- 1 Overview
- 2 Civilizations
- 3 Great Prophet phase
- 4 Beliefs
- 5 Civic phase
- 6 Attack phase
Use of religion falls between two extremes:
- A purely (militarily) peaceful strategy that spreads religion into other civilizations in order to achieve the religious victory, or at least a world religion.
- A hybrid strategy that uses religion in service of another victory and mostly keeps religion inside the civilization's own borders (which may expand in the Domination case---DEUS VULT).
Given the massive defender advantages of religion, I believe the hybrid strategy is better against humans, particularly if there are many players involved. However, I will focus on the pure strategy here.
My tiers for a pure religious strategy:
- Russia: Tundra start bias for Dance of the Aurora. Faith on Tundra. Lavra spam.
- Arabia: Guaranteed Great Prophet and essentially free worship building. I'm not a big fan of Campus districts but it could be a bit extra Faith, or more than a bit with the right policy.
- Egypt: Desert bias is a good setup for the Desert Folklore Pantheon, and Sphinx can produce a bit of extra Faith.
- India: Some good Faith bonuses. I don't think Dharma is going to be doing too much work though.
- Japan: Half price Holy Site districts, additional district adjacency bonuses, and some combat bonus from Divine Wind.
- Aztec: Tlachtli gives a little Faith.
- Brazil: Possible Sacred Path from start bias, but that's about it.
- Germany: No religion/Faith-specific bonuses, but Germany is just so strong.
- Greece: They get that extra Wildcard, but that's it.
- Scythia: Sure, Kurgan gives a bit of Faith but it's very situational.
- Spain: Inquisitor charges are rarely a worry, and having to travel off the home continent for the Mission bonus is a real drag. But at least it's a bonus.
- Kongo: Literally cannot win.
Great Prophet phase
Unless you're Saladin, if you've decided to pursue a religious strategy, you must ensure you get a Great Prophet before they're all taken.
There's only one directly relevant technology, and that's Astrology. It's worth considering researching this as the first thing, as you generally are going to be building Scouts and/or military units before a Builder, so other techs can wait. While it's a crapshoot as to whether you find a natural wonder for the boost before the tech finishes, if you build the district early it will be much cheaper---potentially only slightly more expensive than a Monument. It does not take many techs for the cost of the district to double.
I'm not a big fan of Stonehenge as it stands. It's much more expensive than an early Holy Site and you have an additional risk of getting scooped. The Faith output is smaller than a well-placed Holy Site, and you will need a Holy Site later anyways in order to purchase religious units.
At +2 Great Prophet points per turn, this is a good Policy boost if it's available. However, unless you are Greece that won't happen until Political Philosophy, which is a bit on the late side for getting a Great Prophet. So I wouldn't rely solely on this Policy against a human or a higher-difficulty AI.
If you want to go all-in on a Religious victory, the three Holy Site adjacency bonus Beliefs are excellent choices if there is appropriate terrain around:
- Dance of the Aurora (Tundra)
- Desert Folklore (Desert)
- Sacred Path (Rainforest)
These will give extra Faith without having to work tiles with Citizens or accomplish extra tasks. Furthermore, the bonus can be doubled with the Scripture policy.
Apart from these:
- Divine Spark is the only pantheon that will help you win the Great Prophet race directly.
Not terribly helpful in spreading religion, and remember that converted enemy cities will also benefit.
If your scout found a Relic, then Reliquaries will give +8 Faith. In general, if you expect to get at least 50% as many Relics as Wonders, then Reliquaries will beat out Divine Inspiration.
If you are pursing a hybrid strategy, I would give the edge to Zen Meditation.
If you are pursing a pure religious strategy, the other two may be worth extra consideration---since you are likely to build more Shrines and Temples than your enemies, you will benefit more. I would generally take the potential 6 Food of Feed the World over the 2 of Religious Community. While Housing can certainly be in short supply in the early game, you can use the extra Food to allocate Citizens more heavily towards Production.
The other two are probably too late-game to be of much use.
- Jesuit Education will leave something useful to spend Faith on if/when you establish a world religion. But this will likely take quite a while.
- Production is king, but Work Ethic's bonus is going to be tiny in the early game.
Religious pressure can hold territory, but it takes units to expand and defend it effectively. So I would rate Holy Order as the best choice for a pure strategy. Pick this when you found your Religion. Failing that, Missionary Zeal can help your combat positioning and cycling back to friendly Holy Sites for healing, and Monastic Isolation will give you an edge in Theological combat effects.
If you're following a hybrid strategy, you can choose one of the two combat bonus beliefs depending on whether you anticipate defending or attacking more often (DEUS VULT).
Probably not worth picking first---you need Temples before you can actually build the building, and by that time you'll be able to get Apostles to enhance your Religion. Top three choices:
- Mosque's +1 spread: possibly the strongest for the religious strategy.
- Synagogue gives the most Faith, and the most benefit from the Simultaneum policy.
- Meeting House's Production is always nice.
