Game of the Month 10: Lowest Scoring Challenge!

I had no plans ever to play another game in the Game of the Month (GOTM) competition, since games played only for score all tend to turn out the same way. Reach the domination threshold as soon as possible, then milk your game for ages. I've been there and done that before, and was successful when I tried it (a 4th place and 7th place finish). But doing that over and over again in every game? Too boring for my tastes. I'm done with playing games for score; I play them for fun now. So it was my expectation that I would not be playing in any more of the GOTM competitions.

However, when I was browsing through the GOTM forum recently, a thread called the "Lowest Scoring Challenge" caught my eye. Apparently col and Phillip_martin had decided to hold an informal contest to see who could have the lowest-scoring victory in GOTM10. Now this was my kind of thing! I would never have played an uninteresting Regent pangea game ordinarily, but playing it to get the lowest score possible? Now that's a different sort of challenge! I was going to have to see what I could do here.

OK, how does one go about getting the fewest possible points? Score is calculated based entirely on territory and population; the more of each, the higher the score. Thus getting the lowest score would focus on having the lowest possible territory and population. But the player would still actually have to WIN the game, so you couldn't be too excessive or the AI would just beat you. This sounded like a One City Challenge (OCC) game to me, since having only 1 city forever would guarantee both. And, despite what you might think, a OCC game is not all that difficult to win. So I would do a OCC game and try to finish at the latest possible date to minimize the points that the player receives for finishing before 2050AD. A 20k cultural victory was by far the most likely way to win, and the goal I would shoot for.

The starting position for this game was excellent. It had everything I wanted except access to the coast (which allows the building of some extra wonders). I resolved to move the worker one tile east onto the bonus grassland, and if I didn't see coast, to found in the starting spot. Well, sure enough I could see water peeking out from the fog after moving the worker, so I moved the settler down the river to the coast. I founded Paris in 3850BC in a location that lacked a lot of shields, but did have access to the sea. It was a tradeoff, but having access to the coastal wonders is just an enormous advantage in a OCC game. In my opinion, it was worth it. Here's a picture of the location:

Editor's Note: All of my pictures of Paris have been lost. To provide some indication of the terrain, I pulled a screenshot from Zachriel's GOTM10 report, which is amazingly still online after all these years. In my game, Paris was placed on the red dot tile, and as a One City Challenge game, it would be my only city.

The first build in Paris was a temple. Of course the French do not start with the tech Ceremonial Burial, so I prebuilt the temple with the Pyramids (the French are industrious, and thus start with the Masonry tech). I researched Ceremonial Burial at max rate and got it in 12 turns; Paris completed a temple around 3000BC. Oh, I should mention that I wrote down my build order for the whole game, so I'll be posting that at the end for the curious. The next build was two warriors for scouting and defense, then I started on the Oracle. That's what you see building in the picture; the date on the picture is 1990BC.

I should have probably built a spearman for defense too, as I was running an awfully big gambit with barbarians by leaving my capital open like that. But this was Regent, and I wasn't much worried about barbarians. It could have cost me dozens of turns of production though; this was a foolish and unneccesary risk. Naturally none of the other civs were able to put up much of a fight on the Oracle (their cities were all tiny from building settlers non-stop), and so I completed it in 1375BC. I next built a warrior and then started building a granary. Yes, a granary. Do you have any idea how much faster a city grows with one compared to without one? I needed to get to size 12 ASAP to pull in as many shields as possible. It was not a build choice I regretted.

My warriors had been finding other civs while out there scouting. I met the Aztecs first (of course), followed by the Russians and English. They had contact with other civs, which I didn't want to buy. After researching a couple of key early techs, I had set Paris to 10% science and started running the min science tactic on the tech Writing (taking advantage of the fact that you always get a tech in 40 turns if you put at least 1 beaker into it). When I finally got Writing in 1225BC I was far behind in tech, but had over 350g in my treasury to play around with. What's even better is the fact that the other civs had just discovered MapMaking. It was time for the "turn of deals."

This one turn (1225BC) took almost a half hour to play through, simply so that I could get the max value of everything on trades. I started out 3 or 4 techs behind and needing contact with the Romans, Germans, Iroquois, and Americans. So I started by trading my World Map to the Aztecs for contact with the Romans. I traded them my World Map and Writing (heh, they were behind) for contact with the other three civs. I bandied my world map around again to them for outdated techs like Warrior Code, the Wheel, and Mathematics. Then I went to England (who had the most expensive world map) and bought it from them for all of my gold and 2 or 3gpt. I then proceeded to trade that around, and got all of my money back and then some. Finally, I used the money from the world map brokering to buy the current techs and achieve tech parity. I had bankrupted myself, but now was at tech parity and had everyone's world map. Not too shabby when you consider I only had one city! By playing the middleman, I was able to snap up many techs for vitrually no price throughout the game - and that's the real place that a OCC is won.

