Apolyton Demogame: Turning of the Tide

While the war against Templars and Imperio was going on, we had been steadily researching Nationalism in the background. The goal here was to unlock Nationhood civic and set up the possibility for drafting, however we all knew that the tech would also enable the Taj Mahal, which would be a very nice wonder to snag. The problem was that PAL was definitely going to reach Nationalism before us, and they would have a head start on the wonder, plus they were Industrious to boot! And with PAL already having the Mausoleum for longer Golden Ages, and in the position of tech leader, Taj was important to build simply for denial value. Therefore we worked on putting together a plan to steal the wonder out from under their noses, in a bit of an unexpected place:

Other option is Bluebell Woods, as mentioned by someone else somewhere else.

That's a lot of forests! If we could get a missionary into here from A1, those forests are all 70 [EDIT: 75] hammers, (30 base hammers +25% forge, +25% org. rel, +100% for having marble). The Taj Mahal costs 700 hammers so if we were to purely chop the wonder then it needs 10 forest chops. We have ... 10 [EDIT: 9] forests . Regarding workers we could spare, the four at Green Acres will have just finished their duties. We also have the one that is at Bluebell already, plus we could spare Steve (from Frozen Clams) and Erik (from Cape Town).

Snagging Taj Mahal under PAL's noses would make me chuckle rather a lot. I think we could honestly do this. Let's get to work!

As sooooo said, all those modifiers in place made forest chops worth 75 shields each, so even though the young city of Bluebell Woods lacked any real kind of production or infrastructure, we could produce a brand new wonder there very quickly! It was all a matter of coordinating our workers, and lining up the chops ahead of time. That's the kind of thing our team was best at doing!

OK, let's assume we have 4 workers (Bernard, Steve, O'Brien and Helmholtz) in order to leave 2 workers for Sunrise's plans at Jericho. They each have to chop two forests each.

If the forest we want to leave is the plains forest I (for saxon to use), then we need one more worker turn because the tundra forest J takes an extra turn to chop. That can be gotten if we build a worker this turn at China Beach. Plan is: Turn 146 they each go into a forest. Steve to A, Helmholtz to J, Bernard to F and O'Brien to E. Turn 150 3 of the workers finish the chop. Helmholtz is still chopping the tundra tile. Turn 151 those 3 workers move into forests B, C and D. Helmholtz finishes his chop. Turn 152 Helmholtz moves into forest H and is joined by a new worker from China Beach. Turn 154 all of the forests finish chopping. Taj on turn 155.

We will want to get the other hammers probably from a whip of the forge. We may need to delay the forge by 1 turn, assuming we get nationalism on turn 149.

* * * * *

Eek, I allowed too many turns for the first chop. It's one less turn. Edited schedule:

Turn 146 they each go into a forest. Steve to A, Helmholtz to J, Bernard to F and O'Brien to E. Turn 149 3 of the workers finish the chop. Helmholtz is still chopping the tundra tile. Turn 150 those 3 workers move into forests B, C and D. Helmholtz finishes his chop. Turn 151 Helmholtz moves into forest H and is joined by a new worker from China Beach Other 3 workers start chopping. Turn 153 all of the forests finish chopping. Taj on turn 154.

That became the plan, with our target date of T154. Keep in mind that we would only finish researching Nationalism itself on T149, thus completing the Taj Mahal in a mere 5 turns! However, PAL had gotten to the tech well before us, on T145, so they had a major head start. Our hopes rested on the knowledge that PAL had already chopped literally every single forest in their core (as Multiplayer guys are wont to do) and didn't expect to be in a wonder race at all. We expected that PAL wouldn't try to whip Taj to completion, believing that they had the thing locked up easily. Hopefully they would be in for a big surprise!

Six turns later, Bluebell Woods looked a lot different:

We had a suggestion that the city be renamed to "Bluebell Fields" after the massive deforestation took place! And the celebrations kicked off on T153, because our number-crunching had identified that PAL was building Taj in the city of Thebes, and that they would have to whip the city in order to complete it ahead of us (or on the same turn). Thus when no whipping appeared on T153, we knew we were guaranteed to land the wonder ourselves the following turn!

