be a problem. Since you started planning city locations from turn 1 (with the local area map), russians will due to this make a lot better use of their lands.
Note also that, in addition to all those yellow tiles, snow tiles count as plains, and will give more food with the russians.
Suddenly all the defensive units (archer, pikeman, rifleman, modern infantry) you build start out with +50% defense in your own territory. Add veteran as well, and you'll get a really solid defense +100% without other bonuses. A fortified archer army in your capital will have a strength of 21. Riflemen get 52.5.
On top of that, you'll increase your chances of getting the leadership/engineer promotions when you later recieve elite upgrades. Those defensive units have never been stronger
As you build up your civilization to those large cities, these defenders will make sure you're safe.
Now, how cheap does this actually mean? Ridiculously cheap! And that's from the very first rifleman you build! It does in fact cost the same as an archer, and you get a whole army (3) of riflemen at the price of one modern infantry. It is actually so cheap that you might want to consider skipping Mass Production and rather defend with sheer numbers of this unit. As they are also Loyal (from the last bonus), they will do quite some damage to any attacker.
At this point, you should have a massive defense in your whole civilization, and those large cities of yours should continue to thrive. They also have a nice synergy with spies, as I will discuss next.
Spies are extremely powerful, especially in the late game. Just to refresh our memories, here's what they do:
- Disrupt defensive units
- Steal Gold
- Kidnap Great Person
- Destroy Building
- Sabotage Production
- (Leave Quietly)
In addition, they defend your own cities against enemy spies. All these abilities are utterly unique to spies (and are very good), and they can wreak quite some havoc in enemy cities. Someone closing in on a cultural victory? Kidnap their great people! It even takes you closer yourself. Need that extra push onto domination? Disrupt defensive units! Is there some rich bastard civilization anywhere? Steal their gold! You'll be amazed at how much gold a spy can fit in your pocket. Anyone building the winning wonder? Sabotage the production (and do something drastically to try and get the win yourself)!
So, how does this help you towards your win? You stall the others, as well as gaining ground on your way to a cultural or economic victory (unless you're going for domination, of course, in which case you'll use the spies for weakening the defense). Since you've got those large cities going, by this point in the game, you should be one of the strongest civilizations in both culture and economy.
It takes some strategy and practice to use spies as effectively as possible, so here are some pointers to get you going (I'm sure someone has even more tips on this subject).
- Use riflemen (which still are ridiculously cheap btw, and you should have tons) to defend your spies. If you need to have the spies wait in enemy lands, declare war and plant some riflemen in a forest or something. You should at least do your best to prevent any enemy from capturing them.
- Try and stick to bordering cities (so that you don't have to venture far in enemy territory), or use boats to land spies (and riflemen) in the middle of enemy lands.
- Send spy rings in first on a city. If they don't face an enemy spy (or ring), have them leave quietly, sending all your single spy units in after them in the undefended city.
I find that all types of victories are possible to go for with the russians. Large cities and better defense make for a strong overall civ. As spies will give another kick to any victory (except for technology), you're in a good position. In addition, the spies will help keeping you safe as well as slowing down everyone elses road to a win.
I have to admit that I haven't played very many games with the russians (there are simply too many civs out there to play a lot with everyone), I've used spanish, indian, japanese and mongol lately. I will play a few games now, however, if we can get some discussion going I'm sure that if we can develop a better understanding of Russia and how to play them well, we'll see a more competitive side of them.
Of course, as with all civs, you need to take care of any rusher that might appear. But that's more of general strategy than one specific to Russia...