After building the granary, I started working on the Colossus. I used my money to establish embassies with all the other civs, and began monitoring the progress of other wonders. When I saw that cascade from the Pyramids was going to take the Great Library as well, I switched Paris to the Library in hopes of ending the cascade cold. I wouldn't have been able to get it, except... I had been checking with the other civs a lot and buying workers from them. When Paris hit size 8, I merged 3 foreign workers into it, bringing its population instantly to size 11 and increasing its shield output substantially. As a result, I built the Great Library in 490BC. My science went to 0% (actually it was there already, but you get the idea) and I settled back into a very nice position.

The cascade when the Pyramids completed took the Hanging Gardens and Great Wall, but stopped there. A lot of civs lost a ton of shields there; I had done the right move to snap up the Great Library and end it. My next build was a spearman, since I was getting a serious amount of barbarian activity and my warriors couldn't handle it alone. I was pretty lucky that 3 warriors and a spearman were able to keep out the barbs, but most of them were elite by this point. After the spearman, I built a normal library to complement my great one, followed by the Colossus. I should mention that I absolutely love the Colossus in OCC games; it's like doubling your income. It also only costs 200 shields and pumps out 3 culture/turn, which is a really good deal. It completed in 50BC.

Next build was an archer to kill some troublesome barb camps nearby, though fortunately the other civs were starting to eliminate the barbs by settling near me. I next built a Cathedral (250AD) and a Colossuem (320AD) for the culture they provided. I was up to something like 30 culture/turn at this point, and had the highest overall culture of any civ - ha! That would go down in time, of course. The Great Library kept me up in tech while allowing me to accumulate a huge amount of money; I don't like the Library normally, but it sure is good in OCC games. This was my situation in the early Middle Ages in 430AD:

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Krasnoyarsk tried to flip to me at one point; it was so sad that I had to reject it. "Awww... they want to join my civ SO badly!" You can see I was getting ready to build the Sistine Chapel and its very nice 6 culture/turn; I had started prebuilding it with Sun Tzu's before Theology was discovered naturally. In 480AD my Great Library obsoleted itself with Education - it wasn't a good haul at all, as Engineering didn't even come from it. But I did have over 2000g in my treasury, and that would allow me to stay caught up on tech through more excellent trading all throughout the Middle Ages.

I built the Sistine Chapel in 640AD and immediately began another wonder. There was a lot of cascading going on at this time, so I had to be rather selective. I should mention that by this point only the English, Germans, Russians, and Americans were caught up on tech. The other civs had fallen behind - in some cases far behind (Rome, who was down to a few cities). The Russians were usually a tech or two back, which was great because I could buy a new tech at 4th civ prices and trade it to them for another one at 5th civ price. That's how you stay caught up in tech on a very limited income. Anyway, my next project was to get Copernicus, which would be good for culture and have a magnified effect in a city with the Colossus. Copernicus' Observatory is cheap at only 400 shields, and I was thus able to get it in 860AD.

Immediately upon completing Copernicus, there was massive cascade to Smith's and Bach's. I didn't want either one (too pricey at 600 shields and not enough culture from Smith's, not to mention the fact that neither would do much with only one city) so I set my sights on getting Newton's University. Newton's only costs 400 shields, provides 6 culture/turn, and would have a big effect on my one city. I built a normal university first (completed in 970AD) then started prebuilding for Newton's with Magellan's. I loved having Magellan's to prebuild with; I must have gotten 50 turns of prebuilding with it - another reason why I like coastal starts for OCC games. When Theory of Gravity was discovered I already had over 300 shields built up toward the wonder. I took it in 1240AD, just before a massive cascade took out all the other medieval wonders (except for Shakespeare, which had not been reached yet).

Now that I had Newton's University I was essentially guaranteed of winning by 20,000 culture. But just to make sure, I wanted to secure Shakespeare's Theatre and its 8 culture/turn for my beautiful capital city. I went back onto a prebuild with Magellan's again, and started researching Free Artistry myself. A few turns before I was due to discover the tech, the AI civs discovered it and I bought it from them. I had over 200 shields built up by that time, so the other civs never had a chance to snag the wonder. Shakespeare made his debut performance in Paris in 1355AD.

I planned to go back and get Magellan's now, but 5 turns later an English fishing town that had been building it forever finally completed it. Oh well; I got plenty of prebuilding use out of it. Now that the wonders were done for a while, I could start building some long-neglected stuff, such as a marketplace (1385AD), a bank (1430AD), and a harbor (1455AD). About this time the AI civs entered the Industrial Age, and I traded the last of my accumulated gold to get there too (down to 400g in treasury). Well, it looked like I had stayed caught up for the Middle Ages, but the Industrial Age techs were just going to be too expensive for me to stay caught up on. Then I realized something: it would only take me 12 turns to research Medicine on the tech tree. What? It should be more than that! But wait, I had the Colossus, Copernicus, and Newton's all in one city. Why was I buying tech - I was a research powerhouse! Knowing that the AI civs ALWAYS go for Steam Power first in the Industrial Age, I started researching Medicine at close to max rate. A new phase of the game was underway: the age of the Super Science City!

