Do you prefer to shoot before you talk? To conquer everyone who opposes you? Do you prefer to take the entire world into your iron grip, for the good of all? Then you should head for a domination victory!
This article discusses strategies for achieving the domination victory in Brave New World. Although it was written for the new expansion, it could also be useful for people playing Gods & Kings, although probably not for vanilla Civilization V, because of the serious changes to the battle system introduced in the Brave New World expansion.
- Control all Original Capitals in the world.
This means you need to conquer the starting capitals of all other players, regardless of whether they're still in play or not. For example, if you control 5 capitals, and the only other player in the world controls the other 5, and then you conquer his or her Original Capital, the game is not over - you'll also need to conquer the other 4 capitals he or she is currently controlling. Also, you will need to protect your own original capital all the time, by any means possible - you cannot win without that!
If you want to see who controls the original capitals of all civilizations, you can check the Domination Victory bar in the Victory Overview. If you see a small icon on the bottom-right of a civilization icon, it means that another player is controlling the original capital of that civilization. It will also provide details on who the player exactly is.
Note that you do NOT need to wipe out all other players completely! You just need to conquer their original capitals.
Domination victory is the one which usually takes the most time in the game (both real time and number of game turns), especially on larger maps. There's simply so much land available for settling that the other nations become too large for quick conquests in the late game! Taking this into consideration, it is even more important to keep track of other players' progress throughout the game so that they don't achieve another type of victory before you. And if they seem close to winning, target them for an immediate invasion!
However, this victory is arguably the most fun, because of the many battles and different situations you will have to overcome. Your aggression will force your opponents to unite against you and desperately use all available means to stop your progress, and you will have to deal with that.
For a domination victory, the progression is pretty clear: you have to strive to keep ahead of your competitors in military tech. Always research military technologies first, especially those that would give you an immediate advantage over your neighbors - this way you'll be able to keep up your conquest pace, while also steadily advancing in other fields of the game. This strategy is very important throughout the game, but even more so in the end, when almost every technology you research will unlock more advanced military units. While others begin building Spaceship parts, build Stealth Bombers and Giant Death Robots to destroy their Spaceship parts and bomb their capitals to smithereens!
It is possible to achieve a domination victory without being the most technologically advanced civilization. However, the further you lag behind in technological progress, the more difficult your conquest will be. It's advisable to develop your research to keep yourself in the lead technologically. This way, you will advance quickly and get ahead of everyone, even though you may not have an early game military advantage.
Useful Policies and Wonders
The following policies will help you in achieving a domination victory:
- Honor - This policy tree is tailored to get you well on the way to a Domination victory, not only by giving you a great military advantage throughout the game, but also by providing Happiness and Culture bonuses through military buildings. It gives you a direct combat bonus against Barbarians, and later against everyone else, thanks to the quicker pace of getting Experience for your troops. More XP means more promotions! Try to preserve early units at any cost so that they can pile up promotions and get to the top level ones - for example, those that allow two attacks per turn or constant healing. Also, Honor helps you upgrade units more cheaply and earn Gold more quickly when fighting!
- Other Social policy trees - Good secondary policy trees are Liberty, which is suitable for large empires and offsets the sharp increase in Culture needed for new policies, not to mention the additional Happiness per city it provides; Patronage, which will allow you to keep more allied City-States and reap benefits in Culture, Faith and precious Happiness, which you might otherwise leave aside for the sake of military progress; and Commerce, which will enhance your Gold funds and allow you to maintain your treasury, especially when your trading partners dwindle in some points of the game. Rationalism is also good, because this tree allows for faster tech progress.
- Ideology - If you seek a domination victory, you must choose one of the two following Ideologies:
- Autocracy - Needless to say, this is the most offensive Ideology available! It has a large number of Tenets which directly increase your combat effectiveness, while also keeping up Happiness based on military structures. It also allows you to produce units faster, maintain a large army, and so on. Also, the Clausewitz's Legacy Tenet is probably your most powerful tool in achieving a victory in the late game, giving you a direct attack bonus for all units for 50 turns - if you time it well this could help you eliminate most adversaries, leaving only the mop-up work for later.
