McFred's Strategies

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Note: This Strategy Guide describes Smallpoxing, which is no longer the dominant strategy in 2.0->2.2 (but is still a good strategy for those versions); it works well in 1.14

McFred's Settling StrategyEdit

This describes the rules I use when settling. It is probably possible to play even better.

None settlersEdit

Your initial settlers do not need supply from cities; they are nomads. It is wise to use them to improve the country: build roads for settler movement and troop movements, and trade, mining to mine hills or to create forest on plains or resourceless grassland. Irrigating will make cities grow faster, one you have researched and revolted to a better form of government.

Even with 4 initial settlers, it may still be a good idea to use all but 1 to build roads, and one to build the capital, especially if you start with money in the state treasury.

Note: Recent versions of FreeCiv have the Worker, which are capable of irrigating, mining, roading, fortressing, airbasing etc. They don't take food supply under any government, but can't build cities. In recent versions, you start with 2 settlers and 2 workers; usually the two workers are enough to irrigate and road your lands and you should build cities with both settlers.

Building settlersEdit

Cities of size 1 are not able to build settlers. Therefore, you may wish to get to size 2 quickly:

The best point to produce a settler is when the food in the granary is city foodneededtogrow-10-foodproduction (20-10-2=8). At this point, you use money or switch food production to shields to produce the settlers. You actually can reduce food production from the start; you need 10 food to grow back to size 2 and 40 shields to create a settler; so, production should be 3-4 and food surplus 1. Similar math for size 3: point: 30-10-2=18 production: 20 food to grow back, 40 shields => 4:2 shields:food.

The cost to buy is bigger the more you buy; avoid spending all money on a single settler.

In many games I played, I was Republic before cities reached size 3, but when switching to Republic it's probably better to go for size 3 to 4, as you can't make all your cities grow slower (and produce settlers instead).

City distanceEdit

Traditional civ players like to place their cities so far apart that they don't overlap much. This is no good strategy, as cities need very long to grow to size 20, and you need 2 city improvements (Aqueduct and Sewer System) to allow them to grow that big. Placing cities at 3 distance, however, seems best because every cities will have 8 squares to use, allowing you to use all land without the need for Aqueducts. A second good thing is that distance 3 allows to you to build a unit in one city, and move it to another city over roads with only 1 movement point. This is cool if you built a settler in a city that just cannot support the settler. Same thing applies for other troop movements.

One counter argument against building cities even closer together is that it will be too easy to attack them; You could build them closer together along the coast, as there are additional seas squares to use for coastal cities, when you build coastal cities; or you could have the coastal cities swap land squares for sea squares later (when it has a Harbour), such that the landlocked cities can build an Aqueduct and grow to size 12. You may also wish to build smaller cities in areas that offer not enough food, but lots of shields.

Eligible land to settle early onEdit

All locations that give food surplus of 2 or more are good. Settling on woods will give you additional defense (50%) and lots of production, but food surplus may be only 1, and maybe 0 with size 2 or 3. The city should be close to sth. that gives shield production, so you can build settlers fast. If the location does not allow that, a forest can be built ('m'ined). It's good if the city is close to specials, fish too. (every city should have a fish ;) Settling on a river gives 100% defense bonus and is generally best. Settling on hills: this gives 100%(?) defense bonus, and the hill can later be mined; however look what happens on grassland WITHOUT resources: You get one extra resource (such that the city has at least 1 production). IMHO, you should only get one extra resource if the settler is a nomadic NONE settler; settling on resourceless grass with preference really is paradox. I think you get the extra resource too if you settle on hills, but that would be a bug.

Eligible land to settle later onEdit

Everyplace is good to settle, even artic, as long as it gives some initial food surplus, and adds some seas to use. Swamps and jungle can be irrigated or mined. The seas can be exploited by Harbours and Oil Rigs, and give lots of trade.


Thanks to agmer who showed that strategy to me in his savegames.

McFred's Research StrategyEdit

I'll list early technologies in the order I'm usually considering them. Considering them is not the same as setting tech goal to them.

Start MovesEdit

Horseback Riding
If you start without an explorer, or loose your explorer to a hut, you will need a replacement. Horsemen also are a very cheap offensive unit.
Horsemen cost only one step to research.
Warrior Code
If you get to war early in the game, Archers are the best unit once your opponent has horsemen or phalanx. They cost only one step to research.
If you suspect you start on the same continent with an opponent, Monarchy is the government to choose. It gives you extra production and food, while still allowing you to conduct war. Monarchy also prepares researching Feudalism gives pikemen (a good defense against horse-like units), and knights (the best unit available in the 1st triad of the tech tree).
This is the standard government. It gives additional trade, full production and food. It reduces corruption, which is important for large empires. I change to it immediately after researching it.
Researching Philosophy first of all players will give you an extra advance. Philosophy fits in well with the research pathes to the Republic or Monarchy, Navigation, also Monotheism (Michelangelos Chapel).
Researching Philosophy immediately after the government is a gamble though.
Map Making
This allows to build triremes, the first unit that can travel the seas. Although it can only move along the coast, it is very important to explore the seas so that you can detect enemy threats. Keeping the seas under control allows you to keep your cities undefended.