Party time:

I'm highlighting "Project: Taj Mahal" here because it demonstrated all of our strengths as a team in microcosm. First, identifying a potential opportunity: "Hey, I think we might be able to beat PAL to the Taj Mahal!" Then working together to develop a plan to achieve our goals: "If we get Islam in the city, and chop these 8 forest tiles..." Next refining the plan over time to achieve maximum efficiency: "Look, if we do these five actions, we can finish the wonder a turn faster!" And all along using our C&D mechanics to know exactly what our opponents were doing, and where, and why: "If PAL doesn't whip, they can't finish Taj before T156!" The overall result was some slick team play, with contributions from at least a dozen different individuals, and some very impressive end results. It really was a blast working with this group.

Just to give you a taste of some of mostly_harmless' C&D stat mastery:

I keep track of ingame score increases. Then I take a screenshot from the globe view, to check all visible cities and a screenshot from the demo-table, obviously looking at best, average, worst rival population. After that it's just a little fiddling with the tables and the underlying maths to make my tables fit the numbers. Here an example of this turns population table:

City size and population in the left columns. Number of cities per size for each civ in the next columns.
The brownish numbers are the numbers you should find in the best / worst rival population category (well, only two of them obviously). The yellow number is the average number that should match the demo-table number. If it doesn't something is wrong.
Underneath the brown line, the civ size in terms of tiles they can work (excluding city centres). This number is actually more useful in judging a civ's strength. Look for example at Banana's size 18 city (with 3.2million citizens its more than all 7 Imperio cities combined, although they account for 55 worked tiles).

In parallel I keep track of each individual city in the game from the turn it was settled, regardless of it's visibility. Here an example of just PAL right from the start.
Size increase are coded green, whips are brown, growth-whips on the same turn are striped. Initially I was keeping track of culture to determine border pops (red letters) as well. But that got too messy after a while.

I think there is even more one can do if digging deeper through the screens and the underlying code. Sabotage costs for buildings could probably tell you something about what buildings are in the city (apart from the visual check).

I could go on further, but there's probably a limit to how many tables and charts and graphs the readers are willing to plow through.

In terms of the war, I already mentioned how the Templars were running around in circles with Aidun's strange diplomatic messages. This was kind of a weird conflict, in that both the Templars and Imperio wanted it to stop as soon as their initial strike failed, yet both also refused to back down without getting some kind of concessions from our team. Naturally, we weren't particularly eager to make those concessions, since we were winning militarily on the battlefield! Diplomacy wasn't going anywhere with the Templars, however we hoped that we might be able to get Imperio to turn on their allies. After all, Templars had no chance to be a major power in this game, yet if Imperio were to join with us and devour half of the Templar lands, they could still be nearly as strong as Realms Beyond. Imperio's own refusal to commit to the war effort similarly indicated that they were sitting on the fence and waiting to see which way the wind would blow next.

Time to try some more diplomacy with Imperio:

Realms Beyond to Imperio:
Hi Imperio,

Sorry for the delay in replying: we've not been ignoring you message, but rather we've been discussing in great detail our reply.

Be assured, PAL is currently winning this game. If we continue to fight each other PAL will win. Also, PAL already have caravels heading to the new continent...

Here is the current population breakdown:

PAL 72 - 11 cities
RB 55 - 10 cities
Imp 41 - 6 cities
Ban 40 - 7 cities
Tem 30 - 5 cities
Rab 12 - 5 cities

PAL is far ahead in population, and has lots more good land to settle. Also note that Templar who were at peace for 130 turns have as few cities as Rabbits, who have been fighting for their lives for half the game! And consider all the technologies you have given to Templars! With allies like Templars, you have no chance to win.

Your only hope of winning the game is to get majority of Templar lands. You have better land than we do and have bigger cities, so you'll be even with us in population if you get the majority of Templar lands. How will you achieve this? By making a alliance with Team RB to destroy Templars!

If you split Templar lands with us, our alliance will be able to take down PAL. If you keep trying to attack us with Templars, the best you can hope for is to get more of our continent before PAL consolidates control of their continent and comes to take you out. (PAL's continent is bigger than ours, so even if you + Templars miraculously gain full control of our entire continent PAL still wins.)

