Tips for Getting Victory
Getting every victory type depends on getting and staying ahead in science by the mid-game. You tell us you’ve already found how this works in attempting domination.
There are ways to optimize your science yields, as there are for every yield, and they’re nice, but the foundation is to get more campuses and their buildings than your competitors. No way to do that except by getting more cities.
You always have to get some new cities peacefully by building settlers, but conquest is quite useful also at expanding to new cities and the campuses you are going to build there. Early conquest helps all victory types, because all depend on high yields, and more cities means more districts of all types, thus higher yields.
If you’re going for domination, it is true that early conquest has the added advantage of starting to get your units promoted early, which is nice but not critical. If your map leaves you a lot of open space you can grab by churning out settlers early, go for that instead of early conquest, even in a domination game. Conquering cities is how your game is going to end, but expansion to more cities and more campuses as efficiently as possible is how it begins.
Whenever you do start to conquer, it’s cities you’ll need to conquer, and the challenge will be to conquer them quickly enough to overcome loyalty problems. Defeating the AIs’ field armies is going to be relatively easy, so your mainstays are going to be the melee line (supported by rams and towers after the AI gets walls) and the ranged unit line, then siege artillery later, and finally bombers. Despite Scythia’s early unique unit and bonus with light cavalry, those just aren’t very helpful with your real challenge of taking cities. You’re tempted to make light cav and Sakkas, but you really need melee and ranged and the rest of the city-busting package. Light cav is nice for pillaging, which you can use to help your economy, which is going to need help because you are going to be shortchanging development to some degree to make units, but pulling off a pillage economy is a skill that takes some time to master, so you can’t shortchange development too much.
You should have campuses in most if not all of the cities you settle or conquer. As they grow larger and can build more districts, commercial hubs or harbors are a good second priority, because payroll for a big military is also big, and upgrading your units is done with money. You also need to keep up with the civics tree, so theater squares are a consideration as well. I like industrial zones for their help with production, but many players put a lower priority on them. Encampments aren’t actually a huge priority. They’re definitely nice to have for conquest, especially the great generals, but keeping ahead in tech and having enough money to upgrade your units are need-to-haves. Save up enough money and you can buy a great general.