Early DevelopmentEdit

Navigation allows building your first sea able vessel, the caravel. Caravels can fight other caravels, explore the seas, transport settlers, diplomats or troops.
The next unit like caravels, the Frigate, you get when you research Magnetism. I prefer researching Ironclads, though.
If you want to start building lots of Wonders, you need trade to build the caravans that will help build it.
The Great Library
Building the Great Library will give you extra technology. You will want to build this if you prefer to stay Monarchy, which you will want to do if you are at war, or want to go to war.
Living off the research of others is the wrong spirit. I never build it for that reason. It also is obsolete very fast, unless you build it fast (and that will slow down your expansion).
This allows you to build Michelangelos Chapel, one of the most sought after Wonders in the game.
Bronze Working
This allows you to build the Colossus, one of the cheapest Wonders. This a good choice for a Wonder if you just want to build a Wonder without working too hard for it. You can swop between Wonders without a penalty.
Also gives phalanx, the cost effective early defense unit.
Invention gives you Leonardo's Workshop which is cool in that it will upgrade all of you old units for free (one unit per turn). For example Triremes→Caravels→Transport or Frigates→Ironclads→Destroyers or Horsemen→Knights→Dragoons→Dragoons→Cavalry, also Catapult→Cannon→Artillery, and Settlers→Engineers.
This can be a quite useful to boost the strenght of your attack troops, or of bonus troops found in huts. It also helps to keep your navy strong.
If you loose the race for Michelangelos, you will want to build J.S. Bachs Cathedral.
Steam Engine (Ironclad)
I usually choose this as tech goal after Navigation, as you can use ironclads to empty enemy cities of defending units to ease their capture a lot.
This cancels the effect of the Great Library, and replaces Ironclads by Destroyers. Very useful.

Industrial DevelopmentEdit

Tactics allows you to build Alpine Troops and Cavalry. Many of your opponents will just surrender when you move your first Alpine Troops and Cavalry on their continent. Actually, Tactics is quite easy to research, especially if you started the game in war state (you have already researched Feudalism).
In the path towards Tactics there is Democracy. Democracy as government will protect your units and cities against bribing. It gives a bonus for trade routes (?does it in freeciv 1.7.1?), and there is no corruption.
If you need to conduct war, Democracy is a bad choice unless you got wonders that help (Womens Suffrage, Michelangelos Chapel, JS Bachs Cathedral, Shakespears, Statue of Liberty(?)), because citizens don't like military units away from cities, and cities may not stay in revolt for consecutive turns(will cause government collapse).
Want to build Cruisers instead of Destroyers ?
This gives a Wonder and extra Production. The Wonder (Darwins Voyage) is not great, but you might still not want others to build it.
Gives the useful Womens Suffrage Wonder, and Factories.
I rarely build Factories.
Allows Adams Smith's Wonder (no upkeep for city improvements with one upkeep). Means you can build temples, harbors, libraries, and granaries without worrying about upkeep. Less upkeep means more science.
Although Electronics sounds too advanced, it fits in nicely with researching Electricity and Industrialization.
Allows building the Hoover Dam. Nice if you have big cities, and you don't want anybody else to have it.
Much alike Electronics in the advances it requires, Automobile gives Battleships to build.
The only bad thing about Battleships is their high cost.

Final DevelopmentEdit

There is lots of stuff ("'Stuff' ? Yeah, you could say I know 'Stuff' ?@! [fallout 1]") here to research. Very nice, and difficult to research are:

This allows you to build Cruise Missiles and defense against Cruise Missiles (SAM batteries and AEGIS Cruiser). This usually gets old Civ 1.3 players like me ;-)
If you built many cities close to the seas, as I do, this will turn them into AEGIS cruiser producing monsters.

McFred's small guide to oversea attacks - strategyEdit

This page describes the various "combined arms" type attacks that occur over time. I wrote it in comemoration of my glorious civ1.0 days.


This operations features a small boat with a horse, an explorer, or diplomat on it. The boat moves towards an enemy coast, perhaps best away from enemy ports. You can find out whether a city is defended at all by checking if there is a ZOC from a unit inside the city. If the city is unguarded, capture it. If it is guarded, move the ship around the continent to bother some other city. Diplomats might attempt to steal tech in either case. The horse explorer may jump off the boat and back to check out inland squares.