- Order - Although it has nowhere near as many combat-oriented tenets as Autocracy, this Ideology is very good for managing huge empires, and that's exactly what you'll have around turns 350-400. Use it to increase the overall Production of your cities to support your military. Also, there is a very nice Level 3 Tenet here: the Iron Curtain, which grants a free Courthouse for every enemy city you capture, eliminating a considerable part of Unhappiness from capturing a city right away.
These World Wonders also help you achieve a domination victory:
- Statue of Zeus - This Ancient Era Wonder gives your units a 15% Combat Bonus against cities, allowing for easier capturing throughout the game. It's a must-have!
- Terracotta Army - Provides you with free units; great for enlarging your army for free! Make sure you have all unit types you need for conquest at the turn of the Wonder's completion - it will provide you with a free copy of each unit TYPE! So, the more unit types you have, the more units you'll get! Be wary, however, that your treasury will take a sudden dive, due to the sudden increase in unit maintenance fees.
- Alhambra - Ground units receive the Drill I promotion, which is always useful and gets you closer to more high-end promotions sooner.
- Brandenburg Gate - Stacks very nicely with Alhambra. Gives you more XP for units trained in this city. Always useful.
- Pentagon - Reduces cost of upgrading units. Situational in the late game depending on how many units are being carried over from previous eras and how many new modern units are being built fresh.
- Great Wall and Red Fort - These are both defensively-oriented Wonders, and although they won't help you directly to achieve a domination victory, they'll make it easier to defend your conquests. And because of your militarism, a LOT of nations will become annoyed throughout the game and declare war on you without warning!
- Neuschwanstein - If you have a city near a mountain, this wonder will add Gold and Happiness production to all Castles in your empire. Great for maintaining your expansive army and lands, and you're probably already building Castles anyway.
- Depending on which ideology you chose, you can build one of these World Wonders:
- Prora (Autocracy) - Won't help you directly, but maintaining Happiness for an expansionist empire is VERY difficult, and this Wonder will help immensely in that respect.
- Kremlin (Order) - Greatly increases the Production speed of armored units, allowing you to create a horde of tanks to initiate incursions against your weak enemies.
As usual, Religion offers you some ways to achieve your chosen victory type more easily. Arguably though, Religion aids other types of victory better than Domination...but think about the Crusades!
You should consider adopting Piety alongside Honor if you're lucky to produce lots of Faith in the early game - this way you will not only be able to create and spread your Religion early, but also choose good beliefs and make use of them. The Celts could turn into a surprisingly good conqueror, for example, thanks to their early game unique military unit, combined with good Faith-producing capabilities.
There are several definite Beliefs you need to help with military conquest:
- Holy Warriors - This will allow you to buy military units with Faith, making real use of this stat. So, instead of spending it on something else like Cathedrals, for example, you can purchase some nice Swordsmen for your army. The drawback is that this belief becomes less effective once you reach the Industrial Era.
- Just War - Spread your Religion to your neighbors, and then invade them. You'll have a Combat Bonus near their cities!
- Heathen Conversion - Use this Reformation Belief to give your Missionaries the ability to convert Barbarian units. This way you can eventually get free units from those pesky Barbarians!
- Religious Fervor - This Reformation Belief allows you to purchase Industrial Era (or later) Military units with Faith! Combine it with Holy Warriors to be able to constantly increase your army throughout the entire game.
As you can see, most of the combat-oriented beliefs rely either on spreading your religion to enemy cities first, or on accumulating large amounts of Faith which you can then spend for units. So, if you go down the Religion path, make sure you produce lots of Faith!
It's obvious that for a Domination victory you need a strong military, although it's important to realize that having a "large" military (in numbers) doesn't necessarily mean having a "strong" military. Many times a smaller but more modern and well-developed army is much more dangerous than a sea of untrained, outdated, badly positioned and unsupported units.
As mentioned above, accumulating promotions for units is a very important point - try to preserve your oldest and strongest units at any cost, upgrading them as you go. If you've adopted Honor as advised above, around the middle game, you should have units with access to the highest-ranking promotions. Those are invaluable!
In order to keep your strongest units alive, don't make risky attacks with them and withdraw them when they get low on health! If exposed to concentrated enemy fire, even the strongest unit dies! And when you need "cannon fodder" (that is, a unit which will draw the enemy's attacks and is almost certain to die quickly), it's better to use a unit with fewer promotions unless you're absolutely certain that your elite unit can survive a couple of turns of enemy fire.