I next built a factory (1515AD), then a coal plant (1550AD) and a hospital (1565AD). When I got Medicine, I had a tech no one else had - and at 2nd civ prices, you can get a TON of stuff for a tech. Steam Power had been devalued by trading amongst the other civs, so I got Steam Power, 100g, and 50gpt from England for Medicine. Then I got another 50gpt from America for Medicine. And so on, until that one tech had pulled in some 120gpt AND Steam Power through trading. Nice! I traded for iron but no one had an excess coal source... until I got miraculously lucky and one moved into my territory! I can't believe that. Here's a look at the super science city running at full tilt in the 17th century:

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This was just after I had built Theory of Evolution in the same year (1625AD), getting Atomic Theory and Electronics as usual from it. I let the AI civs have Universal Suffrage - I just wanted to make sure I would get the Hoover Dam. I brokered Atomic Theory immediately to bankrupt the other civs, and ended up getting over 400gpt from it. After Suffrage was built and the cascade ended (and Paris guaranteed of getting Hoover) I sold Electronics for an equally ridiculous amount. I was staying caught up on tech - and my treasury was skyrocketing, up to over 10,000 gold, then over 20,000 gold! That should NOT be happening, but it shows how the AI civs really do not know what they're doing at all. And that a clever player can make due and win in almost any situation possible.

No one else had a chance to get the Hoover Dam (of course), and I finished it in 1695AD. With the addition of the industrious-valued Hoover Dam, the French entered into a late and somewhat useless golden age! My shield production went up (uselessly; I didn't need to build anything now) but more importantly my commerce went through the roof as well. A city with the Colossus, Copernicus, Newton's, and in a Golden Age? Uh oh. Here's a picture of my science running to max effect in the golden age:

Wow, the game doesn't even have room on the screen for that many beakers! What a crazy game, and definitely a lot of fun. After finishing Hoover's, I built the Intelligence Agency for its minimal culture (hey, had to use the Golden Age production on something!) and then built... a barracks! Yes, I didn't build a barracks until 1735AD in my city. I think that shows where the priorities for this game lay (for much of the game I had 1 spearman and 1 worker - and that was all in terms of units). Then I built two infantry, and that was it. Wealth for essentially the rest of the game.

I wasn't really paying attention to tech, and so when we entered the modern era I didn't pay much attention to the UN. I didn't have a longer prebuild than 3 turns with a Police Station, so there was no real way to prebuild for it. When the tech was discovered, I started building the UN, but investigations in other cities proved I would be one turn too short, even after mining all my tiles and starving Paris. Oh well, guess I should have kept the Intelligence Agency as a prebuild. I wasn't really worried though, beacause with all the wars going on out there, no one who got the UN would want to hold the vote. The Americans ended up getting it; I was able to switch off to the SETI Program and thus not waste any shields.

Around 1850AD I sold off my library and university to lower my culture and thus DELAY my victory a few turns in order to get fewer points upon winning. Kind of wacky, but it was the goal of the game, after all. Out there in the world, things were not so pretty. The Iroquois started a war to get a colonial city on one of the offshore islands, and were ganged up upon and eliminated as a result. Then the Romans provoked someone and were killed as well. The Aztecs then attacked Germany, and they were turned upon and destroyed as well. I watched this amusedly with an explorer in foreign territory, and got to see some fun battles. All of these civs were killed during the 19th century - it was a pretty violent one! Towards the end of the 19th century, Germany had become the target and was getting rocked by a coalition of all the other civs again. I wasn't going to delay my victory any longer, as Russia was getting close to a domination victory.

Then in 1890AD something happened that I'd never seen before: a little box popped up and asked me to vote for a candiate for the UN: Abe or Catherine. Goodness, they aren't actually holding the VOTE, are they? I abstained (of course) and prayed that I hadn't just lost the game. Results: Abe votes for Abe. Liz votes for Abe. Catherine votes for Catherine. And Bis and I abstain. Whew! If ONE more vote had gone to Abe, he wins the game. I was shaken - this was NOT funny. I always, always control the UN to prevent this from happening; being on the receiving end of the vote of no fun at all. It was time to win the game before they could hold another vote. Fortunately, I would win a cultural victory before the next vote could be held.

The drama-less result was reached in 1902AD. Here's a picture, along with my city the previous turn:

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Note that I have over 15,000g in the bank even as I research Space Flight. I was still caught up in tech even at the end. This game was a ton of fun, and more than worth the minimal effort it took to play. I did this whole game in one day over three different sittings. It was about 6 or 7 hours total, all told. And it certainly was a lot of fun. Here are the last two pictures for you to enjoy, the final histograph/map and a picture showing how much everyone loved me at the end. Best of luck to all who participated in this game. :)

They love me! They really love me! ;)

One-City Cultural Victory
581 points