circa V2.1

The Art of Freeciv is a little different from the other online manuals. Whilst they will explain the mechanics of playing, what various commands do, how to control your empire, and minutae on the effects of various city improvements and wonders, this manual attempts to explain how to actually play the game. Not in terms of which units to move and where, but in terms of the tactics and strategies that will prove most effective in the online arena. This guide is a continuation of The Art of Freeciv for Freeciv 1.12.0. The game has evolved since the guide was written

This includes advice targeted specifically at players completely new to the game, but it is mainly intended for people who have already played a few games, and are now convinced that the entire top ten of the online ranking column is composed of people who have designed their own clients, and otherwise figured out sophisticated ways to cheat at the game. (They haven't of course. Given the amount of time that lot spend online playing, it's amazing they even find time to sleep.)

Keep in mind that all games of Freeciv are different, so this guide can be a step towards becoming a better player. There is no substitute for a lot of practice playing the game.

Read on gentle reader, and you too may join the illustrious ranks of Freeciv players who at one time or another have been asked if they've made any 'private modifications' to their client software.

Freeciv Online Etiquette[]

For beginners the online game can be quite bewildering. Especially if you've never played the commercial Civilisation games upon which it is based, and sometimes even if you have. There are two sources of confusion, the game itself, and the players of the online game, who have evolved their own style and terminology for talking about the game. Consequently when you first connect to a public server, some of the things people ask can be a little confusing.

The first player to join the server becomes game organizer and sets all options. Always ask before changing anything on the server, and always ask before starting or ending the game. In order to change any server settings during the game a vote from the players is required, and for over 50% of those votes to be in favour.

During the game generally the only command given to the server is to change the timeout parameter, which controls the length of time each player has to make their moves. At the beginning of the game this is usually set to be as low as possible, and can then be increased during the game. The turn done button can, and especially at the beginning should, be used to indicate you have finished your move before all the time runs out. This helps speed up play during the initial rounds when nothing much is happening except city growth.


The two questions most frequently asked on servers prior to starting the game are what gen or generator do you want to play, which affects the starting topology of the world, and what value do you prefer for citymindist which controls how close cities can be built to each other. This latter question may come disguised as a question about smallpox, (cities can be built close together), or largepox, (in which they can't).

Other common questions relate to the presence or absence of huts, visual huts which randomly hand out goodies or instant death to any unit that steps on them, and barbarians, (random ai generated invasion fleets).

You can get more information on any server command, including the default value for that option, by using the help command

/help gen for example.

Personal preferences vary enormously for what games people like playing, but at present there are a few, well delineated factions online.

Islands vs Continents[]

There are three methods to choose from when generating a map. The default, Generator 1 creates a random map with lots of small islands, and it is quite possible that players start on the same island. Generator 2 games distribute players amongst a couple of large continents, and smaller islands, and players may find themselves on their own small island, or sharing a continent with several other players. Generator 3 on the other hand, puts every player on their own island. This guarantees everybody reasonably similar terrain on which to develop their empires, and at least a little time before open warfare can break out. Generator 3 is generally thought of as more fair, but less random and interesting. Generator 3 is therefore often used in online games.

Smallpox vs Largepox[]

The other big ongoing debate concerns the spacing of cities, which has led to two competing strategies: smallpox and largepox.

Smallpox, also known as Infinite City Sprawl (ICS), occurs when players build small cities fairly close together and generally, although not completely, ignore making improvements (such as temples) to them. Largepox on the other hand, is a style of play that builds cities further apart, and actively builds improvements to cities to allow them to grow as large as possible.

The citymindist parameter attempts to fix the problem, by forcing players to build cities a certain distance apart. Further to improve the largepox strategy, research costs have been doubled, while the effect of science buildings (Library, University, Research Lab) have also had their effects doubled. This means that building larger cities with the right city improvements can be a benefit, compared to the smallpox strategy.

Both largepox and smallpox have different advantages and disadvantages, and a lot has been done to allow both strategies to coexist.