This is not a complete combat guide - that is for a separate article. Instead, here are the outlines of some general development and conquest strategies for the different parts of the game.
- Designate several cities as "training centers" for units. Choose ones with good Production, and preferably with access to Horses and/or Iron, so that you can construct buildings like Stables and Forges that speed up production of units. Build the training buildings in them (Barracks, Armories, and Military Academies). Also, try building the Heroic Epic in one of them - it will give an additional free promotion to units there.
- Found or capture a coastal city if necessary. A conqueror cannot be any good without a strong navy, especially on the maps with lots of water tiles. And you can't conquer other continents without a navy. It's better to have several coastal cities, but in any case, apply the first point of this list to coastal cities as well - at least one of them needs to be made a shipbuilding center.
- Preserve your Gold. You'll need it for upgrading or purchasing units, and eventually for bribing other nations to vote with you in the World Congress to prevent harmful Resolutions from being enacted.
- Try to ally yourself with a Militaristic City-State. They will give you units for free, which could be a real boon in the early game! To do this, perform Seek-and-Destroy quests that such states give you first, and be on the lookout for bullying requests - with a large army you're in a good position to extort City-States, and Militaristic ones like demanding extortion!
- Try to maintain a steady conquest pace. Don't capture too many cities at once, or your Happiness will plummet! At the same time, you ARE running against the clock here, or at least against the progress pace of everyone, so don't stop your conquest. Also, when you're constantly destroying enemies, you're constantly making Gold thanks to the Honor finisher bonus.
- Puppet, then annex. When you capture a city, it will always be unproductive for several turns (the Resistance effect), so you won't be able to do anything with it for a while, not even building or buying a Courthouse. To avoid a bigger hit in your Happiness, make the city a puppet first, and wait until later to annex it.
- Don't completely absorb all the cities you capture. You won't need all of them! Look carefully at the land and resources the city controls, and decide whether or not it will be useful for your empire. This is especially valid for the late game, when you will be capturing large cities - those will Resist you for many turns, and afterwards it will take some more turns to bring them back up to being productive. Many times it's better to just raze the city and be done with it.
- Last, but not least - try to maintain your empire's Happiness at all times! Unhappiness translates directly to a Combat Strength penalty for all your troops, and this can be disastrous when you're constantly at war! In Brave New World, the penalty matches the exact level of Unhappiness (-2% per point); for example, at -5 Unhappiness you'll have a -10% CS penalty, which is quite significant. So pay attention to that at all times, and avoid the possibilities of sudden drops in Happiness, such as when you capture a large city. You should be constantly building Happiness-enhancing buildings to keep up with the Unhappiness produced by constant conquest of new cities. And make building a Courthouse in annexed cities a priority to negate the extra Unhappiness.
In the beginning of the game you'll mainly be fighting Barbarians, as will everyone else. Don't rush to conquer your neighbors, unless you're the Huns and have exactly this purpose! Early conquests could be dangerous, since your young empire isn't usually prepared to deal with the extra Unhappiness that comes with taking a big city. And on the higher difficulty settings, concentrating your army away from your cities might expose them to Barbarian plundering, which could turn out to be disastrous.
Instead, gather XP from fighting Barbarians, make allies of City-States by performing Seek-and-Destroy quests, and develop your economy so you can support a large military. With the new Gold dynamics in Brave New World, there's a real danger of going broke in the first 100 turns if you have too large an army - try to avoid that at any cost! Going broke means you'll first have your scientific advance stymied, and you'll also lose the very same army you've built when units disband on their own.
Place a city or two near your neighbors - those will serve as bases for your future conquests. Adopt Honor first thing, and try to finish it before turn 100 - that will start earning you Gold for each enemy killed! It's better to focus on finishing this one - the benefits of a completed Honor for an offensive player are simply too great to pass up.
Also, try to build the Statue of Zeus - that shouldn't be too difficult, because few other players attempt to build that Wonder so early in the game - most go for either the Great Library or Stonehenge, or one of the Classical Era Wonders.
Now, don't rush to attack another player, especially on large and huge maps! Players' starting positions are very far apart on those, which means that without any road system to help you move your army through terrain impediments you'll have to lose 20+ turns to simply get close to the enemy - and what's worse, you'll leave your lands exposed to rampaging Barbarians or another industrious early rusher! You should only make an exception if you see the perfect opportunity: a weak enemy who is concentrating on economic/cultural development, and is relatively close to you. Just be careful to maintain Happiness and Gold and not spend your entire army conquering a single city on the other edge of the map.
