Testing Report #2: Rise of Rome Conquest
My second game was a test of the Rise of Rome scenario, one which had not been available to us testers in the initial build of the beta test. Was there any doubt that someone named Sulla would be testing this one?
Scenario: Rise of Rome
Civ Choice: Rome
Clock: 13 hours, 53 minutes
Result: Domination Win in 35AD (Turn 77 of 130)
Roman Breakdown of Scoring
Happy Citizens: 1497
Content Citizens: 136
Future Tech: 0 (as always)
Temple of Artemis (Rome): 350BC (starts with)
Great Library (Rome): 310BC (leader-rushed)
Colossus (Carthage): 265BC (hand-built)
Oracle (Macedon): 255BC (hand-built)
Great Lighthouse (Rome): 240BC (hand-built)
Bacchanalia (Rome): 205BC (leader-rushed)
Mausoleum (Egypt): 185BC (hand-built)
Copernicus (Rome): 25BC (hand-built)
Hadrian's Wall (Rome): 15AD (hand-built)
Summary of Events
I started out by noting all of the different advantages that Rome has in this scenario. Rome gets a free leader to start, has five of the six civ traits, starts with the Temple of Artemis, gets two-move settlers that only cost one population point, and has the ability to produce those awesome legions. Whew! The one thing that Rome does not have to its advantage is the situation at the start of the game; the other three playable civs all start out with more territory, cities, and units. Therefore I resolved to do whatever I could to jump into the lead as quickly as possible.
Taking stock of the situation, I saw that Italy itself was extremely fertile and that my core cities already started with all of the basic city improvements in place. This freed them up to work almost exclusively on military production. I designated Neapolis as my "citizen-producing" city, which would do nothing but produce settlers for the entire game in order to work towards the domination territory requirement. I had the city located where modern Venice is (can't remember the name) do nothing but produce workers for almost the whole game as well; nothing is more important that workers for a successful game. They would be instrumental in laying down the roads I needed to advance through rugged terrain and in laying down all the tile improvements across Italy. I used the starting citizens to found two cities right away in Italian Gaul which would be highly productive for the whole game. Research was slammed onto Literature to start so I could rush the Great Library with my starting leader.
I contacted the Celts and the Macedonians on the first turn and the deal-making began. Mathematics and Contact with Carthage got me Contact with Persia + 50g + two Macedonian workers. Mathematics to Persia then got me dyes, 80g, and another worker. Alphabet and Masonry to the Celts got me their large world map and all of their money (30g). Then I traded my new world map around for more gold and two more Persian workers. This was too easy, like the Middle Ages scenario. I then signed both Macedon and Persia to right of passage (RoP) agreements after establishing embassies with both. The plan was simple; I was locked in perpetual war with Carthage, so they had to go first. I would be super-friendly to both Macedon and Persia while fighting Carthage to avoid the possibility of a two-front war. Once taking out Carthage, I would wheel around to the north to deal with the Celts and Goths to secure any attack from that direction and then push east until I met the domination requirement. Of course, this was Emperor, so it shouldn't be that easy.
Popping a goody hut in 340BC got me Astronomy, which I traded away for more gold (Rome shouldn't be expansionist, but more on that later). By 330BC I deemed I had enough units to capture Sicily, so I carried out my first attack with legions and entered into a golden age. The whole island was mine by 305BC, by which time I had already finished researching Literature and rushed the Great Library with my starting leader. Next up were Corsica and Sardinia, which I had to capture to secure Italy from a coastal landing by Carthaginian units. Corsica fell in 285BC, at which time I also discovered Tactics and upgraded my legions to level two. I traded for Construction with Persia in 280BC and set my land-locked cities onto building acqueducts so that they could top size 6 (I had to get my population up for the domination win too). Sardinia was completely conquered by 265BC and then it was a matter of preparing for an invasion of Africa itself.
