Old World

How to Have an Economic-Focused Setup in Old World

Learn how to set up your difficulty and map settings so you can focus on economic development and not have to deal so much with war or military matters.

Key Takeaways

The Disjunction map type with one continent per player allows you to play in a largely pacifistic manner, developing your internal economy and not having to deal too much with AI aggression – and even when you do, there’s a sea channel making invasions (in either direction) more difficult. You can also tweak the AI Aggression and the Tribal Strength.

Thanks to Mohawk Games for making the difficulty and map settings so customizable such that everyone can enjoy this game in their own way!


People frequently say Old World is very heavy on war and combat. And they are largely correct – it was designed with conflict in mind, and a lot of effort went into making an interesting combat experience. Generally, some could say “the right way” to play the game is to build up large military forces and take over everything through war.

But the beauty of Old World is that there is no right way to play the game necessarily. And the game settings are incredibly customizeable. You can tweak them to design the type of game of your choosing, and have fun with it.

Don’t like to play a game where you’re forced to do war all the time? No problem! You can set up a game that doesn’t lead to constant war, and yet remains interesting and engaging while nonetheless leaving you the option to deal with some AI conflict if you wish.


There are a number of game settings that can be customized to make a game more pacifistic. Don’t forget to hit Advanced Setup to make your various tweaks. As a general rule, you can adjust many things to your desires.

Of course you could simply make the game easier. But you’re probably reading this guide because you want to find that sweet spot of not having to do war all the time, and yet the game nevertheless giving you an interesting challenge.

Before we dive into some interesting options, I want to cover the basics. There are 3 key settings to manage in order to make a more pacifistic game.

First, there is the Tribal Strength. Here you can control how passive or aggressive the barbarians and tribes are.

Second, there is the AI Aggression. One thing that can blindside you is how warlike the AI can get at higher levels – here you can just tone that particular aspect of their behaviour and strength down. Maybe you’re OK with a strong AI, but not one that declares war on you.

Third, there is Ruthless AI. If this is turned ON, the AI will throw everything it has at you to stop you from winning the game. If it’s a bad move on their part, but it has a chance of inconveniencing you and becoming another hurdle to you winning the game, it’ll do it. If you’re reading this guide, you want to keep this option turned OFF.

Emergent Pacifism

Here I will talk a bit about how I like to play the game, since I’m quite the pacifist builder. I will detail some of the struggles in finding the right challenge, and how and why I was able to find it in Old World. You can skip ahead to the next section if you want to see some recommended game settings.

I’m not too big a fan of war or military endeavours in my strategy games. My favourite thing is building up my cities and improvements. Old World is very fun and rewarding in that sense, as you can plan out interesting adjacency bonuses for each of your improvements. With all the dynastic components and events that can happen, the game is really great for immersing yourself in a fun economic development strategy game.

However, I don’t want to completely shun a military either. The military portion of the game is pretty fun and allows for interesting tactical positioning. I just don’t want to be bullied by AI nations (which will start stronger if your difficulty is higher as you get better at the game), or have too big of a risk of losing all the cities and developments I worked so hard on all game.

As such, I’ve devised a 5-tier escalation of conflict. This is the step-wise order in which I prefer and am comfortable with taking on bigger military ventures.

  1. Free city sites: Settle your free and available city sites
  2. Barbarians: Barbarians won’t come to take over your cities, but they’ll provide a bit of a military objective to overcome so you can continue your expansion.
  3. Tribes: Tribes will send out raiders every now and then, but so long as you build some military units, you can fend off these raiders. But more importantly, tribes constitute an interesting harder roadblock – it’s like moving up from barbarians to tribes. Yet not in a way that threatens what you have worked on at home.
  4. Skirmishes: Once you’ve dealt with all the tribes around you, it’s time to “graduate” to dealing with an AI nation. Yet an existential confrontation can be quite frightening and cumbersome. So ideally there exists some quasi-neutral territory that you fight over, such as a “hill” in a “king of the hill” type situation.
  5. Full scale war: At the most extreme level, you’re fighting in your own core territory a desperate defensive war, or in their core territory a brutal aggressive war.

The key to how I like to play my games is to not be too existentially threatened before I’m ready, and to allow for an iterative progression in my military exploits. This way I can still play with military units and optimize for splash damage, routing, and all that fun stuff. But even so, in a lot of games I only feel like #3 at the most, and don’t even want to venture into #4 or beyond necessarily.

Can Old World be configured to enable this type of gameplay?


Disjunction Map

What I’ve found works the best is using the Disjunction map type and selecting one continent per team. In Disjunction, the map is split into a number of continents separated by a water/sea channel. The edge of the map is land, so you are vulnerable to distant raids if you’ve turned up the Tribal Strength high enough.