Between turns 100-150, it's time to start your conquest. Your first targets should be your neighbors, for a very simple reason: it's quite difficult to move large armies in the early/middle game, due to terrain impediments, lack of roads, or lack of seafaring technology. And you don't want to lose 20 turns simply moving to your target! So, depending on the state of your military, choose one of your neighbors and attack. The state of your military will be an important factor in your decision; you can choose to attack a powerful neighbor if you've managed to amass a powerful army, or a less powerful neighbor if you're still building up your forces. At any rate, choose a target which will offer a sure conquest, and not mire you in a long war of attrition. Also, try to choose a target that controls strategically important lands with good resources.
Don't try to conquer all enemy cities at once - this might prove difficult, if not impossible, and will make your Happiness plummet. Combat wears down your troops; some will die, and all will need to recover after big battles and city sieges. Many times it could be more useful to conquer an important enemy city and make strategic territorial gains, after which you can make peace with good terms for 10-20 turns. This will give you time to recover and reorganize your military and supply lines.
The cities you conquer in the middle game will become part of your expanded empire core. You will have more than enough time to absorb them into your empire and develop them as your own. So, connect them with roads ASAP, annex them when possible, and start developing.
Try to conquer at least one Original Capital during this phase - it shouldn't be too difficult, and capital cities are usually the most productive. Also, most of them will contain Wonders you didn't manage to construct yourself, and which will improve your empire.
Now, here's a very important rule to remember: DON'T go to war with many neighbors at once! Even a powerful military will have a hard time fighting a war on 3-4 fronts, and instead of having 3-4 attacks repelled, it's better to have one attack succeed. But much more importantly, you need trading partners, both for luxuries and for Trade Routes - without the former, you can't maintain Happiness; without the latter, you can't maintain Gold flow. So, try to maintain good relationships with at least one neighbor at all times...that is, until the time comes to invade his or her lands as well.
At this point (around turns 300-350), you need to be finished or nearly finished with destroying your neighbors and controlling the landmass you're on. Continue your attack overseas, building a navy and air force to support your invasion - you should already have a good ground force at this point.
But this time try to shift the targets of your conquest - now you're not looking for easy meals anymore. Instead, look for the nations that are closest to victory, and clip their wings. A good way to determine this is Score; another is the Victory tab. A nation which controls lots of votes in the World Congress will almost surely attempt a diplomatic victory, while a nation with high cultural influence may be headed towards a cultural victory. You probably won't need to worry about any nations attempting a domination victory, since they will only be able to get it over your dead body. And any nation making good scientific progress is very likely to achieve a scientific victory, so pay attention! If someone starts building Spaceship parts, mark them for immediate invasion/conquest, or you risk them achieving a scientific victory!
It will be tempting to keep most of the cities you conquer as Puppets - this way, they add less Unhappiness and don't increase the cost of your Social Policies. However, in the long term this situation is a nasty trap for two main reasons:
- You can't control what a Puppet city produces, and these cities will NEVER produce units. When you take into account that you can't buy units, buildings, or even land tiles there either, this means that those cities will be VERY unproductive for you, a wild card which could backfire. Note that the Venetians, who are able to make purchases in Puppet cities, do not have to worry as much about this restriction.
- Puppet cities produce 25% LESS Science than their potential output, while at the same time increasing the overall cost of your research! This isn't that important if you have 2-3 Puppet cities, but if you have 10 or more, the penalties really add up. The final result will be your research getting bogged down, your tech progress being slowed to a crawl, and your rivals outpacing you to the point that it will become almost impossible to defeat them in the field, because their units will be much more advanced than yours.
Therefore, you should try to maintain a balance between risking a Happiness drain when you annex conquered cities and keeping too many Puppet cities. Ideally, you should try to annex most cities into your empire about 20-30 turns after you conquer them. This will allow for the initial Resistance period to pass, and for your empire to accommodate the new territory (connect it with roads, fix pillaged improvements, and so on).