I finished the Great Lighthouse in 235BC, which I had used the Golden Age bonus production to build quickly. It was a great boon to me, allowing my galleys to make the trip from Sicily to Africa in one turn instead of two. The same turn saw 14 legions (level 2) land right outside the gates of Carthage. I took the city on the next turn easily and Carthage's capital jumped to Spain (rendering their other African core cities largely useless). By this time I had a large numerical supremacy in Africa, but I was surprised to get the news in 225BC that the Celts had declared war on me, threatening my ill-defended northern colonies which were there only to take up territory towards the domination requirement. They signed the Scythians into war against me immediately, and the Goths into war against me a few turns later. All of a sudden I had a real struggle on my hands up in the north!
Meanwhile, down in Africa I had popped a leader in 210BC in the fighting to the south of Carthage (the unit was renamed "Scipio Africanus, of course). Since I had just discovered The Republic, I traded away my tech lead to Macedon in order to get Engineering and Philosophy, which allowed me to use the leader to rush the Bacchanalia a few turns later in Italy. Now that I had The Republic, I also had the well-nigh unstoppable level 3 legions who continued to carve a path of destruction across Africa. In the north, my policy of building barracks first in every city payed off as I was able to cash-rush veteran legions in every threatened city and hold off the barbarian invasions. Still, it was a close thing at some points. I got peace with the Scythians in 190BC and peace with the Celts in 185BC after taking the city of Massilia. This opened up the way to Spain, and soon a flood of citizens were roaming down the roads to found new cities in southern Gaul and northern Spain. Peace with the Goths was reached a short while later in 170BC, with me even getting a junk city in the process for killing enough of their units. I gave the barbarian civs free luxuries in order to get them back to polite and so they wouldn't distract me again. Divide and conquer, that's always my strategy against the AI.
I discovered Imperialism in 160BC, which meant I had already finished the tech tree on turn 38 of 130 (this is too soon, but more on that later). I didn't revolt to the new government because I was doing just fine in Monarchy and didn't feel like going through 5-8 turns of anarchy. By 125BC my score had topped Persia for the first time on the F8 screen and there was no possible way that I could lose the game; thereafter the whole thing was largely mop-up work. I also noticed that my cities which had gone over size 12 were producing pollution (huh? that can't be right). In 80BC I evicted Carthage from Africa completely, leaving only a handful of cities in Spain. Since I was nowhere close to the domination requirement, I shifted more cities over to producing citizens to found cities out in the Sahara and in the northern regions of the map. I entered the Modern Age (yes, the Modern Age; that's a bug) in 75BC and finished off Carthage in 55BC. I popped a leader in the very final battle against their civ and used it to rush the Heroic Epic on the site of my victory.
By this time I was ridiculously far out in front of the other civs and so I simply began gunning for the victory as soon as possible. I declared war on the Celts in 40BC and quickly began slicing through their weakly defended cities with Heavy Cavalry supported by legions. I recruited the Goths in to join me, not because I needed their help but because there were some 30-40 berserkers walking around in my territory and I didn't want the Celts to sign the Goths into war against ME. The Celtic capital was captured in 20BC and they were evicted from the Continent in 1AD; I began rushing galleys to finish them off in Britain. With the game now nearly over, I attacked Macedon in full force in 5AD to get the last few population and territory points on my side. Although I broke no deals in doing so, I did feel guilty about going after my long-time ally. I ripped through the northern Balkans, but as I approached modern-day Macedon and Albania I faced a brutal counter-attack from a good 25 Heavy Cavalry that knocked me back a line of cities. It was one of the best attacks I've seen from an AI civ in ages. I fought back and was turning the tide in my favor when my final victory eliminating the Celts in 30AD triggered domination (along with dozens of cities in Iberia, Gaul, and northern Africa). Here was the final minimap to show the territory needed for domination:
Like the Middle Ages scenario, this one really is a lot of fun. I again got the feel of the era from the units, the civs, the locked alliances, etc. On the whole this is a good scenario and it "works" for me. But there are serious balancing issues at the moment which preclude this from being in a finished form. I'll list them as I came across them in my game.
