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Civilization V: Brave New World - title

I've already covered strategies for the civilizations that have been added or explicitly changed in the Brave New World expansion and its major fall (2013) patch. Now I'm going to move on to other legacy civilizations that have not had explicit changes, but who may have had their strategies significantly altered by the expansions and other updates. The first such civilization that I am going to tackle is one that has been requested from readers on at least several occasions. So, by popular request, here is a strategy for Sultan Suleiman's Ottoman Empire.

The rise of the Ottoman empire coincided with the fall of the Byzantine empire that started in the late thirteenth century. Turkish immigrants lead by Osman I took control of a region of Anatolia and Osman declared himself the first Sultan of a new Islamic empire. The fledgling empire quickly began a cycle of conflicts with the Byzantine empire that culminated in the capture of Constantinople, which the Ottomans renamed Istanbul and made their imperial capital. With control of the valuable ports of Istanbul that linked the Mediterranean with the Black Sea, the Ottoman empire rapidly became a dominant force in the Middle East and Europe.

Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent ruled the Ottoman empire during the height of its power in the sixteenth century. His fleets dominated the seas of the Mediterranean - and extended its influence all the way to India and Indonesia - thanks in part to the successes of Hayreddin Barbarossa, who captured numerous ships on his way to becoming the Ottoman fleet admiral. In addition to military successes, Suleiman also personally initiated a series of sweeping social and legal reforms that contributed to the flourishing of the Ottoman arts and economy.

The Ottoman Empire would eventually become one of the most significant casualties of World War I. The empire was already starting to succumb to the stresses of internal strife and a weakening economy. Their defeat in World War I basically dissolved the Ottoman empire, and what was left of its holdings became the modern nation of Turkey.

Civilization V - Sultan Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire

Ottoman uniques in Civilization V: Brave New World

Civilization V - Ottoman flag

The Ottomans are a very military-oriented civilization that excels in the renaissance. It has two renaissance unique units, and the increased relevance of navies during this period of the game gives the Ottomans an edge against most other civs on the high seas.

Barbary Corsairs

"All melee naval units have the Prize Ships promotion, allowing them to capture defeated ships. Pay only one-third the usual cost for naval unit maintenance."

Civilization V - Sultan Suleiman

The Ottoman national ability basically turns all Ottoman melee naval units into pseudo-privateers that can capture defeated enemy ships. Captured melee ships will also have this ability. This allows the Ottomans to create a large navy without having to invest as much production time into the construction of those units.

Prize ships is only granted to melee naval units, but it can be used to capture ranged units as well. Captured ranged naval units will not receive the prize ships ability. However, you can use your ranged ships to damage an enemy and then make the killing blow with a melee ship in order to have a chance at capturing it. You cannot capture enemy embarked land units or civilian naval units (such as work boats and admirals).

Civilization V - captured Dromon
Ottomans can capture unique naval units like
Byzantine Dromons and Carthagenian Quinquereme

This ability is similar to the German ability to capture barbarians from encampments, and it can be used to similar effect. But it is different in fundamental ways. Most importantly, it is not limited to barbarians. You can capture ships from enemy civs and city states, including unique naval units such as the Byzantine Dromon, Carthagenian Quinquereme, or Venetian Great Galleass in the periods in which they are useful. Unlike the Germans, the Ottoman ability also remains useful throughout the entire game, and especially during the period that the ability is most useful: after the development of Astronomy. Your newly-constructed Destroyers will also be able to capture modern naval units without needing to be upgraded from Privateers.

Put simply, the Ottomans should always be at war with somebody. Whether it's another civ or a city state (preferably a maritime or mercantile one, since they most frequently build naval units), you should be capturing their ships and constantly growing your own fleet. The probability of capturing a ship is based on the raw combat strength of the respective ships. So a Destroyer will be very likely to capture a Caravel, but a Trireme would have to get very lucky to capture a Caravel. The chance of capturing the enemy ship is displayed in the combat odds summary above the selected unit panel.

Since the Gods & Kings expansion, the ability for Ottoman ships to capture enemy ships is the result of a Prize Ships promotion instead of an innate ability of the Ottomans. This has subtle, but significant, implications in some cases. The promotion is retained if the ship is gifted to another player (but not if the ship is captured). The Ottomans can be a very useful ally in sea-based multiplayer games, since they can gift some of their early ships to allies or team members so that those allies can also start stealing their own large navy. But be careful! If your former ally turns on you, they can potentially use your own ability against you!


