Much like Epic9, which emerged in the discussions following Epic4, Epic12 came out of the discussions that followed the Epic8 game. It became apparent in that game that certain people (*cough* me *cough*) had used the purchasing of workers and large-scale unit upgrades to gain a significant advantage over the AI civs. Whether that advantage stepped over the line into the realm of exploitativeness is debatable, but Sirian decided to give us a game in which all such things were off the table period. The rules for Epic12 came down as follows:
1) No acquiring foreign workers through diplomacy. Ever. The only way to get them would be through warfare.
2) No upgrading units. Ever. Units must stay the way they are permanently.
3) No pillaging of your own lands to disconnect resources.
4) No trading away of any "last resource/luxury"; one must be kept for yourself at all times.
5) No scrolling through cities during the production phase for any reason whatsoever.
6) No prebuilding or placeholders. Ever. Once a city starts work on something, it must finish it or switch off to wealth to get rid of all of its accumulated shields.
As you can imagine, those are some pretty brutal variant rules. The lack of prebuilding anything, at any time, ever, was probably the equivalent of increasing the game another difficulty level all by itself. But I like nothing better than a good challenge, so I dove into Epic12 with reckless abandon, determined to see what I could do with the very little I was given. The starting position did not make things any easier:
This was not one of those deceptive starting positions that actually is decent and only looks bad to start; no, I really was in the middle of a frozen wasteland here. However, there were a few grassland tiles and a game tile (if on tundra) in the area, so it was not a totally wasted spot. And the lake was able to provide fresh water, so at least it was not a dry start. However, it would be a lie to say that this was a good location, or even a decent one. The starting position stunk, and it was obviously another challenge to make the game harder. What would I be able to do with it?
I moved the scout two tiles east at first, and then decided to move the settler one tile east and found there. It would allow me to get some use from an otherwise pointless tundra tile and avoid wasting precious grassland tiles (which I would lose one by moving west or south). Zimbabwe started work on warriors - not scouts, since I expected to have to do some fighting with barbarians. I deliberately avoided popping the hut to the southwest until 3750BC, since having fewer cities than the average of all other civs makes it more likely to get a bonus settler. By that date, all of the AI civs would have had two cities founded and thereby increased my odds, but unfortunately that hut was deserted for me. I suspect that someone will get a settler there and have a substantially easier game than the rest of us who did not. Of course if I had not been expansionist, I would not have popped the hut due to risk of barbarians.
In 3550BC I made contact with the Romans. They were clearly close by, somewhere to the south and west. It was already becoming clear by this time that I was on a penninsula, sticking out to the north and east of a larger continent. I also should mention that most of that penninsula was nothing but tundra. Expanding south and west as soon as possible to claim the few good tiles available became the top early priority. I topped off my research on Bronze Working for a few gold in 3450BC with the Romans (I wanted to get to my UU as soon as I could) and then started a min-science research into Iron Working. In 3350BC I met up with the Aztecs, whose Jaguar Warrior moved out of the blackness and into a goody hut, which spawned barbarians that killed my scout! Talk about bad luck - and this was pretty much the way that diplomacy that Monty and I would run for most of the game. A bad omen to start off a bad relationship (but more on that later). This may have cost me being able to broker contact with the English around (whom I met later) - but then again maybe not. It was not a good break though.
I got lucky though in 3200BC, as the goody hut in the upper most northeast corner of my penninsula spawned a settler for me. Yes! What a boost. Unfortunately the spot where the settler popped out was horrible, and I decided to move him to greener pastures. It wasn't until 2900BC that I was able to found Ulundi in the location I wanted, a delay of a good 5-6 turns. The only other hut I popped gave me 25g (in 3000BC). So I did get a significant benefit from being expansionist, but I still would have much preferred another civ trait for this particular game. The other civs were so close, I couldn't use the ability to much effect. Militaristic was quite useful on the other hand; not for fighting wars, but for half-cost harbors! And on a map like this, many cities needed harbors just to get past size 3 or 4. It also helped early on against the barbs, which were a real pest. Fortunately Ulundi was set up as the "rape" city, the one that was hit over and over again by barbs. I learned that tactic from Epic4. Here's my situation in 2670BC when I took my first screenshot:
Ahhh, home sweet icicle. There are in fact a few grassland tiles on the south edge of the penninsula, but also desert to the west to go with the tundra to the north. That area up to the north was barbarian spawning ground for a very long time; good thing they went and sacked undefeded Ulundi and not settler-producing Zimbabwe. My first home-grown settler founded a city in 2430BC to the south. By this time I was already seeing Roman cities coming towards me. But between turns right after I founded Bapedi, my scouting warrior saw a Jag attack and capture the Roman city of Veii, then raze it to the ground. Rome and Azteca were already at war! And, from what I could see, the extremely early Golden Age of the Aztecs was allowing them to swarm and crush the Romans, who did not have iron as yet to produce legions. Wow - that was nothing short of shocking. I wonder what kind of effect that had on my game, and what others that didn't have the extremely early warfare will be like.
Not much happened for a while. Caesar extorted money from me in 2110BC, the same turn he captured an Aztec settler. They were really going at it from what I could see. I met Liz a couple turns later and dumped off all my gold for a tech or two, since Ulundi was about to be sacked by barbs again on the next turn. Too bad I couldn't have used the gold for an embassy... And in 1830BC, the Golden Age-enhanced Aztecs completed the Pyramids. Wow! I hadn't seen a wonder complete so early since the 1.21f patch days. The French snagged the Colossus due to cascade on the next turn, and that was it for the early wonders. With the Pyramids built, can you guess who's going to win between Rome and Azteca? Yep, Caesar's fate was probably sealed as early as that.
With the introductory phase of the game over, I started racing to complete the landgrab phase and snag enough territory to have a chance at winning the game.