However, with these types of settings, you have your own continent to conquer, and thus don’t have to deal with any AI nations unless or until you want to. In my experience playing with this map so much, the water separation makes all the difference – it allows a strong natural defense and aversion to invasions (though that cuts both ways, as you’ll have a harder time landing in the opponent’s territory). Furthermore, any time an AI who is at war with me does manage to arrange some anchoring and send some troops over, I am able to thwart such an invasion using my existing forces.

So what I end up doing is developing my internal economy immensely while still building some military units every now and then. If I need to mobilize them, I can do so without leaving open a flank of my empire.

Levelling Up

As you do better and better on these game settings, you have a variety of options to increase your difficulty. You could straight up increase the base difficulty. Or you could give the AI more advantage or development. Or you can increase the tribal strength.

When you’re ready, you can consider switching on the “King of the Hill” option to open yourself up to skirmishes with the AI! Still using the Disjunction map, you’re nevertheless relatively safe, especially in the early game, since all players spawn pretty far away from each other. But it’s no longer the easy mode of an entire sea channel to block off invasions.

Furthermore, it gives an interesting hill full of resources to fight over – yet the direction of battle is largely determined, so you don’t need to split your armies too much.

Best Nations

Egypt is the go-to for a pacifist builder playstyle. The extra stone from starting the game lets you pick your favourite wonder, and the cost savings from building adjacent improvements even further rewards you for optimizing your tile improvements!

Carthage is a great choice because it allows you to hire tribal units as mercenaries (though remember you can’t hire raiders or barbarians). If you play peacefully, then you probably have a lot of money (or resources to sell for money), and a pitiful army, so if you ever find yourself in a bind, this ability gives you a great backup plan in an emergency. Carthage is also great overall with the extra money and civics, and Dido (or any Diplomat) gives you additional abilities to ally with the tribes and perhaps not even fight them!

Allying with a tribe allows you to send a settler to their city sites and settle a new city (on any urban connected to the city site other than the one the encampment is on) by paying money. Once you’ve settled all the sites of a tribal ally, their units will slowly turn into raiders randomly. Usually the raiders convert one by one, and are attacked and defeated by the remaining allied troops – until there’s very few left, at which point you’ll need some units of your own to mop up the remaining units converting to raiders.

Babylonia is another classic for pacifists, thanks to its science and growth benefits. All that extra growth will help you get more citizens to turn into specialists.

Persia deserves special mention for giving you extra orders for pastures and for harvesting. Furthermore, it has cheaper ranged units, and you can build those cheaper ranged units in a Hunters city (which is one of the families for Persia) to give them “Sentinel” which makes them stronger in your own territory. Perfect for playing a strong defense while you keep building up your economy.

Kush is situational, but very powerful once you get it going. If you can get Polytheism up quickly enough, then the extra benefits from shrines along with optimizing the Kushite Pyramids will reward you significantly for your builder playstyle.

Best Dynasties

The below requires the Wonders & Dynasties expansions to enjoy. With the exception of Greece which requires Heroes of the Aegean (or Wonders & Dynasties), and Kush which requires Pharaohs of the Nile.

Assyria – Shammuramat: The ability to switch back and forth between Builder and Hero is pretty huge and allows you to focus on building up your economy. Then, once you’re ready, you can switch to Hero and begin your invasions!

Babylonia – Kurigalzu I: The “Peaceful Expansionist” trait allows you to convert all that training that you’re not using on your military to instead buy tiles. You can even use this to keep running Serfdom for the +5 orders instead of having to consider giving it up for Colonies.

Of course, Hammurabi deserves special mention with his special Court of the Divine King mission, allowing you to populate your court much more easily!

Carthage – Hanno II: Being an orator allows you to get benefits from focusing on your family happiness (which is easier to do when you’re not fighting wars), and also gives you access to another mechanism to purchase tribal mercenaries if you’re in a bind. But Hanno II can also use the Land Grants mission to improve family opinions and thus get those powerful benefits.

Egypt – Khufu: -50% wonder costs AND Delver. Need I say more??

Greece – Ptolemy: With 5 wisdom to start out with, the ability to recruit Court Scholars, and an extra shrine to build, he works great with a playstyle where you’re focusing on your internal economy and science benefits.

Hatti – Puduhepa: Hatti is already great with civics, but an eloquent diplomat like Puduhepa allows you to really power through the civic administration of your nation. Furthermore, Syncretism is an interesting project that gives you orders and paganism opinion (and thus inherently also gives you more options of what to build in your cities).