This is done to force the opponent to raise his tax rate to buy defensive units. If the opponent is fighting back, don't raise your tax rate to keep your cities. Always keep in mind that if your opponent fails offer resistance, you can try to achieve more.

Note: Recent versions of FreeCiv force unit movement to 0 when moving from a boat to dry land. This prevents the 'The horse explorer may jump off the boat and back to check out inland squares' tactic above.

Medieval raidEdit

This needs a frigate or galleon, and 2 pairs of offensive/defensive units, or 4 knights/chariots. Units get off the ship and attack immediately. A better mix is probably 1 pikeman, 2 knights, 1 catapult. Objective is to capture and hold.

This attack might be used if there are only few cities on the attack island, the target city has high production (coal, woods), or the attacker is just very happy with his production. Few players use this attack, but that makes it very effective, because it often comes unexpected, and research pathes are hard to switch.

Block and pillageEdit

This needs a transport and some units that have high defense value and or ignore zoc. A settler might also be ok, if one can be found. The transport sneaks to the heavily defended enemy island, and gets off its units onto squares with high defense value, preferably with high production too. A settler may be used to pillage, though I doubt that this strategy is effective when the opponent is playing well.

Usually, only mountains and coal squares warrant such treatment. This operation can serve as a preparation for an attack, both by getting units on the island, blocking the movement of reinforcements, and reducing the production of the enemy. If you leave your units sitting around singly, they can be bribed, unless your government is democratic.

Standard attackEdit

Features Alpine troops or tanks. That is units with high attack and defense and movement. This needs 4-8 units with escort. One of the escorts should stay on the same square as the transport, i.e. it needs to move later in the sequence.

The attack troops should attack the weakest target, or a city that holds a working wonder or the capital. This is an attack to kill. It should come as a surprise attack, and there should be lots of reinforcements.

High tech attackEdit

This uses ironclad - battleship or bombers - missiles - nukes to remove all defenses from a city, followed by the actual 'attack'. Best followed by placing diplomats and city walls in/around the city.

In some ways, history repeats itself here: This is an upgrade of the Annoy method. With good technique, you can keep your city sometime without spending too much money. In expert games, one such attack is often enough to ensure capture of an island, as in an effort to build wonders or get a high science rate, few military units are on the island, and a horse/cavalry/alpine/howitzer can capture several cities (by using railroads). If you hold on to his port cities, your opponent has no chance to get back control over the seas (unless he is far ahead in technology).

Hard AttackEdit

An combination of the 'Standard' and 'Block and Pillage' attacks. Uses mechanized infantry and howitzers. What the mechanized infantry and howitzers actually do depends on circumstances. Usually, you attack first with howitzers and fail, but the mechanized infantry survives and can block and pillage.

This can give you a cheap attack which costs you less attention than the attackee. Armor is a costly replacement for mechanized infantry, but can attack cities without city walls.

Improved attack methodsEdit

Uses all those funky stuff you have to attack. Like battleships, aircrafts, missiles, nuclears and helicopters. Many people like to take along Marines to be able capture coastal cities without touching ground. However, Marines do not posses many other uses.

If you get to use improved attack methods, you can beat anyone who hasn't researched the proper countermeasures, or can't afford to buy them as fast as needed. Also, maintaining all the different tytpes of improvements that protect cities costs a lot of money. The main difference between "High Tech Attack" and "Improved Attack Methods" is the scale you are using high tech attack units. Your supplies of high tech units will exceed by far the number of units that can capture and hold cities, but only for some time, as excessive use of your forces will kill them slowly. So you'll need a steady supply of superiority weapons as a replacement.

McFred's small guide to oversea attacks - escortEdit

I wrote this in order to help people to end the game fast when they are ahead. There is nothing worse than fighting someone who is ahead, but can't win because of bad technique. This page does not describe the use of helicopters, which may be used later as an alternative to transporting troops.


You do not need an escort for this. It would only cause unrest.

Mideaval raidEdit

Usually no escort, though it can't harm.

Block and pillageEdit

Blocking and pillaging is usually an act of desperation, so that you won't have escorts available. However, it is the nature of this operation that it works best if repeated, so you might keep reserves in a harbour to guard the area against intruders. Also, ideally the side you are approaching from will have no enemy ports.

Standard attackEdit

One escort for every two transports is often enough.

High tech attackEdit

Take as many escort ships as you can get. Enemy ports should be blocked if possible.

Hard AttackEdit

See Standard attack and Block and pillage.

Improved attack methodsEdit

The transport should be stacked with a battleship or AEGIS cruiser. Enemy ports should be blocked if possible.

I hope you'll enjoy playing freeciv, and will be an interesting opponent should we meet.

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