Let us know whether you would be interested in an alliance with us and we can work on the details. Be assured that we will say nothing about this to Templars: they have behaved so badly towards us that we will never make another deal with them.

We made our case in terms of an alliance against PAL. If Imperio were willing to join forces with Realms Beyond and work together to stop PAL, we were more than happy to give them some significant concessions, such as pretty much all of the Templar lands. The goal was stopping PAL - keep that in mind. As for the Templars, well, someone had to draw the short stick in the three-way scuffle on our continent, right?

This raised the issue of "would we make peace with Imperio if their price is giving them Cape Town?" once again. There was adamant refusal on the part of most of our team not even to consider this point, however a couple voices kept bringing it up. (I will not mention their names here, you can go look it up if you're truly curious.) As usual, sooooo was the voice of reason in quieting this crazy idea:

I'm pretty sure that we did consider the madcap idea of giving up our queen for a few pages. However, this is not a crushing mating attack, it's blundering the queen after capturing one or two minor pieces. Cape Town is a magnificent city and is not worth giving up for to capture Jericho and Jerusalem, especially as it means Imperio getting 3 other templar cities too. Plus there's the fact that we cannot trust Imperio further than we can throw them, that they'll be terrible allies due to their lack of communication and that they only have one flaky turnplayer who threatens to quit when he cannot connect to the server.

Well said, and enough of that idea! We didn't work our tails off defending one of the jewels of our empire just to hand it over to a team that's too scared to attack!

After three different chase-up attempts over the course of a full month, during which time we captured Jericho and destroyed the Templar army, Imperio finally responded:

Imperio to Realms Beyond:
Dear Realms.

We can ally with you for templars, if Constantinople, jerusalem, damascus and acre go for us.

Our terrain its in the middle of PAL and RB and u have many cities than ours. And pal ask to us if its possible pass troops for our terrain when he take out bananas. And u ask before for attack PAL. Dont want be the middle earth without nice benefits.

So what do u think?
kelben of imperio.

They came out driving a hard bargain, essentially asking for all of the Templar lands despite having done nothing so far in the war. This was Imperio now playing the "kingmaker" role, and asking for far more than they actually deserved due to their swing role. It was the same thing that Aidun was trying to do, but Imperio actually had a strong enough army and economic base to back up their tough bargaining. Our teams were now fully engaged in dividing up the spoils of a post-Templar continent.

One plan that mostly_harmless floated looked this like:

We agree only to ally against Templars, not necessarily life long friend. Peace now for Drama. Open Borders now, to get some more trade route income (+7, not much) before we go (maybe) Mercantilism.

We agree to not attack Const, Damascus & Acre. We secretly drop a hint with Banana, to scramble for Acre!

We take Jerusalem. That is not negotiable I think. This will allow us to sneak a settler to the spot east of Jerusalem (there is a sea food tile unclaimed). And we can settle the spot east of Something Fishy. We might even be able to put a filler city in between Jerusalem and Pink Dot.

This is something I could live with.

Obviously, don't pass on that picture.

We could live with Imperio getting most of the Templar cities, but at a minimum we needed to control Jericho (iron) and wanted Jerusalem as well. Ultimately, we planned to add THREE more cities in the southeast: one between Jerusalem and Pink Dot (in a region with lots of unclaimed sugar tiles), one on the southern coast by the stone, and one directly south of Jerusalem, where there were two more unclaimed clams. Why the Templars had ignored all of these locations was another open question without answer.

Our negotiation back:

Realms Beyond to Imperio:
Dear Imperio,

Very good. We agree but we get Jerusalem because it is on our borders and we can capture it soon. You get Constantinople, Damascus and Acre. That is fair.

We sign peace and give you Drama. We open borders this turn with a no-scouting agreement. You declare war on Templars.

We can discuss resource trades next turn and we should agree a NAP.

Do you agree?