Kush – Amanitore: Hands down my favourite leader to play (when I’m in a building mood), where you get orders for completing improvements. Use those orders to build even more improvements!

Persia – Stateira: Being affable gets you citizens faster so you can turn them into specialists. Her “Press Into Service” ability is also great if you’ve really been neglecting your military too much – get some militias to fight off raiders or whatever is destroying your land, and then repair your land at -50% costs.

Rome – Augustus: Get legitimacy for each city going to a next culture level, which is what you’ll be focusing on a lot if you’re playing peacefully.

My Favourite Settings

Difficulty of your choice

Tribal Strength: Strong or Raging – I prefer to slowly increase this part of the difficulty first, before increasing the AI strength

AI aggression: Normal – so they’re not a pushover, but neither are they gunning for me

AI handicap of your choice

AI development of your choice, but I recommend at least Fledgling or Established (and slowly increasing this as you’re ready for a harder difficulty)

Mortality: Standard or Lengthy – so you can build up your characters to become really strong and last long (though this makes the game easier, so you might have to increase the difficulty elsewhere)

Turn Scale: Semesters – so characters live longer (again makes the game a bit easier)

Event Level: Moderate or High – playing peacefully means I’m interesting in all the cool events and happenings in my nation, so I want plenty of events. As opposed to a war-heavy game when the events seem like they’re getting in the way of my thinking about my next tactical moves.

Points to Win: Normal or High – if you pick normal, the game might end just as you’re building the highest tier improvements for some of your cities

Disjunction – Usually Small map (for 4 players) but with 2 opponents (so 3 continents – gives me a bit of extra room) – One continent per team

Resource Density: High – who doesn’t love lots of resources to develop and improve!

City Site Density: Medium – gives me plenty of space to build all sorts of improvements without encroaching onto another city and running out of space, but also allows me to connect borders with my own cities to allow for interesting opportunities for optimizing adjacencies (like when a hamlet helps a neighbouring city’s amphitheatre)

City Site Number: Unrestricted

King of the Hill: OFF – and I might turn this ON if I’m ready to have a slightly more difficult game (or when I’m ready to move up to this stage)

Forced March: Double Fatigue – allows you to move double as much in an emergency, but stays realistic enough

All other game rules turned off, except Show Pending Critical Hits turned ON – so I can better plan out my military moves

Too Many Resources?

So you’ve been doing well in the game, but now have too many of certain resources. Does the lack of war make certain resources pointless? Not at all!

First of all, if you’re very easily and constantly finding yourself having a lot of everything, it might be a sign that it’s time to increase the difficulty. But otherwise, there are a variety of uses to each of these resources. Usually if you find yourself in an excess of a resource, you can simply stop building things that generate that resource – for iron, stop building new mines, for example (except on resources, which are always worthwhile).

Too much money? Build wonders, and don’t shy away from spending the money to buy all the resources you need to pay for it. Alternatively, save up the money! You might start running out of certain resources and need to cover a deficit for a while. Such as food.

Too much food? That’s quite possible in the early to mid game. But you won’t be running a food surplus for long, as your cities grow in culture. Legendary cities are incredibly expensive to maintain in terms of food. You can either sell the food, or save it up for when your food production can’t keep up with your cultured cities.

Too much iron? You can consider building axemen and swordsmen if you’re there in the tech tree. Or save up for when you are, so you can easily upgrade all your warriors.

Too much stone? Build wonders!

Too much wood? Research your way to composite bow and build archers (and upgrade slingers into archers). You’ll find yourself very rapidly using up all this wood.

Too many orders? First of all, prioritize different areas of your nation – for instance, run Colonies instead of Serfdom. Train Poets instead of Acolytes. Secondly, research your way to Doctrine and run Orthodoxy – then you’ll be able to use orders to rush production of whatever it is you’re building in your cities (so long as they’re at Developed culture or higher; also, needs the state religion in the city). Thirdly, later in the game, you can even sell orders using the law Coin Debasement.

Too many civics? Civics is one of the most versatile resources and it is used for a lot. If you somehow have too many of them, you can always use them to rush production in cities, which is an option that is available for all cities at Developed culture or higher without requiring any special laws.

Too much training? Generally these can be converted to orders, and then see above to determine what to do with orders.

There are of course lots of uses for each of these, but these serve as typical or “last resort” uses for when you truly find yourself with way too much of one or more of these resources.

Your Favourite Settings

What are your favourite game settings to play a peaceful game? Please feel free to share in a comment below, or start a discussion!

This guide about Old World was written by Emergent. You can visit the original publication from this link. If you have any concerns about this guide, please don't hesitate to reach us here.

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