One thing I've never really paid a lot of attention is where I should start my opening city. Well, that's not what I mean. I mean on what terrain I should found it. I care a lot about what's nearby. I like being on a river. I like being near luxury goods. I like being near natural wonders. Sometimes I want to build boats (ok, I never want to build boats) so starting on the ocean can be useful. So I care an awful lot about where I found my city. But I've never cared about what terrain it was. Until Dave started talking about our asynch game where he talked about how he delayed his initial placement to found on a hill because doing so gives an extra production. And in retrospect I remember testing with Robb a while ago when we were playing teams multiplayer to see if founding a city on a resource would kill it. (It doesn't.)
So what's actually going on? It turns out the base tile for every city is guaranteed to generate 2 food, 1 resource, and 1 gold. But if it happens to be the case that the underlying terrain is better than those values you do get to keep the surplus. And if there's a resource on the tile you get the resource as soon as you unlock the tech for it. You don't get the bonus for building the improvement, but you do get any innate bonus it may have. So a hill is normally worth 0 food, 2 production, and 0 gold while a grassland is worth 2 food, 0 production, and 0 gold. This means a city on a hill is worth 2 food, 2 production, and 1 gold while a city on a grassland is worth 2 food, 1 production, and 1 gold. The hill city is worth an extra production every turn for the rest of the game! That seems pretty sweet. Pretty sure you also get the 25% defensive bonus for being on a hill which might come in handy if you're getting beat down. It does cost you a turn to get onto the hill (but losing out on 2 production once to get 1 production per turn sounds pretty good) and there is the small issue that there's a building you can't build if your city is on a hill. Does that actually matter? I figured I should look through the list of all the buildings and wonders to see when terrain matters...
Stone Works - Can't be built in a plains, gives massive production if you have a lot of stone/marble nearby. You can't build it without some stone or marble nearby at all, but if you do this building seems really good. (Pretty sure my Dutch civ is beside marble and built on the plains... DOH!)
Watermill - City must be built beside a river; converts 2 gold into 2 food and a production. Seems pretty good, and I normally find myself building them when I'm beside a river.
Lighthouse - City must be built on a coast. Gives extra food from all water spaces, and extra production from water resources, and even more food from fish. If you want a big city and you're near the water you probably need one of these?
Garden - City must be built beside a river or lake. Gives 25% more great people production. I always want one of these in my main city, but maybe I'm crazy? It's why I really want to settle on a river at the start if I can.
Harbor - City must be built on a coast. Makes your boat trade routes better, and connects you to the capital, and gives you more production from water resources. If you're doing a lot of boat trade routes then having one of these seems good?
Observatory - City must be built next to a mountain. Gives you 50% more science! If you can make a big city beside a mountain this seems pretty awesome. But you probably only want to be beside one mountain, not a whole range of them, because they would occupy spaces for making more people? Maybe? Not like you have a lot of choice if you're beside a huge mountain range; run far away or deal with it I guess. Better off getting an observatory than not!
Seaport - City must be built on a coast. More production and gold from water resources. I guess if you can be beside a lot of water resources you might be ok with all these stupid buildings? They always make me sad. You also get to build boats faster. Stupid boats.
Windmill - City can't be built on a hill. You get 2 production, and +10% production when building buildings, and you get a slot for an engineer specialist. I think these are pretty worthwhile, and the extra 2 production certainly offsets the 1 production from founding on a hill. Except you get these things pretty deep into the game. Your city ends up better not being on a hill for sure, but you can build up quite the early edge from being on a hill in the first place. Is that edge good enough? I don't know, but I'm glad I know it exists now so I can think about it!
Hydro Plant - City must be built beside a river. Gives one production on every river space. I love these things, but they're pretty late in the game.
Solar Plant - City must be built on or beside a desert. It's the same as a nuclear plant except it doesn't take uranium and you can't have both. Huzzah?
And the wonders...
Colossus - City must be built on a coast. Massive gold bonuses including an extra trade route.
Great Lighthouse - City must be built on a coast. Makes your boats better. Why do you have boats?
Machu Picchu - City must be built within 2 tiles of a mountain. Gives extra gold and some faith.
Neuschwanstein - City must be built with 2 tiles of a mountain. Gives massive gold, culture, and happiness bonuses if you have a lot of castles.
Petra - City must be built on or next to a desert. Makes deserts suck a little less, and gives some gold via an extra trade route.
Prora - City must be on a coast. Gives a lot of extra happiness and a free social policy.
Sydney Opera House - City must be built on a coast. Massive culture bonus and a free social policy.
Now, there are other things to consider like how you can't build the improvement on your city and how you don't need a worker to unlock a resource if you build on top of it. Building on a hill gives you the extra production right now but it removes the ability to work that tile with another person in the future. Depending on how the rest of the terrain shapes out that could be fine, or it could be bad. (Settling on your only hill means that city is going to be really production light as the game moves on even if you get a small boost right away. Maybe you're ok with that? Maybe you'd rather make a bigger city and get the windmill in the midgame.)
But I like that there is a decision to be made, and I like knowing about it now. Plains are terrible if there are stone/marble nearby. Rivers are straight up awesome. So are mountains. Deserts have a couple wonders to make them less sketchy but are pretty bad to be near. Settling on a desert is actually fine though, and if you only have a couple desert tiles in range then settling on one of them is probably a good idea.
I feel like settling on a hill for that extra early production is probably a really good idea in a fair number of cases and I've never even considered it before. Yay learning!