Also probably not worth picking first since you haven't had a chance to spread your religion yet. While you will have to work a little for it, Papal Primacy is potentially by far the most powerful---even a single city-state following your religion with 6 of your envoys will roughly match the district-based beliefs. Other than that I would pick Pilgrimage for a pure religious strategy, or Church Property otherwise.
After getting a religion, the next phase is to unlock Temples, Apostles, and Scripture via the Theology civic, and then the Theocracy government and the remaining policies via Reformed Church. Speed is crucial.
- Theology: Getting Apostles first means you can attack enemy Missionaries with impunity, as well as get first pick on additional Beliefs. Scripture can be worth tens of Faith per turn from the get-go.
- Reformed Church: +14 from the government and the policy cards means anybody who doesn't have this civic is helpless against you in Theological Combat unless they have multiple Debater Apostles and you don't.
This is also the time to think about getting the relevant wonders. Unfortunately, all of them are tough sells, with production being in short supply for you (and not for higher-difficulty AIs).
|Cristo Redentor||Tourism output from Relics and Holy Cities is not diminished by other civilizations who have researched The Enlightenment civic. Doubles Tourism output of Seaside Resorts across your civilization.||Way too late for a pure religious strategy, but a nice boost if you also got Mont St. Michel and Reliquaries.|
|Hagia Sophia||Missionaries and Apostles can spread Religion 1 extra time.||A good boost. But quite expensive.|
|Mahabodhi Temple||Grants 2 Apostles.||It's okay. 2 Apostles is pretty significant, but so is that much production, especially in the early game.|
|Mont St. Michel||All Apostles you create gain the Martyr ability in addition to a second ability you choose normally.||Good combo with the Reliquaries belief. You could also intentionally create and suicide Apostles of other religions, but this gets expensive quickly.|
|Oracle||Patronage of Icon Great People costs 25% less Faith. Districts in this city provide +2 Great Person points of their type (for example, Great Writer points from the Theater Square district).||Nice to have, but with your Faith being tied up by Apostle-buying, it may take a long time to truly pay off. Maybe you could use it to buy your Great Prophet...|
Don't forget City-States! Especially if you took Papal Primacy. Some of special note (besides all Religious City-States, obviously):
It must be pointed out that, all else being equal, the defender in a religious war has several massive advantages:
- Religious units can be bought at a very rapid rate---two units per turn per city with a Holy Site. Given even just a few turns of warning a player can put thousands of Faith worth of religious units on the field.
- Inquisitors have the same strength as Apostles in friendly territory. Given the slightest respite, Remove Heresy will quickly undo any gains made by the attacker.
- Religious units only heal on or next to friendly Holy Sites. This means the defender can heal easily, but the attacker cannot.
- Attacking units can be blocked off from cities by non-religious units.
- The defender can declare a conventional war. Religious units are destroyed immediately when attacked by combat units, so this can lead to large losses in a single turn.
Therefore, the attacker can only hope to prevail if the defender is at a large numeric and/or Faith disadvantage, is unaware of the coming religious attack, or is incompetent (which the AI is at the moment). The attacker has two objectives:
- Suppress all opposing cities, especially those with completed Holy Sites.
- Eliminate enough defending units that they cannot re-establish their religion. A few surviving Missionaries and even Apostles with poor promotions may be tolerable, but certain powerful Apostle promotions and Inquisitors pose a danger of resurgence. Even a single city with a Holy Site can cause a lot of trouble.
Obviously, Theocracy is the correct choice: both its 15% + legacy discount on Faith purchases and +5 increase in Religious Strength are powerful benefits.
As with Government, there are roughly two classes of useful policies: those that improve your Faith budget, and those that improve your Religious Strength. Note that bonuses to Combat Strength apply to religious units too unless they are specifically restricted to combat units! With this in mind, here are the most important policies:
|National Identity||Military||Units have 50% less Combat Strength reduction from being injured.||Comes rather late, and is arguably more situational than the rest of the Combat Strength policies. But worth considering.|
|Wars of Religion||Military||+4 Combat Strength when fighting Civilizations that follow other Religions.||A solid boost.|
|Religious Orders||Economic||All religious units +5 Religious Strength in Theological Combat.||You must have this when major action is joined.|
|Scripture||Economic||+100% Holy Site district adjacency bonuses.||This will apply to Pantheon beliefs that grant additional adjacency bonuses. Together, you can gain massive Faith.|
|Simultaneum||Economic||+100% Faith yield from Holy Site district buildings.||You might consider picking the Synagogue to get the most out of this policy. Note that this will not affect the Feed the World belief.|
During the attack phase Apostles are going to be your bread and butter---Missionaries cannot attack, and Inquisitors are useless in enemy territory.
Chaplain and Heathen Conversion are potentially useful but they don't contribute directly to religion. Your first few Apostles with poor promotion choices, or Pilgrims/Orators after their bonus charges have been exhausted, are good choices for expending to Evangelize Belief or Launch Inquisition.