Understanding the Game[]

Above and beyond all else, freeciv is about optimizing your production and associated technological growth as it increases along a somewhat exponential curve. Initially, and assuming no production capability is diverted to military units or city development, the number of cities in an empire can be doubled roughly every 11-14 rounds. At some point, either because you've run out of room, or because somebody else has decided they need your land more than you do, production is going to have to be diverted away from sheer growth. The basic objective remains to grow your production and research base, faster than all the other players, whether by expansion, invasion, or judicious alliance.

A large part of the art of Freeciv lies in getting this balance between expansion, technical development, production of military units and city improvements defence and offence activities just right.

Freeciv can be broadly characterised as having three somewhat chronological parts: technical development, expansion, and global warfare. There are occasional cries online for a kinder, gentler Freeciv, but it's fair to say that's not the game most people are playing. The objective for most Freeciv players is to develop a production base capable of producing enough military might to crush every other player in the game.

Although sheer production capacity is a critical part of the game, almost as critical is the development of technical capability. Besides production, cities also generate a certain number of science points each round, and this controls the rate of technical advance. (Use the F6 function key to access technology development during the game). This too increases on a somewhat exponential curve, and is not unrelated to production since the more cities you have, the higher your science output will be.

Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten times its size, the result will be the flight of the former.

The Art of War, 10.15 Sun Tzu

Technical development is important, because no matter how high

your production capacity is, it's fair to say that trying to fend off an invading force of ironclads with any number of triremes is a decidedly lost cause. Technical development is affected by the raw output of your cities, but is also crucially affected by the type of government you have. Since you begin the game in a form of government (Despotism) which has rather low technical development attributes, one of your immediate goals is to become advanced enough to get into a form of government which favours fast technological advance, (Republic), and this makes the following one of the key points of the game.

The single most important skill for any player to develop is a good start.

The beginning of the game[]

What exactly defines a good start is determined by your starting configuration, and by your style of play. With a little luck you can get to republic inordinately fast if you concentrate on trade to the exclusion of all else, but in doing so you will usually have to sacrifice some city growth. That will hurt you later on in the game, because your overall production levels will be low relative to a player that didn't do this. (The mathematics is simply the number of rounds it takes to double your cities, and the number of cities you have that are outputting settlers. This is the kind of formula that is frequently described as being very sensitive to initial conditions.)

Consequently, the beginning of every game involves judgment calls on how to best handle the terrain of your particular starting position; which is why it's a good idea to practice it a few times.

Art of freeciv 1

A good starting position near whales and fish

Here the player has a lucky starting position, and has

exploited it. All four of their initial cities will generate 2 science points/round, allowing them to begin the change to republic circa 2500BC.

However, there's another island just visible on the left hand side, which could mean potential trouble if it belongs to another player.

Practicing the Start.[]

The start is the easiest part of the game to practice. Start up a new local game with default settings. Hitting the F6 key will bring up a report on your current technical goal, your extended goal, and what technology you already have. The immediate goal should be changed to Alphabet, and the long term one to Republic.

The speed of technical development is controlled by the amount of science produced by each city. This is proportional to the amount of trade that city does. The trade points produced by the city depend upon which tiles it is using for resources, the type of government, and crucially, especially at the start of the game, on the physical distance the city is from the capital.

These last two are why it is critical to get to republic as soon as possible. Under despotism, the starting government, there is a one point penalty applied to any resource (including trade), that exceeds 3 from a tile. So a whale for example, which would give a city 3 trade points under republic, only gives it two under despotism. Far more deadly though, are the effects of corruption, which depend on the distance the city is from your capital.

Considering that you're aiming to get the republic advancement by around 2200bc, at which point you should have 7-8 cities, you could easily lose 15% or so of your pre-republic science points by building too far away.

A rough rule of thumb is that under despotism any city which is more than 2 squares from the capital, (the number of squares in this case is obtained by adding the x and y distances), will only give 1 science point no matter how high its trade score is, and if it is more than around 12 squares (x+y again), it won't contribute anything. If you can get a very high value of trade 3-4 squares away, whale + wine say, then you can also get 2 science points from that; but those combinations tend to be rare.

An eye should also be kept on the food surplus of each city, (which determines how fast the cities grow and/or produce new settlers.). Only exceptionally should you build a city where the initial food surplus is less than 2.