Civilization V - Ottoman Janissary

Game Info: "One of the first gunpowder units of the game. Only the Ottomans may build it. This Unit is stronger on offense and heals when it kills an enemy, unlike the Musketman which it replaces."

Civilopedia Strategy: "The Janissary is an Ottoman unique unit, replacing the Musketman. The Janissary receives a significant combat bonus when on the attack. In addition, the Janissary unit automatically heals all damage when it destroys a non-Barbarian unit. This can give a Janissary army a crushing advantage against an enemy force on the defensive."

Replaces: Musketman.

Requirements: Gunpowder, and standard unit maintenance (same as Musketman).

Obsoleted: Rifling technology, Upgrades to: Rifleman (same as Musketman).

Cost: 150 Production | 300 Faith | 540 Gold (same as Musketman).

Attack Type: Melee, Combat Class: Gunpowder, Combat Strength: 24 (same as Musketman).

Movement Speed: 2 (same as Musketman).

Effects: +25% combat bonus when attacking, Heals 50 HP if it kills a unit.

The Janissary is a very strong unique unit on both the offensive and the defensive. It gets a 25% boost to its combat strength when attacking, which provides a strong incentive for using it offensively during the renaissance. This bonus doesn't apply to cities though, so you'll still want Trebuchet or Cannon support to topple an enemy city.

Perhaps more importantly, the unit also automatically heals 50 hit points after it kills a unit. This can be very helpful at quickly advancing on an enemy. If you are confident that you'll kill an opponent, then you can press on with an attack, even with a severely damaged unit.

Even a critically-wounded Janissary can press forward with an attack if you expect to kill the enemy and regain HP.

This ability to heal after killing a unit also makes the Janissary into an excellent defensive unit. A fortified Janissary can be difficult to defeat without some supporting bombardment in order to soften it up. If it kills the attacking unit, it will heal 50 HP. A Janissary fortified on a hill with a fort or citadel is a very strong sentinel, especially if placed at a bottleneck where bombardment and flanking are difficult or impossible.

The Janissary can also be used as an "offensive defender" in much the same way as the Zulu Impi. If you don't have forts or citadels available to fortify your units in, you can instead bait enemy units close to your Janissary units, but keep that Janissary out of range of immediate attack. Then, on your turn, move forward and attack in order to apply your 25% attack bonus.

The promotions of the Janissary are also retained after upgrade, which means that Ottoman infantry that is upgraded from a Janissary will also have a 25% attack bonus and the ability to heal when killing a unit.


Civilization V - Ottoman Sipahi

Game Info: "Mounted Unit specialized in defeating enemy Mounted Units. May only be built by the Ottomans. This Unit is faster and can see further than the Lancer, which it replaces."


Civilopedia Strategy: "The Sipahi is the Ottoman unique unit, replacing the Lancer. The Sipahi is much faster and can see one hex farther than the Lancer, although it shares the Lancer's weaknesses on defense. The Sipahi can pillage enemy improvements at no additional cost."

Replaces: Lancer.

Requirements: Metallurgy, and standard unit maintenance (same as Lancer).

Obsoleted: Combined Arms technology, Upgrades to: Anti-Tank Gun (same as Lancer).

Cost: 185 Production | 370 Faith | 666 Gold (same as Lancer).

Attack Type: Melee, Combat Class: Mounted, Combat Strength: 25 (same as Lancer).

Movement Speed: 5 (+1 from Lancer).

Effects: Can move after attacking, Formation I (+33% combat strength against mounted units), (both same as Lancer)
+1 visibility, No movement cost to pillage.

Penalties: No defensive terrain bonus, 33% combat penalty when attacking cities (both same as Lancer).

The Sipahi is a Lancer replacement that gets extra visibility, faster movement, and which does not have to spend movement points to pillage a tile improvement. They are very good recon and support units. They can be effectively used to support your land invasions by scouting out the enemy terrain, moving in, attacking enemy units to soften them up, then moving out of range of counter attacks. After they take damage, you can also pillage an improvement or two as you retreat in order to heal the unit, gain some gold, and damage the enemy economy.

Civilization V - Sipahi behind the lines
A single uncontested Sipahi can devastate an opponent's economy.

Since the fall (2013) patch for Brave New World, the Landsknecht starts with the same ability to pillage with no movement cost (as well as the ability to gain gold from attacking cities). If you adopted Commerce and bought Landsknechts, then they'll already have the pillage bonus, and the only things they'll gain when upgraded to Sipahi is the extra sight and movement.

