With the impending Civilization VI release, I thought it would be amusing to do a few posts about Civilization V, particularly because it looks like I won’t be able to purchase Civilization VI when it is released because all signs point to there being no Linux port. In fact, rumour has it there won’t ever be one and the reported reasons for that are complete BS. But that’s beside the point.
Just recently, I decided to finally play a game as Venice. I set it up as the one city challenge since, why not. Venice is only allowed to found one city anyway. The only difference for Venice in the one city challenge is that it is not possible to control additional cities (puppets).The first time I rolled Venice on a random game setup, I was moving along nicely until I tried to create a settler for my second city and discovered it was impossible. Of course, had I paid attention to the intro screen, etc., I would have known that. However, it is such a departure from normal game play, it didn’t even occur to me that it might be the case. I just abandoned that game.
Since then, I have gained a lot more experience playing Civilization V and I understand the game mechanics quite a lot better. That is an important factor when playing Venice. You need to have a decent understanding of the game mechanics. Without knowing how everything else works, you can’t really take full advantage of Venice’s abilities.
The first thing that Venice has that is immensely helpful is that it can create double the number of trade routes. Trading with city states or other civilizations can yield a great deal of gold as a result – more than any other civilization can manage – and you can start earning more quickly. This is the key to success as Venice – maximizing your trade route income. That allows you to purchase buildings and units without having to hard build them. That frees Venice itself for doing other things like building wonders.
If you aren’t playing a one city challenge, Venice can also purchase units and buildings with gold in its puppets. You still cannot manage the production queue in a puppet, but you can purchase caravans and cargo ships which you can use to send food or production back to Venice or to trade with other civilizations or city states. (Note that other civilizations can also run caravans and cargo ships out of puppets but they have to acquire them in another city and then rebase them.)
The other thing that Venice gets is the Merchant of Venice which replaces the Great Merchant. The MoV gets double the gold and influence from a trade mission with a city state. It can also out-right purchase (puppet) the city state (except in a one city challenge). You get a free MoV with Optics and also instead of a settler for the social policy in the freedom tree. The MoV is immensely useful, especially for keeping up during the early game, since the gold it provides allows you to either buy buildings you need or run a gold deficit while you support a larger number of units.
It turns out that if you take advantage of the MoV missions and establish your trade routes ASAP, Venice itself will be a very competetive city. You’ll be able to build most of your units and buildings with pure gold. Befriending or allying with cultural city states can make up for the lack of culture generation potential due to having only one city but without the drawback of more cities making policies more expensive.
Most strategy tutorials and the like online focus on multiplayer games and, so, generally consider Venice to be useless. However, it seems most multiplayer tutorials assume that domination is the only viable win strategy and find that Venice’s single city makes that too difficult. However, a domination victory with Venice is possible and you can have multiple puppet cities in a normal game which can lead to a very large empire. You just don’t get to control where the cities are situated.
I think the biggest reason a lot of players don’t think Venice is viable, though, is because the play strategy is completely different. While with any other civilization, you need to be concerned about getting your first settler out quickly without handicapping the rest of your game, with Venice, if you run through in the right order, you can easily pick up a couple of good early game wonders (Great Library (extra science, free tech), Colossus (extra trade routes), and Hanging Gardens (extra food, free garden)) without setting the rest of your game back simply because you don’t need to worry about the time it takes to build a settler. While for more traditional civilizations, concentrating on early wonders is a trap that can leave you seriously behind, Venice can actually benefit substantially from what is commonly called wonder spamming. Just make sure you don’t do the wonder spamming at the expense of national wonders and general city development. Of course, on higher difficulty levels (especially Deity), early wonder spamming is unlikely to be productive, but you’ll be more able to take the risk of losing the race for a wonder as long as you have your gold flowing nicely.
The most important thing to do is to focus on growing Venice fast. After all, more population means more science and production. Spam trade routes as soon as you can. Spend gold on cargo ships and caravans. Build harbours and caravansaries. Go for the East India Company. If applicable, it’s worth going for Petra (trade routes, free caravan). Chichen Itza is also really nice since Venice usually doesn’t have a problem with happiness so golden ages will be more frequent. Combine that with running the Tradition tree, a couple strategic policies in Patronage, completing Rationalism, and the Commerce opener, you can do very nicely.
There’s no point beelining for Industrialization in order to get an ideology. With only one city, you can’t build three factories so you have to bounce to the next era before you can choose an ideology. Beelining that era is probably smarter. Also, any policies, beliefs, pantheons, or tenets that really only benefit multiple cities are a bit of a trap.
Something I’ve seen a lot is comments that religion isn’t important to Venice. That’s not strictly true. If you do manage to get a good pantheon and can generate a decent amount of faith without crippling your early game (which probably involves beelining food/growth/science based wonders), it’s well worth doing. Venice’s massive collection of trade routes exert a large amount of religious pressure all without Venice having to do anything other than what it would do anyway. You can end up doing very well with beliefs like tithes. Still, if you do go for a religion, taking any of the beliefs that provide buildings is probably not generally useful as long as there are better options available. A strong religion can definitely help in the later game, especially with a world religion enacted in the world congress.
Venice does have some limitations on how much faith can be generated since that scales with number of cities. The same applies to tourism. That means that you’ll get fewer faith-purchased great people over the course of the game and you’ll need to get your tourism going quickly and meet the other players as soon as possible if you want to try for a cultural victory.
On the other hand, Venice’s massive wealth is well suited to winning a diplomatic victory since you can buy influence with the city states. Greece might give you a run for your money with their special ability, but otherwise, if you can survive to the United Nations, you have a good shot at a diplomatic victory, especially if you get there fast. You also have a good shot at a science victory if you can get the techs researched fast enough, but you’ll have to have legendary production levels in Vencie to pull that off. What you almost certainly won’t win as Venice unless you’re puppeting a lot of cities is the score tie breaker since that is heavily influenced by the amount of territory and number of cities you have.
So there you have it. Venice is actually a pretty decent civilization to play, though it does require a completely different playing style. It’s not the typical settle, early expansion with settlers, consolidate, mid game expansion or conquest, conslidate, etc., cycle that players are used to.
Anyway, that’s my commentary on Venice in Civilization V.