Practice repeatedly on an empty server, until you can reliably get republic technical advancement by 2100BC, and understand what happened when you get it earlier or later. Then try seeing how long it takes you to get Navigation. Make a copy of the game at the beginning, and try playing a few games out to achieving Navigation on the same map. Try different positions for your cities, and see what difference they make, and what happens to your rate of expansion when you start building military units, or using settlers for mining/roads. Then read the terrain part of the manual, one more time... Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.

Art of War, 1.26. Sun Tzu

Developing your Nation[]

It's worth taking a careful look in the F4 city summary screen at your cities production levels before and after you change your government to republic. There are some significant differences in the food and output production of some tiles, which will directly impact you in the next stage of the game, and should probably have influenced some of your city placement choices in the initial rounds.

Generally, things always vary a little depending on what generation game you're playing, the goal now is to expand as quickly as possible to fill your original starting landmass, start exploring your local sea area, and be prepared to fight off or form alliances with any early visitors that pop by.

Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.

The Art of War, 13.4 Sun Tzu

There are almost no military situations where having accurate

intelligence information is a disadvantage. In Freeciv, this usually means exploring your coastline with triremes as soon as possible. This requires Map Making technology, and typically this will be the first tech to get after republic. At this stage in the game if you can see any islands immediately off your coast line, you need to find out fairly quickly if they're the home island of another player or not.

Occasionally someone will get triremes out very early, before republic, which is why it can be a good idea to move your explorer back into your capital once you've explored your island. Explorers can't fight, but they do make quite a good defensive unit. Especially in emergencies.

While your first couple of triremes are exploring your coastline, your cities should still be pumping out settlers to build new cities in your existing island, and any new islands that look promising.

Technical Development[]

A common technical strategy at this stage of the game is have the long term tech goal be Navigation, (for Caravels, upgraded triremes which don't have to hug the shoreline), and then Steam, which gives you the first potentially game winning tech, Ironclads. There are alternatives, Democracy is one, Magnetism another. The former relies on using the higher science rate possible under democracy to catch up on the sea power advances, as well as stealing technology if the chance arises. The latter allows frigates, which don't stand up very well to ironclads, but can typically be built several rounds earlier, and make a useful attacking unit. Trade, which allows caravans to be built, is another common diversion.

Art of freeciv 2

Technology tree when Republic is researched, with Navigation as tech goal.

Surplus Production[]

At some point it no longer makes sense to pump out settlers to build cities. Practice and personal preferences in city spacing will tell you when. The question then becomes what else to build. Settlers are also useful for improvements, they can mine or build roads, which improve production and trade respectively. However any city which is supporting a settler takes a hit on its spare food production, which restricts and slows its growth. In practice that means a city can really only support one spare settler, and that it is best to pick cities with high food surpluses to do this.

On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.

The Art of War, 2.11 Sun Tzu

A similar problem applies to military units. Besides causing

unhappiness, they also use up one production point. Which implies that you don't want to keep too many sitting around if they're not needed, but on the other hand you may need something on your island to throw back the first attackers.


Caravans are part of the answer to what to do with surplus production. Caravans can do two things, one is build trade routes between two cities, which will increase science and tax production, the other is provide a way to move production between cities. The main reason for doing this is to build wonders, but since each one requires a fairly large amount of production units, building them in a few cities should provide a reasonably reliable supply of surplus production if you need to suddenly produce some defensive units.

Building up a stock of caravans lets you choose which wonder to build, and where, more easily than just building one in a single city. It also lets you hide the fact that you're building it until the last possible moment, which may or may not help you actually get it.


It's worth reading the wonders list fairly carefully. Of particular interest are the wonders which don't become obsolete. The most important of these are Magellan's Expedition, and the Democratic Wonders.

Magellan is probably the single most powerful wonder, and also the one that most benefits the player who has it. What it does is give all ships two extra movement points. But since it can be built as soon as a player has navigation, this means its effects enhance exploration, expansion, and invasion. A lot of games hinge on who wins the race for Magellan, and since its technological prerequisite is Navigation, there is no penalty (in terms of tech advance) for trying to get it.