Realms Beyond

We found out a lot more information about Imperio from a chat that mostly_harmless had with one of their players in-game. Imperio seemed to be obessed with the total number of cities, literally counting up the number of cities that we had and bargaining for more Templar land so that the number of cities would equal out. mostly_harmless pointed out that Imperio's cities were located in much more fertile land, thus we needed more of them simply to balance things out, however they didn't want to accept this logic. Imperio also placed a huge emphasis on the fact that Jerusalem was a double Holy City; we actually didn't care about this one bit, as neither religion had spread at all and there were no shrines located in there. To us, Jerusalem's religions were a total non-factor. Yet Imperio wanted us to raze and replace the city... I don't think they quite understood exactly what a Holy City does in this game. Still, we were willing to raze and replace Jerusalem if that brought about peace and an alliance against the Templars.

Our next email addressed these concerns:

Realms Beyond to Imperio:
Dear Imperio,

We have discussed and agree to raze and resettle Jerusalem in return for you signing peace with us on T151 and agreeing a NAP. You must declare on Templars by the end of T153.

There is no need to mention to PAL any of our discussions.

Do you agree?
Team RB.

Imperio still didn't respond to this message, but sunrise found one of their players in-game and managed to chat again. In the process, Imperio agreed that they were willing to sign peace with us and planned to draw up a formal treaty for us. Part of the treaty would include us trading Nationalism to Imperio for Gunpowder, which was extremely important to our team. Remember that our longterm "Operation Bloodbath" strategic plan involved drafting large numbers of Oromo Warriors, and for that we needed access to Gunpowder tech. We were going to research it ourselves, but we could save tons of time and gold by getting the tech in a trade with Imperio instead. That tech exchange would be one of the cornerstones of our alliance.

We finally got this back from Imperio:

Imperio to Realms Beyond:
Greetings Realms,

After long discussions and deep analyses, we have a peace proposal that will permit us to give a turn to the present situation of blockade. We hope that you evaluate the proposal correctly and you think of the benefits it will bring you from now and through the future

Definitive Proposal:
- Peace Agreement .
- NAP for 40 turns.
- Nationalism for Gunpowder.
- Alliance against templars

In this point it is important that you do not say anything of this with the PAL, neither with Bananas, nor with Templars, they must think that we are not allied. We will say it is our unilateral decision. Yes they can know that a NAP between us exists. This is very very important because we must explain this to our up until now friends in the best possible way. For example we do not like that you send diplomacy three-way with Bananas, Relams and Imperio.

- The four cities of Templars are for us. You only have to capture Jerusalem and to give it to Imperio once you have the control of the city.
- As very behind schedule we will declare war on Templars once you capture Jerusalem. Although if we can, we will do it before. This is vital because our image will be left very deteriorated and thus we hide our alliance a little and will surprise Templars better.
- The agreement accepts and closes the following turn, not this. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Think about it well because it is the only exit that we see. Imperio is preparing for a long war against you and this could be your last opportunity to change the situation. The truth is that we have nothing to lose and if you do not accept these minimal conditions peace does not interest us because we do not see benefits in it. The truth we are giving a turn to the game, if we did not leave reforzaos we will not do it.

A strong hug,

(Translated from the Spanish original by dsplaisted)

This was not the deal we wanted, and Imperio was definitely playing kingmaker. However... the only thing they were asking for beyond what we were previously willing to give was the city of Jerusalem. Imperio stated that they were willing to join us in the war against Templars, and it was an attractive idea to flip the tables, becoming the civ sitting on the sidelines while the other two teams weakened themselves duking it out. We would also get the critical Gunpowder tech that we so badly wanted, and 40 turns of peace would be plenty to draft out several rounds of rifles, then fall on and destroy a weakened Imperio who had spent much of that time slogging through the remaining Templar cities on their own. Even at Jerusalem, we decided that we could follow the letter of the treaty while still doing this:

We could plant three cities on the red, blue, and green dots, which would use their Creative free culture and cheap theatres to culturally crush Jerusalem and turn it into a useless city. We could even think about settling the aggressive white dot if Imperio was too slow in moving on the Templars. And the lack of trade route income from Banana and Rabbits (which had been cut off by the war, remember) was still crippling our research rate. We desperately needed peace with at least one of our two opponents to help our economy recover. So ultimately this wasn't all that bad of a deal for our team, as it would finally get us out of that crushing 2 vs. 1 situation and bring about a relatively even partition of the southeast that tilted slightly in Imperio's favor.