Let's start with the civ traits. All of the playable civs start with two civ traits - except for Rome, which has five. FIVE! It's one thing to give Rome an advantage, it's another thing to just go overboard. The main problem with this scenario right now is that it's just too easy for Rome to win. This game was on Emperor, but it felt more like Regent playing as Rome. I guarantee that dalholl playing as the Persians on Monarch had a far more difficult game than I did here as the Romans on Emperor. Rome is supposed to start from behind and have to play its way out of a hole to win and achieve domination. Well, right now the hole's not deep enough, so I'll be recommending ways mostly to tone down some of Rome's extremely strong advantages. In terms of civ traits, it's as simple as axing some of them. Suggested Fix: Get rid of Rome's scientific and expansionist traits. It makes excellent sense for Rome to be industrious, militaristic, and commercial (the three traits that fit them best), as well as giving them a bonus for the game, having three traits instead of two. Giving them five is definitely overkill. Since when were the Romans ever scientific?! And do the Romans really need to have the goody hut bonus that comes from being expansionist? I don't think so. Cut out these two and you have a much more logical balance among the civ traits.
Like England in the Middle Ages scenario did originally, Rome starts with a free leader at the beginning of the game. I'll say the same thing I did for that scenario: this is silly and doesn't make much sense. It's like saying to the player, "Here, take your choice of wonders!" No civ should ever start out the game with a leader; it just doesn't make good sense from a balance standpoint to give certain civs free wonders and not others. On Deity, for example, you could rush the Great Library and never worry about techs again (bad thing). And of all civs in this game, the one that DOESN'T need a leader to start the game is Rome. Suggested Fix: Just cut out the leader. Rome doesn't need it, and right now it gives them an even bigger advantage. If you are hell-bent on keeping this advantage for Rome, then please at least replace it with an empty army, which would make more logical sense for Rome and be a much smaller impact on the game.
Roman citizens were the next thing I noticed in this game as being somewhat out of balance. They only cost one population point instead of two and get two movement instead of one, all for the same cost? That's an enormous advantage, and distinctly unfair when it comes to the other civs. These citizens (or should that be Quirites?) need to be toned down somewhat because they are drastically better than the common settler than the other civs build. Suggested Fix: There's a couple of different things that I would recommend doing. One would be to cut the two movement down to one, but I don't like this idea because the whole point of the unit is to show that the Roman population was mobile. Another option is to make the unit cost two population like a normal settler; this makes a lot more sense and would be a good idea. The final option would be to increase the cost of the citizen, and it's this one that I think should be implemented. Like the legion, the citizen should be a superior unit to what the other civs have - for a higher price. Change the cost of the citizen to 40 shields instead of 30 and this unit would be nicely balanced with its extra movement and smaller population cost.
Communications trading is also a problem in this scenario too. While not as bad as it was in the Middle Ages scenario, it is still possible to reap large benefits on the first turn of trading with the AI civs just by trading around contacts. This is not the ideal situation, especially when it comes to the workers that the player can pick up in the opening round of trading. Suggested Fix: First and foremost, workers should never start the game in the capital city. This goes for ALL conquest scenarios; it's an open invitation for good players to buy them up and gain a big advantage. Simply placing all workers to start one tile outside the capital city would be a a very good fix. Secondly, I would recommend having the five Mediterranean civs start with contact with each other. It could be logically argued that they all would have known one another already through trade, and in terms of game balance this would prevent any big communication trades from taking place on the first turn. The barbarian civs should not be known at the beginning of the game, since they start out in the northern wilderness. This would be an easy fix to implement and would prevent the flurry of trading that allowed me to pick up 5 workers and several hundred gold on the first turn of the game.
This next part will address the other problem with the opening turn of trading, the fact that Rome starts with a tech lead over everyone else. Simply put, this lets Rome trade for too much in the opening turns of the game. The Roman player can quickly get all of the gold from all of the other civs by trading away his monopoly on the starting techs of Mathematics and Monarchy. I know that Rome was given these extra starting techs to represent the fact that they were technologically more advanced than their neighboring civs, but again it presents a problem in terms of balance. Maybe Rome should start out one tech up on the other civs, not several like the Romans do now (?)