There is another possible solution to the "too many cities" problem: liberation. If you're dealing with an aggressive civilization that previously conquered another civilization (possibly removing it from the game), you could liberate the second civilization's cities - this way you will gain a substantial liberation diplomatic bonus (which will help you counter the warmonger penalty from conquering), which is even greater if the other civilization was completely wiped out! Make certain, however, that you make an Open Borders deal with the civilization whose cities you liberated - this way, you'll be able to continue your progress towards other enemy lands unhindered. Also, make a strategical analysis of the territory you're liberating versus territory you'll need as a base for further advance, or as a corridor to other lands you need to conquer. However, make sure sure that you do NOT liberate the original capital of any civilization - you need to control these in order to gain the victory!
You should also bear in mind that you will have to deal with the backlash of your aggression. It's likely that after all your invasions, other nations will be wary of you. It is also very possible that they will band together and attack you simultaneously, or that nations you just made peace with will attack and try to reclaim their lands. Be ready for that, and build some Citadels or Forts to defend your lands. You will need to really increase your military at that point, both to be able to defend your conquests, and to deal with the strongest foes that remain.
Finally, thanks to the new late-game mechanics in Brave New World, you will have to deal with Ideological influence and with the World Congress. They can both hamper your efforts significantly - another strong nation with strong Tourism could bring down your Public Opinion and thus make your Happiness plummet, while the Congress may adopt a variety of measures against you thanks to hostile alliances the others make. The only way to counter this is to increase your own Culture or Tourism sharply - you will not be headed for a Cultural victory, but you need just enough influence on your own to counter the incoming influence and bring Public Opinion back up at least partially. A good and natural way to do this is to loot Great Works from conquered cities - you hardly need to make special efforts for this to happen. You do need, however, to target a nation with high Tourism output, and make sure they don't have other cities to which they can move their Great Works.
Also, produce Diplomats and try to bribe other nations to vote with you in the Congress, to avoid crushing measures like Embargoes.
In the last stages of the game, the greatest threat for you is probably the fact that someone is already close to achieving a scientific victory. Waging wars on the scale you need to conquer everyone else takes time, and in that time another strong nation which is far away from you may emerge close to building its Spaceship. Keep an eye on any nations that consistently win Scientific Race quests from City-States or have been expanding their territories for a while (which usually helps with scientific development), and mark them for priority invasion!
Players attempting a cultural victory can sometimes become a problem because of their Ideological influence over your nation, which may cause your Happiness to plummet and consequently affect your military performance (to say nothing of more serious troubles). Keep an eye on other nations' cultural influence over you (which you can do from the Cultural Victory screen; mouse over the Ideological pressures and you'll see which Ideologies and which countries are influencing you) and mark them for a priority invasion.
Defending against a diplomatic victory should be pretty straightforward - with growing resources you should be able to bribe your way into getting enough votes in the World Congress to keep other nations from achieving the necessary majority.
Once again - since it can't be stressed enough - you DO NOT need to conquer every single city a nation has! The requirement is to control their Original Capital, along with any other capitals they happen to have conquered themselves! Attempting to wipe out a nation completely is only justified if they are very close to victory, and the only way for you to win is for them to simply stop existing. Otherwise, conquering their entire territory poses two major problems:
- It will burden you with extra Unhappiness at a moment when you can hardly afford it. In the endgame you're often acquiring a new city every 5-10 turns, and this is the median time which it takes only for the Resistance phase to pass, let alone for you to bring the city up to full speed! Besides, at that point your empire should be huge enough that you won't need more cities for Science, Gold, or other special purposes.
- It will slow down your conquest pace. While you're mired with finishing off one enemy, another one might use the time to progress towards victory beyond your ability to do anything about it!
So, in the endgame you should only conquer cities you really need as bases for further expansion. Analyze the topography of the land well, and select approaches to the different capitals you need to conquer. Carve out corridors towards them, but don't go out of your way to eradicate all neighbor cities! Granted, this will allow the enemy to regroup and may later pose a problem, but usually the alternative is far worse. You just need some territories as bases on other landmasses - several cities upgraded with Airports, so that you can transport units there instantly. You should not, however, rely on these bases too much - a determined enemy won't hesitate to nuke cities of which he or she has lost control, and a well-placed nuke might actually wipe out your army!
In short, you should use any opportunity to liberate cities - be they former City-States or non-capital cities - in order to keep your Happiness high and make up for some of the diplomatic penalties you suffer due to constant conquest. Otherwise, just raze the cities you can't use.