If you can keep the Sipahi away from your enemy's front line, then you can potentially pillage five improvements per turn! This should be more than enough to survive the bombardment from enemy cities unless that enemy has severely out-teched you and has access to artillery or planes.

The extra movement and sight do not transfer when the Sipahi is upgraded to an Anti-Tank Gun, which means that the Ottoman AT Gun is still annoyingly slow and useless. But the pillage promotion is retained, so eventually you'll have Helicopters that will be able to single-handedly pillage enemy economies back to the stone age.

Becoming Magnificent - strategy for Ottomans

The Ottomans have two unique units and a military-focused national ability. Thus, the Ottomans are best-geared towards domination victories. However, their high naval flavor can also act as an incentive to pursue diplomatic victories if you find yourself unable to overwhelm opponents with force. This naval focus also gives them advantages on archipelago maps, and other map types that have a lot of navigable water.

The Ottomans don't have any economic bonuses that will provide them with advantages at the start of the game, so optimal play will be required at high difficulty levels or competitive multiplayer. They have a coastal start bias, but the ability to capture enemy naval units means that they don't have to focus on building coastal cities in order to train a sizable navy. In fact, if you don't start on the coast, you only need to found one city on the coast fairly early. Don't go out of your way to found additional coastal cities (as you might do with England, Carthage, the Netherlands, Portugal, or other naval-focused civs) if the map location doesn't have worthwhile resources or other strategic value.

Civilization V - Ottomans harassing enemy shipping
Converted barbarian galleys can multiply very quickly. Don't be afraid to disband if you hit the unit cap.

Not Naval Germany!

It might be tempting to approach the Ottomans as a naval equivalent to Germany: adopting Honor and capturing barbarian naval units to amass a huge Trireme navy to crush you enemies early in the game. If you can pull this off, then go for it. More power to you. But this isn't necessarily the best approach.

Even with the maintenance discount, a large navy will be excessively expensive early in the game, and capturing too many barbarian ships will quickly run you up against the unit cap. Navies also lack utility early in the game. Triremes generally aren't strong enough to attack cities and easily get stuck behind foreign borders due to being restrained to the coast, and even Galleases are too slow to ever be very useful in an offensive war. And if the unit cap prevents you from building a land army, you can easily fall victim to spear and archer invasion, and all those Triremes and Galleys won't help. So your early prize ships shouldn't necessarily be kept with the intent of maintaining a huge navy.

Civilization V - Trireme invasion
If you get very lucky, you might capture an enemy coastal capital with an early Trireme rush.

In rare cases (less rare on Archipelago maps), a very fortuitous map could allow the Ottomans to use an early Trireme rush to capture a neighboring coastal capital. If you get a barbarian encampment on an island that can only spawn galleys, then you can possibly farm that encampment to get a lot of Galleys (that you can optionally upgrade to Triremes). If there is also a nearby civilization whose capital is on the coast, then you can perhaps use these Galleys and Triremes to surround and capture that other capital. If done early enough, the combat strength of the city should be low enough that the ships can actually accomplish this without land support.

You should build a single Trireme fairly early and start going after barbarian ships. It will likely multiply quickly. Adopting Honor for your second or third social policy is worthwhile, since it will both expose potential barbarian ship spawn locations and give you a combat bonus that will make capturing them much easier. Unlike Germany, the Ottomans' ability to capture units is not limited to barbarians. This means that you will have plenty of opportunity to capture more ships later if you lose some now.

Sink and capture as many barbarian ships as you can for the free culture. But instead of keeping them all, only keep enough experienced Triremes to defend your cargo ships. Treat the remaining captured ships as disposable. Use them to support city-sieges, even if they likely won't survive. Or you can give them to city states - especially if the CS has offered a quest to give them units. Or send them back to your territory (if practical) and disband them. You'll get a small sum of gold for your troubles.

Adopt Honor, capture barbarian galleys [LEFT] for free culture,
and then disband those excess galleys [RIGHT] in your territory for free gold.

If you get some naval units stuck behind foreign borders but don't want to disband them, you could declare war in order to move them back to your territory. In the meantime, you can maybe use them to pillage any fishing boats or plunder any naval trade routes that your rival may have left exposed, and maybe even sink or capture some of their ships if you're strong enough. Just be careful about getting your experienced ships too close to cities. Triremes are very weak and usually can't stand up to more than one or two hits from a city. If there's an archer or a catapult in the city, you might not even survive one round of bombardment. Being confined to the coast also means that you might get trapped by the zone of control of enemy cities, which might make it impossible to pass without suffering a turn or two of bombardment. In some cases, you can maybe declare peace and have your ship automatically moved out of enemy territory. If you're lucky, this will transport your ship closer to your own territory.