The democratic wonders are a slightly different story. They affect city happiness, which in turn means cities can grow bigger, with less improvements, and most importantly, make it much easier for a player to become and stay a democracy. Being a democracy has a number of advantages, but the critical one is that democracies are immune to most of the efforts of spies and diplomats.

The disadvantage of being a democracy is that you must keep your cities happy. Because if two or more of your cities are in revolt for more than two rounds, you will go back into anarchy.

Michelangelo, J.S.Bach's cathedral, Woman's Suffrage and Cure for Cancer all have this effect to a lesser or greater extent, and generally any player with at least two of them shouldn't have any trouble being a democracy.

The problem is that with the exception of Woman's Suffrage, they all require a slight diversion from the generally accepted steady technological advance to cruisers. Typically, (depending on their tech production rate) this means that a player incurs around a 10 round delay in getting to cruisers for each of the other wonders. Which may, or may not, be fatal...

City Governor[]

The Governor (previously called CMA) is another powerful tool which removes the micromanagement of placing citizens in cities on good tiles. The governor will also prevent your city from revolting or starving, if it can. It might seem very complicated to use at first, but once you know the basics, it can save you a lot of effort.

The Governor automatically arranges the citizens on the cities which it assigned to to the correct tiles according to the presets you have assigned. The presets Max Food, Production, Gold and Science are the ones you will typically need, although you can create your own when you feel that you master the city governor.

The preset Max Food is almost always used in new cities, until they have grown to a size where you want to use the city for science or production. When a city is size 3 or more, you can use the preset Max Science to maximize the science output in cities with a good science potential. Further, the Max Production preset is useful if a city should be used to quickly build military units.

The city governor is a high-level tool for managing the role of individual cities in your empire. Once you have built a lot of cities, they can be managed from the Cities dialog (F4), where it is possible to change the governor preset.

Art of freeciv 4

Govenor tab in the city dialog.

Learning how to Fight[]


You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.

The Art of War, 6.7 Sun Tzu

So you've been number 1 in production since Republic, expanding nicely, just got democracy, and have nearly finished wiping out some hapless largepox player with the misfortune to be two squares from your home island. One moment you're on top of the world, and the next half your empire is in revolt, and the rest of it has ceded to the control of an AI. And all because some character called Zop has snuck a transport in with a couple of horsemen, and taken over your capital.

Once your nation grows above a certain number of cities, there is a chance, increasing in proportion to the size of your empire, of your nation revolting if its capital city is captured. When this happens a new AI player is created and ownership of a fairly large number of your cities is transferred to it. This is not a situation that can generally be recovered from.

Consequently, of the several ways to win, although the most usual is to establish a crushing production lead on the other players and roll them over with sheer military weight of numbers, it is also possible to successfully attack the player with the crushing production lead, take or destroy their capital city, or a city containing their democratic wonders. This is actually easier to do than you might think, given the complexities of unit handling towards the end of a long game.

So, never leave your capital in a coastal city. Your capital is initially determined as the first city you build, and in order to maximise the tech advance rate, it frequently has to be built on the coast. That doesn't mean it has to stay there. Once you have the Masonry advance and can spare the production, pick an inland city, preferably on a hill, (which gives you extra defence points), and start building a palace there. Once that palace is finished, your first one will be automatically sold, and your island will be just that little bit safer.

For similar reasons, don't build wonders in coastal cities either. What happens to a democracy when one of its democratic wonders are captured, and all those unhappy citizens get unleashed is not a pretty sight. At least, not if it's your democracy that just got taken out.

Always check the chance of winning an attack[]

Make sure you understand which factors that increase the chance your unit has for winning a battle. Always check the attack, defense and firepower before starting an attack. Units without full health power should always be returned to a city to heal. This is especially important for wounded veteran units, which can be valuable later. It is also possible to check the chance a unit has to win over another unit, by middle-clicking on an enemy unit while your unit is selected.

Art of freeciv 3

57% chance to win both when attacking and defending with Ironclads.

The best form of defense...[]

The standard attacking technologies in Freeciv are a couple of

horsemen or diplomats, some kind of transport for them, and the latest and greatest in sea power to attack coastal cities with. Consequently a lot of games are decided when one player gets ironclads significantly before the others.

