King Difficulty Tips
General Tips for Lvl Up
It is absolutely correct to think of your problem in terms of the competition. You’re not playing against some objective and unchanging standard, you’re playing to do better than the competition, and getting ahead of them in science is arguably the single area you have to do better than them in order to win any victory type before they win any victory type.
They have 400-500 research points per turn at a time when you have only 100. They are dramatically out-competing you. That’s the most productive way to think of this because it suggests all the right questions.
The AI on King does get a yield bonus on research points, but it’s only +16%. Simple math says that if these AI civs and you had clones of each other’s empires, they would have had only 116 research points at a time when your empire was putting out 100. Simple math is wrong, of course, because this is not a simple gamer. Of course there is a snowball, compound interest, effect, and their yields on gold and production are a heftier 40%, so it’s not really fair to say that their difficulty level bonus should only have gotten them to 116 research points when you are at 100. But however much greater than 116, clearly the King yield advantages should not have given them 400-500 to your 100. We have to look to other factors.
The basis for both culture and research points is population points. Do these two AIs have 4-5 times your population? If so, or even if it’s 2 times your population, or 1.5 times your population, the failure to expand to and exploit enough land is clearly at least part of the problem. Do you let happiness and housing limits stunt population growth? Are you not sending out settlers as soon as possible to exploit all the land you can get without conquest? Are you failing to go for conquest when your map didn’t give you enough land to expand to peacefully?
Of course campuses and their buildings are important additions to the research points you get from population. You can only have one campus per city, so to get more campuses you need more cities. Do these two civs have 4-5 times as many cities as you do? Same questions as above about your peaceful or military expansion. Expansion of course isn’t just measured in population, but also in the number of cities, and exploitation is also measured in the percentage of your cities you have exploited for science by building campuses in them. Do you have an unusually low percentage of your cities that have campuses?
The right percentage of your cities to have campuses, excluding cities that were just founded and can’t be expected to have produced any districts yet, is usually pretty close to 100%. Not only is moving up the tech tree basic to winning any type of victory, but science is unusual among the yields in this game in that there are fewer workarounds, fewer alternatives to science’s special district, if you want to move up the tech tree more quickly than the competition.
Two of the optimizations on the use of your research points, great scientists and city-state bonuses, are also dependent on campuses and their buildings. You rake in RPs from scientific city states in your cities with campuses. You get great scientist points from campuses and their buildings.
That said, you can only get one campus per city. Moving up the tech tree is still so central to winning that you need to bring to bear every other factor you can to advance your science.
Getting eurekas is pretty big, 40% of the RP’s discounted. You actually don’t really get that big a boost in comparative advantage because your competitors get at least all the eurekas that every civ gets without trying. You will kill at least 3 barbs and meet another civ almost automatically, but so will even the hapless AI. All the eurekas that aren’t things you are always going to do anyway become a sort of scavenger hunt.
You save RPs if you get the eureka, but you have to use gold or faith or production points to do something out of the way in order to get that eureka. You end up using all sorts of other districts, that you mostly build in a city after you’ve built the one campus, to do bits of scavenger hunts. These other districts and yields of course do all sorts of other things to help in their particular systems, but part of what they do is help save RPs by getting eurekas.
A sometimes overlooked optimization is to avoid researching a tech ahead of the current era, and also to put off researching a tech until the ear has moved ahead. You pay a premium in RPs to research techs that are in eras the game hasn’t advanced to yet, and you get a discount on techs from past eras. Of course you don’t do this always and automatically, because sometimes beelining into a tech from the next era will give you a huge advantage, and you obviously can’t leave every tech unresearched until the era has passed. It’s a trade-off. Only beeline ahead if it’s really worth it, if you are going to use something that tech unlocks right now, before the game progresses to that tech’s era
Eureka scavenger hunts aside, gold and faith can be used to buy great scientists, to either augment RP output in various ways, or to get eurekas.
Industrial zones help you produce everything, but become especially important later in the game to power your research labs. Perhaps the greatest contribution of industrial zones to the science game, however, is that they let you get great engineers, five of which build wonders. Just about all of the wonders that help science are very competitive, so a combination of high production cites and a charge or two from a wonder-builder great engineer will often be the only way you get those wonders.
Other Ways to Lvl Up
Sure, I tossed in those qualifiers, “usually” and “pretty close”, because of course moving up the tech tree isn’t your only priority, and campuses aren’t your absolutely only way to do that, move up the tech tree. It’s just that moving up the tech tree is perhaps the most universal long-term priority, since it supports every type of victory, and campuses and their buildings are more central to doing that than any other district type is within its particular area.
Take culture points and theater squares for example. Moving up the civics tree quickly is about as important as moving up the tech tree. But you have an early game alternative way of getting culture points by building a monument. It’s much less of a commitment than a theater square, and you need it early in just about every city as soon as possible, because it lets you get more tiles without having to pay for them. Then there are more tiles and their general improvements, and more unique tile improvements, that let you have side hustles for getting culture, than there are analogous tile-based yields for science.
Gold will definitely lubricate your way to any sort of victory, so when I started out playing this game I tended to prioritize commercial hubs and harbors pretty highly. Maybe not as high as campuses, but pretty high. But, again, there are nice alternative ways to get gold that let you avoid or at least put off the need for the gold-producing districts. Deals with the AI are the biggest and most reliable such alternative, though there are many tiles that yield gold, some nice beliefs to give you an income, and of course there’s the pillage economy, which can help with any and all yields, but generally gives you gold especially.
As for industrial zones, you have mines and lumber mill tile improvements as really nice alternatives to investing in the district in order to increase a city’s production. Some people put off getting any of the IZs until factories are available, with their area effect. I really like great engineers, so I’m an early IZ enthusiast for that benefit, not because I can very often justify prioritizing them based on production alone, at least not early.
Holy sites are completely optional unless your civ’s uniques make it necessary to get a religion, in which case of course you have to put a high priority on getting at least one or two very early, and they remain pretty high priority even after you secure your religion. Faith of course has its uses beyond religious victory, but for those uses you can put off building your holy sites until later in the game.
Holy sites and campuses both get adjacency from mountains, which, aside from strategic resources, mines, and quarries for IZs and sea resources for harbors, is about the only adjacency that terrain confers, so a city will often have one tile that is great for either a holy site or a campus before any other districts or wonders are constructed. The other districts mentioned are more heavily dependent for adjacency on other districts being present, so even if the prioritization criteria is to maximize adjacency, campuses often get the nod as the first or at least early build, at least if there are mountains nearby.
A perhaps more careful way than the statement of mine you quote for expressing campuses being given high priority would be to say that you should at least consider making a campus the first district you build in 100% of cities. You only go with some other district if you identify a particular advantage that outweighs the universal advantage of getting more research points. As is said above, “some points are better than no points”. True for every yield, but RPs are so central to winning that it’s more true in their case.