Realms Beyond to Imperio:
Dear Imperio,

We agree to your terms. It is tough, but we value peace with you over the templar cities.

We have proposed peace in-game. Please accept the deal in-game either this turn or before our 16 hours are complete next turn. It is in your interests to do this quickly so we can move in on Jerusalem quickly.

Realms Beyond

Imperio signaled their assent by accepting our offer of peace in-game. (They did not write us back.) But literally as soon as we sent this message, Imperio logged into the game and traded Gunpowder tech to PAL for Nationalism, invalidating the trade they had just proposed in the treaty! To say we were furious was an understatement. The whole point of the alliance was to work together to stop PAL from running away with the game, and Imperio immediately turned around and went back on their word with us at the first moment it became convenient?!? Our team wrote Imperio requesting that they send us Gunpowder tech regardless, as part of the treaty that we signed, but they refused to do so. Our team would have to research the tech ourselves, burning through almost 500 gold that we had been saving up. We also noted that Imperio had been willing to sell out their former ally (the Templars) as soon as it became expedient.

Needless to say, we didn't trust Imperio one iota. And if they weren't going to fulfill their half of the treaty, we didn't feel compelled to do so either...

Within the game itself, our peace treaty with Imperio meant the immediate doom of the Templars:

Prior to this point, we had been forced to keep half of our army up at Cape Town at all times. More than half, actually, since Imperio had a more powerful military than the Templars. We had been running rings around the Templars with literally HALF of our total strength. Now we could commit everything to their team (since peace with Imperio was unbreakable by either side for the next ten turns), and that meant that the massive hammer was about to fall on the Templar cities.

The Templars realized this, and tried to escape their predicament. But by now it was too little, too late for them to be saved:

Templars to Realms Beyond:
Team Relams Beyond

I guess with Imperio having agreed peace with Realms Beyond then we offer peace as well.

Yours Hercules

Setting off gales of laughter within our forum. Oh really, now you want peace? Heh. Maybe you shouldn't have shot down the multiple peace offers we made earlier!

But nothing stopped Aidun from continuing to send us long walls of text bearing sour grapes messages:

Aidun to Realms Beyond:

The past two weeks I was unable to access the email or Apolyton and only first checked today. I just read Hercules' email.

We never had a cease-fire in my imperssion, although for a long time, until talks effectively broke down, neither side engaged in military action against the other, which had the same effect as a cease-fire, which I described as an 'informal kind of cease-fire'; informal since it was neither official nor agreed upon by us. I used that terminology, "informal kind of cease-fire" in a description to my team of the status quo after our first or second PM exchange. Either team was free to do as it pleased, but both did nothing until you attacked Jericho.

Simply put, under the terms which you proposed, peace was never acceptable neither by me nor by my team. I felt very disappointed by that email of your team and was preparing a reaction when I could no longer access this. I also didn't understand your message, but perhaps that is part of a greater misunderstanding between us or between your team and myself (I noted that some e-mails were no longer signed by you; I was unsure what to make of that, but assumed I was talking to different people with different preferences).

Frankly, I think you or whoever in your team wrote that last message or took the general decision to refuse to compromise, made a serious mistake, because you are wasting your resources on a war that will get you what exactly? 5 Templar cities. Take it, if that is what you want. I had no illusion that the Templars could hold out against your team. Time was to your advantage in that respect, and I knew you would use time to get your forces ready.

However, time was on my hand in a very different way. I knew that my team could wait forever to make peace, knowing that it would never have a shot at winning, but you was under pressue and you still are: with every hour that passes, PAL is one step closer to winning and you are one step further away.

It was a bargain in which I held something that was precious only because you would presumably value it highly and would accordingly be willing to pay a lot for it, at least that's the logic of bargaining. Apparently you didn't or changed your mind, which explains your message. Otherwise you made a big mistake. Peace wasn't worth a damn for us, unless it would get us something we would otherwise not get, such as territory. However you didn't want to offer that extra thing and as such your peace proposal was worthless. Worse, the peace you offered was effectively asking us to sell our pride and that is something my team and I cannot do. If my team had made peace under your conditions, I would have quit the team. I prefer to lose a game fighting than to become a vassal.