Horsemen are quite cheap units to build though, so games can also be won by a player bringing off an early trireme attack - especially if this occurs in range of a capital city. Having to build defensive units early in the game slows down expansion dramatically. Even if the attacking player is thrown back in the short term, in the long term the damage to the production of the invaded player may be unrecoverable.

Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.

The Art of War, 6.5 Sun Tzu.

Common attack/defense tactics[]

Diplomats and Spies[]

Diplomats and spies both have the ability to incite

a city to revolt, meaning that it, and any units that belong to it, then become yours. This costs money, roughly proportional to the distance the city is from the capital of the owning empire. For this reasons diplomats make a good defence unit for your home island, since the cost of recapturing your cities is quite small, and a lousy attack unit for cities right next to your enemy's capital. However, if your enemy is in the habit of renaming all their cities to make it hard to identify their capital, diplomats can provide a hint to how close you are.

Although it sometimes seems that certain players are getting rather more than 2 movement points/round out of a diplomat, what's actually happening is that they're timing the movement of the unit to be very close to the end of the round, and using the Go to (keyboard g) command. Units being moved using go are evaluated automatically at the beginning of each round, before any manual moves take place.

to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

The Art of War 3.2, Sun Tzu

The Sentry command is your friend[]

In any war involving diplomats or spies, it's vital to have at least one unit in the city on sentry. (Use the "s" keyboard command.). Sentry'd units get woken up automatically when a diplomat/spy approaches, and you have a small period of time to kill the diplomat whilst your opponent is trying to incite rebellion.

The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals.

The Art of War, 5.21 Sun Tzu

And so is a protective unit[]

Diplomat and spy attacks are something of a skill in and of themselves, as is defence from same. Some players seem to have amazing reflexes when it comes to picking off marauding diplomats. Quite often they also have amazingly fast internet connections. One way round this problem is to put in a defensive unit as well, such as a musketeer, and bring the diplomat in on top of it. This has the additional advantage of preventing bribery attacks, since only single units can be bribed. If you have two or more units on the same square (land or sea), then they're immune to bribery.

Note though that if an attack against any unit on a square succeeds all units on that square are destroyed.

Destroying cities.[]

When cities are taken over by another player there is always an automatic loss of one population point. If the city is only size 1, then unless you use a diplomat to incite revolt in the city, it will be destroyed.

Although generally you want to take over enemy cities and add them to your production total, early in the game especially, each city represents a significant portion of total output, and destroying a city or two will put your opponent far enough back in the expansion/tech curve to make them an easy pushover in a few rounds when you get ironclads. At that stage of the game you don't want to hinder your own expansion by switching too much production into offense, too early.

As long as your technology and production levels are significantly in advance of your opponents, then they are just minding your cities until you need to take them over. Really!

Inadvertant Technology Transfer[]

One way to lose your technology advantage very quickly is to invade unsuccessfully. One of the side effects of taking over a city, is that any technology your enemy has, and you don't, will be transferred to you, one technology advance per take over. You can also use diplomats to steal their technology.

So if you know that your opponent is significantly

ahead of you in technology, one risky, but possible defence is to switch production into cash and defence units, (primarily sea units, diplomats and horsemen.) Then wait for them to come in, let them take one city, and then use your diplomats to get their advances. The cost of inciting a revolt in a city is inversely proportional to the distance from the capital, and consequently it's always fairly cheap to get your own cities back.

As long as you throw the enemy off your island in one or two rounds, being invaded doesn't have to be the end of the game.

If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.

The Art of War, 8.9 Sun Tzu

The corollary of this is when attacking, turn your production over to tax rather than science. There's usually no point in researching further if there's a chance of the enemy stealing your advances. Of course, if you desperately need a particular tech advance, in order to get a wonder say, then you need to continue researching. And if you're playing several good people, you need to keep worrying about what everybody else is up to, as well.