This plays into another problem with the game, the fact that the tech costs are too LOW at the moment. I finished the tech tree in my game by turn 38, and while it was an Emperor game, players still shouldn't be finishing the tech tree 100 turns before the scenario is supposed to end. Ideally, the tech tree would be finished around turns 80-100, but with the current costs that just isn't going to happen in competitive games. Perhaps the problem really isn't the tech costs (although they are low) but with the fact that Rome starts with about 2/3 of the tree already completed. There just aren't that many techs left to go at the start of the game! I don't know if this was the intention behind the scenario, but research plays very little part in this game. In any case, I never turned on research or traded for any techs after 160BC, and that's pretty early. Suggested Fix: Either increase the cost of the later techs or start all of the civs a few techs back on the tree. One would simply make it longer for the end of the tree to be reached, the other would change a lot of the game dynamics by making units come along later in the game. I leave it up to the game's designers to decide which is preferable. ;) But right now, the tech tree ends far too soon.
A couple words should be said about the balance of the different civ unique units (UUs) as well. The Roman legions are extremely strong and versatile with their ability to lay down roads and fortresses (I love that animation, by the way), but this seems to be balanced out pretty well by their cost. The level three legions in particular are massively strong at 6/5/1, but their slow movement and very high cost at 80 shields made them not a serious balancing issue. I found myself using mostly heavy cavalry by the end of the game because they could move twice as fast, with a spattering of legions thrown in for defense at critical locations. The problem lies more with the UUs of other civs, which seem to be at a large disadvantage compared to Rome. The Hoplite (3/3/1) and the Immortal (4/2/1) both cost 40 shields and are balanced compared to one another; the only problem is that the level one legion is 4/3/1, gets the hp bonus, and can also lay roads for the same cost. This is not balancing. Even worse is the Carthaginian War Elephant, which is 4/2/1 and costs 50 shields, as well as requiring the scare ivory resource. This tilts the balance a little too much in favor of Rome, who should be dominating later in the game with their level three legions, not in the beginning with their first-level ones. Suggested Fix: Make the Hoplite and Immortal cost 30 shields instead of 40. This would give them an early-game advantage compared to Rome which would fade over time as Rome got better legions, which would seem to make a lot of sense. The poor Carthaginian War Elephant should simply go to 2 movement instead of one; if it were 4/2/2 at a cost of 50 shields it would be a decent match for the Roman legions. It would then logically upgrade to heavy cavalry (5/2/2 at 60 shields) and would make perfect sense. The barbarian UUs are fine and look very good the way they are.
The final problem is with the victory requirements. Domination is the only non-time victory enabled, so it has to be the one that the player shoots for. The problem is that the endgame of this scenario inevitably seems to turn into an uninteresting mop-up phase in which the victor has long been decided. As I mentioned, my score passed that of Persia in 125BC (turn 45 of 130) and after that point I knew there was nothing that any of the other civs could possibly do to stop me from winning. I pushed hard for domination so that my game could be over; my score was well over 5000 even before I got the victory points, almost 2000 more than the nearest competitor. This is not a good situation; the end of the game should be interesting too if at all possible.
I also can't seem to decide if the domination requirements are too high or not. On the one hand, it takes a truly enormous amount of the world's territory to meet the 25% requirement for domination. On the other hand, the best way to do this frequently involves founding useless cities in the wilderness to increase the territory requirement rather than actually going after the other civs. I mean, why should I slog my way through the Balkans to pick up land from Macedon when I can settle some useless desert cities in the Sahara for the same effect? Something needs to be done to alter this, though exactly what is a tricky issue. Suggested Fix: There are no easy answers here; this is a complex issue and will require lots of work to fix. My preliminary suggestion is to INCREASE the population requirement and DECREASE the territory requirement. If you want to win by population, you can achieve that best by capturing enemy cities with high population (this is due to the fact that a size 12 city doesn't equal 12 size-1 cities, but more like 60 of them). I would like to see how a 60% population/20% territory requirement would play out. It would likely make the player focus more on attacking the enemy civs instead of settling junk cities, but I could be wrong. As for the fact that the player tends to end way out in front compared to the AI civs, from which point they cannot catch him... well, I'm open to suggestions there. :) Maybe a good idea would be to make the AI civs more aggressive in settling new cities; the ones I saw did very little founding of new cities and thus could easily lose on score to territory alone.