Future must tell whether you were right or not to forgo peace, but I think that if your objective is to win the game, it was a mistake to forego peace. If your objective was more limited, i.e. to let PAL win the game as long as your team could dominate the island, it was a good decision to refuse peace. Still, in that case, you should have broken off the talks unilaterally when your troops were in place instead of making a meaningless offer for peace. Which leads me to suspect that if not now then within some weeks or months you and your fellow team mates will be damning themselves when, as Hercules wrote, you won the battle, but lost the war.


As usual, Aidun continued to talk down to our team, implying that we didn't understand the situation and were making a terrible mistake. Aidun didn't seem to grasp that it was his own team's declaration of war that was directly responsible for their own destruction. Or as sunrise summarized things:

Templars are out of their flippin' minds!

Ok, so they had no hopes to win...so somehow they will do better if we kill them completely?!?

RB is in danger of falling behind PAL...and 5 more cities will make us worse off?!?

RB should feel bad if we come in at second, but Templars should feel good if they come in dead last?!?

Finally, I love the incompetence implicit in his statement that we didn't move forward in the war until the attack on Jericho. Does he not realize from turn one of the war we were taking back the neutral lands, building cats, moving units into Jericho's forest, bombing the city down, and building roads? I guess not, because in Templar world you just march your stack straight into superior forces over a 15-turn period

I'd also personally like to know why Aidun was so insistent on "pride" and "fighting to the last" and "not wanting to become your vassal." Yet, we know from discussions with PAL after the game that Templars proposed surrendering all of their cities to PAL and becoming their vassal, simply to spite Realms Beyond! For the life of me, I cannot understand that. I mean it would be one thing if we had attacked Templars, yet we never did... they attacked us... remember?

One last Aidun message, just for fun. (I could have written this whole story using nothing but Aidun letters for pure comedy value!)

Aidun to Realms Beyond:

I know my team declared war and I can't disclose more about it than I already did in previous letters. However, I can say that my team has felt cornered throughout the game, so that who actually made the formal declaration of war has lost all relevance, it was only a formality. The war was declared long before the fighting started and that declaration of war was when your team founded Pink Dot. That move announced a cold war from my team's perspective, one which we could long sustain, but at the price of economic development and expansion. You can see that beautifully when you check the curves.

The problem lies in a belief-system that creates a deadly trap. It works that when you see the enemy grow more powerful and you expect to be his target, that you have no choice but to do the best you can to deter him by keeping up in power. However, by doing that you inevitably leave the initiative and control over the process in your enemy's hands. For every unit he produces you will have to do the same, no matter how high the long-term cost, since you can't afford to get invaded.

Additionally, failure to have sufficient security in the short term gets you invaded and any long-term benefits you got by sacrificing on security are worthless since you will never live to experience them. Therefore, it is entirely rational to focus exclusively on a short-term arms race and ignore long-term needs like expansion and economic development.

That is how the US defeated the USSR. The USSR paid for short term security by relinquishing long-term economic development. Your team has used a similar strategy, knowingly or unknowingly, to defeat my team.

Simply ignoring the short-term need for security is impossible because of the belief-system: you can't leave your homeland poorly defended when you expect to be attacked, that is irrational and irresponsible. But if it turns out that by luck you are not attacked, you escape the trap.

The only rational way out of the trap is to change the belief-system: by no longer believing that you will be attacked. Then the need for excessive military production disappears and you can freely focus on long-term development. However, it is extremely hard to change the belief-system: you need very concrete evidence to believe in the opponent's peaceful intentions. So the belief-system really creates a deadly trap, from which rational players can hardly escape. From a scientific point of view a very interesting piece of game theory.

The way to traditionally get evidence is by signing a treaty and that is what has continuously failed for numerous reasons, mistrust and an uncompromising nature of negotiations being the prime reasons. In the absence of such an agreement or other evidence, it is folly to believe that you will not be attacked and you continue to stay in the trap and get entrenched ever deeper.

Of course the reality is a bit more complex, but the above describes fairly accurately the kind of game our teams were engaged in and which brought us to the current outcome.