Will you ever build railroads again?[]

Roads increase trade from certain squares, and railroads increase production from certain squares. Both make it much easier to move units around your island. Unfortunately an enemy invasion force will typically find this far more useful than you will; which means it's important to be fairly careful when and where you build them. Be especially careful with railroads, because if you don't have any defensive units, there's nothing stopping one horseman taking every city on your island in one round.

That ironclad can't do that to my Cruiser?[]

After a unit has been in a battle there is a chance that it will get veteran status. Attacks are decided partly on the unit's defence/attack ratings, and partly by chance. Veteran units have higher attack/defence values, and consequently a lucky veteran ironclad can indeed sink an unlucky novice cruiser.

Since any battle counts, it's worth popping off any small land units like explorers or warriors you happen to encounter, to see if you can get a veteran. Similarly, if a unit does survive battle, it's always worth withdrawing it to a port to recover its hitpoints, but doubly so if that unit happens to have obtained veteran status.

Coastal Defence[]

The coastal defence city improvement increases defending units' chances against sea attacks. In fact, get two fortified musketeers in a city with coastal defence, especially if it's built on a hill, and they can hold off several cruisers. Of course, the first diplomat that comes along is going to have no trouble bribing the city into insurrection, if you're not a democracy, and don't have any units on sentry to protect the city.

Now if you're fighting a democracy with a lot of coastal defences it should be noted that the spies' ability to destroy city improvements still works just fine.

National Borders[]

National borders is a recently introduced concept in Freeciv.

Units inside your borders do not cause unhappiness under democracy or republic. Also remember that your citizens cannot work on a tile unless it is within your national borders, or the border of an ally.

Be subtle! Be subtle, and use your spies for every kind of business.

The Art of War, 13.18 Sun Tzu.


who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.

The Art of War, 6.33 Sun Tzu

Play enough online games and you will start to know your fellow

players. Most people are quite consistent in the way they play, the tactics they use, and the options they like to play with. Consequently part of learning the game, requires developing counter-strategies to deal with specific types of games, and players.

One of the biggest game differences for example, is between generation 1 and 3 maps. Immediate tactics need to be adapted in a gen 1 game, especially if you find yourself close to another player at the start. A lot of players in this situation will make horseriding their first target technology, before they attempt to get republic, and then go for a very early attack on any player unfortunate enough to be in their immediate vicinity. This can be countered by getting the bronze working advance, and building phalanxes.

A wise player however may try to get an alliance with anyone who looks like they won't be a rollover, since the impact of early war on their expansion/production capabilities may be lethal in the long term development of the game.

Options galore[]

There are a lot of options on the server which control how the initial map is generated, and a lot of players have particular preferences about which type of game they play. The number of huts can be changed, as can the number of specials, (high value tiles), and rivers/mountains/terrain proportions. (Occasionally the options will be sufficiently bizarre that the server will be unable to generate a map, and/or crash). Before you start messing around with options too much though, it's worth bearing in mind one key point. Almost all changes to options away from the generally accepted standard settings disproportionately benefit the better players.

You may get lucky. Which is why gen 1 games with huts are popular with novice players and usually unpopular with the more experienced ones. You may get your own continent to quietly expand on, whilst two top ranked players are battling it out between each other on a smaller island. On the other hand you may get to share an island with one of those players, in which case if you're lucky they'll apply the 'other players are only minding my cities until I'm ready to use them' principle, just long enough for you to get to Republic.

But failing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, most changes help most the players who understand the game best. Increasing the number of specials helps players who understand city placement best. Playing with huts helps players who know how to quickly get a trireme out to start mopping them up. Increasing landmass or playing on very small maps, similarly helps people who are quick to develop.

Some of the problems with option changes also relate to game balance. The cost of producing a unit increases dramatically as the units get more advanced. Increasing the rate of tech advance is a popular choice, but it ruins the balance between production cost, and the average amount of production an empire has at any point in the game. Once again, not nearly as much of a problem for a player who knows how to expand their production base quickly.

Which doesn't mean that you must stay with the

defaults, changing options makes for fun games, and it can also be part of a deliberate meta-strategy. If you know a player always plays gen 2, vote for gen 3. The difference is subtle, but can be enough to throw them. If you know a player likes playing the democracy strategy, try to maneuver them into playing on a small map. It takes quite a long time to get the democracy tech advance, on a small map, you'll be off their shore with an invasion fleet before they're even close. If you know a player prefers a small map, vote for a large one. Again, the difference can throw them off their stride. Above all, use different starting configurations to improve your own game, by figuring out strategies that adapt to different playing conditions.

