State Religion Benefits
Benefits of naming one religion your state religion (organized best to worst):
- Can produce Disciples in cities with the state religion. Otherwise, you can only produce Disciples in the holy city. Producing several Disciples out of multiple cities is necessary to seek religious, mostly cultural, return-on-investment when your holy city’s growth can’t carry the water alone.
- Zealot leader converting training into rushed units in state religion cities. This helps maximize prior investments into Master and Elder Officers, governors with strict, equestrian, or carpenter,+20% combat bonuses in Hunter or Artisan cities, and especially to produce geographic rares like Elephants or Camel Archers. Critically, this benefit can operate in an early enough timeframe to be useful.
- Increase your order count by one for every Disciple you build and move to another city. It’s an investment in orders and growth. The growth cost, at least, is 50% off for Clerics in Persia, Egypt, or Assyria. These investments pay off if you’re stuck turtling for an invasion with a Tier 1 Unique Unit, and 20 years later, the Tier 2 UU. You just check the box for Monotheism, which is usually no brainer over Polytheism (up to four shrines in each city)
- -1 Discontent per turn. Tough to estimate how important avoiding discontent is. Rebel-spawning events begin at level 5 and up. Each level of discontent in each city is -20 reputation with the family who owns the city. Your risk of of non-event rebels creeps up when you have 3-4 cities with 5+ levels of discontent (-300 to -400 or more reputation penalty)
- +40 reputation bonus with nations who have declared the same state religion. Tough to quantify how much this reduces war. But, a stepping stone in diplomacy with only a one-time commitment of 400 hammers.
- +20 / -20 reputation with characters (including those outside your nation) whose personal religion matches / does-not-match your nation’s state religion (as opposed to your leader’s personal religion). “__ is state religion”
- Theologies add some window dressing to your choices. There are three tiers of global improvements you can make to your state religion, costing 200, 400, and 600 civics respectively. None of these are very impactful in my experience. Get a little more juice from your monasteries or temples, possibly complete an ambition.
- Orthodoxy (available at Doctrine) allows you to hurry specialists with orders. Orders are rare. Judges are not, but garrisons can be. This law is best for chasing ambitions when you don’t need to move units, which is rare and usually quite late.
- Divine Rule (can name paganism your state religion) lets you grasp these good to minor benefits listed above with even less commitment than organized religions. Available at Citizenship, over Legal Code.
- Holy War comes with the late tech Martial Code, so its theoretical benefit is sharply discounted by its timing. Lost games are not won by Holy War. But it could let you use money to rush buy units in state religion cities and close out a victory with less hair-pulling.
- -1 Civics per city. Every city, whether it has the state religion present or not. So -5 to -10 hammers, when it might matter, but small enough you might not even notice.
- Under-the-hood, there is probably some influence on whether characters or flip to the religion, but I haven’t seen that quantified in the manual or wiki, if it exists.
Things you might mistake as costs or benefits of State Religions which are actually just effects of the religion’s icon present on a city, character, or family:
- +2 culture
- -2 discontent for each non-state religion, with Tolerance (available at Doctrine). You could actually lose some of this benefit by turning a non-state religion into the state religion if the new state religion is less than Friendly.
- Attitude with the religion + attitude of the character leading it = discontent increase or decrease. Ranges from -2 per turn at Friendly to +2 per turn at upset. For context, your relationship with any religion is as important or more important to discontent than the decision to declare a state religion.
- Attitude modifier for most characters with a personal religion: +10 [-10] for sharing a religion with your leader. “You [don’t] follow __”
- Attitude modifier just for characters leading a religion +20 [-20] “You [don’t] follow __”
Families and opponent nations:
- “Our religion’s opinion of you +/- X, where X is the net relationship of the religion to your leader (which does depend in part on your nation’s state religion, but mainly what choices you make in events and whether you’re spreading the religion to new cities)
The -10 against your leader, and -20 for the same state religion go hand-in-hand. You can try splitting the difference to suffer, say, -20 with the unpopular state religion of a threatening neighbor but earn +10 by converting your leader to what’s hot locally. But it won’t last for more than a few turns. An event frequently pops up on behalf of the state religion’s leader who demands you convert to the state religion. While you will have +30 buddies of the faith, religious preferences tend to be a net negative modifier across all your relationships if you found paganism and have a foreign religion spreading in addition to one whose holy city you own. In this situation, you can expect a ballpark of 2/3rds of characters will have the -30 malus. How should we value these sizes of attitude shift? If the +30/-30 boost moves a character’s attitude up one level, it’s worth ~20 resources yields. Perhaps 21-100 resources, when that character is a council member (spouse, heir, ambassador, chancellor, or spymaster) or a family head, since many coins, or irritating discontent, depend on their personal attitudes. ~20 resources is not significantly better than a couple quarries, but the earlier the more important.
