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The rules of Cities and Knights state the following:

"...you may not purchase any improvements beyond the third level of a given color unless you have a city where you could build a metropolis."

Let's say someone has a metropolis built for Science (level 4) and I am currently holding a metropolis for Trade (level 4) though own no other cities. Does the rule imply that, even though the metropolis has already been taken for Science, I still cannot go past level 3 for Science?

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Correct, you cannot upgrade to another level 4 unless you first build another city. From the FAQ:

City Improvements and Metropolises - May I upgrade a city to 2 metropolises at the same time?

No. If you only have 1 city and already upgraded it to a metropolis, you are not allowed to build a 4th level of improvement in another area. Before you do this, you must upgrade another settlement to a city.

Although the question being asked is about placing 2 metropolises on one city, the answer provided specifically states that you are not allowed to build a 4th level of improvement in another area until you upgrade another settlement into a city.

This same question generated some discussion on BGG a while ago; most people seemed to agree with this interpretation, even though it is not fully clear.

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