Civilization V - Great Lighthouse wonder

Making friends with a coastal city state near your enemy will give you a safe place to retreat to and heal your ships if they are too far away to sail all the way back to your own borders. The Great Lighthouse wonder can also help speedup movement between your territory and the frontiers if you need to retreat and heal your ships.

As long as you didn't capture any cities (which will be next to impossible to do with weak Triremes anyway), then you should be able to recover from the warmonger penalties of such early wars. Just be careful that you don't go aggro against multiple civs, since they will start chain-denouncing you and start a feedback loop of downward relations. If you can find a friend to join you in the declaration(s) of war, then you might get some positive diplomatic relations that will help to cement that civ as a trade partner and military ally to support your later conquests.

Civilization V - capturing Galleas
Galleases are slow and easy
to surround and capture.

When other civs (and especially city states) start producing Galleases, you should consider going to war in order to capture some to spare yourself from having to build these expensive units yourself. Since Galleases are slow and restricted to the coast, they are easy to track, flank, and capture with multiple Triremes (and especially if you have Caravels). Capturing a few Galleases will mean that you'll be able to upgrade them to Frigates without having to invest the time or production to train your own Galleas or Frigate. Capturing Frigates is much harder, since they are powerful, fast, and can travel through the open seas.

In fact, the Ottomans are in the favorable position of being able to build a large navy without necessarily having to focus on developing naval technologies or coastal cities. You can capture ships that you don't have the technology to build yourself. You don't have to feel pressured to beeline to Compass or Navigation or Electronics if there are other, more important techs that you need. You can delay researching certain naval techs until you get to a point where you need to upgrade your existing fleets. And if the enemy isn't building enough ships for you to be able to capture any, then you probably don't need a very large navy anyway.

Civilization V - Ottomans have units without the prereq tech
Ottomans can capture and use advanced naval units prior to researching the techs required to build them.

Renaissance war machine on land and sea

The Ottomans peak during the renaissance and early industrial eras. At this time, their national ability and unique units combine to create a very potent war machine on both land and sea. Aggressive play during this period is highly recommended.

Rushing to Gunpowder as early as possible will allow you to use the bonuses of the Janissary as early and as long as possible. Since you can capture enemy naval units, you don't need to rush through naval techs like Compass and Navigation, which frees you up to focus on the path to Gunpowder. Don't rush to Navigation. You can wait and let the other players and city states build your Galleases, Privateers, and Frigates for you.

It's good to be aggressive with your Janissaries. If you plan on attempting a Domination Victory, then start using your Janissaries to crush enemy armies and move to capture their cities. The combat bonus and ability to heal should allow you to proceed with Trebuchets rather than Cannons unless your enemy has also out-teched you. Since their promotions do transfer when upgraded, you don't have to use them right away if you don't want. The Elite Forces tenet within the Autocracy ideology can be very helpful. It allows your wounded Janissaries to be more likely to deal enough damage to kill an opposing unit, and therefore heal back up. Use your fleets to support amphibious invasions and to help siege coastal cities.

Civilization V - Janissary siege
Ottomans don't need to pull enemy units away from their cities, since Janissaries
can advance, kill enemy units, and auto heal while moving to set up a siege.

If you want to play a more peaceful victory strategy, then use your army of Janissaries to act as a world policeman. Fight against other "warmongers" and liberate city states and capitals in order to gain diplomatic support with other civs. If you aren't strong enough to challenge a powerful conqueror directly, then perhaps consider instigating an invasion from them and then using your Janissaries to kill their invading forces and soften them up for counter attack. Just don't capture cities or capitals if you wish to avoid "warmonger" hate from other civs.

Civilization V - Himeji Castle wonder

Building the Himeji Castle will provide you with a defensive bonus in your lands that will augment the Janissaries' combat bonus when used to defend your own land.

While you're using your Janissaries to crush an enemy army, you can send your Sipahi behind enemy lines to cripple their economy. The extra movement and bonuses for pillaging allows the Sipahi to pillage many tiles every turn, and should protect it from bombardment from cities. This will damage the opponent's economy and also boost yours. If the enemy doesn't have units within its territory to counter your Sipahi, then a single Sipahi can quickly pillage all of an enemy's land.

In the meantime, use your ever-growing navy to protect your valuable cargo ships and any missionaries or great people (prophets or merchants) that you send overseas. If you've been lucky with Prize Ships, you may have enough units to keep multiple escorts for every cargo ship and embarked civilian.