Likewise, the malus to relations with foreign nations tends to stack the -40 from a different state religion with the -20 from having a different personal religion. +40 is a trade deal. +60 is a good ambassador. If you have a state religion driving you apart, you might budget additional civics to keep trade deals flowing. As is typical of Old World, the player’s best efforts wash against the game environment and whatever you choose in events dictates your net relationship.
Here’s how you can generate culture: Theatre buildings > Religious Buildings > Artisan cities, > Religion present > Shrines, Being Greece > Epics and nearby conflict (~+50 is good) > The “library” series buildings +4 each with Calligraphy (too late to matter). It is the case that religious investment in tech and Disciples helps you hit the ceiling on tallness.
The biggest return to investment from religion is its ability to create more and earlier Strong cities. Disciple units are the basis of such returns moreso than technology, which in turn is probably just a bit more important than the “state” aspects of religion. That wasn’t intuitive for this player, but there it is. Sanctioning a state religion is about getting enough disciples to spread the religion where you want culture, and then build the buildings and specialists which produce more culture.
Holy Cities? Not important to aim for. But if you build the religious site, you increase the number of Disciples by +~25% and probably secure a boost to the religion’s attitude, which translates into -1 discontent per turn per city with that religion, state or not. The holy city probably gets to Strong and Legendary as fast as a capital would.
The opportunity cost of Divine Rule over Legal Code (available at Citizenship) is usually forgoing an improved relationship with one, maybe two of your families. Legal Code is popular with judges (+30 to all members of the archetype, foreign or domestic), which hail in large numbers from Statesmen, Landowners, and Sages. But it does let you make pagan religions your state religion, and that lets you get a lot of the benefits of state religion with investment you’ve already made. What’s the best-case though, for the player who commits to the One True God?
Each time you spread a religion to a new city you increase the attitude by 20 for 20 years. So if you have a high growth city, you can guarantee to improve relations at least one level. That probably puts you at -1 discontent per turn or -2. Disciples burn 2-8 orders getting to the frontier. You gain 2 culture, -2(-3) discontent (with state sanction), and probably 1 order per turn. This makes the orders payback in ~3-10 turns and leaves a dent in discontent that accrues over 50-70 turns to about one discontent level. You hit Developing 10-50 turns sooner and Strong 100-250 turns earlier. Obviously religion alone is not enough, but it keeps you from fledgling at Weak.
None of these benefits are really worth committing to Clerics or really dedicating to religious techs and improvements. The best benefits are available even to the nation who has the state religion in just a city or two. The right city or two. Probably your Capital and your military-stacked city, if they differ.
All told, the state religion possibly adds +1 order, -1(2) discontent per city, and +2 hammers in any holy city. It’s like Statesmen cities come with an internal state religion! Maybe you get some cultural milestones on a timeframe that matters. For Rome or Persia, getting citadels means painting the map with your strength 8 unique units. For everyone else, it means a tier II library, courthouse, and bath.
Alone, none of these benefits justifies building a Disciple in most cities. But if the growth in your Disciple pump is very high, it’s a good way to have your 6-9th city contributing to your nation once stone and lumber become bountiful instead of rare.
Monastacism and Doctrine are tier 4 and 5 techs (400 and 600 beaker costs), respectively. They’re on a dead end. Martial code and Vaulting are tier 6 (800 beakers). They’re on the Late Majority part of the game curve, offering low return-on-investment. So the opportunity costs are high for choosing them over all the other techs in tier 4 and 5. Besides, the Vaulting>Calligraphy+4 culture boost isn’t contingent on your choice of state religion. Do that instead. Or don’t bother because it’s probably too late to matter.
Many of the strategic considerations I discussed just depend on the presence of a religion, nevermind what you make official at a cost of 400 hammers. Let that guide you, and don’t get into the Disciple game if you have any alternatives. Much contends on how investing in a religion affects relations with future religions and international diplomacy. You can avoid pain points by being flexible about “your” religion(s) and not trying to sink resources into Disciples.