Looking back I may ask myself several questions. One example: Should we have occupied the barb city south of Pink Dot back in October (or around that time)? We didn't, since we agreed not to. I feel we played too honorably. But what would have happened if we had captured the barb city and broken our promise? In any case I will have to place less trust in making agreements with other teams, since these have all been broken. In that respect, in addition to a couple of crucial mistakes, my team was backstabbed one time too many by many players in this game, once my team is completely defeated, I can tell more about that and I'd love to.

I hold no grudge about all that, but I wished some dealings had gone a completely different way, better cooperation and such.

Have fun.

Our team would contend that the Templars declaring war was a little bit more than a "formality", and we would also disagree that the Templars didn't "play too honorably" after spending four months lying to us continuously, but hey, whatever. That was the last email exchange. Goodbye, Aidun! Goodbye, Templars!

As our army closed in on Jerusalem, we began seeing evidence of poor empire management, such as the "road to nowhere":

Or this analysis of worker actions near Jerusalem:

I was particularly amused by the two mines that templars had built on the southern coast that no city can work, while they have many unimproved tiles around their capital and a shocking road network.

Jerusalem has one improved food resource, the grass cows which is +2 food surplus, and no farms. However, they have built 5 grass mines and a plains cottage at Jerusalem, for a total of -6 food surplus. All of the other tiles are food-neutral. There's no way they can work the tiles they've improved. All the while they've refused to resarch calendar and plantation those sugar tiles which would at least let them work the mines they dug.

And there's the city raider axeman, the trebuchet ...

Really makes you wonder just what this team had been doing for the past 150 turns... Anyway, the armies were closing in on Jerusalem now in massive force:

The stack in the south was heavy on catapults, designed to bombard down the defenses and prevent any Templar units from racing past us on that road through the jungle. The northern force was the actual striking arm, and moving in such a way that the Templars wouldn't know if we were going for Jerusalem or Constantinople until it was too late. Our northern army would also cut the roads between the two Templar cities, preventing reinforcements from moving back and forth. And best of all was the news that we had finished researching Gunpowder ourselves, using the Golden Age for a revolt to Nationhood civic, and began drafting our first Oromo Warriors. You can just see one Oromo on the extreme western edge of the above screenshot.

The bad news was that PAL had traded Nationalism to the Templars, who were drafting maces at all of their cities as fast as possible. Can't blame the Templars, it was definitely the right move from a perspective of a team that was on its way out, but it was going to make our task a fair bit tougher. We would still be able to take their cities, it would just involve more losses on our side. Templars as an effective PAL vassal was also confirmed.

The Battle of Jerusalem saw us send in two suicide catapults, then clean up with the rest. Unfortunately, we lost two units (a knight and an elephant) at 99.1% and 99.9% odds respectively! Unbelievable. At least we were getting the streak of bad luck now, as opposed to some point when it was really critical. The new map in the south:

Meanwhile, what was Imperio doing to help us in the war against the Templars?

Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Six turns since we had signed peace with them, ample time to move their army down to the border, and no action at all. We had also requested that Imperio Close Borders with PAL to deny them access to Great Lighthouse intercontinental trade route income, and Imperio had refused to do so. (Well, they never replied to our message, but they didn't do anything to Close Borders, so it was effectively the same thing.) So let's summarize: Imperio didn't make the tech trade with us that they had promised, they continued to trade with PAL, they were making no effort to join in the war against Templars, and then they expected us to hand over everything to them after the conflict finished. What kind of an ally was this?! If only Imperio had genuinely acted like a partner, we would have been more than happy to treat them as such. Instead, they continued to sit on the fence and tried to play off our team against PAL. We simply could not trust them at all, and that would strongly influence how our team played out the remainder of the game.

For their part, PAL was fighting a proxy war with us through the Templars, and was gearing up for an impending war against our ally Banana. PAL had finally cashed in their Liberalism free tech on Steel, opening up cannon, and we were barely keeping up with their Power rating even with our Oromo drafting. PAL also continued to have the highest GNP in the game: they were about four techs up on everyone else, and researching the fastest with their monster capital that had ten cottages + Bureaucracy bonus + library + university + Oxford University + triple monasteries + harbor + Great Lighthouse trade routes. As well as Realms Beyond was doing, we continued to race in the shadow of PAL's team.

The final divison of land in the southeast, and how things played out with Imperio, was going to be critical.