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.

The Art of War, 10.31 Sun Tzu

Alliances are part of the Game[]

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy. Next best is to disrupt his alliances by diplomacy.

The Art of War, 3.2 Sun Tzu.

Informally you can always have an alliance with

another player, just by private messaging them, (player name: message), and getting their agreement. Formally, if you establish an embassy with another player using a diplomat or a spy, then you can meet with them, share technology, exchange cities, and map information.

Forming a global alliance to bring down the current reigning number one freeciv player can make for a great game, even if Mr./Ms./Dr. Invincible doesn't enjoy being on the receiving end quite as much as they do their usual rampage.

Strategically though, you should consider alliances carefully. You may need your putative allies' production base more than they do. Sharing all your tech with a weaker player may also be a quick way of giving it to the enemy if they start moving in on your allies' cities. Be especially careful with shared vision, although very useful, sometimes a player will adopt the Switzerland strategy and make an alliance with everybody. In this case you may suddenly end up having shared vision with the enemy, which will probably be far more useful to them than it will be to you.

It is also possible for to pool the research of the players in a team, which can be a significant advantage. Allies also typically research different parts of the tech tree, and share only the technologies they have to, because the research cost increases with the number of technologies.

Art of freeciv 5

An ally can be extremely useful in a joint attack.

Vertical growth, or largepox and the art of City Improvements[]

As mentioned in the beginning, city improvements are more of a largepox issue than a smallpox one. Although the astute smallpox player will often build the occasional improvement in cities that will really benefit from it, and may well, if the game goes on long enough, deliberately use rapture to increase their city sizes, by and large these won't be their primary strategies.

In point of fact the strategies and tactics applied above apply just as well to a largepox game; and the specific advice for largepox games below, can also be applied in a smallpox game. There is no one way to win consistently at freeciv; it helps to mix and match.

Game development[]

The primary difference between large and smallpox games, is that in largepox individual cities should be proportionally bigger at a given point (calender year) in the game. There will also be fewer of them. Some things that are important in a smallpox game however, become critical in a largepox game.

The Start[]

The distance fall off for science under despotism is one of the reasons smallpoxers consistently beat largepoxers if they play without the citymindistance restriction. The best a largepoxer can hope for in terms of science is to get their capital city onto a high trade combination, (a whale say), and if they're very lucky their second city onto very high trade combination, (wine plus a whale.) The best a smallpoxer can hope for, at least theoretically, is to get their first eight cities, onto high trade combinations.

Which means if you're playing largepox, you should move as far as necessary to get your capital onto a location that produces at least two science points. Even in a purely largepox game, if one largepoxer gets a good capital site, and another doesn't the difference is quite dramatic. Time to republic is inevitably longer in largepox just because of the greater distance settlers have to move to found cities, and because generally only 4 or 5 of them can be close enough to generate any science points at all. Consequently there's not quite the same pressure there is with smallpox to settle down quickly.

City Placement[]

City placement is also much more critical in largepox than in smallpox, and the emphasis is slightly different. Both forms of play attempt to maximise the productive use of the territory available, after all it is not the case that largepoxers playing a game with citymindist=5 say, choose to space their cities 10 squares apart. Largepoxers and smallpoxers alike tend to maximise the density of their cities according to whatever rules have been adopted.

However, in smallpox people mostly worry about placing their cities so that they are as productive as possible. The absolute number of cities isn't critical. One less city just means more production that another city can grow into.

In largepox though, not only is each city a far more significant proportion of the total than in smallpox, but lost production because of placement errors, cannot be accessed by any other city. It is consequently very important to build the maximum number of cities that your island allows, and the importance of this increases as the citymindist parameter gets larger.

City Improvements[]

One tactic that is far more important in a largepox game, is the use of rapture to grow cities. Cities enter the rapture state if all their citizens are happy, and the simplest way to achieve this is to set the luxury setting under the Science, Luxury, and Tax Rates menu (keyboard, shift T), as high as it will go.