As you progress to the later eras, the healing and attack bonuses of your Janissaries will be retained in your riflemen, great war infantry, infantry, and mech infantry. You can use these units following the same strategies that you used earlier, except that artillery and air support will be much more important in order to defend your valuable units from enemy planes and artillery. If you can soften enemy cities up with long-range strikes from battleships and planes, then you can march your Janissary-infantry through the enemy army like butter and capture the city with little resistance.

Hopefully, you'll have enough pre-built Janissaries, captured destroyers, and captured battleships that you can focus your production on building more fun military tools like carriers, planes, submarines, and nukes. If you're still playing peacefully or defensively, then this production can go towards broadcast towers, hotels, laboratories, late-game wonders, archaeologists, and so on.

Roasting Turkey: Defeating Suleiman's Ottoman Empire

I've rarely ever had problems with the Ottomans as an A.I.. The lack of any non-military benefits means that Suleiman is mostly just a military threat unless he gets lucky with some early wonders. The biggest threat from the Ottomans early in the game will be from their navy, especially on sea-based maps. But since the A.I. generally isn't very good at using its navy, this is rarely a threat.

Civilization V - ice locked
Restricting the Ottomans' access to the oceans can neutralize their national ability.

If you do expect conflict with the ottomans, then it is best to get them out of the way early. Their ability is rarely a major factor early in the game. In the renaissance, they can become quite powerful as a military machine. Their uniques can wreak havoc through both your army and your tile improvements. So try not to let them be a military threat by that point in the game.

Civilization V - entrenched Janissary
Cannon fodder only heals entrenched Janissaries.

If you can't eliminate the Ottomans prior to the renaissance, then the Janissary is the biggest threat. Your best defense against it is to have decent ranged support and to keep your ranged units protected by a wall of melee. Retreat your damaged units out of harms way, or keep medics on the front lines to heal your defenders. If the Janissaries are able to pick of your ranged or damaged units, then they will heal and become harder for your other units to kill.

Also beware of throwing units against an entrenched Janissary. You will need ranged support or a lot of backup in order to kill a Janissary that is in a strong defensive position (such as a citadel on a hill). If he kills any of your attacking units, then he will heal, and you'll have to throw even more units at him.

Civilization V - countering Sipahi
Keep defensive units to counter marauding Sipahi.

The Sipahi is not hard to deal with as long as you keep some Lancers or defensive units in your cities. Promoting some Muskets or Riflemen with the anti-mounted promotion will help you to kill Sipahi more easily. These units will also heal a lot, since they can pillage for free. A weak Sipahi that is left alive could easily use its 5 movement and free pillage ability to heal itself back to full strength (assuming that you have tiles left to pillage). Bring enough firepower to kill it in one round, or use zone of control to confine it to an area where it can't pillage any more tiles.

Expect the Ottomans to have a sizable navy, and don't be surprised if they also have the benefit of The Great Lighthouse and / or the Exploration policy tree. Try to keep your fleet together. If you leave stragglers exposed, then the Ottomans can use their superior naval numbers to surround and kill or capture your singled-out ships. By keeping your fleet together, you may not be able to stop them from killing or capturing your ships, but you can at least counter attack and sink the captured ships before the Ottomans can use them.

Keep your wounded ships away from the Ottoman fleets whenever possible so that they don't get picked off and captured. You might also want to focus more on ranged units. Even if your ranged ships are captured, the Ottomans won't be able to use them to capture additional units.

If you happen to convince a human-controlled Ottoman player to gift you some of their Prize Ships-equipped ships in multiplayer, then you can potentially turn around and use this against them later in the game. The promotion is retained if the Ottoman unit is gifted, but it is not retained if the unit is captured (i.e. if another player's Privateer captures an Ottoman Caravel, the captured Caravel does not keep Prize Ships).


Discuss this strategy on Civfanatics:

or on the official 2K Civilization V forums:

Listen to the discussion on PolyCast, Episode 233, 16m11s (July 18, 2015):

Other Civilization V Strategies

America (BNW)America (BNW)
Arabia (BNW)Arabia (BNW)
Carthage (BNW)Carthage (BNW)
France (BNW)France (BNW)
Germany (BNW)Germany (BNW)
India (BNW)India (BNW)
Iroquois (BNW)Iroquois (BNW)
Japan (BNW)Japan (BNW)
Ottomans (BNW)Ottomans (BNW)
Rome (BNW)Rome (BNW)

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