I'll be submitting bug reports on these later today, but here's a short list of what I saw.
- The citizen is listed in the Civilopedia as providing two population when merged to a city when it actually only provides one (thankfully!)
- A colony on an ivory resource displays a dyes graphic instead of an ivory one.
- Roads give four movements instead of three in this scenario. This is a great idea, due to the large size of the map and the nature of the Roman roads, but it needs to be documented in the Civilopedia or on the start-up screen somewhere.
- When attacking Carthage, a galley was displayed as the top defender over a War Elephant.
- The tech Imperialism is shown on the F6 screen as only needing the tech Republic to research, when it in fact requires the tech Philosophy as well.
- The Bacchanalia seemed to make citizens content in some of my cities but not in others. I don't understand this one; will definitely need some look at the save game to see what's going on.
- Cities can grow past size 12 in this game without hospitals. While I'm sure that's intention, the pollution that size 13+ cities produce would seem to be a mistake. Industrial-style pollution makes no sense and should not be occurring. Even worse, there is no worker button to clean it up (the Shift-C hotkey is disabled). I had to use the Shift-P automate command to clean up the pollution. Definitely a bug.
- When finishing the tech tree, I jumped through three different "welcome to the next age" screens (the ones where it displays a city changing to the next era) in a row. I then found myself using the Modern Age leaderhead graphic, the Modern Age worker graphics, and got the Modern Age music. This was... somewhat out of place. :) The city graphics, however, stayed in their ancient age form. Clearly a bug going on here.
Veni, Vidi, Vici! I'd like to play the Carthaginians next to see if they have any chance of surviving, locked into war with Rome. I do like this scenario, once the bugs and balance problems are ironed out it should be a great deal of fun to play. Thanks for reading! :D
Impact and Later Changes
I had a pretty big effect on the testing of this scenario. Here's the list of changes in the next test version, many lifted word-by-word from my report:
Changed (Carthaginian) War Elephant from 4.2.1 to 4.2.2, and gave it a 1HP bonus
Increased Galley’s transport capacity from 2 to 3
Increased cost of each of the three Legionary UU by 10
Increased research costs of all Civ Advances
Increased costs of most wonders & small wonders by about 20%
Rome no longer has the Expansionist & Scientific civ attributes
Rome no longer starts with Monarchy tech, and starts with Oligarchy government
Replaced all leaders with “empty” Armies
Changed Domination victory levels to 20% territory & 60% population
Deleted workers in capitals
Workers can now be assigned to clean up pollution
Added some improvements (especially Harbors and Courthouses) to several cities
Enabled “Allow Cultural Conversions”
Added several workers to all civs except Rome
Deleted “The Pentagon” and “Military Academy” improvements.
“Hadrian’s Wall” now gives a Wall improvement in every city (continental effect)
Decreased “Bacchanalia’s” Happy-All-Cities faces from 4 to 3 & increased cost to 500
Increased cost of most techs
On tech tree, added missing arrow from Philosophy to Imperialism
Carthaginian War Elephant will now upgrade to Heavy Cavalry
Cost of Roman Citizen increased from 30 to 40
Barricades can be built after mastering Siegecraft
New Tech & Improvement: Medicine & Hospital (nec. For city size 12+)
Added art for Heavy Cavalry
MUCH work on Civilopedia for this scenario; please post BUG TRACKER ENTRY of any errors or bad links you find.
Do you think they were listening? Most of these changes remained more or less permanent, and I am happy to say that this conquest bears more of my touch than any other. Rome also no longer starts with the Temple of Artemis, and the other civs also have 3 civ traits. Much better balance now than in the version I played.