After one round in rapture, any city of size 3 or greater, will then increase in size by 1, each round they stay in that state. Bear in mind that as cities grow in size, their unhappiness increases, so no city grows indefinitely, without something being built to rectify that.

So the basic strategy in largepox is to expand to fill your island, get your cities up to size 3, and then periodically rapture them up in size as high as you can. To do this, you will need to build improvements that increase happiness, the main one of which is Temple; and occasionally ones that increase food, primarily Harbours, and eventually improvements that allow cities to continue to grow in size, such as Aqueduct, (required to go higher than size 8).

City improvements cost a certain amount of money each round to maintain, so it's important not to blindly build every improvement possible in each city, and it's also important to use caravans to set up trade routes to increase tax income. If you start getting warnings about being low on funds, then you're getting this tax/cost balance wrong. Maybe you should try smallpoxing...

Hints and Tips[]

Just as a smallpox player needs to re-read the terrain part of the manual, and really understand it; a largepox player needs to read the city improvement section several times, and really understand it. You can't afford to build every possible city improvement, build the ones that help to increase your production and science development the most.

The Granary[]

Not all city improvements are that useful, but a very common mistake appears to be not realising this. Consider for example the granary. This effectively halves the time it takes a city to grow, but it costs 40 production points, or at +2 production points a round, about 20 rounds to produce. Now post republic, most cities can generate a +2 food surplus, which means without a granary, it will take a city about 45 rounds to grow to size 3.

However, as the effect of the granary doesn't kick in until it's been built, the granary is effective only for the last 15 rounds of that period. Typically the granary won't be completed until the city is already size 2, in which case it won't have any effect until the city grows to size 3. And, once a city is size 3, almost all its growth is going to come in periods of rapture.

The Library[]

Libraries do nice things to science and technology development, especially in combination with later improvements like research labs. Again this does not mean that libraries should be built in every city. Science output from an individual city varies between 0 to 12 or more. Bring up the F1 city summary and look at the science column - there are quite dramatic differences between individual cities science ouput. Put libraries into just the ones with the highest science levels.

City Walls, Barracks[]

At first sight, city walls and barracks look like good things to build, after all they significantly improve the defensive capability of the cities that have them, and the offensive capability (in the case of barracks) of units that come from them. The problem is that in general Freeciv wars don't conform to the assumptions behind these improvements.

The most common way to attack in Freeciv is to get a horseman or a diplomat onto an island, and immediately take over any undefended cities, or bribe any defended ones. City walls do nothing to stop either of these attacks. Defended coastal cities will also be subject to attack by sea units, and the city wall improvement is only effective against land based units. The times you may want to build a city wall are in gen 1 games where, especially if you're playing with high landmass values, you'll need to set up border defences. Also if you have acquired an inland city on somebody else’s island, in which case a city wall can help you hold that city and use it to generate offensive units to continue the attack. Needless to say, these tactics only really work well if you're a democracy and immune to diplomat attacks.

Barracks are even worse. There are actually three types of barracks, with earlier types becoming obsolete as your technology improves. Once the barrack has become obsolete it is ineffective, and the new version has to be built. The veteran status is only conferred to landbased units, and although this is nice to have, it's rarely that useful. In gen 1 games where you find yourself needing a lot of landbased units they can come in handy, but be careful that building them doesn't slow down your expansion rate.

If you're putting together an invasion force, especially later in the game, or if you have a city with very high production surpluses (thus capable of pumping out a lot of units), then it might occasionally be worth building barracks in the cities providing the troops. First though, check and see if anybody has built the Sun Tzu wonder yet.

To Summarise[]

While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

The Art of War, 1.16 Sun Tzu.

Freeciv is a game of occasionally daunting complexity, which is

what makes it so much fun. The online game often goes through cycles as different attack strategies become popular, which in turn provokes the evolution of different defence strategies. There is no one way to win every single game, and every player has their own little set of tricks that they hope nobody else knows about. This guide tells you some of the most popular, and tries to give you pointers on figuring out your own.

It's a big world. Go play in it.